Quora’s a dynamic ecosystem of questions and answers. Think of it as a forum, a wiki and a Twitter stream combined. (It could also be used like Help A Reporter Out, if you’re familiar with that.) Here’s a quick video explainer:
Playing by Quora’s rules:
Right now, Quora’s TOS dictate that site users “must provide us accurate information, including your real name, when you create your account on Quora.” This means that brand pages are not allowed. (Sorry, Colonel Tribune, New York Times, Austin American-Statesman and others.)
The community is backing Quora up; it’s a tight-knit group of early adopters who seem to be compelled — and rightfully so — to keep Quora brand-free.
This is not to say, however, that news organizations can’t provide compelling, useful answers to questions pertaining to its coverage areas.
Once you’ve set up your Quora profile — under your real name, of course — here are a few things you can do:
Monitor the topic pages for your subject areas. For instance, if I were a sports reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, I’d monitor Chicago, the Chicago Bears, the Chicago Cubs and some others.
Interestingly enough, there was no Chicago White Sox topic, so I created one. Reporters should create topics that haven’t already been created for their coverage areas; this in turn will get them additional visibility on Quora, help distinguish them as early adopters who will contribute to the site, and will also uncover local Quora users as they identify the topics they’re interested in.
Build your network of sources and experts. Quora is still in its infancy; this means many “influential” sources are on there. Leverage those experts in your content as the need arises.
Incorporate Quora questions and topics into blog posts and articles. The Quora audience may be vastly different from your online news audience. Leveraging the discussions there could generate additional buzz and digital “street cred” with your readers. (UPDATE 1/19: Here’s a post/video by Paul Gailey showing how to incorporate Quora into WordPress blogs.)
If a news organization doesn’t have a clearly defined platform for reader questions (e.g. “what is the best Chinese restaurant in town,” “where can I find a public transportation schedule”) use the Quora API to stream relevant questions on your news site.
In the long run, brands may not be allowed on there, but reporters absolutely should be. But should brands be there?
My short answer: an enthusiastic yes — all news organizations (and brands) should be allowed on Quora, provided they play by the rules and are good Quora-zens. (Quora citizen, for short.) Take some time to learn about the community before you really dive in. (A hat tip to Lucretia Pruitt for writing this quick guide on Quora.)
How do you think reporters can use Quora? Are you already using the service? If so, what have you done with it so far? Please leave your thoughts as comments below, and we may add your points to the above list. (Crediting you, of course!)
Inspired by this interesting but flawed effort to measure U.S. newspaper Twitter followers, I scoured the Twittersphere to come up with an exhaustive list of Twitter followers for as many U.S. newspapers as I could. I ended up with 200, but I think I’m the only one exhausted. I’m sure there are many I left off the list. Feel free to chime in with the missing papers in the comments section. I say the other list is flawed because it only measures the Twitter followers for the top 25 print circulation papers. Circulation numbers don’t necessarily equal social media reach.
I only counted the top account for each paper (as painful as it was to leave out my own Austin360 Twitter account with its 15,500+ followers). I didn’t combine Twitter followers for all accounts at each paper – just the top account. There are too many to do it otherwise. All accounts were measured in a two-hour span on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2010.
Note that the top three papers (and, yes, I included The Onion) were listed for a time on Twitter’s Suggested User’s List, which drew hundreds of thousands of new Twitter users to their accounts. Sure, they would probably be top accounts anyway, but it’s worth noting that Twitter gave them a serious boost.
A special thanks to Erica Smith, who used to track Twitter accounts on her blog before it became unmanageable (believe me, I understand). Her old posts gave me a good starting point.
Note, I tried to keep these to mainstream daily newspapers. There are several alternative papers who have a lot of followers as well.
Yesterday, Old Media, New Tricks published a Q&A with an intriguing character named Roadgeek. If you manage a community, you know Roadgeek well (or at least a character much like him). He’s a voracious reader, a constant commenter — and a sharp critic of the mainstream media. Austin American-Statesman charity beat reporter Andrea Ball contacted the commenter, who writes from behind a movie character’s image, in hopes of figuring out what makes him tick … and she won him over. Here is a guest post by Ball, who explains how she did it and what she learned.
I contacted Roadgeek in a fit of agitation. I had just written a story about homelessness and, in the comments section, he called me a “sob queen” and referred to my work, in general, as “treacle.”
