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.