Listen up, Sylvester, I’m the new ‘Tweety’

Published 12:47 am Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I was all atwitter Friday night and Saturday — during the height of Hurricane Irene.

To be more precise, I was all about Twitter.

Former co-worker and best friend Mo Krochmal is a social-media/new-media guru. After battling in the trenches for several years as a sports writer and sports editor, Guru Krochmal is now an expert on new-media/social-media stuff. As Hurricane Irene approached Friday, Guru Krochmal persuaded me to become a “tweeter.” Over my cellphone, he talked me through setting up a Twitter account.

Talk about unlocking a world of sources — I was hooked.

I began following tweets concerning Hurricane Irene. Many of those tweets provided information about the hurricane and story ideas. Among the tweeters I followed (and still am following) were several journalists, journalism professors and others in the field. They welcomed this new “tweeter” into their tweeting community and provided tips on how to better employ and enjoy my Twitter journey.

By using Twitter, I was able to determine how the hurricane affected others in eastern North Carolina. I was getting information about an event or an occurrence within seconds of it happening. I followed the experiences of New York Times reporter Brian Stelter as he reported, via Twitter, about the hurricane from Nags Head. Stelter usually writes about television and the Web.

Other tweeters, when they realized I was located in eastern North Carolina, wanted information on the storm’s projected path and its size, strength and effects on the region. Tweeters farther north along the East Coast wanted descriptions of the hurricane’s fury. Local tweeters traded information about wind damage, flooding and power outages. There was a recurring theme among all those tweets: be safe.

Some of the journalism tweeters had interest in how a small, daily newspaper would cover a major hurricane with limited resources (read limited staff). I tweeted about the challenges of covering the hurricane when there are so many trees down one can’t drive to where one needs to go to report on the hurricane’s worst damage. I tweeted about trying to gather news and publish it when there is no electricity. I tweeted about a Verizon Air Card coming to the Washington Daily News’ rescue Saturday so we could cobble Sunday’s edition.

One of my Twitter followers is an assistant professor at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications. She had a group of the school’s students following me as I worked during the hurricane. She provided invaluable assistance during my first hours in the Twitter world.

I received a tweet Tuesday morning from someone connected with the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation, which is based in Washington. It included a link to a video on YouTube. The video showed what the hurricane did to the river.

In my profession, getting information in and out as soon as possible is key to doing the job. Twitter has proven to me it can help me gather and distribute information in an extremely timely manner. It’s a welcome addition to my journalist’s toolbox.

By the way, my Twitter username is … well, I can’t tell everyone, but it has something to do with what we Southern folks refer to as roasted pig — eastern North Carolina style.

Mike Voss covers the city of Washington for the Washington Daily News. After years of covering hurricanes in eastern North Carolina, the resiliency of the region and its people to recover after such disasters continues to amaze him.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

email author More by Mike