Thursday, April 23, 2009

To Tweet or Not To Tweet? That Is The Question

I have participated in conversations on the NABJ list serve on whether journalists (or people, for that matter) should be on Twitter. But after I read New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd's interview with the Twitter founders -- which turned into her own Twitter snarkfest -- I felt like weighing in on the discussion.

I began Tweeting in September 2008 as an experiment. I was attending the yearly conference for the industry I used to cover. I thought I'd do some quick observations, preview stories and let people know about my show blog posts. But a funny thing happened -- I became addicted.

And now I can't remember what my life was like before Twitter. I have a personal account (@benetwilson), a work account (@bizavweekly) and one I set up for my NABJ Region II Director candidacy (@benet4nabj). I use the work account to push my stories and blog posts and chat with like minded aviation/aerospace and social media types.

The best result I've received from being a Tweeting journalist are the great tips, actual stories and blog posts I've written thanks to my 909 followers (as of 1:30 p.m. today). These days, journalists need all the tools they can get to make themselves relevant -- and less likely to be laid off. I attribute my willingness to embrace these tools as the reason I was promoted in December even as my company, like many others, has had job cuts.

And Twitter doesn't have to take up your life if you have the right tools. First, I could not live without TweetDeck, which helps filter out the noise (such as: I'm on the subway, I wish it would go faster). I also use Topify, which helps me quickly decide who I will and will not follow. These tools have helped Twitter become a natural part of my writing process.

It's important for NABJ members have access to tools like Twitter, and I'm heartened to see that ths year's conference in Tampa Bay has several classes that will discuss this important topic, including my own panel: Tools You Need To Be A New Media Journalist. As Region II director, finding ways to pass these tools on will be a top priority for me.

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