Hashtag Herald

#newsyouneedtoknow #hashitoutnow

Freedom of the #INNOV@TIVE Press

In order for an event to become news it must first achieve noticeability, so said newspaper commentator Walter Lippmann.  Nearly a century later, Twitter created a fast lane to being seen and heard.   Case-in-point for citizen journalism, news today can sourced by anyone, anytime, from anywhere in a smattering of characters.  Punctuation, certain letters, and even spacing are optional.  Evidently.


Beat tweets in real time

Both public and conversational, there is legitimate usage for professional reporters, nonetheless.  “Every tweet represents an opportunity to demonstrate your voice and strengthen the relationship with your audience,” Tweeter tells journalists.  Breaking news via a tweet taps into a hard earned established following.  Using #hashtags gains access to other communities and increases “retweets” by 14%.

More top tips include issuing continuous live updates to keep followers informed on a story.  Add photos and videos to make for a media rich experience.  Invite followers to contribute to a feed, thus generating new levels of engagement.  Do all this and you may have a chance at being the source to follow for the latest and best information.   To be fair, there’s an ounce of popularity contest in the equation, too.

When the medium is more than the message

It’s not a full-on contradiction of Lippmann’s stance that there are limits to what can be witnessed by reporters, but the social media revolution (and Twitter in particular) offers new possibilities.  There are about a billion registered Twitter users and 100 million login daily. The potential of digital is staggering and evolving at speeds never known before.

In 2013, the smartphone wasn’t even a response option as Gallup tried to figure out where Americans were getting their news.  Survey participants could be satisfied by indicating the internet, but not specifying mobility.   According to the Wall Street Journal, that same year 86% of time Twitter users spent on the social network took place on a mobile device.  Today, nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults own a smartphone and more than half (55%) get news on their smartphone at least once a week.

Still, it’s unclear whether Twitter’s digital transformation of news accessibility can revive apathetic consumers whose keenness to be ‘in the know’ hasn’t known the same success as the medium itself.

Twitter hasn’t changed the rules, but it has changed the game 

Still, there’s hope.  When the Committee on Freedom of the Press convened in 1942, no one imagined a time when every technologically connected person on the planet would possess the potential to reach every other technologically connected person in a matter of seconds.    That’s 3 billion people, by the way.   Tweets could spark intellectual wildfire, if we wanted.

The Hutchins Commission built their arguments around media in mass communication which of course didn’t include television, much less the internet.  Yet, despite this shift, their words still inspire:

“[It] is the whole point of a free press that ideas deserving a public hearing shall get a public hearing and that the decision of what ideas deserve that hearing shall rest in part with the public, not solely with the particular biases of editors and owners.”

If it’s obvious that technological progress has fostered inordinate opportunity for the news service industry, it’s still up to us, the public, to make the conversation meaningful.



Anderson, M. (2015, April1). “6 facts about Americans and their smartphones.  Retrieved from


The Commission on Freedom of the Press. (1947). A Free and Responsible Press. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.


Lippmann, W. (1922). Public Opinion. A full e-copy of the text is available from


Rogers, T.  (N.D.). “The Technology of Journalism Improves, But Young People Still Ignore the News.” Retrieved from


Saad, L. (2013, July 8). “TV is Americans’ Main Source of News.” Retrieved from


Smith, C. (2015, July 29). “By the numbers: 150+ Amazing Twitter Statistics.” Retrieved from


@WSJD (2013 December). Social Network Activity: Mobile vs. Desktop.  Retrieved from


News Tweets and “Relevant” Topics

What’s in a tweet?  Prior to this exercise I was not on twitter nor did I have any idea if it possessed any real value.  Twitter conjured up images of trendy twenty-somethings speaking in babble.  So as with all other unknowns, I begin my procedure.

Step 1:  (as always) look to Wikipedia.

My assumption that twitter is babble may not be completely wrong, at least according to Wikipedia.  Pointless babble, which ironically they actually used the word ‘babble’ constitutes 40.1% of the content of tweets.


News (3.6%)

Spam (3.8%)

Self-promotion (5.9%)

Pointless babble (40.1%)

Conversational (37.6%)

Pass-along value (8.7%)

Step 2:  Poll your Face Book friends to see who uses it and why.

I had seventeen responses that day of which eleven not only do not utilized it but the majority of those have no idea how to even access it.  A few stated they held an account but they never used it for dissemination or consumption of information.   Three respondents used if for their business associations and three utilized it for news.   Of those that utilized it for news two cited it as being quick and convenient to check while the third scrutinized it’s authority, perspective and depth.  I found no one claiming it was there ‘go-to’ source for news.

Step 3:  Start a twitter account

Step 4:  Figure out who uses twitter

An article by the  Huffington Post puts twitter users into 10 different categories.  Over half of twitter users are more like twitter stalkers or twitter lampreys.  They use twitter in one direction only, consumption but not production.  Eggs, which are a quarter of the population tweet once, maybe twice but then no more.  Lurkers typically haven’t posted in the last month, but have consumed.

