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Social media a growing tool for news

April 22, 2012
By CRAIG HOWELL , Weirton Daily Times

The way news is spread around the world is constantly evolving, and, as a result, so is how news organizations get their messages to the public.

In ancient times it would have taken weeks, months or possibly even years to get information from one point to another. Then came inventions such as mass printing, the telegraph, the telephone, the radio and television.

What once took long periods of time to be delivered by word of mouth was now able to make it around the world in a matter of hours or minutes.

Today, technology allows us to reach our audience within seconds. It also allows us to go beyond what had been traditional borders.

Delivery of newspapers can be limited to specific coverage areas, for example, while television and radio broadcasts have limits based on the strength of their signals. The Internet, however, allows us to go well beyond all of that, potentially providing readers or viewers at any point around the world.

As a result, we are always looking at new ways to get our information to the public, wherever they may be.

Approximately 10 years ago, The Weirton Daily Times launched its first official online presence. Its appearance has changed a few times and we have continued to expand what we can offer through the site, going from a few news stories to now include all local news, sports and community events as well as photos, message boards and even video to enhance our coverage.

Social media sites also are becoming common for use by the media, with newspapers, television or radio stations setting up profiles on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

These sites have provided a new avenue to deliver news, especially to some of the younger generations who might not want to go out and get a physical copy of the newspaper or have the time to sit down and watch a broadcast. They can easily pick up their phones, or go online, and immediately have access to some of the biggest news of the day.

These day's we're also seeing an increasing number of individual profiles on these sites from reporters, anchors and editors.

This way, people can keep track of some of the events their favorite newspeople may be covering, giving them a closer look inside the business and an idea of what to look for.

I've had a personal page on some of these social sites for several years now, but recently some members of our editorial staff have created more professional Twitter accounts.

I am among those who have an official newspaper Twitter account, and those interested can follow me by searching for @CHowellWDT.

I must admit, it has provided a new layer to showcase what we do here at The Weirton Daily Times. Our focus has been to provide as much community news as possible to our readers, so they know what is going on in their hometowns.

Through the Twitter profiles, we can show you some of what we do each day, whether it is covering a city council meeting, going to a traffic accident or taking a picture of a donation. The best part is, while it does take us a little more time to do the work, you can get these updates virtually as they are happening.

Because of the 140-character limit on Twitter, we can't be as detailed as in our regular news reports, but it at least will give people an idea of what's going on around them.

Another good thing about these social networking sites is they provide a new avenue of interaction with our readers.

While we still receive numerous telephone calls and letters providing information or feedback on the news of the day, much of today's communication takes place electronically through email or other means.

As I've mentioned, our website now includes a message board to allow our readers to interact and comment on local events or other points of interest.

There also is the availability of comment sections on each article published onto the website.

We encourage our readers to use these tools and let us know their thoughts.

Social media gives a more direct route to the newspaper and our staff members who have such profiles.

Through our Twitter profiles and Facebook pages, you can comment on our posts, provide us with news tips or even share some of the information with your friends and family who might not be in the Ohio Valley.

It can all be done in seconds with the stroke of a keyboard and the push of a button.

Much of journalism will never change. The goal will continue to be to cover the news of our area and inform our residents. At the same time, as technology and tastes change, we have to look for new media to gather and get that information out there.

While the majority of the public may use social media to keep in touch with friends or play games, it truly is fast becoming a great tool in our field as we move into the future.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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