I had just come off a nasty period where people had been calling me names on our website. One person called me a drama queen. Another told me to help the health care crisis by losing weight.
So when I saw Roadgeek’s comments, I was feeling particularly thin-skinned. I have a tendency to take the comments to heart anyway, but I was feeling pretty raw that day. I wrote to him and essentially whined about how he hurt my feelings. I know. Ridiculous. But being a professional doesn’t make me inhuman. I don’t think commenters realize how hard it is for reporters to see themselves called incompetent and stupid day after day after day.
We have an exceptionally difficult job. Every day we’re talking to new people, processing numbers and government jargon, scouring often incomprehensible documents, and trying to write it all within serious time and space constraints. But our readers routinely tell us that their third-graders can do a better job than we do.
My husband routinely tells me not to read the comments, but I can’t help it. I have to approve them for my blog. And I often get tips or story ideas from the readers in that way.
I often write to commenters, telling them I have seen their words and would like to continue the conversation. Sometimes, I’ve ended up interviewing those people for stories.
But Roadgeek was different. He came back at me hard. At first I was like, “What a psycho.” I even sent the email to few people in office. They laughed and told me to drop it.
“I can’t!” I insisted. “I must respond! I’m not going to let him think he scared me and that I’m off crying somewhere.”
“I see this as the beginning of a sick relationship,” my friend answered.
Before I responded, I re-read Roadgeek’s email and clung to the constructive parts. I realized that he had articulated a few sentiments to me in a way I’d not heard before. Suddenly I understood why some people really have a problem with my stories and it was something to ponder. I wrote back and told him that.
I was so excited when his next email to me was nice. I literally ran around the office saying that I had reached the pinnacle of my career and could now retire. (And yes, I know how freakish that is.)
Through this experience, I’ve learned that commenters aren’t always who they think they are. Yeah, some of them are just foul. But a lot of them are just venting and, when pressed to articulate their thoughts, are actually very insightful. They can really broaden your perspective. Roadgeek has done that for me.
I’ve also learned that keeping a cool head — which I am not known for — has its benefits. I could have popped off a nasty email to Roadgeek and made an enemy. Instead, I took a step back. Now I have a relationship with someone that challenges me in a positive way. When I write a story, I have a crotchety Jiminy Cricket on my shoulder screaming, “NO TREACLE!!”
As I’ve told all my coworkers, “I’ll never win a Pulitzer, but I’ll always have Roadgeek.”
I can say with confidence that every site on the Web that enables comments has a few commenters who … let’s just say they come off as a bit cold. Statesman.com has a few of its own, including a strongly opinionated guy who speaks from behind an anonymous handle and a movie character’s mask.
His name is “Roadgeek,” and his avatar is Mr. Potter, the heartless villain from “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Roadgeek has contributed nearly 2,000 comments to Statesman.com in two years. Many are within our rules, even if a bit harsh at times, but some have gone over the line. Here’s a recent one that was deleted by the Statesman staff:
“Oh, boy. Poor women who had no business having babies they couldn’t afford to pay for in the first place are now having the care of their crotchlings subsidized by my tax dollars. All because the Catholic Church is having qualms. Happy days are here again.”
Andrea Ball, the Statesman’s charity beat reporter, says he frequently comments on her blog, and one day a comment he left hurt her feelings, so she reached out to him to see why he is so personal in his attacks. Through e-mail conversation, she softened him up some to the point where she now jokingly calls him her BFF. Roadgeek, for his part, was surprised not only that a reporter would reach out to a commenter, but that reporters at mainstream media sites even read comments. Andrea wrote a guest post on Roadgeek for Old Media, New Tricks.
I agreed to keep Roadgeek’s anonymity for this Q&A, though he told me he lives in Austin, and his public profile says he’s 47 years old and a male.
Why the name Roadgeek, and why Mr. Potter?
Roadgeek is a tribute to my hobby of traveling; I don’t fly but instead drive everywhere I go. I chose Mr. Potter as my avatar because he is easily recognizable as a minor American icon, and because much of what I say sounds as though he might have said it himself. Although he carried his greed and cruelty to others to an extreme, some of the values Potter stood for such as thrift, accountability, personal responsibility and social order no longer seem to be fashionable.
Have you ever considered using your real name? If not, why not?
