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You may now follow me on Twitter

August 13, 2008 - LLee Janssen

Life is constant change, of which I've been in up to my neck of late.

Haven't we all? With the emergence of the Internet, the way many of us do business is changing faster than we've even realized until somebody/something shook us awake.

I went to a news training offered by The Associated Press earlier this summer in Harrisburg. Much of it was on video, a skill I hope to train others in as time allows. Of course, the first mission here will continue to be The News, the holy grail of my craft.

That involves you, dear readers. Treasured readers. Because, frankly, it's about you.

Even before the News Train (AP's name for these two-day training sessions that they offer around the country), I was interested in finding new ways to reach out to readers. So often we want to know what you think. We often assign reporters to do "man on the street" stories, or to reach out and touch somebody (aka, the old-fashioned telephone), which involves a lot of rejection to get to the gold. While some are at ease and even quite skilled in this technique, I've watched other reporters shrink into their chairs as the term, "man on the street," comes out of my mouth.

And so came our ongoing effort, the Two-Cents Databank, in which we are building a databank of those of you who are willing to be called for those valued reader-opinion pieces, largely on the on-going issues of the day. Thank you to the dozens of you who have already completed the survey, a brief description of who you are with enough variables to help us reach into out to as diverse a community that northcentral Pennsylvania truly is. And if you haven't signed up, please take the time to do so today while you're here on our site ... just go to the surveys button on the right side of the home page.

Next, and what I originally intended to tell you, I've been introducing the reporting staff to a few online tools, slowly and a bit at a time. A month back, you may have seen a few Plazes maps on my blog. That was one. Now we're investigating Twitter, which NewsTrain promoted as a tool that can be used for journalism.

In my blog last night, I connected my "tweets" to that entry as an experiment, in between waiting for stories to come in from night meetings. Tweets are "microblogs," very short bursts of communication (180 words? or is it 140? It's short!) Tweets may be posted not just from the Internet, but from your cell phone or other mobile device, such as a Blackberry.

So how do we use it?

One of our readers who is signed up for Twitter and has connected their mobile device to phone in tweets is driving on a country road when he witnesses a horrific crash that has blocked the highway. He hears sirens approaching from a distance and knows help is on the way. He now is able to post a tweet to inform others that the road has been closed. Now everybody who is following on twitter can be informed. Of course, we'll check it out through county communications before we post a road-closed breaking news on our Web site to alert an even larger community. And we'll pursue the story for the next day's paper.

That's one scenario. Another: We're hosting a political forum, and we want to know what questions you would like us to ask the candidates. We can send out a tweet and take your questions. And this scenario can pertain to any number of news stories, from issues to interviews when famous people are in town. How cool is that!

Finally, and I apologize for the length of this blog, how do you get in on the action? Go to and sign up for an account. Then click on Follow&Find and start following "lleeja," which is my twitter name. I've already begun looking for local people to "follow" and will follow you as well (once you follow me, I'll be able to know who you are and mutually follow you.)

Okay, dear readers, you've got your assignment ... go to twitter, follow lleeja and join the participatory sport that is modern-day journalism.



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