Searching Instagram for news sources

Different social networks seem to appeal to different audience demos, so understanding how to search several of them for content and sources is critical for a journalist.  For example, according to SproutSocial, 53% of Instagram’s users are aged 18-29.

“Imagine a breaking news story in your community; and thinking about who uses Instagram, if there’s a breaking news story that’s going to involve younger people, this could be a good place to look for images,” says Doug Haddix, director for the Program in Public Affairs Journalism, Ohio State University.

Haddix, who conducted a social media search workshop at the Excellence in Journalism Conference recommends Websta as a tool for finding Instagram content that’s relevant to the story  you’re working on.  Websta works by searching hashtags or user names, so you may have to play around with different terms to find what you’re looking for.  Once you find a relevant photo, you can click on the user’s profile name to try to track him or her down.

Another great tool for Instagram search is Gramfeed.  What I like better about this option is that you can easily search by location and time/date to pull up anything public that was posted to Instagram from the location and during the time period you need.

For example, a search for photos from the candlelight vigil following the shooting incident at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi this week turned up multiple photos. By clicking on the user profile for this photo and then tracking back to the user’s Facebook page, I was able to identify where she worked and found a phone number for that business within 2-3 minutes.

The photos you find on GramFeed can be shared on your newsroom’s social media accounts or downloaded and incorporated into whatever story you may be working on.  (Preferably, with the user’s permission, of course.)

The functionality of Gramfeed and Websta is more robust if you link your own Instagram account to the services, but you can get some content in search results without doing that.  Both are free and both are good tools for finding sources from that younger slice of the audience.



Online news video survey says…

…long and high quality is better.

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 5.30.05 PMResearch published in the Newspaper Research Journal, “Longer, Higher Quality Videos Preferred by News Viewers” had several key findings:

  • Viewers preferred high-quality videos over low-quality videos. (Not exactly a big surprise!) While prior research indicates that people can tolerate lower-quality videos if they like the content, this study suggests viewers “would not tolerate content they found uninformative, bad, not enjoyable or not worth recommending to others.”
  • People liked longer videos better than shorter ones. Long videos averaged 2.08 minutes in duration. (But wait — 2:08 is long?) Short videos averaged 24 seconds.
  • When both quality and length were considered, people preferred long, high-quality videos to other types of video, including short, high-quality ones.
  • A video’s quality influences what audience members think of a news organization, and having longer videos heighten that perception.

As the Shorenstein Center piece citing this research suggests, there is a perception in the industry that shorter is better in online video; and though a 2:00 local TV news package would be considered long in many TV stations, I’m not sure that that’s what most people mean when they talk about lengthy videos.

This is good research to add into the mix, but the debate isn’t over in my view.



How safe are live shots?

wdbjThe murder of two young TV journalists while they were on the air live has unsettled many newsrooms and classrooms. Reporter Alison Parker and photographer Adam Ward were shot to death by a former reporter at their station in Roanoke, Virginia. He had been fired two years earlier and who held a grudge against both of them.

It was a case of workplace violence, which is not uncommon, only this time the workplace was a very public place. The crime played out on television and went viral on social media, just the way the killer planned it.

What does this incident teach us about the risk of going live? Can anything done to make these assignments safer?

TV crews are by definition vulnerable when going live. Reporters are trained to ignore what’s going on behind the camera and to focus on the lens. Photographers are often glued to the viewfinder. And TV cameras, as well all know, are magnets for show-offs and worse. Journalists have been spit at, cursed and harassed by people who just want to get on television and social media. They’ve been attacked by people angry about news coverage and by thieves who’ve stolen their camera gear.

When sent to a potentially risky location, TV crews are well aware of the danger they face. If things start going south, they get out. Some stations now provide security guards for specific types of assignments. But that’s far from the norm. And the live shot that got Ward and Parker killed wouldn’t have merited protection anyway. No one could have predicted that a morning news feature story would end in violence.

