Lena Kirchner

Reporter and Writer

Guest speaker Rachel Lippmann gives advice on live-tweeting

About the guest

Rachel Lippmann, a reporter for the St. Louis Public Radio, came to speak in our class about using Twitter as a live-reporting tool on Tuesday, August 30. She has also worked as a reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network and the Illinois Public Radio after earning her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University. As a courts, public safety, and social policy reporter, Lippmann is constantly using Twitter to cover events, such as court meetings. She prefers to use Twitter as a notepad, especially the time track helps when writing the story later. She also noticed, that once started, one gets in some sort of rhythm.

For instance, she was in judge Rex Burlington’s courtroom for a hearing on August 31.

All other tweets from the hearing can be found on her Twitter page. One of her most recent articles can be found here.

Lippmann got on Twitter in 2012 and refused to use it for live reporting at first, but that changed quickly over the past years. “It has become my thing, something that people expect me to do”, said Lippmann, “when people can’t make a meeting, they follow my Twitter later.” Because of her steady practice and success with live-tweeting, she was able to provide useful hints and tips when covering an event live on Twitter.

To find out more about Rachel Lippmann, one might also want to look at her linkedin profile or facebook profile.

What have I learned?

Here are some key facts to remember about live-tweeting:

  • Tag persons and use hashtags
  • Don’t tweet something that has happened until you see it
  • It is ok to summarize; it does not need to be an exact transcript of every word said
  • Knowing background information on the topic helps to understand what is happening
  • Adjust your tone

What Lippmann always tries to do and found very helpful, is retweeting other news outlets that report on the same event or retweeting people that attend the event as well, like she did while reporting on the Missouri Primary Elections on August 2.

She said that in today’s world, no one remembers who got it first, but surely people will remember when someone got it wrong. Autocorrect and spelling mistakes are the most common ones, and Lippmann also admitted to spell people’s names wrong from time to time. But her advice is, that “if you make a mistake, own it. Live-tweeting gets hectic”, she said.

About expressing opinion when live-tweeting, Lippmann said that a little bit of opinion added on the context to show your take on the situation is allowed, even though it is a fine line between the right amount of opinion and too much expressed.

According to Lippmann, the ultimate goal when live-tweeting should be showing that one can consistently do this well. It is most important to be present and consistent, but then one can be a voice that is heard and where people go to in order to receive information. If one wants to build Twitter as his or her platform, it is most important to use it. Furthermore, Lippmann would not advice to split between a personal and professional account.

Another successful example of live-tweeting events is done by the Atlanta-based TV station WSB-TV. The news outlet has a high presence on social media, especially Twitter. In the case of a search for a missing 2-year old boy on Sunday, August 3, WSB-TV both sent out tweets

and retweeted their own reporters live at the search.

This accounts for a much broader audience than just broadcasting the search on TV, and more people get aware of the missing boy and might help finding him faster.

Why is this important for our Multiplatform Reporting class?

Twitter is one of the most useful tools for journalists today. Therefore, knowing how to use it properly is critical in order to be a successful reporter. It is surely a challenge to report via 140-character-tweets only, but it just fits in perfectly in our fast-pace and digitalized world. Since we are using Twitter a lot in class and even have assignments that require us to live-report on events via Twitter, the advice given by Rachel Lippmann comes in very useful.


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