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Posts Tagged ‘social media’

A few years ago I started following a company called Storyful on Twitter. I don’t even remember the reason I followed them. Perhaps people were talking about them and I was investigating.

In the time since then, the company established it as a force to find, verify and (when needed) acquire user-generated content on the social web for news agencies. They are a social media news agency. It’s also grown to the point when NewsCorp acquired the company while retaining its independence.

And on Monday, I’ll be joining the Storyful Open Newsroom staff in New York for my new adventures. I couldn’t be more excited because I know this is the right place for me.

To say the last few months since learning I was being laid off from NJ.com were difficult is an understatement. I have kept my chin up with hope for the future that I’d land on my feet even at the worst of times. Being laid off stinks, but in 15+ years of journalism I’ve never been laid off while working in newsrooms that have suffered cuts. I consider myself considerably lucky for that. And I kept spinning negatives into positives. Unemployment would mean I’d get a break from the stress of working in news.

During those months I’ve talked to a lot of people. I’ve talked to my contacts about jobs. I talked to perspective employers (about me, about them, about the future). I talked to my friends and family for support. Everyone had a lot of different things to say to me, including how I should face my job hunt.

I always promised myself that I wanted to find the right job not just any job (something some people couldn’t quite understand). I took myself out of the running for one job for this very reason. I could have landed the job, but it wasn’t the right place for me.

Then I started talking to the folks at Storyful in what felt like a whirlwind. Every conversation felt like that — a conversation. It wasn’t an interrogation and I didn’t feel like I needed to do the “please hire me” dance. We talked about the current state of social journalism but also the future and where we all feel it’s headed.

I’ve always admired the work they do at Storyful, especially as someone who has had more than one conversation interrogating colleagues about verification and permissions for user-generated content (just because it’s social media doesn’t mean you stop being a journalist). Talking to everyone just made me feel more excited about the work they’re already doing. There’s so much passion and vision for the future.

The intersection of social media and journalism interests me, and the open newsroom sits there. Newsrooms across the world are trying to figure this out, but Storyful has already figured it out and continues to be a leader. I can’t wait to be a part of that and to face the challenges moving into the future.

Thank you to everyone who has been there in the last few months, providing leads and support. The power of the journalism community is robust, and I’m thankful I know so many good people.

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There was a time when live tweeting an event was the standard in social media, and it wasn’t that long ago. It was part of the social media skill set. Tweet updates from the thing you’re covering.

But the reality is live tweeting in its standard, play-by-play form is redundant and of no service to your followers.

I had the thought — again — as I watched the NHL Draft with Twitter open in front of me. My hope was to see what people were saying about the draft picks (and trades), including the many snarky jokes many of us fans make. But the reality was my Twitter stream was filled with play-by-play. What happened on TV was perfectly described on my Twitter feed.

The reality of today’s live tweeting is that for major things everyone is tweeting the same thing. That’s not a service to our audiences when their streams are filled with the same thing over and over or it’s something they can plainly see on television. I know very often I hold back on tweeting something because I know others will say the same thing. I want to offer something different and unique.

We need to rethink how to retweet. What should we be offering our followers in today’s Twitter world? What do our followers want from us? What should our guidelines be today? When is it OK to do play-by-play live tweeting (because there are times I think it’s still OK)?

I’d like to hear feedback from people in the comments of via Twitter on what we should be doing to reshape live tweeting. I hope to use those comments in trying to build some guidelines.

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The “debate” that has my social media streams aflutter the last two days is an article that pronounced social media editors dead. Funny because I didn’t read my obit.

There are lots of people who have written about the subject that sum up how I feel about the subject than I ever could say:

You should read all three because each has a unique perspective on the matter, though I more identify with Mandy’s article because my career has been more focused on local coverage. In fact, Mandy’s job description details a lot of what I do in my current role.

But that’s the thing — Every social media role in every organization is different. Expectations are different at every news organization, and, in fact, my role has evolved in just two years at NJ.com for a lot of different reasons.

And this is where my “I hate labels” argument comes into play, like it does when people start yelling about blogger versus journalist.