I admire those who use their real name in commenting, but due to my employment situation I would probably never be able to do so. Were I to be outed I fear my career would suffer irreparable damage. At the very least, exposure would result in a nasty interview and counseling with our Ombudsman/Diversity Coordinator. Many of my comments would not be considered politically correct even by the most relaxed standards of social intercourse in 2010.
How close is Roadgeek’s personality to the personality that you project in face-to-face interactions? Is Roadgeek the real you that’s bottled up or more of an exaggerated version of you?
Roadgeek is a good bit harsher in public than I am, but it’s important to remember that Roadgeek is a reflection of my id; he says what I am thinking. He may seem more exaggerated than would seem normal, but he is unfettered by social restraint; his candor is shocking to those who have been trained to suppress their innermost and rawest thoughts. Roadgeek and Mr. Potter do indeed represent many of the values I hold dear, although for the sake of social cohesion I keep a tight leash on my id when I am around others. Don’t we all?
How much time do you estimate you spend commenting on stories each day? How many days a week?
I comment on stories every day of the week, as I am a voracious reader. However, I don’t spend a great deal of time commenting; perhaps 10 minutes a day. I do enjoy going back and checking for responses to my comments, as I enjoy the back-and-forth between other readers. I also enjoy reading the criticism of my comments. I have to confess that I learn a great deal from criticism; not everyone who disagrees with me is a fool.
What sites do you regularly read and comment on?
I read and comment on the San Francisco Chronicle, Beaumont Enterprise, Dallas Morning News, the Austin American-Statesman, the New York Times and the Washington Post. Interestingly, although I follow nearly 150 different blogs I comment on them very rarely. I think that may be because I grew learning to read and interact with a newspaper. Newspapers are what I am most comfortable with in terms of commenting.
What is your opinion on journalism and mainstream news Web sites? Are we too thin-skinned?
The MSM is very definitely too thin-skinned. I have a very low opinion of journalism and mainstream news web sites. I very firmly believe that journalists today allow their personal political ideology and agendas to clutter their journalism. Most journalists today also have a strong sense of wanting to improve and save the world; they see journalism as a way to act on that sense.
The MSM saw themselves as a gatekeeper of all that was fit to know; they saw themselves as arbiters of which knowledge was important and which was not; what things and events were irrelevant and what was not. The Internet set the public free, and professional journalism is still reeling. The Internet also has also empowered unconventional sources to act as substitutes for traditional media; John Edwards turned a supermarket tabloid into a respectable source of information, and the MSM has only itself to blame for allowing that to happen.
The fact that there has been such a dramatic realignment in news distribution in such a short period of time has been very hard on the conventional MSM, especially newspapers and magazines. The increasing irrelevancy of the MSM has made journalists very defensive about the quality of the work they do, and even what sort of work they do. Editors and reporters now get instant feedback on what’s published, and they don’t always like it. Not at all.
I sometimes glean quite a bit of extra information from the comments that isn’t covered in the story itself. Knowledgeable readers with some connection to the story or some additional insight will comment, adding to my reading experience.
What should news sites be doing when it comes to interacting with the public that they aren’t doing now? Should we engage with readers more in the comments section?
I definitely think journalists should engage with readers more; some papers have already started doing this. Your compatriot Andrea Ball will sometimes respond to comments by leaving another comment, and Mizanur Rahman of the Houston Chronicle routinely engages commenters on his Immigration Chronicles blog.
The MSM is ignoring a powerful new electronic tool, commenting, by posting a story and disregarding the comments. I think that if a paper invests the resources to create a story, and comments are critical of the story for whatever reason, then the paper needs to defend and stand by the story. Immediately. Some give-and-take with commenters could actually help the paper, and would certainly result in more page-views and clicks, which are life and death to a website. Immediate responses from reporters or editors could only help to build respect for a newspaper.
There is quite a bit of talk about either requiring people to use their real names, pull comments off sites completely or moderate them strictly because of abusive language and hateful personal comments. Cutting off that pipeline doesn’t seem like the right answer to me, but it’s frustrating to try to keep things from spinning out of control. What responsibility do commenters have to behave, if any, and what should news web sites do to keep things civil?
Commenters have a complete responsibility to behave and be civil to others. I’ve had comments deleted many times from different websites, and it’s a matter of pride to me that the deletions never occurred due to my using profanity or attacking another persons religion or sexuality. I’ve also never said anything libelous in any comment I’ve ever made. Many commenters simply do not understand how to be civil to others, and it shows. I understand the problem unfettered commenting can create for newspapers, and I simply do not have an easy answer to the problem. I understand that it’s difficult and costly for a newspaper to keep someone on staff to moderate comments, and I would really prefer to have them be unmoderated. I enjoy being able to say what I want to say.
