5 Reasons why Twitter is invaluable to journalists

Social media and microblogging are reshaping journalism. Budding journalists, take note…

Twitter is a platform which is transforming journalism in the digital age. News production, distribution and consumption has changed since the rise of social platforms. As a result of this, there has been a clear shift from traditional journalistic gatekeeping to gatewatching.

In Twitter’s earlier days, many people doubted how useful the platform would be with just a 140 character limit per post. Contributing writer of the Washington Post, Paul Farhi, described the platform in 2009 as:

“ the world’s most overhyped technology”.

However, today, the biggest and most influential news organisations and its journalists are using the platform to not only break news but engage readers and users in a way that was never possible with the traditional format of the newspaper.

Image sourced from pexels.com

Twitter has emerged as a powerful news tool and this is why…

5 reasons why Twitter is invaluable to journalists:

  1. Breaking news

Twitter is a brilliant platform to alert the world about breaking news. Often when breaking news emerges, Twitter is the platform whereby those who have experienced the event can share their accounts and tweet about the event, even live as situations unfold.

The social media network is a great way to engage with the emotions of individuals involved with the news stories. It also provides the opportunity to 
arrange interviews and gather first hand information from those involved in breaking news events.

Interesting fact: Many news stories such as the Boston marathon bombings and the Osama Bin Laden raid broke on Twitter before mainstream media reported it, often through the technique of live tweeting.

2) Newsworthy organisations and people

Twitter has fantastic tools for journalists to keep up to date with news. Twitter Lists are a great way to organise and manage what content you see on the platform. To create a list on Twitter simply click on your profile icon and a drop down menu will appear. Next, click on Lists, create new, decide a name and a short description, finally, click save list.

In order to add newsworthy organisations and people to your list click on the gear icon on a twitter profile to display a drop down menu, select add or remove from lists and then select the appropriate list for that user. You can now create a collection of breaking news accounts, journalists and news outlets. These lists will help you organise a flow of relevant information - perfect when looking for story inspiration!

Tweetdeck is also an invaluable tool for journalists. Journalists can use this tool to create streams of information and monitor content, you can add your Twitter lists to a column too. By listening to the Twitter conversation, it can also help generate story ideas or highlight when something is becoming topical.

3) Sources

An advantage of Twitter for journalists is the direct line of communication with the public and is a great platform when searching for relevant sources. Twitter users provide a diverse range of voices, stories and can generate great debate and conversation…

4) Creating conversation

When you are a journalist on Twitter it is important to remember that your purpose isn’t solely to post headlines and links to stories. Bear in mind that Twitter is a social network, therefore, you need to be social! Twitter is a great platform for journalists to engage with users and readers. Be an active member of the Twitter community, ask your followers questions, and spark conversation. This way your followers can interact with you and your stories, and in turn, you can monitor public opinion.

5) Branding

Twitter is a great way for journalists to brand themselves and build a network. You can do this effectively through you Twitter bio. This is an opportunity to let users know who you are, where you work, and what you are interested in. Try and make it eye catching and appealing so Twitter users are enticed to read what you have to say and in turn, follow you. Ensure you upload a profile picture to your Twitter account too, this allows users to put a face to the name and will make your account appear more authentic.


I am particularly interested in the 24/7 publishing element of Twitter and how popular live tweeting has become, therefore, I thought I would give it a go myself! I decided to live tweet a commentary during a Celebrity Big Brother 2017 episode from my twitter account. Here are some examples of my live tweets below:

On reflection, this was a really fun experience! I felt more immersed in the series than I usually would, as I felt I was contributing to the online conversation with other users who were interested. I learnt it was important to research and prepare beforehand such as locating twitter handles of the contestants and identifying the official hashtag of the series, in this case, #CBB.

I feel the hashtag was important when generating engagement. I experienced interaction throughout my live tweet session through likes and retweets from other users. I even received retweets from the official twitter accounts of some of the contestants, which was exciting!

I also used a variety of engagement methods such as posting photos, tweeting quotes from the CBB contestants and attributing with their Twitter handle. A variety of methods worked well and ensured my live tweet session had a diverse range of content to keep it interesting.

My live tweet activity was simply just a bit of fun. However, I’d like to highlight how live tweeting can be extremely important and valuable to us in gaining insights to areas where we simply can’t go, nor imagine what it would like to be there….

Meet seven year old, peace preacher, Bana Alabed who has been live tweeting and updating the world in real time on the horrors of war in Syria.

Her profile has provided a massively insightful account on the worsening humanitarian situation in Aleppo. Her tweets have captured everything from bombings, to the death of her friends, and have been extremely moving.

Thankfully, Bana has been safely evacuated to Turkey now. I just wanted to bring her to your attention to demonstrate how even a seven year old girl can transform the news by sharing her personal experiences online.

In reflection, it is evident how vital it is for journalists to utilise Twitter and take advantage of this powerful news tool.

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