One of the sessions I attended at this year’s Northern Voice explored the evolving role of Twitter in news organizations. Twitter and News: What is Next? featured some prominent Vancouver-based journalists including News1130’s Erin Loxam, Freelancer Bob Mackin, CBC’s Theresa Lalonde, and Vancouver Sun’s Andrea Woo. Yuliya Talmazan moderated the panel.
The discussion revolved around the news business specifically, but as I was listening, I thought that some of the best practices that the panelists mentioned apply to all Twitter users as well.
Some of the main takeaways from this session for me are the following:
- Don’t treat Twitter as an RSS feed. The implication of this: don’t just push messages out. Talk to people. Remember the “social” in social media.
- Use Twitter to talk to others about issues with brands or companies. But be careful about irritating people or companies. There’s a fine line between discussing an issue and simply complaining a lot.
- Acknowledge when you make mistakes. We’re all humans, and mistakes are bound to happen. Better to apologize for them than to pretend that they never happened.
- Have a “buyer beware” attitude towards news, especially breaking news. If not 100% sure, you might even consider a disclaimer with your tweet. Not everything you see on Twitter is true.
One of the interesting discussions at the panel revolved around the issue of objectivity. Journalists are supposed to be objective, but much of social media includes sharing of opinions. Although this is definitely an issue that’s more important to journalist, it’s something that most employees would have to think about as well. There’s always the risk of getting fired for tweeting something that a company doesn’t stand for.
I think objectivity in journalism is a bit of a myth anyway, so I’m okay with journalists sharing their opinions. There are exceptions, of course — Hate language is an obvious one. I’d rather be aware of a journalist’s biases than pretend that she doesn’t have one. Ultimately, I think that news organizations (as with any other employers) should provide some guidance regarding the use of social media, and put trust in its employees that they’ll do the right thing.
Photo: Raul P.