Jason DeRusha: Lessons in New Media

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Twitter For Journalists

Posted by derushaj on January 1, 2008

Last week I was doing a story on how Christmas trees can cause serious allergy problems. Senior 10 p.m. producer Scott Howard noticed this story on WebMD talking about the huge amount of mold spores released to the air when we bring a dead tree inside.

I lined up an allergist (that was easy) and then went to a Christmas tree lot (also easy). To put this in baseball terms: my effort was solid single. I needed someone who was sniffing and sneezing and didn’t know that their real Christmas tree might be to blame. My photographer, Chris Cruz, was just the person. He had symptoms of an allergy which started when he brought his tree into his home.

But I didn’t really want to interview my co-worker.

Enter Twitter.com. Twitter is hard to describe. On it’s homepage: “Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co-workers to communicate…through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?” Most people use Twitter in conjunction with a text messaging plan, and follow a series of friends. I have an account here.

Last week, I sent out this message on my twitter page, alerting the 80 people who follow me that I was looking for someone with a Christmas tree allergy.

Shortly thereafter, I got a direct message from Connie telling me “I am allergic to some Christmas trees! don’t know if I would say I “go nuts,” but I do break out in a rash if I touch them without gloves.”

Bingo. We were at Connie’s house within an hour, and I found the perfect interview for my story. Connie showed us her gloves, showed us her real tree, and was the perfect person to help tell our story. After the interview, I sent this alert out telling my friends about Ranty’s great soundbite.

If you want to follow me on Twitter, you have to join (it’s free). Julio Ojeda-Zapata, the tech columnist for the Pioneer Press (and and prolific tech blogger), just wrote an article about Twitter’s use for journalists.

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