It’s easy to box people into a certain ideal just because of the label we put on them. Does a social media editor spend their days tweeting snarky jokes and yelling about Facebook privacy setting? No, it’s more complex than that and it’s different at every organization. Just like the role of “community manager” can be different at every organization. The goal of “engagement” varies too.And when you start throwing around labels and pigeon-holing people, that’s when people will start declaring something is dead. But the reality is far from declaring something is dead.Roles evolve and change as the market and technology and the world changes. In two years, my role in social media in this job has changed. My role as a reporter when I graduated from college was drastically different than what it was 10 years later.That doesn’t mean reporting or the role of reporter is dead. It just changed. It evolved.And that’s what the best people do in this industry — they evolve. Because if you don’t evolve, you will perish.

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Have you seen the phone commercials lately where someone is stuck doing something “boring” so they check their phone?

These commercials bug me a great deal because what about what’s happening in front of you? We’re so connected via social media and our phones that we may be missing something important right here. We could be missing life.

If you’ve read this blog for any sort of time, you know this is an issue near and dear to my heart. I want to explore it again, so tell me: How do you disconnect? How do you ensure you’re not missing something right in front of you? Or do you keep yourself connected all the time?

Share your thoughts in the comments or send me a tweet @jenconnic. I may use it in an upcoming post.

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I felt like my brain was about to explode watching the coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing last week. I was enthralled with the story, but the reporting and coverage of it just hurt.

It wasn’t just the misinformation spread by more than one news organization and journalist. It was how trained journalists pursued the story. Did everyone forget Journalism 101 while covering the story?

It also makes me wonder if we as journalists have learned anything because I feel like I’ve been repeating the points I’m about to make for quite some time, including after the Newtown shooting.

To tweet or not to tweet the scanner

Never have I seen so many people listening to (and tweeting) the scanner for a police operation.

I’m a big fan of the police scanner. If I’m covering something at the scene, the scanner helps me understand what I’m seeing better. But I also have been around enough cops and firefighters to understand the lingo and the codes you’re going to hear on the scanner.

I also know that it’s the heat of the moment and there are going to be things on the scanner that are exaggerations. Some things also are flat out wrong. It’s why you don’t report from the scanner from an active scene and confirm things.

We have a service in New Jersey called the BNN where people send messages of what they’re hearing on the BNN. I cannot count on two hands the number of alerts have turned out to be exaggerations or flat out nothing.

Should you live tweet the scanner? Of course not. A million times no! Especially if you are not at the scene and cannot see what is happening. I always thought of the scanner as something that gives me leads and supplements what I see with my own eyes. But we need to remember that it’s investigation in process, which means things discussed could turn out to be false.

Misinformation travels at a million miles per hour

Tweeting from the scanner means that misinformation was out there, including the names of suspects who were not really suspects at all. It’s all over Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and everywhere in between. That share and retweet button is pretty easy to use, but it doesn’t take long to think before you hit it.

Ask yourself who this person is who is posting information and how much you trust them. Are they sourcing their information? Because there was lots of information without clear sources throughout the week.

The Atlantic has an excellent article about the anatomy of one of these misinformation disasters from the week.

If your mother says she loves you…

Too often I saw posts on Twitter attributed to Reddit or as crowdsourced. That’s fine. I’m a big fan of Reddit and of crowdsourcing and both have helped me as a journalist and as a social media producer.

But what happened to confirming those sources? They’re not official police sources. They’re just random people and we don’t know their background. In some cases we don’t even know who the people are because of the anonymity of the Internet.

If I had a photo from someone that says it’s of a suspect, I’d want to confirm with an actual investigator or official. I’d want someone I trust to tell me it’s true. It seems some sources were not doing that, and that just helped create more misinformation and some news organizations to be just wrong.

So we’re wrong, now what

Of course people are going to be wrong at some point. Even Woodward and Bernstein were wrong at least once. I’ve been wrong. There can be miscommunication between us and our sources. Our sources just have the wrong information or it changes between when we talk to them and the story is published. It happens, though the severity of it the last week was at a pretty bad level.

How journalists react to being wrong, to me, is important. Do we say “our bad” or do we “stand by our story”? I think it says more to admit you were wrong than to defend your stories and reporting when you know it was bad. We’re human and make mistakes. Own up to them and it will earn you more credit with the public.

That doesn’t mean anyone should make a habit of being wrong. Just own up to your mistakes.

