I am at a serious story and have to post on social media. How can I avoid seeming insensitive?

Social Awareness Comments Off on I am at a serious story and have to post on social media. How can I avoid seeming insensitive?
Dec 162018

 

If you read industry blogs, you have seen plenty of cases of reporters tweeting a smiling face at a murder scene, natural disaster or some other similarly toned story. Facebook postings about meeting the national correspondent hero and taking a selfie get plenty of critiques too. This occurs often enough that one has to ask why? Why do so many continue making this mistake? 

The answer is two fold. First, many think in order to show they are at a scene, they have to show themselves in that scene. Second, like it or not, many journalists become rather immune to the scenes around them. In a sense you become less sensitive while in the middle of the moment. Part of this is a survival tactic. The stories covered are often hard to take. This is a natural human reaction. But it is a part of the biz, that the viewer does not want or need to understand. If they do get a sense of it, it comes across as trivializing the story, its impact and the viewer.

Many stations provide little to no guidance on how to handle sensitive issues while on social media, even though you are required to post. So let’s create a checklist you can have on hand to help yourself navigate a tough situation when you are emotionally impacted, the deadlines are intense and you are trying to fulfill your obligations without a lot of time to stop and think.  

Before you post ask yourself:

Does a selfie help cover this story?

What is the tone of my coverage today?

How will this tweet/FB posting define my image as a journalist?

Yes, these questions are heavy. That’s why we are going to look at how to answer each one before you are at a serious story. If you know how to quickly gage the answers then this list is a simple reminder that could keep you from making a big mistake that hurts credibility. 

Let’s tackle the first question. Does a selfie help cover the story? Why do you want to put yourself into the image in the first place? Again, we are focusing on a serious story. Did you just meet the hero who saved the day? Do you want an image of you talking with that person? Did you just get an exclusive look at an element? Do you want to show yourself getting a tour of the crime scene for example? A look at the fire line? Then ask, is the image as effective if you show just that hero, or just that fire line and you are not in the image at all?  Again, a lot of reporters innately think they have to show that they are on the story to really be on the story. But I am going to ask you to consider a social media selfie the way you should consider the use of a standup. If there is a way to let the story tell itself with images alone, then you do not need to be part of it. If you are describing something, pointing something out or connecting two things and your physical presence adds to understanding, then having you in the shot is appropriate. But that doesn’t mean a selfie. Have the photographer you are working with take a pic of you talking to the subject or being given that tour of the scene. If you are an MMJ, consider asking someone you trust to snap it for you. If you must show yourself at a scene, it should be a shot that shows you actively engaged in covering the story. When is the last time you saw a network 2-shot with the correspondent and the interview subject standing side-by-side, grinning? Selfies send a very different tone when you really think about it.

Speaking of… What is the tone of my coverage today? Often the answer to this is going to rule out selfies. If the tone is to show the intensity of the shooting scene, how does a selfie convey that intensity appropriately? If the post celebrates a rescue in flood waters, what will your physical presence do to make that more clear in a still shot?  

Then there is a question of your legacy. That might sound corny, but it is true. Really every FB post, serious story or not, applies. The industry is small. It can be ruthless. You do not want to be the subject of this comment: “Wait that person looks familiar. Oh, that’s the genius who smiled at the mass murder scene.” Every post, every tweet, every Instagram image has to portray you as the type of journalist you want to be. That is hard. You will not get every posting right. But you want to avoid major gaffes. Especially when covering a serious story. The two questions above should help you, so that by the time you get to this question your gut knows what to do.

If you get to a large scale story and meet your mentor, take a picture with the person if there’s down time. Just don’t post it. It really only matters to you anyway. Why take the risk of putting it on your work accounts, and have some think you are insensitive? In terms of your private account, just remember no account is truly private when you are a journalist. Check your privacy settings and know you could still take some risk. 

Bottom line, serious stories are hard enough to cover in a Tweet, Facebook post, or Instagram image. Unless your presence in the shot is really crucial for the viewer to understand the story, the best option is to avoid a selfie. The fact that you are posting is enough to show you are there. You have to do all you can to protect your credibility. Selfie’s often just are not worth it while on a serious story. Better to go conservative, and decrease your risk of seeming insensitive. Now am I saying never do a selfie? No. But this article is about serious stories. Stories that stir intense emotions of sadness, fear, anger, pain or frustration. Happy stories, inspiring stories and some stories discussing challenges could open the door to selfies. The litmus test above will help you know when. 