Local TV stations aren’t likely to stop doing live shots, although some did scale back for a day in light of what happened in Virginia. And many news managers took the opportunity to remind their staff that nothing is more important than their safety.  But a “be careful out there” memo won’t change anything over the long term.

So what are the lessons to be learned? Here are a few.

Producers should carefully consider what stories they ask to be covered live. Too many live shots offer nothing but “production value” and use up resources better spent on reporting. As the blog Survive Your Job in Television News points out,

Live shots are meant to cover breaking information. It is the fastest means to get viewers the facts. If every newsroom reiterated this definition tonight, that move alone would prevent a lot of live shot photo bombing…and would make it a lot harder to predict where live shots will happen. Therefore, making it harder for people with less than good intentions to find your live shot locations.

Journalists should be extremely aware of the potential for danger on even the most mundane assignment. Choose locations for safety. Let the desk know if you don’t feel safe.

Stations should limit or eliminate the practice of sending journalists out alone to go live. If a two-person crew is vulnerable, imagine how much riskier it is for a solo journalist.

What happened in Virginia was horrific and terrifying. It has shaken everyone in TV news. Let’s not forget it. In honor of two journalists who died, let’s talk about it. And let’s do that in context. The victims were targeted by someone who knew them, not someone who hated the media in general. But those people are out there. Let’s do all we can to be vigilant while still doing our jobs.


Local TV anchors and reporters share social media strategies

Christina Garcia, WLOX  evening anchor, can be found on Facebook: Christina Garcia WLOX and Twitter: @Wloxgarcia.  Photo by Payton Green.

Christina Garcia, WLOX
evening anchor, can be found on Facebook: Christina Garcia WLOX and Twitter: @Wloxgarcia. Photo by Payton Green.

Like many other television news stations, WLOX in South Mississippi realizes that a large portion of its viewing audience comes from social media sites.

New producers and reporters learn how to write Web stories, tweet and post to Facebook long before they begin to work on broadcasts.

Christina Garcia is familiar to audiences across South Mississippi as the lead anchor for the 6 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. news. But when she’s not in front of the camera, she spends most of her time bringing the news to viewers on social media.

“Social media is where your viewers are,” Garcia said. “If you aren’t posting to social media, you almost don’t exist.”

Every day Garcia comes in and finds the stories she believes will most appeal to the WLOX audience and posts them online. Using a service called Shoutlet, she is able to determine the best social media platforms for the stories she’s working on and when to schedule her posts. In many ways, Garcia says her social media duties are just as important as anchoring the evening news.

“This is where the industry has gone,” Garcia said. “It’s not going there, it’s already there.”

While the employees of WLOX use all social media platforms to publish content, Facebook drives the most audience. In addition to the station’s main Facebook page, each reporter and many of the producers have their own fan pages.

WLOX reporter Jonathan Brannan is on Facebook: Jonathan Brannan WLOX and  Twitter: @JBrannanWLOX.  Photo by Payton Green.

WLOX reporter Jonathan Brannan
is on Facebook: Jonathan Brannan WLOX and
Twitter: @JBrannanWLOX. Photo by Payton Green.

With more than 3,000 likes on his fan page and over a thousand Twitter followers, news reporter Jonathan Brannan is perhaps the most popular journalist on social media at WLOX. He says part of the reason he has such a big fan base is because he never takes himself too seriously.

“If people can see you acting human and being silly every once in a while,” Brannan said, “then they’re more likely to take you seriously when serious stuff is happening.”

Some of Brannon’s most popular posts on Facebook are behind-the-scenes style videos of him goofing off with his co-workers.

“Every day I’m learning something new and trying something different on social media,” he said.

According to Brannan, timing, keeping things short and staying active are his personal keys to success on social media. He says that keeping that relationship with the audience is important, especially when there might be something serious going on that could affect them.

“Your audience needs to be connected when things are happening,” Brannan said. “You need to build that communication for their safety.”

