News Gathering, Social Media, Tips

Traditional Reporting Techniques Still Key to Social Media News Gathering

Portrait of Mark Colvin

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.

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News Gathering, Social Media

‘Never’ Use Twitter as a News Source? Let’s Talk

This post was originally published on Wendy Fry’s Posterous blog, April 1, 2011.

I was in a collision this morning. A traffic accident of sorts between new media and old.

Somewhere between a jog on the beach, yet another redevelopment debate, FPPC complaints and hotel construction to cover, my two-years out of journalism school and fiercely protected new media mindset crashed full force into Stewart Jacoby, the director of radio programming for South Texas Public Broadcasting System, Inc., a broadcast journalist for the past 40 years.

It all began on Twitter, of course, with a tweet by Grant Barrett of

A pub radio program director: "I would NEVER recommend using Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, or even the internet as a news source."
Grant Barrett

“WHAT?!” I cried. Jacoby and I needed to have a conversation pronto so I could enlighten him on the ways of our brave new world.

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Mobile, Social Media

How #ViewFromMyWindow Engaged Twitter Users in a Snowstorm

This post was originally published on, Jan. 12, 2011.

Flickr photo posted to Twitter with hashtag #ViewFromMyWindow by Penny Camberville.

Every time there’s a snowstorm, WBUR asks ours readers/listeners to submit photos on Flickr — and then we grumble when hardly anyone participates. I think I finally figured out what we’ve been doing wrong.

Flickr is the wrong place for this kind of engagement. Most people don’t carry around cameras while going about their daily lives. And even those who do might not take the time to download, edit, and then upload to Flickr till several hours later.

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Storytelling, Teaching

Multimedia Journalism Class Reflection

This post was written as part of the course final for Multimedia Journalism WRI 430 at Point Loma Nazarene University. Students were asked to reflect on what they learned during the semester and assess how it might affect their future reporting.

As a senior broadcast journalism major, I thought I knew all I needed to know as I approach entering the field of multimedia journalism. However, PLNU’s multimedia journalism class changed that pretension and showed me I still have a lot to learn. Over the past three years, I became well versed in print, video, audio and photography in journalism, but I had never fully combined them online. This class showed me strategies to use and ways to plan a story that incorporate more than just these four elements.

In respects to the media I already knew, I found ways to improve my skills. In audio, I practiced storytelling without the use of a narrator; I let the characters tell the story themselves. I worked on creative camera work for my video project as well as capturing a compelling story, fully embracing the awkwardness of filming the homeless at Ocean Beach. By examining photos in class, I learned better composition and elements that tell a story (rule of thirds, three in a series, etc). The only area I feel I have made no improvement is in writing, but in this class, our focus was on learning new media, not really improving that aspect.

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Storytelling, Teaching

Last Words on Multimedia Journalism

This post was written as part of the course final for Multimedia Journalism WRI 430 at Point Loma Nazarene University. Students were asked to reflect on what they learned during the semester and assess how it might affect their future reporting.

Before taking this class, I would have had no problem admitting my intimidation of the term multimedia. Mainly because the idea is unknown and avoided in my school’s journalism program. Yet as a senior who is desperately trying to figure out how she is going to get a job, I knew I had to come to grips with this term.

I think what surprised me the most about this class were the situations I was challenged with and the areas I could thrive in. We completed eight projects in class and I am proud of all of them except one. My final product of my video project was less than ideal and I am pretty sure that is putting it mildly. I struggled with the video project because not only was it my first time behind a camera but I also had a hard time “seeing” the shots that can make a great clip. But while it was difficult, I am not completely discouraged. Throughout the somewhat awkward process I could already see the moments where I could improve and the shots I could have gotten. It’s humbling but it’s also encouraging to know I now have the know-how to improve.

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Future of Journalism, Social Media

What to Do With Twitter Errors

Not too long ago Craig Silverman, author of blog Regret the Error, listed some of the most offensive journalism errors of 2010. (December got a free pass?) Among some of the more humorous media errors, Twitter real-time verification was named was named as the trend of the year.

We’re seeing many of forms of misinformation spread rapidly online and take hold in real-time. Whether it was an incorrect tweet about a volcano eruption in Iceland, a Washington Post editorial writer mistaking a fake Twitter account for the real thing, or people wrongly tweeting and retweeting that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had been removed from Time’s Person Of The Year contest, we saw how the real-time nature of the online world causes problems and errors.

Reporter and blogger Kevin Loker points out that tweets are not held to the same meticulous fact checking a printed new story must go through before publication.

You probably have one – maybe two – sets of eyes that read over your headline before it’s tweeted. You ideally don’t make a mistake in the headline. If you do, you can’t change it. Most news outlets will send out another tweet noting the correction, because as in any medium, it’s common practice that errors can’t be left completely unattended.

Loker makes an interesting point that Twitter errors do not affect “media gurus,” because they will more than likely see the correction. Instead, he argues that those who do not focus on the news may be the most at risk for taking an error as truth.

Loker also argues that audiences are to blame if they cannot catch tweeting errors.

Just as it’s an individual’s own actions that lead them to a correction box in a print publication, it’s an individual’s own actions that make them knowledgeable or ignorant about any given news story.

Loker’s point is one of the many voices arguing that audiences must verify information coming off of Twitter. One blog offers four steps to verify a tweet while another urges news readers to join the Report an Error alliance. These sites are helpful but do they show a frighteningly cushioned error tolerance among news reporters? It seems that readers are now expected to verify news. And if so, who is defining the error tolerance level and why are we so quick to allow it?

Silverman returns again in his Columbia Review Journal column to explain what to do once a tweet is found false. According to him, it is the news media’s job not only to correct it via twitter but to continue correcting it.

It’s difficult to say how many corrections are necessary, but one good way to gauge would be to see if the mistaken information is still being retweeted. As long as it’s being passed around, you should be issuing corrections and asking people to RT your correction.

Overall, accuracy seems to be the main concern of all these bloggers and reporters. Twitter continues to be a critical tool for journalists but as Silverman puts it, “the difference between making an error and getting it right is often a matter of making one or two phone calls. Accuracy is often easier and faster to achieve than we think.”