Can't See It? Then Tweet It!

Know Your Newsroom, Reporting, Social Awareness Comments Off on Can’t See It? Then Tweet It!
Oct 212015

By now you’ve probably heard about the big story this week. It was an embarrassing gaffe during a live shot about the Michigan and Michigan State football game. It was a game decided on the final play. The on-scene reporter went TV and said the wrong team won. The anchor then had to correct the mistake when the reporter tossed back to the studio.

In this FTVLIVE article the sports anchor is quoted as writing on Facebook that “we tried bringing the most up to date stats as we could as we were going live at the exact moment everything was happening. Had two scripts written and ready to go and got bad information off my phone while on air. And then we immediately corrected it when we could. I’m sorry for getting it wrong but in the end it was corrected and it certainly won’t be a finish forgotten by any of us.”

Now if you have worked in TV news and covered a live event, especially a sports event even once, you know that it can be very hard to get the right information on the air in the final minutes of a newscast. Frankly, I am shocked this kind of gaffe doesn’t happen more often. The biggest reason why is the reporter has to leave the event in order to go live. That’s generally because of where you have to park the live truck and coverage rights, since the live event itself is televised.

So how can the reporter know what is happening when he/she doesn’t have eyes on the event?
There are several ways to prevent this, the biggest being putting someone in the stadium, who has news sense and can let the reporter know. But based on the description of how it went down quoted above, they may have attempted this solution. Guessing whoever was on the phone, or whatever site was used, will not be part of the equation next time.

This gaffe does open up discussion for an even bigger issue, and that is the need to be first, even at great risk of being wrong. This particular flub is making all sorts of rounds because it seems like such an obvious mistake. How could the reporter not know? How could you miss something when you are at the event? Look at his live shot background. He had huge stadium walls separating him. A big part of the blame here, lies with the decision on how to execute bringing the latest about the game to the newscast audience.

There is an age old argument that the people who really give a rip about the game or sporting event you are at, are actually watching it. So the push to be first is irrelevant because the audience that cares is not watching you, they are watching the game. But there is a strong counterpoint that this is a huge event everyone will be talking about in the DMA and you simply cannot ignore it. So here’s where I am going to get bold and ask, why not go non traditional? Why not keep the reporter in the stands, so your eyewitness actually knows what happened? Can you show a live pic, in the place where crews are allowed to be (even if that’s outside the stadium) and mention that your reporter is there, and live tweeting about the event? Can you show tweets fullscreen from your crew in the stands to show that you are all over the coverage? Here’s why this is a win-win scenario: The people watching the game, may still engage with your sports reporter on the scene through social media. The reporter can focus on the experience of the game for those who could not go for TV and tweet about the event with no worries about missing a key play. So the reporter can turn a piece on how much the fans are loving the event, or something controversial that happened earlier that airs in the newscast, then tweet about the here and now in the final minutes of the game. Put the tweets up, put up a live pic and keep your information accurate. It hits more audience because he can even be interacting with people who are still at the game.

The problem TV stations face is how to disseminate information in this digital age. Most stations still want all the biggest information to be on TV first. That means we have to take a crew live at the event. This is sometimes a mistake. You are limiting your possibilities and increasing the risk of an embarrassing mistake like this one at the Michigan/Michigan State game. In the case of live sports events, live shots need to be more about the atmosphere, and eyewitness accounts of what is happening. Relevant facts are already being posted online. I am not saying ignore the facts, but don’t force someone into the situation this reporter was in. The odds were stacked against him. He was OUTSIDE the event with no way to personally witness what was happening. How can he realistically report on what was happening? If you go the social media emphasis route, he could be in the stadium bringing information in a relevant way through Facebook, Twitter and the station website. He could post to these outlets without having to leave the stadium. In order to serve the live newscast audience, remember, the viewers are likely casual fans, they are not watching the game. Do a pkg on the experience and then use graphics of the tweets to update the facts. The biggest payoff is that you serve multiple audiences and are emphasizing what each cares about in the way you are covering the event. TV news is not just about showing up and covering an event anymore. Now the focus has to be on how to do it, and include social media in a relevant way. The reporter being on scene showcases that the station understands this is a big event for the community. Showing what it’s been like at the game in a package, serves the casual sports-viewing audience. Tweeting and posting Facebook updates on the game itself, in real time helps your reporter directly engage with the audience in real time, thus making a connection. Showcasing that he is doing so throughout the newscast generates curiosity and a chance to engage with the reporter if you cannot be there yourself. This is effective even if the person is watching the event live on another channel. It is another way to be a relevant eyewitness and get more of the audience actively involved with your reporter who’s at the event.

