Community engagement ‘calls for you to have a relationship with your audience, and it calls for you to be transparent. Report that story in an open process.'

-- Matt DeRienzo,
Group editor,
Journal Register Co.
Connecticut publications





'You need to engage your users in any way you can. And share your content in a way that suits them best.'

-- Jessica Bartlett,
Boston Globe
Your Town correspondent


Social media, trust
crucial to finding,
keeping an audience

By Kristen Lee
Bulletin Staff

At first, social media was seen as the enemy by some news publications. But as time has passed, it has become clear that social media plays a vital role in not only telling a story, but in reaching as many readers as possible.

At a panel discussion Nov. 16 at the UMass-Lowell Inn and Conference Center in Lowell, Mass., about 40 people listened and joined in on a panel discussion called “The Digital Dilemma: How to build a new audience and hold onto the old one.”

Panelists Matt DeRienzo, group editor for the Journal Register Co.’s publications in Connecticut; Eric Carvin, social media editor for The Associated Press; and Jessica Bartlett, a Boston Globe correspondent, all seemed to agree: Effectively using social media and building trust with readers are not only important in acquiring new readers but in keeping them.

DeRienzo discussed an initiative at The Register Citizen in Torrington, Conn., that won the Associated Press Media Editors Innovator of the Year Award: the Register Citizen’s Newsroom Café.

The Newsroom Café includes a library, a coffee shop, and no walls. Anyone can come in and use the free wi-fi there, get to know the Register Citizen’s reporters, or sit in on story meetings.

“The fact that it is public builds trust,” DeRienzo said.

The Register Citizen is focused on the community and working to engage it, he said. By inviting residents of the community into the newsroom, local people not only have the opportunity to voice what interests them, but they are simultaneously helping reporters acquire sources and get ideas for stories, DeRienzo said. He said the community helps in the newspaper’s watchdog effort, and the Register Citizen is participating in crowdsourcing, in which journalists rely on residents of the community to find ideas for stories and hear about events.

“It calls for you to have a relationship with your audience, and it calls for you to be transparent,” DeRienzo said. “Report that story in an open process.”

Carvin also discussed the importance of gaining trust in your audience. Carvin’s focus is on establishing credibility online and thereby gaining trust from the audience.

“When we find things through social networks, we chase them down and verify them,” Carvin said.

Carvin uses social media, such as Twitter, to find possible stories. Once an interesting topic is found on social media sites, Carvin and his social media team always make sure to research and sort truth from fiction.

One example was a story that said George W. Bush had accidentally voted for Barack Obama. Once Carvin and his team checked the facts, they found that the source of the story was a satirical news website and that the report was false.

“You can make some pretty embarrassing mistakes, and this (getting the facts right) is a high priority of ours,” Carvin said.

He later posed the question: “How can we pull back the curtain?

“Anything we can do to sort of invite people in is very powerful,” Carvin said. “It goes back to that credibility. It shows that we don’t have anything to hide.”

Bartlett said Twitter is more than just a good place to find a story.

“To tweet is to tell a story,” Bartlett said.

Bartlett is a Your Town correspondent for the Boston Globe and covers more than one community. Besides writing stories, she is responsible for each community’s Twitter channel.

Bartlett said Twitter is advantageous to news companies for a variety of reasons. First, it is an effective crowdsourcing tool because you can ask a question on Twitter and get a response from viewers, and it can also be used as a marketing tool. Bartlett also noted that Twitter is free advertising and a tool that can be used to interact and connect with people. Using Twitter and other social media says a lot about a company because it shows that your company is on the cutting edge and is open to all audiences, not just focused on a print or online audience.

“You need to engage your users in any way you can,” Bartlett said. “And share your content in a way that suits them best.”

That might include a slideshow, a video, a story, or a series of tweets.

The panelists agreed that building trust is important and that today the digital world plays a crucial role in finding and telling a story.

Members of the audience at the ‘Digital Dilemma’ panel discussion during the New England Society of Newspaper Editors annual conference Nov. 16.

POSTED 11/29/12




















'Anything we can do to sort of invite people in is very powerful. It goes back to that credibility. It shows that we don’t have anything to hide.'

-- Eric Carvin,
Social media editor,
Associated Press

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