How (Should) Journalists Use Social Media
I won’t recount the whole thing, but here’s a couple of key ideas I talked about.
Social media makes my city smaller
Smaller, more interesting, perhaps even more friendly.
In my talk, I told a story about my first job at CBC: a short-term stint as CBC Radio’s Nelson bureau reporter. There, it was a lot easier for the public to reach me, if they wanted to. No security desk, no switchboard in Toronto, just a one-room office and the phone number was in the book.In a big city newsroom like CBC Vancouver, it’s very different. It would be easy (though not smart) to avoid “the audience” almost completely. In my opinion, good journalists don’t — with or without social media. I use tools like Twitter to reach out beyond the people I would otherwise know, to get to know my city better. My networks are bigger, and that makes my city smaller.
Social media as “social scanner”
So, if you see something on Twitter, do you go report it on air? No, of course not.
It’s like a police scanner to me. People who work in news sometimes listen to chatter on the police scanner to find out what’s happening. A fire in Coquitlam. A fatal MVA in Abbotsford. Just because you hear it, doesn’t mean you immediately go on air with it. You need to find out more. But now you know what to find out about.
That’s how I use Twitter, and other social media tools. If I see a tweet about something that could be breaking news (like the injuries at the Alexisonfire concert in Vancouver during the Olympics) then I start asking questions, and searching for more.
Stream vs. reservoir
Other reporters, or people starting to use Twitter on the job sometimes ask me how I keep up with my followers. And the answer is, I don’t.
For me, email : reservoir :: twitter : stream.
The water in the reservoir of a dam is contained and accounted for — stored until it’s eventually released through the turbines, or out some overflow. That’s email to me: I have an obligation to deal with what’s sent to me.
For me, Twitter and blogs and Facebook are streams I dip in and out of. I enjoy them while I’m there, but I don’t feel beholden to track every drop of water that flowed before and after my visit. Nor do I expect that of others.
How do you think journalists should use social media?