Tag Archives: twitter

Write This Way: Top Writing and Editing Links for May 28, 2010

Photo courtesy of SXC.

7 Easy to Miss and Fix Writing Mistakes
Meryl K. Evans, who writes a blog on web content, reminds readers of mistakes that even good writers make when reading and editing their own copy–and offers fixes for each one.

6 Tips For a Great Freelance Writer’s Vacation
Carol Tice, writing on the Make A Living Writing blog, gives good pointers for taking a real (= no laptop or mobile phone required) vacation without losing clients or your mind.

New Voices Invests in Nine Community News Projects
New Voices, an initiative of J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism, announced its most recent crop of grant winners. These projects mainly cover small cities and towns with hyperlocal journalism coverage. Each grantee will receive up to $25,000 to launch a news initiative and work to sustain it over the next two years.

10 sure cures for blogging burnout | WordCount
Michelle Rafter offers a number of really great suggestions for keeping one’s blogging fresh and consistent. I especially like her “cures” of using theme days and keeping drafts in your blogging software that can be posted when you need a new idea quickly.

The top cliches to avoid like the plague
Sally Jackson reports for The Australian. Journalist Chris Pash has spent nine years scouring newspapers and websites to find the media’s favorite hackneyed phrases, and this article gives the top offending phrases, as well as how Pash mined this data.

Three Annoying Habits of the Laziest Journalists on Twitter
Gawker has assembled a collection of irritating “don’ts” for journalists who are contemplating crowdsourcing their entire article via Twitter. Funny and pointed at the same time!

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Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for April 24, 2010

Photo courtesy Mike Homme via SXC.

The Importance of Words in Multimedia Storytelling – Nieman Storyboard
Jacqueline Marino discusses the tension in journalism between focusing on usability and brevity in online projects and using words along with multiple media to tell a long-form narrative in web-based projects.

The Most Important Job for Writers – Being Sticky, Concrete, Memorable
Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen, writing on her Quips and Tips for Freelance Writers blog, demonstrates why stories help nonfiction articles be sticky, concrete and memorable–and why those three qualities are invaluable for any piece of communication a writer might undertake.

How to Use Evernote to Organize Your Writing | Fuel Your Writing
Suzannah Windsor Freeman discusses how she uses this note-digitizing tool to simplify her writing and organizing.

AfterWORDS: The Art of the Start
From Creative Nonfiction, Issue 38. A sampling of first lines from nonfiction books shows there are as many possible approaches as there are stories to be told.

Creative Nonfiction (cnfonline) on Twitter
This is a daily Twitter contest hosted by Creative Nonfiction magazine. Participants should use the hashtag #cnftweet.The publication will print winners of its daily contest in forthcoming issues, and daily winners are posted at the account’s “favorites” page: http://twitter.com/cnfonline/favorites.

The Editor and the Curator (Or the Context Analyst and the Media Synesthete) | Tomorrow Museum
Joanne McNeil explains the differences between curation and traditional editing and why she thinks that calling online journalists who edit “content curators” is a misnomer.

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Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for April 14, 2010

Photo courtesy of SXC.

How Journalists are Using Social Media for Real Results
Mashable.com writer Brenna Ehrlich reports on how journalists are using social media for crowdsourcing, trend tracking, identifying leads and sources, and other research activities.

The Public Editor: The Danger of Always Being On
Clark Hoyt of the New York Times discusses the missteps that his paper is dealing with as they integrate videos, tweeting reporters and other new-media into the reporting of the day’s news. He writes that “several stumbles in the past few weeks have demonstrated some of the risks for a print culture built on careful reporting, layers of editing and time for reflection as it moves onto platforms where speed is everything and attitude sometimes trumps values like accuracy and restraint.”

Twelve Cool Tools for Writers and Others
Laura Spencer, posting on the FreelanceFolder blog site, offers a dozen tools for enhancing your writing productivity.

20 Hi-Tech Tools and Resources for Writers
Education writer Karen Schweitzer, guest blogging for The Writer’s Technology Companion, offers a list of useful (and mostly low-cost) online/mobile tools for writers. Everything from open-source word processing software to an Internet radio station for writers is covered.

Media tycoons wanted: Make your own newspaper
Interesting BBC story about The Newspaper Club, a company offering short-run printing for interested parties using the large presses run by major newspapers during their off-hours!

