Q&A with CNN’s Tori Blase 5

(Note: This is the first part of a two-part interview with CNN)

Tori Blase is a Supervisor/Executive Producer for CNN, and she’s very active on Twitter (if you’re not following her then you should be: toriblaseCNN), posting links and info to many stories. In the middle of her busy schedule she was kind enough to answer a few questions about Twitter, and share some of the leads she’s had from her followers.

RaceTalk: CNN has really started to separate itself from some other news outlets through its involvement in Twitter. What triggered this involvement?

Tori Blase: Two of my co-workers told me about it: Victor Hernandez (victorhernandex) and Andreas Preuss (CNN_Newsroom), and I had been reading about it on-line.

I joined Twitter in August 2008 (toriblaseCNN). I only Tweet CNN news stories and promos, nothing personal with the exception of when I’m done at work…I normally will Tweet:  “toriblaseCNN has left the CNN Newsroom and is heading home.”  That way, the folks that follow me will know I might not respond right away.

I had also recently joined Facebook. I have Twitter automatically update my Facebook status as well. So my Facebook status is CNN related from 4p-12a ET…

RT: Many people at CNN, including both of you, have been very active on Twitter. How have you found this experience, and how much interaction have you had with your followers?

TB: I have truly enjoyed the interaction with the people that follow what I Twitter, as well as those that I follow.  I get a lot of replies and direct messages with great feedback. I will get news tips, questions and comments. Just a few examples:

  • I had a follower tell me about a minor quake in the San Fran area late one Friday night while I was at work and we heard about it that way before it crossed the wires or any CNN employee living in the area called Atlanta. So I told the nat desk and CNN wires and we started making calls to confirm as well as check the USGS website.
  • I had a follower tell me that he was hearing over scanner traffic that ambulances were being sent to an Obama rally. I told the political desk who made calls. Turns out someone at the rally had fainted…not a big deal…but interesting non the less that a Twitter alerted us to it.
  • Another Twitter follower informed me the way that Larry King was saying “Blog with Me” sounded incorrect and suggested a way that sounded correct. I shared with the show.
  • Just last night when I got home from work I checked Twitter one more time before I went to bed and saw a Twitter post about a 5.1 quake off the coast of Japan. I emailed the overnight CNN supervisor who then got the internat desk checking.
  • Another interesting connection…is my insurance carrier, USAA, is one of my followers. That was a very surreal moment when I saw USAA was following me. I messaged them to say “thanks for the follow” and hey, “I’m a USAA member!”
  • At one point we had an official two minute warning to Paulson’s statement on the economy…and when we were one minute away…I Twittered a “one minute warning to Paulson live on CNN” … and I got a replay saying: “CNN just gained a viewer b/c of your one-minute Paulson remarks warning. Thanks”   So it’s the little things like that that can really make you feel like Twitter is having an impact on the way people view CNN.
  • When we were reporting on the lack of gas in Nashville I was Twittering about it and a follower responded:  “it’s not just Nashville, it’s all over the state of Tennessee” and another: “Three gas stations in Crossville, TN were out yesterday due to lack of transport abilities” so I shared that with the national desk and CNN wire staff.
  • I have also learned about other social media including: 12seconds.tv and have had great contact with local journalists all over the country.

RT: From a news angle, what part of Twitter do you think is more important – a way to distribute news quickly to a large audience, or way to drive people to CNN.com?

TB: It’s both of those things…as when I post stories I always try and post a CNN.com url so they can read more about it. If it’s breaking news…there is nothing on CNN.com right away so it’s important to update when it’s a story on CNN.com and then include the url. I also have found the tips I get from those who reply or message me can be very helpful and informative as noted above.

RT: Is there anything else you’d like to add that people should be aware of?

TB: What I have learned about Twitter so far, is that interaction is key. The whole point is to communicate with others…so it’s a two way street. If someone replies to one of your posts or sends you a direct message, it’s common courtesy to respond. And you might just learn something new along the way. I know I have.

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