Making Twitter legitimate in the newsroom

I haven’t had the chance to blog a lot lately. That’s because I’ve been busy trying to renew and rethink the way KOMU8 News and KOMU.com delivers news to our audience. A big part of that has hovered around using Twitter as an effective news delivery tool for general assignment reports.

It all started back in March when I was at South by Southwest Interactive Festival. I had an opportunity to see a demo for CoTweet. It helps multiple people manage the one Twitter brand at the same time. To me, this sounded like heaven. The program not only helps multiple people tweet at the same time in an organized manner, it also sends you email alerts if your Twitter account gets any kind of mention. (In my newsroom’s case, that means I get an email anytime someone uses @KOMUnews in a tweet) I was very lucky to get access to the company’s private beta. That private beta moved into a public beta last week and that’s pushed me to make sure I wrote up my newsroom’s CoTweet process so others can follow the fun and possibly try it out themselves.

To remain extra transparent in how our newsroom uses Twitter, I collected the photos and initials of each CoTweet user and added their photos onto the side of our Twitter page.
cotweetmerge

Currently, the people who manage CoTweet with me are a mix of full time managers (our Executive Producer and Managing Editor) and part time web editors or newscast producers. I’m working on trying to blend in more of our traditional managers to look at ways to incorporate Twitter workflow into the daily news gathering and sharing process. CoTweet makes it easy to place each person’s initials public next to the Tweets they post on the @KOMUnews account. That helps Twitter followers know who is posting the information and it helps our brand become less vague. I got the Twitter image idea from the CoTweet folks. Their Twitter background looks very similar. (I just have many more people who are helping manage KOMU’s account)

We have many reporters in our newsroom, and I’ve decided to keep their online tweets separate from the @KOMUnews Twitter brand. I’ve asked each of the reporters to create their own professional Twitter accounts. (Professional means they use their real names and post legitimate information about their life and work in their Twitter profiles) As the reporters gather information from the field, I ask them to send tweets about their story with @KOMUnews or #komu included in the 140 character reports. CoTweet picks those up and my crew and I can decide if the information is good enough to share (or in Twitter lingo, we “retweet” reporter posts) on KOMU’s Twitter feed. We’ve recently published an internal handbook on how reporters should post tweets and how managers and keep up with CoTweet to share the best information on the KOMU brand.

Anyone who is “On Duty” will get email alerts to the @KOMUnews tweets. Anyone who is a member of KOMU’s CoTweet will be able to follow KOMU’s followers without knowing KOMU’s Twitter password, so that keeps only a small number of people privy to changing the look and settings of KOMU’s account, while many others can keep an eye on its content updates. CoTweet also makes it easy to email Twitter questions or thoughts to other members of our newsroom. If a viewer asks @KOMUnews a question, I can quickly email the question to a reporter or anchor to get their input. If that reporter or anchor is on Twitter, I ask them to reply on Twitter or using Twitter’s direct message function. It helps so many more people participate and actively keep KOMU’s Twitter account an active element in our newsroom.

cotweetmonitor

The process isn’t perfect, but it’s helped us cover breaking news effectively. It has also helped our reporters share information about their reports throughout the day instead of just focusing their efforts towards our traditional 5, 6 and 10pm newscasts. After testing this process for the last month and a half, KOMU.com has launched a new look and it includes easy access to our Twitter feed. It doesn’t look pretty, but it is effective to give our most recent updates. It’s faster than posting information into our content manager. It’s faster than getting an anchor in front of the news desk to report on the air. It’s also helping open our minds to a new 24/7 process of news gathering and sharing. As I told a news director friend of mine last week: I’m not helping build reporters who report for newscasts, I’m helping build reporters who can report the news – whenever and however they need to report it.

One other thought about CoTweet: The company responds to your thoughts and questions. Any time I needed something or shared ideas on CoTweet’s site, I’ve gotten rapid replies and assistance. I think that’s pretty fantastic.

Please let me know your thoughts and if you need anything better explained about our newsroom CoTweet workflow. I’m happy to tweak this post to help make sure other newsrooms understand what I’ve been up to!

12 comments ↓

#1 Steve Cusumano on 07.13.09 at 12:09 pm

I’ve been looking for ways to bring Twitter into the workflow of our newsroom, and this sounds like a great idea. Will certainly be showing this to my supervisor. I especially like the system for distinguishing who is actually writing the tweet, rather than all tweets hiding behind the brand name.