Again, you have to look at the regulations for covering these sporting events. Some events prohibit live tweeting. Most of the time mentioning a Tweet works and is still compelling. Especially because the photographer with the live picture would then understand why some fans were walking out looking devastated. The whole scene, inside the stadium and out would have had relevant perspective. As TV stations cover a variety of live events, the bottom line is that they need to discuss how they will engage with the viewers actively. Simply showing up and reporting what you hope is first and right, is not enough anymore. Your viewers use social media to track events, they expect you to as well.

How To Have An Edge On Twitter Without Ruining Credibility

Social Awareness, Uncategorized Comments Off on How To Have An Edge On Twitter Without Ruining Credibility
Nov 242014

Last week’s episode of HBO’s “The Newsroom” (titled: “Run”) tried to make a statement about journalists use of Twitter. In fact, it appears that TV journalists use of social media is going to be a theme this season.

In “Run” the character Hallie sends out a late night tweet from ACN’s account saying “Boston Marathon: Republicans rejoice that there’s finally a national tragedy that doesn’t involve guns.” When asked what made her even think of a tweet like that, the answer is “retweets.”

Ok, so we all know this is hypothetical and some might even say “All journalists know better than a posting a politically charged tweet like that one.” But just within the last several days a real TV network was called out for an insensitive tweet.

http://ftvlive.com/todays-news/2014/11/18/its-always-a-great-show-when

And if you read FTVLive or Huffington Post, then you have likely seen the site point out examples of countless insensitive tweets and inappropriate exchanges on the local level. Here are three recent examples:

http://ftvlive.com/todays-news/2014/11/11/everyone-smile-and-say-torture

http://ftvlive.com/todays-news/2014/11/11/this-is-not-how-to-use-social media

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/22/kansas-city-royals-kctv-world-series-tweet-baseball_n_6028090.html

Bottom line, journalists and industry leaders are struggling to have an edge on Twitter and other social media. Make fun of “The Newsroom” bringing up retweets all you like, but there’s truth in the not so thinly veiled critique. Journalists are getting a lot of pressure from their bosses to get lots of retweets, followers and influence on social media. So let’s talk about ways to get an edge without ending up embarrassed.

Let’s get something straight first. Journalists are tempted to go too far for two reasons. The influence of so called “citizen journalists” and pressure from above to be influential on social media. So let’s break those ideas down a bit.

Citizen journalists, are eyewitnesses, often with video or still images of newsworthy events. But they also often have biases. They are untrained in how to interpret situations, so they simply show what they see and then try to insert their OPINIONS on the issue.

Actual trained journalists, first and foremost need to keep their opinions off of their “official” social media accounts. That would have fixed several of the above scenarios as well. Now, I know this has been said before to you, but there’s the temptation to inject opinion because of the influence/retweet factor. With few exceptions the most influential “voices” on social media are full of opinions and very clearly state them. So how can you get that edge, and not follow in those same footsteps?

First and foremost, journalists must define their roles on social media. Just like a newsroom defines its news philosophy for its newscasts. Since many TV stations and companies are not willing or able to give you clear guidelines to define that role, let’s set up a framework for you to start doing it yourself.

What Is A Journalist On Twitter?
Educated Witness
Divulger of Information
Conversation Starter

What if journalists defined their roles with those three simple statements I just listed? Let’s dive in a little more.

