This article was originally published in Independent Australia on 21 February 2015.
Deputy editor and self-confessed “Twitter tragic”, Sandi Keane, urges you to consider introducing a new therapeutic dimension to your fact-gathering —Twitter.
(Part 2 tomorrow: ‘5 Easy steps to join the world of Twitter’)
AS A “60 plus”, many of my cohorts flash me a bemused if slightly indulgent look when I mention the word, Twitter. That I’m a “serial Tweeter” generally arcs up the response with an added raised eyebrow. Those dismissive of social media are often then surprised to learn that when they “share” a link to an interesting story with friends via email, they, too, are “sharing” on social media! Who writes letters these days thanks to the Internet and the first and largest of our interactive social media networks — email.
But email can’t compete with the power, reach and sheer ease of Twitter. There are lots of other reasons to give it a try. For me, the most compelling are to:
- Get ahead of the pack on breaking news
- Expand your knowledge with your own customised media monitoring service
- Gain access to specialized real-time forums on topics that interest you
- Share ideas with like-minded souls.
- Get a laugh —Twitter as pure therapy!
1. Get ahead of the pack on breaking news
The speed and reach of Twitter is now so great that rumours are spread, fact-checked for verification and retweeted as breaking news long before said news hits the nation’s mastheads. A good example was the #libspill. Phillip Adamswas first on Twitter to break the news back on January 4 that Coalition backbenchers were planning a spill. This was weeks before readers got to hear of it in mainstream media.
January 4, 2015:
and in response to the many Tweeps (mostly journos) who questioned veracity:
January 4, 2015:
2. Create your own customized media monitoring service
News used to be a one-way deal — like a lecture. Now it’s a multi-directional conversation, described by Mark Briggs as the “sixth ‘W’ of journalism”:
“who, what, where, when, why and WE”.
Twitter gives journalists the opportunity to engage with the community especially since the community knows a hell of a lot more than we do.
With the help of TweetDeck, an indispensable organizing and tracking tool, you can set up a separate User column for each of your favourite journos, commentators or news sites. Add in an adjoining @Mentions column for anyone engaging with them and, voilà — a conversation that you can now engage in, too, or simply follow to see where the story leads.
In Part 2 tomorrow, I’ll show you how to set up your TweetDeck.
3. Accessing specialized forums on topics that interest you
The sky’s the limit on these. Use the search tool on TweetDeck to list your favourite topic and up will come a column of Tweets. Check for the most popular hashtag. Hashtags can be used to follow sporting news such as #CWC15 (Cricket World Cup 2015) or #Origin, the latest in music, #nowplaying, or, as we saw above, political topics like #libspill.
My current hashtags are:
#auspol (most popular political hashtag and a “must” for political tragics)
#OneTermTony (now enjoying a revival following #libspill)
#abbottmovies (spoof on horror movies – like ‘The Devil Wears Lycra’)
#illstickwithtony (parodying Abbott’s call to “stick with me”)
#rorts (brilliant resource for journos!)
#knightsanddames (still going strong)
#Koch (the infamous Koch Bros behind the Tea Party & the Climate Denial Beast)
#MH17 (see how I found a BBC news story below)
(did I mention I was a “Twitter tragic”? … who seriously needs this many hashtags?)
During the Victorian and Queensland elections, #vicvotes and #qldvotes provided me with a running commentary.
When our PM took off on his first trip overseas, #anidiotabroad dutifully reported Tony Abbott’s cringe-making comments, snapped up gleefully by a grateful media. IA devoted a 3-part series to what the world thought of Australia’s blundering, gaffe-prone leader. Read part 1 here, part 2 here and part 3 here.
Hilariously funny and still trending in Australia is #abbottmovies. Twitter wags are lampooning Abbott’s gaffes in Hollywood remakes with titles like:
‘The Farce That Launched a Thousand (Japanese) Submarines’
‘There’s Something About Hairy’
‘The Shady Bunch’
‘The Big Dill’
‘Honey, I Shrank the Economy’
‘Snake on a Plane’, etc.
Dave Donovan came up with some beauties. Great memes as well! Check it out. Even the Murdoch press with uncustomary irreverence was moved to write a piece and tweet it out:
The top Twitter hashtag in 2014 was #auspol. The photo of Joe Hockey, smoking a cigar on May 12 just prior to the release of the Budget went viral but the most popular #auspol Tweet for the year was the meme by Deputy Opposition Leader, Tanya Plibersek, on January 29, 2014, which resulted in some 5,700 retweets supporting the ABC:
Hashtags are a valuable resource for an investigative journalist. It came in very handy when I was helping research a story on the tragic downing of Malaysian Airlines MH17 in Ukraine (and then later sitting in the editor’s chair publishing same story along with one by John Pilger’s asking similar questions).
