editor on the verge

Online musings from the newsroom and beyond . . . by Yoni Greenbaum

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A different way of approaching meeting coverage – UPDATED

January 20th, 2008 · 4 Comments

Are there any newspaper reporters using Twitter to cover council meetings? I know that we’ve seen examples of sporting events being covered via Twitter, but I don’t recall anyone saying that they are using it to report on municipal types of events.

I’m sure there are those of you who are already shaking your heads and saying “it won’t work” or “messages can only be 140 characters long.” Actually, I think, not only can it work, but also that the 140 character limit makes it ideal for this type of event.

Reporters are infamous for over-reporting and especially for taking pages upon pages of notes, many of which will never be used. Covering a meeting via Twitter might just be the remedy to this malady. If “notes” or in this case Tweets need to be limited to 140 characters per entry, it might just force them to focus their efforts and be more judicious with what they note. And when the meeting is complete, they’ll have a chronological record of their coverage.

And, there’s a bonus, a Twittered meeting can be pulled (via the RSS feed) into a newspaper’s webpage and readers can be invited to follow along either at your site or through Twitter. Seems like a win-win for me.

What do you think?

1/21, 9:23 p.m. (EST) The New York Times has a great piece today about Twitter and Presidential campaign reporting. If this approach at all interests you, check it out: “Campaign Reporting in Under 140 Taps

Tags: Audience Development · Beat Development · Blogging · Innovation · Mobile · Online · Reporting · Traffic · Twitter

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 matt king // Jan 20, 2008 at 10:58 pm

    I think more traditional live blogging is a better option because there are some facts and developments that need more than 140 characters and I think it’s a bad idea to reduce meeting coverage to to what are essentially text messages. I think Twitter’s for some kinds of breaking news, especially traffic updates and such.

    Also, reporters should be encouraged to put down the notebook at meetings and just listen at times, absorb the big picture, take notes judiciously. Blogging or tweeting can definitely help with that.

  • 2 newsgal // Jan 21, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    Great idea — now where are all those laptops paper’s promised their reporters?

  • 3 Yoni Greenbaum // Jan 21, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    @newsgal – Valid point and a topic for a forthcoming post. At the same time though at many newspapers laptops are being underutilized and reporters equipped with Treos or Blackberrys are only using them to check their personal email.

  • 4 Ronald Dupont Jr. // Feb 4, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    I’ve seen this idea brought up before, most notably by Steve Outing. But as a person who has been covering city commission meetings since 1980, I can tell you that covering a city commission meeting twitter by twitter would be a tad bit ridiculous.

    Practically speaking, a reporter would be so worried about sending the next short “fact twitter” that great quotes and details would be missed. You can argue that a good journalist would know when to take notes and when to twitter. But that defeats the purpose of timeline twittering if there is a post very 5 minutes and then there is a 1-hour gap.

    And how do you explain an in-depth ordinance that, for example, defines the difference between a tax and a fee? You can’t twitter that.

    I do think that twitter could work in a high profile court case where there is a back-and-forth to it. And if I sent somebody to twitter, I would make that their only assignment — nothing else.

    But in the short term, I don’t see any real, practical use for most of what we do as journalists.

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