Keeping an eye on Twitter is pretty much mandatory in most newsrooms–or at least it should be. Yes, there’s a lot of worthless chatter out there, but every so often you can find a pony.
Take the story Kara Matuszewski, a Web producer at WBZ in Boston, turned up last week about schools in one local district having been closed for a week.
She found it on Twitter, when she just happened to run across a message from a friend of hers offering to be interviewed if anyone was having a “slow news day.”
The message was directed to a couple of Matuszewski’s friends at different TV outlets, as well as a Boston television station–notthe one she works for, as it happens. But hey, it was on Twitter for all to see.
I wasn’t about to let these guys be the only ones to talk with Tyson about this. So I jumped in on the conversation and asked Tyson what more to the story there was.
After exchanging a few direct messages with the original Tweeter, the story emerged. Frustrated parents were begging their district to let them shovel snow off the schools’ roofs so students could go back to class. As Matuszewski writes on her blog, this was one time when social media paid off. The story wound up leading the 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts the following day.
The pony reference comes from one of Ronald Reagan’s favorite jokes, which I must have heard dozens of times when I covered the White House in the 1980s. A pessimist confronted with a stable full of manure would be gloomy, Reagan would say. But an optimist would dig right in, convinced that with all that manure, “there had to be a pony in here somewhere.”