Why some in news love Twitter and some apparently don’t

I tend to think (despite my initially dissing it) that Twitter has transformed how news is done almost as much as the telegraph did–and that was big. A conversation with a client the other day highlighted why some in the news business love Twitter and some don’t seem to like it too much.

While on the phone with this client he said, hold on a minute, I’m getting a question via Twitter from a reporter over the city in a helicopter. I chuckled while holding. Talk about monitoring! In less than 30 seconds my client was back on the phone. He had answered the reporters question, and since his Twitter messages are fed to his newsroom website, he also informed anyone else who might be asking a similar question. I said, “that’s pretty slick and easy media management.”

He went on to explain that reporters like the guy in the helicopter love using Twitter and use it extensively, but a number of news producers do not. That stunned me for a moment. Why would anyone not like using Twitter? Why would these producers prefer to pick up the old phone, try to get a hold of someone who is chronically very busy, and wait to get an answer? At first I thought the only answer was age and the related phenomenon of ludditism. But, in discussing this with the client, I think there is a better answer than refusal to adapt.

News competition used to largely about scoops, about covering something significant that no one else had. Being the first with a big story. Or, if you can’t be first, then getting a little gem that no one else has. I remember in one of my first big events that I was involved in, one newspaper reporter hung around after the press conference was over to ask his questions. He never asked questions during the press conference. Turns out, he didn’t want to tip off the other reporters to what angle he was going after and he kept probing until he thought he had something unique.

News competition today is more about speed, which is why the guy in the helicopter wants the answers right now. But those producers (age may indeed have something to do with this) are looking for the angle. They don’t like the idea that if the communicator answers his/her questions with a tweet everyone is going to get the same info. He/she doesn’t like to ask questions on Twitter where everyone else can see the question. They’d rather probe for the unique angle.

I can understand that. But, my answer to that is, unless there is compelling reason to give someone an exclusive, their hesitance to use Twitter for this reason is all the more reason to use it. Start training the reporters covering your beat that if they call you, probe and poke they can get something no one else can, and you will find that everyone will be probing and poking and taking up precious time with phone calls. Twitter, like the news website itself, is a great equalizer and contributor to transparency.

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