Statesman reporter Andrea Ball says she’s developed a “BFF” e-mail relationship with you because she reached out. How did that interaction go, and should more reporters reach out the way Andrea did? What is the benefit of that?
I enjoyed chatting with Andrea via email, and in doing so we each learned a good deal about the other. I feel other reporters should engage their readers in this fashion, although doing so certainly presents somewhat of a risk to the reporter. Andrea took a chance, and it worked out well for her. We each learned a great deal about the other, which can only be a good thing. When the readers learn more about the reporters they tend to, I think, have a little more faith in their reporting.
Have you ever been banned from a site?
After the Fort Hood Shooting last fall I observed how ironic it was that, in the middle of one of the most heavily fortified and armed military facilities in the world, none of the killed or wounded soldiers were carrying a side-arm that day, and that it took two civilian police officers to bring down the shooter. Further, I wondered how was our military supposed to defend us when they couldn’t even defend themselves? This was apparently too much for the Houston Chronicle. I have not been allowed to comment on their site since then.
I suspect the banning stemmed from my challenging the established narrative flow of the story. The narrative was dedicated to the brave, heroic soldiers who died while serving their country. All I did was ask a question which immediately popped into my mind; why didn’t anyone have a side-arm? I posted the same comment, as did others, to the AA-S site; the comments were initially deleted before commenting was simply shut down. All a question of narrative, I believe.
I don’t use profanity. I don’t attack religion or the sexuality of others. I’m never abusive towards others. My comments get deleted simply because I say out loud what others are thinking. I say the things that get left unsaid in today’s oh-so correct don’t-want-to-offend society. My comments too often take aim at targets which have become sacrosanct in today’s dialogue. It’s become taboo to point out that blacks seem to have problems with standardized tests or that blacks have a much higher crime rate than other groups or that Hispanics have a much higher rate of DWI or that perhaps soldiers on active duty really should carry sidearms or that women really don’t seem to have an aptitude for engineering or the sciences and the list goes on and on …
Anything else you want to add?
I’ve noticed that different sites seem to have different commenting policies and I find that interesting. The AA-S is actually very quick to delete comments it finds offensive, as is the Houston Chronicle. The Beaumont Enterprise, interestingly enough, has very broad standards regarding commenting, as does the Dallas Morning News.
I was at dinner a couple of days ago with some friends when, apparently, there was some food blogger event or meetup happening the same time in the restaurant’s upstairs room.
As the bloggers walked into the restaurant, some stopped to take pictures. Myself, my girlfriend and several friends were in one of the pictures. (It’s the one above; if you click through, we’re in the picture at the top of the post.)
Don’t get me wrong: I am not mad that I’m in the picture. We saw this particular blogger kneeling down to take her picture, and based on her angle, it was clear that we would be in the picture. However, the blogger never approached us and asked if we would mind.
For bloggers, there are several reasons why they should approach people who may appear in their photos:
It’s a courtesy extended by many professional journalists and members of the media. (NOTE: I’m not trying to spark a journalist vs. blogger debate.) Not all professional news photographers ask permission of their subjects to take candid photos. In fact, since we were in public, we’re fair game. Still, blogger photogs may want check and see if it’s OK to use a person in their photo, even if you can’t see their face clearly. (Here’s a good read on the history of photojournalism ethics.) This leads me to my next point…
It’s a marketing opportunity. Let’s say I were asked if I minded being in the blogger’s photo. The conversation might’ve gone like this:
Blogger: Hey — I’m taking a quick photo of the restaurant for my blog; do you mind? You’ll be in it, but you’ll be totally small and unrecognizable, and your face won’t be in it. Me: Maybe. What’s the blog for? Blogger: Oh, I run a food blog called “Oh She Glows”; there’s a food blogger meetup going on tonight, and I’m documenting it. Me: That’s cool; I’d love to check it out later! Go ahead and take the picture. It’s also cool that this restaurant is doing blogger outreach; is it on Facebook and Twitter as well?
…or something like that. (Not as cheesy, of course.) This could have been a marketing opportunity for the blogger; chances are they would have drawn in a few new readers. (This particular blog is about healthy food and exercise; I’m looking to learn more about these things, which is one of the reasons I was dining at that restaurant.) In addition, she could have generated more buzz for the restaurant, which I now know is active within the social media space.
