Archive for the ‘Business’ Category


The Twin Cities’ spirit

Garrison Keillor’s quote, “Be well, do good work and keep in touch,” provides a lesson for journalists. (Photo: Trishhhh/Flickr)

It’s a somewhat overcast afternoon as I look out of the window in the small office of my apartment in Minneapolis, where I’m ending my first full week as a Minnesotan. In the distance is the city skyline, a view that echoes the apartment in Seattle where the fictitious psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane lived.

A week or so ago, I made the over 400 mile move from Chicago to the Twin Cities for greener pastures. I was operating on caffeine and adrenaline, and I still am a week later.

Yet, as I write this, I recall the quote from the famous broadcaster and writer Garrison Keillor, which he uses for his Writer’s Almanac broadcasts on Minnesota Public Radio: “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.”

I had been to Minneapolis twice before in the past few years, and then I didn’t really appreciate the impact of Keillor’s philosophy. In the almost two weeks since I became a Minnesotan, I’ve come to value it and more.

We live in an age where the web has expanded everything that we do, where journalism and storytelling is being enhanced in the realms of Twitter, Facebook and the web. While there have been positive benefits, there also remain questions, especially for those looking to have a successful career in journalism and media.

While we ask ourselves about our role, and how we can truly make a difference, we can take inspiration from those around us. That inspiration can come from reporters trying to make sense of events for the web, print or broadcast, in order to allow us to learn from crafts and the role stories can have.

Inspiration can also come outside of conventional journalism, including from the effervescent spirit of DJs and personalities at MPR’s The Current, who are always eager to share with you something you’ve never heard before.

In St. Paul, on the top floor of MPR’s headquarters, there is a view outside to the east overlooking the state Capitol building – a majestic, poignant reminder of the role journalists have to hold power to account, to promote the exchange of ideas and civil discourse, and to, as SPJ’s Code of Ethics puts it – seek truth and report it. It also is a photographic recollection of the reminder from Fred Rogers that life is for service.

While there are questions that remain to be answered, I simultaneously know that there are people in the Twin Cities, be it at MPR, my colleagues at SPJ’s Minnesota chapter, and elsewhere, whose work and ideas are paramount to helping us understand ourselves. Indeed, the value of the work they do in helping their friends, family, neighbors and the place they call home be at their best is something they don’t take for granted.

They instill in us the desire to learn, day in and day out. I hope, along the way, that I can learn from them.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist who writes for publications in the US and the UK. He also serves on SPJ’s Ethics Committee. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Fred Rogers’ journalism lesson

When we try to decide what we want to do for a living as a career, a lot of questions come to mind. What are we passionate about? What piques our interest? Is there a profession that calls to us to help us do the most good?

On the weekend where we ponder what it means to be citizens of the United States, I stumbled upon this quote from the writer and public television personality, Fred Rogers.

“Anything that we can do to help foster the intellect and spirit and emotional growth of our fellow human beings, that is our job,” Rogers said. “Those of us who have this particular vision must continue against all odds. Life is for service.”

Journalism is a service based profession. It is a calling. Those who pursue it aren’t interested in fame or fortune. They want to inform, engage and educate, all the while enhancing the public discourse.

It is a profession that is being tested, not simply with new platforms and technology, but also the relationship with the public. Earlier today, President Trump posted a tweet depicting him wrestling an individual that depicted CNN.

My colleague, Andrew Seaman, who chairs SPJ’s Ethics Committee (and which I am also a member of), called on journalists and news organizations in a blog post written earlier Sunday to educate the public about journalism.

“The press needs to teach the public what it does and why it matters,” Seaman wrote. “If the press succeeds, it won’t matter how many times the president publishes the words “fake news” on Twitter. The public will know the truth about responsible journalists and news organizations.”

Facebook and Twitter have become a norm in 21st century journalism. In a matter of seconds, anything you write or say can be disseminated – and while both social networks have provided positive benefits for journalism, it has also provided challenges. At the same time, it also provides opportunities – opportunities to further this education, to convince people why journalism is important.

It can start from explaining reporting decisions on Twitter, explaining to audiences about editorial decisions, or also remembering this important mantra: “It is better to be right than to be first.

But this education cannot be done by one person. In an age where metrics is an influential norm, trust in journalism is important more so than ever, and it is something that no one can compete for. It is something that has to be earned, and working collaboratively can help enhance the public’s understanding of journalism.

