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Twitter, Journalism & Rochester Newspapers: The Wanting & The Savvy

Mike Gastin's picture

Business people who have figured out Twitter’s power know that it’s an amazing tool for intelligence gathering, trend spotting, networking and business development. Its usefulness is easily under-realized and if you think Twitter is mainly for chatting, think again.

Let’s say you need to find an expert on solar energy for an article you’re working on. You can search people’s bios on Twitter using Google. You would construct a search string to look for bios that contain solar energy. Within a few seconds you’d have a list of people from all over the world that have something to do with solar energy. Then, it’s just a matter of following the ones that look promising and reaching out to them via Twitter. Within an hour you could be on the phone with an expert getting the info you need.

In addition, by searching for solar energy trends on Twitter you will find all kinds of discussions, news stories, articles and published research, which would be valuable to your article. You could use Google and search for relevant web sites, but Twitter provides you with real-time conversations—not just indexed content. That’s powerful.

Twitter & Journalism

This kind of power and time relevancy makes Twitter a must-use tool for journalists and publications. It’s like having your very own police scanner except you can tune-in to any topic you’re interested in.

Remember when a reporter had to move heaven and earth to ‘get the scoop’ on a story? Or how hard they had to work to find and cultivate sources? All these things can be done so easily using Twitter that it’s a no-brainer. Savvy journalists use it to follow important people, trendsetters and insiders, find experts, watch trending topics and get the jump on their competition.

The Local Scoop on Newspapers & Twitter

We have two papers in Rochester, one daily and one weekly. Our daily is the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle and is part of the Gannett family of publications. The weekly is our business paper, the Rochester Business Journal and it’s privately owned.

I was poking around over the weekend to find local journalists using Twitter because I wanted to start cultivating relationships with the local press, something every small business owner needs to do. What I found amazed me.

I started at the RBJ. There’s nothing on their web site about Twitter. I had to really dig around the net to find their main account which is a feed of stories. Okay, but I want to connect with reporters, not receive a feed of headlines.

I searched Twitter to find ‘rochester business journal’ or ‘rbj’ in users’ bios and found one relevant hit: editor and vice president Paul Ericson. Wow! A guy at the top, this is a good sign, I thought. When I clicked through to his Twitter page I found that he had only one tweet and it was from January of this year. He had two followers and followed two users, one being his employer. That’s it. One staffer with a four-month old tweet. Not savvy.

The Democrat & Chronicle has fully embraced Twitter. They’ve even got a page on their web site that lists everyone on their staff with a Twitter account. It’s quite impressive. After following some of their reporters and staff, it’s clear that they use it actively. I’m amazed at how well they engage the community. That has to pay dividends for a business that makes its living reporting local news.

I’m no print media expert. But, I’ve been involved in business development, networking and research for decades. It seems obvious that if your job involves connecting with people, finding information and developing content, like a newspaper must do every day, you need to be using tools like Twitter. If you’re not you can expect to be left behind. It’s that simple.

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