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Journalism Technology

Pew Research tells media Twitter hogs: dude, STFU.

Quite a bit of chatter on media blogs and news orgs about the latest Pew Research study on media, this time about how media orgs are doing using Twitter. @Poytner asks the question: “do more tweets lead to fewer followers?” And via @tpmedia I got an article from Nieman Journalism Lab that probably gets a whole lot closer to the truth: “Twitter, the conversation-enabler? Actually, most news orgs use the service as a glorified RSS feed.”

The reality is: social media is social. Duh. Its not about simply republishing your content automatically. That is particularly true for news orgs for whom 40 or 50 news articles per day are routine.

And there’s a lot of those types of accounts right here in Rochester. I won’t name them, but we all know the frustration of looking at our feeds or lists that were once populated with lots of comments and interesting stuff from our friends and followers, now blotted out with the RSS dump from some local business rag who shall remain nameless. They don’t contribute anything to discussion, they don’t comment, they don’t retweet (heaven forfend!) and they never thank anyone for anything. They are non-entities that just get in the way.

Here at DFE, new posts are in fact automatically posted to Twitter. But given the fact that I may only get to write one or two posts a day, its really just part of the overall stream. Meanwhile, I am talking to other users, posting interesting articles I don’t have time to summarize, retweeting, commenting, discussing. I am being social and sharing what I put out. I’d like to think I’m not hogging anyone else’s Twitter space with all my posts, but I am sure I’ve probably been unfollowed for that exact reason.

The difficulty for large news orgs is: they need to give a lot more credibility and trust to their journalists. They need to trust the individuals who will be a lot more credible as members of a social network, while also passing along the all-important links to news articles on their respective employer’s websites. And honestly: those journos will need to brand themselves in order to get any kind of name recognition that’s worth the trouble.

And the difficulty for journos is: they need to negotiate how their social networking presence is used by their employers. Its not OK for an employer to suddenly decide that your social presence is their’s for the marketing, but does anybody really want to create a new Twitter account every time they switch jobs? And would that get you anywhere, anyway?

I can also see the pressure to be a local celebrity rather than a journalist first as a potential distraction from good reporting.

By Tommy Belknap

Owner, developer, editor of DragonFlyEye.Net, Tom Belknap is also a freelance journalist for The 585 lifestyle magazine. He lives in the Rochester area with his wife and son.