Raleigh newspaper goes retro

birthdaypageThe News & Observer turns 119 today. To mark the occasion, the Raleigh newspaper published its front page in a retro style, and editor John Drescher wrote this column about its founder, Josephus Daniels.

The throwback design is a fun idea for a front page. A bit of old-timey language (“to-day”) is a nice touch.

It helps that the birthday comes on a Monday in August, a typically slow time for news. It’s a good opportunity to surprise your readers with something unusual.

The house ad at the bottom of page, however, feels incongruous in color and content. On a similar note, I knew about the retro page via Twitter before I fetched the actual newspaper off my driveway this morning:

Regardless, I wish the N&O a happy birthday. As a former editor there, I am proud to be a part of its history, and I look forward to reading it in print and online in the years to come.

UPDATE: The North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill has posted that first issue of the N&O from 1894.

Image courtesy of the Newseum.

Q&A with Sapna Maheshwari of BuzzFeed

Sapna Maheshwari is a business reporter for BuzzFeed. Prior to that job, she worked at Bloomberg News. In this interview, conducted by email, Maheshwari discusses her beat, her recent career transition and BuzzFeed’s new business section.

Q. Describe your job. What is your typical workday like?

A. My job is to write about retail for BuzzFeed’s new business news section. My typical workday is a lot like it used to be — reading analyst reports, talking with sources, contacting companies, reading filings and so on. I spend a bit more time on Twitter and other social networks than I used to, looking for information on the companies I cover in those spheres.

Q. Why is BuzzFeed, known for its animal photos and “listicles,” going into business journalism?

A. BuzzFeed has been expanding its news coverage for quite some time — especially in politics, where the team there has really made a name for itself.

Business news is a big part of the social conversation. Clearly, it’s something people care about and talk about. We’re a small team but think we can write smart scoops and analysis about business that people want to read and share.

For my beat, retail, it’s an obvious fit: writing about the businesses that people shop at and interact with on a daily basis. Our goal is for everything on the vertical to be funny or exclusive, and hopefully, we’re hitting that goal so far.

Q. You previously worked at Bloomberg News. What has it been like to go from the Bloomberg Way to BuzzFeed? What are the differences in reporting, writing and editing?

A. It’s very different. At Bloomberg, the writing was more formulaic, and my audience was typically investors or traders, except when I was writing feature-type stories for Businessweek. I also had more editors, and the fact-checking was more rigorous. I had to put in a ticket to get a photo attached to a story.

Here at BuzzFeed, it’s obviously a smaller operation. I can put together the posts myself, and it goes out much quicker. We’re also not writing up earnings stories and stock moves, so I can spend more time reporting and researching.

That said, the reporting itself is largely similar, but I have less data at my fingertips without a Bloomberg terminal. Working at Bloomberg for so long definitely made me a fair and careful reporter, though, and I’m so glad I started my career there.

Q. You graduated from the UNC School of Journalism in 2009. What is the most important thing you learned there, and what new skills have you had to pick up since college?

A. Wow, hard to pick out the most important thing I learned at the j-school. I’m definitely extra careful with facts and spelling thanks to my classes there.

I think one of the most important things I took away was from my business and the media class — learning about the role of PR in business journalism and how the two fields can work together despite often having different goals. I have always kept to the rule that a story shouldn’t be a “surprise” for a company and that transparency from my end goes a long way in building trust with them. Having so many friends that went the PR route in the j-school reinforced that for me.

As far as new skills, I’ve gotten more adept with company filings and using social networking tools to find sources for stories. I also became a bit of a pro on the Bloomberg terminal after working on one for 3.5 years!

Follow Sapna Maheshwari on Twitter and read her articles on BuzzFeed.

Q&A with Kirk Ross of The Carolina Mercury

Kirk Ross is editor of The Carolina Mercury, a website that focuses on North Carolina news, issues and politics, including the state’s General Assembly. In this interview, conducted by email, Ross talks about the site, his job and online and print journalism.

Q. What is the purpose of The Carolina Mercury as a self-described “filtered aggregator of news with occasional bits of analysis”?

A. Eventually, we want the Mercury to be a mix of longer essays, visual elements (slideshows, video) as well as the shorter posts were doing these days to clue folks about issues and news events. Right now, we’re just trying to keep up with a news cycle that’s in hyperdrive because of the legislative session, so most of our posts are in the shorter style.