Bonus Links!
Two posts showing the view from the other side of the editor’s desk …

How to Get Ahead With Reporters | The Spin Within
Financial reporter turned publicist Lisa Fasig offers 10 tips drawn from her years as a journalist on how to help keep reporters happy and writing fair and balanced stories about your company or cause.

5 Ways to Better Engage Reporters | American Express OPEN Forum
Amy-Mae Elliot provides a handful of very simple, easy to implement tips for corporate PR departments to help make their company friendlier to reporters. Very good!

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Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for March 16, 2010

Photo courtesy of SXC.

Entrepreneurship and the Future of News
Long, detailed transcript of a speech by Jan Schaffer, J-Lab Executive Director. Covers what citizen journalists and news entrepreneurs are doing to carve out a place in the new media landscape.

Innovation at Work: Helping New Ideas Succeed
A free e-course from the Poynter Institute’s News University, aimed at fostering innovation in journalistic work environments.

How to Write a Mission Statement That Doesn’t Suck
Dan Heath, posting on FastCompany.com, provides a video and hilarious written commentary about how to write a mission statement that’s actually useful. Good exercise in how to write concisely and powerfully.

State of the Media, By the Numbers
The Columbia Journalism Review summarizes the recently released report by Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. It’s not pretty, but the data provides an interesting portrait of where contemporary media is at right now and where it might go.

The Shorty Awards
Hollywood has the Oscars, TV has the Emmys, and now Twitter has the Shorties. The 2nd annual Shorty Awards were held on March 3. They reward the best producers of real-time, short form content on Twitter. See who won!

10 Ways to blog when you’re not blogging
Joanna of Confident Writing blog discusses ways to stay connected with your blog even if you take a break from posting.

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Holiday nano-practice for writers

Photo courtesy SXC.

It’s a week before Christmas.  We’re in the middle of Hanukkah. Yule, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Eve are just around the corner. If you’ve got a writing project (or projects) you’re trying to keep on track, it’s very easy to get distracted by holiday festivities and end up both frustrated at your lack of progress and sad that you couldn’t enjoy your holiday recreation fully because you were fretting about your writing in the back of your mind.

I’m just as guilty of giving into this tension and distraction as everyone else. However, I was lucky to recently come across a series of very helpful blog posts by my cyber-pal Christina Thompson, who is a trombonist, creativity coach, music teacher and author of a new book, Women Embracing Creativity.

Her 2008 “No Time To Practice?” (Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4) series has a lot of good tips, broadly applicable to artists of every discipline, for maintaing a connection to our creative work. And it’s inspired me to write this short list of “nano-practice” tips for writers, who actually have more opportunity than most, I believe, to keep their skills sharp during holiday breaks.

So if you’re in the thick of your holiday preparations or celebrations right now, consider channeling your writing mojo into these activities …

1. Take your Twittering and status updates to a new level. I’ve blogged about using Twitter as a writing coach before, and in this age of social media, being able to say something rich and evocative in a few words is an even more valuable skill than ever before. The poetry of some people’s tweets or updates can make connecting with them far more than a perfunctory experience. What can you say in 140 characters or less that might move your personal network and express your feelings and observations succinctly?

2. Revive the art of correspondence. Many of us send paper or electronic greeting cards or annual family letters, but do we think about more than just providing a news report for friends and colleagues? My father used to write a family letter that placed our entire clan in a Renaissance era motif and made its readers howl with laughter. He was following in his mother’s footsteps, who played off her first name to create a yearly missive entitled “The Perils of Jewel and Pauline,” which mimicked the theme of a popular series of films during her youth.

It’s not necessary to summon literary greatness to get your Christmas cards or family letters out, but they are another place where your writing and editing skills can create a story that touches your audience and pleases your “sources,” who are those closest to you!

3. Catch up on your “craft” reading/listening. If you’re flying or riding in a car to your holiday destination, how about absorbing some good books relevant to non-fiction writing? I’m partial to Jack Hart’s A Writer’s Coach and Roy Peter Clark’s Writing Tools, but reading or listening to a well-written novel is also good for picking up tips on how to handle dialogue, expository passages and other writing challenges. Even if you’re only able to read a few chapters, or a few pages, you may pick up something valuable.

