Tag Archives: Twitter

Getting Started on Twitter, WordPress, Pinterest or Any Platform (the Nike Secret)

The shortest and probably most effective social media workshop I presented was for local reporters in Westchester County, N.Y.

Each reporter covered one or two towns, and each town had a local news site, Facebook page and Twitter feed.

It took three minutes:

1. Open laptops.

2. Go to your town Facebook page.

3. Type in a question (“what should we be covering in town?”) or make a comment (“meeting with editors today to talk about story ideas”).

4. Hit “enter.”

Just Do It. The lesson from the Nike ad applies to journalists who encounter new digital tools and new daily workflows.

The simple act of doing it helped each of us become more familiar with the tools we all hope to master to be better journalists. Each of us is new to something. A few months ago, I had never used Storify. Two weeks ago, I had never used Pinterest. The first time I live-blogged a speech, it was an experiment for me — a live blog of the 2010 State of the Union. While it was an important speech for the president, it was not a core assignment for Forbes.com, the business news site where I was managing editor. In a very important sense, it was my place to experiment and learn.

Every week I hear from journalists who want to improve their skills, who are  neophytes at something. It’s common to meet a reporter who expresses some variation of these two worries:  a) how do I learn this new tool and b) should I live tweet a boring meeting.

Yes, live tweet that boring meeting and use it to learn about Twitter. Live blog that routine lacrosse practice, and you’ll learn your way around the blogging software.

This stuff won’t show up on the homepage — it doesn’t diminish your name or the media brand. Make your mistakes when few people are paying attention. You’ll be more confident when you go to the murder trial. You’ll be ready for the school shooting or the deadly storm.

There is an even more basic way to start that doesn’t involve the dull meeting or routine sports practice. Start by asking a question that’s on your mind: What’s going on? What should I be reading? What’s happening tomorrow?

As you start on a new digital platform, there may be no audience and no response. Keep going. Ask everyday questions — what are you doing this weekend? did you see Venus last night? what’s your secret deer repellent recipe? It builds familiarity and steadily builds community. Then the community will be there when you need to say — who can join the shovel brigade at the Bar & Grill? Who can fill sandbags?

 

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Filed under Social networking, User-generated content

Search, Aggregate, Link: 3 Steps to Better Coverage, Every Time

Speeding along in the dark wilderness of new media, new tools and constant change, it pays to drive with your high-beams on bright.

When you see more, you help your audience see more. You also avoid blind spots. For example, don’t just do this on the train fatality without also linking to this on the train fatality. Even when you are doing a brief, see if there are tweets about the topic. When you spend more time looking for color or tidbits on social media,  there will be many benefits. Just one: You will be more likely to notice as a big topic blows up and demands more coverage.

There are three steps any reporter can take on any story that will turn up those high beams. Here’s a quick list, then more on two case studies.

1. Search. Whatever you are writing about, others are writing about it, too. They may be other journalists, they may be posting on Facebook or other social media platforms. They may have posted on the site of a business, school or government agency. In addition, of course, there is your own archive — for your blog or your news organization.

2. Aggregate. Collect the best of the material you found. Index it to point out the best parts, and what those sections illuminate.

3. Link. Write your story and include links along the way. Add a “see also” box at the end. Provide concise navigation points, anchor phrases that link to other material on your site or other sites. A good rule of thumb is that each screen of text should include at least one link.

Example 1: The Amtrak story is already becoming one of the most discussed routine accident reports. It’s a 13-graf story, so routine there is no byline. One named sources is quoted. One law enforcement agency is named with a note that it provided no other information. The writer dug up some information from the clips. Straightforward, some context, solid sourcing. Done.

I’m pointing to it, and others are as well, for what it does not include. There were people on the train, creating and distributing their own content. One of those passengers, Steve Buttry, a journalist and social media expert, spent hours tweeting updates, collecting data on similar incidents, posting photos. He collected all of that on his own blog. From the first tweet about the train stopping at 12:36 a.m. to the tweet announcing it was moving again at 2:53, Buttry and a handful of followers helping with research provided plenty of color and solid information about the accident and the emergency response.

How could the anonymous reporter have found this? Some tools: Twitter search, an app called Ban.jo that Buttry has praised for geo-based social media searches, other specialized search tools including Social Mention and one of my favorites, Muck Rack, which collects tweets from journalists (the Muck Rack search box opens when you log in).

