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Chapter 4: Short and Fast: Covering a Spot News Story

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Rita Rubin, msnbc.com and Today.com health and medicine contributor, discusses how she took up using Twitter as a medical reporter for USA Today.

Rita Rubin, msnbc.com and Today.com health and medicine contributor, notes how Twitter is both challenging and fun.

Rita Rubin, msnbc.com and Today.com health and medicine contributor, indicates the people and organizations she follows to keep up-to-date on medical news.

John Katsilometes, multimedia columnist for the Las Vegas Sun and lasvegassun.com, runs through a typical day of practicing convergence journalism.

John Katsilometes, multimedia columnist for the Las Vegas Sun and lasvegassun.com, notes the differences in how his reporting is presented today versus when he started out in the business.

Rich Coleman, who covered police and crime for the Las Vegas Sun and lasvegassun.com in 2011, explains how he became a convert to using Twitter in his reporting.

Andy Carvin, National Public Radio’s social media strategist, discusses how Twitter can be used to provide access to hard-to-get stories and perspectives.


  1. Take three events listed on your news/beat calendar and plot out the elements you might need to capture in your reporting. Among the questions to consider are: What are key sources? What kind of visuals (still photos or video) might be available? What are the possibilities for audio? What sources might you “pre-interview” to find out more background information about the event?
  2. Find a local meeting or hearing that has already taken place, get the agenda, and then look at what news organizations presented from the agenda (via newspaper, radio, TV, or online reports) and what was left out.
  3. Plan to attend a spot news event, and conduct background research. Write a 1–2 sentence focus statement on what you think might be newsworthy. Attend and cover the event, sending at most three tweets regarding the latest news from that event which would appeal to a broad audience.
  4. Use a national speech or statewide speech that is available via video and have students watch it live to write 2–3 tweets from the speech during the presentation. Have them craft a lead from those tweets. [In class.]
  5. Hand out information that would be included in a press release. Have students develop follow-up questions and focus. Then conduct a press conference. Have students identify information, visuals, and other sources needed to more completely tell the story. [In class.]
  6. Take two text news stories and write two tweets of 100 characters each to tell and promote each story.
  7. Go to an event and cover it using a smartphone or a FlipCam-type device only. Take up to ten pictures and record video where applicable. Use the phone/cam to interview newsmakers during and after the event (recording the soundbites). Pick out the best pictures and sound that can be used to tell the story.


Links to articles or websites mentioned:

Presidential address on Libya

How to start a Twitter hashtag

Writing for Twitter: Good journalism in 140 characters

Links to articles about using Twitter, Facebook, and social media for news

Facebook, Twitter, privacy & social media according to Sree Sreenivasan [video]

Larry King and Ashton talk Twitter and journalism on CNN set of Larry King Live [video]

Twitter for newsrooms as a relationship-building guide

The new way Twitter will dominate online journalism

Is Twitter ruining journalism or are journalists ruining Twitter?

Rules of engagement for journalists on Twitter

Twitter launches guide for journalists

Complicating Twitter and journalism

How mainstream media outlets use Twitter

The journalist’s guide to Twitter

Twitter for journalists/why Twitter matters

10 ways journalists can use Twitter before, during and after reporting a story

Twitter isn’t journalism
Tweets can recite facts, but Twitter doesn’t qualify as a journalistic vehicle. Pro or con?

The Twitter explosion

5 things journalists need to know about new Facebook subscription feature

Facebook launches guide for journalism schools

Facebook: What gets people to engage journalists online

In your Facebook: Why more and more journalists are signing up for the popular social networking site

Facebook’s growing role in social journalism

10 ways journalism schools are teaching social media

Reporting and writing basics

How journalism students used Twitter to report on Australian elections

Are quotes sacred?
Some journalists say it’s fine to “improve” quotations as long as the meaning isn't changed. Others argue that the practice is dishonest.


Chivers, C. (2011, April 20). “Restrepo” director is killed in Libya. Retrieved April 20, 2011, from nytimes.com: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/21/world/africa/21photographers.html?_r=1&hp.

Curley, R. (2011, April 11). Vice President of Multimedia. (J. Kolodzy, Interviewer).

Gahran, A. (2008, November 20). How to start a Twitter hashtag. Retrieved April 19, 2011, from contentious.com: http://www.contentious.com/2009/03/08/hashtags-on-twitter-how-do-you-follow-them/#more-2437.

Howard dominates, Orlando gets even. (2011, April 20). espn.com mobile. Bristol, Connecticut: ESPN.

Katsilometes, J. (2011, April 12). Reporter and columnist, Las Vegas Sun. (J. Kolodzy, Interviewer).

Remarks by the President in address to the nation on Libya. (2011, March 27). Retrieved March 28, 2011, from whitehouse.gov: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/03/28/remarks-president-address-nation-libya.

Rubin, Rita. (2011, May 11). MSNBC.comhealth and medicine contributor. (J. Kolodzy, Interviewer).

Stovall, J. (2009, January 14). Writing for Twitter: Good journalism in 140 characters. Retrieved April 19, 2011, from jprof.com: http://www.jprof.com/onlinejn/webjn-writingfortwitter.html.

Toyota making drastic production cuts after Japan quake, tsunami. (2011, April 20). CNN. http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/04/20/japan.toyota/index.html.

Valley, J. (2011, April 20). Gunman tries to rob Stratosphere, but leaves empty-handed. Retrieved April 20, 2011, from lasvegassun.com: http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2011/apr/20/nv-casino-robbery-try/.