What Twitter is really for

Get your twitter mosaic here.

Oh man, how done are you with Twitter news reports?

Mostly, news stories on Twitter include a nut graf that looks something like the following passage from a recent piece in the New York Times near-obsessive coverage on the social medium:

In its short history, Twitter — a microblogging tool that uses 140 characters in bursts of text — has become an important marketing tool for celebrities, politicians and businesses, promising a level of intimacy never before approached online, as well as giving the public the ability to speak directly to people and institutions once comfortably on a pedestal [Source].

Many media are still reveling in introducing Twitter, in which they take a local user of new media and play their explanation with clever puns or skeptical variations of Twitter, tweeting, twittering, etc. Other pubs are trying their own new takes on the service, to the point that plenty of snarky bloggers and even news hounds are tired of the stories.

Rightly so, considering Twitter just turned three, hardly a new phenomenon. But all these folks joining the game, following that common nut graf, I think, are missing the point, particularly journalists.

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When does a freelancer's workday stop?

A former boss of mine has taken to calling me around 6:30 a.m. sometimes. I’m not awake, so he’ll leave a message.

“Are you taking a nap or something?” he might ask. “Because I know you can’t still be asleep from last night this late in the day.”

I’m a freelance journalist without much of a strict schedule most days. While on occasion, I’ve gotten an early-enough start between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., I often don’t get up until nine in the morning. While I almost begin working right away, I do, on occasion, not even begin work until ten. A rare exception has seen me doing so later still.

This is obscene to friends, bosses and even some family of mine. It doesn’t much matter to anyone that, despite my relatively late start on the day, I very rarely work less than 10-12 hours a day, often six, if not seven days a week.

I’m just getting my professional freelancing start in a bad economy and a frightened print industry, so – though I’ve made it a point to get back out and have some fun from time to time – my work schedule sometimes borders on obsessive.

I love not needing an alarm clock or needing to commute, but I wonder what my guilt about that drives me to do. When does the workday for a freelance journalist end?

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PW: Open source learning at Penn

The University of Pennsylvania’s place in the open-source learning movement of higher education is the focus of my story in yesterday’s Philadelphia Weekly.

I can’t find it online (seriously), but it sure did run. So go pick it up if you’re in Philly. If not, well, check below for what didn’t make it in!

You can also see how I covered Penn’s relationship with Academic Earth for Technically Philly.

Comment there, and then see what didn’t make it in.

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Attribution is not dead if we don't let it die

reber-attributiontweet

I got a tweet from my buddy and Reading Eagle designer Chris Reber a few weeks ago.

is attribution dead?

That came not long after, Vince Fumo, the embattled Pennsylvania state senator and legendary South Philly politician, was convicted on all 137 counts in his federal corruption trial.

In what was another great stand for an old friend, the Inquirer was all over the Fumo case (not long after another evergreen package on the city’s Please Touch Museum, which won it a national headliner award.

Beyond collecting all the Fumo history and details and using social media, reporter Bob Moran live blogged the March 16 pronouncement of guilt. Fox29 hack Steve Keeley thought the Inqy was doing such a good job that Keeley began reading Moran’s reports live on air, without attributing him or the Inqy.


A minor outrage followed, not the least led by Inqy freelancer Amy Quinn, who tweeted again and again and again on the subject. But what else is there to learn, in an age where some say attribution is falling to the wayside?

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The four reasons for a freelancer to decide to write a story

I recently posted on the reasons why I love freelancing. Once you know you want the gig, it also helps to know what you’re willing to do.

There are four big reasons to agree to write a story, and every writer should know them – if only so he can decide if that writing gig, even if it’s on the side, is worth it.

They’re worth recognizing, see them below. Continue reading

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Success by assoiation

We are no longer in a golden age of newspapers. This we know.

There was a time when newspapers carried greater weight and bigger staffs. Those left on big urban dailies are ideologues, clingers and the occasional innovator.

I met someone who in the 1980s worked at one of those newspapers that were still power brokers. The staff was almost triple the size what it is today. He had some stories, and he had collected and organized contacts and sources. He learned the game of newspapering and reporting at a time when newspapers had enough editors to truly pass on the details of the game.

Of course, old reporters don’t like to admit that in that way, they had it a lot easier: there were more mentors and editors to teach them the craft, while I don’t know who’s teaching journalists of today.

Other than this learning and the respect he held, this old head journalist didn’t strike me as deserving of the esteem he demanded. After all, he only happened to work in a field that was succeeding. He held success by association.

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Young professionals: get your handshakes in order

Oh, they matter. If you don’t think they do, you missed it.

Last week, I shook the hand of another young journalist. I suppose he felt eye-contact was uncomfortable, so he looked down, offered me an awkwardly limp, motionless form of his hand for a second and pulled away.

It was a train wreck of a handshake, and I was stunned. I thought that’s knowledge of old, something a generation past figured out and has since become necessary cultural learning. But not for this young man, whose work I enjoy.

Please don’t mistake the old learning of the handshake to mean it’s outdated. All the social media in the world can’t make up for the trust and personal understanding that can pass through a firm interlock of right hands. Any freelancer or aspiring media type needs this skill down flat.

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The rules of when you can Digg yourself

I have submitted a story or post of mine to Digg three times in a half-year of membership.

I readily know that I have friends who’ll swear that number is larger.

I recently pledged to work on limiting my own shameless self-promotion and, admittedly, nothing is dirtier than submitting your own work to Digg or other sites, like ReddIt and Stumble Upon. So, I thought I’d set some guidelines for others and, well, really, myself to follow.

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College graduates: when do you stop calling people Mr. and Ms.?

I graduated and am now, it seems, I am a professional freelance writer.

So when do I stop presuming to address editors with titles, Mr., Mrs. and the like?

I’ve had the conversation with friends and colleagues, and no one seems to have much of a real answer.

Some say using a title in an e-mail suggests I’m young and inexperiened. Others say just the opposite, that the formality gives a sense of greater age.

For now, I’ve stuck with using titles until an editor tells me otherwise; unless, I’m sending something the way of a publication with a decidedly more informal setting, most blogs, alternative weeklies and the like.

If you figure out a better rule or the absolutely exact moment I should drop the titles and go with first names, let me know.

Number of Views:6648