Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Using Social Media in the Newsroom

by Mary Rochelle

"I'm here to share how social media has helped juice up my own reporting," said Oskar F. Garcia, a reporter for the Associated Press.

Garcia's "boot camp" for using social media in the newsroom included current stats on the power of social networks, tips on using social media as a journalist and how editors can maintain their credibility while using social media.

The following information is from Oskar F. Garcia's presentation at the APME conference, which can be found here.

The power of social media today

Over the last few years, social media has become a part of many people's lives. Twenty-two percent of online users' time is spent on social networks and blogs.

There are more than 200 million tweets per day. One hundred million users are using Twitter currently. On Facebook, there are over 750 million users.

"Countries and cultures are brought together like never before," said Hillary Clinton, on a video about Twitter that Garcia shared.

This phenomenon can be used by journalists to improve their own reporting as well as to bring readers to their articles.

Using social media to find sources

Twitter's advanced search is a great tool to "narrow down the Rolodex of thought," says Garcia. "It's a tool that every reporter should know."

The advanced search allows the user to refine their search by geographic location as well as other information that can hone in on finding the right source.

Garcia used an advanced search when trying to find a source who had been at the MGM pool when there was a chemical leak.

"I had a source within three minutes, and we had a quote up within 20 minutes...that's faster than it would have taken to drive over to MGM in a car and park," said Garcia. "If I didn't have credibility on Twitter already, I wouldn't have been able to use Twitter in that way to get a source."

Garcia stressed the importance of  establishing an identity on Twitter, so when time is short, reaching out to sources can happen quickly.

"On the street, when meeting someone, we say who we are and where we are from--on social networks it's the same thing," said Garcia. "Only online, it takes a little more time."

What to share:

"Beyond our bylines, we aren't very used to sharing about ourselves," said Garcia.

Social networks allow varying levels of privacy. This makes it unclear what should and shouldn't be shared.

Here are some guidelines of which subjects should be shared via social media:
  • stories
  • retweets/shares
  • queries
  • observations
  • personal tidbits

"If it's not something I'm worried about my grandma hearing, or my stodgy aunts, then I feel comfortable putting it on these sites," said Garcia.

Social Media Guidelines

Many editors are concerned that social media and journalism don't mix well -- that hard-won credibility can be ruined by one small tweet.

"Some people think you have to change all the rules about how you verify your sources...but that's simply not true," Garcia said. It's important that we stick to our standards while using these new tools."

"Social media needs to be embedded completely within the organization and within your core values," said Garcia. "That takes away a lot of the intimidation … you just take what's core to you and apply it to your social media guidelines."

As an example, here are AP's Social Media guidelines:
  • Vet sources same ways as before
  • Avoid opinions on contentious issues
  • Assume interactions are public
  • Don't break news we have published

Twitter and breaking news

"Trust your journalists, and be able to be nimble enough to back (breaking news on twitter) up," Garcia said. "If you are going to say that your reporters can't break news on twitter, then have the mechanisms in place to get the scoop (in your publication)."

"We have sports reporters all over the country who tweet during games," said Garcia about the Associated Press. "We do encourage people to be live tweeting events."

People … pay us to give them the news. … If we started distributing on twitter what we owe to you, then you are dis-serving you, said Kathleen Carroll, AP senior vice president, during a discussion at Garcia's panel. "(Twitter) is a great promotional tool and it's a great reporting tool."

Social Media Goals

"Don't make the number of followers or "likes" your goal," said Garcia. "Social media is really about people, it's not about numbers."

"What I am most proud of at the AP is that we have more than 850 of our reporters using Twitter, and probably even more than that on Facebook," said Garcia.

To be competitive in journalism, Garcia says you need to be good at social media.

"If we can't be proficient in a place where people spend most of their online-time, then why should they trust us with their news?" asks Garcia.

"It's more the mentality of realizing these things are there," Garcia said. "Social media can make our stories so much richer."

Some related content recommended by Oskar Garcia:
Twitter basics handout:
AP social media guidelines:
Nielsen Social Media Report Q3:

No comments:

Post a Comment