Journalism 140: The Creative Twitter Challenge

Cara Ellen Modisett, editor of Blue Ridge Country, tweets. With two Twitter accounts for business and one for personal use, she tweets with purpose and with creativity.

“The basis of Twitter is conversation,” says Modisett. “Each individual Twitter account has its own voice. When I tweet as an editor, it's more about relationships; when tweeting about the magazine, it's to promote the content of the magazine. I find my instantaneous voice on the web.”


Twitter also serves as her reporter's notebook. “My tweets become my notes. I go back to my Twitter feed to put the story together. Sometimes a tweet becomes a kernel of an idea which can lead to something larger creatively and journalistically.” Recently, Modisett tweeted events and observations live during the Virginia Press Women's conference.

How and why journalists should use Twitter is under debate. Modisett feels that tweeting, like any "broadcasting," can help a journalist become more visible as he/she builds a follower base, but when it comes to using Twitter for the sole purpose of building a personal brand, she's not a fan. “I'm maybe a little old school in that I shy away from the idea of a journalist building a 'personal brand' – in some ways, it makes more sense for fiction writers or film writers or columnists. I'm not sure a journalist should focus too much on branding him or herself unless employment is an issue.” She sees Twitter more as a way to get content out there and equates live-tweeting with “reporting snapshots” of what is going on around her.

Some of Modisett's tweets traverse poetic borders:



The creative challenge comes in the 140-character length limitation – one she's meeting head-on. “As a writer,” she says, “Tweeting is an organic extension of what I already do.”


To learn more about how Modisett uses Twitter, follow her at: @CaraModisett, @BRCeditor, @BRCmagazine.


Z. Kelly Queijo writes about business and technology, people and their passions.  She is a frequent contributor to Handshake 2.0. You're invited to follow her on Twitter at @zkellyq

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  1. Great post, thanks.

    You quote Cara as saying “I’m not sure a journalist should focus too much on branding him or herself unless employment is an issue.”

    Um, how is employment NOT a key concern for any journalist today? Most news organizations demonstrate that they either have no loyalty to employees, or that despite good intentions their finances make them risky long-term bets for employment.

    Therefore, allowing your professional identity to be overshadowed, subsumed, or inextricably bound to your current employer places a journalist at considerable long-term professional risk.

    Personally, I think it’s a huge mistake for any journalist not to have a personal brand. You can manage that brand however you like. But if you want to have a career in media, you need to be findable — and followable — as yourself, not just as an agent of your current employer.

    – Amy Gahran

  2. I agree with Amy here. I started tweeting when I worked for a news org, then i got laid off and then again from my last job. My personal brand is the only thing getting me freelance work. If i identified myself with my employer too much, I wouldn’t have any work at all.

  3. Good points – thanks. Amy, I like your choice of the word “manage” – that’s I guess the key. Accessibility and voice – i.e. branding – are important for any writer, and employability has unfortunately become a concern for every writer.

  4. My background is marketing and PR first, journalism second (meaning the majority of my employment has come from M&PR). When I started freelancing as a writer, using Twitter to promote my work was natural for me, but I can see how building a personal brand requires a different mind-set for some. The idea was recently raised by Peter Shankman (@skydiver, he asked why weren’t more journalists tweeting during live events (like the one he where he was speaking at the NY Press Club)to promote their personal brand. He sees this as a necessity these days. I think Cara’s position is that the work, the story, the reporting… comes first; personal brand second. I’m not speaking for her, that’s my interpretation.) For me, it’s all inter-connected. Great comments! I’d love to hear from other writers, editors, and publishers! Please feel free to comment and join the conversation!

  5. Kelly – you interpreted accurately – and we’ve got a great discussion started!

  6. Cara, you have my respect for tackling Twitter on three fronts! There are pros and cons to that too, but, like with this discussion, a reason behind what seems right at the time.

  7. As a company founder, I struggled with establishing my identity on Twitter. My company’s name, my site’s name (Handshake 2.0), or my own name (Anne Clelland)? I opted for my site, which I consider a social media channel for my clients’ work as well as my own. But are pictures of my cat really appropriate for a business news account like @handshake20?

    I post news and cat pics and wonder how this will all work out.

    Such a thoughtful discussion by all – thank you @zkellyq for getting it started and to [email protected] for the wonderful insights, interview, and comments.

  8. Anne, I like and appreciate the fun tweets such as your cat. These fun tweets make me stop, laugh and smile.
    As far as identity, my photo is there with my company name, not my company logo. We have another account for business, but it’s seldom used. Tha’s Shannon’s and she’s jsut far to consumed with uploading content to tweet these days.
    Recently I posted an essay about branding and relationships. I am removing the concept of branding from our business. Here forward the Hub, and all involved are focused on relationships; which is significant aspect of community. They go hand in hand. Therefore for me, my tweets and my twitter account is about creating and building new relationships. To date since I’ve been on twitter – a little over a month I’ve met wonderful people, secured a fantastic lawyer, and made some good persnal friendships as well as business alliances. There are no rules. If there were, I’d break ’em anyway!

  9. “There are no rules. If there were, I’d break ’em anyway!”

    Ha! That’s the Monica Hebert I know – and met, wonderfully and gratefully – through Twitter!

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