4. Practice one-sentence journaling. The point of journaling isn’t to meet a production quota! It’s to convey meaning in a form that will stick with you later. Early last year, I conducted an interesting interview on my creativity blog, Creative Liberty, with journaling instructor Quinn McDonald on this technique. Much like the more public tweet/status update suggestion, the length limitation on this sort of journaling encourages you to both writing something each day and choose your words very carefully.

5. Engage in intentional conversations. If you’re at a family holiday gathering and are surrounded by people, listen to them! Even if you have precious little common ground with your relatives, practicing the art of conversation sharpens your ear for dialogue and accurate quotations, allows you to understand your “subject” on a deeper level, and may improve your interviewing skills.

If you want to make use of your time with your loved ones to record some conversations for posterity, the StoryCorps program can help you get started. They have excellent interview guides, tips on managing audio recording devices and plenty of audio files on the site to hear other families reminiscing. The goal of this non-profit is to create a “nation of listeners” in 2010, and your little conversation could be a part of it, if you choose to be involved.

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How many notebooks does a writer need?

Photo courtesy SXC.

The other day, when I stopped to think about it, I realized I have a bit of an office supply fetish. It’s not that I’m compulsively well organized; it’s more that, to me, file folders and new pens and notebooks–especially notebooks– symbolize the potential that exists within the articles, columns and other writing projects that I might use those very office supplies to create.
I often claim my root profession to be documentarian, so my profusion of notebooks, journals, blogs and other recording tools seems appropriate. I recently did an inventory of my notebooks/journaling tools, both past and present. Here are the varieties of notebooks, if I may use that term loosely, that I’ve found to be indispensable over the years…

My Notebook Inventory

Reporter’s Notebook—Distinguished by being bound at the top edge and (for the most part) being slim enough to fit in a shirt pocket. I use reporter’s notebooks (or memo pads, if nothing else is available) for all my interviews and never mix interview notes with notes unrelated to a specific story assignment. That makes locating notes from an interview years after the fact much easier, as does my habit of listing the article topics covered and the date range for the interviews on the cover of the notebook.

Writer’s Daybook—This notebook is for all writing-related notes that are NOT interviews, including story outlines, to-do lists, handwritten rough drafts, snippets of dialog overheard on the light rail, and (most importantly) the ideas that often come completely unannounced when I am focusing on something other than writing. I prefer hardbound notebooks with illustrated covers for my daybooks. My mind must be going places when I write, because I’m always drawn to notebooks decorated with map, postcard/letter or travel themes.

Food/Exercise journals—Many years before my current relationship with the food/exercise recording site SparkPeople.com, I kept richly detailed running logs as a teenager. I gave my regular running routes names and wrote evocative descriptions of the weather, my thoughts during the run, and the friends and neighbors I often saw along the way. In late 2006, as I was preparing for a move, I found my old running logs and cracked open a few. It was if I popped open a vintage bottle of wine—decades later, the content was still moving and took me back to a time when I viewed burning calories as an almost spiritual experience.
When I reviewed Julia Cameron’s book The Writing Diet last year, I learned that this type of notebook writing, whether done online or on paper, serves another purpose—keeping a food journal can help one lose or maintain weight.

Blogs—I’ve kept several blogs over the past 4 years—this blog on writing and editing nonfiction; my blog on the creative process, Creative Liberty; a short-lived personal blog and two private blogs that I set up to chart progress on various writing projects I’ve got going.
Using blogs as diaries or notebooks is pretty well documented (since the word blog was originally short for the term “web log”). While my two current blogs are more commercially/communally focused than the preceding ones, I like the digital capture possibilities of blogs for writing research and may start using WordPress as a content management system to corral notes for projects that will end up online in one format or another anyway.

Social media updatesA lot of people pooh-pooh the idea of one’s personal Twitter tweets or Facebook/LinkedIn status updates being anything more than narcissistic over-sharing, but I disagree. While I’m not ready to do full-on lifestreaming myself, I do find that dipping into the journal-like commentary of my friends and contacts has positive research value for me as a writer. When I upload personal observations via social media, I do feel as if I’m sharing some sort of “open notebook” with my social circle—much like a blog, only more limited in its distribution. Some of my non-blogging Facebook friends share their activities and observations through posting notes and links, and a few (I’m thinking of Rod and Bill K. in particular here) friends share their blog posts as notes on Facebook, bringing their content to friends who don’t typically visit blogs.
I’m cautious about my use of social media as an open notebook for now, but I am tantalized by the possibilities.

