My blog post on questions to guide beat reporters drew a helpful response from Buffy Andrews that I wanted to give more attention than it would receive simply as a comment. So I’m reposting it separately, with minimal editing:
Another excellent post, Steve. I totally agree about establishing a routine to check on digital sources. I do this every day (you are one of them) on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Linkedin, etc.
What I love about using an interface such as HootSuite is the ability to set up various columns that search for people or hashtags or companies. This makes it easy to check every day. I’ve been doing this for a few years now. I’ve catagorized my searches. For example, I have the following (among others):
- Searches/fun stuff
Then under each of these searches you will find various columns. So, for example, under companies you will find: York Daily Record, YDR, Harley Davidson, Johnson Controls, Voith etc. I can go through these lists and see any tweet that these entities have been mentioned in.
Under the writing heading, you will find #yalit, #litchat, #amwriting, #writing, #kidlitchat, #writechat, #yalitchat, @AKA_Terrie (my agent) etc.
Under publishing headling: Egmontbooks, Simonschuster, etc.
Under people heading: SteveButtry, Jxpaton, #Joepa, Paterno, Jim McClure, Jimbradysp, Buffy Andrews etc.
Under fun stuff: #Rememberwhen etc.
You get the idea.
I find that this system is efficient, and I often find new sources and story ideas.
I’d love to hear how other reporters and editors use HootSuite, TweetDeck, Twitter lists and other tools to help bring some order to the chaos of the social media firehose. What do you do? Back to Buffy:
Another thing I want to mention is beat reporters reaching out to those they cover and having them “work for” them. For example, my religion reporter John Hilton, is asking every church (more than 600) to add his religion blog link to their church website. He is working his way through his list. I believe he is on “C” now. His link is beginning to appear on websites. How very cool is that?
That is cool. And I’m going to bet that, whether he’s doing that with emails or phone calls that it’s getting more than links. I’m sure people, whether they link to him or not, are also responding with tips and feedback, and every reporter needs that. Back to Buffy:
You talked about community engagement and that it doesn’t have to be purely digital. Again, I so agree. I’ve shared with you before about our community gatherings in which we invite people representing organizations, clubs, etc. to come into the newsroom and learn how they can be part of the digital first news gathering team. We have one coming up in February. We’ve incorporated more social media into this seminar and have found that people are thirsty for the knowledge and help.
Lastly, you are right on when you said that you don’t have all of the answers and that we want people to be innovative and lead us. You’ve given a lot of good advice on what reporters can do, but what I’d like to see is reporters (and copy editors etc.) telling us what we should be doing. Or, better yet, digging in and doing it. I always tell my people that I want them to see the ball, pick it up and run with it before I even know it’s there. This not only goes for the daily challenges of managing a staff but for new online initiatives that help expand and deepen our digital footprint.