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Minnesota news media: Who tops the Twitter 1,000

Millions of Americans swear by (and at) Facebook, but many local news junkies prefer Twitter. The 140-character pith makes excellent news feed (if you follow wisely) and, unlike Facebook, Twitter doesn't charge you to reach all your followers.

So which local newsperson has the biggest follower count?

Not a TV anchor, nor a political reporter — not even a Vikings correspondent.

Michael Russo, come on down.

The Star Tribune’s NHL reporter sits atop MinnPost’s first “Twitter 1,000” — actually 1,040 journalists and news commentators statewide. Russo’s 32,802 followers nearly beats his paper’s main feed (37,500), and easily tops number two Dan Barreiro (24,401).

If you ever doubted Twitter's a virtual water-cooler, this list confirms it: sports, politics, weather and technology make up most of the top 30.

Sports guys — and they are all guys — nab eight of the top 10 spots and 14 of the top 20. The balance? News junkies with an entertainment bent: the Strib’s James Lileks, MPR’s John Moe, WCCO’s Jason DeRusha and Pioneer Press tech savant Julio Ojeda-Zapata. Political reporters dapple the top 50, though a partisan blogger, Minnesota Progressive Project’s Eric Pusey, ranks above any of them.

As in newsrooms, white males dominate.

The top-ranked woman? MPR’s Cathy Wurzer at 35th, with KARE’s Rena Sarigianopoulous, MPR’s Kerri Miller, WCCO’s Erica Mayer and the Strib’s Rachel Stassen-Berger comprising six women in the top 50. Near as I can tell, the Strib’s LaVelle Neal (third/22,126 followers) is the only black in the top 50, and Ojeda-Zapata (20th/12,967) the only Latino.

Who isn’t included? Locals with primarily national focuses, such as Travel Channel bug-eater Andrew Zimmern (487,923), Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey (29,292), AllYourTV’s Rick Ellis (13,202) and Boing Boing’s Maggie Koerth-Baker (11,443).

I defined local news broadly, but left off purer entertainers like music deejays and gossip yammerers. You could argue some sports hosts should be in the discard pile, but most interact with local newsmakers.

The tables below are sortable. There's a search bar above the tables, and below are drop-down menus where you can limit the list to specific organization, specialty and/or medium.

Minnesota media individuals on Twitter

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Counts were compiled Dec. 1-3, based on three of my public Twitter lists, plus brute-force hunts through follower rosters. Some journalists are listed twice, since I didn’t distinguish between personal and professional accounts. This is Version 1.0, so I’m sure there are some errors and omissions; if you catch any, email me at or send a direct Twitter message. We’ll dynamically update the list.

The obvious needs saying: this list isn’t a doppelganger for great journalism. Lots of fine folks rank near the bottom of our rankings, and some of the better investigative reporters eschew social media entirely. For many, there are simply more effective ways to spend one’s professional hours.

Still, Twitter can be a great reporting/discussion/engagement tool — not to mention fun and a traffic driver. There are no judgments about who uses Twitter “best,” just which journalists have the biggest brands.

Because some media outlets emphasize organizational feeds, here's a second list ranking about 180 of those.

Minnesota media organizations on Twitter

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It’s probably no shock the Star Tribune’s main feed is No. 1. However, MPR News tops KARE, reflecting public-radio’s digital emphasis. MPRers like Moe, Wurzer, Kerri Miller, Tom Scheck and Bob Collins are right up there with KARE personalities Eric Perkins, Sven Sundgaard and Rena Sarigianopoulous.

One thing that surprised me: Twitter tops Facebook for many local organizations.  The Strib has nearly twice as many main-feed Twitter followers as Facebook “likes” (17,154). MPR, City Pages, Mpls.St.Paul magazine, the PiPress, MinnPost, Finance & Commerce, Vita.Mn and Minnesota Monthly also do better with the 140 set.