#2 Sophia Beausoleil on 07.13.09 at 12:50 pm

While I’m a total believer of this new “tool” and actively working on it at KOMU, do you think we should Tweet about AP stories on our website? I say this because I find myself clicking on the links other news organizations post that have interesting Tweets. Hence I end up spending five to ten minutes searching that news organizations website. We only have so many reporters to be tweeting about new information during the day that I feel we almost need to pull from another source. Wouldn’t this help our branding efforts as well as drive more traffic to the site? I also feel that it would keep us active in the Twitter conversations. I’ve noticed that on my newsfeed its a lot of the same people or news org. Tweeting. I know we discussed the importance of not becoming spam, but I think we also need to make more of a presence on Twitter.

#3 Jen Reeves on 07.13.09 at 1:13 pm

I guess I should have mentioned in this post that KOMU also has a separate feed that shares all of the links of stories posted on the website: http://www.twitter.com/komuheadlines

The two separate Twitter accounts allow people who want to see what KOMU has to say without getting “spam” from the station’s website. The one challenge I see with the two separate accounts is making sure followers know both of those accounts exist!

#4 JC Sports on 07.13.09 at 2:42 pm

Sounds interesting. As far as Twitter being legitimate in the newsroom, I have been at Jay high school football games where I have been asked by individuals from the TV station to call in the final score to the news desk after a game. Having individuals tweet the scores with a specific has tag (#komuscores) could cut down on phone calls and keep staff from having to key the scores in somewhere, while also getting the information in a timely fashion.
@jeffcitysports

#5 Jen Reeves on 07.13.09 at 2:47 pm

I LOVE the idea. I’ll work with our FNF team and see if we have enough high schools interested in joining in on that hashtag. Heck, I’d love it even if you are the only team joining in. Expect a DM from me (or @KOMUnews) soon!

#6 I found my true Twitter love: Co-Tweet.com « Geeky Journalist on 07.14.09 at 6:35 am

[…] (^JS) readers can easily look up who within the organization is tweeting. Jen Reeves over at KOMU is making good use of this […]

#7 Dave Davies on 07.15.09 at 11:10 am

As a non-commercial news provider Twitter is an important tool for Texas Public Radio news.
We are looking for ways to build communities of news consumers. And Twitter is a low cost way to interact with the listeners and provide them an additional news service.
When we give our legal id on the air – there’s a plug for the web site, join us on facebook and follow us on Twitter. The more ways we can communicate with the listener outside of radio – the better the chances they’ll become a financail supporter of publc radio.
The tweets are generally pulled from news releases that come into my email.” The governor is doing this today. There’s a community meeting about grafiti tonight. The local energy provider hit a new record today and is asking everyone to conserve power.”
It takes about 2 minutes to send a tweet – and I think we get a lot a mileage out of that effort.

#8 Jen Reeves on 07.15.09 at 5:49 pm

Dave – that’s really great to hear. I’d recommend giving the Seesmic Desktop tool a try – it helps you categorize the people, places and organizations your newsroom follows and lets you group them any way you want. It helps you keep an eye on specific topics instead of just watching the entire Twitter feed all at once.

#9 JC Sports on 07.23.09 at 11:40 pm

It looks like hootsuite is a tool that could be handy as well. You can setup a hootsuite account and then add multiple Twitter profiles in under the account. You can then additionally add editors to the different profiles. These are setup per giving editor rights to people via their e-mail address. The editor individual can automatically be sent an e-mail with the password to their editor account. Once they receive that they can login to hootsuite and post to the account they have been given editor rights to without them having a Twitter account or knowing the actual Twitter account credentials. Within their screen they can enable having initials added to their posts as well. They could have access to multiple accounts, which if they know where the tweet should go it would not have to be retweeted. Anyway, looks kind of neat in my initial look at it. Might have some limitations. Seems like there might have been mention of a number limit on profiles or something unless you move to a paid account. Have just been testing with two. I don’t care for the little bar they have pop in a frame above loading a page that is linked to though. Anyway, thought I would share.

#10 links for 2009-08-25 « Glenna DeRoy on 08.25.09 at 10:59 pm

[…] Making Twitter legitimate in the newsroom — Jen Reeves – New Media Mind (tags: onlinejournalism socialmedia agreed technology) […]

#11 What a year « New Media Mind on 01.01.10 at 1:31 pm

[…] from all of our daily general assignment reporters in the newsroom. Feel free to check out how I explained the use of that tool if you’re curious. (Hootsuite is another option if you are curious about other […]

#12 Focus, focus, focus « Jen Lee Reeves on 07.28.10 at 9:35 pm

[…] job requires me to focus on so many tasks at the same time, I’m losing focus. I started using CoTweet to keep up with all of our reporters and anchors to keep a constantly updated Twitter feed. […]

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