Three of four U.S. journalists feel more engaged with audience thanks to social media

The advent of social media has, of course, fundamentally changed journalism in the U.S. and around the world.  According to research conducted by Dr. Agnes Gulyas of Canterbury Christ Church University in the U.K., 78% of the U.S. journalists she surveyed indicated social media had helped them become more engaged with the audience.  They also noted a shift in the news and information power structure as 62% responded that the public has more influence in social media than professional media organizations.

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Gulyas, who surveyed hundreds of journalists on these issues in 2013 and again in 2016, also found that the use of social media is prompting growing concern among journalists who fear “social media is undermining journalistic values” and an even larger group (73% in the U.S.) indicates speed is trumping analysis in journalism, due to the influence of social media.

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Despite the angst, more than two-fifths of U.S. journalists believe social media has had a positive impact on journalism overall and, it’s clear that social media has played a significant role in three key areas of journalistic practice: promotion of content, monitoring news and information sources and audience interaction.

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Gulyas presented her results at the World Journalism Education Congress in Auckland, New Zealand.

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Salaries for TV news reporters, producers increase

When newly graduated journalists start getting those first job offers, they’re often at a loss as to how much they can expect to be paid.  The annual RTDNA Salary Survey is one of the best places to start, and this year’s graduates are getting some good news for a change.

According to researcher Bob Papper, “The latest RTDNA/Hofstra University Annual Survey found that local television news salaries rose by 4.8% in 2015. That’s more than double last year’s 1.9% increase.”

For those just starting the job hunt, it’s particularly important to look at median salaries by market size as indicated in the graphic below.  If you’re a reporter about to be hired in a very small market (151+), an offer in the $26,000 range would not be out of whack, for example.

Courtesy: RTDNA

Courtesy: RTDNA

No surprise that the salary showing the biggest increase was for digital content managers — up 25% year-to-year.   What does seem strange is that news producer salaries continue to be relatively low compared to news reporter positions.  For as much as news directors moan and groan about the lack of quality producer candidates, they might want to take a look at how much they’re paying for this key newsroom position.

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Local TV news grows again, but…

There’s more local TV news on the air than ever, and more is on the way. That’s the headline from the latest RTDNA research conducted by Bob Papper. The median amount of news aired on weekdays, 5.5 hours, broke the old record by half an hour. More than a third of stations surveyed said they added a newscast last year, and a third said they planned to add news this year. But the number of stations producing that news continues to slide, which raises this question: How much of what viewers see on many of local TV stations is diluted or duplicated content?

controlroomThe report found 714 stations producing local TV news, down just slightly from last year’s 717. Another 339 stations–a record high–air news produced by someone else, up from 328 a year ago. Put another way, one-third of all stations airing local news don’t produce it themselves.

A look at long-term trends tells the story more clearly. Ten years ago, there were 778 news producing stations. That number shrank dramatically during the recession, and hasn’t recovered. But the number of stations carrying news they don’t produce has grown substantially in just the last few years. Three years ago, 235 stations fit that description. The new record of 339 is an increase of 44 percent. Let that sink in for a minute.

What does this new local TV landscape mean for viewers and journalists? My chapter on local TV news in the 2014 State of the News Media report lays it out. “You can argue that every time you add an outlet, that unless you add a commensurate number of staff people then you’re just spreading yourself thinner and thinner,” Papper said at the time (emphasis mine).

We won’t know the results of the annual RTDNA staffing survey for another month or two, but my guess is that, when the numbers come out, they won’t show anything like a proportional increase in the number of people employed in TV newsrooms. The conclusion is inevitable: producing more TV news with a higher airtime-to-staff ratio affects the quality of the product, and not in a good way.

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Advice for newsroom interns

It’s that time of year. Students are frantically looking for summer internships or stressing about how they’ll manage to survive through the (unpaid) internship they already have lined up.

We’ve shared advice on how to make the most of your newsroom internship on the blog before, but there’s always room for more, right? These tips are from Laura Gassner Otting, who focuses on nonprofits, but whose suggestions are absolutely on target for journalism interns as well.

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Local TV news profitable on air, online

There’s certainly no reason to rest on your proverbial laurels if you work in TV news, but neither is it time to call the undertaker. The latest RTDNA/Hofstra University Annual Survey found that 2015 marked another strong year for the TV news business.  Nearly 60% of TV newsrooms reported that they made a profit on local news and just 3.7% reported a loss. (To put this in perspective, according to the researchers, profits peaked peak in 2013 at 65.7%.)