Could there be links even if there are no social media mentions or other sources about your topic? Yes, take the reference to the small-town police department: Havre de Grace. The anchor phrase “Havre de Grace police department” could link to the paper’s own search archive on the department. The address mentioned could have linked to a Google map showing the 400 block of Webb Lane in Havre de Grace. A map link does appear in a shaded box on the left side. Many readers don’t need all that. The reader who wants it will either be frustrated that you didn’t bother or delighted that you did. It’s your choice.

What about the rare instances when you are covering a horrible transit mess and Steve Buttry is not a passenger? What about a garden-variety feel-good story on a national TV show coming to your town?

If there are people involved, there will be material out there.

Example 2: In December, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” announced it would do a show in Knoxville. The News Sentinel had a staff reporter do a brief. It was so routine there was no byline, but it covered the basics. In about 10 minutes, I found a dozen tweets, including a photo, and created this Storify.

Could the Maryland reporter have found Steve’s tweets and linked to them? Could a Tennessee reporter have found the same tweets I found and added a link in the middle of the web version of that article? A lot of discussion about journalism is about extraordinary events. When we think through better ways to handle the ordinary tasks, and invest enough to make them a bit better, we raise the quality level every day.

It takes a few more minutes. That investment gives a reader more options. It shows your readers you are on the road shining your brights.

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Filed under Crowd sourcing, Hyper-local

Social Media Lessons From Muscatine: Start With the Hashtag

Homepage of The Muscatine JournalA global leader’s visit adds a cymbal crash to the rhythm of local news set by vandalismbusiness openings and wrestling tournaments.

For the editor of The Muscatine Journal, Chris Steinbach, the cymbals come together on Wednesday. That’s when Xi Jinping, the Vice President of China and the man slated to be the country’s next leader, makes a return visit to Muscatine, Iowa. Xi’s first visit, as a junior official, was in 1985.

Steinbach posts regular to his blog, the Editor’s Notebook, where a recent item discussed a delegation of Chinese journalists who asked how The Muscatine Journal planned to cover Xi’s visit:

I told them we focus our coverage as intensely as possible on what happens in our community and often pay little, if any, attention to what happens elsewhere in the state, nation and world.

But in this instance, I said, the world is coming to Muscatine and we would work to cover it as extensively as possible. In fact, news about Mr. Xi’s visit will dominate our news columns from today through Thursday. And we will cover it live Wednesday at muscatinejournal.com and via Twitter and Facebook. You can follow, and join, our coverage via the social media by searching for the hashtag #xiiowa.

Fortunately, Steinbach’s staff had a Twitter training session last week. Stephanie DePasquale of the Quad-City Times, another Lee Enterprises newspaper, told Muscatine reporters that it is important to listen to local residents on Twitter. If a musician tweets about a new CD, “that’s something that we might want to do a feature on,” DePasquale told them in the part of the social media session  caught on video.

Training and planning can take care of only so much, of course. One task many large chains don’t seem to do well is to quickly share content that has national appeal. I’ll be watching to see if Lee tries to do that across the scores of media properties it operates. At the very local end, the Muscatine paper, like most newspapers, seems to lack an almanac entry on its own market. What is special about Muscatine? I didn’t quickly find a piece on the Journal’s site that would allow me to skip a visit to an online encyclopedia. (Even the about us page for the Journal went to an error message when I clicked.)

There are many more signs that the Journal staff, led by Steinbach, is doing a lot right. I count these four important steps: 1. starting with the hashtag (reporters seem to be using both #xiiowa and #iowaxi) and the full-scale social media plan, 2. making the newsroom’s local expertise available to visitors, 3. being open with readers about coverage plans through the editor’s blog, and 4. staying focused on what the visit means to Muscatine.

There’s another lesson, for all of us: when a sister-city delegation comes to visit, be gracious to everyone. You never know how important one of those visitors may be 27 years later.

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Filed under Current Affairs, Social networking

Covering a Disaster: Lessons From Reno, Part 2

Lessons from Beryl Love, @BerylLove, editor of @RGJ, the Reno Gazette-Journal, from Beryl's tweets on #ASNEchat.  Beryl managed his newsroom's coverage of the plane crash at the Reno Air Race. After I posted some lessons from Reno based on my own reading of his newsroom's posts and tweets, Beryl added important details in the chat. I distilled these five lessons from his conversation.

1. Dedicated staff. Beryl wrote: "Staying on top of UGC required someone's complete attention." He added that the best image of the crash came from a spectator (first photo in this gallery). One person focused on user-generated content will help the newsroom find and distribute great content from readers. Beryl added that the newsroom worked hard to contact and confirm the identities of people sending in information but that reporters and editors were "merciless aggregators" when confirmation was not possible.

