I had a blast on Friday at the SPJ’s Social Media Training for Journalists. I wasn’t sure what to expect because most times the conversation turns sour and the atmosphere gets tense when journalists talk about digital and social media strategies. But this was not the case at all on Friday. Attendees in the room were honestly interested in these tools and how to use them correctly for their reporting. The room was filled with excitement. It was exhilarating.
I attribute part of this to the first speaker: Katy Calver, a journalism professor at UW-Madison. She started the session off on an exciting and passionate tone. My favorite comment from Katy: Same skills, new tools. I’ve been saying this for years. Your basic journalism skills – researching, vetting, investigating, etc. – are still important and will always be important. These social media tools are just new ways of doing those things. It was awesome to hear a journalism professor echo that – and to tell a room full of journalists that.
David Douglas, reporter with WISC-TV and Nick Heynen, social media director with Capital Newspapers, talked about the Facebook Timeline. They gave a how-to instruction for those unfamiliar with how to use it. But the best part was when David gave tips on how to use Facebook for reporting. It was awesome to see how excited he was about all the information you can get out of Facebook. He even “rocked my world” – as he said – by talking about openstatussearch.com. I had no idea this existed. Yes, David, you did rock my world by introducing that site to me. Other key points shared by David and Nick: Best times to post updates are 8 a.m., 11 a.m., and 3 p.m. These are local times since both David and Nick work with local markets – not national markets.
After the Facebook session, I jumped up front to talk about Twitter with Jason Joyce from the Isthmus and David Douglas. It was fun to bounce tips back and forth about how we each use it. I represented a different niche – Twitter use to market your brand. David and Jason talked more about using Twitter for reporting. It was great to hear the questions and interest from the other journalists in the room. Mark Pitsch, SPJ Madison president asked a great question, and one probably many other people in the room were thinking: What advice do you have for old timer journalists who have a hard time opening ourselves up on Twitter. My answer: Start using it and with time, you will become more comfortable with it. Also, your mindset will change. I’m now always thinking about Twitter and tweets. That’s because Twitter is now just part of me – not something I have to set aside time to do.
As I talked with a colleague sitting next to me, I mentioned numerous times that a lot of this is a change of mindset and how we work. I truly believe that’s been one of the biggest challenges for journalists to embrace these tools. You have to work differently than you’re used to – faster, more efficiently, smarter and multitask. But there are so many benefits to using them in your reporting, and we spent a whole day discussing them.
The Society of Professional Journalists should be proud of this seminar. It was great to see such a positive, informative discussion on social media. Not only did the presenters talk about embracing them but they also showed concrete examples of how they can help you do your job better in 2012. And I am honored I was part of it.