Davar Iran Ardalan, Senior Producer & Scott Simon, Weekend Edition Host
As many of you know, Weekend Edition has been on Twitter for more than a year. We've now come up with some tips on how we use the social networking site in our newsroom. To remind you, our radio program's Twitter name is @nprweekend, Scott is @nprscottsimon and Liane is @nprliane.
1) It's a two-way relationship: We try to reply to at least a few messages each day. If our followers can find a few seconds for us, we can find a few seconds for them. And we have chosen a variety of newsmakers, interesting people or groups to follow ourselves. For example, Weekend Edition follows @newtgingrich @ariannahuff @kasuradio @latinousa @mindyfinn @TheRevAl @badbanana @tucsonweekly @radioopensource among some 700 others.
2) Editorial responsibility: Tweets like, "Sarah Palin writing key words on her palm--had an aunt who did that, too," are fine. So is, "President Obama made a very effective presentation of his views at gov's conference." But saying, "I wouldn't vote for XXX if you paid me," ruins our trustworthiness as journalists.
3) Breaking news: We monitored harrowing tweets from Iranians after the June 12th disputed election and from Haitians, immediately after the devastating earthquake in January. In this way, Twitter has proven to be a critical tool for getting first-hand information, in real time, during a crisis. The key is to verify that the tweets are authentic. In most cases, we are able to do so by looking at the person's previous tweets or by getting in touch with them and calling them on the ground.
4) Connect with sources: If NPR has confirmed a story, we CAN tweet and ask to see if anyone has more information or is close to the story in anyway. We can also follow beat reporters following a breaking news story. For example, after a power plant explosion in Connecticut we sent out tweets asking if anyone had heard the blast or had stories to share about it.
5) Behind the scenes: Tweets like, "Tom Jones shook hands with everyone in the control room," or "Didn't expect to see Senator XXXX show up in blue jeans," are interesting. But, "The Congressman broke wind after sipping some green tea," or, "I can't believe we're interviewing this moron again," will amuse people for only a few seconds, and earn us a reputation for being unprofessional and indiscreet.
6) Microblogging with NPR member stations: Several member station colleagues are on Twitter early Saturday and Sunday mornings. It is great to engage with them and at times do business with them by answering questions about the rundown or any other elements in the shows.
7) News ideas or questions for guests: We have done this many times successfully, such as when Scott interviewed singer Tom Jones or Liane interviewed jazz guitarist Charlie Hunter. The suggested questions were surprising and creative. We have also asked our followers to contribute to news stories like nominating interesting Boy Scouts to interview.
8) Twitter and promotion?: Twitter is potentially a powerful advertising medium, but it becomes useless if we just send out Tweets trying to hard-sell shows, stories, and our work. People will not look for our Tweets if they know that every one is just another ad. On the other hand: people are following us because they're interested in our work. We will let our followers know when something of note is coming up. And if we are sending a link to npr.org we make sure to use a URL shortener.
9) Search Twitter: Occasionally, we search Weekend Edition NPR on search.twitter.com. We have been surprised to find what folks are saying about the show. That's how we met @davelawrence, the local Weekend Edition Host at Hawaii Public Radio.
10) Tweet fun: A Tweet as simple as, "Happy Valentine's Day to all, especially my mother," is appreciated, and not just by your mother. We aren't afraid to show emotion (as in humor).