You know how much we love twitter around here. It’s a great tool not only for keeping up with friends, but also for finding out what’s happening anywhere around the world.

And a new service will let you keep track of what’s happening in Cedar Rapids, as well. Citytweets.net is a new service that aggregates tweets from and about some cities around the U.S. and the world. Proving that we’re on the cutting edge here in Eastern Iowa, Cedar Rapids is one of only 21 cities included in the list so far.

There are other ways to search for that, obviously, but this is nearly real-time, which makes it quite useful if you’re wondering what’s happening right now.

So if you’re a twitter user, how do you keep up with the things you’re interested in?

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Last night we had the second-ever Eastern Iowa tweetup. Organized by Sarah Wood (a.k.a. @hidama), and had a turnout of nearly 30 people at the Irish Democrat. You can check out the list of everyone who was there.

A tweetup is a chance for twitter users who live near each other to actually meet in the real world and hang out. Many of us had dinner and a drink or two, and there were plenty of Gazette people on hand to talk about what’s going on here. The name comes from the tendency of twitter users to add “tw” to the beginning of everything.

You can take a look at what people had to say here, which includes a link to some pictures, as well.

If you didn’t make it to this one, don’t worry, there’s another one already in the works for late January.

I’m going to talk to Medill School of Journalism grad students this morning about what social media means to journalism. It’s a term that’s been thrown around a lot lately, so maybe it’s useful to explain what the heck we’re talking about when we say “social media.”

It’s both something old and something new. We’re trying to find out what people have to say about the issues that matter to them. That’s as old as journalism itself. The new part of that is the technology we have to reach people.

The technology also lets readers tell us what’s on their mind with no filter. They can post comments or upload photos or video themselves, without a reporter asking questions or a quote being cut to make room in a long story.

Social media at its best also gives readers a place to hold discussions about topics that matter to them. Web sites give them a forum to talk to each other, and from there they can start their own conversations about what they want to.

A good example of what social media can do is this post from yesterday. I asked what people thought of the economy and posted the unedited responses. That way you an see what other people are thinking. Maybe you’ll even get exposed to a new point of view.

We’re just getting started with new ways of making connections between The Gazette and readers, and we’re only scraping the surface when it comes to social media, though. We have a lot of plans still to come.

So what do you want to see us do? Do you want to have a place to share your photos and videos? Do you want to be able to start conversations with other people on our site? Or do you want something else?

We’re working hard to embrace new technology in the newsroom, whether that’s ways to report stories, new ways to present our work to the public or ways to keep reporters in touch with editors.

And one tool we use for all of the above is twitter. (Post updated 2/2/2009 We now have more than 50 newsroom employees using twitter.)

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