Remember your first breaking news story? You ran to a phone booth, pulled a coin from your pocket, and “dialed” your editor. Don’t remember that? Well Mark Colvin does.
As a 35-year veteran journalist with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Colvin has seen technology change dramatically. While the typewriters, carbon copies, switchboards and telex machines have faded away, he sees social media as the most significant change of his career.
“In the last year or so, social media has brought an even more revolutionary development. It’s one which is transforming our approach, particularly to conflict reporting,” said Colvin in an essay for The Punch.
He looks at how Jess Hill (ABC) and Andy Carvin (NPR) used Twitter to find sources in North Africa and sees old-school reporting techniques at the core: cultivating sources and fact checking.
Here are some tips he cites from Jessica Hill:
- If you’re going to cultivate sources on Twitter, make sure you stay in touch with them, even when nothing’s happening. Show them you care about them as people, that they’re not just a story – develop a relationship, just like journalists have always done. That way when something does happen, they will probably get in touch with you, or may at least prioritise you for an interview when every journalist in the world is suddenly chasing them.
- Read many different news sources. If you’re not really across the news, Twitter feeds will just look like random chatter, and you won’t be able to judge what stories are the most important to focus on. A story may be covered very differently depending on who reports it, and where they report it from. This is especially true of issues like Israel-Palestine; one event can be covered completely differently in The Guardian to the New York Times, and a variety of perspectives can even be offered by the one newspaper, as is so often the case in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. The best way to get a whole pile of reports on any one subject is to use Google News – that way you don’t have to go via individual websites.