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I’ll be teaching Getting Started with Twitter this Tuesday and Thursday at Kirkwood Community College. This post is designed to supplement the course. It is an updated, adapted version of earlier tip sheets I have done, most recently the Getting started in Twitter tips I provided in August for my Using Social Media for Business class. Those tips, of course, focused on business uses for Twitter. These will include business and personal uses.
Twitter is a useful and fun communication tool for a variety of business and personal uses: 
  • You can follow activities and discussions of people in the community, staying current on issues and events.
  • You can connect with colleagues and share ideas with them.
  • You can follow the news. (more…)

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Update: Michael Schudson has responded to this post.

Whatever else it is, The Reconstruction of American Journalism is not comprehensive.

Leonard Downie Jr., former executive editor of the Washington Post, and Michael Schudson, authors of the Columbia University report, described their work in the Post today as a “comprehensive report.” They recommend federal subsidies for news organizations and changes in federal law to allow more philanthropic support for journalism. More on those topics later.

Here’s what the report does not address in any meaningful way:

  • The role of social media in the future of journalism.
  • The failure of media companies to develop new business models.
  • The possibility of developing new business models that rely on the free market, rather than charity or taxpayers. (more…)

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First tweets tend to be pretty lame (mine was), often something like “trying to figure out this Twitter thing.”

Jennifer Preston of the New York Times got off to a better start, asking in her inaugural tweet Tuesday:

Hi, I’m the NYT’s new social media editor. More details later. How should @nytimes be using Twitter?

With 40 characters to spare, she identified herself clearly and started being social, starting to learn and preparing to teach, which is exactly what a new social media editor should do. I also like that she’s identifying herself in her profile as more than her job. She’s also a mother of twins, an author and a friend. It’s a nice contrast to the Wall Street Journal’s admonition against mixing personal and professional, which goes against the culture of the social media.

I’m pleased that The Gazette was several months ahead of the Times in designating a staff member to lead us into the social media. I appointed  Jamie Kelly our social media guide last summer.

I suspect Jamie was better qualified for his job than Preston. Unless she had a private Twitter account (I couldn’t find one) before Tuesday’s appointment, her first use of one of the most important and prominent social networks came after her new gig was announced Tuesday. She’s on LinkedIn (only 15 connections, though that will grow; she already has more than 3,000 Twitter followers) and Facebook, though we don’t know yet how much she has used either. I saw no sign of her on Flickr and didn’t check other social networks she might be on. Her social media education will be quite scrutinized. But on the other hand, not many of us are more than a year or two ahead of her. And as I wrote in a pair of posts early in my Twitter time, you learn quickly.

I responded immediately with a tweet  encouraging Preston to talk to Jamie and to check out my Twitter tips for editors and my post on journalism ethics in social networks. I meant to write a blog post offering lots of advice (as condescending as that sounds) to Preston, but two other bloggers (probably more, but I’ve seen these two), David Kaplan and Patrick Thornton, offered some really sound advice already (Preston already acknowledged Kaplan’s).

I’ll disagree with Patrick on one point: The nytimes Twitter feed has 946,401 followers (it grew by 2,000 from when I wrote the first draft of this post last night), just offering headlines and links. That’s giving a lot of tweeps something they want, so I wouldn’t mess with that. Patrick is right that you should be social in social media, and I encourage being more interactive with other Twitter profiles, but New York Times headlines and links obviously interest lots of people more than they do Patrick. So give those people what they want. And then follow the rest of Patrick’s advice.

Adam Darowski also offered (not directed at Preston, but valuable to her anyway) some helpful advice on “How To Use Twitter and not Be a Douchebag.” I tweeted a link to his piece and then was retweeted 11 times, which is a lot for me.

Rather than echoing or adding to the good advice offered already, I’ll weigh in with a review of Preston’s first 31 tweets (the most-watched Twitter debut since Oprah?):

  • She already has the hang of retweeting, echoing the advice offered to her by several tweeps and replying to more.
  • She understands the importance of links, passing along a link to Kaplan’s blog and to a list of Times Twitter feeds (another link she attempted to pass along was a busted link).
  • Preston understands the value of courtesy, thanking tweeps seven times for their help and praising suggestions she received.
  • She discussed the Times’ use of Twitter, mentioning that Andrew Sorkin had tweeted from an event.
  • She told us that she had attended a Twitter session by some Times colleagues. That would have been a great event for twittercasting (or a liveblog using Twitter feeds from her and other Times staffers attending). She got some advice in that session from Jennifer 8. Lee, whom I enjoy following.
  • She’s seeking (or listenting to) advice from veteran Twitterers, as she noted in thanking Mathew Ingram, communities editor at the Globe and Mail, one of Canada’s Twittering journalism experts. I hope Preston also seeks advice from Times staffers Nicholas Kristof and David Pogue, two Twitterers I enjoy.
  • Preston converses with her tweeps, asking questions to seek clarification or elaboration (sometimes necessary with the 140-character limit).
  • She shows enthusiasm. I’d like to see more sense of humor, though that might be a bit of a challenge to the very serious culture of the New York Times (but it is the culture of social media). (Kristof shows some humor in his tweets, another reason for Preston to study his style and discuss his approach with him.)
  • She doesn’t regard social media as a 9-to-5 job. That tweet thanking Ingram was one of three she posted yesterday evening fairly late.

I hope Preston will lead a vigorous (and public) discussion of how the Times should use social media and what are Times standards regarding opinion, when and how to mix personal with public, etc.

Times ethical issues are aired publicly (Public Editor Clark Hoyt’s column Sunday examined issues dealing with perhaps the two biggest Times superstars, Maureen Dowd and Thomas Friedman). One of the greatest injustices in journalism ethics in recent years was that Rick Bragg was smeared in the wake of the Jayson Blair scandal with a matter that was simply a case of changing standards. Bragg followed a common procedure of using stringers and got pilloried when the standard changed beneath him. We don’t want to see a quality Times journalist smeared by changing or unclear standards regarding social media.

I’m glad the New York Times is venturing into social media in such a public way. I hope @NYT_JenPreston and her colleagues share some valuable lessons with the rest of the industry as they are learning.

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This is a handout I use in Upholding and Updating Ethical Standards, an American Press Institute seminar underwritten by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation. It doesn’t attempt to provide all the answers, but to ask a lot of questions for journalists and news organizations to consider as they use social networks for valid journalistic pursuits. I offer these questions for my staff and other journalists to consider. We will be discussing these issues in greater depth among our staff.

Social networks are a rapidly growing part of society and communication and journalists and news organizations need to connect with them as we gather content and build audience for our products. We also need to keep ethics in mind as we operate in this swiftly changing world. If you are an editor, you need to discuss with your staff members how they are using social networks and what standards and issues you think are important in dealing with networks. If you are a staff member, you need to tell your editors how you are using social networks and discuss any questions you might have about policies and boundaries. Some questions and guidelines to consider:

Consider everything public. Even though social-networking sites generally allow you some control over who sees your contributions, you should regard everything you post online as public. Some of your “friends” could pass along what you have posted. Once you post anything even to a closed network, you lose control of it. (more…)

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My Sunday column:

As a young adult, I had this misguided notion that someday I would move from learning to knowing.

Haven’t reached that day yet.

As the calendar turns from one year to the next, many of us savor the year past and wonder what the year ahead might hold. As I look back on 2008 and ahead to 2009, I am pleased with what I have learned and excited by what I still need to learn.

In my sixth decade of life, I learned more in 2008 than I can remember learning in a single year since my youth. (more…)

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