Jumping on the ‘Twitter’ bandwagon

By Dan Falloon, sports reporter
There’s been a lot of talk lately about “Twitter” and what role the micro-blogging service is going to play in the news media going forward.
I’ve had a personal Twitter account for about a year now, and have made a grand total of 172 “tweets.” That’s a slow day for some users.
I hadn’t fully figured out what the big deal was until the last couple of weeks with a pair of major sporting stories. First, the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, and, especially, the NHL trade deadline day last Wednesday (March 3).
In advance of what generally is considered Christmas Day for hockey information junkies like myself, I started following insiders like Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger from TSN, John Buccigross of ESPN, and the CBC’s Elliotte Friedman.
On trade deadline day, floods of information came in from McKenzie and Dreger as they broke trades more quickly than they ever were able to before.
McKenzie was able to tweet “Derek Morris to Phoenix from Boston, pending trade call” at 9:28 a.m. last Wednesday before getting the chance to break one of the panels away from its in-depth analysis.
While there were no ground-breaking trades reported last Wednesday, it was cool to be in the know about the Aaron Ward-for-Justin Pogge swap while the talking heads on TV still were going on about the impact that defenceman Dennis Seidenberg was going to have on the Boston Bruins.
I felt like I was one of the first to find out the Vancouver Canucks had dealt Manitoba Moose players Pierre-Cedric Labrie and Mathieu Schneider. I’d been keeping close tabs on the Canucks as rumours had been swirling around Moose goaltending stud Cory Schneider, who, in the end, stayed put.
I was thrilled to be able to get this information, for all intents and purposes, as quickly as possible considering my place in the civilian world, at least in NHL terms.
But then I also thought, “Hey, I’m technically one of these guys. Maybe there’s some way that I can utilize Twitter to better inform people here in town.”
As such, I’ve set up a new Times-centric Twitter account (username: dfalloontimes) that’s ready to relay any desired information as soon as I have it. The thing is, media outlets use their accounts for several different purposes, and I’m not quite sure of the best way to “tweet” to those here in town.
So what I want to know is what do you want to know?
I figure that any Fort Frances Laker or Muskie diehards probably are going to be at the game, anyway, so it doesn’t seem like trying to get the score out before the team or the league breaks it is all that useful.
My assumption could be off-base, though, so if you want a summary in 140 characters or fewer when I get home from a game, I’m up for it. And if I get my Twitter working on my cellphone, then I even could try to get in a quick update during an intermission.
There are other potential uses. For example, when the ESPN program “Pardon the Interruption” has a guest lined up for that day’s show, they’ll canvass followers for questions.
Makes sense to me.
Granted, the show’s tone and our tone are a little bit different, so they’re looking for questions that are a little more off-the-wall and would make for entertaining television. But if there’s an angle that you want to read about, or just something you’ve always wanted to know, please pass it along.
No guarantees about anything, but it certainly helps to have some food for thought.
Twitter also is useful for capturing the lighter side of sports. I follow the accounts of parody “blogs” SportsPickle (which skewers a little bit of everything) and Down Goes Brown (a blog that tends to focus on a love/hate relationship with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but can branch off at times).
Both sites sometimes push the envelope a little bit, so they’re not for younger users, but they’re often hilariously sarcastic—and provide plenty of jokes for those in the know about pro sports.
So maybe you want to hear my remarkably witty jabs at the world of pro sports in a “Remember, you’re still paid to act professional” kind of way.
I’ve come up with a few zingers in my day, so I can try to do that, too.
Twitter, Facebook, and other forms of social networking seem to be the way the media industry is heading, so it’s best for us to be on board with that. But it takes you, too, to make it worthwhile.
If you don’t have an account, it’s easy to make one. For those who may be scared off by privacy issues associated with sites like Facebook, Twitter asks for far less information than Facebook (just for a name and e-mail address). You’re not required to give your location.
You have the option to “tweet,” which is giving your status update in 140 characters or fewer. But there are several people who don’t “tweet” often, opting instead to just “follow” celebrities, businesses, reporters, and the like where their status updates appear in a chronological list.
Some celebrities I personally follow are Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, “How I Met Your Mother” star Neil Patrick Harris, and St. Louis Blues’ forward David Perron.
If I like something that, say, Perron writes, there’s a button so that I can “re-tweet” it to those who follow me (and, hopefully, I’ll say some things that are worth “re-tweeting”).
If you do decide to “tweet,” and are addressing a popular topic, chances are there’s going to be a “hash tag” for that topic, which makes it easier to search for a collection of “tweets” along that topic.
A “hash tag” always is preceded by the “#” symbol. For example, the commonly-used tag for the Winter Olympics was #Van2010.
The era of social networking should make interaction between reader and reporter easier than ever, and when done right, should lead to some superb journalism.
I hope this experiment works so that Fort Frances is one of the most informed and up-to-date towns around. I’m curious to see how it works out.
You can find the Times on Facebook, and follow the accounts “fftimes” for news and “dfalloontimes” for sports.
If you’re still a little wary of Twitter, you always can get in touch with me the old-fashioned way at dfalloon@fortfrances.com or the ancient way at 274-5373 ext. 236.

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