Twitter for Editors

Sue Burzynski Bullard of the University of Nebraska-Loncoln speaking about "Twitter for Editors" at ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

After the lunch, I decided to attend the session called “Twitter for Editors” in Room 202 with Sue Burzynski Bullard of the University of Nebraska-Loncoln. Sue has more than 3o years experience of working in different newspapers besides serving as the managing editor of The Detroit News for three years. In 2010, she was named as the Most Promising Professor by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), Mass Media and Society Division.

“When I created my Twitter account for the first time, I thought it was a place where people only said where they ate lunch and dinner,” Sue said in her initial remarks, “Now, I find most breaking news on Twitter. Even my mother asked “Do I also need this Twitter thing?”.  It is quicker than any other medium for journalists to break stories with only 140 characters . It really makes you think how to summarize your stories. Its growing fast.”

Sue said Facebook was still bigger than Twitter and and more popular among the youth but the latter had become an essential part of the media now.  She cited the following reasons why journalists and media houses use Twitter.

  • Bring traffic to your website
  • Market yourself, your newspaper your company
  • Enhance your reputation
  • Share story ideas, tips
  • Stay on top of news
  • Hear what others are saying
  • Stay connected

After such an impressive introduction of Twitter and its influence on media, we all participants seemed to have the same question in our minds: “Is Twitter going to replace journalism?”

“No,” she assured, “Twitter will not replace journalism.” Because Twitter only serves as a tool to break stories but people will still need journalism for serious, objective and in-depth coverage of issues which were firstly brought to them through a tweet.”

She also shared a video of Twitter’s CEO who said Twitter would make information faster but will not replace journalism. It’s one more communication tool which is a way to do reporting from the scene.

People instantly tweet about things that they have witnessed, she observed.


Since everyone in the audience was either a journalist or a journalism student, the focus of the discussion was the use of this social media by journalists community. It was learned that journalists use Twitter for the following main reasons.

  • Find focus of stories
  • Practice headline writing
  • Learn value of linking
  • Connect with other editors
  • Follow trends
  • Get the first report
  • Get tips on grammar, usage

Through Twitter, Journalists also learn what other reporters are reading and writing. They stay connected with each other about ongoing trends in the field. One such excellent website that connects tweeting journalists is Muck Rack.

Likewise, another interesting website to visit for learning about topics being tweeted is


As the debate about Twitter drew a lot of interest among the audience, the next question was about the role of the newsrooms and social media mangers in media houses. How often should they Tweet and when should they Tweet? They was consensus among the audience, which comprised of senior newspaper editors, reporters, copy editors and journalism professors and students, that excessive Tweeting often turns readers off. Instead of sharing each and every story on Twitter, news organizations should Tweet only the important stories. If readers are interested in rest of the stories then they would surely visit the newspaper website.

While Twitter provides a chance to break the story much faster, media organizations should still adhere to the principle of accuracy. For instance, Sue shared the Tweet from National Public Radio (NPR) about Tucson shootings of this January saying that Arizonian Congress woman Giffords had been killed in the shooting. In fact, she narrowly survived the assassination attempt but the news report plunged her family and supporters in deep grief. When I went for a Google search, I also found a similar inaccurate Tweet by BBC about the congresswoman’s “killing”.

“The most important stories should be tweeted,” said Sue as most of us agreed.


This was the question I posed. I was curious what was the best for journalists. Is it better to have more followers than those who follow us on the internet?

Sue aptly commented that internet (read Twitter) was just like television and radio where there was a barrage of information which often overwhelmed people. Therefore, it was very important that professional journalists only follow credible tweeting sources.

Several participants gave their ideas in response to my question. Some of them admitted following “too many people” on Twitter while some others revealed that they had “restricted” public access to their tweets because of privacy issues. Hence, it was learned that the best thing for journalists was to follow people of their interests or the beats they cover. They should follow many media outlets so that they do not miss any kind of important story. Similarly, the disadvantage of following “unknown people” was the possibility of missing some important tweets in the midst of a flood of tweets.

The moderator said she would most probably unfollow someone who, for instance, consistently tweeted about their delayed flight or newspapers that tweeted every news story.


In response to this question, Sue tended to say yes but some of us in the audience disagreed. We insisted that while retweeting largely referred to endorsement of a tweet, it was not always the case. Some times we may retweet a nasty tweet only to find what others feel about a particular rude of offensive tweet.


  • Give credit to people for their tweets.
  • Respond to people when they Tweet you.
  • Don’t retweet that has already been tweeted before by many others.


Hashtags are created by the users. Sometimes, they succeed and become very popular while at other times they simple fade away. However, “Trending” in Twitter is based on key words used in tweets rather than hashtags. Hashtags are key words used in a tweet which help people search about a particular topic. They are beneficial for those who are unable to attend an event but are still interested to learn about the things discussed during the moot. So, they use Twitter to get live updates about the conference.

The hashtag being used for this three-day conference is ACES2011. It was very interesting to learn about things being discussed by other groups at the same time while I attended this lecture about Twitter for Editors.


That was another question I asked Sue. There was an interesting input from one of the participants who said she had heard that if a news organization did not tweet after every three minutes then it was off the line.  That was in fact too much, I guessed. Personally, it depends. If we are in a major event then we may tweet more frequently than usual days. I agree the frequency of tweeting by a person depends on daily activities and events taking place in our surroundings.

By and large, I found the session on Twitter for Editors very informative and learned several new lessons which I have shared with you all. Your inputs are always welcome.


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