Rogers is right. Life is for service, and as life is for service, then journalism is one of the most important professions you can be in.

Education is at the core of what we do. We are storytellers, and we work together to ensure the world remains at its best. If we work together, channeling Rogers’ spirit and that of others, we can ensure that we remain at our best too.

Will you join me?

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist who writes for publications in the US and the UK. He also serves on SPJ’s Ethics Committee. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Editor’s note: This post was edited on July 21 at 3:38pm CT to replace content that was from a broken link.

WSJ: Putting their money where the byline is

The Wall Street Journal has pledged to remove the gender gap in their newsroom. They should keep their word. (Photo: Neon Tommy/Flickr)

Last year, when SPJ convened in New Orleans for the annual Excellence in Journalism conference, my colleague, Elle Toussi (who co-chairs SPJ’s International Community) and I co-wrote a resolution with the help of chapters and colleagues nationwide calling for women in journalism to be supported, and for resources to be made available to help them thrive in the industry.

When we wrote the resolution, it included a mention of activity at the Wall Street Journal, as its editor-in-chief, Gerard Baker, had called for the elimination of the gender pay gap. Baker’s goals had the support of its parent company, Dow Jones.

One year later, there are concerns about that pledge and if it will be honored. According to a report from the Columbia Journalism Review, nearly 200 reporters at the organization are waiting for a reply to a letter, dated the 28th of March, regarding workplace equality, and their patience is running out.

The Review also notes that there has been a decline in stories with women bylines published in the A section. The company pays women 85 percent of their work compared to men, the report adds.

A reporter who works with the women’s advocacy group at Dow Jones told CJR there were still concerns.

“This is something that is a very regular topic of conversation among editors and reporters—gender disparity, pay disparity, not feeling that our newsroom is as diverse as it needs to be in terms of race, LGBT employees, or [those with] diverse socioeconomic backgrounds,” the reporter said, who was not named by CJR at the reporter’s request for concerns of retaliation in the workplace.

This report comes as news emerged of a lack of female management at the publication. Rebecca Blumenstein left the Journal earlier this year to join the masthead of the New York Times. In the letter staffers signed from March, Blumenstein’s departure signaled a broader concern.

“Our highest ranking female role model left the company earlier this year,” the staffers wrote. “There are currently four women and eight men listed as deputy managing editors, and both editorial page editors are men. Nearly all the people at high levels at the paper deciding what we cover and how are white men.”

When Toussi and I wrote the resolution, we applauded the Journal’s decision to close the gap, and called on other organizations to follow suit. We also agreed with the resolution passed by the Asian American Journalists Association, the Native American Journalists Association, the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, UNITY: Journalists for Diversity, and the Journalism and Women Symposium (for the record, NAHJ is partnering with SPJ for this year’s Excellence in Journalism conference in Anaheim, California).

In this important time for journalism, a diverse newsroom is quintessential. It is a newsroom to be proud of – a newsroom dedicated to ethical journalism and reporting the facts, whatever they may be, without fear or favor.

It is a newsroom that signals, especially in the digital age, that diversity is valued, and that women’s voices in journalism are just as important as men’s, especially with studies showing more women studying journalism in the US. Their ideas help enhance the best industry in the world, and they will continue to do so tomorrow, and in the days, months and years ahead.

Women should be recognized as equal in the newsroom, and Baker and the Journal should keep their word. They have a unique opportunity before them to eliminate the gap, to ensure a truly equal workplace environment, and send a clear message that no matter who you are or what platform you work on you can do what matters most in journalism – seek truth and report it.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist who writes for publications in the US and the UK. He also serves on SPJ’s Ethics Committee. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Ethics by algorithm

Facebook needs to be more open about its work to help journalism thrive. (Photo: Pixabay)

Facebook’s annual F8 conference began today in San Jose, California. F8 is a two-day conference designed to examine and look ahead to new features for developers and other parties who want to use the social network as part of their work.

The business of journalism and the business of social media have been synonymous. As I wrote on this blog last month, content is king, and with benefits also came questions, notably that of the algorithm, and how it judges the content that users see. Criticism had been made of Facebook for not being transparent enough about it, and news organizations had raised concerns about the algorithm.

