It’s Hot at the Hive..where everyone is abuzz about social media…
It’s been a steamer in the Sacramento valley – and all surrounding hills and valleys for that matter. However, media-savvy mavens were treated to the air-conditioned bliss that is “The Urban Hive” on Tuesday, August 14, 2012 for a fabulous program about social media.
That’s when the Social Media Club, special emphasis on “media” this time around, presented a thought-provoking and lively program entitled: “News Gathering & Reporting in a Social Media Age.”
The Social Media Club practices what it preaches by promoting its events through the very same. With just under 100 folks in attendance on a steamy, Sacramento weeknight, you can’t argue with the results social media promotion delivers.
The creative environment that is “the hive” didn’t hurt either with its open structure, welcoming ambiance, and evocative art. Add to that the exquisite food, beer, and support provided by sponsors Grange Restaurant and Bar, Ruhstaller Beer, and The Sacramento Press and you have a rich environment for discourse.
The panel presentation offered up an array of media formats with the four panelists representing local radio, print, and television outlets. The esteemed participants were Judy Farah, News Director and Senior Editor for KFBK radio, Kelly Johnson, Reporter and Social Media Strategist for The Sacramento Business Journal, Sabrina Rodriguez, Reporter for KTXL FOX40 television, and Matt Weiser, Senior Writer for The Sacramento Bee. Rounding out our seasoned corps was moderator, Jen Picard, Senior Producer of Capital Public Radio’s program, “Insight.”
Our moderator deftly directed the evening’s conversations from the impressive combined backgrounds of the panelists, to the use of social media in pushing stories out, to garnering news tips, to addressing social media policies.
Veracity and velocity figured heavily in the dialogue as journalists discussed the difficulty in delivering vetted-for-truth news zippy-fast in a digital world measured in 10-second slugs and 140-character increments.
Jen kicked it off by beginning with Matt Weiser and asking the overarching thematic question of the evening:
“How do you use social media in the newsroom?”
The simple answer was by making contacts, but Matt acknowledged he gets his information “the old-fashioned way.” It’s still about connecting to the audience and he feels social media is an “extension of the work.”
Kelly Johnson agreed with Matt expanding upon his comments when she said, “It’s more about getting to know the audience. (You) get a feel for what people are interested in. People want to know who we are.”
Judy Farah concurred with Kelly and Matt on the connection issue pointing to a specific social media tool stating that it’s about “trying to engage through twitter.”
While these journalists all use twitter, sometimes getting tips, none rely upon it solely for that purpose and rarely are they sourcing stories from twitter.
Sabrina brought up a good point about accessing Facebook because of its “all in” audience. Recent statistics bear this out with Social Media Today reporting that 41.6% of the United States population has a Facebook account. That may not represent the majority – yet – but if you add in CNET’s findings that social media usage has grown 83% in the last year with Facebook topping the social media chart, then you can see it’s not a waste of Sabrina’s time or anyone else’s for that matter.
News Gathering may have changed, but one way it hasn’t is in the desire and drive to be the first one to get the story: the Holy Grail that is the exclusive. Having said that, solid, integrity-infused reporting skills are still in evidence because rather than breaking a story before it’s confirmed reporters still take the extra time to confirm the facts.
This has spawned a new breed of strategy whereby a breaking story may not be tweeted until just about the time the newsroom timepiece bongs five o’ clock. This discourages any sort of “this just in” scooping the competition may be amenable to were the information to have gotten out earlier.
As the end of the program drew to a close Jen queried the participants about the issue of company policy on social media. Some media outlets do have a social media policy in this constantly-changing-environment, but the rule of good common sense still prevails.
It was refreshing to note we may be elbow-deep in the Digital Age, but this in no way discounts the importance of connecting to people. Good reporting hasn’t been outsourced to social media in the form of tweets, posts, or updates; rather a symbiotic relationship has been established.
We know so much more than we used to in this offshoot of the Information Age we now know as the Social Media Age. We have vaulted over our ability to watch historical events such as the Vietnam War unfold in real-time on television and landed on the other side of the wall where we may become active participants in an historical event like the Arab Spring.
Even as far back as 1965 there were those who applied the “chicken” or the “egg” causality dilemma to journalism.
We can’t quite decide if the world is growing worse, or if the reporters are just working harder. ~The Houghton Line, November 1965.
After meeting this panel of journalists we know the reporters are working harder and because of that WE know more; the latter we know is a very, very good thing.
The Social Media Cub
“If you get it, share it.”
Disclosure: Diane Dean-Epps is an author & Marketing Coordinator for the law firm Mennemeier, Glassman & Stroud.Her essays appear regularly in a variety of publications, including THE UNION newspaper, NPR's This I Believe, Sacramento magazine, the SF Chronicle.