The social media platform, Twitter, first gained legitimacy as a valuable news tool last April, when it helped connect protesters in Moldova and then, more remarkably, during and after Iran’s election this past June. But a college class on Twitter reporting?
According to Medill Reports, beginning this fall students at DePaul University in Chicago were able to enroll in “Digital Editing: From Breaking News to Tweets,” a journalism course created and led by recent DePaul journalism master’s graduate Craig Kanalley.
The students in Kanalley’s class learn how to utilize Twitter as a news tool by acting as staff members for Breaking Tweets, a site Kanalley launched last winter. Breaking Tweets sifts through and organizes Twitter responses by topic, location, and news stories — a sort-of digital vox pop harnessing the power of the Internet to overcome the hurdles of distance. For example, while Breaking Tweets might not have the resources to send a reporter overseas to cover the recent typhoon in Samoa, one of Kanalley’s students was able to collect a gallery of photos documenting the storm’s destruction taken by Twitter users on location in the immediate aftermath.
Although Twitter allows journalists new opportunities for getting quick, personal reactions and citizen journalist contributions, Breaking Tweets still relies on established media sources to confirm and provide basic details about each story. As the website explains, before providing Twitter responses, “Generally, each story links to a media outlet of authority for brief background information on the news topic and for those seeking more information.”
Kanalley’s class covers everything from breaking news and aggregation — collecting relevant links — to ethics and the evaluation of content produced by citizen journalists. As Medill Reports explained, “His midterm exam requires students to compile a breaking news story for the Web on deadline. The final is a paper on how a non-traditional news source uses Twitter and whether or not it should be considered journalism.”