Twitter as a news tool: A case study

Examples continue to emerge of Twitter being used as a journalistic tool. And not just the “hey, there’s an earthquake” or “hey, my house is on fire” kind of tool, but an integral part of the reporting process. One of the more recent ones comes from the Chicago Tribune, which quite smartly has an official Twitter account that someone in the newsroom monitors. As Poynter Online describes it, people started noticing crowds in Daley Center, and overheard staff from offices there talking about some kind of danger, so they posted something on Twitter.

Eventually, someone contacted “Colonel Tribune” — the Trib’s official Twitter persona — to let them know, and whoever monitors the Twitter account let the news desk know, at which point the traditional reporting process took over. The paper then reported the results of its reporting (a bomb threat) on Twitter, and users re-posted it, spreading the story farther and faster than it might otherwise have gone.

It’s not like it was a huge story, but as Mike Masnick at Techdirt notes, the way it unfolded is an excellent example of how Twitter can be incorporated into the news process — and of how the feedback loop that is created when that happens can benefit traditional media. Another recent example, although somewhat different in execution, was the Brian Stelter story about getting around NBC’s Olympic blockages, which started on Twitter and wound up on the front page.

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