Reporter and anchor Lorenzo Hall (@LorenzoHall) of WTVR CBS 6 (@CBS6) spoke to our social media journalism class on Tuesday about ways to utilize Twitter. Hall said that initially Twitter was just an experiment for most journalists. At first the microblogging network didn’t generate much traffic, because journalists weren’t tweeting to large audiences. But by now it has become an essential tool for most journalists. Hall has more than 1,400 followers on Twitter and thinks that it is important to keep these followers up-to-date on the latest breaking news.
By Alix Hines (@AlixHines)
Hall said that Twitter was initially a useful tool for him when he was working on the morning show at CBS 6. He explained that people going about their morning routines sometimes missed the information in the broadcast, and he was able to live tweet the news the audience may have missed. While TV is still the main objective of his work, he regularly uses Twitter as a teaser for what is coming up on the news. Hall used to tease his upcoming newscast, and his routine phrase at the end of the tweet would say “Stop by and see us!” This was when he learned that people were paying very close attention to his tweets. One of his followers took the phrase literally and showed up at the station.
Hall admitted that it took him a while to get acquainted with Twitter. In the beginning, when Twitter was a fairly new tool for journalists, he did a live segment in which he created an account. Unfortunately, Hall said laughing, that was the only day he used the account in a while. But things have changed. Now, Twitter is one of the first things he checks when he wakes up in the morning. Hall said he has his phone with him throughout the day to check Twitter updates from other news organizations. He pointed out that checking Twitter can help him ensure that he does not miss stories that the other local stations are covering. And he uses Twitter to break the news long before the evening newscast. Hall shoots photos and videos with his cell phone on the story he is covering for TV and posts them on Twitter. Hall of course also has a Facebook presence, but said that he uses Twitter and Facebook differently. Facebook allows him to interact with viewers more, while Twitter is more of a one-way communication tool.
When it comes to breaking news, Twitter can be a very useful tool, said Hall. Viewers will see parts of the story first on Twitter and will then tune in for the newscast to hear how the full story developed. Last October, CBS 6 and its competitors covered the story of Robert Wood Jr., an 8-year-old boy with autism who went missing in Hanover County for several days. Hall said that Twitter helped CBS 6 to communicate with people who were searching for the boy and thereby was able to provide quick updates on the search efforts. But the story also put journalistic ethics to the test for the station. When information started spreading that Robert was finally found, CBS 6 did not tweet that information until reporters were able to verify the facts with credible sources. Hall said that waiting to tweet that the boy was safe was a conscious decision made by his station. In the end, reporting the news correctly still goes over tweeting it quickly for Hall and the news team at CBS 6.