I think one of the big problems with aggregators, both the automatic ones and the human-initiated kind, is that they give you little or no context. My favorite new phrase for what we’re trying to do with our shorter posts is “curated aggregation,” and it means not just a link and a pull quote, but adding a reason why the story is important and giving the reader some context by noting previous, related stories as well as doing some taxonomy work.

For the various news feeds and Twitter feeds on the site, we’ve actually done some filtering. The Twitter feeds on the site monitor a mix of individuals, organizations and hashtags. The #NCGA (North Carolina General Assembly) and #NCPOL hashtags can occasionally be dominated by trolls, junk posts and people who keep writing tweet after tweet hyping some ideological view, so we’ve got those tweets filtered out to make the feed a better information tool.

Q. What is your role at the Mercury, and what is your job like from day to day?

A. Like I said, right now it’s a madhouse keeping up with legislation and the General Assembly, so that dominates life at present. I’m covering the legislature for two news organizations, one in the mountains and one on the coast, and have two columns a month on public policy to write as well.

My day starts with seeing what bills have been filed or are on the calendar, reviewing them and letting folks know if there’s something significant coming. The volume is so great at times that it’s all triage.

I either drive to Raleigh or tune into the committee hearings and House and Senate session via the web and blog accordingly. I coordinate with Lucy Butcher, who is the other main reporter/editor at the Mercury, on things that are coming up or what’s breaking. It’s all fairly reactive, which is not my favorite mode to be in, but that’s the news business when things are, well, newsy.

After the session, things will change a bit. I’m going to drive around the state for a while looking for interesting stories that do not include the word “legislation.”

Q. What are some of the challenges of covering the General Assembly and state government in general?

A. Keeping calm and carrying on. No, seriously, that is a big part of it because a lot of important changes are being pushed through.

There’s a temptation to cover something because it is outrageous, but you have to have some discipline. You can’t let yourself get distracted by every crazy piece of legislation that comes along. You have to stay focused on what actually might become law.

The longer I’ve done this, the more I dislike politics and all the noise that comes with it. I much prefer a good policy tussle.

The hardest thing about the NCGA this session is that there are so many new members. More than half of legislators are in either their first or second term, and at times, it really shows. There’s such a rush to change things that there’s not a lot of time for legislators to really understand what policies are now and why they’re in place before being asked to change them.

The rest of state government in this era of supermajority is a strange beast. The addition of three times as many political appointees and years of worry about having one’s budget slashed has taken a toll.

Nobody wants to get on the radar screen, meaning no one wants to say anything to the press that could bring down some heat. There’s a lot of self-censorship, and I’m not seeing any headway on making things more transparent.

Q. The big question with digital media is financial. How can sites like the Mercury become economically viable?

A. Do good journalism. Break some stories. Don’t let the site meter run your life, or you’ll end up chasing celebrities, pumping up scandals and ignoring stories that actually make a difference in people’s lives.

If you can do these things, you can find an economic model that works whether that’s a tip jar, subscriptions or some big grant. Whatever you do, don’t think you can do it through advertising. It’s been tried.

Q. Previously, you were editor of The Carrboro Citizen. What has the transition from a print-centric publication to an exclusively online entity been like for you, and what advice would you have for journalists looking to make a similar transition?

A. I always told people that one of the great advantages the Citizen had was that I got to integrate the web and print versions from the start. That was enlightening because it got us past the idea of adapting or converting and into a combined creative process.

It changes your writing if you know you’re going to be able to put the full text of a bill at the bottom of a story or be able to quote extensively from a report. You have to consider how to format, how people read online and how they share stories with each other.

I learned how to make newspapers when they were still made out of molten lead and you had to know how to count headlines. That shaped the profession long after offset changed everything.

You still see the same short verbs and slang created by clever editors for single-column stories. The mental exercise of composing a headline under those circumstances always helped me better understand the story I was writing.

Thinking about how you’d tweet something or post it to your Facebook page isn’t something you’re forced to do since that the big, mean Internet took your print publication away. It’s how information flows now and, frankly, it smells a hell of a lot better than those old linotype machines.

Visit the Carolina Mercury on Facebook and follow its Twitter feed.

Student guest post: Sorting truth from parody on Twitter

Students in JOMC 457, Advanced Editing, are writing guest posts for this blog this semester. This is the ninth of those posts. Brooke Pryor is a junior majoring in journalism on the reporting track. She is an assistant sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel and will be an intern with the Colorado Springs Gazette this summer.

