Tweeting the Campaign: Three Ways Social Media is Changing the Way Reporters Cover the Election

March 5, 2012
by Shawnee Cohn, Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire/New York
MRT

Shawnee Cohn

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo recently proposed that 2012 is going to be the year of the “Twitter Election,” referring to the power that the social network offers presidential candidates to engage with voters.

Not only are candidates contributing to the Twitter conversation, but the media is also breaking important campaign news in 140 characters or less. Here at Business Wire, we offer all of our Public Policy and Election news at the Twitter handle @BW_PublicPolicy.

In response to this trend in news distribution, Twitter recently created an official account, @TwitterForNews, which offers tips for journalists on how to cover the 2012 election most effectively.

As part of Social Media Week, The New York Times hosted a panel discussion which delved deeper into the topic of how social media impacts political coverage. The panel featured:

The panelists offered compelling evidence for the argument that social media is critical when sending out your election-related news. Here are some highlights of how journalists utilize Twitter and other social networks:

To monitor breaking news: Stevenson stated that “every political reporter uses Twitter as a news feed all day long.” Smith agreed, admitting that he now heavily relies on Twitter traffic, in addition to some RSS news feeds, to get the day’s headlines. Instead of tuning in to watch the debates on television, one could simply scan all of the highlights by solely reading relevant tweets, noted Hamby. However, both Hamby and Stevenson advised that it is important to occasionally detach yourself from Twitter. Taking a step outside the Twitter realm helps journalists to avoid snap judgments and observe the opinions of those who are not as involved with the social network. Being that reporters rely on various mediums to get their news, it is important to send out your message on multiple platforms, such as a news wire, Twitter, mobile alerts, etc.

To accurately relay readers’ real concerns: Michel discussed how social media offers journalists the capacity to “systematically engage people” and therefore “find stories that you wouldn’t otherwise.” Smith also uses Twitter as a “place to find questions” from the public, rather than answers. Social networks allow the media to get a feel for what people are wondering about, and to consequently be more responsible to their audience, said Stevenson. For example, in the recent cases of the Komen/Planned Parenthood decision and the SOPA bill, journalists monitored the negative reactions to the policy choices on social networks and chose to report on the backlash in depth. The Washington Post places importance on reflecting “what’s happening socially,” and incorporating the “conversation around things” into their reports, says Zamora.

To interact with other political reporters:  Stevenson explained there is a “clubhouse effect” when it comes to political reporters; they tend to engage in discussion with one another and this can sometimes lead to a closed feedback loop. This creates a sort of “virtual spin room” that plays out in real-time. You can watch and learn from this ongoing conversation by following multiple political journalists (you must follow both users on Twitter to be able to see @ messages). It is also critical to establish yourself as a credible source if you are trying to gain the attention of any number of these reporters. CNN and other major media will not report anything on Twitter that they would not report on any other platform – a valid source is always essential.

For more information on Social Media Week, visit socialmediaweek.org.You can find the latest election/campaign news by registering at www.businesswire.com, or by following @BWPolitics and @BW_PublicPolicy.


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