- As 2011 ends, I wish to revisit my proudest moment as a journalism faculty member. In late September, my 30 students at Marquette University made the most of an extraordinary campus opportunity – a presidential inauguration – that offered an amazing trial-by-fire experience demonstrating beyond measure the power of social media as a tool for journalism.
- Instead of the typical reporting and writing exercise, in which the students each would only produce a 500-word story that just their instructor would read – sigh! – they used Twitter to report what they saw before, during and after the two-hour ceremony. Their tweeting allowed countless Marquette alumni and supporters across the world to witness the inauguration live.
- Tim Cigelske, a MU communication specialist and the campus social media guru, lauded the students' efforts. "I never thought we would surpass Sweet Sixteen," Cigelske said of the Twitter explosion following the men's basketball team's success last spring, while visiting my classes the next week. Inauguration tweeting netted MU the top eight trending topics in Milwaukee that day – "which is huge," he said. (This story includes just a sampling of the 500-plus produced.)
- The inauguration exercise also readied my students in Digital Journalism I (JOUR 1100) and Digital Journalism II (JOUR 1550) to use Twitter to cover events as reporters through the term. Indeed, live tweeting was only half of the inauguration assignment. Each student also had to create a Storify about the coverage. (The Poynter Institute offers five types of stories that make good Storifys.)
- Those of my students who tweeted regularly before the exercise mostly offered youthful banter. I stressed for class-related tweets using complete sentences, abiding AP style and correct grammar, spelling and punctuation, and no long or uncomplimentary hashtags such as #onmywaytowalgreenstobuylicorice and #icouldrantbutiwont. Both classes practiced with the Princess Diana eulogy before the ceremony. Each student then had to produce at least 12 tweets with their class hashtag and #muprez among the 140 characters.
Part One: Processional and Calls to Service
- Ignoring a request for the 4,000 attendees to turn off cell phones, the students continue live tweeting as the ceremonial band provides the musical prelude.
The ceremony begins with Grand Marshal Gary Meyer, Ph.D., the vice provost for undergraduate programs and teaching, leading the processional of mace bearers, delegates from the nation's colleges and universities, learned societies, the MU community, the stage party and, finally, the Rev. Scott Pilarz.