140characters.com has a decent post about Twitter tips for journalists. I would add to it though. Not that there are forgotten tips here. When the list says to verify sources — something important for a story whether it involves Twitter or not, it doesn’t hurt to be more specific.
There are lots of people by the same name on Twitter. It doesn’t mean any one of them could be the specific one I am looking for. I write about music for my job, specifically pop music, but sometimes other genres I’m not as familiar with. But one thing I have noticed across multiple genres is how easy it is to get the wrong musician. You might think you’re reading a tweet by your favorite pop star. But instead, it’s actually a tweet from a fan or fansite.
Want to read the real Justin Bieber’s tweets? (Yes, I do. I write about him almost daily in pop music). Check out his official Twitter account:
See the Twitter-turquoise check mark badge on the upper right-hand side of the page? That verifies that this is really the Justin Bieber.
Oh, and just because someone famous has a verified Twitter account doesn’t mean they are authoring their own tweets. Take a look at Sugarland’s Twitter account:
It lacks the Twitter-turquoise verified check mark badge. But it does say it’s the band’s official Twitter account. Yet all kinds of people tweet on this account — they just sign their names on their tweets. There’s one signed by “Kristian,” which could be guitarist Kristian Bush. The Twitter page does lead to the band’s official website. But I can put up a Twitter account in two minutes that does the same thing. That official website does list links to the band’s MySpace and Facebook pages, but lists nothing for any Twitter accounts they may have.
I’m pretty sure it’s Sugarland’s Twitter account, at least enough to add it to my list of country celebrities I follow every day. But I doubt I’d ever quote it for a story. I’d use it for a story lead and report it out. But I wouldn’t live and die by it.
I’ve found Twitter is often best just for leads. It gives me a lot of story ideas and directions to go in that have saved me a lot of time.