News-Gazette uses Twitter to send alerts

News-Gazette uses Twitter to send alerts

CHAMPAIGN – Along with faithful publication of the daily newspaper, The News-Gazette is taking new approaches to how it publishes news.

Many of them involve the Internet. The paper can send news alerts to cell phones using Twitter, and it plans to improve interactivity with a Web site redesign coming later this year.

Twitter is a micro-blogging service. It gives the user 140 characters to answer the question, "What are you doing?"

The short nature of responses allows them to be sent to others' cell phones, making it a mobile network. Some users also access Twitter from their cell phones' Internet browsers.

Twitter's mobile nature allows The News-Gazette to post headlines and links to stories, especially in cases of breaking news that fall between regular publication cycles of the newspaper. The News-Gazette has published (or "tweeted") alerts for incidents such as street closures, inclement weather, power outages, accidents and fires. It has also alerted its users of updated stories about Gov. Rod Blagojevich and other issues.

But Twitter isn't simply a way to get news to locals who use the service. It's also another method of direct communication with people who are reading The News-Gazette's headlines and stories, and the paper's Twitter followers can immediately respond.

They can offer feedback and tips for stories. Plus, it will help the paper understand which topics and issues are important to community members, said Executive Editor John Beck.

Visit to see The News-Gazette's Twitter page.

The paper will also redesign its news Web site within the next year, said John Reed, vice president for information technology. The new site will emphasize ease in finding the news readers care about, and will augment and diverge from the information printed each day in the newspaper. This will include more multimedia storytelling, using slideshows, video and audio.

The News-Gazette is committed to providing information to readers in a variety of ways, Beck said.

"We want to be able to give information on whatever platforms they want to receive it," he said.

And a dedication to bring breaking news to readers is evident, Reed said.

"I'm extremely encouraged by our news organization's excitement about publishing online and augmenting our typical news cycle," Reed said, and he's looking forward to the "new and exciting features" coming for both readers and advertisers.

Sections (2):News, Business
Topics (1):Technology