Tweetstorms are usually the work of one person, but what if you could bring other voices in too? That’s what The Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, and Chicago Tribune did this week: They worked together to tweet about the riots that followed Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968.
The threaded tweets linked back to the papers’ own coverage of the 50th anniversary of the assassination and how it affected their respective cities. Here’s the Post’s coverage, here’s the Sun’s, and here’s the Tribune’s.
Fifty years ago today, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was slain in Memphis.
When word reached Washington, D.C., chaotic riots left 13 dead and more than 900 businesses damaged.
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) April 4, 2018
In Chicago’s two-day siege, at least nine people were killed, 300 were hurt and more than 2,000 were arrested. More than 250 stores and businesses were destroyed. https://t.co/suXrOFD3cJ pic.twitter.com/oPN7i7fI5t
— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) April 4, 2018
Baltimore would erupt two days later, and stay on edge for nearly a week. Its riots were blamed for six deaths and hundreds of injuries. More than 1,000 businesses were torched, damaged, looted or destroyed. https://t.co/eB8JWI5IUc pic.twitter.com/ywN7Je7e6y
— The Baltimore Sun (@baltimoresun) April 4, 2018
The thread was the original idea of Tauhid Chappell, who until recently was an embedded audience editor on The Washington Post’s local desk (he’ll soon start a position as the engagement editor at the Philly Inquirer). The project was run by the Post’s Julie Vitkovskaya, digital operations/projects director, and Ric Sanchez, social media editor; the Tribune’s digital news editor Elizabeth Wolfe, and the Sun’s audience editor Steve Earley. In a shared Google doc, they planned out tweets, including the timestamps for roughly when each would go out. The first tweet was sent at 7:01 p.m. ET on April 4, almost exactly 50 years since King was pronounced dead and the riots began. The papers will continue to tweet for as long as the riots lasted in their cities: The Post will stop adding to the thread on April 7, the Tribune will add to it through April 8, and the Sun will add to the thread through April 14, when the Baltimore riots ended.
Vitkovskaya has been thinking about how a group tweet thread would work within the Post — for example, the Post’s main account could start tweeting about a story like the violence in Gaza, and then the Post’s Jerusalem bureau chief, Loveday Morris, could continue tweeting and reporting from Gaza itself over a period of several days. “We see this as a tool we’d like to use again,” she said.