Happy To Be Of Service: Twitter Journalism, But Is It Real?

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TweetReach is a tool for measuring how far tweets travel. This graphic shows tweets from @avidcruiser highlighting the Viking River Cruises #vikinglongships christening this past week in Amsterdam.

Work is grueling. During the past three days here in Amsterdam, I produced 15 tweets highlighting the Viking River Cruises #vikinglongships christening. Thanks to generous retweeting, my 15 tweets reached more than 140,000 Twitter accounts and made more than 200,000 impressions. No wonder I’m thoroughly exhausted. Twitter journalism. Puh!

I’m not alone. My colleagues tweeted, retweeted and were retweeted. We hardly had time to look up from our mobile devices, so engrossed were we, @OrlandoChris @deckchairblog @VikingRiver @jeffriesusc: @jeannewmanglock @anniefitz @cruiseeditor @traveljames @cruiselog, with composing 140 characters at a time about the events of the day.

It all seems a bit silly, and yet it’s not.

Twitter has become an important tool in reporting news and experiences from cruise ships and events such as the naming ceremonies.

First, Luddites would do well to understand that Twitter journalism is not just about producing 140 character narratives. It’s about producing 140 character headlines (or marketing pitches) that link to relevant posts and photographs. Twitter provides a quick way to get to the news most important to you. Think of it as an index of trending articles.

Hashtags, such as #vikinglongships, make it possible to target topics and trends. Informed journalists use hashtags as a service to their readers. A reader who searches #vikinglongships, for example, will find nearly all digital posts and photographs about Viking River Cruises’ innovative vessels.

When I started in travel journalism more than two decades ago, a press trip consisted of taking the trip, compiling photographs and notes along the way, sipping Scotch in the evenings while conversing with colleagues, then returning home to put it all together while consuming cups of coffee in front of a blank computer screen. Three to four months later, the article appeared in print.

Today we produce news as it happens — and sometimes before it happens. I left the Viking River Cruises’ naming ceremony 10 minutes before it ended so that I could post, in a timely fashion, In Photos: 10 Ships Christened In Amsterdam, A World’s Record. My reward: a tweet from a colleague, “First photos from #Vikinglongships @VikingRiver http://ow.ly/jkDyF”

All in a day’s work, 140 characters at a time.

Posts from the Viking River Cruises Longships christening: