Tarrant, editor of the Roanoke Times, was tweeting from an APME board meeting and reported:
We just surveyed which #apme board members are on Facebook and Twitter. All 27 have accounts on both, I’m happy to report.
I was happy myself and ready to claim a piece of credit. Less than a year ago, I documented how few newsroom leaders were using Twitter, specifically checking the board members of both APME and the American Society of News Editors (then the N in ASNE stood for Newspaper). I could find Twitter accounts last March for only eight APME board members (more, actually, than on the ASNE board). I have been trying to educate colleagues on the value of Twitter for journalists. I led a webinar on Twitter for ASNE shortly afterward.
I almost retweeted what Tarrant had said right away, adding my praise for these busy editors taking the time to master a new tool. But then I paused. I was pretty sure every editor on that board has probably repeated the old journalism cliché: If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out. So I decided to check it out before retweeting Mom’s love for Twitter. I planned to document that newsroom leaders are using Twitter regularly and effectively, and how much their Twitter use has grown since last year. I planned to claim a little success in my Twitter evangelism efforts among newsroom leaders.
My plans didn’t quite work out. Actually, my quick research shows that most APME board members still are not actively engaged with Twitter. In fact, I could not find eight of them on Twitter. Most board members had not tweeted this year.
Here’s what I found about Twitter use by APME board members:
Three are longtime, heavy Twitter users, with more than 1,000 tweets and hundreds of followers:
- Jack Lail of the Knoxville News-Sentinel is the runaway most active Twitter user on the APME board. He’s tweeted more than 4,000 times, including several today, has 2,514 followers (I’ve been one for a long time) and follows 2,452.
- Alan English, executive editor of the Augusta Chronicle, is the most active Twitter user on the APME executive committee, with 1,974 tweets, 343 followers and follows 238.
- Dennis Anderson of the Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World has tweeted more than 1,100 times, including today. He follows 435 and has 428 followers.
Seven others have posted tweets this month, but are either new users or fairly light users:
- Tarrant has tweeted 270 times, follows 114 and has 202 followers.
- Alan D. Miller, managing editor/news of the Columbus Dispatch, has tweeted 85 times, including four today. He has 101 followers and follows 47.
- J. Todd Foster, managing editor of the Bristol (Va.) Herald Courier, has tweeted 118 times, including three today. He has 145 followers and follows 125.
- Kathy Best of the Seattle Times has tweeted 29 times, most recently Jan. 10 (once each in January and December). She has 117 followers and follows 30.
- Bob Heisse, editor of the Centre Daily Times and APME secretary, has tweeted 148 times, follows 32 accounts and has 53 followers. He last tweeted Jan. 10, one of three tweets this month.
- Laura Sellers-Earl of East Oregonian Publishing Co. in Astoria, Ore., has tweeted 38 times, including once last night. She has 79 followers and follows 68.
- Michael Days, editor of the Philadelphia Daily News, has tweeted 33 times, has 124 followers and follows 43. He makes this list by having tweeted Jan. 15, but that’s his only tweet since Sept. 11.
Eight APME board members (to avoid finger-pointing, and because this is already long, I’ll stop naming names here) have Twitter accounts that I am pretty sure I could identify (some of them do not make their tweets public or do not identify themselves by title or organization in their bios). However, none of the eight has tweeted this year (most with public accounts didn’t tweet in the last half of 2009 and one hasn’t tweeted at all). Only one of them has more than 100 followers, and he follows only 29 people.
I could not find Twitter accounts for eight APME board members. In four of those cases, I couldn’t find anyone with that name using Twitter’s “find people” function. I tried some common nicknames for a few people and looked through lots of profiles for some editors with common names. If any of those board members have opened Twitter profiles, they don’t use it actively and/or don’t identify themselves well. I hope the fact that I found Anderson and Miller shows that I looked diligently for people with common names. If I missed one of these people, I am quite sure their profile is not very active.
For the 16 who were inactive or invisible on Twitter, I took two more steps searching for them (or for a more active profile):
- I went to their organizations’ web pages, checking staff Twitter directories and looking for any profile of the editor that might include a Twitter link. The few sites that included Twitter directories did not list feeds for the editors in question.
- I checked on Google, searching for their name and Twitter.
So I’m quite confident the truth is that half of APME board members aren’t actively engaged in Twitter.
I can’t prove that anyone in the room wasn’t telling the truth and don’t want to accuse anyone of lying. Some of them may use a Twitter account that doesn’t include their name anywhere in the profile, something like “Gazetteeditor” perhaps. Some may have raised their hands at Sunday’s meetings as having a Twitter account, but they meant the paper, not them personally. Some of them may technically have an account but haven’t filled in their profile so that you can tell this is the account of that particular editor. Tarrant might not have noticed someone who didn’t raise a hand.
I also have to note five things:
- The people I researched may not be the exact people surveyed in the room at Sunday’s meeting. I counted 26 people listed on the APME web site’s page on directors and Tarrant reported 27 surveyed at Sunday’s meeting. Maybe a director (or more) has been added but not yet listed on the web site. And maybe some directors were absent and the count of 27 includes some staff members or APME members who aren’t officially on the board.
- The board now is not exactly the same as last year, so my research in part reflects people moving onto the board and off as well as reflecting some people starting to use Twitter more in the past year.
- My study of Twitter profiles shows how actively people engage in Twitter. It does not show how they might use Twitter to follow conversation or events in their communities using trends, search or other tools not reflected in the profile.
- I know several members of the APME board and consider some of them friends (not close friends; we cross paths at professional meetings and chat amicably).
- I did not survey Facebook use by APME board members.
I should add that APME board members are all busy people. They would be busy if they had not volunteered to serve on the APME board. I understand that mastering and using Twitter can take some time that they feel they don’t have. I am planning a post soon for busy people on Twitter time management. I will pass the link along to some friends with APME. Twitter is an important journalism tool and newsroom leaders who don’t master it are sending the wrong signal to their news staffs.
I’ll close with some advice for those editors with inactive profiles or those whose profiles I couldn’t find:
- Use your professional name in your Twitter profile, even if your user name doesn’t reflect your actual name.
- Post your photograph. It makes you appear to be a real person. I was disappointed with how many editors’ profiles used Twitter’s generic little-bird photo.
- Post a link to your blog, your news web site or a social media profile (in “settings,” your profile has a place to post a link).
- Fill out your bio, identifying yourself by title and organization.
- Tweet now and then. Post links to your staff’s best work. Ask questions of your community. Explain difficult or interesting decisions you make (or sound your tweeps out on the options while you’re considering a decision).
- Follow some people in your community (most of them will follow you back and start engaging).
- Read my post, Leading your staff into the Twitterverse, and follow some of my advice there.
Be sure to read Carole Tarrant’s response to this post in the comments. And you can read my response to Carol’s comment in a separate post.