CBC reporter Brendan Elliott was late for an interview with the Souris mayor.

Desperate for the mayor’s contact info, Elliott sent out a plea on Twitter.

“Literally within five minutes, I had a direct message back with the new mayor’s home number,” Elliott said. “The message came from one of my followers who lives in Charlottetown, but is from Souris.”

Elliott uses Twitter for three things.

“It’s a way to find out what’s going on in my community, a way to let people know breaking news as soon as it happens and a Rolodex of contacts that I can reach out to when a story breaks.”

Twitter has provided Elliott with several story ideas. A recent example was when word broke about Google Maps Street View being available in P.E.I.

“Word spread quickly on Twitter that various spots on P.E.I. could be found.”

Elliott pitched the idea the next morning.

“We were the first media organization reporting on the Street View story.”

He reached out to real estate agent Joel Ives, who was discussing the topic on Twitter and invited him to do an interview on Island Morning.

“All of this was possible because I am active on Twitter.”

Twitter also allows Elliott to let his “followers” know breaking news when it happens.

“I live-tweet from the legislature as well as various city or town council meetings around the province,” he said.

Many of his followers are political junkies who crave news from various arenas. Twitter allows them to get these tidbits almost instantly from Elliott when he’s out in the field, he said.

“I also have my Twitter feed linked through GPS so people can tell where I’m tweeting from when I tweet.”

Some small-town newsrooms are hesitant to start using new media and social networking. Being connected to the community is essential for local media outlets, Elliott said.

“I really feel like I have a sense of community with the people I follow and who follow me.”

Still, Elliott is one of the only CBC reporters who uses Twitter on a regular basis.

“I see it as an advantage over other journalists in the building,” he said. “Essentially, it’s a bit of an exclusive network for me to gather story ideas and to also share stories I have written.”

But developing a personality on Twitter can take some effort, Elliott said. You get out of it what you put into it.

“The more I tweet, the more comments I receive from my followers and the more incentive I have to write more,” he said. “The more I can be relied upon to provide breaking news, the more people will want to follow me. So, it really is only as useful as the person wants it to be.”

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