Twitter and the importance of social media in modern journalism was the central focus of a visit by three local reporters to Algonquin’s journalism students on Feb. 28.

Stephen Maher, a political journalist for the National Post, Glen McGregor, a national affair reporter for the Ottawa Citizen and Andrew Pinsent, a producer and reporter for 1310News and graduate of Algonquin’s journalism program, discussed how Twitter and Facebook affected their everyday work.

McGregor recalled that the first time he started using social media seriously was when he was called out to cover a bike accident in Kanata. When the authorities on scene refused to disclose anything, he began reporting what he actually saw at the scene via tweets.

“I started treating Twitter like I would a notebook,” said McGregor.

Every time he learned something new for the story he posted it to his Twitter. This made his feed an authoritative source for the story, but also gave his competition a chance to get the story out quickly too, as they could find his sources as soon as he posted them.

While reporting throughout the day, he watched the number of people following his feeds double.

Maher spoke of using Facebook as an excellent source of information for investigation stories. He uses it, and older, forgotten social media accounts, to gather a stronger profile on people of interest for his stories.

However, he does admit it isn’t the easiest method of researching people.

“(You) can only get so far as their privacy settings allow,” said Maher.

In these cases, Maher resorts to the person’s connections by looking through close friends’ profiles to piece together what they’ve been doing together recently.

Pinsent, an Algonquin journalism graduate working in radio, has to be more cautious while reporting from social media. He has to guarantee that his sources are accurate and credible, as his work is live.

Pinsent admits this is both a blessing and a curse.

He often has to rely on what tweets are saying to report live on his show and is worried for the future of modern journalism, as the lines get further blurred between accuracy and speed.

Maher and McGregor shared this concern for the industry, but offered some tips for making mistakes.

“Keep your cool and be ready to express or retract your claims,” said Maher. “Be classy.”