Twitter Interview Requests: #Innovative or #Epicfail?

Over the past year, I’ve noticed an emerging student press trend on Twitter.  It doesn’t yet have its own hashtag, but if it did it might read something like #helpoutajstudentyo.

An increasing number of student journalists appear to be employing Twitter as the prime spot to seek sources for their story (or class) assignments AND make first contact with these sources.  At the start, the occasional  j-student interview request tweets I stumbled across amused me.  The copious amounts I now wade into both intrigue and concern me.

These 140-character-or-less requests seem to take on one of two forms: 1) A public tweet to one other person asking for a chat or 2) A crowdsourcing tweet asking for all those who meet certain specs to reply ASAP.

Due to their brevity, they tend to contain the same four characteristics: 1) A very, very quick greeting. (Hi); 2) An extremely abbreviated identifier. (I’m a journalism student); 3) An uber-short explanation for the tweet. (I’m working on a story about…).  And 4) A request for an interview. (Up for a chat?).

Of course, these are the basic attributes involved in an interview request made in almost any form, including in person, at the start of a cold call or within an out-of-the-blue e-mail.  They just happen very rapidly once whittled into single tweets, often lacking context (students with actual job titles and outlet affiliations become just “a student journalist”), a polite easing-in, or even proper spelling (Im a j-student. Plz hlp.).

The oddest part about these interview entreaties: They are public.  Ignoring or unable to use the private “direct message” option, the requests are simply left in raw form for the Twitterverse to see.  (In the so-much-for-feeling-special department, the public requests also allow potential interviewees to see how many other people the students have tweeted for a chat using the same exact greeting.)

Is this type of public quick-hit request a positive for the campus press– enabling students to show initiative and innovation in reaching out to lots of sources with whom they might otherwise not have a shot at speaking?  Or is it a devolution of the journalist-source relationship?  Simply put, is there an element of rudeness embedded within these opening tweets?

I’ve been contacted numerous times this way.   My first reaction: You really could not spare one minute to check my Twitter profile, click on my blog, and find my e-mail address?  My second reaction: Who are you?  Your tweet does not reveal it. Your Twitter profile is still vague.  And I’m supposed to do the work to ferret out your identity?

My third reaction: What’s next?  You asked me if I wanted to chat, but left me no options on how I should respond.  Am I supposed to reply to your tweet publicly to say I’m game and give you further instructions on how to contact me?

And my fourth reaction: The human part of me cannot help but feel a little violated.  I’m a person, not a Twitter profile! If I’m that valuable to you, take the time to do more than send a vague opener that took you 10 seconds to type and that anyone can read.

To Be Continued… Part 2: Top 10 Twitter Interview Request Rules

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3 Responses to “Twitter Interview Requests: #Innovative or #Epicfail?”
  1. Brianne says:

    I don’t think this is just a trend among student journalists, but a shift for more traditional journalists as well. There are definitely ways to use twitter to crowdsource, but a few of the tactics you describe show a lack of understanding on how to use twitter most effectively. An interesting conversation here: http://blog.catchfiremedia.com/2010/07/the-power-behind-proper-social-media-inclusion-and-attribution-in-traditional-media/

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