Seven ways journalists can up their social media game

It’s never been easier for journalists to interact with their sources and audiences through social media. But finding the right mix can be challenging.

Social media is swimming with journalists and non-journalists alike, but too often engagement between the two is scant. That’s the view of Mandy Jenkins, general manager for McClatchy’s local news initiative The Compass Experiment and president of the Online News Association (ONA). Jenkins’ career – which includes being the first editor-in-chief at Storyful, social news editor for politics at the Huffington Post and managing editor of Digital First Media’s Project Thunderdome – is steeped in this space. During a guest lecture for the University of Oregon’s Demystifying Media series, Jenkins identified seven ways journalists can more effectively use social media.

1. As a means for community engagement

It’s never been easier for journalists to monitor the areas they cover and interact with their sources as well as their audience. Most communities and their leaders have an active presence on social media. Yet, around 78 percent of US adults have never spoken with or been interviewed by a local journalist. Those that have are predominantly white, older well-educated males. Addressing this means finding ways to engage with communities face-to-face as well as online. A study from the Center for Media Engagement at the University of Texas Austin found that the more a recognisable journalist participates and engages with public comments, the overall tone of the comments improve. “Actually, taking the time and interacting with them [commenters] is a great way for journalists to engage with the community,” Jenkins said.

2. By showing how journalism works

With trust in the media near record lows, social media can be used to explain journalistic processes. The Enid and Eagle – a seven-day, morning newspaper serving more than 40,000 daily readers – in Enid, Oklahoma, used Facebook to ask readers and viewers what stories they would like to see. Too often we assume audiences know how journalism works. However, simple things like live-tweeting a council meeting, sharing that ‘today I’m out reporting on this’ or “I’m chatting with this person,’ can help show the work that goes into covering a story. Jenkins said that while these types of posts might be mundane to journalists, they’re not to the public. As a result, they can build connections and demonstrate transparency – especially at a local level.

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