The questions to you…

  • How many notebooks or notebook-like online tools do you use on a regular basis?
  • Do you prefer to have your note-taking in some all-in-one sort of solution (one big notebook) or use task-specific tools (lots of little notebooks)?
  • Do you purchase/select your notebooks or journaling tools primarily based on functionality, aesthetics, or both?
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Write This Way: Top Writing and Editing Links for September 7, 2009


Photo courtesy of SXC.

How Citizen Journalists Can Learn from Work of ‘Citizen Scientists’

This post is an excellent piece on PBS’s Media Shift Idea Lab about the alliance between professional scientists and citizen or amateur scientists, and what journalists could learn from this.

Post author Dan Schultz notes that he was tuned into scientific community’s attitude towards the contributions of non-professionals by an article on Carnegie Mellon University’s website that documented efforts by Eric Paulos, an assistant professor in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute, to equip “everyday mobile devices” with sensors used to collect reliable scientific data. The point of all this effort is to create “a new generation of ‘citizen scientists,’ connected both to the environment and each other.”

That story, combined with several other stories he read about recent astronomy discoveries being initially reported by amateur scientists, made him think about how journalists could learn from this friendly, if structured relationship between professional and non-professional scientists:

“All three types of scientists (professional, citizen, amateur) have beautifully compatible relationships.

“Professionals can safely focus on daunting tasks, knowing that amateurs are ready and willing to take on the smaller stuff (like keeping tabs on Jupiter). The community standards are clear and ultimately bound by cold hard observable fact, so amateurs can make meaningful contributions without diluting the knowledge base. Meanwhile, citizens are being empowered by professionals to help the scientific cause in a way that informs individuals and improves their lives.”

Shultz makes the following recommendations for journalists based on this.

    • Professional journalists can take the lead by clearly defining expectations, explaining best practices, and implementing an accessible infrastructure.
    • If amateur journalists do a good job of covering a smaller scope of topics or areas, then professionals can focus on the deeper, otherwise inaccessible issues.
    • Professional journalists are responsible for creating and maintaining the citizen network if they want it to meet their standards. (Emphasis mine)
    • Citizen networks need more than a host – they need to be explicitly empowered through tools and guidance.
    • A symbiotic relationship between the professional, the amateur, and the crowd is not just possible, it’s socially optimal.

      This article is the first one I’ve seen to turn the typically contentious and negative “real” journalist vs. blogger/citizen reporter debate on its head and posit citizen journalist work as a positive benefit to professional journalists. Definitely worth reading, considering, and discussing.

      Start With A Promise

      A great reminder on what the beginning of each story must do by veteran writing coach Jessica Page Morrell, guest posting on the Editor Unleashed blog.

      Morrell reminds us that, “Story openings are like job interviews, and if the words on the page entertain, you get the job. If they don’t, somebody who writes better gets the job.” She asserts that the easiest way to have your story get “hired” by editors (whom she correctly defines as “highly discerning reader(s) … connoisseurs who love the written word”) is to make a promise consistent with the genre you’re writing in, and then keep that promise.

      She takes readers through the various sorts of promises one might make in a memoir, in a science-fiction story, a romance, etc. These genre-specific tips also could apply to the tone of a nonfiction magazine article, and her general tips on matching the promise to the overall story should be taken to heart by nonfiction authors, who sometimes (in my experience as an editor) mistake a dramatic opening anecdote as a cure-all for a lack of feel for the true tone of the story they’re writing.

      As Morrell says,

      “An emotional opening prepares the reader for a heart-rattling journey, just as a philosophical opening promises a thoughtful exploration of themes, an action-packed opening promises a bronco-breaking ride, and a quiet beginning usually promises an intense exploration of characters’ lives.”

      Amen. Her post is a great reminder of the pact we make with the reader when we ask them to listen to our story, and our responsibility as writers to live up to the promise we make to them.

      Multimedia Magazine ‘FLYP’ Finds New Ways to Tell Stories Online

      From Poynter Online’s E-Media Tidbits section. Author Vadim Lavrusik reports on FLYP magazine, a New York-based publication that uses an innovative palette of online tools and Web 2.0 user functionality to cover topics from politics and science to art and music.

      FLYP augments traditional reporting and writing with animation, audio, video and interactive graphics. One of the major differences between FLYP and other magazines that have ramped up their digital/online versions is how the publication approaches news-gathering and production.

