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21 September 2011

Born Again Twitterer

A respected colleague ... old school journo, works in print media ... was persuaded to join Twitter recently. His first and only tweet to date: "what now?"

I shared that sentiment until the day last November when the tuition fees row broke. I was in the newsroom at BBC Radio Leeds, the oldest Yoppie in town on secondment updating skills in their all-digital newsroom.

When word came that it was all getting a bit exciting in the Victoria Gardens I naturally expected to be given the gig. "Richard, we are not worthy, get out there, show us what to do". But of course they sent their best staffer. The team cranked up into live breaking story mode. I had nothing to do.

So I remembered Twitter and logged on. A few searches for #Leeds and #students and I was in a maelstrom of information from the smartphone-savvy protestors in the front line. I began extracting nuggets of information from the torrent - an official West Yorkshire Police estimate of numbers, the school from which pupils had set off to join the fun,. Then word broke online of a change of venue; the protestors were on the point of occupying the Michael Sadler building on the University campus. I yelled. A reporter was despatched.

Again, during the summer riots, Twitter proved its worth. Former Leeds Trinity PG David Hardiman, reporting first hand from the streets of north London. The first indications of trouble in Salford, where BBC Manchester had their radio car trashed. The welcome news the journos in it were safe. The false reports of trouble in Leeds .. and the angry denials from Chapelrown residents begging to differ. These reports up to two hours ahead of other media.

So the answer to my colleague's "what now?" ? We have a valuable new aid for making sense of news for our audiences. Use it wisely.

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