This story contributed by Payton Green, a broadcast journalist student at the University of Mississippi.


New broadcast journalism ethics code from RTDNA compared to old

Word cloud created from new RTDNA Code of Ethics.

Word cloud created from new RTDNA Code of Ethics.

What’s changed in the area of journalism ethics?  Quite a bit if the new RTDNA Code of Ethics is any indication.  In the news release, RTDNA indicated that the code was last revised 15 years ago, with this latest version taking a year and a half to develop.

“During 18 months of work, RTDNA’s Ethics Committee considered search, social media, ‘native’ content and other important changes in the way news is produced, distributed and consumed.”

The first tenet of the code — “Truth and accuracy above all” — clearly recognizes the 24/7, social media-driven news world journalists live in today with these two bullets:

o “Trending,” “going viral” or “exploding on social media” may increase urgency, but these phenomena only heighten the need for strict standards of accuracy.

o Facts change over time. Responsible reporting includes updating stories and amending archival versions to make them more accurate and to avoid misinforming those who, through search, stumble upon outdated material.

An increased focus on transparency is made evident by the headline for the second tenet — “Independence and transparency” — with three bullet points devoted to the idea that financial pressures are tougher than ever for news organizations.

o Editorial independence may be a more ambitious goal today than ever before. Media companies, even if not-for-profit, have commercial, competitive and other interests – both internal and external — from which the journalists they employ cannot be entirely shielded. Still, independence from influences that conflict with public interest remains an essential ideal of journalism. Transparency provides the public with the means to assess credibility and to determine who deserves trust.

o Acknowledging sponsor-provided content, commercial concerns or political relationships is essential, but transparency alone is not adequate. It does not entitle journalists to lower their standards of fairness or truth.

o Effectively explaining editorial decisions and processes does not mean making excuses. Transparency requires reflection, reconsideration and honest openness to the possibility that an action, however well intended, was wrong.

The issue of privacy was recognized in a more comprehensive way in this newest code, with the third tenet — “Accountability for consequences” – indicating that preserving privacy needs to be “balanced against the importance or urgency of reporting.”

Just for fun, we created two word clouds of the old and the new codes.  The 2015 code is featured in the image at the top of this post, the 2000 version (pdf) is below.  Missing from the old version, words like “responsible” and “transparency,” “commercial” and “audience” — all signs of changing times for journalism ethics.

Word cloud from the 2000 RTDNA Code of Ethics.

Word cloud from the 2000 RTDNA Code of Ethics.


How to maximize your mobile video stories


In the words of James Harding, BBC’s news director, the age of mobile video is upon us.  So, how are they responding at the “Beeb?” With an understanding of audience demands, according to Nathalie Malinarich, editor for mobile and new formats.

“You really need to grab people immediately,” says Malinarich. “If they don’t like it, they’re going to wipe away or click away.”

She says that “the show and tell is a great example of a format that works really well on mobile and on digital in general.” Walking the audience through a scene and getting them as close to the action as you can makes mobile content more compelling.  She also encourages mobile reporters to dispense with some of the old conventions.

“If it’s a bit rough and ready, that just makes it more authentic,” Malinarich says.  “Sometimes a piece doesn’t need any commentary; viewers on mobile may not have headphones with them. Sometimes natural sound is all you need to tell the story; sometimes quick, improvised video can be the most dramatic.”

She says all of this has “implications for how you think when you arrive at the scene of a breaking news story.”  BBC correspondent Matthew Price breaks down his thought process at the scene of a breaking story this way:

1.  First, get video of any action.

2.  Think about sound.

3.  Describe what’s happening.

4.  Record a short clip with your face on camera.

5.  Publish your material ASAP.

6.  Keep it short.

Malinarich agrees that short is better, but also says it’s not all about breaking news.

“Some slower treatments can work really well; one example of that is the first-person piece.  Documentary styles — making the most of human voices and pictures can also be very popular,” she says.