As an educated witness, you need to fill up your social media accounts with images you see and characters you have met. You need to provide facts or explain you are searching for specific information as you showcase the images. Standing in front of a crime scene saying “We are first on the scene” is what a citizen journalist would do. They want to show off that they are there. A regular schmo, excited at a chance to be a part of something. You are a witness to many events, and go into those situations with some knowledge and the know how to get more information. See how the temptation to post a tweet like standing in front of a crime scene and saying “Here we are” is less likely to happen with the definition educated witness? I want to make sure you understand, viewers and folks on Twitter EXPECT you to be at the scene. And they expect more out of you than showing you are there. They want you to do something with your social media accounts that they can’t just do themselves.

Which leads to the next part of our definition, divulger of information. As you showcase the images you have (because you want to have an edge/influence and plenty of retweets) add a nugget of information.

“Firefighters fear these flames reach higher than their aerial ladder can go.”
“This accident scene looks awful but everyone walked away safely.”
“This pile of documents could change how your child is tested in school.”

Think extra details. Divulge information. Think how and why. Why does this image I am sending look this way? How will people be impacted by this picture? Why care about a pile of documents? What will firefighters face that a citizen journalist cannot easily notice or explain? These nuggets of information make you credible and valuable to follow. You gain an edge. You gain followers. You gain influence.

Finally, when you look at the most influential people on Twitter they are great at interacting with “their peeps.” They engage in conversation. So start some. You can bring up an issue without inserting your opinion. You can ask questions of your followers. Then retweet some of the reactions you get to engage people into talking more. If they see that you are interested in what they have to say, followers respect you more. They are more willing to bring things up to you. Engaging does not have to mean showing your breakfast donut and talking about how you exercise. If you are in an editorial meeting and thinking, does anyone care that city council is voting on allowing a new development, ask. See if you get hits. I know some of you are saying it tips off the competition if you do these things. But if you want to gain social media trust and influence, you have to start letting your followers in on the news of the day. There is a counter argument that they will let their friends know you are considering this story or that story, and encouraging them to tune in to see it. You need to establish credibility and create an edge. That means being willing to give up some nuggets to get the big prize.

So there you go. Define your role as a journalist on social media. How do you want to come across? How do you want the information you have to share to be viewed? If you focus on the information and allowing viewers to converse and engage you can avoid pitfalls. People retweet when they are interested in the topic. You do not have to be the voice of that topic. You can be the instrument by which the topic is explored, through images, nuggets of information and asking viewers to weigh in. You can have an edge on social media without the posts being about you. Remember, you are an educated witness who has information and knows how to get that information discussed. That will make you edgy, interesting and influential. Win, win and win!

LinkedIn: How to guide to finding sources and exclusives.

Social Awareness, Source Building Comments Off on LinkedIn: How to guide to finding sources and exclusives.
Sep 122013

For years, LinkedIn has just been an online placeholder for my résumé. I didn’t really think about it much and rarely went on there.

However, two things recently happened to change my view of the site.

The first was when my news director assigned me to do an investigation into privacy concerns regarding drones and Ohio leaders’ efforts to snag one of the nation’s coveted slots for a drone testing program.

Although GE’s jet engine subsidiary is headquartered in Cincinnati, aerospace is not something that gets a lot of coverage in my market. So when it came to looking for sources in the drone industry (its executives prefer to call them “unmanned aerial vehicles”), I was starting from zero. One day, I thought, “I wonder if I can find someone to interview by searching LinkedIn?”

Within seconds, I found an executive at TechSolve, a company that does consulting for the aerospace industry. I e-mailed her asking if someone there was doing any work on drones. She said her CEO would love to do an interview. It turns out, he’s one of the major players behind-the-scenes who’s trying to bring a drone-testing program here.

The other thing that made me start respecting LinkedIn more was a conversation with software developer Dave Hatter.

We were doing an on-camera show-and-tell one day for my morning show consumer segment and he had LinkedIn up on his laptop. I couldn’t believe how he was going on and on about it. So I asked him why he likes it so much. He showed me how LinkedIn isn’t just for your résumé anymore. He calls it a very powerful search engine for finding people and connecting with them. He even lands clients and speaking gigs this way.

“One of the key facets I think most people really overlook is the incredible power of the search engine in LinkedIn,” is how he put it to me recently when I asked him to do an entire segment with me about how LinkedIn can help those who are still unemployed find work.

