Jason DeRusha: Lessons in New Media

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Interview on social Media for a University of Minnesota class

Posted by derushaj on April 12, 2011

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.

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How TV Stations Should Set Up Employee Blogs

Posted by derushaj on August 18, 2008

I’ve been obsessively watching the Olympics.  There’s a commercial for KARE11.com performed by Mayda which some of my coworkers think is horrible, but I think is kind cool.  Mayda raps about several of KARE’s high profile bloggers, and invites me to check the blogs.

So I typed in kare11.com/blogs and found nothing.  The real URL is kare11.com/blog.  OK.

They promote Sven, Diana Pierce, KARE-mudgeon, and Perk.  I thought I’d see what the last several blog entries entailed.

Sven: 12 days ago and one month ago.  Come on Sven, you could at least blog weekly.
KARE-mudgeon: last updated one month ago.  Enough said.
Diana (Lady Di): After quite a delay in blogging, she’s back.  Three days ago, and two months ago.
Perk: He’s done an awesome job from the Olympics.  The KARE web effort for the event has also been impressive.  This is Perk’s Olympic blog.

So what’s my point?  TV stations should resist the temptation to have everyone in the world blog.  Instead, pick a few people who would be engaging and drive page views, and promote them.  Not just online with banner ads, but consider having an on-air promotional campaign.  Ideal blog topics: politics, consumer, sports, local events.  If you’re in Denver, it’s skiing.  If you’re in Minnesota: Maybe it’s fishing.

In the KARE example: Perk is nailing it.  At my station, WCCO, Terri Gruca struggled at first finding her voice in blogging, but now it’s a great stop for deals and consumer tips.  (if anyone should think I’m picking on KARE, Mark Rosen has a WCCO blog that should be put out of its misery, considering the last post was from May 29)

Group blogs? Sometimes work, but generally they result in no one taking charge, and a lack of unique voice.  That’s a recipe for disaster online.

Why not have everyone blog? No one likes doing extra work that isn’t supported and isn’t viewed.  This shouldn’t just be an ego stroke.  This should be a new way of telling stories and engaging viewers.  Getting newsroom employees motivated to work online is a huge challenge.  The “Everyone will blog” approach is more destructive than the “no one will blog” approach in my view.  Crappy blogs lead to viewer/web user disappointment.  You don’t get a lot of do-overs. No blogs is simply a missed opportunity.

Ed in the comments recommends CONSISTENCY.  I couldn’t agree more.  Publish daily, weekly, monthly, whatever.  Just be consistent.  I tend to think you should post multiple times a week.

Posted in Media | Tagged: , , , , | 9 Comments »

Jason WCCO Blog Entries Showing Interaction

Posted by derushaj on April 11, 2008

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How To Reward Newsroom “2.0” Staffers

Posted by derushaj on April 11, 2008

We all know no one has any money.  And the people who would do this best will do it without money.  So how do you reward them?   

  • Don’t mock their efforts: It’s easy to take pot shots or make little sarcastic remarks, a la, “You gonna put that in your blog?”  That’s not helpful, and it makes it harder to foster an environment where experimentation and innovation thrive.
  • PRAISE Them: Read the blogs or videoblogs and send notes praising things that are good.  In a newsroom, staffers rarely get notes of praise.  It’s the only currency anyone is able to use these days.
  • Consider On-Air Promotion: This is a huge way of rewarding the people who do this for you.  How many stations have a promo singling out bloggers?  I can’t think of any.  But how meaningful would that be to the assignment editor running your baseball blog, or your health reporter with the medical blog?
  • Give Them Leadership Opportunities: Consider inviting local bloggers into your building for a forum on media.  Instead of having your anchor lead it, have your blogger/videoblogger lead the effort.
  • Don’t be afraid to offer constructive critisicm: Some things are not going to work.  Some people will go too far in experimenting.  Don’t call the person on the carpet.  Instead, invite them to discuss it, share thoughts, and try to improve things for the future. 

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How To Find Newsroom “2.0” Staffers

Posted by derushaj on April 11, 2008

Ask them: You probably can identify the staffers you have who would write an interesting blog, or prepare an interesting videoblog.  So invite them to do it.

  • Anchors Don’t Necessarily Make Good Bloggers: Just because the person is the TV face of your station, doesn’t mean they should be the online face of your station.
  • Look For People With A Voice: You need someone with a sense of humor, or a skill at biting analysis.
  • Specialists Are Ideal: Political reporters, sports reporters, weather people, or staffers with developed hobbies (the skiier, the singer, the gardner).  Look for a niche and fill it.
  • Less Is More: Resist the temptation to mandate that everyone carve out a web presence.  One great blog/videoblog is better than 7 crappy ones.
  • Take Advantage of Ego:  I started blogging here because I saw a morning weather guy with an “I’m gonna be a daddy” blog, and thought I could do a better job.  I asked if I could have a blog, and there it was.  I started a videoblog when I thought of things to do in the field covering stories that would be funny or interesting.  I asked, and I was given the leash.  If you have a staff member who’s asking to do more, generally, it’s a good idea to let them do more.

Posted in Media | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Making Non-Visual Stories Visual

Posted by derushaj on April 5, 2008

Your assignment?  “Cover the School Board meeting.”  Boooooring.  Or is it?  What to do when the assignment is as exciting as watching paint dry; how to make a non-visual story visually interesting. 


  • What is the story really about?

Is it about the school board meeting?  Is it about the new policy your principal is proposing?  Go deeper than that.


  • Think about your story in advance

What will you be talking about?  What images do you need to match your words? 


