My Interview With Mashable : The Power of Social For Local News
Posted by derushaj on November 11, 2009
I just had the experience many of the people I talk with every day get to enjoy: I was interviewed, and only one of my quotes was used. It’s in this really nice article Leah Betancourt wrote for Mashable about local media going social. (Leah works for the Star Tribune, but we’ve never met).
Anyway, I thought people might be interested to see the whole interview, with some of my thoughts on the power of social media for a local television news reporter. The questions are Leah’s.
Every night, photographer Joe Berglove and I produce a “Good Question” segment for our 10 p.m. newscast. I’ve always wanted to explore the question of how someone gets an official day. Who decides that it’s National Hot Dog Day, or Cancer Awareness Month, or whatever. So like I do almost every day, I shared my question with my Twitter followers (3600+) and my Facebook friends (2000+). Then things left my hands, and started spreading throughout the social media world.
A guy I’ve never met, nor corresponded with, turned #DeRushaDay into a hashtag. Soon after that, another guy made an “official” DeRusha Day poster. He grabbed a picture I had posted of myself on my Flickr page, and used that to create the poster. The picture was of me wearing a suit and tie on top, and zubaz on the bottom. I’m telling you, this story is really about the unique combination of social media, a slow day online, and Zubaz. Without the Zubaz, and the funny poster, I’m not sure this would have spread.
After the Twitter and Facebook spreading of the story, another guy I never met (Dusty Fields) created JasonDeRushaDay.com. A friend of mine, Max Sparber, the editor of a popular Minneapolis news aggregator/blog MNSpeak.com, created a tongue-in-cheek online petition. All of this happened within 7 hours of my initial tweet. Well before my story even hit the air.
3. How did the mayor proclamation come about?
I had always planned on interviewing the mayor’s staff about the qualifications to get an official day. Because this was spreading online, I asked about the chances that I could really get my own day. They laughed it off. But it just kept spreading online. The mayor’s PR guy, Jeremy Hanson, told me there was a spot online to officially apply for a day. I wanted to give them the chance to officially turn me down (thinking that would be funny), so I filled out the online form.
But the tongue-in-cheek petition got more than 100 signatures. A blog on CityPages.com wrote about the DeRushaDay phenomenon, leaving it open that I could still get a day. Then the mayor’s office contacted me, and told me that it was a go. They asked me to submit my list of “WHEREAS”… which I did… and then we agreed on a date. It was all pretty shocking to me. I give the Mayor of Minneapolis and his staff a lot of credit. I’m a local TV reporter with six years of service to Minneapolis. I clearly do not deserve my own day. But the effort of the social media community to rally behind an absolutely insignificant cause — now that is indeed noteworthy. Seriously, I think the mayor of Minneapolis and his staff are tuned into social media. They knew what was happening, and they showed a lot of good humor and good spirit by going along for the ride.
It’s somewhat embarrassing to admit this, but it’s much easier for me to upload pictures directly to Flickr, and then embed them in my blog entries (www.wcco.com/jasonblog) than it would be for me to send it to a wcco.com web producer, have them send it into our system, then e-mail me some code, to stick into my blog. I use Flickr because it’s easy.
I started using Flickr like everyone else: to share pictures with friends and out-of-state family. I have a couple dozen people who follow my Flickr photos, but it’s no big deal.
People kept asking me, “How do we celebrate DeRusha Day? Will there be a parade?” We thought that was a bit much. But we thought it’d be fun to throw a party. The day was more about the people than it was about me. So a PR friend of mine (Rich Goldsmith) and someone I’d never met, but followed me on Facebook, teamed up and planned the party in a day. They got a hot, downtown Minneapolis venue to do drink and appetizer specials, they got a liquor distributor to donate a case of rum, and we were off.
We also passed a bucket to collect money for one of my favorite local non-profits, People Serving People, a homeless shelter in downtown. About 100 people showed up, and they donated $350. Someone on twitter jokingly said that I agreed to match that, and I thought that was a great idea, so I did match the donation.
Often I use viewer feedback from Twitter and Facebook in my stories, but more often I use it to shape the direction of my questions as I’m out working. The collective group thinks of angles and topics that wouldn’t have always occurred to me. It’s extremely helpful on the front end to know what people want to know.
I can barely keep track of e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter and still get my work done! I do a daily news story, send out a video e-mail, shoot and produce a 15 second daily promotional tease, host a 30 minute webcam chat (www.wcco.com/jasoncam), then I write my story in a format that makes sense on the web. It’s a pretty packed day.
