Journal Register Co. newsrooms are experiencing lots of opportunities for strong community engagement right now. I’ll share some examples (I could share many more, but I’ve taken too long on this post already) relating to weather, elections, a search for a school superintendent, sports and fun.
Jeff Edelstein, a columnist at the Trentonian who is a rock star at using Facebook (and good on Twitter, too), covered the storm from his home by engaging the community. At me request, Jeff provided this account:
Saturday morning, home with wife, 2 yr old, 9-month old. Not working. Raining, which was all Greater Trenton was supposed to get. At 11 a.m., I post:
I love it outside! The only thing — and I mean the ONLY thing — that could make this weather better was if it were 76 degrees and sunny with low humidity.
Went to take a shower, came out 10 minutes later, and it’s a blizzard. I check NWS, and the snow projections jumped from “nothing” to “up to eight inches.” I post with links to forecast (links just take you to the current forecast, so they don’t mention the storm now and I didn’t hyperlink them):
20 minutes later, had first full story up, with FB post, starting to ask for submissions:
The snow has made me so nutso, I actually wrote a bylined story. As always, feel free to send me your pics, by either pointed me to where or by emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org. http://bit.ly/suXIGa (Jeff’s original story has been updated.)
At this point, I was all over Twitter as well, posting the links, but more importantly, following a handful of locals who were Tweeting their updates, notably @PrincetonScoop and @PlanetPrinceton. I’d keep updating my story as I got more info, even just a sentence at a time, and as the day wore on, posting to FB and Twitter asking for downed tree photos, noting Princeton was getting the brunt of the storm, and whatever else came to mind. Six Facebook posts linking to the story, about the same for twitter, over a five-hour, on and off, period. NOTE: Looking back, should’ve updated the story blog-style instead of trying to shoehorn all the little bits into the story.
END RESULT: My bit.ly showed about 400 direct hits from the links to the story, and those are only from my personal pages. Got about two dozen photos to choose from, 18 comments, 35 likes, gained seven twitter followers during the time. But again — and most importantly — got a quick and dirty story on breaking news without breaking a sweat. I was — not making this up — engaging my two-year-old and/or infant while engaging the audience. And that alone — the ease of which to acquire this stuff via social media– should be reason number 1 for any journo to play in this sandbox.
Thanks to Jeff for showing how effective and important engagement can be. He overstates how easy it was. He has more than 3,000 Facebook friends because of years of effective engagement there, which made Saturday’s work as easy as he described.
That was not our only effective engagement relating to the storm. JRC newsrooms (and MediaNews colleagues we’re starting to work with through Digital First Media) also did a nice job collecting photos from the community during the storm:
- The Reporter, York Daily Record/Sunday News and New Haven Register got great Facebook shots capturing the Halloween timing of the storm.
- The North Adams Transcript and Berkshire Eagle got great Facebook shots showing the depth of the snow.
- The York Daily Record/Sunday News offered a $100 prize for the best snow photo.
This is an off election year, but many communities have significant local elections next week. Newsrooms should engage their communities in questioning candidates and discussing issues:
The Oneida Daily Dispatch and Troy Record asked their communities for questions to pose to the candidates, then asked the candidates, recording their answers on video. Video players present the answers to each question side-by-side, a great tool to help voters evaluate candidates.
Ivan Lajara of the Daily Freeman developed a widget for voters to report Election Day problems using SeeClickFix.
The News-Herald in Willoughby, Ohio, is one of several newsrooms doing live chats about local election issues. Several newsrooms will be liveblogging elections next Tuesday.
School superintendent search
The Kingston, N.Y., school district is seeking a new superintendent. The Daily Freeman requested application materials of the finalists and the district initially denied the request. Editor Tony Adamis explains:
In an editorial, we made the points that 1) there was no reason not to share basic application information with the public, and 2) there was every reason in this age of transparency and crowd vetting to put the submitted info in the public domain.
Our appeal was partially granted yesterday. We didn’t wait for the story on the materials release to be written; we immediately posted the documents (letters of application and resumes, with some redactions by the district) on our site with a short intro. Then, we pushed on Twitter individual tweets hashtagged with the district names of the two out-of-district candidates and the twitter address of reporter Kyle Wind @KyleatFreeman. The idea was to allow their home communities to scrutinize their applications against their experience with the candidates. We’ll see if this generates anything.
Whatever the response, it’s important to play that watchdog role, inviting public input on the superintendent finalists and putting the eventual superintendent on notice that the Freeman is an advocate for transparency and accountability.
The Eagles and Cowboys played the Sunday night football game, which went past the print deadlines of The Times of Delaware County, Pa. But the Times gave fans an opportunity to follow the game on their computers or mobile devices at the same time they watched it, and to discuss the game in a live chat with sportswriters Bob Grotz and Jack McCaffery.
Mike Morsch, executive editor of Montgomery Newspapers, found a commercial on Philadelphia TV funny. Alexander Hamilton is dressed up in colonial garb and having trouble swiping a ticket to get out of a parking garage. Advice from the colonials in the back seat included a line that cracked Mike up: “Rub it on your pantaloons, man!” But then Mike noticed during the World Series that the line had been edited from the ad. He sprang into action on Twitter:
Mike’s social media complaint was heard:
Mike tells the full pantaloons story in his column today. It apparently hasn’t been crawled on Google yet, but when it is, it will be the only hit containing the words pantaloons, nincompoop, tomfoolery, goozlepipe and jamoke. Well, except this blog post.