They key here is thinking differently about this different medium and considering the mobile audience first.


Behind the scenes in TV news

Producers, assignment managers, directors–viewers don’t see what they do but TV news couldn’t exist without them. San Francisco station KRON has decided to share The Backstory in a six-part series, taking viewers behind the scenes.

“There is something naturally compelling about a newsroom and what it takes to gather news every day,” says general manager Ashley Gold Messina.

Whether it’s fascinating or not to the general public, it’s certainly of interest to news junkies and anyone who wants to be a TV journalist. It’s not quite reality–I heard none of the foul language typical of many newsrooms I’ve worked in–but it’s not sugar-coated either.

The series airs on Sunday evenings at 9:30.

Thanks to TVSpy for pointing it out.


What mobile journalism should be and why it isn’t

Mobile guru Judd Slivka much of the gear added to mobile devices increases quality and decreases mobility.

Mobile guru Judd Slivka says much of the gear added to mobile devices increases quality and decreases “mobility.”

“We’re doing mobile journalism wrong.”

Judd Slivka teaches mobile journalism at the University of Missouri and says he’s tested more than 700 apps in the process.

So, why is this mobile evangelist down on mobile news gathering as it’s done today?

“We’re trying to use the tools to create TV packages, what used to work in the traditional news culture.  We’re not playing to the technology’s strengths,” says Slivka.

According to him, mobile has four big advantages:

1. Mobile gives a force multiplier effect. Think of a story — tragic or otherwise — where you need to flood the area with assets. Every news staffer with a mobile phone can be used to gather the kind of quick-hit video and interviews that resonate over social media.

2. Mobile gives us a single production platform. Typically we’d report on a camera or audio recorder, transfer a card to a laptop and assemble and edit there, transmit either from the laptop or through a sat transmitter and then watch social reaction via phone or laptop. Mobile consolidates that and reduces time-to-publish.

3. We can go direct to social fast. This is where the brand battle is going to be increasingly won and lost, as flagship products such as newscasts and websites become places for deep story details.  Mobile platforms are built as social tools and can help us get accurate information to the audience ahead of competitors.

4. The app universe lets us build novel content. Content won’t look the same when we build it from a phone — and that’s a good thing. Using a collage app like Diptic or PicPlayPost, still images or videos can be presented in a way that lets the audience decide how they want to interact with the story.  360 Panorama can do an immersive 360-degree shot, for example, to show the breadth of damage at a natural disaster or what a football field looks like at halftime of a big game.

Slivka says we need to be thinking about “mobile made” as a separate content form.

“It’s bite-sized and consumable.”



Why NBC News had to suspend Brian Williams

Brian_Williams_2015When NBC suspended its main news anchor in February, it put out a statement saying his actions were inexcusable. Taking him off air for six months without pay, said NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke, was a “severe and appropriate punishment” for having “jeopardized the trust millions of Americans place in NBC News.”

Williams had already apologized for misrepresenting what happened to him covering the Iraq war a dozen years ago–falsely saying his helicopter had been shot down. When that didn’t quell the furor, he took himself off air “for several days.” It wasn’t nearly enough.

By stopping short of firing Williams, NBC left the door open for his return–just a crack. But the door could easily slam shut if the internal investigation still underway uncovers evidence Williams did more than embellish one war story. Questions also have been raised about his reporting after Hurricane Katrina. If it turns out he’s a serial fabricator, I think he’s toast.

Why so harsh? “It’s a thing you build over time…called trust.” That what NBC was selling in a series of promos just two months ago, marking Williams’ 10th anniversary in the anchor chair.

Whatever trust Williams had, it’s seriously compromised. NBC clearly hopes that putting him on a shelf will protect the rest of the news division from further damage. But that’s no slam dunk. It’s not just possible but probable that others within the news division were aware Williams was fibbing about Iraq, and that he’d been doing it for years. What does that say about NBC’s commitment to truth and accuracy? If the network really wants to put this behind them, they’ll likely have to do more than punish the figurehead.