The most recent concerns came from Kurt Gessler, Deputy Editor for Digital News at the Chicago Tribune. In a piece published today on Poynter’s web site, Gessler raised concerns about the algorithm as the Tribune worked to engage its audience on Facebook, noting that a third of the Tribune’s posts were not being surfaced by Facebook, causing a decline in the organic reach of the newspaper. This occurred despite a growth in the number of people who like the Tribune’s Facebook page.

Adam Mosseri, speaking today at F8, acknowledged that Facebook had not been the best in communicating its changes to news organizations and publishers. Mosseri also shared some insight into how the algorithm determines what content goes to users.

Mosseri also said that Facebook was training the algorithm to detect content and flag content, in light of the video that emerged this week from Cleveland where a man allegedly shot an elderly person – something my SPJ colleague, Ethics Committee chair Andrew Seaman, wrote about on Sunday. (Disclosure: I’m a member of SPJ’s Ethics Committee.)

Mosseri said that the social network needed to react more quickly.

Mosseri also said that the social network was considering a new discovery tab that for content audiences might be interested in.

While its uncertain if the Discovery tab will come to fruition, it will likely again cause changes to social strategies for news organizations when it comes to their relationship with Facebook.

Facebook’s role in journalism is unprecedented, and today’s discussions were a step forward in helping understand a couple of important aspects about its role, and what is ahead. However, more needs to be done.

SPJ’s Code of Ethics calls for journalists and news organizations to be accountable and transparent. Though it is not referred to as a media company, Facebook is by nature a media company, and it too should be transparent, whether it comes to issues about its algorithm, its news feed, or new features.

This transparency helps not just journalists who look to Facebook every day as a way to disseminate the news (be it through posts on pages or via Facebook Live), but also audiences who consume news, a reason why Facebook continues to have a significant amount of users.

The business of social media has become a core part of the future of journalism. In order for it to be at its best, it must be open about what it does. While today’s discussions are a step forward, more questions need to be answered and more conversations must be conducted, led by either journalists or Facebook, in order to help journalism thrive as we try to assess its future in the digital age.

We must also do this for journalists’ most important task of all – that irrespective of platform, journalists continue to do what the Code of Ethics encourages from the start – seek truth and report it.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is a member of SPJ’s Ethics Committee and a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

The social balance

Social media platforms are in a delicate balance when it comes to platforms and engaging users. (Photo: Visual Content/Flickr via Creative Commons)

In the world of social media, content is king, and for journalists, social media has allowed for new ways to not just inform audiences, but also to engage them – creating new dimensions in the relationship between consumer and news organization.

Yet, while there are benefits for journalists and news organizations in this relationship with social media, there also are questions as to the right balance – informing users versus attracting them.

For social media platforms, it is the matter of designing the right platform to curate these stories, and the algorithm that distributes them to users. This includes the most notable, Facebook, who has rolled out updates on stories and photos in an attempt to compete with Snapchat, which has been a notable app because of its ability to engage younger audiences.

For news organizations, it is the matter of staying true to the goals at the core of journalism – informing, engaging and stimulating, while trying not to be too content heavy, leading to people unfollowing them on Twitter or unliking them on Facebook.

It all comes down to the question both social networks and news organizations are facing: “How much is too much?”

As the right way to handle this is debated and put forward, and strategies are tweaked, there must be the consideration of the people who will ultimately be at the receiving end of these strategies – the audience.

When writing about the changes for Facebook, Casey Newton, an editor for the technology news web site The Verge, included a section in his story on the social network’s introduction of Stories, and wider implications.

Among them is this:

“Where should you post your daily story now becomes a daily concern for a certain subset of youngish, social media-savvy people,” Newton wrote. “Facebook says stories belong everywhere that people are talking online, but what if the format is a fad? And what if forcing it on users across its entire family of app leads to a general fatigue with the idea? The company says each of its apps has a distinctive audience, and I believe it. But there’s also plenty of overlap. There’s a risk here that Facebook’s mania for stories will be interpreted as overkill by its users, and the feature will ultimately fade into the background. (This happened with live video!)”

In other words, on the whole, its the delicate balance that social platforms like Facebook have to play in order to attract users but also try not to put them off. Because of the importance of the content, be it a photo or video based story on Instagram, going live on Facebook, or creating a Moment on Twitter, social networks are trying to be distinct in how they can get the most audiences possible – for content can support a platform’s future.

A new platform or new feature brings the potential for more users on the social network, and the opportunity for news organizations to increase their audience on that particular platform. That opportunity also raises the question of prioritizing stories, and what platform gets to be the lucky recipient of the story.

