I’ve been addicted to the Internet since 1998. Although my addiction runs deep, I’m usually wary of web apps; it’s usually a hit or miss whether they’re going to take off. But I enjoy the Internet, and I’d like to think I know enough about it to hold my own. I’ve also been interested in journalism since forever ago.
In 2009, Mashable, a leading site in social media news, reported about Griffith University in Australia requiring journalism students to take a class on Twitter education. The article used the Iran elections as an example of emerging news via social media:
University officials cited increasing demand from employers for new hires well-versed in social media, and Twitter’s importance in global events like the Iran elections [in 2009].
The problem is that when this transfers over to universities that aren’t as technologically savvy as Griffith University, these universities end up pushing j-students into becoming article machines, and not necessarily in a good way. Maybe it’s because Twitter is so “new,” even though the popular social network just celebrated its fifth birthday. Maybe it’s because journalism students are trying really, really hard to seem professional — as they should. The economy’s not doing so great, and the journalism industry isn’t immune. However, there is a difference between “professional” and “boring.”
I just don’t think professors are necessarily consciously pushing “professional” Twitter accounts on students to regurgitate links to news stories. I think they mean for journalism students to use Twitter as a form of relaying news: something newsworthy, timely, and interesting. (Remember that, j-students?) But these students are losing all of their personality to these accounts. Don’t you think it’s a little pretentious to assume your followers are only following you and no other news source?
Perhaps some journalism students don’t necessarily get the “point” of Twitter.
What I like about Twitter is knowing that handlebar moustaches are coming back, that Craig Newmark is hanging out at Carmel winery, that Bluegrass still matters in the Bluegrass, and that Robert Scoble is confused about the time change in Israel—and that Scoble is hanging out there with a bunch of other key influencers.
Paul Bradshaw made a list in early 2009 which showcased “10 Twitter users all journalism students should follow.” The list includes a BBC journalist (@davelee) and a writer for The Guardian (@jemimakiss). I also personally recommend @nickkristof as well, for those interested in war/world journalism. The thing these three have in common? They tweet (post) like real people. They don’t just post links. They don’t just retweet (repost a tweet someone else originally wrote). Sometimes they have thought-provoking posts; sometimes they’re just silly. Personality makes journalism interesting. What are a few reasons why you have a favorite journalist? (All journalism students have at least one, don’t be shy.)
Granted, like I said before: there’s a difference between “professional” and “boring.” Having personality doesn’t mean tweeting in a drunken haze. If you want to look professional, tweet your thoughts in a coherent way. Practice good writing in your tweets. Post a funny thought, and a few hours later, post about a cause you truly believe in. Retweets are OK in small doses. Sometimes it varies, depending on what’s going on.
The University of Memphis just had its first social media class in spring of 2011. Five years after the beginning of Twitter. Seven years after Facebook launched to Harvard students. A year and a half after the Iranian elections. And two years after Griffith University incorporated it into its curriculum. To say that the Memphian university is late to the game would be a bit of an understatement. Through my complaint, however, this class taught my colleagues social media etiquette. How to use it effectively. That it doesn’t really matter what you think is important, but what your viewers and readers think is important. I think it’s a great start.
The more that j-students involve themselves in the process of integrating with their readers or viewers, actually hearing them out and engaging in conversations, the more likely they’ll see the use of social media to journalists. And maybe once they’ve entered that process, they can lighten up a little and enjoy it.