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?

SS: Unfortunately, the times social media can be most useful are when terrible, tragic stories are unfolding. Like the Boston bombing scenario in the BuzzFeed article, it brings out the best and worst in social media. For me, the value of engaging with the community was most useful in December during a manhunt that followed the senseless gunning down of two police officers at a grocery store. People were panicked and misinformed, and for once, it felt like we were making a difference in their lives.

KS: I think covering the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT, will always be the experience that had the most effect on me. It was so tragic and so many people (not just those local to Connecticut) were getting their information through the Facebook and Twitter accounts of the Hartford Courant. On the day of the shooting, I actually physically moved where I was sitting to sit next to our breaking news editor, so that when new and verified information was available, I was able to post it on social immediately. Later, I made a Storify of our social media tweets and Facebook updates from our main accounts and our reporters at the scene. It was chilling to see the updates we sent out in chronological order like that, almost tweet by tweet.

JW: The most rewarding things are probably 1. When you see a light bulb light up above a reporter’s head and you know they understand the benefits of social media and how to reap them. 2. When our readers congratulate or thank us for doing something well, whether it’s a well-written tweet or the comprehensive coverage of a difficult topic.

 

Sara Morrison is a former assistant editor at CJR. Follow her on Twitter @saramorrison.