But considerations must be made for why the story is there on that social network in the first place. Are you posting a story on Facebook because people really need to know about it, or are you putting up on Snapchat a customized dancing cat video merely designed to expand your reach and the number of eyeballs on the post?

It is important that audiences are informed and engaged by journalists about the world around them – it is at the core of SPJ’s Code of Ethics’ steadfast value – seek truth and report it. It is also important that social media plays a role in informing and engaging audiences, as it is a reflection of the change in platforms where the news is curated and disseminated.

Yet, when all is said and done, both parties need to consider what is best for their audiences, instead of the opportunity to boost audience figures. After all, it isn’t about quantity, but quality, and that an accurate, fair and quality piece of work benefits everyone – instead of something rushed.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is a member of SPJ’s Ethics Committee and a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Ethics and authenticity

At NPR’s headquarters in Washington, two sets of keyboards, both connected to microphones, appear before a musician. He sits down and performs three tracks from his album – a performance that is as intimate as it gets, a performance that is powerful and can showcase talent.

His name is Sampha – a singer, songwriter and producer from south London who has come to DC for a Tiny Desk concert, part of the All Songs Considered series, and as it provided some very good background music as I made research calls today, it also made me think.

Although this is a performance, there is a lesson that can be taken from it for journalists – the ability to be authentic, amid the competition of being the first at everything.

In this age where social media has helped organizations disseminate news, information and other content, it has also been a more competitive environment. Who can get to Twitter the quickest with that exclusive or that first bit of new information? Who can I tell first about that story or that performance?

Its a tricky situation, because sometimes in the rush of getting it out there, some errors are made when it comes to information, or you feel because you wanted to be first you couldn’t do justice to the story you wanted to tell, or because that FOI officer with the government in San Diego didn’t respond to your request that an element of the story was missing. When all is said and done, you feel uneasy and concerned, wondering if you did your best work that day.

Allow me to say this: Breathe – it’s okay.

In this social media age, some emphasis has been made on likes for quantity, not quality. (Photo: Pixabay)

The Society’s Code of Ethics calls on journalists to seek truth and report it, that one should be responsible for the accuracy of the work, and that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.

I think however in this social age it has become more than that. It is a reason to be authentic, to go in-depth, to do some uniquely awesome stuff for your audience.

Take these Tiny Desk concerts, for example – these concerts take time and precision. A performance cannot be rushed. A performance is a story, after all – you don’t want it to abruptly finish when clearly the storyteller has more to write or the performer has more to perform of the song.

You could also make the same argument for that interview on Fresh Air or that report you hear on All Things Considered or Morning Edition – stories and interviews that probe and provide context cannot be rushed, and shouldn’t end when there’s more to be seen.

There is room for these in-depth stories, and an appetite for them, whether its a long narrative in the New York Times, on NPR’s web site or in podcast form. Indeed, some of this in-depth stories recently helped NPR to achieve record audience figures.

Yet, in the world of in-depth stories, also exists is the world of deadlines – deadlines which must be met. Even if its a quick story you’re going to do, there still is an opportunity to be authentic. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are some unanswered questions that come from it?
  • Is there an under-reported part of this story that can be incorporated? If it can’t be done immediately, can it be for a future story?
  • Is this angle just to help with space or time – or can it really help my audience understand the story better?

In this age of journalism, I favor stories that take time to tell – something that can go beyond what is reported daily. If that approach is taken, I know my audience will get something that is not just helping them understand the world around them, but I’m also offering something authentic.

So when you’re thinking about your story, take a step back. Think about the subject and the type of story you want to tell. Give yourself an excuse to go beyond the norm, and to experiment.

Then take the time to do it, channeling not just your role to seek truth and report it per the Ethics Code, but this – it is not only better to be right than be first, but to do something well instead of doing it at all.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is a member of SPJ’s Ethics Committee and a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Perspective: It’s important

Students at USC’s Annenberg School have reinforced the importance of perspective and ideas in the digital age. (Photo: Bobak Ha’Eri/Wikimedia Commons)

Last month, Laura Davis of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Journalism curated a series written by her students about how products affect trust with news organizations.

Journalism, in all its forms, finds itself in a quandary as the digital age. Yet, it goes beyond the consumption of it – but how trust can be maintained and ethics can be preserved. We are in the midst of a significant conversation that will ultimately build how we go about work in this industry – and no angle or factor is spared.

