Posts Tagged ‘live tweeting’

The art of live tweeting

As Twitter prepares to celebrate its tenth birthday, its influence on journalism is significant. As part of a series leading up to its tenth birthday, SPJ Digital is looking at Twitter’s influence, as well as best practices and advice.

Here, SPJ’s Alex Veeneman revisits Britain’s general election to highlight the best practices of live tweeting and credible reporting on the platform.

British Prime Minister David Cameron won a majority in Britain's general election, something that drew a lot of attention on Twitter. (Photo: russavia/Wikimedia Commons)

British Prime Minister David Cameron won a majority in Britain’s recent general election, something that drew a lot of attention on Twitter.
(Photo: russavia/Wikimedia Commons)

May 7, 2015. As the clock struck 5pm on the East Coast, over in the UK, polls closed in the general election, and a predicted exit poll result no one had predicted appeared. David Cameron, whose Conservatives shared a coalition government with the Liberal Democrat party for the last five years, was set to receive almost a majority of seats in the House of Commons.

At 7pm ET, as the ballots continued to be counted and results came in through constituencies up and down the UK, my colleague, Current Affairs Editor Kirstie Keate, and I took to Twitter for Kettle Magazine to live tweet election results, as well as examine the implications the results would have on voters, as well as British politics itself.

Live tweeting during a developing story or breaking news event consists of the delicate balance of engaging audiences but also informing and adding something of value, something that they can’t get with another platform. In the digital age, the balance of curating a story on Twitter whilst reporting for another platform is something that is trying to be perfected.

That being said, here are some things to consider when live tweeting, and to allow your coverage to stand out:

Monitor sources: In breaking or developing stories, reporting accurate information is crucial. Monitor sources to see the root of information. Try to confirm it, and report on Twitter citing the sources. An honest reporter is a forthright reporter.

Plan ahead: Have conversations with the team you’re working with before the night of a live tweeting to develop ideas. What stands out? What can help create value? Bounce ideas off of each other. Not everything has to be set before the coverage develops — you can even bounce ideas while you’re in coverage mode. Kirstie and I had conversations before election night and spoke during, exchanging ideas and discussing angles. Again, not everything has to be set, but its better to have an idea and be ready to adapt that idea for what is ahead.

Alex Veeneman of Kettle Magazine says live tweeting says honesty with your audience on Twitter will keep them coming back. (Photo via Twitter)

Alex Veeneman of Kettle Magazine says honesty with your audience on Twitter will keep them coming back. (Photo via Twitter)

Look at key story elements: Consider key points in a story to evaluate and follow up on. For example, in our general election coverage, Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats struggled with the issue of university tuition fees, something they promised to repeal, but instead were raised when they were in a coalition.

As they targeted the student vote, the party’s response to fees was something students considered, so their views on election night helped develop an interesting part of the narrative, and helped audience engagement.

Be careful when you post: When you are live tweeting, you need to consider the importance of what is posted. Is there value in what you are going to post, or are you posting for the sake of posting? Will that post truly help your audience understand the story better? Consider before you compose.

Be honest: You may be working on a different platform, but its still reporting. Be honest with your audience. If you don’t know something, mention the reports and try to confirm it. Report what you know. As I said earlier, an honest reporter is a forthright reporter, and audiences appreciate forthright reporters, for they will come back to you after your coverage is over.

By the time our coverage concluded, a small number of constituencies remained, but it was clear — the political landscape in Britain would be changing. The Conservatives would get their majority in the Commons while the Liberal Democrats lost a majority of their seats. In addition, the Labour Party had to figure out their next steps, and the Scottish National Party made significant gains, becoming a force to be reckoned with.

One other thing was clear as well. We engaged with our audience in new ways, showing how important Twitter is in not just communicating with audiences, but also in reporting a story, showing the power the social network can have in major events. Though no story is alike, these tips hopefully will allow news organizations and reporters to do one common thing — inform, educate and enlighten audiences, no matter where they are.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer on journalism and media issues for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Editor’s note: This piece was amended on March 22, 2016 at 9:13pm CT to correct a caption.


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