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Twitter Goes to College

September 3, 2009

by Agnes Jasinski

This fall, a group of journalism students at DePaul University will learn how to be even more concise with their news briefs. The Chicago school claims their new course "Digital Editing: From Breaking News to Tweets" will be the first class devoted to Twitter and how the new media tool has changed the way reporters do - and should do - their jobs.

According to the syllabus, the course will look at not only how Twitter can be used as a source for finding out about legitimate news events, but how to fact-check information gleaned from the microblogging site. The class, taught by Craig Kanalley, a DePaul alum and digital intern at the Chicago Tribune, will also explore the effects of citizen journalism and bloggers on the industry, Search Engine Optimization and basic WordPress.

The school's news release describes Twitter as a "major player" and source of breaking news information, citing citizen reporting on the Iranian election and the school's own students tweeting at President Obama's inauguration as examples of how the site has not only competed with the major news organizations, but at times beat them to the big story.

Is the school placing too much emphasis on Twitter as a news source? Maybe a whole class devoted to the subject seems silly. But it's safe to say Twitter has become a go-to for journalists following politicians, who post everything from their plans to host health care forums to what they purchased recently at farmers markets. There's no doubt new journalists need to be well-versed in not only Twitter but how social networking in general can supplement - not drive - their stories.

Twitter is also useful not only for writers, but for job seekers, public relations and marketing professionals or those promoting fledgling freelance careers. Professors use the site as another way to reach their students or promote new courses. A one-time course this fall at Harper College in Schaumburg, Ill., will look at what Facebook and Twitter can do from a business perspective. While I'm not sure how many people would buy into some academics' assertions that sites like Twitter improve students' writing, perhaps it's not as silly to think of an all-Twitter course at a university when you consider how it and sites like it have changed how people communicate.


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