On Twitter’s 5th Birthday, a Look Back at Memorable NewsHour Tweets

BY Teresa Gorman  March 21, 2011 at 6:45 PM EDT

With Monday marking the fifth anniversary of the first tweets, we’re taking a look back at how the NewsHour team has experimented with and used Twitter to share news and analysis, plus create new ways to keep the public in public broadcasting.

Back before our broadcast and Web staffs were integrated and the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer relaunched as the PBS NewsHour, one of @NewsHour‘s first tweets came as @JudyWoodruff and several NewsHour staffers set out to cover the 2008 election with a reporting trip to Pennsylvania:


Planning a PA roadtrip to cover the Democratic primary… many more updates to come.18 Apr 08 via web

Along with social media platforms like Facebook and video channels like YouTube, the 140-character Twitter tool has changed how many journalists and news organizations communicate, follow and report the news. From a first-hand photo of a plane crash in the Hudson River in January of 2009 to putting faces on revolutions around the world, to snarky moms, Twitter has become a widely-used tool for journalists and news consumers alike.

According to Twitter, an average of 460,000 new accounts were created each day in the past month, and that number continues to grow.

In the past several years, the NewsHour has experimented with Twitter in a variety of ways: combining it with Flickr, partnering with other organizations to help voters document their trip to the polls and even finding employees.

Here are just a few Twitter “firsts” from the NewsHour and our staff:

Political Editor David Chalian’s first tweet was on his now-deleted @DavidChalianABC. The tweet below “served as a bit of a farewell to ABC News” when Chalian was hired by the NewsHour, he said.


It was the perfect send off!! RT @thenote: Sam Donaldson & I bid farewell to @davidchalianabc, on his last #TopLine. http://bit.ly/a5tDnW11 Jun via web

“I will never forget a political unit intern in 2009 coming into my office to tell me he had set me up with a Twitter account,” Chalian told us. “I had heard of the micro-blogging network, but had no good understanding of how it was best used. It quickly became apparent to me that it is the single best aggregator of the news and information I want to follow anywhere in the digital space, and I have been addicted to it ever since,” he told us.

Judy Woodruff tweeted only three times in 2009, according to her calculations. “It was a novelty at first,” she said. “Now it’s a must for news reporting. I have to check Twitter every morning, and throughout the day.”

Hari Sreenivasan first started tweeting while working at CBS. Sent to cover flu outbreaks in Mexico City, there was a massive earthquake in between live shots, he said.

“After realizing that we were here to cover pestilence, and if the earth was indeed going to crack open, locusts and the end of days were soon to follow — so I decided to start tweeting,” he told us.

Different NewsHour beats use Twitter to find sources and share stories:

@NewsHourWorld first tweeted on July 8, 2010. Since, the foreign affairs team has used Twitter as a resource to find local voices in hard-to-reach places, such as Libya
and Japan.

@NewsHourGlobal, the global health reporting team, has used the medium to highlight interesting facts and observances from reporting trips around the world.

And @NewsHoursci comes from our science unit, including highlights from the social media savvy of correspondent Miles O’Brien.

Reporter/producer and tweeter Talea Miller said that some of her favorite tweeting was when the team reported on-the-ground during the six-month anniversary of Haiti‘s earthquake.


Driving to hotel at night, gas stove flames are the only light in some parts of Port au Prince, others are in total darkness #haiti10 Jul via web

Murrey Jacobson, national affairs editor, used his one of his first tweets to herald the rebranding of the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and the new PBS NewsHour site:


New PBS NewsHour on its way. The new website up and running already. Worth checking out
http://bit.ly/pbsnewshour4 Dec 09 via web

However, Jacobson is quick to point out that Twitter is not all news, all the time for him.

“Twitter would be a lot drier and more pedestrian if I wasn’t able to access the daily contributions from folks like Andy Borowitz, Mindy Kahling, Conan, Aziz Ansari, Steve Martin and Bill Simmons,” Jacobson said. “Some of those folks have brilliant bits in just 140 characters.”

@NewsHourArtBeat’s first tweet references a classic Sonny and Cher tune:

Molly Finnegan, an Art Beat reporter/producer, shares that tweeting on Mondays is a favorite because she can creatively share Art Beat’s weekly poem series.

There are plenty more stories where that came from. The best way to find them is follow us. Find more of our correspondents, reporters and beats on Twitter here for daily behind-the-scenes look into the making of PBS NewsHour and tell us in the comments-where do you think Twitter and social media tools like it will be in another five years?

(And we can’t forget the time when @NewsHour created a trending topic, based on two already trending topics surrounding the first 2008 presidential debate, hosted by Jim Lehrer.)