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Archive for the ‘Twitter’ Category

I thought I was done blogging about whether top editors should be active on Twitter. Then last night, Lexi Mainland tweeted this:

As her Twitter profile says, she’s an editor on the Times’ interactive news desk. Not exactly agreeing with me (as you’ll see in some subsequent tweets), but sort of agreeing with me. So, given the interest in my criticism of her boss, Dean Baquet, and other top editors who aren’t active on Twitter, and Baquet’s response to me, and the response to Baquet, I thought I’d give the topic at least one more ride and curate last night’s Twitter exchange among several of us:

“Pontificating.” OK, that could be me.

What I’d say here is that Baquet and his predecessors, who have been similarly dismissive of Twitter in terms of personal use, have led a lot of great innovation at the Times. So “suffering” isn’t exactly the right word, and I don’t think I ever said innovation at the Times was suffering. In many respects, it’s been an innovation leader.

But a Times committee studied innovation and said the newsroom needed to do better. That’s true in any newsroom, but no other has identified the need (to my knowledge) as clearly or in as much detail as the Times. Baquet has embraced the report and said he plans to implement its recommendations.

My point is that you lead innovation more effectively by example than by exhortation. But back to the tweets (where I think I made that point):

Valid point: I believe Twitter is a valuable tool for every newsroom leader and editorial-page editor.

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Numbers always demand context.

Twitter is used by “only” 19 percent of Internet-using adults. That was the word Ann Friedman used in a Columbia Journalism Review piece, following up on the discussion of New York Times Twitter use started by Buzzfeed and continued by me, Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet and others.

Friedman’s piece gave reasons why a journalist might want to use Twitter as well as some why you wouldn’t. She’s enthusiastic about Twitter and I applaud her contribution to this discussion. But I’m going to pick at that one word, because others have used that 19 percent figure as a reason to dismiss Twitter. On Twitter and in a comment on Friedman’s post, people zeroed in on that number as a supposed sign that Twitter isn’t important (Ivan is channeling others here, not expressing disdain):

But 19 percent of adult Internet users is a lot. Let’s do the math:

How much differently would Friedman’s piece have read if she had written “a whopping 40 million Americans” instead of “only 19 percent”?

My opening point was that numbers demand context. So here’s some context for you: 19 percent of adult Internet users or 40 million Americans is more than:

The point is: Internet use is huge and 19 percent of its users are a lot of people. Google, Amazon and Facebook have bigger audiences, I presume, maybe a few more. But there aren’t many bigger digital audiences than Twitter’s.

And, as I’ve said many times before, Twitter is an excellent tool for finding sources on breaking news, liveblogging and many other journalism uses that have nothing to do with the potential size of your audience.

Don’t use 19 percent as a measure of how small Twitter is. It’s a measure of how big Twitter is.

Update: I remembered this after initially posting. I made a similar argument here a couple years ago, when the numbers were smaller.

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Clay Shirky went on what he admitted up front was a “tweet rant” last night. It illustrates why I’m glad I’m on Twitter and why I think editors should be on Twitter. More on that later, but first, here’s Clay’s rant:

Did you know about Meatspace, Ello and ~Club? Are you using them? I had heard of one of them (Meatspace), but really didn’t know anything about any of them. And I’m not using them. I don’t know whether any of them is important to the future of media, or whether they are all destined-to-fail startups that reached their peak of fame in getting mentioned by Clay Shirky on Twitter. Only one of the three, Ello, has merited a mention in the New York Times that I can find.

Since I criticized Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet for not being active on Twitter and he responded, warning against creating a new “priesthood” for journalism, some have raised questions on social media, other blogs or in comments on my blog about how important it is to be active on Twitter and why.

Well, here’s a reason: Twitter is eight years old. I’m not saying it’s the cutting edge of digital media. It was eight years ago. If you’re active on Twitter, you may still be catching up. I don’t’ use Twitter to be on the cutting edge, just to keep from falling behind. But I want to be aware of the cutting edge and exploring the value of new tools. And you’re more likely to learn about those new tools on Twitter than in old media.

So now I need to go fiddle around with Meatspace. Or Ello. Or ~Club. Maybe all three.

Update: I’m no the waiting lists to get into Ello and ~Club. Meatspace looks kind of odd and probably not for me. But I thought the same thing about Twitter, too. First impressions aren’t a very good guide about the value of social media.

 

 

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Since I’ve made a big deal lately about why editors and newsrooms need to use Twitter, maybe this is a good time to criticize Twitter. It might bolster my position that I don’t see Twitter use as a “rule for entry” for any journalism priesthood.

