Twitter has evolved into an important tool for news journalists to get their stories out to the public through social media. No other social media site comes close to Twitter in terms of the effectiveness for journalists. Yes, Instagram is effective, but Instagram is limited to just pictures and videos, whereas Twitter can involve pictures, retweeted videos, and web links.
The Twitter journalist that I chose to follow and dissect was Chris Mortensen from ESPN. I have always been interested in being a sports journalist, so who better to analyze than a sports journalist who specializes in an in-season (current fall season) professional sport?
Chris “Mort” Mortensen mainly works with the National Football League (NFL), but at times, he does escape his comfort zone and cover other sports as well. He is an American journalist, born on November 7, 1951. He, mainly, works with ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown, Monday Night Countdown, Sports Center, ESPN Radio, and ESPN.com. He made his first appearance on ESPN in 1991. Currently he works closely with Adam Schefter, who is another sports journalist working for ESPN who covers the NFL.
His official Twitter handle is @mortreport. He tweets very often, as it helps him do his job. He tweets numerous times a day, mostly about upcoming football games, injury reports, suspensions, awards, and other journalist’s discussions.
However, he is not a very consistent user. There is no pattern in his Twitter use. There are some days that he tweets more than others. Sports are its own news universe because, like everyday news, sometimes there are days where there are more things going on than other days. For example, for a Twitter analyst like Mortensen who covers the National Football League, Sundays will be more of his prevalent tweeting days because every Sunday ranging from Sept. to Dec. the NFL will play their regular season games.
Now, here is a recap of the good, the bad, and the ugly of Chris Mortensen’s Twitter usage.
Good Twitter Practices
First, the positives. There are four specific guidelines for Twitter users that Chris Mortensen follows very well.
- Posts pictures
- Shares other journalist’s information (retweet)
- Stays objective
- Tweets are clear rather than clever
Posting pictures along with the text is something that is very simple to do, but not every Twitter users takes advantage of. The use of Twitter in this way is very similar to writing on the Web. The more pictures, the better the presentation will look in the end. A specific example on “Mort” adding some graphics with his tweets is as followed:
Chris Mortensen retweeted
SEC Network @SECNetwork · Oct 29
BREAKING: NCAA rules @FootballUGA‘s Todd Gurley will be eligible to play Nov. 15 vs. Auburn: http://on.ncaa.com/1p0Vl0K pic.twitter.com/x5m0HSqUUM
However, he is very inconsistent with adding his pictures. Some weeks he will do an outstanding job of this, but other weeks he lacks it indefinitely.
Shares other Journalist’s information
Retweeting is one of the most useful tools for a Twitter user. What better way to spread awareness about a topic that you are covering or have interest in then to retweet?
What is a retweet? Well, for all of you non-Twitter users out there, retweeting is, simply, the action of taking another individual, group, or organization’s tweet and posting it to your Twitter account.
Well, isn’t that plagiarism? Valid question, but in the social media world it is not because at the top of a retweet, it will say who you retweeted it from, so it is not a secretive matter.
This is something that “Mort” excels at doing. He is a very active retweeter, if you will. In fact, in his last 10 Tweets, four of the 10 were retweets. An example of a retweet of Chris Mortensen is as followed:
Chris Mortensen retweeted
Kirk Herbstreit @KirkHerbstreit · Nov 14
Absolute honor and privilege to have @MarcusLuttrell on @CollegeGameDay tomorrow as our celebrity picker! #LoneSurvivor #TrueHero
The third aspect of Twitter that “Mort” handles very well is the fact that a journalist must stay objective while tweeting. Staying objective means that the journalist’s opinion may not appear in the Tweet at all; it must only be the facts of the news. Staying objective sounds awfully easy, but when you’re so passionate about a subject, especially in sports, it gets rather difficult to not slip one’s point of view in there.
Why is staying objective so essential for a journalist? The answer to this question is credibility. Once a journalist becomes subjective, he or she loses all credibility because, let’s face it, one cannot please everybody. There will always be some who agree with something and others who disagree with the same information, statement, or opinion.
An example of my journalist staying objective comes in the form of this Tweet: “Rex Ryan fined $100,000 for his post-game profanity vs Steelers. 3 time offender, per sources.”
He could have changed this Tweet in a million different ways, but he chose to Tweet this information this way because it was objective and he understands that his followers only really care about the news, and not his opinion.
