A Twitter Newswire

As a member of the Journal Register Company’s ideaLab (#JRCideaLab), I’ve been tasked with establishing a Twitter newswire in my newsroom. The idea is to have reporters create lists within their individual professional Twitter accounts or, as I did, establish an account (@ElectionFollow) dedicated to following local political candidates and active party members and political watchers, with the goal of generating story leads from their tweets. I’ve asked my followers to use #mielection in their story lead tweets to make it easier, but I can’t depend on them to do that, so I’ll have to continue to look at their individual tweets.

The thought is that there are many untapped sources and stories in cyberspace, and reporters should start paying attention on social media to what the audience is interested in — what’s relevant to them — and utilizing the audience as sources, experts or for their story leads. While the plan is to start off small with stories focused on the upcoming general election in the weeks leading up to the election, the goal is to establish a thriving and robust Twitter (or social media) newswire, where reporters regularly turn to for potential stories, producing at least one a week.

I introduced the idea to staff about a month ago and our online coordinator/reporter, David Veselenak was asked to be the first to set up the lists on his account and generate a story. He has produced one, so far, but has had a difficult time writing a story each week from it. While I established @ElectionFollow Twitter account to “lead by example,” I suspect the enthusiasm for this project is not at the level I would like to see. I will continue pushing it at our editorial meetings and begin to hold staff accountable for results. In the meantine, it would be helpful if the audience encouraged the effort via Facebook, Twitter and email. If you like the idea, tweet it or post on our local reporters’ personal Facebook pages or our newspaper fan pages.

Often, I think, reporters get in a habit of doing their jobs a particular way and aren’t open to new ideas — or maybe curious but not motivated to actually pursue them — especially if they think their current approach works good enough. But, in my opinion, they need to get out of their comfort zones and start innovating, experimenting with new technology and utilizing all of these new opportunities, such as social media, to produce more crowd-sourced, multimedia journalism.

A reporter can find some interesting news tips on Facebook if they’re following local residents, officials, and community leaders and stakeholders. For example, in my Facebook news stream Monday, I saw a post from Saline City Councilman David Rhoads: “One of the softening units at Saline’s water treatment plant is out of commission for repairs. The less water we can use, the closer the water will be to the normal softness, until the unit can be repaired.” Six comments followed, and I emailed the comment stream to Saline reporter Kevin Doby. The next morning, he fleshed out the story and posted it online.

This example is exactly what JRC wants to see more of in our newsrooms. The challenge is getting everyone to embrace it. Hopefully, through this post and more opportunities to come, they will see the value and get their own newswires up and running.

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