Twitter can be annoying as hell. But so is dealing with sources trying to spin you. Good journalists deal with the necessary annoyances. My frustration with Twitter today deals with embed codes, and if you share my complaint, I will offer a partial solution (if you scroll down or stick with me).

As important as I think Twitter is to journalism today, I am repeatedly disappointed with its service to users and the quality of its products. My most-read post ever criticized Twitter’s ceiling of 2,000 accounts you can follow, unless almost as many accounts follow you. Every month thousands of Twitter users find that post by Googling in search of a solution for this frustrating limit (the post got 119 hits yesterday). But Twitter refuses to change the limit or provide an easy way for people who hit the limit to prove their legitimacy and keep following more accounts. Other posts expressing disappointment in other aspects of Twitter and the company’s performance are listed at the end of this post.

Today’s complaint is about features of Twitter embeds that don’t work. When I attended Twitter’s reception/spiel at their San Francisco headquarters during the 2012 Online News Association, Twitter had recently changed rules for use of its API and was encouraging embedding when using tweets in all digital media. Twitter’s Erica Anderson put it this way:

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baquet twitterDean Baquet isn’t active on Twitter, but he’s great clickbait. And he’s getting a lot of attention on Twitter today. I hope he’s lurking, as one of his staff assures me:


Last Thursday I blogged that editors who want to lead innovation undercut their efforts if they aren’t active on Twitter. I mentioned Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times, and used the screenshot above (now getting its third run here). So, as I normally do when I criticize someone, I invited response from Baquet. I tweeted at him (not likely to get a response, given the topic of the blog).
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I also emailed him using the clunky contact form at the Times site. I have no faith in such forms (or in the likelihood that people will respond), so I also asked a friend who works at the times for his email address and emailed him directly. Late yesterday, Baquet responded to my email. This won’t be one of my blogs full of lessons, but here’s one: Email people politely and they often respond. In a later email after I posted his response, Baquet said he responded because “you were fair and persistent.” That combination always serves a journalist well.

Mathew Ingram, who blogged about Baquet, the Times and Twitter before I did, noted that he didn’t get a response: (more…)

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baquet twitterNew York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet has responded to last week’s post which criticized top editors who aren’t using Twitter actively, including Baquet.

I appreciate the response, which is below, combined from two emails. I don’t agree with his observation, but I welcome it. I had my say last week and I’m glad to give him his say here today, without insisting on the last word. I do hope, though, that this post will merit his third tweet:

I do think the fact that I have made so little use of Twitter is fair game for criticism. But I can’t resist an observation. One of the biggest criticisms aimed at my generation of editors is that we created a priesthood, that we decided who was a journalist and who was not. If you hadn’t done cops and courts you weren’t a journalist, etc. That characterization was right on. We deserved the hit.

As I observe the criticism nowadays, you will forgive me for noting that it sounds like a new priesthood is being created, with new rules for entry.

Don’t take that as saying I should not tweet more. I should. Just a warning that each generation of journalists seems so certain they know what it takes to be a journalist.

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baquet twitterEditors who aren’t active on Twitter tell their newsrooms that we don’t all have to change. Journalists who aren’t active on Twitter choose to remain or fall behind.

I’m late to this round of a discussion that’s been going on intermittently since at least when I started advocating Twitter’s use by journalists in 2008. But I was tied up Monday when Mathew Ingram and some New York Times staffers discussed whether journalists need to use Twitter (on Twitter, of course). Ingram then blogged about the issue. The discussion was prompted by Buzzfeed’s  “Quick Tour Of The New York Times’ Twitter Graveyard,” which exposed and mocked some Times staffers for their weak presence on Twitter, including Executive Editor Dean Baquet, who has tweeted twice. Update: Baquet has responded to this post.

Baquet at least has a photo for his avatar. Buzzfeed’s Charlie Warzel showed 13 Times staffers’ accounts with Twitter’s generic egg avatar, which is like shouting, “Someone made me start a Twitter account! There, done!”

Before I continue my criticism of the Times, I should note that the Times has some outstanding Twitter users, too many to call out here, but I’ll just mention Nicholas Kristof  as an example of a Times staffer who would excel at his job without using Twitter but is even better at it because he excels at Twitter. On the whole, the Times is better than most newsrooms at using Twitter. But the Times never aspires just to be better than most. And the Times should aspire to be the best in its use of Twitter and any other valuable tool for journalists.

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