My “News Diet”: Using Social Media to Stay Ahead

I used to avoid Twitter like an ex-boyfriend.

I knew that it was the new direction of journalism, but the constant stream of tweets felt like an overload. But as I delve deeper into my college career and learn more about the necessity of social media proficiency, a little bird keeps telling me that it’s time to make amends.

But since spending time on Twitter for class and learning how to use helpful aggregators like TweetDeck and Feedly, I’m starting to see how using social media to fortify my “news diet” could give me a leg-up on the competition in years to come.

2011 Jesse Knish Photography
Courtesy of Flickr

First of all, I enjoy reading the news daily and completely understand how important it is to be aware of current events as a journalist. I started following major news corporations like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, NBC, NPR and BBC on Facebook and Twitter. I set up a News category on Feedly with the same publications, which will allow me to look in one place and scan headlines to get the latest news. This enriches my news diet because I’m receiving a lot more information in a shorter amount of time. There is no way I could get all of that information by simply cruising through the constant updates of regular news websites.

As a future web journalist or web editor, I need to realize that time is of the essence. Not only do future employers want a fast and efficient reporter, but so do readers. And if I don’t deliver quick and eye-catching tweets and stories, I’ll get lost in the feed.

The faster that I can get the latest information by using Twitter or Feedly, the faster that I can start tweeting about that information and engaging with other Twitter users, who may have more interesting stories to share with me. My career will be only improved by my ability to use these tools to get that one career-changing story.

But until I get to that one perfect story, I’ll not only keep on consuming news, but keep on consuming journalism. By consuming top-notch journalism with speed and efficiency every day, I can also learn how to produce modern, top-notch journalism that can keep me competitive in the field.

I started following journalists like James Hamblin, a senior editor at the Atlantic who writes a lot of science and health articles, one of my key interest areas. I’m learning about how to communicate science effectively by reading his work, but I’m also learning how to use Twitter effectively from watching his wall.

Hamblin writes eye-catching tweets to make the reader want to read his story. He interacts with other users on meaningful topics, like this interaction about the ongoing vaccination debate in the United States.Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 12.02.57 AM

I also love that he keeps a little personality in his tweets, like random thoughts that he seems to have throughout the day. It reminds me that Twitter (and journalism for that matter) should be fun, at least some of the time.

Many of the other journalists that I followed have similar social media skills. Health and science reporters like Karen Kaplan, Amina Khan from the LA Times, and Gretchen Reynolds from NY Times Well are also interacting with other users and promoting quality work. Following them introduces me to other journalists and publications that I never would have known about if I hadn’t taken the time to look. Seeing who they are interacting with and how they are promoting their content serves to further my goal of gaining as much professional networking and social-media skills as possible.

And it would be just as easy for me to interact with them and ask them for advice. Because of course I could learn a few things from someone who is so Twitter proficient they have a verified account (which has now become one of my career goals, just saying).

The journalism world is moving too fast for me to be stubborn and resistant and starting off with a steady “news diet” will put me on the right track to success in online journalism.


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