Except for WCCO-TV’s breaking news feed, TV audiences still prefer Facebook. KARE ranks third on our Twitter list but has nearly double the Facebook likes: 62,288 versus 32,460. Fox9's Facebook page more than doubles its Twitter total.

An unexpected Twitter overperformer: the Catholic Spirit, fifth among organizations, with 25,877 followers. (The St. Paul/Minneapolis archdiocese’s spiritual antagonist, City Pages, ranks fourth with 263 more adherents.)

On the individual side, bloggers like Pusey and NBA guy Zach Harper land high, as does WCCO behind-the-scencester Mayer, though they are more exception than rule in the upper reaches.

Of course, eyes inevitably drift to the bottom of the list, the resting place of many dragooned by social-media managers. There are still some gems there, often penned in by small coverage areas.

Some broader numerical observations:

  • 309 local newsies top 1,000 followers.
  • The median is 440 followers.
  • The distribution is geometric, with a rapid follower falloff from top finishers.
  • Still, the follower distribution is relatively compact: 1 to 37,500. Zimmern’s count alone is bigger than the top 33 here.
  • If you add up both lists, they contain about 2.1 million followers — one-tenth of Taylor Swift’s 21 million.

Have fun looking for your some favorites, or even yourself!

Comments (15)

  1. Submitted by david hanners on 12/07/2012 - 10:04 am.

    To borrow a phrase, Twitter is to good news reporting as fish are to bicycles.

  2. Submitted by Joseph Hoover on 12/07/2012 - 10:53 am.

    To borrow a phrase, Print is to good news reporting as fish are to bicycles.

  3. Submitted by Mitch Anderson on 12/07/2012 - 11:54 am.

    A little experiment

    In response to commenter #1, try checking Brauer’s list of journalists on Twitter for a couple minutes throughout the day, then watch a half hour of the 6 o’clock local news. Tell me which one you learn more from.

  4. Submitted by Dean Carlson on 12/07/2012 - 03:10 pm.

    Where’s the STPPP?

    Wow, this list show’s that the St. Paul Pioneer Press is getting its clocked cleaned, twitter-wise, by the Star Tribune. I wonder if that is a corporate decision not to pursue a twitter strategy, a quirk of STPPPP personalities not interested in Twitter, or my (unsubstantiated) feeling that the St. Paul paper trends a lot older than the Strib.

  5. Submitted by Chuck Welch on 12/07/2012 - 03:46 pm.

    But how many of those followers really follow?

    For example, the “Fakers” score at notes that @Russostrib is followed by 12% “Fake” accounts and 44% “Inactive” accounts. That leaves about him with about 14,433 active followers.

    Of course, the rest of the list will have various numbers of fake & inactive followers, but one thing is sure…if you have thousands of followers, you’re not communicating. You’re preaching to the choir.

    • Submitted by David Brauer on 12/07/2012 - 05:33 pm.


      Hi Chuck – yeah, i made StatusPeople some fans today. I think it’s valid to ask “how valid are these follower counts” but I didn’t really delve into the question because a) building this thing took long enough and b) there’s no tool I’ve really found that I trust. StatusPeople doesn’t reveal its secret sauce — search for the BuzzFeed check on them — and Twitter (which like StatusPeople has a vested interest, just the opposite one) says it’s impossible to truly measure fakes/inactives without access to their proprietary database.

      I did click through some random followers on the high-follower people to see how quickly spambots turned up. Didn’t find many. We’ve all seen the obvious follower-juicers in our own “who’s followed” but I don’t know if they’d register as fake or inactive (in fact, they’re very active).

      I do think a lot of these services, such as Klout, are about marketing themselves more than the “truth,” but skepticism is well-directed at Twitter, too. Still, based on following a lot of these people for a lot of years, the list roughly conforms to my expectations of who’s popular and (for the less popular) who connects.

