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Twittering from the Austin American-Statesman. Robert Quigley. April 17, 2009

Posted by Raquel in symposium.
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Robert Quigley is the internet editor at the Austin American-Statesman and the main voice behind the paper’s Twitter account. This account is one of the top 10 most-followed newspaper Twitter accounts in the country.

“Most of you should already know by now that you should be in Twitter,” he said.

The success of the Twitter account was evident since Quigley opened the account. He writes in a conversational way, which has sparked dialogue among the users.

“We’re on the point that people are having conservations on social media, and if we’re not there, then we’re missing the point,” he said.

When hurricane Ike happened he started an account called TrackingIke, in which he instructed the reporters to post whatever they say. Quigley would also retweet what people from Houston were writing, trying to give the most comprehensive news on the account, plus the four staff members that were in Houston. And also, people from Houston would retweet this account, which led it to spread virally.

“It hit tens of thousands in a hurry,” he said.

The Statesman webpage received 300,000 page views from clicks that came directly from Twitter. This made reporters see Twitter as a valuable tool, and began evangelizing about it. There’s no other way to have had such conversations with people so quickly, direct messaging or replying to people asking questions.

After the success seen through the Hurricane Ike story, Twitter was adopted by much of the newsroom. Twitter is now integrated onto the paper’s website, in certain sections. For example they have a virtual capitol with the latest news going on in the Texas Legislature.

“The reporters fight each other to tweet first,” Quigley said.

When a big news event happens, he monitors on Twitter Search and retweet them, take their Twitpics and ask if we can publish them on their website, crediting the user as “via Twitter.”

Quigley concluded by mentioning a story that leaked through Twitter about a gunman on top of the Apple Bar, in Austin. He started to retweet what people were saying, but when he began to verify with reporters and sources, he found out that it was a total rumor, yet people were tweeting that there were hostages and the SWAT team was out there and everything. But it was all false, so it was a story that emerged from Twitter and crushed by traditional verification reporting.

To an extent, everybody can be a reporter.

“But if they’re out there, trusted by the people, if you’ve been there all along paying attention then you can serve a very important role,” he said.

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