The thing is, his insights are also great for broadcast journalists looking to make connections to move up the market ladder or, as I demonstrated through dumb luck, finding a great source for a story.

The key, he says, is using what LinkedIn calls its “Advanced People Search.”

For instance, in trying to find someone to interview in the aerospace industry, you could type “aerospace” into the keyword box and your station’s zip code in another box further down the left-hand side of the page.

I just re-enacted my search as I’m writing this. The executive I found earlier came up again. And I just discovered that if you click “similar” below her name, other aerospace industry executives and workers come up on another page. This will be really helpful when you get that dreaded “I’m on vacation” out-of-office reply from your first contact.

But say you’re not working on a story. You’re trying to build your personal brand. Hatter uses LinkedIn for that, too.

“There are over a million groups on LinkedIn,” he said. “Some groups have literally hundreds of thousands of members in them. By joining the group, you now have opt-in permission to share with that group.”

Don’t spam them, he warns. Instead, pass along articles or video links that would appeal to other broadcast journalists or television executives.

Hatter says LinkedIn limits you to 50 groups. That’s probably more than enough for most of us, though there are some LinkedIn power users who sound pretty upset about the cap.

You also want to post on your home page on LinkedIn. If you haven’t been to your account in a while, log-in and take a look. LinkedIn has basically created a professional version of Facebook. After getting Hatter’s advice, I try to post at least once a day on there and allow LinkedIn to send the message to my Twitter followers, too.

Finally, be careful with the recommendations you give others — and especially the recommendations you choose to publish on your profile.

Hatter is also a hiring manager and says it takes an authentic, from-the-heart recommendation on a candidate’s LinkedIn profile to make him take it seriously.

“If I go in and I give you a recommendation, you are going to show-up in front of my entire network as a recommendation from Dave,” he said. “Everyone in your network is going to see that I recommended you. But if I say something like, ‘Matt is an awesome guy,’ does that really carry any weight? And I think a lot of recommendations are pretty shallow and pretty hollow like that.”

Hatter also explains, in an extended clip we put on our station’s website, how to jazz-up your “headline” and profile info to stand-out from the crowd. The headline is really important because it’s what hiring managers see first in their search results, along with your profile photo. And please have a profile photo! I can’t believe how many people in broadcasting don’t put their photo up on LinkedIn.

Hatter told me having no photo is a quick way to get overlooked when a television executive is doing her own “advanced people search” in an effort to fill a job quickly.

In such a competitive industry, we need all the help we can get. So why not put more effort into LinkedIn? After all, it’s free. (Hatter advises against paying for the premium version.)

You can bet the other 90 TV anchor/reporters in America who look just like you will be using LinkedIn. So you’d better, too.

———————————————————————————————————————————————

You can connect with Matthew Nordin on LinkedIn and Twitter. He’s an investigative reporter at WXIX-TV in Cincinnati.  And if you want to learn more about how to use this site, check out the group LinkedIn for Journalists (http://www.linkedin.com/groups/LinkedIn-Journalists-3753151), which offers free tutorials.

Required to Tweet? What to discuss.

Social Awareness Comments Off on Required to Tweet? What to discuss.
Aug 272013

For many journalists, Tweeting and posting on Facebook is now a mandatory part of their job.  In fact a news director in Atlanta recently told the Press Club there that  “any journalist who doesn’t do social media isn’t worth their salt.”  The pressure is certainly on and journalists are certainly feeling it.  I have received several emails asking, “What should I talk about?”

So let’s address that question.  What do you talk about?  We have published a few articles on what not to do, and what to look out for, (see  You Tweet, I Can’t Believe He Posted, and Wanted a New Job) so it’s time to focus on what is acceptable.

Here are some basic things to start tweeting and posting:

  • Interesting tidbits about your day
  • Your hobby
  • Relevant extras about your story
  • Confirmed information that impacts audience

First let’s get this very important question answered.  Many journalists ask, “Should I offer any personal information?”  The answer is: Some.  But keep it the type of information you don’t mind your boss, mother and minister or rabbi reading about.  The first two bullet points about what you should tweet and post address appropriate personal topics.

