For our final assignment, I was given the ability to act as a consumer, curator and creator, which gave me the opportunity to better understand not only how news is received, but also how it can be delivered most effectively. For each stage of the assignment, I did not encounter any debilitating difficulties or complications once I got into the crux of what I had to do. Since I planned out how I wanted to achieve each goal, any obstacles were temporary and, to some degree, exciting because it gave me a chance to utilize the tools that we learned throughout the semester, as well as the ones that I was already familiar with from being a staff member on The Fairfield Mirror.
The specific users whose tweets I subscribed to on Twitter were chosen with the purpose of providing a diverse, professional perspective on politics. The tweets served to develop a better understanding of the opposing sides and why personal views oftentimes do not align, even between analysts with the same affiliation. Additionally, the tweets from each user that I followed inspired me at times to go to the original news source that they are correspondents for. As a result of that process, I gained three different perspectives: the analyst’s opinion on the topic, the full, factual story that the analyst either discussed or vaguely referenced, and I was able to form my own opinion. More so, the techniques that I accumulated while conducting background research later helped when I applied them to finding sources for the curation part of the assignment.
For the curation part of our final assignment, the trending topic that I chose to research was Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s decision to pursue vote recounts in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. I saw a huge reaction online to her endeavor when the news first broke. Therefore, I knew that there would be plenty of sources that I could use to find public opinions, as well as various articles that I could use to provide the context of the story. I first wanted to get a better understanding of the date that Stein first announced her intentions for a vote recount, how much of a change it could make and whether Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign team had any involvement in the process. After doing some preliminary research that led me to The New York Times, I went to Stein’s campaign website to get information from the original source. Using these sources, I was able to embed them directly into my article on Storify.
I was able to report from there on what led to the announcement that Stein would be pursuing vote recounts, and I could then focus on the response, not only from the people involved, but also from the general public. The public was divided on Stein’s action, much like every other issue that was brought to their attention prior to, during and after the election cycle. I used Twitter to collect the general public’s responses, using the hashtag #voterecount to generate some results. Then, I began to focus on the reactions of higher-up people. I looked to President-elect Donald Trump’s Twitter for his reaction, which I knew was strong, and I also looked at Stein’s Twitter, Clinton’s Twitter and the Twitter account of Clinton’s general counsel, Marc E. Elias. All of these social media accounts aided the story that I was telling because it offered perspectives on all ends of the political spectrum.
The transitional paragraphs that I included provided the bulk of the context for what the story was about. If I had not included them, it would simply be a series of reactionary tweets that are relatively clear in meaning, but do not provide the full story. The paragraphs also reach my target audience – which are younger voters who likely are unaware of what is happening post-election – because they are concise. Most young adults who would read the story would be more compelled by the tweets due to their visual appeal. However, by interspersing the images with facts, information is processed along the way, while also making the story more visually appealing as opposed to simply reading a traditional 600-word article.
The creator experience was easily my favorite part of the final assignment. I covered an event held in the Quick Center and live-tweeted it from my account @Ariana_Puzzo_DJ . Using Tout, I was able to get a video of the auditorium before the event started, which was beneficial since during the event, photography was not allowed. From then on, many of my tweets consisted of quotes from the speaker, Timothy Shriver, as well as the panelists who later joined him on the stage for an open discussion. Perhaps the most challenging aspect was keeping up with the live-tweeting because there were times when Shriver said something quickly and other times when he abruptly changed the direction of the conversation. To combat that, I used my laptop to live-tweet, which I realized would be faster than trying to do it on my phone. Also, the tweet limit initially posed a dilemma, but I determined that I could write out the long passages and then split them into individual replies to the original post.
Microblogging and Darren Rovell’s article, “My 13 Golden Rules of Twitter” helped me to determine the best way to live-tweet for the creator part of our assignment, and also helped me formulate tweets for my personal Twitter account. Prior to our discussion, I had a good understanding of the concept behind microblogging without knowing it by name. Additionally, as someone who has her own separate blog, I can attest that using Twitter requires much less effort and allows for greater flexibility, especially when there is breaking news and you are away from your computer, but you want to put out a story or an opinion within a relevant timeframe. For my live-tweeting at the Quick Center, it was ideal because one of the main concepts behind microblogging is that it is nice and short, which encourages people to update more frequently. I was able to simply pull a quote from Shriver’s discussion and condense it in most circumstances to 140-characters, as opposed to writing out a bunch of quotes and then having to shift through them later in order to write about something that is no longer relevant.
Rovell’s rules that most reflect my experiences were the third, seventh, eighth and ninth. Following the right people was necessary for the consumer part of our assignment. When I went through Twitter lists trying to find reliable accounts to follow, there were many people who either did not update regularly or when they did, they were highly fanatical and did not maintain a professional standpoint on their opinions. Therefore, it took a while before I found people that I knew were respected analysts, who knew how to keep it professional, while maintaining a degree of interest in their tweets. Knowing that people love when photos accompany tweets is something that we discussed in The Mirror office before, but it was important to have that reaffirmed. Generally speaking, the engagements on the photo that I posted and the tout video were higher than my other tweets. While my tweets had anywhere from 20-30 impressions on average and zero engagements, my first and only image had 72 impressions and two engagements, and my video had 48 impressions. I believe that confirms the aforementioned notion that we live in a society that benefits off of visuals rather than words and people are more interested in watching a live video rather than skimming words that do not directly engage them.
Knowing when to tweet was important for me in order to keep up the momentum of the event. There were times when I thought that a quote was going to be poignant, but then it fell flat or Shriver digressed, so I had to settle for deleting the tweet and waiting a better quote. There were even times when I kept certain quotes that fell short on a separate page so that I could refer back to them and add to a quote if he chose to elaborate on it later and it proved to be more in depth and relevant. Finally, the hardest rule to come to terms with was understanding that it is impossible to tweet too much. There were times when I felt that my tweets were excessive, but I realized that they would be relevant for someone who was not at the event, but wanted an understanding of the topics discussed. Therefore, I made sure to not limit myself as the event progressed and I think in the long run, it helped me create some great tweets.