Please join us from 2:00 to 3:00 pm ET, Wednesday, January 23 for a live discussion with Liz Heron. Submit your questions in advance by clicking 'make a comment' or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. All questions are moderated, so please be polite.
Liz has joined the chat and will begin answering questions momentarily. Submit yours by clicking 'Make a comment'. And now, we'll let Liz introduce herself!
Hi everyone, thanks for having me! I'm looking forward to answering your questions about the changing role of social media in newsrooms.
Liz, it’s great to have you here. Thanks for joining us. To kick things off, could you describe your current role at The Wall Street Journal? What’s a typical day like?
At The Wall Street Journal, I'm the director of social media. I lead a team of journalists focused on engaging our readers, finding new audiences through social, covering the news in realtime and experimenting with new social tech. What does that mean for a typical day? We choose what content to post and how to write it for the main social accounts. Sometimes I discuss a big social story on WSJ Live, our video network. Sometimes we're live-blogging and reporting a big story using social media.... It really varies. Longer-term projects are a big part of the mix too.
Being an opinion writer opens up whole new avenues when it comes to social media, a medium which does love its opinions! I think Nick Kristof, with whom I worked closely when I was at the NY Times, gets a lot of attention for being an early adopter and figuring out how to interact with his followers, not just broadcast. There's a new crop of columnists and bloggers who I think are great at that too -- Tom Gara at the WSJ (not exactly opinion but allowed to be voice-y), Heidi Moore at the Guardian, Felix Salmon at Reuters.
Hi Adrienne. In my experience, the job has changed a lot since then, some in ways I predicted, some not. The most significant change is that an editor has to focus a lot less on evangelizing and training -- convincing people that social media is worth incorporating into the news. We also have more people in newsrooms who can write for social media. For instance, my team is responsible for most of the tweets from @WSJ, but we also have two homepage editors who write them as well, and I see that trend increasing.
Another big trend in the last year or two is that social media editors are now free to focus on creating content designed specifically for the social web -- they're reporters, writers and video journalists/hosts now too. And the role has become much more of a newsgathering one. IT's ever more important to be able to spot trends and verify/investigate content on social media. This is a good move, in my opinion, and I hope it continues moving in that direction.
In general, I try to put aside my pet peeves and follow a wide variety of people -- you just never know when they'll lead you to something important. But I do have some pet peeves: I usually follow someone for their job or their insights and when they post too many personal things that are too irrelevant, it is less valuable to me. (My advice to journalists is generally tweet your beat!) Also, excessive self-promotion. Or the worst--> posting automated links all the time.
I don't think Twitter's going away any time soon. There's still little out there that can beat it for realtime information and conversation, from the newsy to the fun second-screen stuff. But I do think journalists need to remember that tons of their readers probably still aren't on Twitter, and adjust coverage accordingly (i.e. give lots of context when reporting on Twitter reaction, and bring tweets back onto your own site, like we do in our live blogs).
Really interesting question. I don't think social media editors need to have written a front-page newspaper story to be good at their jobs. However as I mentioned before, newsgathering on social media is getting increasingly important and is still not a widely understood skill in some newsrooms. So all social editors/producers need to start developing those skills if they don't have them already -- how to verify what's real and what's fake, how to find real sources, how to do digital forensics like Deadspin did to confirm their tip about Manti Te'o's fake girlfriend...
Honestly, I'm not sure anyone knows where social media is going. But I do think Jonah Peretti of Buzzfeed should get a lot of credit for popularizing the notion of adding heart and humor into news as a way to make it work on social. Journalism has been experiencing an technological disruption for some time now, but there's an editorial disruption too, and it has to do with how we frame news for a new generation.
Another person who's really been visionary about the role of journalists' personal voices in news is Jay Rosen. I don't always agree with everything he says, but he was preaching transparency and personality before anyone else -- both of which are big trends in social.
Ah, I've dealt with this conundrum a lot, Bobby. It's touch to change such an ingrained habit. I usually talk to them about how valuable their insights are -- NOT their opinions. There's a difference. For instance, an insight is telling me that after 40 years of covering sports, this is the first time you've seen so many XYZs in the game. An opinion is telling me that XYZs are lame.
Also, give them examples and even offer to pre-read their tweets (if you have time, of course, and not forever). Tell them when they're doing it right.
Facebook is an interesting case right now. It's stil growing like gangbusters around the world, but it's plateaued in the US. We still reach a big audience there, bigger than on Twitter. But the algorithm that determines who sees your posts -- both individual journalists and news orgs' pages -- has gotten pretty complicated, and it feels more like you have to game it to be seen. I foresee the rise of "Facebook SEO" experts. When it comes to newsgathering, I'm hoping the new Graph Search will make it easier for reporters to find sources on Facebook (the old search was near unusable).
A quick programming note: The window for questions is closing soon, so submit yours now if you haven’t already!
Hi Meena, we're not sure yet. We've been putting QR codes into the print WSJ for a while now, and are talking about experimenting with hashtags too. I think it remains to be seen.
Chris, excellent question. I'm lucky to work in a newsroom that's pretty excited about social right now, and sometimes we feel like we have more than we can handle. But in previous roles, I would sometimes just invite myself to meetings :) It helps to cultivate people in your own newsroom who are often working on big projects from the beginning and make sure they know you want to be involved. And one or two big wins can go a long way. For instance, at NYT, I worked for months with a reporter writing a front-page story about teen suicide and Facebook, that I crowdsourced through my Facebook page. Showing how rich those responses were really pushed others to want to crowdsource early instead of just ask questions after a piece was done.
Hi JJ, it's a good question, and not an easy one. We've been most successful building community through social media but I don't think anyone should count out comments. Part of building a good community on site is having the tech to do so, and our current comment system could use a face-lift. Our sister site MarketWatch just moved to LiveFyre, which integrates on-site and social comments together well. Something we're looking at closely.
We're about to post our last question for Liz, but thanks to everyone who submitted one today!
For those without a large team, my best advice is to a) choose your projects wisely for maximum social media impact and convince your boss that you might have to ignore the rest to do your job well, b) get friendly with mobile apps so you can stay realtime without chaining yourself to your desk, c) use programs like Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, SocialFlow, etc. to schedule some of your posts, and most importantly, d) start getting others in the newsroom up to speed on social media. At a basic level, if you can retweet a reporter instead of writing a tweet yourself, that's a few minutes saved. And those minutes will add up!
Liz, thanks again for your time today. Really insightful chat. You and your team at the Journal are doing some great work!
Thanks, Davis, and thanks to everyone who submitted questions. Good luck and have fun!