Matt Thomas sent me these questions for a class he’s in at the University of Minnesota. I thought I’d reprint them here, and I welcome your feedback.
• What is the impact social media is having on reporting?
Social media has opened a completely different avenue for direct interaction with viewers. I can put my story idea on Twitter and Facebook, and have experts come to me. Viewers will share their thoughts, which helps to shape my story. People point me to resources. The crowd is making my stories better.
It also gives reporters a direct way to create a personal brand and audience. Instead of only using the TV station or newspaper to promote work, an indivivdual reporter can go directly to an audience.
• What are advantages of using social media for reporting?
I can promote my stories, driving new viewers to the newscast.
I crowdsource, by using the wisdom of the crowd to make better stories.
I listen, by seeing what people are talking about, and mining that for great story ideas.
• What are the disadvantages of social media?
It takes time. I’d say my use of social media adds an extra half-hour to my workload.
The instant gratification and feedback is mostly good, but it can be overwhelming. It also is only a slice of the audience, and it’s easy to generalize what’s being talked about online to what’s being talked about. That generalization is not necessarily true.
• How do you think reporters should use social media now, and in the future?
I think reporters will better learn how to engage in 2-way conversations. What’s most exciting to me is the way that social media breaks down the wall between reporters and audience. I can get feedback, get ideas, and respond. I can get criticism, and respond. People will point out errors in my stories (typos, grammar, etc.) and I can have them fixed.
Right now most reporters are simply using social media to promote. They’re missing out on the real power available.
• Do you think it is good to use social media as a reporter? Why?
I have more than 8000 Twitter followers and nearly 5000 Facebook friends. Social media has led to a profile on me in Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine, and it’s led to me getting my own day (Jason DeRusha Day) in the city of Minneapolis. That’s been fun.
The real power is in my stories. I’m getting more relevant information, more experienced and knowledgable experts, and better comments from viewers affected by my topics. That’s why it’s good to use social media.