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While lounging at home after my first quarter of college (December 2008), I was first officially introduced to Twitter. My family was hanging out in the kitchen one night after dinner and my dad kept raving about Twitter. I had briefly heard the word mentioned a few times before but knew little of what it meant. “It’s the next big thing!” my dad claimed repeatedly. I asked him what it was and he explained that people could tweet where they were and what they were doing at any time to let their friends and followers know. I was genuinely confused; I told him that’s what Facebook status updates were for. How could a site like Facebook, but with fewer features be the next big thing? It sounded like a cheap copy to me.

My dad insisted that I make one, even though I told him there was no point since none of my friends had a Twitter account. Mostly just to spite him and show him how pointless the site was, I created a Twitter account. I wrote in my Twitter bio that my dad forced me to make an account because “it was the next big thing” and that I didn’t believe him. After that I pretty much just forgot about Twitter and my account stood inactive. Sure I heard more and more about Twitter as time went on, but I never had the urge to commit myself to the site.

Twitter Profile

Over a year later in my spring quarter of college, I found out I was required to sign up on Twitter and actively tweet for my digital journalism course. I had to laugh when I remembered the circumstances I made my account under, especially since I realized once again my dad was right (after all, he was the one who kept urging me to join Facebook). In April of 2010 I updated my profile and was ready to give Twitter a chance, this time for real.

First of all, I learned that Twitter was more than just a bunch of status updates. I quickly discovered how to link to stories, websites and photos, and to shorten the links to allow more character space on my tweets by using sites like bit.ly. I made different lists, such as fashion and class-related, to make browsing through my Twitter easier. There is a lot of language and styling specific to Twitter and I began to pick up on how to use the lingo. For instance, the at symbol and number symbol have different functions on Twitter than other places online and I discovered how to correctly use them. The “@” is used to directly link another Twitter account to a tweet and “#” (which I found out is called a hash tag) is used to tweet about a topic to others who are interested in or following the topic. #FF (Friday Follow) and RT (Re-Tweet) now actually mean something to me and I frequently utilize them in my tweets.

I believe Twitter is a wonderful tool for journalists and it will only become a more prominent and useful outlet in the future. Twitter has the ability to publicize a lot of information immediately, which is perfect for breaking news. The ability to link to other web content allows for more in depth journalism to continue on certain topics. Twitter can also highlight the most important or interesting aspects of stories to get more people interested in a topic. Freelance or independent journalists can really use Twitter to their advantage to get a large following and increase their popularity in the media world. Most major news organizations (for example: CNN, The New York Times, etc) have already jumped on the bandwagon and made a Twitter account. The way I see it, their addition of Twitter only has added benefits, such as increasing the organization’s following, both on Twitter and in the “real world”.

For citizens, Twitter can be used to get important, and not-so-important information from many sources in one place. I enjoy using Twitter to get information on more trivial things like finding out what my favorite celebrities and bands are up to, but then I also get a healthy dose of what’s going on in the word and stay updated on current events from prominent new sources. Since I am not an avid reader of news, Twitter makes it easier for me to keep an eye on world events. Whatever reason citizens are using Twitter will only continue to grow as more and more people begin to tweet.

For my #FF (Friday Follow) on Twitter, I am now following 5 accounts of individuals related to journalism.

@rickreilly– I used to read Rick Reilly’s column on the last page of Sports Illustrated when I was younger. I thought his articles were humorous and he had a strong, conversational voice. I have not read any of his work since he moved to ESPN Magazine how ever long ago but I decided it would be worth following him since his column really sparked my interest in journalism.

The rest of the new accounts I am following I found on the “Recommended Twitter Accounts to Follow” post.

@nytkeller– Bill Keller is the Executive Editor of the New York Times

@paulbradshaw– Paul Bradshaw blogs about online journalism

@rorymartin– Rory Martin in a local blogger and philanthropist who works in Social Media Marketing for the company Seattle Web Design

@joanwalsh– Joan Walsh is the editor of Salon.com

“When I first saw Twitter I thought it was the stupidest thing ever.” -Marshall Kirkpatrick

My first thoughts exactly. I remember when over winter break after of my freshman year in college (December of 2008), my dad told me about this new site called Twitter. He said it was “the next big thing” and would be the next Facebook. I did not believe him. He kept urging me to make an account and eventually I made one just to prove to him how pointless it really was.

Now twitter is a requirement for my digital journalism class. Why is my dad always right? Although in my defense, at the time twitter did not serve a purpose to me. None of my friends had it, so I found it was useless for social networking and communicating with my peers (which is all I expected of it, like Facebook). While a lot of my friends still do not tweet, I have found that it is useful in the arena of journalism as well as consumerism.

The article “How We Use Twitter for Journalism” outlines four main points of the benefits of twitter in journalism.

As pulled from the article, twitter is used for:

  • the discovery of breaking stories,
  • performing interviews,
  • quality assurance
  • and promotion of our work.

To return to the opening quote, “When I first saw Twitter I thought it was the stupidest thing ever.” Kirkpatrick follows with, “Now, despite the length of this post, I find 140 characters plenty of space to communicate about almost anything.”

I must say I agree.

Follow me on twitter!

Here are 10 twitter accounts related in some way or another to digital journalism that I now follow:

1. @nytimesfashion (national) New York Times Fashion- While adding the required New York Times twitter, I noticed the New York Times Fashion twitter. As someone extremely interested in fashion and journalism this seemed like a great twitter to follow.

2. @PerezHilton (national) Perez Hilton- My roommates spend an unruly amount of time on Perez Hilton’s celebrity gossip blog, so I decided it would be a humorous twitter to follow.

3. @seattletimes (local) The Seattle Times- I tend to read the paper in print form as it sits on my dining room table during breakfast and lunch, so why not follow it more frequently on twitter.

4. @thedaily (local) The Daily- I also spend my breakfast and lunch time flipping through The Daily, so I might as well follow it on twitter.

5. @InStyle (national) In Style- I am a big fashion magazine junkie and have dreamed of working for one ever since I was in elementary school. Back at my house my mom has a subscription to In Style and I have always enjoyed the enormous magazine, filled with fashion advertisements. I don’t have easy access to it at UW and am not the biggest fan of reading magazines online, but it wouldn’t hurt to try following the fashion magazine scene on twitter.

6. @harpersbazaarus (national) Harper’s Bazaar- Another fashion magazine I am a fan (and now follower) of!

7. @CosmoOnline (national) Cosmopolitan- What girl (or even guy) doesn’t (at least secretly, although I am open about it) love to read Cosmopolitan. Yet another magazine that I love to flip through.

8. @ENews (national) E! News- Watching E! News is a guilty pleasure of mine. I admit I would love to have the fluff job of broadcasting from the red carpet and reporting on entertainment media.

9. @TMobile_USA (local) T-Mobile- My dad works for T-Mobile and I am constantly hearing about their advances in technology and multimedia from him. It’s also a fun perk to play with the new devices early! I would definitely classify T-Mobile as more than a phone company, because a lot of their products and applications can be used to produce digital journalism.

10. @Oprah (national) Oprah Winfrey- I just had to do it. I was born in Chicago. I would kill to be the next Oprah (she’s retiring next year…). Plus for the digital journalism angle, she is an influential figure in media and produces O Magazine.

Along with these twitter accounts related in some way, shape or form to digital journalism, I went on a spree of following others I have interest in. A few of these accounts are: @Nordstrom, @gossipgirl, @BarackObama, @UsWeekly, @Mariners, @TheEllenShow, @BCBGMAXAZRIA, @elle_com, @UrbanOutfitters.