Twitter wants to be a journalist’s best friend

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Twitter has launched a comprehensive guide and toolbox for journalists — or anyone who sees themselves as a member of the media (a group that is growing all the time, as we’ve noted in the past). The new site and related features went live on Monday, and the launch includes some tools that haven’t gotten much attention before, such as an advanced search that allows you to filter tweets by sentiment. Twitter seems determined to stake its claim as a journalist’s best friend, and to simultaneously compete with both Facebook and some of the other media-related tools and services that are already out there.

The new site, which is called Twitter for Newsrooms, includes resources and discussion about using the real-time information network for reporting, engaging and publishing, and is the product of a growing media team at Twitter that includes Chloe Sladden and Robin Sloan (who spoke at GigaOM’s NewTeeVee Live conference last fall about how Twitter can be used for broadcast media purposes) as well as a new hire, former CBS News staffer Erica Anderson.

The reporting section of the site contains tips on using search tools, which Twitter says now allow newsrooms and journalists to search “as much as you need to.” (Previously, accounts that used search a lot could find themselves “rate limited” and then would have to ask Twitter to add them to a white list.) And it highlights the “advanced search” features that allow users to specify exact words, hashtags or accounts, as well as specific places (the search also allows users to filter by sentiment, as indicated by emoticons for being happy or sad). Sloan said the advanced search has been around for a while but was “just a bit hidden.”

As we’ve mentioned before, Twitter’s search capabilities have been fairly lackluster for some time now. While you can do an advanced search with Twitter’s site, for example, you can’t restrict it to a specific time period. And even in its search tips, the company still recommends that for an archive search (searching further back than about a week), users still go to Topsy, which can search as far back as 2007.

For those who want to track multiple topics regularly, meanwhile, Twitter unsurprisingly recommends using TweetDeck — which the company just recently acquired for $40 million — or the Twitter for Mac client. At one point when the TweetDeck purchase was just a rumor, some speculated that Twitter would kill the client once it bought the company, but judging by the way it is promoting the tool on the media site, it seems to have no intention of doing this.

If anything, Twitter seems to be positioning TweetDeck as a power tool for media and companies tracking specific topics, something many use HootSuite and other tools such as Radian6 (recently bought by Salesforce) for. In addition to going after specific competitors in that space, the media site as a whole seems designed to promote Twitter to the media industry as a crucial tool — something that Facebook has also been trying to do, in particular by hiring Vadim Lavrusik to handle “journalist outreach” (Erica Anderson will reportedly handle these duties for Twitter).

The other modules in the Twitter media site offer tips in engaging with readers and/or viewers, using former CBS anchor Katie Couric and Washington Post reporter Melissa Bell as examples of how to do it properly. Another segment talks about how to embed tweets using a variety of methods, including the WordPress plugin called Blackbird Pie, and Twitter also a section called “Extra” that promotes a number of what the company calls “ecosystem partners,” including Mass Relevance as well as Trendrr and Crimson Hexagon.

The fact that Twitter has become a crucial tool for media and journalism isn’t really news any more. The turning point in that evolution arguably came via a series of events including a plane landing in the Hudson River, the earthquake in China, the disaster in Haiti and a number of other high-profile incidents in which Twitter was used as a reporting tool — both by traditional journalists and ordinary citizens. That trend has continued through the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East and other news events such as the killing of Osama bin Laden.

And anyone who is looking for examples of journalists who make use of Twitter as a key tool doesn’t have to look far: Brian Stelter at the New York Times has been a leader among traditional reporters in the way he has used it, and so has National Public Radio staffer Andy Carvin, who has effectively become a one-man newswire reporting on the Middle East (in fact, he’s been so successful that the NPR is trying to figure out how to make him the hub of a real-time news operation).

Carvin gets a prominent reference in the Twitter Media reporting section, which notes that the NPR journalist is “a key filter and verifier of information coming out of North Africa and the Middle East,” who has found ways to “verify sources thousands of miles away, in real-time.” With its new toolbox and resource site, Twitter is clearly interested in appealing to the other potential Carvins out there — although it’s interesting that the company focuses solely on the traditional journalists using it, rather than any of the “citizen journalism” efforts we have seen emerging.

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user Rupert Ganzer

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