TV Station Twitter-ati

I had some fun putting together the list of “Local TV’s Top Tweeters” in the new issue of B&C. Twitter clearly has its doubters, who invoke the ‘what I had for lunch’ maxim about some of the more pointless Twitter posts out there.

Yet three different sources in my reporting compared to Twitter to a wire service. If you assemble a smart list of people to follow on Twitter, you’ve got all the key news sources in your market or beat covered.

“I feel as though Twitter has almost made the A.P. wire service obselete for breaking news,” says KMBC Kansas City anchor Kris Ketz. “The flow of information is much faster on Twitter than the A.P.”

Anchors and reporters say it’s a great way for them to connect with viewers. WLS Chicago’s Chuck Goudie says it’s a rich place for story tips–both those that others have broken on Twitter, and those sent to him directly from viewers. He’ll get those tips on his Blackberry much faster, he says, than those sent over the phone.

“If you call into ABC, the odds of being able to fish through the name directory to get to a human are slim,” he says.

Goudie says about half of his tweets–he’s got 1,253 thus far–are retweets of someone else’s post that he feels will be of interest to his followers. And for those who feel tweeting is the sole province of teens and just-out-of-school types, Goudie is 54.

WLS’ Chuck Goudie

With public appearances at times harder to make time for, Twitter allows anchors and reporters to get those “handshake moments,” as WTVJ Miami anchor Roxanne Vargas puts it, without leaving the newsroom.

“I can’t tell you how many relationships I have with people because of Twitter,” she says.

Well, we can at least offer a ballpark figure. Vargas has 1,224 followers on Twitter–not quite enough to crack the ten we listed in the new issue, but a strong showing nonetheless.

About the list of ten: We based it on number of followers, but also factored in market size: Having 3,300 followers in Kansas City, as Ketz does, is different from having 3,300 followers in New York. So we tried to have a mix of market sizes and station groups, but we also encourage readers to send us the names of prolific station Twitter-ers we may have missed.

(Therefore, honorable mentions to the likes of KTTV Los Angeles’ Rick Dickert [9,761 followers], WNYW New York’s Mike Woods [4,268 followers] and Chuck Goudie [2,523 followers], among others, who did not appear on the list so we could include more markets and groups.)

Top of the list, by our count: WSPA Greenville Spartanburg’s Amy Wood, who has over 13,000 followers.

Newsroom folks said the rules of Twitter are largely unwritten; prolific tweeters are often asked to share their experiences with the rest of the group as company looks to establish some sort of best practices. “It’s not written down in some S.O.P. manual,” says WTVJ VP of News Lane Michaelsen. “We’re learning every day.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.