It’s just the courteous thing to do. Ya know?
What do you think? If you’re taking pictures for your blog — or for an article — do you ask the subject’s permission? Do you use it as an opportunity to tell others about your blog? Please leave your thoughts as comments below!
While we wonder what the business terms of the agreement are, it’s fairly safe to say that this move works for both parties. This is a great step for McClatchy; they now have a partner that can deliver local — nay, hyperlocal — daily deals through its pages. This is also a great step for Groupon, as the company can spread its wings into the not-so-digital community.
This isn’t the news business’ first foray into discounting, however. The Chicago Tribune has its own deals site, Half-Price Chicago, which offers gift certificates at steep discounts.
What are your thoughts on the deal? Is this type of arrangement something a newspaper can pull off with its own sales force, or does partnering with, say, a Groupon or YouSwoop make more sense? Has your news organization considered offering similar deals?
If you haven’t tried Gowalla or Foursquare, the whole idea of “checking in” to a location seems rather absurd – much the way Twitter likely sounded absurd when you first heard about it. However, we now know that Twitter can be used as an effective tool during breaking news events. That point was driven home in Austin during the plane crash into the IRS building. It’s way too early to tell whether Gowalla, Foursquare or any other location-based network will truly hit the mainstream – or be an effective tool for journalists beyond fun marketing.
So what does the Statesman expect to gain from this deal with Gowalla?
* It is very good for marketing. Gowalla is entertaining and addictive to use, so it’s great to have our brand associated with something fun.
* It’s another way to get into mobile devices. The news industry has been trying hard for the past couple of years to go mobile, building iPhone apps, better mobile sites and using Twitter and text messages. This is yet another way to seamlessly put our content and news into smart phones, which weaves our news into the fabric of our city.
* It is a way to get our foot in the door. If this does take off, we’ll be in a good position to do much more with it.
For its part, Gowalla gets exposure and content, two things it needs as it pushes back against not only Foursquare, but Yelp, Facebook, Twitter and others who are jumping into or are already in the location-based field.
We’re starting out with eight Gowalla trips, but plan to expand with more trips and eventually other creative ways of melding our content into Gowalla’s application. It’s a good start – and it’s fun.
Journalists are increasingly looking to expand their skill set or even reinvent themselves during this challenging time for the news industry. Some are doing it on their own terms.
Former newspaper reporters Alexis Grant and Adam Jadhav have a lot in common. They both quit their full-time reporting jobs they loved to travel abroad while blogging and shooting photos and video along the way.
Blog Fixture of New Venture
Grant set a goal for herself that after she had been working at the Houston Chronicle for three years and if she had enough money saved, she would take a long-term trip. When she was 27, she left her job as a health reporter in 2008 and spent six months traveling to several French-speaking African countries.
Alexis documented her travels through a blog
Grant freelanced for newspapers and magazines, but stressed that it supplemented the trip costs, but didn’t pay for them completely. She also tried blogging for the first time and put most of her effort into that. She also blogged so her family would know where she was.
Grant said that in her reporting job, she didn’t want to add another thing to her job, such as blogging. During her trip she learned she loved blogging. “I discovered a love for blogging that I didn’t know I had,” she said.
Slow and unpredictable Internet connections made things difficult. She said her biggest mistake was not setting up her blog ahead of time so she would have as little work as possible to do when blogging on the road. When Grant did find a fast Internet connection, she’d upload photos to Flickr. That’s how editors she freelanced for were able to access them.
When Grant got back, she decided to write a book full-time about the trip. Having just turned 28, she moved in with her parents in suburban Albany, NY. The travel memoir is loosely based on the blog. “There’s an element of personal journey to it,” she said.
She attributes writing the book to helping her improve her writing and becoming a better journalist. “I think that’s going to help me in my next job,” she said. “This is a chance for me to see how I could write in a different way.”
Grant launched another blog and a YouTube channel and posted her travel videos. She also joined Twitter. “Through my blog and Twitter, I was able to find others who are writing travel memoirs,” she said. Then she started a Ning group for writers of travel memoirs.
Today, Grant is job searching while living in Washington DC.
Search for Meaningful Journalism
At 27, Adam Jadhav went to Kenya nearly eight months ago. Since then he has been to Madagascar and India. He’s now in southeast Asia.