Will we ever learn?

It seems after big news stories like the Marathon bombing, we’re dissecting what went wrong and how we can do better. But then lots of people fall into the same habits and we repeat mistakes.

I had an editor at The Hour who once told us that the public trust is like virginity. Once you lose it, you can never get it back.

If we keep making the same mistakes, we’re going to lose the public’s trust. What are we as journalists and as an industry if we don’t have the public’s trust?

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Before I write the rest of this post I have to say I am a hockey fan and I want the NHL lockout to end. I want to watch top-level hockey sooner rather than later.

But this post is about the power of social media and how it has changed the world, especially in sports and its coverage. The lockout is a prime example to show how things have changed.

I’ve been through three lockouts as a fan — the one that erased half of the 1994-95 season, the one that canceled the 2004-05 season and the current lockout. The 2004 lockout doesn’t seem that long ago, but in the world of journalism and social media it was.

I was still a reporter at a daily newspaper that barely had a website in 2004. Facebook was around, but I didn’t have an account. You still needed a school e-mail address to be part of Facebook then. MySpace was the rage. Never mind Twitter. News could be covered on a 24-7, but it was more for the top national brands and cable news networks.

In other words: We didn’t have the access to news quite that we have today.

So the news of the lockout came slower than it does today. There was no one live tweeting a press conference with the NHL or NHLPA. There weren’t people posting constant observations from outside the negotiating rooms.

I went to a lot of AHL games back then, but that’s how you knew what was happening with the team’s prospects. Fans didn’t have the access quite like they do today to the information and news about those teams. You had to rely on what people who went to games thought, and many times you were relying on people who weren’t watching hockey for a living.

Of course fans came back after the lockout. We didn’t have reason to be angry about things that were said or done because we didn’t have the access to what was being said like we do now. There was no social media campaign by the players or owners to make the other side look evil.

Fast forward to today. Now fans have unbelievable access to news, information and even people because of social media and the way news is published. Video of games and players is everywhere and quickly. We know what is being said by the commissioner and the head of the players union as soon as they’re saying it, even if we’re not next to a TV carrying Canadian sports channels. Someone tweets what’s being said and that’s retweeted and then retweeted again and again. On top of that players are on social media expressing their feelings about the lockout and, in some cases, engaging with fans about the lockout.

It shouldn’t be a shock the level of frustration and anger from anyone who loves the NHL is much higher than it was in 2004-05. Social media connects fans. They have started protests and expressed their anger. People frequently will respond to the NHL’s Twitter and Facebook account about the lockout, saying they need to fix it now. And with the number of fan blogs today, there are plenty of places for fans to express their opinions on the lockout.

The result? A study found the damage to the NHL’s brand because of the lockout is at an alarming level. From the article:

A disastrous map would be the one Level5 created following the BP PLC oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. It was the worst the company had seen – until it got around to the NHL this month.

But I wonder if the NHL and the NHLPA is listening or even realizing how the world has changed in the years since the last lockout. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, the owners, NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr and the players are taking a gamble on the fans returning. ”We recovered last time because we have the world’s greatest fans,” Bettman said last summer.

But that gamble is a losing bet. It’s always been a losing bet. It’s worse than spending $50 on Megamillions tickets expecting to win. All they had to do is look at the reaction on social media and compare the climate from 2004-05 and today. But it appears all involved had, and still have, their heads in the sand, not listening to the fans (aka the customers) and even the experts who say the lockout is killing the brand.

I can’t say I won’t be back as a fan. I know I will be even as I’m frustrated and angry with the current situation. One friend professed to me the other day he’d immediately buy tickets. But there are plenty of other people I know, passionate fans, who are angry or are disinterested. It’s going to be a hard sell to get them back and it’s going to be an even harder sell to get back the fans the league has gained in the last couple years.It’s not unreasonable to think the NHL will go from record highs in attendance and revenues to record lows. It could hurt some teams significantly, some of the same teams who are endorsing the lockout.It’s easy to say the lockout ending and saving some of the season would fix some of the damage, but I don’t know how much it would help now. So much damage has been done.The lesson here for everyone — whether you’re in journalism or you’re a brand — is that you cannot ignore the outside world. You have to adapt to changing technologies and news cycles. If you don’t, you are doomed to failure.