Tweets are clear rather than clever
To build off of the last guideline that “Mort” follows, he does a good job at keeping his Tweets clear. As stated before, he Tweets the facts and solely the facts. He does not put any cute spin on his information because he understands that his followers don’t want to read that.
He understands that his followers would rather read something like, “Lamar Miller is active for the Dolphins,” rather than something like, “The struggling Dolphins active Lamar Miller in hopes that he will help turn this offense around.”
On Twitter, it is important to be clear, concise, and to the point.
Bad Twitter Practices
Chris Mortensen’s use of Twitter is not all good.
There are three things that, through my analysis, I have found that “Mort” could really improve upon.
- The use of hashtags
- Cite his sources
- Make his tweets a conversation
The use of hashtags
A hashtag is that rather annoying symbol that looks like this: #. What purpose does it serve? It is a very useful tool for organization. It gives context for what the author of the Tweet is talking about.
According to blog.twitter.com, “Journalists and news publishers use hashtags to organize conversations, gather feedback, and to identify and engage with Twitter users discussing a particular topic.”
When Tweeting and using a hashtag, that particular Tweet is then grouped together with all of the other Tweets in the world that share the same hashtag. For example, if I used #NFL, then that Tweet would be grouped together with every other Tweet in the world from every Twitter user that used the #NFL.
“Mort” does not use hashtags very often, but he does, very rarely I might add, Tweet using hashtags. For example, Nov. 7 was his last Tweet in which a hashtag was involved. He tweeted: “So much for keeping low-profile, @AdamSchefter… the love is mutual but you know I am good for something… #payback.”
He does not do a good job at taking advantage of this painfully easy organizational tool, and that is something that he needs to start doing more of.
Cite your sources
Much like academic writing, citing your sources is important with Twitter. Even though it is not mandatory by any means, followers like to see where information that they are taking in is coming from.
According to blog.twitter.com, “Brands that tweet 20% fewer URLs and 100% more @mentions grow followers 17% more than average.”
“Mort” does not do a very good job at citing his sources. However, he is considered, in the sports world, to be a source. He communicates directly with the sport teams that he is supplying his information about.
However, with that being said, in an age where everything needs to be cited, people like to see where information is coming from. Personally, even with the background information I already possess, I would like to know that I can trust the information that is being fed to me.
To use an example from his Twitter page, I would have liked to have known where the following Tweet got its origin from: Mosley and NFLPA have filed grievance against Lions’ 2-week suspension because a marijuana violation falls under substance abuse policy.
This is great information and useful knowledge, but how does one know whether or not they can trust this information?
Make Tweets a conversation
Maybe a better way at saying this is to Tweet about things that are interesting and will spark conversation between followers. This is a great way to make a connection with one’s followers as well. Followers can leave feedback on any Tweet and the more they do that, the greater the chance is that a conversation, or discussion will start.
Chris Mortensen when he first broke into the league
“Mort” is not specifically good at this because, as stated before, he is known for just breaking news and giving cold hard facts. In this way, he is being over objective, if you will. What do I mean? With his attempt to stay objective, he loses the little bit of creativity that journalists have on Twitter to begin with.
As someone who is a sports journalist and prides himself on getting his followers the latest news, in all actuality, he is stuck in a lose-lose situation. He can over compensate for his objectivity and be criticized for being too boring, or he can attempt to add a little creativity and be criticized for not staying objective.
Twitter, a double-edged sword?
With any job there are dos and dont’s that one must follow; that is just a part of the professional workplace, but when a journalist is relied heavily upon in the media as much as Chris Mortensen is, it is very easy for people to find what he is doing wrong.
In all actuality, “Mort” is a 63-year-old man who did not grow up during the technology era. When considering this fact, he deserves a lot of credit for the adjustments he has made over the course of his career and learning how to use technology and all that it has to offer is a great accomplishment in itself.
He has a great reputation for supplying his followers with information about the NFL and will continue to do so until he feels as if he does not want to, or cannot continue doing his job. All in all, with the research that I have accumulated and based upon the analysis in which I have studied “Mort,” it is safe to say that he is an average Twitter user; he is not the greatest and he is not the worst in the world.
The bottom line is that “Mort” gets the job done and people are willing to follow him on Twitter (1.61 million to be exact).