On Twitter


Twitter, Toothpaste and the Boston Police


One of my favorite things to do at my internship at WBZ-TV is to sit in the morning meeting and listen to the news of the day. Stories are pitched, ideas are shot down, and I feel like I get one giant dose of what’s going on from the people who decide what’s newsworthy on a daily basis.

I walked into Tuesday’s morning meeting a little late, coffee in hand and a frazzled look on my face due to my 45 minute commute to the station. The day was like any other, except all eyes were on me. Did I have toothpaste on my shirt? Did breaking news happen in my apartment building? Did someone from Emerson do something newsworthy?

Before I let the excitement build in my mind, the attention was answered with one word: “Twitter.” As the token twenty-something in the newsroom, I am the go-to girl for trends and technology advice. The story was about the Cambridge Police Department not wanting people to report crime using Facebook or Twitter.

The news team scoffed at first, thinking it was crazy for anyone to use a social network as a replacement for 911. One reporter asked, “Who would really think an online status update was enough?” And I interjected, “Um…probably most of my generation?!”

The conversation led to a package for the 6 o’clock news. I went out on the story with WBZ’s Karen Anderson, teaching her all of the correct Twitter terminology to use. I even convinced her to get a Four Square account.

Throughout the day I tried to explain to her what these social media outlets mean to people my age. Not only is it a way to connect to friends, it is a way to share information. I get half my news on Twitter in 140 characters or less. I tweet people I would never call or talk to in real life, everyone from John Mayer to the founder of Wikipedia, and they actually respond. So it’s no wonder we are doing the same thing with the police.

Just the other day, a friend of mine tweeted the MBTA General Manager about how hot it was in a subway station. @MBTAGM replied right away with ideas for a potential fix. Would my friend have ever taken the time to pick up the phone and call the General Manager? Would he have even gotten through the secretary? Probably not, but with Twitter, there was a direct dialogue that required minimal effort – that’s the beauty of it.

Through the course of the story we worked on, we found out that Boston Police is actually encouraging people to utilize the social networks. They actually have the Twitter page loaded in dispatch, with an officer monitoring it at all times. They were the first police department in the country to have a blog, a Twitter and the Text a Tip service.

I applaud you BPD, and thanks for retweeting me! Now if only the rest of the world would be so eager to embrace these new mediums…