Tips for journalists using Twitter

Updated and expanded Twitter tips for journalists

Someday Twitter tips will seem as unnecessary for most journalists as notebook tips. But in the past few weeks, Steve Buttry notes, “I have encountered several journalists who were not using Twitter yet. A couple just within the last week asked my advice, so I decided to update my tips for journalists using Twitter, originally published in July 2009.”

Here is a sampling: 

Breaking news is probably where Twitter shows its greatest value again and again. When news breaks in your community, you can connect with sources and gather information in a variety of ways:

  • If you’re following lots of people in your community, you may see tweets from some eyewitnesses or some people feeling the impact.
  • You can use Twitter’s Advanced Search to search for keywords that might be likely to pop up in tweets about the breaking story, such as “flood,” “tornado” or “crash.”
  • You can use Twitter Search to find hashtag discussions already forming around the event, again trying different keywords. You can save searches for a keyword or a hashtag as a column in TweetDeck or HootSuite or as a saved search in your Twitter account (searches are a column on the Twitter home page).
  • If you jump on a breaking story quickly, try to promote a hashtag that others will pick up. If the hashtag catches on, you will see tweets from people you aren’t following. promotes #okstorm during bad weather.
  • As you find tweets indicating that people have first-hand experience with the story you are covering, reply to them (or direct-message them, if you follow them), asking them to call you directly for an interview.
  • Search also for photos posted on services such as Twitpic or Instagram. Ask people for permission to publish their photos
  • Use NearbyTweets or advanced Twitter search to see what people near the news site are tweeting.
  • Feed a hashtag or some feeds of people witnessing the news into your blog or story, using CoverItLive, ScribbleLive or a Twitter widget that feeds them in automatically or using Storify to curate the best tweets or to group tweets by topic or weave them into a story.
  • Embed individual tweets or a group of tweets into a story using QuoteURL or Blackbird Pie.


COPY POINT: Nasty Overuse of the word “Nasty”

One of the goals of COPY POINT is to dispose of overused words and hyperbole.  I’ve just uncovered another one spreading faster than a pandemic. The word is nasty.  These are some of the many ways we have used it in the past 30 days:

Nasty storms
Nasty Flash Flooding
Nasty consequences (Debt Ceiling)
Nasty Spill (on shirt)
Nasty Surprise (lottery ticket)
Nasty Sore Throat
Nasty Spring(the entire season)
Nasty Road conditions
Nasty Start (holiday accidents)
Nasty Gashes

A good half of these don’t fit any dictionary definition of the word,


1. physically filthy; disgustingly unclean: a nasty pigsty of a room.
2. offensive to taste or smell; nauseating.
3. offensive; objectionable: a nasty habit.

OTNB IDEA: How about “storms packing 69 mph winds, a sore raspy sour throat, icy road conditions, unwelcome surprise..”.   

 Adjectives can add to understanding in a story, or clutter our copy. Let’s re-commit to precision of language and temporarily put “nasty” on hold.