Carefully Crafted on October 11

Social Media and the News: A Panel Discussion on How Today’s Journalists Use Social Media

Geben Communication account manager Deanna Ferrari recently planned and attended a panel discussion for PodCamp Pittsburgh, a yearly social media and technology conference. The panel was part of “Evening with PodCamp,” a series of preview sessions leading up to the event. This panel discussion focused on the intersection of social media and journalism. This is her recap.

On October 3, 2012, a panel of five journalists from Pittsburgh gathered for a panel discussion on social media – from their perspective. The panel included:

It’s nothing new that social media has changed the way journalists receive and deliver the news. But the way it’s causing the media to evolve is different every day, as new platforms emerge and new things happen. In fact, Scott Harbaugh said WPXI’s website is projected to earn more revenue than its newscasts by the year 2020.

One of the bigger topics that were discussed was the recent hostage situation in Pittsburgh in September 2012. A man held another man hostage in a downtown Pittsburgh office building for more than five hours. It really took a turn when the suspect starting posting public status updates to his Facebook page during the standoff.

Kim Lyons said in the Post-Gazette’s newsroom, this caused an impromptu discussion where they asked themselves, “What should we do with this?” They ended up linking to his page underneath the main story, but kept a close eye in case they did not want to link to what was being updated. Reporters from all outlets were on-the-scene or in the newsroom, live-tweeting breaking updates. The whole panel agreed it was evident that there was tension about what they should put out that morning. They wanted to confirm their sources, making sure they were legitimate. At the same time, each station and news outlet had to comply with police (case in point: Pittsburgh police asked each station to take down their live-streaming videos).

As social media editor, Mila Sanina said that sometimes, social media causes a lot of negativity (especially during the current election). This sometimes makes her frustrated, but recently a new project has caused much more positivity on the Post-Gazette online: “The Digs.” For the first time, the PG is excavating, curating and digitizing its photo library, which has been accumulating photographs for more than a century, to display them online. She’s found this brings a lot of happiness and nostalgia to readers.

The recurring theme of the panel? Each journalist had something different to offer in terms of how they use social media. But they can all agree when it comes down to it, it’s important to use your best judgment before posting something. Media need to be extra-careful as to not be biased, but this is a good lesion for all of us. Yes, you represent your employer, but ultimately, you represent yourself. You choose which content is out there coming from you.

Other key takeaways:

  • Can social media be a source? The consensus said yes, as long as you attribute it. However, traditional journalism rules still apply, always
  • As a journalist, everything you do reflects the company you work for, regardless if it’s a professional or personal social media account. Social media is simply an extension of what they do
  • Some journalists only support their own content and site. This limits their variety of content, though. Acknowledging you’re looking at other content allows followers to know you have a breadth of sources, news, and information – not just your own
  • It’s not important to be fast and the first to break news. What’s important is that all of your facts check out. People won’t remember who was first – they’ll only remember who was inaccurate
  • Strive for meaningful interactions
  • It’s important to put out content pertinent to your beat, but you need some assortment to add a personality to your presence (for example, Scott Harbaugh not only talks about the weather, but his beloved Pittsburgh Pirates and Christmas

How has social media affected your day-to-day news consumption and creation?

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