  • Design an action plan

Can you come up with a visual way to tell your story?  Is there a metaphor or simile you can use?  Is it like the last second touchdown?  Is it like arguing with your parents?  Is it like waiting for that Myspace message from the girl you really like?


  • Think of meetings as the middle of your story

An effective way to deal with boring meeting video is to use it in the middle, or use it as a set-up.  Example: Tell the story of the person affected by the meeting, then show me video of the meeting and a soundbite from an official, then go back to that original person for reaction.


  • Consider Reporter On-Camera Involvement

Sometimes if you have no video, appearing on camera can be an effective way to bridge the gap.  This shouldn’t just be because you’re on an ego trip, but it should be because you can tell the story in an interesting way.


  • Be creative, be crazy, don’t hold back

One of the greatest sins in journalism is to be boring.  You’re better off missing the mark by trying something crazy than you are being boring.  So experiment.  Do something crazy.  Don’t be afraid to fail.

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Twitter For Journalists

Posted by derushaj on January 1, 2008

Last week I was doing a story on how Christmas trees can cause serious allergy problems. Senior 10 p.m. producer Scott Howard noticed this story on WebMD talking about the huge amount of mold spores released to the air when we bring a dead tree inside.

I lined up an allergist (that was easy) and then went to a Christmas tree lot (also easy). To put this in baseball terms: my effort was solid single. I needed someone who was sniffing and sneezing and didn’t know that their real Christmas tree might be to blame. My photographer, Chris Cruz, was just the person. He had symptoms of an allergy which started when he brought his tree into his home.

But I didn’t really want to interview my co-worker.

Enter Twitter.com. Twitter is hard to describe. On it’s homepage: “Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co-workers to communicate…through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?” Most people use Twitter in conjunction with a text messaging plan, and follow a series of friends. I have an account here.

Last week, I sent out this message on my twitter page, alerting the 80 people who follow me that I was looking for someone with a Christmas tree allergy.

Shortly thereafter, I got a direct message from Connie telling me “I am allergic to some Christmas trees! don’t know if I would say I “go nuts,” but I do break out in a rash if I touch them without gloves.”

Bingo. We were at Connie’s house within an hour, and I found the perfect interview for my story. Connie showed us her gloves, showed us her real tree, and was the perfect person to help tell our story. After the interview, I sent this alert out telling my friends about Ranty’s great soundbite.

If you want to follow me on Twitter, you have to join (it’s free). Julio Ojeda-Zapata, the tech columnist for the Pioneer Press (and and prolific tech blogger), just wrote an article about Twitter’s use for journalists.

Posted in Media, Technology Stuff | Tagged: , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Rapid Response Competitive Public Relations

Posted by derushaj on December 11, 2007

Not long ago I did a story on a woman who believes her DirecTV installer (a contractor with another company) stole her laptop computer.  It was there prior to install, then gone after.

Immediately after my story, I got this e-mail from Christopher Huseth, Comcast

Jason, I just read your story about the sub-contractor for DIRECTV stealing Ms Adams lap top in Robinsdale.  How terrible!  Sad to say I’m not surprised to hear this   I would like to extend Ms. Adams to Comcast Cable, Internet, and Phone services.   We are local, bonded, and insured.   Rest assured I would personally follow up on her installation myself, if she was interested in switching television providers?    Please pass along to Ms. Adams as you may?  My contact information is below.

I forwarded the e-mail and today got a note from Mr. Huseth saying that Jamie Adams may switch when she moves.  Good, personal, public relations.

Posted in Media, Public Relations | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Social Networking To Gather Story Ideas

Posted by derushaj on November 21, 2007

I’m an active participant in several social networking sites.  I MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.  I also have a LiveJournal page, a tumblr site, and this blog.   Plus my wcco.com/jasonblog page.  Insane.

Anyway, as an experiment, I sent out a blast on facebook and myspace, searching for story ideas.  I wondered how many I’d get, and whether they’d be useful.  I got more than a dozen ideas, at least half of them were really good and actionable.  One of those ideas, I’m working on investigating right now.

For the news tonight, I was working on a story on a crime spree hitting local coffee shops.  I sent out a twitter notice, that I was doing the story, and looking for people’s favorite coffee shops to go shoot video at.  I took one suggestion, and that’s where I shot tonight’s story.

In the old days, journalists had time to work the beat and develop sources.  Today, there’s no reason to not tap into the social networks which many of us are developing for fun.  Don’t abuse it by asking too often.

Posted in Media | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Crazy Day At The TV Station

Posted by derushaj on November 17, 2007

I’m a reporter at a Minneapolis TV Station and today was insane.

8:45-10:30am: I spoke to a group of Minnesota Hospital PR people.

1:45 pm: Left For Work

2:30 pm: Attended afternoon meeting

3:30 pm: Departed for Bloomington recycling facility, to shoot 10 p.m. story

4:59 pm: Arrived back at station to tease 10 p.m special project story on the set

5:15 pm: Teased story

6:00 pm: Started logging video for 10 p.m. story on recycling

8:00 pm: Finished writing 10 p.m. story on recycling

8:30 pm: Go to convention center to receive national award from FCCLA.

9:15 pm: Back at station to write web stories for YouTube (special project story) and Recycling story.  Then wrote a blog for YouTube.

10:00 pm: Watched news.

10:20 pm: Left for home.

I’ve spent the past hour setting up my new TiVo HD, so that makes everything in the world right.  The only TV I watch is on TiVo, so it was dumb to have an HD tv and not watch it in Hi-Def.

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