NBC News will survive without Williams. Lester Holt is a well-qualified and experienced anchor who has been the network’s designated substitute for years. And Andrew Tyndall, who monitors network news, says it doesn’t matter all that much who is in the chair.

Network nightly newscast audiences are remarkably stable, if gradually aging and declining. Audience size is determined much more by the performance of their lead-in local newscasts than by the identity of the newsreader. And, as said, journalistic content is determined much more by the performance of correspondents and producers than by the newsreader’s personality.

Could Williams resurrect his career? Of course he could. Al Tompkins at the Poynter Institute even thinks he could return to the anchor chair. He wouldn’t be the first journalist caught fudging the truth to get a second chance, and Americans love a redemption story. But I’m not so sure. I have trouble imagining how the network would deal with more “lyin’ Brian” memes, which are bound to resurface even if Williams offers an abject apology.

One thing is sure in today’s network news world: money talks. “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams” is the only network newscast in eight years to draw more than 10 million viewers in a week. If the ratings plummet without him, NBC just might try to find a way to bring him back.


A version of this post was previously published at NewsLab


How to boost audience engagement

Two things we know about social media. Sharing news is easy. Engaging the audience is hard. So why bother?

Engagement is key to building an audience for the journalism you work so hard to produce. Here are three tips for boosting engagement that we shared at the Broadcast Education Association conference in Las Vegas this week.

1. Know your audience.
The BBC’s Facebook page for its soccer program, Match of the Day, has more than 2.7 million followers. What it didn’t have was much success referring its Facebook fans to the BBC website. BBC_match_of_the_day_FacebookThat changed when social media managers became more intentional about engagement. Digital development editor Chris Hurst says referrals grew by 6000% after making some changes on Facebook: more “fun” posts, regular Q&A sessions with pundits, and many more replies to fan comments. They also used analytics to figure out how and when to post to get the most referrals. Consider how your student media use Facebook now and whether some of these strategies could boost engagement and referrals.

2. Target the right audience.
Facebook now allows pages to target fans by interests in addition to age, gender and location. The New York Times is experimenting with sharing TV show recaps on Facebook only with fans of the show in question, reaching a smaller but more passionate audience. The newspaper has seen spikes in engagement that sometimes reach 30 to 40 times what a normal post would elicit. VOX Media’s sports site SBNation targets posts to fans of specific teams. Student media could try this kind of targeting for posts about sports or other campus activities like music, theater and so forth.

3. Use the medium correctly.
Twitter may be a megaphone but your message won’t go far if you don’t know how it works. Consider two tweets sent out the night a man was shot at the U. S. Census Bureau outside Washington, D.C. Both are from journalists, but you’d never know it from the first one. Clarence Williams is a reporter at the Washington Post. He has 227 followers. His tweet makes no mention of his employer (@washingtonpost), which has more than 4 million followers. Opportunity missed.

Census bureau wapo reporterProducer Margo Shear (560 followers) does mention her employer in her tweet, so it’s amplified to the 66,000 plus followers of the television station, @wusa9. She also includes a hashtag, to make sure the tweet reaches anyone following the story that way.

Census bureau crazy night

One more point about engagement on social media: it’s a moving target. Facebook and Twitter are the big dogs, but it seems like there’s a new puppy up for adoption every week. Meerkat and Periscope make live video streaming easy for anyone with a smartphone, and allow users to comment on or ask questions about what they’re watching. Messaging apps like Snapchat are being used to share news. And even the anonymous gossip app YikYak may have news applications: the University of Florida’s J-school is experimenting with a YikYak feed, sharing campus news in the Gainesville area.

Whatever social sharing site or app you use, engaging the audience takes work. If you’ve tried something new and seen it pay off, we’d love to hear about it.