I wrote last week about the work of an engagement editor (or social media editor or some related titles), a fairly new job in lots of Digital First Media newsrooms. Today, I turn the blog over to some of those editors to explain their roles (lightly edited by me):
Karen Workman of the Oakland Press:
When I became community engagement editor, one of my longtime sources asked me what that meant. This was my response to him:
I care about our audience. I care about engaging them, getting news delivered to them across a variety of platforms, expanding the diversity of voices on our website, making use of their comments and contributions, audience building and in general, making sure we’re fostering that all-important community conversation that is the essence of what we do.
Lisa Yanick-Jonaitis of the Morning Sun in Mt. Pleasant, Mich.
I find this job to be incredibly exciting so far. I don’t know a journalist who doesn’t say that one of the reasons they love their job is because they get to meet new people and be involved in the community; this job is the ultimate opportunity to be intricately engaged with and inspired by my community. I love the creativity it allows, and I find the “uncharted territories” of a brand-new position motivating and invigorating.
Listening to and engaging with our audience is vital to our success. It’s important that local news organizations continue to be the source the audience trusts, and in order to stay front-of-mind to that audience, we need to be where they are. We are smaller than we were as an industry, but we still need to maintain our news-gathering “cred.” Using all the resources at our disposal will enable us to do that, and having a leader in the newsroom to guide and create in that capacity is vital.
Here are some things I do:
1. To create engagement projects; some that I have worked on have been our 12 days of cookies project (this involved reader-submitted cookie recipes, staff members baking them and staff+editorial board voting on our favorite, then featuring the recipes plus photos each day for 12 days, ending with a feature on the winner and a one-stop collection of all 12 recipes. Also, each day we included a QR code with the recipe that gave the user a grocery shopping list for the recipe). Other examples include our Valentine’s Day project and a recent livestream last week.
2. To encourage and help the staff use social media to engage our readers. Last week (Lisa sent me this message in February) all of our staffers either logged in to Twitter accounts or created one; we started using Twitter handles in our bylines as well. This week, I will be asking staffers to either create a pro Facebook account or allow subscriptions to public posts, and asking them to explore one other social media site for professional use.
3. To train community members in blogging, community news creation, and visual skills. I hope to hold a few public sessions this year. One goal I have in this is to set up a high school sports system in which coaches will be able to log in to our website in some way and report their own stats/highlights and upload photos from games we may not be able to get to. (We have a large coverage area and a strapped staff, so I see this as a huge priority by the fall…if it’s possible). I see this as a benefit to the community and our staff, as the sports guys can use this info. in a crowdsourcing capacity, possibly finding stories in the information.
Kim McDaniel of the Salt Lake Tribune explained what she does in two key areas:
Training: Since the beginning of the year, I have led a day-long “Twitter bootcamp” once a month for a select group of newsroom writers and editors who may be on Twitter, but aren’t quite getting it. I start off with a 60- to 90-minute group class reiterating the effectiveness of Twitter, why they should be using it, how to find the right people to follow, why engagement is key, etc. While I use Keynote slides, it’s fairly informal with lots of Q&A. I keep these sessions to fewer than 10 people. For the rest of that day, I schedule 30-minute one-on-one sessions for each person who was in the group class. In these individual meetings, I give them specific feedback on their use of Twitter based on an audit I conduct on their account history. I’m then open to answering more specific questions, guiding them in the use of specific programs or apps, or helping them to implement things we talked about in the group session.
These bootcamp sessions have been extremely well received in The Salt Lake Tribune newsroom. We’ve seen immediate, demonstrable results from those who have attended, and we have a long list of staffers who want to participate in future sessions. We’re considering doing a more advanced version of the bootcamp for our staffers who use Twitter well but want more ideas for improvement or expansion on their engagement.
Blogging/writing: Last week, our technology writer did a story on the phenomenon of Pinterest. To coincide, I wrote a column that ran in print and online about why The Salt Lake Tribune is using Pinterest and how to interact with us there. While we have a weekly editor’s column that runs independently of other coverage on Sundays, it’s typically a higher-level and doesn’t dovetail in with a specific story. In this case, we took the opportunity not only to inform our readers that we are on Pinterest, but explain to them our engagement goal there.
