Harness the power of Twitter, urges Neal Mann

Neal MannThe importance of using social media as a professional tool for journalists was emphasised by Neal Mann, Social Media Editor of the Wall Street Journal, at a special guest lecture at Sheffield University.

Better known as @fieldproducer to his 50,000 Twitter followers, Neal told how he built a name for himself by using social media to break stories and find contacts.

Neal, who graduated from the MA Broadcast Journalism course at Sheffield in 2007, told a packed gathering of students that he quickly discovered he could beat the big news organisations to breaking stories from the comfort of his sofa at home.

After graduation he worked at Five News as a producer, moving on to become deputy news editor at Sky before taking up the WSJ job earlier this year – a post he told students simply did not exist five years ago.

He urged students to engage with social media like Twitter and Facebook:  “It gives you access to the whole world and it allows you to publish. For you guys this is your CV and the first thing employers will look at when you apply for a job is your Twitter feed.”

Traditional skills

He said combining traditional journalistic skills with an awareness of the power of social media would put young journalists ahead of the competition.

He said you didn’t need a bit name to make an impact on Twitter, citing the example of a student’s blog that garnered a million hits for its coverage of the London riots.

“If you have the right content that’s properly verified and accurate, then people will come to you.”

Neal was the first speaker this semester in a series of guest lectures organised by the Department of Journalism Studies.