In this page, Leigh Wright, an assistant professor of journalism at Murray State University, offers supplementary materials to her peer-reviewed essay “Tweet Me a Story” that was accepted with revisions into the book-in-progress Web Writing: Why and How for Liberal Arts Teaching and Learning, under contract with the University of Michigan. The book-in-progress project solicited essays about teaching writing across the liberal arts spectrum.
During the open peer review in the fall of 2013, several reviewers asked for additional information such as how I use Twitter in the classroom, handouts that I use and additional information such as permission forms.
When using Twitter in my journalism classroom, I talk to the beginning journalism and public relations students about using the social media tool to follow news and information sources. I distribute a list of news personalities, celebrities, and news organizations that maintain effective Twitter accounts. The list, which also features recommendations of news sources for my region, may be found here.
Although students are well aware that Twitter posts in the public sphere, I ask them to sign a permission form at the beginning of each semester that allows me to consider using their tweets and social media curation activities in my scholarly work. As my research agenda evolved during my time on the tenure track, I realized that I had to think proactively rather than reactively about using their work in my publications and presentations. I learned this after I scrambled on deadline for one publication and emailed students in the same panic in which they email me for a deadline extension for their news stories. Examples of the permission slips may be found in my Google Drive, which is accessible via the link.
Additionally, I discuss the fine line between public and private Twitter accounts with my classes. I strongly encourage the students to consider setting up a professional Twitter account for the class exercises so that they do not end up flooding their followers’ timelines with class tweets. Plus, by setting up a professional account, they will have a body of raw social media work that can showcase their progression from a beginning journalist to an advanced one over the course of four years. An editor or producer can examine the tweets to see how the students’ voice and engagement tactics developed over time and how often the student posts interactions to his social media account. By keeping his personal account personal, the student can avoid intermingling his two worlds as a college student and as a journalist. I remind the students every semester, and sometimes several times during a semester, to keep their personal accounts as clean as possible. No disparaging professors. No tweeting about drunken exploits. No tweeting about inappropriate activities. In short, I tell them that if they wouldn’t want their mother or father to read what they posted, then don’t do it. I also explain that employers increasingly are scouting potential employees’ social media accounts and looking for evidence of their work ethic (or lack of) and their personality. An editor or producer would not want to hire a student who constantly disparaged professors or posted photos of drunken exploits as those comments and photos could reflect poorly upon the employer.