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Friday, 27 May 2011

Twitter for journalists: @fergb: Lose the egg and harvest Twitter lists (#Newsrw)

"Don't have an egg [as your profile picture] on your Twitter page", says AP journalist Fergus Bell.

Like Neal Mann, Bell is also a keen Twitter user and his focus was on the importance of building an open trustworthy relationship with people and the utility of Twitter lists to assist his journalism. 

Rather than following lots of people from his personal account, he said his preferred strategy for newsgathering was to establish a series of Twitter lists using HootSuite.

He also believed that it was more useful to monitor "quality sources" instead of following people simply "because they were interesting".

This strategy enabled him to avoid "the clutter" that would build up in an individual Twitter feed.  

In a daily news environment where time is precious, Bell recommended harvesting existing Twitter lists created by other people.

He cited Twitter's own World Leader list as an obvious example of how a journalist could take advantage of other people's list-making tendencies and suggested that useful lists for nearly any news story had probably already been created.

In terms of verification, Bell said he did use tools that had been mentioned by the BBC's Alex Gubbay, (who spoke just before him), including Google Maps and Street View.

But Bell emphasised investigating "the person" behind the content. He suggested that it was difficult to "fake a social history" and advocated checking whether the content that a person had submitted was consistent with their previous contributions to the Web.

Turning that on its head, Bell also said it was important that journalists were open about their own social profile so that the 'former audience' would know that they were genuine.

He highlighted that he wouldn't run anything prior to having permission from the content owner and said it was important to "gain the trust" of potential contributors.

Hence Bell's call for journalists to lose their Twitter eggs - the default photo icon used by Twitter on sign up - and to embrace the personal aspect of Twitter as a news tool. 

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