Jadhav left his job as reporter at the St. Louis-Dispatch covering poverty issues in July 2009 to go abroad as an international reporter. He admitted that a one-week reporting trip to Cuba in March made his desire to do international reporting stronger. In 2007, he was the newspaper’s multimedia reporter. In the summer of 2008, he launched the Post-Dispatch’s political channel on YouTube.
“I figured I could afford to spend a year or two out on the road tilting at windmills and (I hope) producing some meaningful journalism along the way. And I’m incredibly lucky: I had the savings, the lack of commitments, a supportive mother, professors and editors, the multimedia training and a healthy dose of moxie to do it,” he wrote in an e-mail.
At the same time, he launched a blog, where he posts videos, audio slideshows and photos. He said the blog is a personal outlet to share his trip with his family and friends, but he also posts updates about the work he’s covering during his travels. He also uses Facebook and Twitter to share information.
Jadhav also struggles with slow Internet connection speeds. He said that in Africa it can take up to two hours to upload a video, which also requires a constant connection to achieve. He uses YouTube as his video content management system because it’s ubiquitous and it offers the best chance for his video clips to get picked up elsewhere.
“YouTube is the starting point for my videos; they automatically spread to Twitter and Facebook. I absolutely think cross posting is a good idea and when I have something more worthwhile, I fully intend to post elsewhere,” he said.
He tries to focus on stories that will connect with U.S. audiences. For example an HIV clinic in Kenya has a direct connection to the University of Illinois in Chicago.
Jadhav said he has spent far more time sending e-mails and looking up contacts as part of his business then doing actual journalism.
“The big, meaty stories are too expensive to really pursue without prior funding commitments. News feature and travel journalism is simply easier to sell,” he said.
He spent his first three months in India waiting for his residency and his work permit to get processed and approved, which was important because he eventually wants to work in India long-term.
Jadhav admits, however, his lifestyle isn’t for everyone. “I’m comfortable being marginally employed,” he said. “I’m not in a rush. I have savings to fall back on, and that I’m doing plenty of personal travel, adventure and language study.”
Jadhav doesn’t know when he plans on returning to the U.S. He’s moving to Ecuador in July for volunteer work and to pursue other stories. He tentatively plans to be in the U.S. in the fall to apply to an international development graduate school before returning to India early next year.
It isn’t just wanderlusts who want to do freelance journalism abroad. There are training programs for learning these skills and applying them professionally.
He said there’s a lot of spray and pray out there. In other words, shooting video and hope you’ve got something good. “That’s not what we’re talking about,” he said.
The project aims train people to speak a visual language. “The visual language really is a separate language. Too few people can really speak this language properly,” he said.
Program courses include photojournalism and social documentary, foreign correspondence and backpack documentary, according to its site. Workshops include “Storytelling: Backpack Journalism Style.” Gentile said they are working on certificate program.
The Backpack journalism methodology doesn’t work for every story, he said, but when it does, it’s much more intimate. Although Gentile fears that the methodology might be used as a cost-saving measure by news organizations.
He pointed out that no one is providing the platform, engaging the industry and practicing the craft of backpack journalism at the same time.
“We want to teach the real power of backpack journalism,” he said.
Freelance journalist travel tips:
From Alexis Grant:
Be flexible. It’s almost better not to have a plan.
Have your blog and social media tools set up and ready to use.
Consider having something else to do with your time. There will be downtime while waiting to hear back from an editor or a source.
Leah Betancourt is a journalist who has written about social media, emerging media and community engagement for Mashable, Poynter and elsewhere. This is her first post for Old Media, New Tricks, and we’re glad to have her!
Brian Solis recently wrote about how brands — in their efforts to become more relevant and top-of-mind — must become more like true media. This concept certainly isn’t new, but he lays it out pretty well in this post.
Are you considering a jump to new media from your “old media” organization? Business Insider compiled this list of 25 people who have done just that.
Don’t know what a social media editor is? Read this post on 10,000 Words. (Note: OMNT’s very own Robert Quigley contributed to this one.)
Earlier this month, Austin American-Statesman reporter Steven Kreytak live-tweeted a local murder trial. The trial was emotional and at times painful because of the involvement of a child who had to testify about his mother’s death. Steven, who had never live tweeted a trial before, and was a light Twitter user before this trial, dove in. I asked Steven to answer a few questions for this newsletter because it was an interesting and successful trial use of Twitter as a breaking news tool during a highly competitive news story.
