The alternative is to encourage everyone to be their own social media editor. We are already used to wearing multiple hats in our newsroom — reporters who also have copy desk shifts or take the photos for their stories, for instance. No matter what the role is, I think the most important asset is to be a good journalist. That isn’t meant to diminish the value of social media skills. But a good journalist with bad skills is more valuable than a gadfly without reporting experience.
So while we want our reporters to cultivate their “personal brand,” that brand needs to stand for something meaningful.
KS: I agree that social media is not a novelty anymore, and I think most social media positions have evolved into much more, mine included.
JW: I agree with Jennifer Preston and others about social media needing to be integrated and not belonging to one person. I do find it true to my experience because when I was hired, my boss said that if I was good at my job, I’d work myself out of a job. It sounded alarming but ended in a promotion! On the flip side, I think there is often still a place for a leader in the social media space. Although our reporters all know Twitter now, they may not know how to leverage Instagram or they may have never heard of Vine. I’m generally the one scoping out and vetting new tools, services, and practices for the rest of the newsroom.
Are your readers active on social media and/or interact with your accounts and reporters (and vice versa)?
SS: Just about every reporter and editor here has followers we interact with on a regular basis. Those who find a way to show off their personality without compromising their objectivity are able to engage people the most, and readers seem to appreciate that. I don’t know that anyone outside of a newsroom cares much about bylines, but social media makes us more human, which has a positive effect.
KS: I do find that our readers are very active on social media. We actually just created a new section in our Sunday paper called ‘Socially Speaking’ where we include comments from our social media users on the previous weeks’ major stories. We often have a lot of conversations and debates going on Facebook.
JW: Our readers are extremely active on social media. They do interact with our branded accounts and with the reporters who use social media effectively.
Is social media an effective tool for reporting in your coverage area? Do you find that many of your readers use Twitter/Facebook/etc. for news? Do they even want to have that kind of engagement with their local papers?
SS: More than anything, we just try to keep people informed, and social media is a useful tool for doing that. Twitter and Facebook allow that concept to work in reverse sometimes, too. If there are layoffs, we will find out about it on Twitter long before we get an official statement. Sometimes, we can leverage information from social media to force a comment from an official source. The tips, reactions, and sometimes outrageous statements that come with social media have become part of the newsgathering process. Other times we just need to explain the context of a story or help someone better understand why something is happening. This engagement has become an essential part of what we do as journalists.
KS: I think social media is an effective tool for our local reporting — reporters often use Twitter or Facebook to find a source. I do see a lot of people in Connecticut using our social media accounts to get their news and voice their opinions. But people also share pictures and news tips with us and I do read and respond to those.
JW: Absolutely. People in our coverage area are very social media savvy. You’ll often hear people say, “Oh yeah, I saw that on Twitter.” You might even hear that more (at least in my social circles) than “I saw that on the news.” People do want engagement with their media outlets and we get compliments on our conversational, engaging tone on Twitter as compared to others in our market.
What have been some highlights or rewarding experiences in your work?