Panel: Use Social Media Sparingly, Cautiously, But You Must Use It -New England Newspaper and Press Association e-Bulletin

Panel: Use social media
sparingly, cautiously,
but you must use it

By Sophie Cannon
Bulletin Correspondent

** This article can be found here **

A panel at the New England Newspaper Conference Oct. 6 turned a function room in the Crowne Plaza hotel in Natick, Mass., into a hub of conversations about innovation and technological advances, driven by the marriage of social media and journalism.

The members of the panel were Ernesto Burden, vice president of digital for Newspapers of New England, based in Concord, N.H.: Bill Kole, news editor for New England in The Associated Press bureau in Boston; and Matt Carroll, research scientist at the MIT Media Lab. The discussion was moderated by Emily Sweeney, a reporter at The Boston Globe.

The main subject for discussion was how journalists can harness the power of social media to get their work to their audience, and finding the most effective platforms to do so.

“Why start with Twitter? Or Snapchat? If you have to decide to do one social media as your primary source, Facebook is the needle to more traffic back to your site,” Burden said. “Just always be cognizant of capturing people as readers and making relationships.”

All three panelists agreed that it is essential to be on social media.

“Facebook is the new paperboy,” Carroll said.

The difference between being on social media and being everywhere on social media was discussed at length.

“There is some wisdom in not trying to be everywhere. You’re going to lose your mind otherwise,” Kole said. “You need to be on. You don’t need to post everywhere, but you have to be paying attention and be plugged in.”

Social media is also extremely important not just in this time period, but at this exact moment in history, Kole said, referring to the presidential election.

“Could you imagine covering this presidential campaign without being completely wedded to social media?” Kole said.

The panel then shifted to the second part of the discussion: How to engage on social media, but with what degree of transparency and individuality.

The consensus of the panelists was that social media accounts must uphold some sense of formality and professionalism, even when an account is a personal one.

“Don’t embarrass yourself or your organization by tweeting stupid stuff,” Carroll said.

Sharing certain elements of the writer’s personal life has some benefits to a journalist in connecting with followers, however, Burden said.

“With newspaper-based accounts, it’s still good to share a bit of your personality. It makes sense to be social on social media,” Burden said. “Everyone should be engaged, BUT we also have to be careful about our own reputations. It is incumbent on every news organization to have standards for their journalists.”

The discussion surrounding that topic was a tough one, because social media is such an important tool in marketing and yet also an outlet for sharing the user’s personality with those who follow the user’s postings, according to the panelists.

“I try and be careful, but some of our life shared in good humor is endeared. It makes us seem real,” Kole said.

Kole brought up the issue of vetting false information while using social media.

“The people that are trying to fool us are getting better at it. We have to take a moment in our newsgathering and do our due diligence,” Kole said.

The panelists discussed how journalists must constantly fact-check their work and watch what others are posting when gathering quotes and information, given that what we read and watch online is so instantaneous.

“We are providers of truth, and our brand suffers when we make these mistakes,” Kole said.

Referring to the tweeting, posting and marketing done continually in the newsroom, Burden said: “Every time we do something in the newsroom, it’s an investment in the company.”

Referring to incorporating social media into journalism, Kole made the discussion’s last remark, one with which his fellow panelists agreed: “It’s not optional.”

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