      “(Editor-in-chief Jim) Gaines said the production process at FLYP is different from any of the ‘old media’ publications he has worked for. At many publications there is a pyramid structure; at FLYP the production process is flatly distributed across teams. Everyone gathers and each medium is considered for a particular story. At magazines, on the other hand, the text is the primary medium. Even for Web sites multimedia elements are often an afterthought.”

      Another interesting point raised in the article is how FLYP is packaging rich media ads, which may help tease out the true profitability of using online ads as a mainstay of a publication’s business model. Currently, the publication is being privately funded by multi-millionaire Alfonso Romo, but Gaines would like to create a limited supply of “engaging” rich media ads which readers seek out, but which are not so commoditized that advertisers won’t pay top dollar for them.

      For writers and editors keeping tabs on where online media is going, especially how content and revenue will interact in the “everything should be free” web era, this article is required reading.

      Bonus Links!


      A fun little blog on the Writer’s Digest site that offers writing prompts for readers 3 times a week. Readers can upload their written response to the prompt in the comments section of each post!

      From Telegraph to Twitter: The Language of the Short Form
      Roy Peter Clark gets into microblogging and writes about its historical roots on Poynter Online’s Writing Tools blog.

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      Write This Way: Top Writing and Editing Links for June 18, 2009


      Photo courtesy of SXC.

      For this month’s link roundup, good things seem to come in twos.

      Conversations on a “sick” topic
      We’ve all heard about the health-care reform legislation that is making its way through Congress on the news, but how good is the coverage of health issues in general. I saw a pair of articles recently had experts giving a guarded prognosis to the current state of health journalism.

      In a Columbia Journalism Review “Talking Shop” column, Los Angeles Times health reporter Karen Ravn, who recently had her story about patient dishonesty, “Body of Lies,” published in her paper, discussed the future of her specialty with Sanhita Reddy.

      Ravn had an interesting point to make about the role of health blogs in the public’s perception of medical information:

      “I noticed … (on WSJ’s Health Blog!) that a new survey from the Pew Research Center found that 25 percent of all American adults have read someone else’s commentary or experience about health or medical issues on an online news group, Web site, or blog. More generally, 61 percent look online for health information, and 42 percent say they or someone they know has been helped by info found on the Internet, while only 3 percent say they or someone they know has been harmed by info found on the Internet. These figures suggest that blogs and other Internet sources are playing a largely useful role in health awareness.

      “Blogs have the benefit of letting readers interact with writers: ask questions, make contrary points, describe personal experiences (that other readers then get to share). On the other hand, not all blogs are as responsible as the NYT’s and the WSJ’s may be assumed to be. And quality control on reader postings ranges from limited to nil. … I regret (understatement) any extent to which health reporting is a zero-sum game—where the growth of health blogs on the Web means the shrinkage of health sections in the paper.”

      Over at the University of Minnesota’s alumni magazine, there is a great interview with Gary Schwitzer, an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota who is an expert on health journalism. Schwitzer publishes an award-winning Web site critiquing health care journalism, maintains a health-related news and resource site, and is helping to train the next generation of health care journalists.

      In “Sick About Health Care,” Schwitzer is especially critical of the way journalists cover disease and treatment.

      “It’s a troubling time and there isn’t time to waste space or air time or column inches on breakthroughs and cures and miracles and fluff. We’re not asking tough questions: What’s the quality of evidence? Who’s going to have access to it? What’s it going to cost? Who’s your source? What are his or her conflicts of interest? This is not only a lesson for journalists, but a lesson for consumers. These are things we should be asking of anyone who makes health care claims. Including your own caregiver…”

      He also has tough words for the medical, drug and insurance industries:

      “We are over-medicalized. We sell sickness. We fearmonger. We disease-monger. We are actually again being sold on the weapons of mass destruction in our lives, but these are weapons of mass destruction inside us. You’d better have a scan, although nothing is wrong with you. Under the banner of doing good we are doing harm.”

      Both articles are excellent ways to inform yourself about the quality of reporting being done on this urgently important topic. Schwitzer also mentions the work of AP medical writer Carla Johnson, who has utilized her attendance at evidence-based journalism workshops to produce stories that take a close look at the results of a new treatment or approach before hailing it as a “breakthrough” or “miracle” (which are two words Schwitzer says health writers should never use).

      Cyber-journalism and linking: making it click
      BeatBlogging.com had a couple of nice links recently relating to the ethics of hyperlinking and tools that may enable reporters to be even more wired and mobile than ever.

      In “Why We Link,” Ryan Sholin discusses why outside links are not just good in a news story, but vital. For those involved in online writing who are not trained in journalism, this may seem like a no-brainer, but there are significant questions of accuracy and quality of link-based information that traditional journalists have rightly raised.

      Sholin lists five reasons why linking often and intelligently benefits journalists, and one of his best arguments is that it is one of the best ways to connect with the online community in one’s town:

      “If you’re writing about human beings, businesses, organizations, government institutions or any other life form with a presence on the Internet, linking to them in the stories you publish about them is the low-hanging fruit when it comes to participating in your local online community.

      “Skipping the link to the city council’s calendar when you mention the next meeting, leaving out the link to the Little League’s online scoreboard when you write a story about its resurgence or not bothering to link to the full database of restaurant inspections when you choose three to write about — these are all easy ways to miss an opportunity to connect with your community and your readers.”

      Meanwhile, the same week that the above article came out, BeatBlogging also published a post by Patrick Thornton on tools that may help redefine reporting. He discusses MiFi networks (which are like small-scale Wi-Fi wireless networks), the newest iPhone (which can easily edit and share, as well as record, video and photos), and the increasing affordability of digital cameras and netbooks.

      All this points to reporters being able to blend online research and good old-fashioned legwork out in the field, Thornton says. It also means the days of hearing “that’s not my job” in the newsroom (or over the phone!) are gone.

      “The era of specialized journalists may be coming to an end. By specialized, I mean people who only write, edit, take photos, etc. Most content producers should be able to at least write and take competent photos and video. A news org may still want a few dedicated photographers and videographers around for big stories and high-end content. Journalists will probably be specializing more in beats and niches and less in a specific content production means.”

      I agree with Thornton on this last point, and argue (as a writer and editor with video production experience) that once one gets to a certain point with tool knowledge, what counts in producing media content is the ability to frame a story and tell it well, not one’s expertise in a niche skillset.

      Bonus Links!

      Even our bonus links are a two-fer this time. Both are from Mashable.com.

      Everything I Need to Know About Twitter I Learned in J-School
      Great description of parallels between reporter training in journalism school and successful Twitter posts.

      Nonfiction Tweets: 70+ Authors to Follow on Twitter
      Lists Twitter feeds for numerous nonfiction writers from various genres.

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      Twitter as writing coach, part 3: Digesting bite-sized research


      Photo courtesy of SXC.

      Over the past few weeks, we’ve talked about how the microblogging service Twitter can improve your writing and teach writers a thing or two about creating compelling content . However, there’s one last way in which Twitter can be useful to you as a writer: finding the information you need to write a rich, nuanced and credible story.

      Our last post on this subject for now covers some posts that discuss ways to use the service while researching a story. And since talking about using Twitter and actually using it effectively are two different things, these resources provide plenty of case studies and links to nonfiction writers out in the field tweeting away.

      Twitter for research: why and how to do it, including case studies
      Good basic intro from TwiTip to how Twitter works and how to tag your own tweets for future reference. It points out that the two easiest ways to find something out on Twitter are to ask (and ask to be retweeted) and to search, using Twitter Search as your search engine.

      Another useful feature of Twitter explained in the article is the hashtag (#creative, for example) concept. Similar to putting tags on blog posts, hashtags are a simple way for Twitter users to slot their content for later retrieval. You can search hashtags by visiting Hashtags.org.

      This post also has a comprehensive list of Twitter tools (many research oriented) and a number of research “success” stories.

      How we use Twitter for journalism
      Marshall Kirkpatrick gives a breakdown of the primary ways the ReadWriteWeb staff was using Twitter to write their stories: uncovering breaking news stories, conducting interviews (either multiple folks contributing short answer to a question or asking followers to help frame questions), doing QA checks (i.e., asking if people remember the name of a particular software, etc.) or promoting headlines once the story is online or published.

      Marshall makes an interesting observation about the relationship with readers that develops as he interacts with them during the story development process (The bolding of the next to last sentence is my addition):

      “If we’re working on something we think will be of interest, sometimes we’ll prime the pump a bit and let people know what’s coming up. So far, we’ve heard almost entirely positive feedback on these practices. That’s probably based largely on the relationships we’ve got with our readers, many of which were developed using Twitter. If you had 20 to 50 people that consistently offered feedback on your articles, wouldn’t that be great? That’s what it feels like we get on Twitter.”

