RTNDA conference: social media bootcamp

Social media can and must be used in newsrooms in this new age of journalism. That was the sentiment that echoed at one of the last sessions at the 2010 Association of Electronic Journalists (RTNDA) National Conference, the “Social Media Bootcamp.”

By Linda Hoang

Moderated by Andy LeBlanc (Leap Leadership Corp.), the bootcamp panelists included Doug Lacombe (MBA, president of Communicatto), who offered a business perspective on the use of social media tools like Twitter, CTV Calgary’s Camilla Di Giuseppe, who talked about her own positive personal experiences incorporating Twitter-use into day-to-day reporting and anchoring, and media lawyer Matt Woodley, who discussed the negative implications that social media can bring to a newsroom.

The session began with a quick survey to see how many conference goers in the room were social media users. The answer? Not very many.

Social media is not a fad and news directors must begin to adopt these new practices into their newsrooms.

The computer, the digital devices audiences are now on constantly, is the source to which newsrooms as well as advertisers, must tap into to reach those audiences, Lacombe said.

He advises news directors to think mobile, think viral, and to especially encourage personal branding of company reporters on platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

Di Giuseppe talked about the many benefits she has found using Twitter.
“It’s a news gathering hub,” she said. “If you ask people for pictures, they’ll give you pictures, they’ll give you information, you just have to ask.”

Twitter is a great source for story ideas as well, Di Giuseppe said, advising that news stations should be monitoring Twitter feeds to find news.

But what Di Giuseppe praises most about using the social media tool in journalism, is the connection it creates between reporter and audience.

“Tweeting” (sending an update to Twitter) during a newscast, “following” someone who follows you, those are ways that make audiences connect more with the reporter and therefore with the company itself, increasing loyalty.
But Woodley cautions session attendees.

“Be careful. There are a number of pitfalls,” he says.

Social media is opening up a variety of legal cases that have never been dealt with before.

Posts made on the Internet are permanent and instantaneous, Woodley says.
“Figure out what your liability issues are (when using social media).”

Woodley adds that he sees social media being the big driver towards development of privacy laws in Canada in the future.

One question that arose out of the Q & A period was; what should newsrooms do about employees who are reluctant to adopt these new social practices?

Di Giuseppe suggests social media tutorials, one-on-one training, and teaching by using examples of others in the business who have had success with social media.
Whether the panel convinced anyone in the session to sign up for Twitter as soon as they got back to their hotel rooms that night, one thing was made very clear as the social media session came to an end.

News directors and all newsmakers can – and must – embrace new technologies and opportunities in order to succeed in the changing industry.
Tweet, tweet.