TRACKING TUCSON'S TWITTER STARS
To maintain a semblance of their once-unquestioned relevance, traditional media outlets are now all but required to interface with social media sites in an effort to keep in constant contact with their audiences.
Instead of breaking stories via traditional methods, newspaper, television and radio can utilize social media to tell followers what's happening in a timelier manner, and what they may cover more in-depth later. Newsmakers also routinely conduct what amount to short press conferences through their Twitter handles. Nowadays, persons of interest are just as likely to do the initial reporting themselves. They'll tell the world about a decision in 140 characters or less.
But how are local news outlets doing in terms of drumming up interest through Twitter? This question popped into my head while watching a friend of mine start a mustard blog (mustardandmiscellany.com, and pardon me for the cheap plug). For the record, I despise mustard. But I am impressed with said friend, who has shown herself to be something of a social media expert. In roughly a month, she's generated about 800 Twitter followers.
That number hasn't necessarily translated into website hits, which is another struggle that traditional media outlets face. Folks might read a Twitter headline, but it doesn't mean they're going to click through to read the story, so the actual benefit of having a Facebook presence or a Twitter page remains uncertain.
That said, if my non-media-savvy friend is clever enough to generate nearly 800 Twitter followers for a mustard blog, how well are highly trained traditional news purveyors doing at this whole social-media extravaganza?
Let's find out.
It's always dangerous to go through a list such as the one that follows because there's an excellent chance I'll forget someone or something that's immensely popular and has 3 million followers.
So, apologies if I forgot you and your awesome numbers. If you have crappy numbers, that's the way it goes.
Let's start with the news outlet of record in the Old Pueblo, the massively popular Arizona Daily Star. After all, it has a daily circulation that's nearly in six figures, so its Twitter presence must be impressive. Well, as of Sunday, July 8, Starnet, the online presence of the Star, had 4,678 followers. That seems like a pretty darn good number. Of course, the Star has a bunch of sections with Twitter handles, and employees who are encouraged to tweet under personal accounts monitored by the paper, so let's see how those stack up. Sportswriter Ryan Finley has 2,100 followers, while his brother, fellow sportswriter Patrick Finley, has more than 1,400 followers. Men's basketball beat writer Bruce Pascoe has nearly 2,000 followers. But longtime sports columnist Greg Hansen doesn't even appear to have a Twitter profile, and he's all controversial and stuff.
Popular editorial cartoonist Dave Fitzsimmons: pretty much zilch on Twitter. But medical reporter Stephanie Innes does quite well. She has somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,500 followers. County government and transportation reporter Becky Pallack has more than 1,700 followers.
Across the way at tucsoncitizen.com, Mark Evans, the guy Gannett pays to run the community blog site, has a paltry 144 Twitter followers. Fortunately, Anthony Gimino, the other guy paid by Gannett to help with tucsoncitizen.com, has nearly 1,700 folks following him. David Morales, the guy who operates the controversial Three Sonorans blog that recently left tucsoncitizen.com, has 650 followers.
In the television realm, KVOA Channel 4 has more than 5,300 followers, and KGUN Channel 9's main Twitter account has nearly 4,500 followers. But tech-savvy KOLD Channel 13 has more than 7,500 followers of its TucsonNewsNow handle.
Among TV news personalities, KOLD meteorologist Chuck George registers nearly 1,400 followers, and KOLD anchor Dan Marries is pushing 2,400, which is way better than the 800 folks tracking the Twitter pronouncements of co-anchor Heather Rowe. Even the top of the KOLD food chain is in on the act. General manager Debbie Bush has more than 1,800 followers.
At KVOA, anchor Kristi Tedesco has nearly 1,500 folks on board, while Tom McNamara has less than 300. Sportscaster Ryan Recker hovers around 800.
KGUN anchors Jennifer Waddell and Guy Atchley barely top the 100 followers mark.
Elsewhere, PBS/NPR affiliate Arizona Public Media has close to 3,300 followers.
Among terrestrial radio stations, KIIM FM 99.5 has close to 700 followers, but morning show co-host Shannon Black has twice that amount. KMXZ FM 94.9 MixfM is pushing 1,100 while Top-40 KRQQ FM 93.7 has more than 3,700 followers. Carrie Moten, now working in a part-time capacity for Top-40 competitor KSZR FM 97.5, has worked Twitter to the tune of close to 6,800 followers. News producer Ken Carr boasts a lofty 2,500 followers. Perhaps more impressive: He's tweeted more than 31,000 times.
Community radio KXCI 91.3 FM has more than 2,700 followers.
The Tucson Weekly seems to get this whole Twitter thing pretty well. It has more than 6,900 followers. Jim Nintzel? Not so much. He has yet to top 550.
Sadly, Tucson seems to be lacking in the media sarcasm/parody realm. This is a Twitter staple: Folks who create fake accounts of real people or businesses to showcase their comedic talents. The only parody account I could find belonged to NotReallyKGUN, which takes jabs at the news product of the ABC affiliate. NotReallyKGUN has returned to posting after a six-month hiatus, with recent ditties such as "RAIN, WIND and LIGHTNING! How Mother Nature is going to ruin your 4th! We'll expose this unpatriotic bitch tonight at 10:00."
If you're a wannabe local-media mocker, that's the bar you'll have to clear.
I expect that some why-didn't-you-mention-me emails will soon be coming my way, and that's fine. I might even tweet the best complaints to my 93 followers at schuniverse.