When I say tweet interesting tidbits about your day, I mean little moments.  Maybe someone said something thoughtful to you.  Maybe you read a fascinating article that really got you thinking.  Say it, or rather, tweet or post it.  Maybe a long lost friend posted a fun comment on your wall.  Mention that you loved hearing from that friend. Show images about your day as well.  Show a shot of the full coffee cup you are about to drink. Mention the new recipe for a breakfast burrito.  These simple things create real connections with other people.  You do not have to spill your guts, to form a bond.  Sharing simple moments are better.

Which leads to another great discussion point, your hobby.  One of my favorite journalists I follow is a ballroom dancer who loves the performing arts.  I enjoy the tidbits, that she is heading to a competition, or enjoyed a performance.  It takes me out of my day-to-day routine and teaches me something new.  I also enjoy a twitter account that mentions “This Day in History” type of information.  The trivia is interesting.  A former boss of mine is an avid motorcyclist.  I enjoy seeing pics of his newest Harley and reading about his latest ride.  Again, simple human connections.  If you love to cook or watch movies or have a favorite TV show, you will make “personal” connections with fans on social media.  Just keep the sports comments clean.

So, now how do you appropriately mention your work?  Just teasing or putting up a link to your latest story or newscast is not enough.  Try and provide some relevant extras.  A journalist recently covered a mission event where people came from all over to see doctors and dentists.  He simply showed images of people waiting, and talked about how the images touched him.  For example, he said one man seemed to look into his soul. He said he had to snap a shot of a baby girl because the bow on her head was so cute.  I have seen journalists snap behind the scenes images of doing interviews, breaking down the cables from live shots, and showing their muddy shoes.  I have seen journalists mention that a story gripped them in some way.  That he/she learned an interesting new fact today.  Some mention what they hope to follow up the next day on a story.  The list goes on and on. Take the viewer into the story, with a paragraph, a photograph or a statement in 140 characters.

Finally, if you have confirmed information about a breaking or developing news event, put it on your twitter stream or post it to Facebook.  Show that you are working the story.  Just put up confirmed information.  And if you are lucky enough to have a station policy guide, adhere to it.

The most important thing to consider, when determining what to Tweet or post is that you want to create connections with your followers.  So you do want some variety.  Use common sense, stick to topics that have mass appeal and remember, your minister or rabbi is likely reading what you write, as well as the boss and your viewers.  Be true to who you are as a journalist, and a person.

 

 

With spring storm season here, I was eager to watch the locals show off their meteorologists and storm coverage during a recent tornado warning. It was a weekend. A nationally televised sporting event was happening in town, one channel had a NASCAR race running and March Madness was cooking too. These obviously add a lot of pressure to the weekend crews.  I could write an article on how obvious it was which stations planned ahead for this possible scenario and which obviously left weekend crews high and dry.  (The threat of storms was forecast days in advance.)  But frankly, talking about how bad that is to do to a weekend crew is just too obvious.  So let’s talk about something interesting I really noticed during this Sunday after storm.  Reporters and meteorologists were tweeting from home, with compelling elements to really “own “ station coverage online.

Two stations really stood out for this.  Anchors, reporters and meteorologist hopped on Twitter and talked about what the storms were doing at their location despite clearly having the day off.  They asked for descriptions from Twitter followers.  They added information beyond the studio crew.

My favorite highlights:  a weekday meteorologist who was off, started sending out information about areas that were about to see rain bands and wind.  A weekday news anchor (also off that day) started describing what the weather was like and showed images too.  Reporters started conversations with followers about what the skies looked like overhead, whether they were ducking for cover and even how the kids were reacting to the wind and rain bands.  The tweets were real, appropriate and created tangible connections with the community they served.  Very cool!

When tweeting about the weather keep in mind that it is an incredible instant connection to people directly impacted by what you are covering.  Allow discussion.  It can create amazing moments and connections that will help supplement your station’s on-air coverage.  In my case, I had switched to another station to watch when tweets started coming in from a competitor that explained what was happening so well, I switched again.  I knew that was the station that was giving the best explanation of what to expect.  The bases were truly covered by a dedicated staff that contributed any way they could, willingly.  These journalists wanted to be watchdogs for their community, even when it was their day off.  A big win for sure.

 

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