AN EDITOR'S LIFE | A Twitter feed belongs in print

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For about a decade, newspapers have chased a balance between print and digital platforms. Perhaps readers don't get too stressed about emerging electronic journalism, but so-called legacy-platform journalists often do.

If the solution were as simple as switching to all-electronic platforms, most newspapers already would have made the switch. It really isn't that simple. Many readers prefer printed news or appreciate engaging with both print and electronic platforms. In 2014, 56 percent of newspaper readers read exclusively in print, according to the Nielsen-Scarbrough Newspaper Penetration Report. Just 5 percent reported reading only mobile platforms. All platforms -- print, computer and mobile -- are read by 11 percent.

Strategies to balance the platforms vary widely. Some newspapers post breaking news immediately and other news after the print edition is delivered. Others put everything online right away -- "digital first" is their motto. However, other than sharing content, the platforms are incompatible. We can't tweet in a newspaper.

Or can we?

This week, reporter Dave Luecking filed an entire story for the print edition in tweets; a dozen paragraphs of no more than 140 characters. Collectively, the tweets, sent on the @StLouis_Review account, amount to a review of Media Apostle, the film about Blessed James Alberione. It's fitting that a review of a documentary about a priest known for being a bit of a media rebel is a bit, well, rebellious.

Rather than rewriting the tweets into a long-form story that says the same thing in more words, we populated an analog screen — the center spread — with the feed. Perhaps it's a challenge for devotees of newspapers and for those not engaged in modern social media, but challenges keep us from getting stale and they push us toward the #MediaApostle mission.

Reader engagement

Electronic media eases reader engagement. We respond to questions, share readers' ideas and measure clicks, likes and shares from a box smaller than many wallets. It's an exciting 21st-century version of seeing people read our stories or view our photos in the paper at the coffee shop.

The shift in engagement isn't without risk for newspapers, which traditionally rely on letters to the editor for feedback and interaction. This paper welcomes letters (we declare so on our editorial page), but we rarely run them. We get far fewer than we used to, and those we get often are off topic or amount to personal attacks, neither of which helps our relationships. Maybe people have become accustomed to spouting off in online comments, where relative anonymity and the buffer of computer monitors embolden us to type what we wouldn't speak.

So, as a reminder: We welcome letters to the editor, especially those that challenge us to be better Christians and to encounter Jesus in the public forum. Also welcome are ideas for engaging readers across platforms, in the spirit of the #MediaApostle.

Phillips is director of publications for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

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