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The Statesman explains how to report on Twitter April 17, 2009

Posted by Stephen Keller in symposium.
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The Austin American-Statesman ranks among the top ten most followed newspaper Twitter accounts.

Robert Quigley, Internet Editor for the Statesman and the paper’s Twitter wizard, explained to journalists Friday how he got to the top of the social media’s foodchain.

“I think most of yall know you probably should be on Twitter,” he said.

Quigley said when starting out on @Statesman, he decided to break away from most other news accounts and not use a Twitter feed, basically an RSS feed that spews headlines into tweet posts.

Instead, he set out to provide a more conversational approach, both linking to stories and talking back and forth with readers. Through this, Quigley said he was able to find out what stories his Twitter audience wanted to read.

“I learned over time by asking what my followers want to see,” he said. “Right now, we’re at a point in journalism where people are having conversations on social media. If we’re not there, we become irrelevant.”

Quigley solidified the Statesman’s dedication to the social media network during Hurricane Ike. To provide up to the minute details, he started the account @TrackingIke.

Before the crew of reporters and photographers left to cover the storm, Quigley gave them the log in information for the account and asked them to simply write what they saw.

Meanwhile, back in Austin, Quigley linked back to stories, posted updates from the National Hurricane Center every six hours and communicated with users.

“People were asking if their grandmother’s house was OK,” he said, later adding that reporters asked for the address and checked out the property to see if it survived the storm.

The account brought in more than 300,000 page views to the Statesman’s Web site.
“The New York Times lead blog was linking to us when we were moving into Galveston,” he said.

He said when the reporters returned, they “evangelized” about how Twitter can be used to report breaking events. This new enthusiasm drove the paper to integrate the platform directly into their site, with applications on their Virtual Capitol.

He also noted the hail storm in Austin a few weeks ago as a way to bring in user submitted content. Through Twitter, Quigley asked readers to send in pictures and comments of what they were seeing in their own backyards.
“We’re using the content that we’re getting,” he said. “People love seeing their content displayed.”

Despite the growing influence of user generated content, Quigley stressed the continuing importance of reporters. Journalists are needed to quell the rumors and present the facts, he said.

During a SWAT incident this week where a man evaded police on top of the Apple Bar, user Twitter comments sensationalized the news. People near the scene logged into Twitter and reported they saw hostages and heard gun shots. Both statements were unfounded.

Through the Statesman Twitter account, Quigley provided updates from his reporter on scene to hush the false information circulating around the platform. He said once they got online, the rumors slowed and then stopped.



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2. The Twitters tell the story « Charlotte-Anne Lucas - April 23, 2009

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