This conversation also evolves those who are looking to pursue work in this industry. Everyone who seeks to come into this industry does so for the same reasons – to inform, educate and stimulate the public. The ways that the news is disseminated will evolve, but the goal, as the former public editor of The New York Times (now Washington Post media columnist) Margaret Sullivan put it, remains the same – a reason to be optimistic:

“What matters is the journalism, not the medium. It’s happening before our eyes, and while there’s clearly reason to worry, there’s reason to hope, too.”

If Davis, her colleagues at Annenberg and her students have done anything through this albeit brief project, it is the need for perspective. The ideas of those who will be the future of this industry are just as important as the ideas of those currently in it – for when all is said and done, these ideas can strengthen and bolster journalism, confirm its quintessential importance for our democracy, and give the reason for why our profession’s work is a necessity.

So thank you, Annenberg students, for sharing this insight. May you continue to do so, and may your teachers and professors encourage you to do so.

Along the way, may you encourage other journalism students to do just the same – for we’ll need your perspective, now, and in the years ahead.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is a member of SPJ’s Ethics Committee and a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Just click subscribe

Remarks by President Trump have raised questions on the roles of journalists. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

In New York, in the lobby of the hall at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University that bears his name, sits a plaque of a quote recorded in 1904 by the newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer. It says: “Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together.”

Its beginning is succinct, and is representative of American journalism’s role in a functioning democracy.

President Trump has brought the role of journalists and the media into question. Though conflict between politicians and the media is the globally established norm, journalism is entering new territory, as day after day the words fake news and post-truth become part of the English lexicon, either in print, in broadcast, or online.

Fake news, whether disagreeing with the content or publisher of an article, drives a negative connotation to those working in the industry. It also casts fear, doubt and anxiety among new career and student journalists. The events of the past week have added to that angst, from a press conference at the White House and interviews on Trump’s policies here and abroad with key advisers, to Trump’s tweets.

Journalists are synonymous with the foundations of democracy. The First Amendment is at the heart of this foundation. We are not enemies, we are citizens exactly like each ordinary citizen who gets up every day and do what they need to do. We enter this industry not to seek fame or fortune, but to benefit the common good by informing, engaging and stimulating our communities, our country and our world.

NPR host Steve Inskeep put it like this on Twitter.

We as journalists have a responsibility to ensure that the rights given to our fellow citizens continue – that the guaranteed freedom of the press does not fall dormant.

There’s a simple way to do that. Encourage your friends to subscribe to get a digital subscription of a newspaper, donate to your public TV or radio station, or buy a newspaper to have with a cup of morning coffee. You do it too.

Along the way, encourage the public to become SPJ supporters and show their support for quality journalism.

It may not be much, but the investment matters. The public isn’t investing in a brand or an organization when they subscribe – instead, they’re investing in their neighbors, classmates, colleagues, friends, spouses or family members. They’re also investing in their fellow citizens who get up and go to work knowing the only thing journalists answer to is truth.

I believe that if something is worth doing, you do it well. Good, ethical journalism cannot happen without members of the public. They call on us to seek truth and report it, to help them make sense of the world, and to help in their daily lives.

After all, as the famous editor C.P. Scott once said: “Comment is free, but facts are sacred.”

So this holiday weekend, take some time and illuminate the world for your fellow citizens. Encourage them to just click subscribe.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is a member of SPJ’s Ethics Committee and a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Ethics: Twitter style

Twitter has become essential for journalists, but the ethics rules haven’t changed. (Photo: Pixabay)

In spite of financial concerns outlined last week where its stock prices fell 11 percent, Twitter continues to play a dominant role in the world of journalism. Whether its consuming news, disseminating information or gathering material for a story, Twitter has become ubiquitous with journalism, while journalism has become an essential component of the business of social media.

Yet, while Twitter is still one of those new platforms, it isn’t exempt from the rules and ever-evolving practices of ethical journalism. Journalists need to remember to practice these ethics on the social networking platform, in an age where accusations of fake news and post-truth have had connotations for journalists working on the web.

The Society’s Code of Ethics encourages journalists to practice journalism through these four key principles – Seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently, and be accountable and transparent.

That said, here are five things to consider when disseminating information on Twitter – with a twist, done in 140 characters each (or less).