In the age of the Internet, it seems like we have instant access to celebrities and public figures. Through Twitter and Facebook, ordinary people like you and me can get information directly from the source without having to pick up a telephone. It’s as easy as reading a status update or a new tweet.

Or is it?

Outlets like ESPN, the Huffington Post and TMZ report tweets from celebrities as indisputable facts. A tweet from the account of a public figure should be taken as a fact, right?

Tiger Woods tweets that he’s in a relationship with Lindsey Vonn. It’s from his verified account, so it must be true.

But what if these tweets from celebrities and other public figures weren’t as ironclad as they appear to be.

A new service called “Let Me Tweet That For You” generates a realistic-looking tweet from any account. It’s simple — just type in the name of the account and what the tweet should say, and the service creates a tweet that can be captured and shared.

In a world where journalists and editors already have to stay on their toes to avoid Internet hoaxes or misinformation, this addition of fake tweets only adds to the confusion and frustration of copy editors trying to check facts.

While Twitter is a great resource for breaking news and disseminating information across the globe at breakneck speed, the rise of these websites and parody accounts makes it increasingly difficult to use Twitter as a trustworthy source.

After the recent selection of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the new pope, a fake Twitter account for the new head of the Catholic Church was shut down. The account had been up for nearly six months, but after Bergoglio was chosen, people began tweeting to the fake account in congratulations. The fake account gained more than 100,000 followers before being suspended.

This case is a prime example of why copy editors have to be wary before trusting a Twitter account. It’s important to be extra careful when linking to the tweets in a story or putting together a Storify page. As instances of parody accounts and fake tweets rise, it will be increasingly difficult to go to twitter for information.

Student guest post: NCAA’s warning against over-tweeting limits free press

Students in JOMC 457, Advanced Editing, are writing guest posts for this blog this semester. This is the eighth of those posts. Kelly Parsons is a journalism and political science major and former sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She will intern at The Star Tribune in Minneapolis after graduation in May.

I’ll be honest. I don’t spend much of my time reading the fine print. So when I was discussing live-tweeting upcoming basketball games with my traveling companions en route to Kansas City for March Madness coverage, I was surprised by the NCAA’s rules against it.

Attached to the email I received approving my media credentials for the tournament was an informational sheet that told me a bunch of miscellaneous information about team practices times, the media buffet and more.

In the final paragraph on the last page, under the subhead “Blogging and New Media Policies,” it reads:

Each Credential Holder (including institutional, television, Internet, new media, and print publications) has the privilege to blog (or update Facebook or Twitter accounts) during competition through the Credential Entity. However, the blog may not produce in any form a “real-time” description of the event.

The warning goes on to define real-time, which the NCAA classifies as “continuous play-by-play account or live, extended live/real-time statistics, or detailed description of the event.”

Anyone who follows a sports writer on Twitter knows that nowadays, tweeting from press row is now considered to be one of a reporter’s duties. So herein lies an interesting question: When, at least in the NCAA’s mind, does it become too much?

It appears the NCAA wants to limit the kind of free play-by-play that might keep someone from tuning into a live broadcast or even attending the game in person. However, the NCAA’s rule steps on journalists’ toes, discouraging them from doing their No. 1 job of providing information to the public.

These same guidelines can be found on the NCAA’s website, which warns that breaking this rule could lead to revocation of an NCAA-issued credential. The NCAA, however, isn’t the only institution lately to make rules against live-tweeting.

In August, Ohio State made the news when journalists were banned from tweeting during football coach Urban Meyer’s news conferences. The ban appeared to have been lifted shortly after, but not before journalists affected by it spoke out against it.

The case at Ohio State is just one example of gatekeepers not knowing how to respond to and deal with the ever-changing media that journalists use to reach out to fans. During my time at The Daily Tar Heel, I’ve covered many NCAA tournaments in a variety of sports.

Despite its warnings, I’ve never once heard of nor seen the NCAA actually revoke someone’s credential for over-tweeting. In fact, in a meeting this month with the Associated Press Sports Editors, NCAA officials said there would be no “numerical restrictions on social media posting during its postseason events.”

The fact, though, that it remains within the realm of the NCAA’s power to send a journalist home for sharing too much information makes me question how free the free press really is.

Q&A with Wes Platt, news editor at the Herald-Sun

Wes Platt is the newly appointed news editor at the Herald-Sun newspaper in Durham, N.C. He previously served as a reporter covering K-12 education. In this interview, conducted by email, Platt discusses his new job, which includes writing editorials and contributing to the paper’s social media presence.

