Healthy Journalism

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tweet South Health

Okay, the health and medical journalism grad students were right to veto the silly name I proposed for a flocks of Twitters to accompany DeepSouthHealth.

After all, their weekly posts deal with health disparities in Northeast Georgia counties, lung disease, gang violence and the perils of being pregnant, mentally ill, elderly or a newcomer in areas where services aren’t universally available.

Chastened, I nabbed the name” UGAhealthjourn” for our initial venture into Twitter, the social networking/mini-blog that is as ubiquitous as “Put a ring on it.” In the weeks to come, we’ll figure out how this tool can boost coverage (and discovery) of more timely and penetrating stories about health and medical issues in our part of the state.

We’ll incorporate tweeting into our reporting on the American College of Sports Medicine national meeting in Atlanta (in late March). An announcement for this “Fitness Summit” is prominent at the Omni Club’s personal trainer desk; maybe these folks would follow tweets about new research presented at the meeting.

Maybe student reporters would ask tighter, more immediate questions of experts in the hallways and exhibit areas if those queries were inspired by digital dialogs with local fitness experts, high school athletic trainers, or health department diabetes educators. There might even be some Facebook paths to these folks. Or some connections that use Twitter.

Or maybe not – I’m just beginning to figure out how to tweet, much less do anything complicated with Twitter. So I’m still agnostic about its place in the world.

When I read on-the-scene reports from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS)conference in Chicago on www.Twitter.com/sciam , I understand why Ivan Oransky is such a big fan of the mini-blog. Quick hits with excellent links almost (but not quite) approximate what it feels like to be at this platypus of a meeting, which you know is twisted because it’s in Chicago in February.

Other times I’ve been dumfounded by the banality of 99.9 percent of all tweets. A recent blog by Alfred Hermida told how one of his journalism students alerted potential employers to her latest and greatest clip by tweeting her own horn. We journalism professors should encourage other students to do the same, he said.

But when I visited the student’s Twitter account, the tweet about her breakthrough story in a metro daily – describing her audition for the for the family-friendly vampire love-fest, “Twilight,” was lost in a sea of gossip and in-jokes.

Even my super-smart friend Adam Rogers, an editor at Wired magazine, loses me when he Twitters as jetjocko. We have more common interests than most pairs of two-legged land mammals, but he loses me with all those tweets about action figures and comics. Sorry, Adam. Graphic novels.

I’m hoping that the collective intelligence of UGA’s student health/medical reporters will move our Twittering toward the SciAm end of the scale – or into some other realm that, as a total newbie, I have yet to stumble across.

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