Twitter for journalists: likes and dislikes

Last semester I talked about Twitter on the first day of class, assigned a handful of readings about it and evangelized about its usefulness in the world of online journalism. But I required students only to use Twitter as a way to promote their blog posts. Beyond that, I pretty much let them explore what else to do with it on their own, without much guidance.

This time around, we’re going to go a little further and see what else Twitter can do for journalists. To kick that off, I’ve made a list of what I see as some good and bad uses of Twitter. It’s a reflection of my personal tastes, and if you disagree with anything here or would like to add something, please do so in the comments.

If I had to say what I think a journalist should do with Twitter in one sentence, it would be this: Give people something of value. So let’s start there.


  • Original, breaking news
  • Linking to or retweeting of breaking news reported by other, credible sources
  • Analyzing news or the news business
  • Constructive interaction with sources, colleagues and readers
  • Questions directed at public officials
  • Humor

As with any technology, there are many ways that people abuse Twitter. Here are some of my dislikes:

  • Narcissism
  • Excessive complaining about minor, personal annoyances
  • Excessive reporting or retweeting of trivial events
  • Passive-aggressive venting
  • Retweeting rumors or information from less-than-credible sources

If you use Twitter regularly and follow enough people, chances are you’ve seen plenty of examples of the types of tweets I’ve listed above.

What are your likes and dislikes, when it comes to Twitter? How, as an online journalist, should you be using it?

If you’re new to Twitter, check out Mashable’s Twitter Guide Book.

(Updated 8/27 to add narcissism under “dislikes.”)


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