Alex Wire
4/9/13 at 03:02 PM 2 Comments

Should Reporters Base Their Stories on Tweets?

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I'm old-school journalism. Sorry to say that when I started in this field as a print journalist...well, there was still hope (if ever so slight) that newspapers could continue to survive with actual news PAPER subscribers.

When I began with the Los Angeles Times 14 years ago, the online edition was just an add-on... nobody in the field knew exactly what to do with this Internet thing... or at least how to make it profitable.

Now, it's a different story. In order to make it, a media organization needs online page views... and that means competing with the whole web. Yes, bloggers, tweeters, facebookers, and the like are now competing in today's "Tower of Babel" for page views.

Which brings me back to old-school journalism. A story in the professional press was usually well fleshed out before it saw the light of day. To base a story on something that was said at the water cooler, or the coffee shop, or at a softball game, alone was really unheard of. You better have some meat to that rumor or hearsay or chit-chat or your story is dust.

I can't lean into this whole [insert either a famous person or a Joe Schmuck person]-tweets-and-so-that's-my-lead-for-my-story thing that is going on right now.

I posted the question about reporters basing their stories on tweets on my Facebook page. My responses were interesting, especially considering two church and ministry communications directors replied.

"I think taking tweets and turning them into stories can often get journalists into trouble because they may be trying too hard to create a story when there isn't really a story there," said Justin Dean, Communications Director for Pastor Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church. "Tweets are by nature limited, so you're never getting the full story and it's easy to take something out of context. If using a tweet for a story, contact the person to get more detail before assuming you know what they intended."

Dean said he believes there are benefits to communicating with the press through Twitter. But it's up to the reporter in most cases to do the leg work beyond that.

"People don't speak in sound bites anymore, they speak in hashtags. #bindersfullofwomen is case study No. 1," said Jon D. Wilke, who represents a major non-profit Christian organization.

That being said, I mean really, does 140 characters a story make?

– Alex Murashko

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