When I was in grade school, some friends and I started a newspaper in the basement of our home. It was only one page and it included some school news and playground rumors. It was fun for us to write the stories and then use an old mimeograph machine to print 20 or 30 copies and hand them out at recess. I know it sounds lame, but it was our way of trying to be the cool guys who were in on everything. We could not wait to hand out those copies because we were the first to tell them the news. First, is almost always better as long you as have the facts rights.
Now, in the year 2020, we have something called social media. There is no need to print the news and hand it out on the playground. Reporters can report the news even before the reporting is over! Yet, I find some journalists still plodding through the process of gathering, then sitting down and writing and then publishing, whether is on paper, on-line or on-the-air. They have the power in the palm of their hands that we craved when we were writing and printing our basement newspaper. Yet, many don’t use it. Using social media, we can involve the potential reader or viewer in every aspect of the hunt for information. We can invite them to the morning editorial meeting. We can take them along on the ride to our story location and talk with them about the coverage plan. We can be there when we introduce ourselves to the people we are covering or be with us as “first on the scene” of a fire or crash or other breaking news. Why don’t we do it?
We can share with the viewer or reader the challenges we sometimes face trying to get the facts or “real story” and help them understand the frustrations and roadblocks. That would help all of us restore credibility in the profession. We can talk with our social media followers as we work to prepare the story for air or print and show them the decisions that need to be made and the compromises that are always part of journalism. And then, we can use social media to reach them with the final product. I believe they will better understand what we do and how we do it.
So, instead of posting dog pictures or food pictures or vacation pictures, use social media to show your friends and followers your professional side. Show them how difficult it is to do your job. Let them in on the secrets. Your work will become much more powerful.
Be the first in your newsroom to try it. It’s being done in some of the major markets by reporters who have been covering news for decades. Now it’s your turn. I would love to see examples of your efforts.