Courtesy : RTDNA/Hofstra University Annual Survey

Courtesy : RTDNA/Hofstra University Annual Survey

The news is not all good, however.  According to the lead researcher, Bob Papper, on average, the amount of station revenue generated specifically from news slipped for the first time in the last 3 years, dropping to 47.7%.  Median revenue also fell from last year’s 54.5% back down to 50%.

“But there’s a caution in the numbers.  As I’ve pointed out before, a high percentage of news directors say they don’t know the answer to this question,” wrote Papper.

It’s also important to note that, once again, station websites are contributing to the overall profitability of stations.  Far more stations indicate their online efforts are making money than draining dollars.

Courtesy: RTDNA/Hofstra University Annual Survey

Courtesy: RTDNA/Hofstra University Annual Survey

What’s particularly heartening in the research is that at least some of the profits are going back into newsrooms.  Nearly half of the stations (48.3%) report budget increases in 2015.

All of this should be good news to the thousands of broadcast journalism graduates hoping to enter the workforce.  The industry is evolving but not dying, yet.

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TV anchor/reporter sees advantages in live streaming

KFDM-TV in Beaumont has close to 140,000 page likes on Facebook and that makes up a sizeable instant audience for the station’s live streaming efforts.  KFDM anchor Tiffany Murphy found out herself just how much reach Facebook Live can have when she was sent to cover a fire at the local Humane Society.

MurphyFBLive“I only have 2,700 followers, however, the live video was shared 166 times and seen 42,000+ times with a lot of engagement,” said Murphy.

In fact, that story generated 59 comments with lots of interaction between Murphy and her audience.

“After reporters get the basics down, I think it’s important to show viewers that you are a real person and interact with them,” she said.

One of the reasons Murphy is so effective with live streaming (in addition to the time she’s spent in the field as a reporter) is that she is also an old hand at Periscope.  She routinely used the app to multitask when she was reporting solo in the field.

“Let’s say you’re at a news conference; you can set up your iPhone on a tripod and the producers will watch, and they’ll know immediately what you know. You won’t have to stop down to communicate with them,” Murphy said.

For anyone going live, whether it’s with a truck or through social media, Murphy has some good advice:

  • Don’t try to memorize a script, use bullet points to guide the flow of the information you’re delivering and practice before you go live.
  • Make a game plan for the live shot.  Will you be moving around, showing the audience something or doing something on camera?  Be sure you think it through.
  • Whatever you do, be honest.

“It’s OK to say you don’t know something and to say, ‘Here’s what we’re going to find out.”

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What makes people trust the news?

trust-headerYou’ve heard, no doubt, that Americans have little confidence in what they see, hear or read in the news media. Last year, according to Gallup, trust in media set a new low with just 7% saying they have a great deal of confidence in the news. What’s to be done?

A new study offers some clues. The Media Insight Project asked people why they rely on certain sources of news and information as opposed to others. The results show that consumers make decisions based on specific factors, and those factors vary depending on the topic and the platform.

The number one reason given for trusting a news source is accuracy, with 85% saying it matters most. Having the latest details was cited by 76%, and being concise was valued by 72%.

The study found that people who follow different types of news value different factors. Political junkies trust news sources that emphasize experts and data (79%). Consumers of lifestyle news say they want their news source to be entertaining (53%). People are much more likely to want their source to be concise and get to the point for national politics (80%) than sports (61%).

And platform matters when it comes to trust in news. Just 12% of Facebook news consumers have a lot of trust in the news they see there. LinkedIn ranks highest among social media, with 23% saying they trust news they encounter there.

Digital news consumers decide whether to rely on a specific news source based on additional factors, mostly having to do with presentation. Load time matters a lot to 63% of consumers, as does not having ads interfere with the news. For 60% of consumers, having content that works well on mobile phones is important.

It should be obvious that news organizations and journalists want and need the public’s trust. If a news source isn’t trusted, why would anyone turn to it (supermarket tabloids aside)? So credibility is often tied to the bottom line: a trusted news organization is more likely to enjoy economic success. The study offers this confirmation:

While most people report all of the trust‑related factors are important, some people place a higher value on them than others. And those news consumers especially concerned with trustworthiness are also the most likely to report that they take valuable actions — such as paying for news, spreading news to friends, and following the source on social platforms.

One more thing:

About 4 in 10 Americans (38 percent) can recall a specific recent incident that caused them to lose trust in a news source. The two most common problems were either instances of perceived bias or inaccuracies.

That may not seem like a big deal, but consider this: participants in focus groups said that a bad experience with a news source left them feeling like they had been personally wronged, taken advantage of, or fooled. Earning trust is difficult enough. Rebuilding it once it’s lost is even harder, something all journalists and news managers would do well to bear in mind.

