Wick Communications

Tweeting for #pulitzers

In Online media on 19 Apr 2012 at 2:51 pm

If you tweet, you know that the easiest way to tip your cap at a previous post is simply to retweet. I’m tempted to simply RT this one, but thought I might use the opportunity to evangelize a bit further over Twitter.

As you likely know, the Pulitzer Prizes were awarded this week. They went to many of the usual suspects – the New York Times, the Washington Post – but also to some new winners. Those include Huffington Post and the Tuscaloosa News.

Well, if the Tuscaloosa News can win a Pulitzer, you can too.

The News won for Breaking News following a killer tornado that ripped through the college town on April 27, 2011. The News did all the usual stuff – many engaging stories stuffed into a newspaper that was thwarted by days without power. But it went much further with what the Pulitzer people and others call “realtime reporting.”

Among other things, that means the staff used Twitter to full advantage.

Pulitzer judge Kathy Best, the managing editor of the Seattle Times, explained the importance of realtime reporting to Poynter’s Jeff Sonderman: “It’s not about any particular tool. It’s about using every tool that’s available to you in the moment. One of those tools is a print publication that takes all the great stuff you’ve done in the moment and puts it in context.”

The News staff fanned out in the immediate aftermath of the storm. Individual staff members tweeted from their phones and someone back at the desk retweeted and collected information for reports on other platforms. Editors say that even if phones didn’t work, tweets and texts did. And that isn’t all. The staff also put together a Web-based people locator and posted hundreds of photos online. …

Importantly, the staff had been trained in the use of Facebook and Twitter in the weeks before the storm. I would argue that such training should be refreshed about every six months. There should be no excuse in 2012 for a news staff member who can’t upload to the Web, post to Facebook and send tweets. We’ve moved beyond that now. We simply have to be able to do realtime reporting.

Pulitzer judges have made clear that they will be weighing the use of appropriate technology to push news instantly where appropriate. Every news editor and reporter should take note.



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