Quoting from Kurt’s emails to me:
Becoming a digital first journalist can be daunting, but then there are moments when it works—moments like my recent evening covering a local election—and the power of the new model and its tools becomes suddenly clear.
As the city government reporter for the Farmington Daily Times, I’ve been following Steve Buttry’s blueprint for a digital first reporter over the past four months, and while it all made sense it really crystallized on that election night. An hour before the polls closed I posted up at City Hall to await results. My goal was to tweet, interact with voters and eventually file a story. What happened was so much more, and, at the time, surprising.
Sitting with my laptop, phone and camera I was essentially a digital newsroom, and I was also obviously a journalist. As poll closing time approached, City Hall began to fill with voters, city officials and candidates for the City Council seats. In short order, my digital newsroom became the focus for those waiting tensely for the election outcome. No longer was I just a fly-on-the-wall reporter. Instead, I was sitting like a fat spider of information at the center of a web of social engagement.
I was asked to analyze the election so far, and to explain how changes to the Council could affect issues, voting patterns and voting blocks—and it wasn’t just the public wanting to know. The city manager and various department heads also gathered around and became part of the conversation. Not only were people engaging with me in a much deeper fashion than had I been simply a reporter waiting there with my pad and pencil, they were also engaging with city officials through me.
Had I not been sitting there connected to the various information flows, and been willing to engage, many of those voters would have lingered along the walls talking to the people they knew already. Instead, my digital newsroom created a space where community members could become part of the dialogue, could change it. In that moment, looking around at the talking, engaged crowd, I realized just how important it is that newspapers return to being at the center of their communities, and I really understood how the tools of a digital journalist can be used to make this happen.
I clarified in an email with Kurt whether this discussion was happening right there in City Hall or whether he was engaging with people on social media and bringing them into the discussion in City Hall.
The discussion was right there in person in City Hall. We just started tweeting with a passion about a month ago and don’t have huge numbers of followers yet. Also, unlike many larger municipalities, only one of the City Councilors actually uses twitter.
No, what I found fascinating was that I created a space in the real world for engagement and interaction based upon my presence in the digital realm. By having the tools of a digital journalist, I was able to connect people to various other information feeds and answer questions all while tweeting and working on the election story. It felt like I was suddenly a moderator and conduit.
A frequent theme of my blog has been posts about Digital First journalists at work using tools and techniques of engagement. I have decided that I will try to end each of these posts with a list of previous posts on Digital First journalists at work. And consider this your invitation to tell me how you and your colleagues are engaging your communities and using digital tools to improve your journalism: