Social media has changed the way many people communicate and get their news on a daily basis. That means journalists need not only understand social media sites, but add them as a research tool.
Here’s a sample:
HOW & WHY JOURNALISTS CAN USE THESE TOOLS
- Connect with relevant communities. This is especially true of Facebook groups. It can enhance your reporting and help your work gain traction. For example, check out the savvy way the Orlando Sentinel connects with its community via Facebook groups.
- Developing story ideas. While many journalists are fiercely competitive and therefore secretive about story ideas, the truth is that most story ideas aren’t very original and therefore don’t warrant secrecy. Reaching out to your network or a community can be a fast way to find useful, unexpected angles, anecdotes, sources, and leads.
- Explore career options. Asking questions through these tools can help you gain context and insight on beats, types of work, your industry, your work, or your abilities. This doesn’t necessarily mean shopping for a new employer; it could mean evolving your role within your company. More information is better, since it helps you steer your career (rather than the reverse).
- Support and fuel your projects. If you regularly publish a blog, column, news stories, editorials, etc., a social-media network or community can help pool people’s energy, creativity, and insight. This can make your job easier by giving you good ideas, having a sounding board, and developing a fairly safe space for critique. Although many journalists are loners, in fact our work improves when we don’t try to do it all ourselves.
- Humility and transparency. Too often, IMHO, journalists lose credibility in their communities because they prefer to hold themselves apart from public discourse. They ask their questions and conduct their research in private, they strive to conceal their own views, they only publicly present packaged answers (in the form of stories), and they generally don’t acknowledge or engage with critics.Actively engaging with your community, listening to them, being transparent with them doesn’t lower you in any way. In fact, it demonstrates respect and enhances credibility. Sure, it’s uncomfortable at first (just one day into the Tidbits Facebook Group, and I’ve already had my credibility challenged), but you learn to take it in stride ‚Äî and it has a lot of benefits.