Hop on social media bus, pros
tell USU journalism students
April 15, 2009 | LOGAN -- Five professional journalists
came to USU to talk about how technology and social
networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook are beginning
to play a big role in today's journalism.
Staff at Ogden's Standard-Examiner are required
to Twitter, said education reporter Brooke Nelson, while
Facebook use is encouraged but not necessary.
"I hate Twitter. I loathe it with every fiber of my
being," Nelson said at Tuesday's print journalism presentation
held at the Eccles Conference Center. Usually she has
Dianne Lewis, reporter for the Examiner, do her tweeting
for her, she said.
Although Nelson dislikes Twitter she understands the
necessity of it in order to bring in traffic to the
online edition. The more traffic, the more ad revenue
the company receives, she said.
Lewis, who covers Box Elder and Weber county government,
said she loves Twitter and tweets about random links
and offbeat AP stories.
While the Standard-Examiner doesn't require
the staff members to use Facebook, it does encourage
them to mention the paper in some way in their profile,
The staff at the Examiner are also encouraged
to use Digg, Lewis said. Digg is a site where users
can post links and rate the posted links -- the higher
the rating, the closer the link is to the top.
The Standard-Examiner may be up to date with
technology but not every company is.
Deseret News reporter Joe Dougherty said his
company is behind the curve when it comes to the use
of the Internet to bring in more readers. Deseret
News has yet to require staff members to use social
networking sites such as Twitter, he said.
"I think our editors are still deciding how to tackle
this online beast," Dougherty said. "Personally I haven't
figured out the benefits from it. How does that help
me? Should I put, Hey I'm looking for this and allow
my competitors to know what I'm working on?"
Social networking sites are not only used for providing
links to the author's works or others' works, or tell
people what a person is currently doing but it can also
be used to find people to interview.
Nelson recalled a time when she used Twitter to find
sources to interview for her story about the athletics
fee increase at USU, known as crowd sourcing. She said
she found three to four people that were willing to
grant her an interview.
City editor for The Herald Journal, Emilie
Wheeler, said she brought up the idea of using Twitter
to the Internet committee two months ago and they did
not like the idea. She and one committee member are
the only ones who like Twitter and use it, she said.
Matthew Flitton said his duties as associate editor
for Ensign magazine, aside from editing, include
transferring articles into extensible markup language
(XML) and updating Ensign's Facebook page. He said it
wasn't until six months ago that he learned XML.
Michael Sweeney, journalism and comminucations department
head, who moderated the panel, asked whether things
were being done differently to adjust to the younger
Nelson said the content has not changed but the platform
has. Instead of doing five to seven mid-length stories
in a week, she typically writes four short and one in-depth
story, she said.
Newspapers make a profit on ad revenue and as revenue
declines due to decreasing numbers of circulation, papers
are struggling to stay in business -- the higher the
circulation, the more likely advertisers are willing
to pay to put their ad in the paper. Several newspapers
have already died, such as the Rocky Mountain News
and Seattle's Post-Intelligencer. Now, only an
online version exists for both.
Lewis said she has heard people complain about purchasing
a newspaper, saying they don't want to buy the newspaper
when they can get it for free online. But it's the company
that pays the staff to find and write the stories --
no staff, no news, she said.
"We taught people that information from the paper
was nothing because we're giving it to them for free,"
Revenue use to be deemed as a "dirty word" that no
one spoke of, he said.
However, Nelson said these days at her meetings, the
editors always talk about ad revenue and if any cuts
need to be made.
Dougherty shared his thoughts on how people should
pay for online content, saying it should be a pay per
article. It should be like what iTunes does, he said,
proposing that each article should cost 10 cents to
The panel also gave advice for aspiring journalists.
Wheeler told the audience of about 15 journalism students
that she loves Web portfolios.
"Don't guild your lilies" though, warned Flitton,
recollecting a time when a potential employee brought
in a PowerPoint presentation on a CD-ROM and the presentation
had music from the musical Pirates of Penzance
playing and it contained quotes from the movie Batman
Beyond. It didn't have any of her clips, he said,
it just showed that she knew how to use computer software
but that wasn't what he was exactly looking for. He
also said do research in the cover letter that aims
specifically at the company the person is applying for.
"I've had some letters that were formal and I threw
it away without looking at them," he said. Also check
the spelling of names. He said he throws the letters
away if there is a misspelled name.
"If you can't multitask," Nelson said, "this isn't
the job for you."
Lewis said she wants to see clips that show the person
can dig for information rather than just showing that
the person knows how to interview two people. Lewis
also told students to learn how to edit -- films, audio,
photos. While students don't necessarily have to take
a class, she said, they should at least play around
with the program.
There is a free guide to learning how to use RSS feed,
Diggit, Facebook, etc., Flitton said. Search Journalism
2.0 on the Web, it's free to download, he said. "All
these things you need to get a job in a changing industry."