Austen Smith of Heritage Media in the Detroit area:
In my new role as Community Engagement Editor overseeing a large coverage area that spans over 30 communities across two counties, the lesson I keep running into is that our readership is eager to participate in new and creative experiments to keep them more involved and current on what is going on not only in their communities, but in our own newsroom. We just have to give them what they want, it’s pretty simple.
Despite the unworldly popularity of Facebook, Twitter and many burgeoning social media sites, local-local people are still very much interested in their local-local news and we are finding new methods almost every week to present that information to them and make it more interactive.
Crowdsourcing on Facebook is a powerful tool that allows for open-ended stream of thought and interaction. One publication’s Facebook site has become a linchpin for the community and our readership is getting to the point where they are keeping up on the daily news churn by going to Facebook first, and our site second.
Now, in addition to overseeing social media and special projects pertaining to community engagement, I see myself as a digital enforcer. I am not only making efforts at breaking down the wall separating newsroom from public, but I’m also encouraging reporters to incorporate digital elements into nearly every story.
Like a lot of newsrooms, I’m sure, we still have “old-school” journos focused on telling the story and meeting daily deadlines as opposed to hourly. My message to those and others is that aside from several new tools at our disposal, the act of storytelling hasn’t changed all that much – local information gathering is our way of life. But it is the presentation that has basically done a backflip with digital propping up the print rather than the other way around. It’s a process.
Ed Stannard of the New Haven Register:
One theme I’m finding is that it’s a very labor-intensive job! We’ve been going to gatherings and meetings (a Bloggers and Beer meet-up, a forum on a neighborhood issue, a Chamber of Commerce meeting tonight) and plan to do a lot more. While I’m trying to use social media and other technology in every way possible, I also am finding that personal contact, phone calls and email are a vital part of building the audience, whether it’s recruiting bloggers or lining up a community meeting. It’s very time-consuming. People aren’t just going to jump on board because of a tweet or a request online for new bloggers.
That’s one big thing I’ve learned so far, and so far it’s a lot of fun!
Ed and Angi Carter double-team the job of engagement editor for the Register. Here’s a partial list of tasks they shared in an email as we were planning their new roles last fall:
Community Media Lab (our network of local blogs)
- Take an inventory of both the existing CML contributors and those we have on record as being nominated.
- Plan small group meetings and a more inclusive meet-and-greet.
- Reach out to Social Media Week CT about 2012 events and local blogger recommendations.
- Invite neighborhood groups to join CML.
November 2012 election
- Start a newsroom blog.
- Meet with reporters about civic engagement with the public and candidates.
- Search for bloggers who could play a role in election engagement activities.
- Meet with reporters to discuss our roles with reporters and gather feedback on their ideas for engagement — according to the new beat structure.
- Start gathering photos/bios for revamped ‘Contact Us’ page.
I encourage engagement editors to blog about their work, inviting the public to engage with their newsroom and sharing their engagement lessons with colleagues. Buffy Andrews of the York Daily Record sent me links to some blog posts about engagement efforts:
One thing I do as a way of promoting what we are doing via social media etc. across the newsroom is write a “Don’t Miss This link salad post” each Friday on Buffy’s World, my social media blog.
I highlight everything from a colleague’s blog post to contests that the newspaper is running. I post the blog post link on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn etc. My intent is to drive more traffic to the great work being done throughout the newsroom.
I also always post the top YDR videos for the week on my blog along with their links and socialize throughout.
I’ve written columns and blog posts about our social media efforts:
Ivan Lajara is a regional engagement editor, splitting time between his regional duties and local duties for the Daily Freeman in Kingston, N.Y. He addresses a variety of issues on his blog, Life, I Wrote. He has grouped some of the engagement-related posts together.
Other Digital First blogs about engagement and social media (send me your link if it’s not listed here and I’ll add it):