      If Twitter isn’t part of your online strategy, it should be

      Chrys Wu’s Richochet blog is all about good ideas in online journalism, which should be a natural match for tweeting nonfiction writers. This short post, from the end of 2007, focuses mostly on examples of good uses of Twitter by journalists and news media. As Chrys says,

      “Perhaps the real power in Twitter is in speed and community. Not only were media outlets able to broadcast breaking news updates (in the examples here), non-media people also sent updated, on-the-scene information. Talk about crowdsourcing…”

      Twitter to journalists: here’s how it’s done
      Monica Guzman of Eat Sleep Publish taught a class on social media to the (now) online-only Seattle Post-Intelligencer last November and gathered the collective wisdom she presented in part by putting out a big public tweet about it. This post shares a lot of the “for journalists, from journalists” tips she got, and includes a number of case studies. Lots of journalists recommend following potential sources and give good advice for how to “come out from behind the byline” without sacrificing any journalistic principles.

      Sweet tweets: Journalists using Twitter

      Journalists on Twitter – Muck Rack
      Muck Rack publishes up-to-the-minute tweets from reporters and writers for many major news outlets.

      My Creative Team Wiki / Media People Using Twitter
      A long international list of media folks who are active on Twitter.

      One more Twitter “tool” (mostly for fun)

      Visible Tweets – Twitter Visualizations.
      Addictive visual display of current tweets on terms (search operators, hashtags, etc.) selected by the user. Might make a fun background screen for a presentation.

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      Twitter as writing coach, part 2: The art of the retweet


      Last time I posted, we looked at Twitter’s power to shape our writing by studying Twitter poetry. Today, let’s consider what we can learn by studying what makes for compelling content on Twitter—in other words, what sort of posts get “retweeted” and spread from network to network.

      Writing compelling content is something with which every writer—nonfiction or fiction—should be concerned. Even in story forms governed by the rules of journalism, where objectivity and even-handedness are highly valued, being able to package a story and make sure it finds the widest possible audience is an essential survival skill.

      One of the most important guidelines in writing compellingly and getting retweeted on Twitter is to consider one’s network of followers. What do they need or want to know?

      The good folks over at Cyberjournalist.net recently blogged about super-entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki’s rules for getting retweeted, and had this to say about Guy’s first rule, which is “ask the right question.”

      There are pockets of Twitter users who want to bond with small group of people and learn the answer to the original Twitter question: ‘What are you doing?’ These are the folks that enjoy tweets that say, ‘My cat just rolled over’ and ‘The line at Starbucks is long.’

      “The question you should answer if you want retweets is ‘What’s interesting?’ for your group of followers. For example, the story that Taiwanese scientists bred glow-in-the-dark pigs is a lot more interesting than what your cat is doing and therefore a lot more likely to get retweeted.”

      Another Twitter lesson for writers from the retweet arena is that sharing begets sharing. Social media researcher Dan Zarrella, guest posting on Copyblogger, notes that 70 percent of retweets contain a hyperlink (often shaved down to size using http://tiny.cc or other services). If you’re linking to your own content, it’s a good idea to think about what sorts of writing get passed around online—Zarrella lists how-tos/instructional content, breaking news, warnings (about scams, etc.) and freebies or contests as links highly likely to get a retweet.

      The lesson here, I think, is that people want to share useful stuff with those they care about and keep their friends out of trouble. When drafting our stories, no matter the venue, it’s a good idea to keep in mind that this is a huge piece of what drives information passed through online social networking.

      The final rule we can draw from what gets retweeted on Twitter is that calls to action produce action. Zarrella, writing recently on his own blog about the 20 words and phrases that generate the most retweets, notes that the phrase “please retweet” appeared very frequently in posts that got retweeted. Other action verbs that appeared in highly retweeted posts included “help,” “follow,” and “check out.”

      Obviously, a lot of journalistic non-fiction writing cannot directly order the reader to take action, although it can quote sources about the need for action, the urgency of a situation, etc. However, thinking what frame of mind you want to leave a reader with after digesting your story is still helpful. And for many “service” stories in trade or self-help oriented publications, issuing a clear call to action is part of the package—readers are looking to you to explain how something works, and then recommend ways to use the newfound knowledge.

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