You might be surprised that some newspaper reporters still resist using social media, even though tools like Twitter are so clearly a journalist’s dream come true. I find it odd that anyone in the news business wouldn’t want access to a constant stream of breaking news and potential sources. And, yet, I’ve heard reporters in my own news organization and alumni email list make disparaging remarks about Twitter being for twits within the past few weeks. If you’re unconvinced, this Steve Buttry blog post outlines the basic reasons why journalists should be using Twitter.

Recently, one of our readers named Julia Glenister wrote an interesting post on local newspapers engaging readers with social media. I’m not linking to it just because she gave me and my employer props for our breaking news coverage during an armed manhunt (scroll down for those), but because Julia raised some interesting points.

For one, she suggested in the comments section that neighborhood groups start using approved hashtags to spread information more quickly on Twitter. That strikes me as a good suggestion for us as a newspaper as well. Of course we already use hashtags regularly, but I do think it might help deliver information to the right people if we got more consistent with using the same hashtags for specific types of stories. Hashtags can look so spammy and unsexy, but they are functionally pretty amazing. When used consistently, maybe more local hashtags would catch on.

Julia also suggested that we put a Twitter feed related to the breaking news event alongside the article on our website. I do think that’s a great suggestion for a major story like the standoff last summer when an armed gunman shut down I-580, and it’s something we already do for election coverage and special sections. However, it’s probably not feasible for smaller events.

Mostly, it was just so great to read a thoughtful, well-written post from a reader who wasn’t slamming us. I think too often people forget that a newspaper isn’t some faceless entity. I read so many racist, angry messages on social media, on our website and in my inbox every day, which makes the notes from people who appreciate our coverage even more gratifying. Of course, social media made that interaction possible, and it’s also a great way we can show readers the “real, live” reporters and editors behind the news stories — hopefully fostering more positive interactions.

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