      Last thing: I don’t think your use of the word “communicating” is quite the right word. A one-way communication can be communicating even though I prefer dialogue. For some, Twitter is an engagement tool, for others, a headline service, for some, a bitching board. I didn’t make any judgments about quality because then I’d have to call myself an SEO expert or somesuch. 😉

  6. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 12/07/2012 - 03:55 pm.

    Look True North…

    Davis and Emmer

    1280 The Patriot


    “Minnesota News Media”

    Really … really?

    What is the difference between “news” and blatant political propaganda in this list?

  7. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 12/10/2012 - 09:17 am.

    The answer is self-evident

    “What is the difference between “news” and blatant political propaganda…”

    The only time you need to worry is when people can’t tell the difference. Brauer included some Lefty bloggers in his list, too.

    Fair and ballanced. He lists, you decide.

  8. Submitted by Michael Fleming on 12/10/2012 - 10:23 am.

    Sports sports sports sports sports…

    Is it just me, or do we love our sports reporters here way too much (to the loss of real news being watched by the Twitterati)?

    • Submitted by David Brauer on 12/10/2012 - 10:29 am.

      Punch-drunk love

      Michael, I think it’s one of the interesting things unearthed by the exercise … just how dominant sports is. I’ve always said the last section of the last newspaper will be sports …

      As to the more fundamental question: does Twitter (and more broadly, social-networking) increase sports’ dominance at the expense of news more important to civic democracy … don’t know. Could argue it’s reflective of an existing reality, but sure could be acclerating …

    • Submitted by James Rankin on 12/10/2012 - 12:23 pm.

      I think sports and Twitter are a natural fit. Some games are not on tv (Gophers) or you are not near a radio or tv during a game, following a beat reporter that updates during the game is helpful.
      I also think the numbers are inflated for sports people because there are a only handful of sports teams for the region, so there are followers from Outstate Minnesota, Iowa, Dakotas, whereas most major cities have their own news people/outlets. Why would someone from Iowa follow a Strib news reporter?

  9. Submitted by Kevin Watterson on 12/10/2012 - 10:58 am.

    Actually I want to follow up on Bill Gleason’s comment a little bit. I don’t think propogandists such as myself should be on the list, we’re not news media after all. But we do often times break news via Twitter, so I’m curious to know what thought, if any, went into where to draw the line between propogandist and legitimate reporter.

    • Submitted by David Brauer on 12/10/2012 - 11:34 am.


      Kevin: generally, if a blogger (partisan or not) analyzes local news and does actual reporting (interviews, doc-looking, etc.)  — however tendentious it might be — I included them. I tried not to include those paid by partisan organizations (such as you in your MnHouse incarnation). The same rule applied to play-by-play people in sports paid by the team (Paul Allen there through KFAN; if he’d only been Vikes guy would not have been included).

      My goal was to define the news-coverage environment broadly and let readers make their own choices. That’s why I resisted using the term “journalist” in favor of news media.

      Happy to take further input on this.

  10. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 12/10/2012 - 10:07 pm.

    I guess it was the “news” media

    that got to me.

    If David had just said “media” it probably would not have set me off. Somehow I have the idea that “news” implies some sort of fair-minded presentation of factual material. I realize that this is a little naive. I won’t mention explicitly any organizations that have news in their name but are far from fair-minded.

    Right (or left) propagandists both do not seem to me to be legitimately described as “news” media. I just mentioned some obviously right wing sources and added etc. Probably should have included some left leaning sources to be fair.

    In any event, David’s listing was very interesting and thought provoking and I thank him for going to the trouble to do this. Yet another reason to follow MinnPost.

  11. Submitted by Kethey Lee on 02/21/2013 - 04:28 am.

    Millions and billions of users are now days hit social media sites; therefore we found in Facebook more and more number of friends are adding and in Twitter more and more number of followers in our social site profiles. Personally I was a little worried about my followers in Twitter and trying to increase it up to 100 and 1000. Here also we can found Twitter user of Minnesota are getting thousands and thousands of followers.

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