Events

Rukmini Callimachi: the queen of threads

By Jonathan Harley
Wednesday, 7 November 2018

While news has always been at the heart of Twitter, how journalists use it as a tool is constantly changing. On Twitter, reporters are evolving how stories are told, how they reach and engage with their audiences, and how to deepen the reader and viewer experience. In the process, they’re also informing how we at Twitter think about serving newsmakers and consumers.

A standout example is Rukmini Callimachi (@rcallimachi), correspondent with the New York Times (@nytimes) covering Islamic State (ISIS). As her acclaimed podcast Caliphate has demonstrated, Rukmini’s courage, tenacity, and curiosity have taken her deeper inside ISIS than probably any other western reporter. Rukmini is also a Twitter pioneer — showing journalists around the world the power of the platform to add context, colour, and authority.

Rukmini is especially effective in her use of Twitter threads — in fact, you might call her the “queen of threads”. When she filed her major investigation into Islamic State governance, she created a 14-Tweet thread about how she pursued the story, including photos, geolocators, and source documents.

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When she filed her major investigation into how Islamic State remote-controlled attacks in February 2017, Rukmini made a 24-Tweet thread, including giving credit to Indian journalist Sreenivasan Jain (@SreenivasanJain) for inspiring her story. She shared his original TV story on NDTV.

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Rukmini also uses Twitter to drive her journalistic process. “I think of Twitter as my reporter’s notebook”, she told an audience at @TwitterAU recently. In conversation with Sydney Bureau Chief for the Times Damien Cave (@damiencave), himself an accomplished correspondent, they discussed reporting on ISIS, the power of finding a good document, and how she handles the threats ISIS makes against her.

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For both correspondents, Twitter is indispensable to their journalistic process — including what Rukmini calls “the scribbles in the edges that are not going to end up in a story”.

 

While in Mosul, Iraq, Rukmini used Twitter to record what she saw — such as the plight of refugees and impact of air strikes — but it was material beyond the focus of her story. “It is such a rich reporting experience, and you’re seeing so much that, by definition, is going to end up on the cutting room floor,” she said, “and I would create Twitter threads around them, just little vignettes about what I was seeing.”

 

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And sometimes, using Twitter even helps with pitching stories to her editors:

“Are there times when you pitch it to the editor and they say, ‘Nah, put it on Twitter?’”, asks Damien.

“Actually you put it to the editors and they don’t respond at all, you put it on Twitter and then they call me!”, she laughs. “That looks interesting can you do that for me?”

Like so many news organisations, Twitter has become embedded in the editorial fabric of the New York Times, such that executive editor Dean Baquet (@deanbaquet) describes Rukmini’s work on Twitter as:

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At Twitter, we’re always looking at ways in which reporters are using the platform and what they need to better do their work. Threads has been one innovation informed by the work of journalists like Rukmini and we will continue to refine Twitter to keep it as the beating heart of news

For more information on creating threads, check out our best practice guide.

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@jharleyaus

Jonathan Harley

‎@jharleyaus ‎

Head of News, Twitter APAC