Why Twitter Matters for Young Journalists of Color

Why Twitter Matters for Young Journalists of Color

Young Journalists of Color Say Twitter Is a Tool for Networking and Industry Info
Young Journalists of Color Say Twitter Is a Tool for Networking and Industry Info
This reported op-ed argues it's unfair for newsrooms to police journalists' use of Twitter.
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Every few weeks or so, the discourse resurfaces : How much should journalists be on Twitter, if at all? All too often, the perspectives of student journalists are left out of these conversations.
Debates about the platform’s usefulness for sourcing, engagement metrics, or building one’s reputation are worthwhile, but what’s missing is how student journalists, particularly those from underrepresented communities, use the platform to advance themselves in the industry.
Speaking from personal experience, Twitter ultimately has allowed me to connect with other young journalists, access career-related resources, and learn about the uglier sides of the industry in a way I couldn’t otherwise.
Let’s be clear, the platform is far from perfect. It can be a steady stream of bad news. And journalists — especially those in underrepresented communities — face awful harassment on the platform. It can also feel like a competition between journalists in terms of verification status, individual tweet performance, or personal news tweets. But it’s an undeniably useful tool for people coming up in the industry.
Unlike other social platforms, like Instagram or TikTok, it is primarily devoted to news-sharing and is a space where journalists can talk to and learn from other journalists. Those who dismiss Twitter as a distraction or seek to stop reporters from using it should keep this in mind.
It’s a way to acquire institutional knowledge.
After the murder of George Floyd, there was a public reckoning over how the industry had historically treated journalists of color, a subject previously restricted to whisper networks. California Polytechnic State University senior Omar Rashad recalls seeing tweets from professional journalists about being mistaken for other coworkers or facing racism or discrimination in their newsrooms.
“Journalists of color [are] uplifted because they have this platform to talk about what they're going through in an honest way,” he said. “It also gives journalists of color who are still in college and who are new to this industry [an opportunity] to understand what they're getting themselves into.”
Rashad, who graduated from a two-year program at El Camino College before starting his program at Cal Poly, remembers how jarring it was to read firsthand accounts after 2,100 media workers got laid off in a month in early 2019 . At the time, he knew journalism was dealing with acquisitions by hedge funds and a lack of ad revenue, but seeing journalists publicly handle the industry-wide mass layoffs surprised him. “I'm not sure if I would have learned as much about the scale of something like that if journalists were not talking about it on Twitter,” Rashad said.
Now, as a fourth-year who’s witnessed multiple cycles of industry news play out on Twitter, he’s seen journalists of color share experiences about how they've been made to feel like they or their stories don’t belong in certain newsrooms.
While attending community college, Rashad realized he didn’t have access to the same resources as students who attended Ivy League or private universities, so he’d also often take Twitter connections up on their offers to review his résumé and cover letters.
There are lots of online resources for students.
Twitter can be a treasure trove of student journalism resources if one knows where to look. I discovered resources like freelance network StudyHall and the Journalists of Color Slack by following journalists like Wudan Yan and Emma Carew Grovum.
When I was 17 and just dipping my toes into freelancing, former New York Times editor Tim Herrera’s workshops were regularly on my calendar. And though I’ve personally not used these funds, I’ve shared out Sonia Weiser’s Black Journalists Therapy Relief Fund, LGBTQIA Journalists Therapy Relief Fund, and the AAPI Journalists Mental Relief Fund, which is now run by the Asian American Journalists Association.
One of the most helpful tools has been 25-year-old Adriana Lacy’s Journalism Mentors , a website that connects student and early-career journalists to professionals with a few clicks of a button. Through scheduled sessions, I’ve been able to meet with journalism professionals working in product, audience engagement roles, and investigative desks, to name a few. Lacy is the digital and audience engagement editor at Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation and has previously worked in audience roles at Axios and The Los Angeles Times.
“So many people just don't have the same opportunities when it comes to journalism,” Lacy said. “I see [Journalism Mentors] as an extension of how we can help make journalism more diverse and more equitable.” She said that some of her first writing opportunities and networking connections came from Twitter and, as someone who felt like she didn’t have the same access to the journalism industry as others, in some ways Twitter has helped even the playing field.
One example: While she was attending Penn State as an undergrad, Lacy had the opportunity to write for Major League Soccer’s website after an editor sent her a direct message over Twitter. Since then, connections have sent her everything from job opportunities to freelance gigs.
According to Lacy, one of the best parts about the platform is the accessibility it offers student journalists. For those who attend schools without a journalism major or a student publication, resources on Twitter like internship application reviews, mentorship calls, or general networking can make the difference. “Twitter's been a really important space for young journalists — journalists from diverse backgrounds — because it gives them a voice they may not have in their newsroom or in other spaces,” Lacy said.
It fosters community among peers.
The student journalism community on Twitter is unbeatable in terms of support. I’ve connected with numerous young journalists across the country, become inspired by the work they produce and, of course, sent congratulatory tweets in response to their personal news announcements.
Twenty-four-year-old Washington Post social media editor Claire Tran said that Twitter has made networking seem less transactional and less intimidating since people are more open about their personal lives and making organic connections. “There are people I've never met in real life, but we've followed each other on Twitter for four or five years at this point,” Tran said. “It feels like I have a support group [and] we cheer each other on through the highs and lows of our career. It's nice to feel that community,”
In addition to Twitter being a place to learn industry news, she also sees it as a place for young journalists to build a personal brand or reputation. Though older journalists may have the professional clout necessary to secure book and TV deals, she said that advertising a personal newsletter or tweeting out personal work is one way younger journalists can get a headstart on building their own reputation.
When asked what advice she’d give someone my age, Tran said she’d recommend tweeting out clips and “putting yourself out there.” Similar to Lacy, Tran was DM'd a freelance opportunity after she had tweeted about a niche topic she had an interest in.
“Some people like to network through their alma mater or their college newspaper alumni network. Maybe they have family [members] that work in journalism,” Tran said. “For young journalists who don't have any of those networks, Twitter is just another tool to meet people in the industry.”

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