Step 5:  Become a Lurker

OK, step 1 is now confirmed, there is a lot of babble on twitter.  If one searches twitter using a hashtag (#) and a legitimate topic, twitter will through you a few sources.  If you utilize hashtag with any phrase that you may hear in a college dorm room or high school locker room and you could be reading for hours!   Some of what I read makes me feel like I stumbled into a diary.  This leads me to explore the types of inappropriate or bothersome tweeters.  An article from       BuzzFeed lists the 16 worst types of people on twitter.  I am most definitely #2 – People who don’t understand how to use hashtags.  I will forewarn readers that are not familiar with BuzzFeed, it is not always PC.

I did not find many of my friends on twitter but according to the Social Net Working Fact Sheet  by the Pew Research Center, although the 40-somethings hold their own in social networking statistics, it appears to be a staple for the younger generations.  Although news does not represent the largest piece of the pie for our twitter consumption, the study of what we consume is in itself news.  DMR monitors the who, what, when, where and how of twitter closely, updating its publication of 150+ Amazing Twitter Statistics on the regular basis.

-Kristine Kuhl

Twitter – A Journalist’s Perspective

6 Jan. 2006 - Julie Mack. Jill McLane Baker / Gazette
6 Jan. 2006 – Julie Mack. Jill McLane Baker / Gazette

Julie Mack is the K-12 Educational reporter for the Kalamazoo Gazette, the only major newspaper for Kalamazoo, MI. She has worked at the Kalamazoo Gazette since 1990 and has worked as a journalist since 1981. She has a column in the newspaper and also frequently publishes articles on mLive, the online website for several Michigan newspapers. Her articles often receive high interest and interaction as evidenced by frequent comments from readers online and the amount of times her articles are shared and liked through various social media sites.

In order to get a journalist’s perspective on Twitter, we asked Mack a few questions to find out how she got into journalism, her observation of changes through the years, and how Twitter has changed her job and journalism as a whole.

When did you first begin your career in journalism? Started part-time in newspapers in 1978 while I was a college student. Did internships at Jackson Citizen Patriot and worked part-time at Lansing State Journal while I was a student at MSU. Graduated in 1981 and have worked for newspapers ever since.

Why did you choose journalism? I liked writing and journalism was a way to make a living at that.

How would you describe your style of journalism? I like to take on difficult, complicated issues and break it down so people understand the nuances. That said, I do a lot of pretty ordinary reporting, too — cop stories, obituaries, meeting stories, etc.

What brought you to the Kalamazoo Gazette? I was working for the Hartford Courant, had a young child and my husband and I wanted to get back to Michigan, where we grew up. Although I grew up in Jackson, all four of my sisters happen to be living in Kalamazoo when I moved back so I came here.

Do you have a journalist or writer who inspired (inspires) your writing? Really, too many to name. When I was a teenager, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were famous for writing the Watergate stories that led to Richard Nixon’s resignations, and they were my first heroes. I’m a big reader — I read the Washington Post, New York Times, Huffington Post, Politico and Slate every day — and I always enjoy a well-written story.

When did you begin using Twitter as part of your daily work? End of 2011, start of 2012

In your opinion, how has Twitter affected journalism? I think it’s impacted communication in general, not just journalism. But it does give journalists a heads-up much quicker about breaking news and also allows us to capture news/reaction in real time.

In 128 words or less, tell me how you feel the use of hashtags has affected journalism. This biggest way I use hashtags: When I’m doing a story where I think there might be Twitter comment, the hashtags allow me to see the reaction. For instance, the state lawmaker from Allegan County — Cindy Gamrat — is currently embroiled in a sex scandal. By looking at the #gamrat hashtag, I can see what people are saying about it. And here’s a completely different example: Sometimes we hear a rumor that a high school kid has died in a car accident, but we don’t know if it’s true or even the name of the kid. By searching the hashtag #RIP and looking within a 25-mile radius of the high school in question, I can usually find out if it’s true and the name of the student.

How do you currently use Twitter in relation to your work? I use it as a way to get people to read my stories and sometimes as a way to collect information about breaking news stories.

Do you have plans for expanding your use of Twitter in the future? No.


History of Hashtag

Hashtag is a label pound sign symbol # that is used to find specific information about a theme or content on social media. In the year 2007, the word hashtag was discovered by Chris Messina, a social technology expert who is credited to come up with the first hashtag symbol on the social media called Twitter. Hashtag is mostly used on social media sites such as Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Google+.

Messina came up with the hashtag # symbol to gather group discussions about a topic online and this technology conference gathering activity spans worldwide. The. hash tag symbol is followed by one or more keywords that will properly lead individuals to conversations and discussions about a specific topic or theme.

According to Twitter, in 2011 over 10 percent of all Tweets now contain one or more hashtags. With an average of 140 million Tweets and half a million new accounts created every day, it is easy to see why users need some way of sorting through all these messages.

Twitter Talk

The # symbol, or hashtag, marks keywords and topics in a Tweet (photos, videos, links and up to 140 characters of text). Created by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages, today it has proliferated in ways unimaginable and there is empirical data which suggests that everyone should be using hashtags today.

And while intended to address relevant topics and generate dialogue and community, there has been criticism of overuse in recent years.   One of the greatest lessons in social media etiquette was delivered in the memorable sketch between Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake in 2013.  

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