 

 

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How much effort should journalists put into Twitter?

If you’re strapped for time, a Facebook post will likely do more for your website than a tweet.  That’s according to research released on the NiemanLab website by Parse.ly, a social analytics tool used by hundreds of news organizations.  The key finding from monitoring traffic referral sources for about 200 of Parse.ly’s client sites?  Just 1.5% of traffic for typical news sites comes from Twitter.

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The graphic above shows Facebook and Google as the big dogs when it comes to traffic drivers.  However, Parse.ly maintains Twitter does play an important role in the news ecosystem.

“Though Twitter may not be a huge overall source of traffic to news websites relative to Facebook and Google, it serves a unique place in the link economy,” the report said. “News really does ‘start’ on Twitter.”

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Want a TV job? Think about station websites

Raycom regional exec Brad Conaway (center) talks with students interested in digital content careers. Photo by Ji Hoon Heo, April 4, 2016.

Raycom regional exec Brad Conaway (center) talks with students interested in digital content careers. Photo by Ji Hoon Heo, April 4, 2016.

Got news judgment, curiosity and energy?  Raycom’s Brad Conaway wants to talk to you.  The corporate digital content manager says good decision-making is essential when you’re running a TV station’s website and social channels.

“A lot of the job is news judgment.  You have to figure out, ‘Is this a web story? An app alert? Facebook?  What picture can I legally use? How do I make this interesting?'”

Conaway describes today’s digital jobs as positions that put audience first.

“You want to talk to your audience; meet them where they are.  You can do an exclusive investigative story with the most in-depth analysis, but if no one is interested, then why do it?”

Instead, Conaway says stations need to work with their digital content managers to find the interested audience wherever that may be.  He says Facebook is the primary mechanism for finding the digital news audience Raycom stations are after, and here’s his best advice creating strong Facebook content.

  • You have to ask interesting or provocative questions in your posts.
  • You need to read user comments, respond and keep the page dignified.
  • Link posts are the industry standard right now, but Conaway likes picture posts better.  He writes into the links on the station’s website to drive traffic there with a cliffhanger or an intriguing contradiction between the visual and the text.

“Clickbait is a bad word, but that’s what we’re trying to do, get people to the web.  The problem is, if what you’ve posted is a ruse, it is clickbait in the negative sense.  If you tell people you have something they need to see or read, you actually have to make it worth their while,” says Conaway.

For journalism and communication students about to graduate in May, the good news is that Raycom stations need you.  Conaway says they are open to hiring people right out of school, if they have the right skill sets.  So, what do you send on a resume or in a portfolio?

“I’d like to see their personal social media accounts and they can catch my attention with social media skills on a resume,” Conaway says. “We get so few applications for digital jobs at a station level that, unless you have zero relevant background, I’ll definitely follow up with a phone call.”

Salaries for these positions average around $24-26,000 a year but can vary depending on market, according to Conaway.  That’s about the same as a entry level TV reporter or producer position.

“It’s one of the areas of the broadcast industry where you can easily find employment and then work your way up.”

 

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A social media ethics code you can support

CREATIVE COMMONS

CREATIVE COMMONS

If you’re a journalist and you use social media, you’ll want to read this.  And if you work for a news organization — from student media on up to the top markets, you’ll want to read this, too.

According to the Online News Assocation website, “The ONA Social Newsgathering Ethics Code is a document that is intended to gather the support of news and journalism organizations of all sizes around the globe to endorse a set of standards and practices relating to the gathering and use of content created by members of the public.”

Here’s an abbreviated list of the standards and practices:

  • Endeavor to verify the authenticity of user-generated content before publishing or distributing it, and be transparent with the audience about the verification status of user-generated content (UGC).
  • Consider the the emotional state and safety of contributors, including the risk inherent in asking a contributor to produce and deliver UGC and how you might technically ensure anonymity of sources when required.
  • Seek informed consent for the use of UGC through direct communication with the individual who created it and be transparent about how content will be used and distributed to other platforms.
  • Give due credit to the owner of the content providing that consideration has been given to potential consequences, including their physical, mental and reputational well-being.

Two more elements of the code involve helping journalists understand the potential dangers involved with engaging sources through social media and helping journalists cope with graphic/disturbing content.

ONA welcomes news organizations that want to be listed as a supporters of the code, if they send an email with the organization’s name to socialnewsgathering@journalists.org.

This new code is a good conversation starter for any newsroom or any classroom.

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