I had used a BBC news video of a Ukraine-based journalist at the site of the crash with her BBC crew for an earlier piece. One by one, the villagers said they’d seen a military plane shadowing the passenger jet then abruptly making a U-turn following an immense explosion.
When I went to use it again, I discovered it had been “pulled” by the BBC. After checking a number of sites, I was about to give up when I decided to put out a call on hashtag #MH17 in case anyone had made a copy. I asked them to “follow” me so I could “follow” them back and then Direct Message them (for anyone who wanted to remain an anonymous source).
Bingo! A Tweep in the Netherlands had made a copy.
On receipt, Dave Donovan made a permanent copy for IA records and it is now up on IA’s website here and here for all to see. You should ask why no other western media has mentioned the military aircraft and why the BBC pulled it (their excuse was that the final product was not up to the usual standard):
(BBC video news report that was pulled by the BBC)
As a force for good, who can forget #Illridewithyou? Following the Sydney siege, Good Samaritan, Rachel Jacobs’s, simple offer to walk with a young Muslim woman off a Brisbane train, saw an avalanche of like-minded offers. Over 120,000 Tweeps around Australia offered to ride on public transport with Muslims who felt intimidated by anti-Islamic sentiment.
Hashtags are where Twitter leaves FB for dead. With FB, you have an endless feed of posts from friends, colleagues about all sorts of subjects many of which simply don’t interest you. Using TweetDeck, Twitter delivers your own special interest forums, easily followed as you slide back and forth on your mousepad, all on the one screen.
4. Share ideas with like-minded souls.
Before my conversion, I relied on email to send out interesting snippets or links to maybe half a dozen or so friends. They, in turn, might pass it down the line to several of theirs. But what sort of reach did these snippets or links have? Ten, twenty people? These days, with 2.8 million Twitter users in Australia, my weekly “views” can get up to an astonishing 275,000 “views”.
And for those friends not on Twitter, I can still share the link using Twitter’s “email” share button. Now that’s reach! I love engaging with people on Twitter.
Knowing there are like-minded souls out there is powerful therapy — especially if you fear you’re about to go commit axe-murder on your hapless neighbour if you see another stupid blue tie!
5. Get a laugh —Twitter as pure therapy!
But for real laughter therapy, there’s nothing to beat Twitter as a daily tonic. You can rely on some irreverent wag on Twitter to retaliate against yet another of Abbott’s brainsnaps or pratfalls, stupid government policies, stupid comments by politicians or commentators or even stupid movies like 50 Shades of Grey.
A big hit at the moment is the hilarious movie spoof Tweeter, ‘50 Shades of Gran’, “offering erotica for the Over 80s”:
Critics of the government’s anti-terrorist laws triggered an avalanche of “#HeyASIO” Tweets along the lines of:
#heyASIO forgot my gmail login, text me?
And earlier, after Abbott’s return to imperial honours, #KnightsandDames sparked a succession of self-bestowed honorifics as Tweeps lined up with new names. IA’s Barry Everingham became Lord of the Pen, yours truly Alexandra the Greatest but my all time favourite was Lord Rivers of Beer.
Popular cartoonist, Cathy Wilcox has now added “Sir” following the knighting of Prince Phillip, thus “Sir Madame Wilcox” (@cathwilcox1).
News Corp journalist, Tim Blair, committed an unforgivable “howler” with his insulting sobriquet, “frightbat” (describing Anne Summers, Clementine Ford, Marieke Hardy, Catherine Deveny, Vanessa (Van) Badham, Margo Kingston, Clem Bastow, Jane Caro, Elizabeth Farrelly and Jenna Price).
Result? A flurry of “frightbat” Twitter handles such as Countess Frightbat andDame Frightbat (cunningly parodying Knights and Dames whilst simultaneously sticking the boot into Blair. As Jenna Price said:
‘We are all frightbats now!’
Tim Blair never lived it down. He’s learned, as have others who insult our intelligence, that the good guys have control of Twitter. Right wing nut jobs (RWNJs), climate skeptics and journos like Blair, who make pejorative comments – especially about women smarter than they – will find themselves lampooned and ridiculed.
Such was the case with the lunatic Lord Monckton who, after 24 hours on Twitter, his ego bruised and bleeding, sounded his retreat by cancelling his account. It was worth being a Tweep just to witness that!
To follow tomorrow: Part 2: ‘5 Easy steps to join the world of Twitter’
Sandi has been tweeting since January 2011. She was a guest tweeter for two years for the Melbourne Writers Festival and also ABC’s Lateline. You can follow her @jarrapin. She’d love to engage with you and guarantees to follow you back.