Tools of the Trade - by on Friday, February 27, 2009 10:48 - 11 Comments

How do you use RSS for journalism?

Reporters and editors, we need your help.

Please share your stories on how you use RSS and RSS feed readers (Google Reader, NetNewsWire, Bloglines, etc) for journalism. Has RSS become a valuable reporting tool for you? Does RSS allow you to keep tabs on beats and topics?

If you’d like to learn more about RSS and journalism, check out our screencast on how RSS and Google Reader can be fantastic reporting tool.

Please share your experiences in the comments section after this post or e-mail us at connect [at] patthorntonfiles [dot] com.

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  • Matt Neznanski

    I use RSS from a variety of local bloggers to keep up on what they’re talking about. Saves a bunch of time over going out to each blog and maybe missing something.
    I also have a couple of twitter search feeds that I set up to monitor specific topics that I’ve got my eye on.
    On my Green City blog, I use RSS to draw from my guest blogger (who writes on another site but is featured on ours, too). That’s not too sophisticated yet, but we’ll see in coming months.

  • Matt Neznanski

    Oops, that link to Green City was wrong. Here’s the right one. Sorry.

  • Courtney Sherwood

    I use RSS to keep up with the competition, learn about what’s happening in the community, follow trends related to my beat, and stay informed about journalism in general.

    Among my feeds:
    * Business-specific news (I’m a biz reporter) at a larger daily nearby.
    * A couple of local and regional smaller business-only publications.
    * Alt weeklies that sometimes break news.
    * The feeds of businesses on my beat that have their own blogs.
    * Community members who are opinion leaders.
    * Web-only news and discussion sites.
    * Non-local blogs related to my beat.
    * Probably too many journalism feeds – including some that focus on business, some that focus on the business of journalism, several on technology and news innovation, and some general interest blogs a la Romenesko.

    I’m able to stay on top of and ahead of the news with these feeds most of the time, but with 500+ updates to track every day I think I’m going to need to scale back.

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  • Dave Molloy

    I’d like to elaborate on matt’s mention of RSS Twitter feeds above. If you’ve heard of this whole Twitter thing but aren’t a user, you can still use RSS to reap some of its benefits.

    By going to and creating carefully crafted searches, you can find everything, say, concerning medical research within 50 miles of the centre of your city.

    Then, on the search results page, you can pick up the RSS feed and get constant updates to that search, so that any time a tech-savvy researcher tweets about their projects, up it pops in your favourite reader.

  • Gina Chen

    I use RSS to read dozens of blogs easily. They all go into my Google Reader, and I have them categorized by topics. I can scan the headlines of all the blogs I read to see if I want to read the post.

    That way I can keep up on more than a dozen blogs easily without having to remember each link or remember to go to them.

    I also use RSS on my Family Life blog, so readers can subscribe to every category on my blog. For example, I post toy and child-related product recalls on that blog, so if a reader just wants to read about those, he or she can subscribe to an RSS of just the items categorized “recalls.” Or if a parent reading my blog is only interested in my post on babies or tweens or teens, he or she can subscribe to just that category.

    I think it makes the blog more user-friendly, so readers can pick what they want to read how they want to read it. (Family Life blog is at

  • Alex Roarty

    Let me echo all the previous posts here first. Google Reader is definitely an critical tool to keep track of lots of news. My job as a Pennsylvania political reporter (for the, sadly, now-defunct made me constantly keep track of the stories in at least 30 newspapers and various blogs, and there’s no way I could have done so with a bunch of bookmarks.

    One additional tip: Incorporate Google News Alerts into your Reader account. That way you can stay on top of news about certain subjects (for me, Arlen Specter was a biggie) across the entire Internet without clogging your already full e-mail inbox. The alerts helped me catch a story in an obscure partisan magazine about Ed Rendell being investigated by the Feds, which helped lead to a mini-scoop for me later in the day.

  • Graham

    I teach fairly advanced use of RSS on a number of courses for journalists, editors, PRs and researchers in London and around Europe every month. For news/following beats, unlike any of the respondents above, I don’t subscribe to blogs at all – that’s just too much of a scatter gun approach.

    I home in solely on keywords across a range of sites, subscribe to the feeds of those words, filter them, sort them and only then start getting my hands dirty sorting out what I need. This diagram sums up what I do and where I send stuff:

    Yahoo Pipes does most of the heavy lifting and I’ve been looking at tarpipe recently as a possible news delivery tool

    But it’s a tad too limited at present. For now, I make a decision between Twitter, del.icious (which feeds into newswire) and/or blog post within seconds of reading my feeds.

    The key is to keep adding more keywords to your core feed and deleting ‘dead’ keywords.

  • Ian Everett

    I’ve been using RSS feeds a lot more recently, I feature stories from all over the globe – this means I’m not always on media distribution lists, and I’m increasingly finding that many of the organizations I follow don’t put out traditional press releases anyway, so following their blog or news page RSS feeds is a great way of getting news fresh from the source.

  • Elizabeth Green

    I use Google Reader to help do aggregation for our site, which I think is an important way to attract readers, given that we’re a one-issue place and not a traditional paper with lots of beats to read through.

    So every day in the morning, my colleague and I can come up with a quick list of that day’s headlines simply by clicking through our RSS feed. We include the local newspapers’ stories on our beat (education) as well as national papers’ education stories.

    We also have RSS feeds for more opinion and commentary from the field – in our case, a mix of principals, teachers, and reformer/policy wonks. I cycle through that feed at the end of the day for our “remainders,” where we put a list of both news and reporting and opinions from around the Internet.

    I am also with Courtney in having just as many feeds devoted to the practice and business and (ugh) decline of journalism as to my beat. … That is a good use too though. Somehow. It’s cathartic and increasingly offers best-practice ideas for new media as well as the latest layoff report.

  • John Einar Sandvand

    For me Google Reader is a great tool. Before I used Bloglines, which is also good, but I find Google Reader even simpler and more user-friendly.

    In this way I can keep track of 50-70 blogs and news sources of topics I am interested in very easily.

    Some of my colleagues use stand-alone applications like Feedreader – which give them alerts when new items are coming in. I think this might be handy if you follow live news continuously. We pick up a lot of news stories about Norway and Norwegians abroad this way.

    The next step for many journalists should be to start integrating relevant RSS-feeds into their stories. Not many do this today, but I think it has a great potential. Also editorial mashups using different RSS-feeds will be more common, I think.

About was a grant-funded journalism project that studied how journalists used social media and other Web tools to improve beat reporting. It ran for about two years, ending in the fall of 2009.

New content is occasionally produced here by the this project's former editor Patrick Thornton. The site is still up and will remain so because many journalists and professors still use and link to the content. offers a fascinating glimpse into the former stages of journalism and social media. Today it's expected that journalists and journalism organization use social media, but just a few years ago that wasn't the case.

About the Author of this post
Patrick Thornton is the editor and lead writer of BeatBlogging.Org. He is @pwthornton on Twitter.