Embrace social media – if you want a job!




Make yourself employable by learning the traditional skills of journalism and embracing social media  — NCTJ Digital Seminar

The message is loud and clear – trainee journalists need the traditional skills of the trade but have to master multi-media platforms if they want a job.

Speakers at NCTJ’s Digital Seminar were united in the belief that social media is essential to the survival and growth of the industry and should be embraced.

Stefan Stern, director of strategy at Edelman and former columnist for the Financial Times said journalists could not ignore social media.

“There is a danger of over-sharing information, but you have to engage in social media and join the conversation,” said Stern.

Fergus Bell, senior producer at Associated Press showed delegates how he used social media including twitter and facebook for international news gathering. He talked about monitoring user generated content across the globe, following leads then checking and verifying each source.

“Treat social media sources the same as you would traditional sources. It’s the same approach, with a different tool. You need to look at the context of the source and then verify it. It’s about finding the original source and then getting permission to use it,” said Bell.

One way to check the source, Bell suggested, was to see if the content had been edited. If so it could have been shared or re-tweeted in which case the person who posted the information would not have the right to give permission to use it.

Bell advised setting up lists and using trend maps to monitor tweets to find out what people are talking about.

“Identify people who are useful to you or the ones who break the news, set up alerts on your phone so you know what’s happening when you are out and about,” said Bell.

Bell might be working on a global scale, but reporters and trainees can do the same on a local level.

“The same principles can be used on the patch. Find out who is influential and what people are talking about and follow the trends,” said Bell.

Alan Marshall, group managing editor The Press Association said reporters have to be flexible and be able to tell stories in different ways.

He said reporters needed a broad vision and to be able to write, take pictures and video.

“You have to be ready to catch the moments you can’t predict,” said Marshall.

The need to be able to think and work on a broad base was echoed by Chris Maguire, editor of the Chorley and Leyland Guardian.

With only four reporters working on his newspaper, Maguire said harnessing social media was crucial.

“Social media is two way, we can instantly reach an audience and people can be our eyes and ears,” said Maguire.

But he re-iterated the need to check information gathered from social media, citing a picture in a regional newspaper taken from facebook of a crime suspect.

“They got the same name but the wrong person,” said Maguire.

Maguire went on to give five positive uses for twitter:

  • Cross promote the newspaper
  • Target the audience
  • Instant information
  • Feedback
  • Stories

His final thoughts were on what he was looking for in a new trainee.

“I won’t look at anyone without shorthand, writing skills and law but then I’m looking for reporters who are great a meeting people and can use social media,” said Maguire.

Sound advice.


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