Jasoncam was put in without much of a plan. It’s free technology, other than the cost of the webcam, so we thought – let’s try it. We’ll figure out if it’s useful. I decided to keep it on all day, and then host a news conference, where I’d devote my full attention to it at 4 p.m. daily. It’s fun. There’s a PR person who comes in there every morning and tries to get her hospital into my Good Question story for that day. There’s a core group of about 10 people who’ve become friends, because they chat in the chatroom. At 4 we have somewhere between 20 and 50 people who come to chat.
It’s very important to me to bring viewers into the process. They help shape the way I research my stories, they help shape the way I tell my stories. Having the webcam is just another way that people can immediately connect to me. We’ve done stories based on suggestions from people in the webcam chat room.
It’s been an experiment to try to figure out what the best practices and uses for a live newsroom webcam might be. We’ve learned that it’s huge during live weather situations. It’s huge when you have a guest on the air, and then can bring that person over to take live questions from viewers (Andrew Zimmern from Bizarre Foods and Bizarre World came to our studio last week to be on the noon show. I tweeted out that he was in the Jasoncam, and he talked to 30 or so people before he went on the noon. He gave away a book. It was cool).
I won an Emmy in the Advanced Media Category for Online Host/Anchor/Personality. A compilation of Good Question stories about health topics won in the category for Health/Science reporting.
I’ve won in the past for Advanced Media Online Personality. That encompasses my social media work, my blog, webcam, the whole bit.
I also occasionally pick up the phone. Every day I also leave the computer and talk to real live people! I kid, but it is important to remember that the online social sphere is only a sliver of the wider society. My TV stories are seen nightly by some 200,000 households in the Twin Cities. Most of those people aren’t on Twitter or Facebook. At least not yet. It’s important to get out and hear the stories and get reaction from what I affectionately call “real people.”
There is no chance I would have the same fan base without social media tools. Although… I did start down this road before we were Twittering and Facebooking by simply commenting on blogs in the Twin Cities. I’ve always been an active participant in the online community. I think many journalists simply try to use social media tools as another platform to broadcast from. To me, that’s not very interesting. If I want to broadcast, I’ll do it on TV. If i want to interact, I do that online.
I’m 34 years old. I’ve only been in town for 6 years. I’m a reporter, not a big-time anchor. My work with social media has landed me a good deal of local attention, including some pretty big articles in Regional Magazines. That would not have happened if I wasn’t so engaged online.
I hope so. I started out using social media personally, because it was fun. As the personal use started to get crowded out by the professional use (with all the “randoms” starting to follow and friend me), I tried to be more strategic about it. I use social media in the story gathering process. I lift up the veil, I talk about the story I’m working on, I get feedback. On TV, I invite viewers to go to my blog at wcco.com and then discuss the story. I’m really interested in closing the loop between online fans (who follow me during the process) and TV viewers. How do I get those web people to tune into the TV at ten? I try to put those people on TV. That seems to help.
(see john [daenzer]’s answer)
10. Do you have any plans to do more with social media tools or add more social media tools to your daily grind?
As new tools develop, I sign up. I used to use MySpace, I no longer use that. I’m sure new things will come along that will be useful. I wish people were more comfortable with sending their feedback via video. That way I could use that stuff more easily on the air.
I suppose I have used YouTube for stories before. I did a story on how a video goes viral… and I uploaded a silly video tease to YouTube, and invited people to comment on the story. We got two video responses, and a handful of comments. That was pretty cool.
Good journalists go where the people are. The people are using Twitter and Facebook today. Who knows what they’ll be using tomorrow? Whatever people are using tomorrow — I’ll be there.
You wouldn’t want everyone on your staff doing features on the local zoo. You wouldn’t want everyone knocking on the door of the family of a homicide victim. You don’t want everyone using social media. Look to the people who enjoy it, who get it, who have value they can add in that sphere – and encourage them. There’s much talk about guidelines for social media, and our station does have a one-sheet of things to think about. I think it’s useful to remind people that everything they put online is public. But to say:”if you wouldn’t say it on the air, don’t tweet it” is stupid. You tweet the things you would never say on the air! But you need to be careful about it (avoid politics and religion, generally).
Let your staffers who are naturally into this stuff become leaders. Just because someone isn’t a manager, doesn’t mean they can’t lead internal seminars on how to use these tools.
And don’t mandate that people link back to your organization. However, when it makes sense, they should link back. During big news events: e-mail staffers who use Twitter and Facebook a link to tweet. Shorten it for them. Make it easy.
I’ve always been very authentic on the air. What you see is what you get. So many TV people are phonies on the air, and then try to act like real people online. It doesn’t work. I’m genuine on the air, and genuine online. People know that I’m not jumping in there because it’s the trend, they know I’m there because I really enjoy it. I have a sense of humor online. I don’t just self-promote.