Twitter @ five: The most powerful examples of Twitter in journalism

Twitter reached its fifth birthday this week. It took the social networking site a little over three years to accumulate one billion tweets. It now reportedly handles that number every week.

The world’s most followed Twitterers may be celebrities, but over the last five years journalists have been gradually realising the power of the tool and its relevance to the industry. We asked you who you found an inspiration on Twitter:

Here at we’ve come across some other great examples too, so here are just five of those, illustrating the powerful ways journalists are using Twitter.

Ann Curry:

@usairforce find a way to let Doctors without Borders planes land in Haiti: THE most effective at this.less than a minute ago via web

This Tweet by NBC’s Ann Curry was named as one of the ten most powerful Tweets of 2010 by Twitter itself, after her message to the US Air Force enabled the flight to land. More recently Curry was contacted via Twitter by someone looking for a relative who was in Japan when the earthquake struck, and Curry was able to reunite the family over the phone.

Paul Lewis:

Please RT: Please contact me if you were on BA Flight 77 to Angola – or know the man in this story. than a minute ago via web

The Guardian’s Paul Lewis truly harnesses the crowdsourcing power of Twitter, perhaps best known for his work following the death of Ian Tomlinson at the G20 protests, during which he put a call out on Twitter for witnesses to the incident. Similarly the Tweet shown above, this time in relation to the death of deportee Jimmy Mubenga aboard an aeroplane, also illustrates the power of Twitter in these cases as he went on to find a man “in an oil field in Angola, who had been three seats away from the incident”.

Alexi Mostrous:

judge just gave me explicit permission to tweet proceedings “if it’s quiet and doesn’t disturb anything”. #wikileaksless than a minute ago via Twitterrific

It was an important moment when Times media reporter Alexi Mostrous was granted express permission at the bail hearing of Julian Assange – while there was never a statutory ban on Tweeting in court, clarity was needed by the media. Interim guidance has since been issued, and a consultation launched, by the Lord Chief Justice on the use of live, text-based communications. The Supreme Court also commented on the issue, giving a green light to the press.

Andy Carvin:

Anyone know when/where in Libya this video was filmed? Clearly rebel controlled town, though. than a minute ago via TweetDeck

Strategist for National Public Radio Andy Carvin has often been praised for his use of Twitter, in particular his interaction with a community of followers for help in the verification process of his journalism, asking via Twitter for more details and eye-witness accounts of events from his contacts. According to this Guardian report, since December last year Carvin has been sending out more than 100 tweets a day.

Michael van Poppel:

Michael van Poppel, who was just 17 at the time, set up a Twitter feed for breaking news which went on to be taken over by Microsoft news channel and now has more than two million followers (@BreakingNews). Poppel is now president and founder of BNO News, a news wire service.

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