How to succeed in multimedia journalism without really trying

My relationship status with social media is…well, complicated.

Trained traditionally in “dead trees” journalism, my transition to the 24-7-365 whirlwind of online multimedia journalism and microblogging was a bit slow, and rocky at times. I began by joining Facebook in 2008, then Twitter and Hootsuite–reluctantly–in 2012. I began using Bitly and Google’s URL Shortener to shrink the links in my tweets into manageable, more aesthetic lengths. I learned how to hashtag. About a month ago, I joined Instagram. In “the beginning,” I used social media almost exclusively as a repository for cute photos of my dog and a place to chat with friends. However, the more I used social media, the more I began to use it to consume and share news. I think it’s really incredible how easy it is for journalists today to find news online using social media and related applications. I mean, as a journalist, it’s like you don’t even really have to try to find news; it finds you, it inundates you.

Instagram is the newest addition to my social media  repertoire. Mostly, I post news and tips about the environment, business and running/fitness. With a few cute photos of my dog thrown in, for good measure.
Instagram is the newest addition to my social media repertoire. Mostly, I post news and tips about the environment, business and running/fitness. With a few cute photos of my dog thrown in, for good measure.

I’ve started to use my three social media accounts as a means of finding and sharing news specifically related to the three topics I cover in my journalistic work: the environment, business and running/fitness. My favorite aspect of using social media as opposed to traditional paper magazine or newspaper journalism is the former’s greater level of interactivity. I find it rewarding to connect with larger news communities, and enjoy being on both the giving and receiving end of news. Many of my followers and those whom I follow have tipped me off to great stories I would probably not have been aware of had they been following my stories on paper, as opposed to on their computer or a mobile device.

Some of the more “interactive” journalists working within my chosen news trifecta include: Richard Conniff, a journalist/ecologist/science writer; John Brandon, freelance business/tech writer and contributing editor at Inc. Magazine; and Jen A. Miller, a freelance writer/runner whose writing is focused on–you guessed it–running. I’ve found that these three journalists, more so than many others, are constantly engaging with their followers and with those whom they follow on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter as a means of finding stories (a smart strategy, albeit one that requires a bit of extra effort).

Besides individual journalists, I also follow several news media organizations related to my chosen journalism fields. My three favorites all post meaningful news and updates frequently–as opposed to the “robot Tweets” or “robot posts” typical of many such organizations. These three news media organizations are the Guardian Environment, Inc. and Runner’s World. Like my three top journalists, my three top news media organizations are interactive within their given web communities, and across the web itself. I think social media’s use of “likes,” “favorites,” “shares” and “retweets” validate when journalists and news media organizations are sharing worthwhile news, thus boosting their reputations and credibility.

Recently I began using the app TweetDeck as a means of better managing my Twitter account. I find it useful that the app is set up in columns, which enables you to follow news–related to specific users, hashtags and keywords–as it evolves in real time. This is an excellent way to follow breaking news stories–such as the recent Metro-North train crash in Valhalla, N.Y.–which are constantly updated with more (and usually more accurate) information. Right now I’m following five topic-specific Twitter feeds (designated by hashtag), which I think catch the most important news related to the news I cover: “environment,” “wildlife,” “green business,” “business” and “running.”

Another great modern online tool for multimedia journalists is the RSS feed, which is a constantly-updated list or “feed” of multimedia content. An RSS feed reader app allows journalists to aggregate the RSS feeds of their favorite news and blog websites all in one place. I’ve found that Feedly, one such feed reader app, is an excellent way to find and follow news. On Feedly (which I have installed on both my laptop and tablet), I have subscribed to the RSS feeds of my favorite journalists, news media organizations and bloggers. My favorite feature of Feedly is that users can organize the RSS feeds they follow into an unlimited number of categories. My RSS subscriptions are organized into the following categories: “Business,” “Environment,” “Food,” “Health,” “Running,” School,” “Science” and “Tech.” I think these categories of RSS feeds are all that I need to be successful in covering my chosen news topics.

One feature I like about Feedly is that all content in your Feedly feed is timed and dated. I use this information to help me make decisions when it comes to sharing or pursuing news. While considering the publication time/date of any given news piece, I ask myself: Is this news still relevant? Does it offer readers/society as a whole something new and/or important? The key to multimedia journalism, I’ve learned, is immediacy. If news is more than a few hours old, it’s already getting stale.

The bottom line: multimedia journalists who use social media and its related apps put themselves at a competitive advantage. If you’re not online yet, go there. And let the news come to you.

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