A friend of mine in the social journalism world mentioned in a blog post how he isn’t an engager… because it isn’t possible. He’s a broadcaster inside social media. And that made me think. Social media has grown because it’s all about sharing and talking and learning. Why can’t media brands be a part of that and not just broadcast information? It’s a challenge I’ve focused on for years in my career as a journalist and teacher. That dual job gives me so many different perspectives. When I think about what I want to teach and what I want to accomplish in the newsroom, most of the time my goals match. I want to use my work in the newsroom as an example to my students. That motivation leads me to spend a lot of time thinking about what is the right balance between being a broadcaster and an engager.
Here’s what I am seeing: Broadcast journalism-focused students really understand how to broadcast content across multimedia platforms. But I think we need to teach the concept of engagement and listening earlier in the journalism school experience. I have a lot to do to try and encourage, teach and execute a comfortable engagement process for my young journalists to reach our news consumers. To me, engagement is why I got into this journalism business. The idea of connecting to the consumer and helping them better understand where they live and the decisions they make in life is thrilling. Technology makes that goal SO much more real than when I dreamed of it in the early 90’s. Broadcasting content inside social media is just the beginning. There are so many more ways to listen and learn after a newsroom shares information. One of my favorite ways to listen on social sites these days is a site called Kurrently. I stumbled onto a few additional facts beyond a new item our newsroom covered this past week.
In the KOMU 8 newsroom, we had a really difficult coverage of a three year old who died allegedly at the hands of his mom’s boyfriend. According to investigators, initially the boyfriend and mom staged a hit and run accident to try and hide the abuse. The details from the boy’s death was released and it’s all really heartbreaking. The small town where the boy lived had a small candlelight ceremony with a low turnout a day after his death. Comments on the KOMU.com site had a couple of people mention how they did not know about the vigil but they plan to attend an event next week. I hadn’t heard about the vigil until I read through the comments. That tipped me off to do some more searching. I used Kurrently and searched using the boy’s name. Almost immediately, I discovered a photography studio that has been taking yearly pictures of the little boy since he was a baby. The studio put out an album of photos in his honor on Facebook. More heartbreak. An hour or two later, mentions of the vigil started appearing in public Facebook posts. One person posted details, names of organizers and a phone number to one of the organizers. Our newsroom did a story on the event it over the weekend and we’ll be at the vigil later this week.
Instead of considering the job done after our newsroom broadcasted the details, I listened. I searched. I know our market wants to continue to learn more about this situation. According to our chartbeat statistics, it remains a top search item on our site. Simple mentions can go a long way by searching, listening and using tools that help.
The next step is taking the knowledge gained from social media and improve our engagement with our news market. There are ways to do that, no matter what size newsroom you’re juggling. We all are able to broadcast across more platforms and listen in new ways… What about using those skills to follow through with the true purpose of social media and engage? KOMU 8’s U_News show is one way we’re trying to merge traditional broadcasting with engagement. Our audience has a chance to jump into a web cam chat during our 30 minute newscast. We try to use our traditional broadcasting skills to offer our news market the chance to engage with other viewers or to let the truth come out on important issues. We can’t just broadcast our requests for engagement. We have to do the follow through. (By the way, one of my favorite people who talks about engagement is Joy Mayer. I highly recommend reading her insights!)