In one of the emails wishing me success in my job search came some questions from a young reporter. I enjoy few thing more here than answering journalists’ questions, and I much prefer that to writing about myself.
So here’s the question:
How do you think journalists can network with other reporters effectively in the digital age?
For instance, I’m interested in working at a number of different outlets in the future, from alt-weeklies to dailies to online media. I’d love to connect with reporters and editors at those outlets, but it’s harder to ask that reporter to chat with you over coffee when you’re miles and miles away.
Do you have any advice for how to cultivate that digital relationship with other journalists?
Yes, I have advice for cultivating digital relationships with journalists:
Ask a question by email
Most journalists’ email addresses are available on their organizations’ websites today, often at the bottom of reporters’ stories or hyperlinked in their bylines.
If a reporter writes a story you admire, send him/her an email of praise. Include a how-to question: How did you acquire that database? How did you get her to agree to an interview? What tool did you use for that interactive?
I won’t guarantee that every reporter will reply to such an email. But I think most will. Most journalists are friendly people who like to help other journalists and they will give you at least a quick answer. Some might give you a detailed answer.
Then you have the start of a relationship. Don’t pester the journalist with frequent emails, but an occasional email (offering more praise or questions or both) would probably be welcome, and the relationship grows.
I have developed relationships with multiple journalists this way.
Network on social media
You can follow journalists on Twitter (if their accounts are public, as they should be) whether they follow you or not. They might not follow you back (I follow less than one in four people who follow me), but you can see their tweets and you can tweet praise, questions and humor at them. They may engage with you and they may not, but you haven’t lost anything by trying.
On Facebook, you can’t become friends unless the other journalist accepts your request. I usually accept friend requests from people whose profiles identify them as journalists, but some prefer a smaller circle of actual friends. If that’s the case, check to see if they’ve enabled subscriptions. Then you can see their public posts in your news feed.
If you get access to their Facebook posts, you can join conversations on their Facebook posts and develop a relationship.
Even if they haven’t enabled subscriptions, if their posts are public, you can comment on them and start developing a relationship.
You also can search for Facebook groups in your interest areas and network through those groups (I belong to the Social Journalism, Mobile Journalism and Social Journalism Educators groups). The group may be closed — those all are — and you’ll need to request permission to join (make sure your profile identifies you as a journalist).
If you join a group, read through the old posts and get a sense of what people discuss. Listen a while before starting a discussion thread yourself, but comment appropriately on the discussions that are going on, and you’ll start becoming part of the group.
I’ve developed social media relationships with lots of journalists before we meet in person (including people I’ve hired).
Join Twitter chats
A Twitter chat is a great way to network with other journalists. I think #wjchat (Wednesdays at 8 p.m. Eastern) is probably the biggest journalism Twitter chat. But you can also join #dfmchat Wednesdays at noon Eastern or #aceschat for copy editors:
— ACES (@copyeditors) April 2, 2014
On a Twitter chat, you can ask questions and share your own advice, views and experience. You start becoming the community of the chat and connecting with the veterans who lead, join or occasionally pop into the chats.
What are other active Twitter chats for journalists?
Conferences are great places for young journalists to network with veterans. Every time I speak at a conference, some young journalists approach me after my workshop, speech or panel and we chat for a while. Others approach me cold in the hallways. Conferences are about networking, and young journalists should attend them.
If you’re at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy, starting April 30, you’ll have an opportunity to network with lots of veteran journalists, including me. Other great stateside networking (and learning) opportunities are the Online News Association, Investigative Reporters and Editors, National Institute of Computer Assisted Reporting, Excellence in Journalism, National Association of Black Journalists, American Copy Editors Society and a host of other state or regional press associations and journalism organizations organized by beat or ethnicity.
I also encourage joining one or more journalism organizations that fit your interests. Even if you can’t afford to attend the conferences (or get your boss to send you), you can get some networking benefits. The organization might offer other services such as mentors, a Facebook group or an email list (NICAR-L has been helping journalists with data skills for about 20 years, maybe longer).
Don’t be a pest
Some veteran journalists will blow off a young journalist seeking to network. I think most will be responsive and helpful. In either case, don’t be a pest.
If someone blows you off, that’s probably because he or she is busy or shy, not a personal rejection. Don’t email or tweet or even whisper among friends that the person is a jerk (because that makes you a bigger jerk). Move on and find someone else who’s willing to network with you.
And when you find those journalists who will respond to your inquiries and approaches, don’t abuse their willingness with constant inquiries. An occasional question, compliment or quip will help build the relationship without smothering your budding friendship.
What’s your networking advice?
I don’t have all the networking advice. How have you networked effectively with other journalists?
About my blog name: Yes, I have a ridiculous blog name. It’s temporary, and it’s for a good cause.