My first Day Two session at Northern Voice is How (Should) Journalists Use Social Media, with speakers Lisa Johnson of the CBC and Kirk LaPointe of the Vancouver Sun.
Lisa talked about how she uses her own blog, Twitter and Facebook to reach out and find stories. First off, she explained that using social media makes a city smaller and more friendly.
“A big part of our job is to find out what’s happening,” she noted. By reaching out through online channels journalists in a newsroom aren’t just asking each other “do you know someone who…?” they can ask social networks. She said she’s found people for stories such as accountants, residents of Tsawwassen, business owners etc. just by searching Twitter or asking questions online.
Lisa added that Twitter is “a social scanner, like a police scanner.” You can find news and immediate information about an event, region, or issue. Chances are you can also find someone on the scene or taking Twitpics, immediately documenting the situation.
Kirk presented second as the words, “We will die before the newspaper does” appear on the big screen. While Lisa’s talk was more about how she uses social media to report, Kirk’s is focused on the state of the industry. “No audience problem. No news problem. More business problem,” stated his next slide.
“If we don’t find a business model in this, you’re going to get what you pay for,” he adds in reference to free, digital content. “Our biggest challenge is we need to redefine public and subsidy.”
Moving onto content he says journalists need to rethink the way they approach a “story”. It’s no longer a “story” but it’s a topic. Report on a topic and that’s the starting point — the beginning of the conversation.
“Know more each day about your audience,” said the next slide from Kirk. “We need to know what it is they are consuming, and what they’re not consuming.” He moved onto engagement and community building, emphasizing that it’s not a “frill” – these connections need to be taken more seriously than ever.
Kirk’s final slide reads: “The next decade is messy, but I can be fired more easily than you.”
During the Q&A Linda Soloman of the Vancouver Observer asks about the policy of mainstream outlets drawing inspiration from articles from bloggers but not giving credit. Kirk responded by saying he’s noticed Vancouver Sun content on their site as well however Linda assures him that VO always links and give credit (what we call a “hat tip” in the blogging realm”). Kirk said that everyone gets “ripped off” in some form or another and it’s hard to police that kind of thing, which is very true. Before the back-and-back got a bit too heated, it was agreed to take this particular discussion offline.
Personally I can see where Linda is coming from. Often I’ll see a blogger write something unique or tweet some news that is then picked up by a major outlet, who in turn does not credit the blogger or tweet as the source of the story. This is where I actually see radio stations excelling. I’ll get on-air credit from Jonny Staub at The Beat or James Sutton from The Peak for something I’ve posted online, which is wonderful. I get a shout out, they get to share information in real-time over the air, and in turn I will probably thank them publicly. This helps build bridges and strengthen the online community, in my eyes.
The discussion continued as the room emptied for lunch. This was yet another great panel session at Northern Voice with some great questions from the audience and insight from the speakers.