What journalism students can learn from Twitter

Every social media pundit is talking about what social media apps like Twitter are doing to the journalism industry as a whole, but there are some important lessons that Twitter can offer journalists.

Ann Handley, editor-in-chief of MarketingProfs, wrote a great blog entry for Mashable a few months ago: Everything I need to know about Twitter I learned in J School.

Or, as I like to call it: (Almost) everything I need to know about writing, I can learn from Twitter.

Handley leads the entry by quoting one of my favourite first-year news reporting adages: Never use a 10-cent word when a nickel word will do. She goes on to list things she learned in her own reporting classes that make her a more effective Twitterer. I can’t help but hear my reporting prof’s voice in each item.

1. Make every word count
2. Keep it simple
3. Provide context
4. Lead with the good stuff
5. Write killer headlines
6. Graphics expand on a story
7. People make things interesting
8. Consider the reader

Check out the whole story for Handley’s commentary and some great examples. This is certainly an article every j-schooler should read.

As silly as it is, I can’t help but think Twitter has improved my micro-editing skills so much more than my years at Ryerson have. Trying to get 160 characters down to 140 forces me to be ruthless with superfluous words, slashing adjectives and adverbs left and right and filling in gaps with strong verbs (preferably ones that are less than seven letters long).

Or maybe, as Handley says, my years at Ryerson have just better prepared me for Twitter.