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I’ve needed a few days to digest the coverage of the shootings in Connecticut for assorted reasons (among them is I grew up 20 minutes from Newtown and I needed some time). But looking back, I think there are some lessons we all need to learn and other things that need to be discussed.

The spread of misinformation

It would take a lot of space to list all the piece of misinformation that spread far too quickly during Friday’s coverage. There were reports the father of the shooter was dead in New Jersey (he’s alive and in Connecticut) to how his mother was a teacher at the school (she was not and was killed at home). I’m still trying to understand how some of this information was reported as fact.

One of the biggest mistakes was the release of the name of the killer as Ryan Lanza, who lives in New Jersey. We knew fairly quickly it wasn’t him because of the Jersey Journal’s connections (and we were led to believe early it was his brother too). Ryan Lanza was alive and wasn’t a part of the shooting, and he was posting it wasn’t him on Facebook.

The Associated Press reported Ryan Lanza as the killer, even after other news organizations reported it was his brother. An anonymous law enforcement agent told the AP he had mixed up the names of the brothers later, which leads to an argument to be made about anonymous sources (I have been asking how national news outlets with no ties to the area have reliable anonymous sources to quote).

Meanwhile, reporters were digging through the Internet looking for every tidbit they could on Ryan Lanza, sharing his Facebook page and videos. The problem was no one was sure it was him. A Slate post asked if Ryan Lanza’s Facebook page was him, and they later had to write why they rushed to say why they searched through social media for the brothers.

It feels like to me, though, there was a lot of half reporting happening as the story developed. People were playing detective and not journalist in some ways too. Yes, we need to report what we know, but we need to be sure what we know is true.

I often tell reporters and editors that they don’t stop being journalists because it’s social media. They need to report things thoroughly and ask lots of questions. They need to confirm things before they write about them as fact.

Everyone wants to rush to be first rather than being right in today’s 24-7 news cycle (even though several studies show no one ever remembers who broke the story nor do they care). It’s easy to point fingers in hindsight, but it’s a lesson that everyone needs to take a breath before hitting post and making sure everything is right and complete.

But there’s lots of blaming of Twitter and social media in general for the rush and the failure to get things right. I refuse to accept that as an excuse. Don’t blame the platform for poor reporting. We all have a duty to get it right and get it right the first time, especially on stories like this.

Everyone needs to take a breath and think before they hit post, no matter the story.

The media crush

I drove through Newtown on Saturday. I wasn’t there because of curiosity; I was there because I was driving through to get to dinner with my friends in Danbury. But in my efforts to get to the highway, I got to see the media crush first hand.

On one side of the road was the church where there was a vigil being held. There was a giant sign that said “no press.” On the other side of the road, though, was a large group of media with cameras and their satellite trucks. It was surreal enough to see “home” on national television, but it was even more surreal to see all those people first hand.

And then I read Debbie Galant’s post for the NJ News Commons where she advocates for more combined forces for large news stories like this one. It’s an interesting concept.

First off, isn’t this why wire services exist in the first place? So the local coverage by one news organization can be spread to those who cannot be there. Plus wouldn’t you rather hear or see what the local news is doing with the story than a giant national outlet? They’re more likely to know the people and players in the story.

But how does it work? That’s a debate I’m sure we’ll all have to have if we wanted to calm the crush on a small town like this.

Naming the killer

After mass shootings there seems to be a debate on if the media should be naming the killer. It happened after the Aurora movie theater shooting and it happened again after Friday’s events. Steve Buttry had a blog post about the issue.

I disagree with doing it for a lot of reasons, but I also need to state my bias here. I suffer from depression and think the country needs to be discussing mental health on a larger scale.

That being said, I disagree with Steve and others about omitting the who from the story. It’s just as much an important part of the story as anything else. People are going to want to know why, and we should be reporting and trying to tell them why, and you can’t do that without reporting about the killer. Reporting about the Virginia Tech massacre and the killer there led to uncovering the holes in the system that left him untreated for mental illness. These are the kinds of issues journalists need to be uncovering, especially as people are reeling from the number of incidents this year.

You also have to determine where the line is drawn. Do we not report the name of anyone who is charged with murder? What crimes is it OK to report a name and not OK to do it?

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