Be accurate: Neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy, so take the time to make sure all of your facts are right before you post.

Be forthright: Don’t know something? Trying to confirm the accuracy of information? Tell your audience. An honest tweeter is a credible tweeter.

Be cautious: Ask yourself: Is the information you post helpful to your story? Will it inform? Or are you tweeting for the sake of tweeting?

Be accountable: We make mistakes – we’re human. If something is wrong, fix it. Issue a correction and explain what you did. Be upfront.

Be accurate: It’s so nice its worth saying twice! Remember the old maxim – it is better to be right than to be first.

Twitter can be helpful for journalists, but also hinder them. Keeping these key points in mind, you can make Twitter work for you and do the most important thing possible – seek truth and report it.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is a member of SPJ’s Ethics Committee and a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Twitter, authenticity and the audience

The record in the background is one with a driving rock, sort of punk sound, with vocal elements that echoes a sound nearly similar to that of the British rapper The Streets. Not too far away, a visual recording is taking place.

“Today, we’re kinda channeling a little carbon silicon – a little big audio dynamite.”

That is how Jade, who presents the weekday 10am-2pm CT program on 89.3 The Current, the music service of Minnesota Public Radio, begins to discuss one of their songs of the day this past week – TCR by the band Sleaford Mods. She was speaking to listeners and her followers on Twitter through a one minute video clip, microphone off as the record played on air.

Jade talks about the storytelling elements in this record, and though it may sound like its all about racing remote control cars, they use that to discuss the neighborhood they live in, as an element to tell that story.

After it is recorded, the clip is then tweeted by Jade, going out to listeners and music fans near and far.

Video has become an essential component into telling stories on Twitter, and to help journalists engage with audiences. Yet, it is not purely for storytelling, and can be used in a unique way to complement content, on-air or online.

Jade of Minnesota Public Radio’s 89.3 The Current says a humanistic approach can be helpful for journalists engaging with audiences. (Photo: Jay Gabler/MPR)

Song of The Day had been a regular web feature for The Current, based at MPR’s headquarters in St. Paul, for a number of years. Jade began doing the videos regularly 6 months ago. She said that listeners were keen for the deeper connection that had been emphasized since its launch 12 years ago.

“Radio isn’t about the tone of voice anymore,” Jade said in a telephone interview. “There is another way people want to communicate.”

Brett Baldwin, the managing digital producer for music services at MPR, which encompasses The Current and its classical service, Classical MPR, said in a telephone interview that they had always been looking for ways to provide something tangible — something that audiences can engage with. Baldwin noted that half of the social media audience was not based in Minnesota, so the Song of the Day clips were a natural thing in terms of that engagement.

Jade said that there wanted to be an emphasis on interacting in a personal way – similar to a friend. She says it provided a more human experience.

“I’m the one most excited about video,” Jade said. “I try (and our digital team tries) to push it. Its an easy way to interact with our audience on a deeper level.”

In spite of The Current being a music station, there are takeaways for journalists, including the humanistic approach that Jade emphasizes in the videos. That comes from making something short and understandable and convey feelings.

Baldwin says that a humanistic approach can translate to better engagement with audiences.

“At the end of the day we get a deepened relationship with the audience,” Baldwin said.

Yet, The Current is also cautious when it comes to reporting key music stories. That came into play when the news came of the passing of Prince at his studios at Paisley Park in suburban Chanhassen. The station was cautious before running with anything, stating what they knew at the time.

Jade was on the air as the news was confirmed, as Andrea Swensson (who blogs for The Current and presents The Local Current show) was reporting from the estate. The station would then play Prince tracks non-stop for 26 hours to coincide with tributes being done across the Twin Cities.

Jade adds that as The Current was a part of Minnesota Public Radio, they could go back and forth with colleagues at MPR News when it came to broader coverage of the event.

In the end, however, The Current wants to emphasize authenticity. Jade says that if the videos were just about getting clicks, they wouldn’t be as well received.

“It’s about authenticity,” Jade said. “That’s what we try to aim for.”

After all, Baldwin says, authenticity is quintessential in keeping the audience relationship intact.

“Audiences are vital, “Baldwin said, adding that though platforms will change, The Current wants that audience relationship to be real, and to be about the music and its stories. “If they’re not here, we’re not here.”

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and a contributor to the SPJ blog network. He also is a member of SPJ’s Ethics Committee.

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

 

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