Convert the Twitter nonbelievers

By Ashley Crockett

It's fine if you aren't using Twitter. Really -- you're free to make your own choices, after all.

Just know that you're missing out on a wealth of information and sources.

For instance, you can witness real-time global dialogue about whatever your heart (or your editor) desires, which is great for finding new sources or new twists on old stories. It's also excellent for finding new ideas -- if your newsroom seems stuck on repeat, find inspiration with a (free!) glance at what your audience is talking about and what it's curious to learn.

If you don't believe me, maybe Poynter's article "10 ways journalists can use Twitter before, during and after reporting a story" will convince you. I chose three items (below) from this list that I've used while studying journalism at the University of Missouri.

1. Find local sources - Coming from Memphis, Tenn., I had zip, zero, zilch knowledge about farming and agriculture, both of which are rather important topics in the Midwest. So, I turned to Twitter to help me find sources. Sorting through tweets, I found sources and connections to others, plus plenty of information I didn't know that helped build my reporting of a story.

2. Find & capture reaction - Twitter is a fantastic tool for tracking people's thoughts and feelings on pretty much anything -- even if you don't mean to. I'm blind to most major sporting events, yet I always know when a Cardinals game is being played and how it's going. Always.

3. Build your credibility - Your audience trusts you to know what's going on and, as experience has shown, rumors fly like crazy on the Twitterverse. Post on Twitter to show you're aware of whatever the situation is and make sure accurate, verified information is being shared. Plus, just like with Google, employers are turning to Twitter to learn about potential employees -- it's a way for them to see more than just a name on a resume.

How do you use Twitter to enhance your reporting? What about your career?

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