Christina Bellantoni, a political reporter for the Washington newspaper “Roll Call,” discussed the merits and potential pitfalls of using Twitter in politics on Monday evening at the Institute of Politics.
“The ability to be connected is invaluable,” Bellantoni said. “Twitter helps us learn about each other and the world.”
At the “Twitter Summit,” Bellantoni, an IOP Fellow, described how Twitter has radically changed political journalism in recent years.
She said that Twitter’s “unbelievably fast speed” has enabled a groundbreaking alacrity in the dissemination of news. Reporters can now present vital information sooner, before their detailed articles have been written, edited, and published, she said.
Bellantoni said that she personally uses Twitter to highlight interesting details overlooked by print newspapers.
But frequent Twitter-use comes with occasional drawbacks, according to Bellantoni. She said that her tweets have occasionally drawn intense scrutiny from followers.
“You have to develop a very thick skin,” Bellantoni said.
Bellantoni warned that Twitter, with its limited content controls can facilitate the rapid spread of false information.
Although journalists “lose prose” on Twitter accounts, Bellantoni emphasized that the benefits of connectivity far outweigh the drawbacks of condensing complex thoughts into 140 characters.
Bellantoni then turned the subject of her talk to undergraduates’ use of Twitter, offering some advice on how to use Twitter most effectively.
Bellantoni said that students on Twitter should assume that embarrassing posts have the potential to ruin professional reputations and future political careers.
“It’s hard to scrub bad things off the internet,” Bellantoni said. “Politics is an ugly, dirty game.”
She recommended that students use “Tweetdeck,” an interactive tool that organizes tweets and contacts into easily manageable lists, and encouraged them to keep their posts short and to include a picture on their profiles.
Bellantoni urged students to experiment with Twitter and explore its resources.
“The best way to build up who you want to follow is to just click around,” said Bellantoni. “There’s no perfect formula.”