2. Sign up for CoverItLive. "Using CoverItLive to automate aggregation and publishing twitter updates in real time" was a big help, Beryl tweeted.

3. Social media super users. Know and follow the active social media users in your market. A hospital used Twitter for real time announcements about the number of patients from the disaster who were being treated there. If you curate Twitter lists of active feeds and monitor those lists for news on normal days, you will have that tool at the ready when disaster hits. From @BerylLove: Very interesting to me…

4. Live updates. Use Twitter for fast, live updates during news conferences. Beryl said his team made no effort to link these live update tweets back to his newspaper's website. Break the mindset that every tweet or Facebook post has to include a link back to your site.

5. Plan. Finally, Beryl added: "We are updating our breaking news plan to better define roles." Devote a planning meeting to what roles everyone will play during a disaster. Be flexible, but have an emergency plan that is updated to work with today's social media tools. 

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Filed under Crowd sourcing, Search, Social networking, User-generated content

Vaccinations, College Rankings and Back to School Night: Tips for Editors

Vaccine The Republican debate in Florida sparked new national debate over the safety and effectiveness of vaccines for pre-teen and teenage girls that prevent cervical cancer. (Short url's included to help with sharing.)

That discussion can extend to your Facebook page, site or Twitter feed. Some sources of independent information: CDC – Reports of Health Concerns Following HPV Vaccination – Vaccine Safety http://1.usa.gov/qvmBFJ

American Academy of Pediatricians releases statement on HPV vaccine http://bit.ly/rjipnE

What do lawmakers, parents and doctors in your community say? Who should make the decision if, or when, a child is vaccinated? What are the vaccination rates in your community?

Play Nickelodeon encourages children to get active by going dark for three midday hours Saturday, Sept. 24, for Worldwide Day of Play, supported by ‘Let’s Move,’ the President’s Council On Fitness, Sports and Nutrition and the National Park Service. (Hat tip Mike Allen, Politico.) Build a conversation around "play." How many hours a week did you play when you were growing up? How many hours a week do your children play? Favorite game, outdoors? Favorite game, indoors? 

Football How can readers join the conversation with your staff experts? Try Skype. That's what the Plain-Dealer uses to connect fans to the newsroom. From the Cleveland.com Facebook page: Got a question for Tony Grossi, Mary Kay Cabot or Dennis Manoloff about the Browns? Our Skype lines will be open from 10 – 11 a.m. to take your questions. http://on.fb.me/mTddVj

Local Colleges The Cincinnati Enquirer noted how local colleges fared in U.S. News & World Report rankings: http://on.fb.me/nCXD7D The USNews rankings, http://bit.ly/qEfXnW, and similar rankings from the Forbes College Rankings, http://onforb.es/rt0PP6, can be used to prompt discussion. Do readers agree? What is the hidden gem in your area that these rankings miss? What local college is riding an out-dated reputation? What do families look for when they make decisions — what information do they use to rank colleges for their students?

Tweet for talent Good use of Twitter by a top editor to recruit community photographers: Carole Tarrant (@caroletarrant) RT @theburgsNRV: We're looking for people who shoot photos of h.s. sports around #nrv. Give us a shout at news@theburgs.com.

Back to School Night Knees to chest, folded into tiny chairs, parents endure the annual ritual of back to school night in the hope that their involvement will help their children. Teachers sum up their philosophy of education, grading system, and classroom rules in neat seven-minute presentations. 

Some ideas and possible prompts that can stir conversation about Back to School Night:
*What would you miss most if Back to School Night was canceled?
It happened in one NJ town: http://bit.ly/r0S27a
*Do you know how to reach your child's teacher — by phone? by email? Ellicott City: Back to School night opens lines of communication - baltimoresun.com 
*Did you join the PTA? Why or why not? Back-to-School Night Basics | Scholastic.com http://bit.ly/qZcCrX
*Has your child's teacher explained how much time is expected for homework each day? Questions to Ask at “Back to School Night” | Power Moms Unite  http://bit.ly/rb6TmJ
*Do you plan to volunteer to help in the classroom? Back-to-School Night Basics – Back-to-school prep | GreatSchools http://bit.ly/qGxRUM
A content and social media plan around some of these questions encourages conversation, helps parents and educators share tips and information, and builds community. What is Back to School Night like in your area?

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