Twitter Tips — How Twitter Can Help Journalists

I never thought I’d be a Twitterer who twittered tweets. That’s what I told myself when I first started researching Twitter and its benefit for journalists. Now, I use Twitter on a daily basis, not so much to tell people what I’m doing but more so to keep up with what people are talking about and to find interesting links to news articles and Web sites.

I started keeping track of news organizations that have Twitter pages and interviewed journalists to hear how they use them. Based on what I learned, I wrote two articles about Twitter and its use in the newsroom: “Newsies Twittering on Twitter” and “Experimenting with Twitter: How Newsrooms Are Using It to Reach More Users.” Lately, I’ve been teaching my colleagues at The Poynter Institute how to use Twitter. I’ve put together a Twitter tip sheet, which I’ve copied and pasted below. Feel free to add any feedback you might have.

How have you found Twitter to be helpful, if at all?

“I never thought I’d be a Twitterer who twittered tweets…”

Setting up a Twitter account:
1.) Go to
2.) Create a username, password and profile

Twitter asks:
“What are you doing?” You have 140 characters to respond to this question. Your “followers” (Twitter friends) can read your updates.

What’s the point?
Twitter is a form of microblogging. Many news organizations are using this social networking site to post breaking news updates. Some news organizations, such as The New York Times, have RSS feeds fed to their Twitter page. Others only post Twitter updates when major events take place.

You can also use Twitter to find story ideas, pose questions when looking for sources for a story and to see what’s irking people/what people are talking about on a given day. To do that: You can’t just go and update your station’s twitter account. Or your station’s Web site. You need to get inside these networks and become a part of communities. If you’re just sending information, you’re essentially a broadcaster. You need to receive and take part in the back-and-forth.

What do I put in a “Tweet” (Twitter update)?
Some people write random thoughts, pose questions, post links to interesting articles, comment on public events as they’re taking place. This happens, for instance, during presidential debates, major sporting events, etc. The more people/news organizations you follow on Twitter, the easier it will be to see how the site works.

Who’s on Twitter?
To find out who is a “Twitterer” (Twitter user) you can search for people in the Twitter search box, or you can type in the following URLs: (The name after the “.com/” is the Twitterer’s username.)

• Poynter:
• The New York Times:
• The Portland Oregonian:
• The Orlando Sentinel:
• Atlanta Journal Constitution:
• National Public Radio:
• CNN:
• ESPN –
• C/net News:
• Barack Obama:
• Newsdesigner:
• Center for Innovation in College Media:
• Joe Grimm (job updates):
• Los Angeles Fire Department:
• Jeff Jarvis, BuzzMachine blogger, journalism professor at CUNY:
• Andrew Devigal, New York Times multimedia editor:
• Julie Mason, White House correspondent, Houston Chronicle:
• Amy Gahran, E-Media Tidbits editor:
• Steve Outing, E-Media Tidbits contributor:

Here is a more detailed list of news organizations/journalists on Twitter.

**You can also visit and search for keywords such as “Obama,” “Race and ethnicity,” “Superbowl,” etc., and see a listing of Tweets from Twitterers who have used these keywords in their posts. (Good for reporting purposes when looking for sources.)

Avoid using your full name as your Twitter username. “Tweets” (Twitter posts) can turn up in Google searches.

Published by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Mallary is a mom of two young kiddos -- Madelyn and Tucker. Mallary absolutely loves being a mom and often writes about the need to find harmony when juggling motherhood and work. Mallary is the Assistant Director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin, where she manages the Center's various programs related to distance learning, freedom of expression, and digital journalism. Previously, she was Executive Director of Images & Voices of Hope and Managing Editor of The Poynter Institute’s media news site, Mallary grew up outside of Boston and graduated from Providence College in Rhode Island. In 2015, she received a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University. She now lives in beautiful Austin, Texas, with her kids, husband Troy and cat Clara. She's working on a memoir, slowly but surely. You can reach her at

11 thoughts on “Twitter Tips — How Twitter Can Help Journalists

  1. There are many social networking services operated like,, etc. is being operated by MySpace is an online community that lets you meet your friends’ friends. These are popular sites especially among youths. We can judge the popularity of these sites by seeing their ranking in Alexa. Orkut has been steadily rising on the Alexa charts but MySpace is still significantly bigger than

  2. I used your Poynter article about Twitter so many times for journalism papers. I wanted to write about new technologies in the news, but no one else had written about the way news orgs were using Twitter. I’m so glad you wrote, otherwise I’m sure some of my profs would have thought I made up the fantasty tweet land 🙂

  3. Nice tips here for news types to jump into the Twitter chorus. But I take issue with your blanket admonition, to “avoid using your full name as your Twitter username.” You’re correct that tweets will turn up in Google searches, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For journalists who may be hesitant to touch social and online media, there is the option of using an incomplete username, but really, privacy is a mirage in today’s online world.

    I lean toward the camp that favors full disclosure in online media (especially? for journalists). Sure, there are pros and cons of both anonymity/psuedonymity and publicness, but for compelling ethical and practical reasons, I tend to fall on the side of publicness. So do many bloggers (Jeff Jarvis is one pro-public example).

    Then again, with Twitter, it depends on whether your goals more private or public, or a blend.

  4. Thanks, everyone, for your good comments. I’m glad some of you have found the Twitter tips/articles helpful.

    Julie, you bring up some valid points about why it’s okay, and maybe even a good idea, to use your full name as your Twitter username. I included the privacy bit because when I think it’s important for people — especially those who are new to Twitter — to know that their username isn’t necessarily confidential. It can pop up in Google searches and other places online.

    As you say, whether you use your real name as your username really comes down to what your goal is in using Twitter.

  5. Thanks for this great introduction! I teach basic blogging and social media classes, and I’ve been searching for a good way of describing what Twitter is and why it’s actually worth putting time into.

    You’ve just made me a new fan!


  6. Great, I’m glad you found it resourceful, Beth. Would love to hear what your students think of Twitter.

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