ONA11 put the spotlight on social media as a reporting tool
In 2010, I attended ONA’s annual conference in Washington, DC, as a journalism graduate student. I knew I was interested in finding an online journalism job after graduation, possibly doing social media, and thought ONA would be the place to gain insights on how journalists were using social media. So I took advantage of the student registration rate, had some business cards made and envisioned my meeting all the social media people I followed on Twitter.
But aside from a few sessions that touched on community engagement and an impromptu project for Intersect, I didn’t find many discussions about the kind of work I thought I might do in a social media job. Don’t get me wrong; I learned a lot at ONA10 about online news operations, emerging technology and digital reporting tools. As a first-time attendee, however, I left the conference without handing my card to anyone in social media and thought maybe ONA wasn’t a forum where social media played a very prominent role.
What a difference a year makes.
Any doubt I had about social media’s place in online journalism was completely dismissed at ONA11 in Boston. From the opening paragraph of the co-chairs’ welcome in the conference program (“Social media tools continue to transform the way news breaks …”) to the standing room-only Twitter and Facebook sessions, it was clear social media’s increasing role in journalism was being fully embraced at this year’s gathering.
It’s understandable. In the year since the 2010 conference, social media continued to transform the newsgathering and reporting process:
- Andy Carvin’s wall-to-wall tweets of the “Arab Spring” uprisings drew international attention and introduced reporters everywhere to Twitter’s potential for covering breaking news, developing sources and investigating stories.
- Storify emerged as a verb and a noun, as social media editors across the country used the storytelling tool for curating social media posts in breaking news. (At azcentral, we used it to share public reaction to Osama bin Laden’s death.)
- YouTube and Storyful, a storybuilding tool that pulls content from social media, partnered with the New York Times for its “Reflections on 9/11: 10 Years Later” video channel to curate archival news coverage and personal stories about the 9/11 attacks.
- Major media outlets introduced Facebook’s Comments Box social plugin, ending anonymous commenting and integrating commments on individuals’ Facebook walls.
- Facebook + Journalists and Twitter for Newsrooms launched to help journalists use the social networks as reporting, engagement and personal branding tools. (LinkedIn for Journalists has been around since October 2008.)
This year’s conference organizers apparently noticed the increased interest in social media’s journalistic value and responded by adding a social media track of sessions, and I hit them all. I heard NPR senior strategist Andy Carvin share his live-tweeting and tweet curation insights as part of the keynote lunch panel discussion. I fought the crowds to see Twitter content team member and digital strategist Erica Anderson and Facebook journalist program manager Vadim Lavrusik each lead a pair of sessions to share best practices and strategies for using their sites. And I took notes as Storify creator Bert Herman, along with Washington Post’s social media producer Katie Rogers and ProPublica director of engagement Amanda Michel, discussed Twitter’s strengths as a reporting tool. As an unexpected bonus, I ended up interviewing Reuter’s social media editor Anthony DeRosa for my blog after meeting him at his session on personal branding. (More on that in my next post…) Journalists working as community managers, social media editors and online engagement directors led a range of discussions about using social media to do serious journalism.
This time, I didn’t hold back from introducing myself to them. I asked for advice and shared what we’re doing at azcentral to incorporate social media tools into our reporting. Incredibly talented people doing creative, innovative things to connect with their communities were more than willingness to share what they know with me. I left ONA11 energized by what I’d learned and who I’d met, knowing I definitely was in the right place.