Below the Q&A, you’ll see some of my notes:
OMNT: Why did you decide to do this? Did anyone ask you to do it?
Kreytak: Around the time the trial started, the Baltimore Sun ran a story that said the Maryland Supreme Court was considering banning Twittering from courthouses. The story quoted a reporter from the Wichita (Kansas) Eagle who Twitters from court. I checked out some of that reporter’s posts and got some ideas for how to use Twitter as a court reporter.
At the time I thought to myself: A) I can do that, and B) Maybe I should consider doing that if someone is considering banning it.
I had set up a Twitter account months ago but never really took to using it. At the start of the Milton Dwayne Gobert trial I had about 50 followers. (I now have more than 125).
The most anticipated testimony of the trial was of the 11-year-old boy who was 5 the day that Gobert killed the boy’s mother. The boy was there and his testimony promised to be dramatic.
When the boy took the stand I filed a blog that he was testifying. Then I put a link to my Twitter page on the bottom of the blog. I really just made the decision to Twitter his testimony on the spot.
OMNT: How difficult was it to do? You not only live-tweeted, but you also blogged profusely and wrote stories for print. How did you manage?
Kreytak: In court I take some notes by hand and some on the laptop. Generally, because I type faster than I write, I type notes of opening statements, closing arguments as well as critical witnesses, like a defendant taking the stand in his own defense. The boy’s testimony was going to be critical so I typed it. I knew I’d want a lot of dialogue to put in the story.
So that allowed me to cut and paste sections of the boy’s testimony into Twitter. I may have missed some parts of his testimony that I would have had otherwise, but I got most of it.
When there was a break in testimony, I hurried and wrote a blog. I even wrote one once while the lawyers were discussing an objection at the bench. Usually these delays are frustrating but I managed to use them to my advantage.
As for the print stories, that came later so the blogging and Twittering served as a notebook for those stories. Now by the end of the day I was pretty tired from all of the blogging and Twittering, but not so much that I could not finish the day off with a print story.
OMNT: What was the response from readers? From your colleagues/supervisors?
Kreytak: I got great feedback from my colleagues/supervisors as well as readers. I also felt like many people around the courthouse — lawyers, private investigators, cops — were noticing my work more than usual. While I was covering the testimony I was fueled by watching as the number of followers I had increased.
OMNT: Would you do it again? What would you do differently?
Kreytak: I would do it again, but I would try to find more opportunities to send folks back to the Website and probably file fewer posts to Twitter.
OMNT: Did you see any personal/professional benefit to doing this?
Kreytak: The professional benefit is to assert myself as the authority on the courthouse. It’s great to feel like I am delivering directly to readers and can interact with them in real time. Yes, while live Twittering from court I responded to readers during brief breaks in testimony. And I got nothing but positive feedback. That’s a real psychological/emotional benefit in a time when online commenters love to beat you down.
OMNT: What tips or caveats do you have for the rest of the newsroom?
Kreytak: Pick your spots. The 11-year-old’s testimony was clearly riveting and so it was no doubt worthy of Twitter. But there are some really boring parts of any trial (public meeting, etc) and I believe that readers want us to distill those parts and not burden them with too much minutiae.
First of all, I’m excited that Steven wanted to experiment with a new way of reporting, and I think he did a great job. Not only was he live-tweeting, but he was filing excellent, frequently-updated blog posts and in-depth print stories as well. As you all know, this is not an easy task.
And people did appreciate what Steven did. How often do you get this kind of feedback from our readers?
What Steven did:
Below, you’ll see a Twitter exchange from Steven in the middle of the sentencing phase. Note that he replies to a reader (@TheDrowElf) and links to his work online, in this case, his blog post:
Linking back to the site:
Steven’s point that reporters should link back to their news site is a good one. As a newsroom, the Statesman is doing some fantastic and exciting things with new tools, from live video to live chats to social media. The key is to remember to balance it all out. If you put all of your content on Twitter or Facebook, but don’t link back to your site at all, you’re giving your content away, and cheating readers out of seeing all the detailed work you put into your publication.
To that end, balance pouring content onto Twitter with linking people to your reports and articles online as much as possible. You can go overboard with this (only sending out links to our sites without putting any content on Twitter). Give your readers some content on Twitter, but leave enough for them to want to go to your news site for more.