Q. Describe your job. What does a news editor do on a typical day?

A. Right now, my days are mostly atypical, because we’re in the process of replacing me on the K-12 education beat. Until that happens, I’ll occasionally throw my reporter hat back on to cover a school event or board meeting.

But on days that are close to normal, I start from home in Watts-Hillandale, posting news from the Herald-Sun website to our Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Around 2 p.m., I arrive at the office and get caught up on what’s going into the next day’s paper. I talk with Bob Ashley, our editor-in-chief, about the plan for the night and what I’ll editorialize about. I start building a budget of national and world interest stories for Section C. I select and upload cartoons for the op-ed page.

About 5 p.m., the day starts blurring, because reporters are submitting copy for editing and I’m often writing an editorial. Once I edit an article, I upload it to our internal system for the page designers and then to the website. When I finish an editorial, I send it to Bob and our publisher, Rick Bean, for review and feedback.

As fresh material starts popping up on the newspaper’s website, I get busy promoting it through our social media outlets. I try to limit this to just a few links in each burst.

Later in the evening, I may be waiting for a reporter to file a late article from a government meeting or special event. That quiet time is often when I peruse the paper for editorial topics to explore in the coming days. But it’s also when I keep an eye on other media and our breaking news alerts.

After all copy is edited and uploaded everywhere it needs to go, I shift into air traffic control mode and wait to review the pages for the next day’s paper online.

Before calling it a day, I’ll send Bob an email outlining what’s done for the next morning if I am able to work ahead.

Q. What kind of a news town is Durham? What stories do you find most interesting?

A. It’s an eclectic town with so many interesting facets. I am always interested in stories that defy stereotypes and show real moments and genuine personalities.

I hear a lot of people painting Durham as a sort of “little Detroit” when it comes to crime. But while we do have rough areas, we’re also incredibly diverse, creative and forward-thinking, from our universities to the Research Triangle Park. I love to read (and write) stories that go beyond the superficial stereotypes.

Q. You also handle the editorials for the newspaper, which is not typical for a news person to do. How do you balance those aspects of the job?

A. It is unusual, but I don’t think it is intended to be permanent. I’m handling some reporting duties during this transitional period until a new reporter is hired.

As I noted earlier, although I write editorials, I don’t do so in a vacuum. These are intended to reflect the editorial board’s opinions, not just mine. Bob and Rick may offer feedback, suggesting a different tone or other changes that allow the piece to truly represent the newspaper.

Once we’ve got a new K-12 reporter, I’ll start writing columns to keep me out in the community and sharing my voice with readers. Beyond that, I expect my byline on objective articles to become an exceptional rarity.

Q. You are active in social media. What are you and your newspaper hoping to achieve there?

A. Bottom line: We want people to put their eyes on the Herald-Sun website and print edition. Twitter’s an incredibly crowded breakroom with lots of people gathered around the water cooler. We want to be part of their conversation.

Through these outlets, we want people to know that their local Durham newspaper is still here, and we’re still telling great stories about their hometown. We want to connect with our readers so they can share more wonderful stories with us, and then we can shout about those on the internet too. It all helps feed the daily beast.

Q. It’s been a difficult period for the newspaper business, with staff reductions at the Herald-Sun and other publications. What do you see as the future of newspapers?

A. So far, the 21st century has been apocalyptic for many print newspapers. Really, there’s no way to sugarcoat that.

But it is truly evolution in action. I am optimistic that papers like the Herald-Sun can survive because of our concentration on local news.

Social media won’t be our salvation. To me, social media is the new billboard, a new sign on the side of a downtown bus, the little ad on the restaurant menu. It reminds the people who are listening that we are still here.

It helps spread the word and gets people talking about us, which is great (and inexpensive, which is also a big plus), but it doesn’t guarantee survival.

Our salvation will be readers who recognize and appreciate the local coverage we offer each and every day, and who challenge us to cover more and better.

Follow Wes Platt on Facebook and Twitter.

How a seventh-grader knows that it’s a snow day

As I drove home from work yesterday, I heard reports on the radio of wintry weather headed toward the Triangle region of North Carolina. That, of course, was followed by reports of delayed openings for some schools.

That’s how I typically get information about closings: radio and television. When I worked in the newspaper business, we published such announcements in print. Newsroom deadlines and school administrators didn’t always work well together, however.

When I got home, I mentioned to my son, a seventh-grader, that schools might open late Friday because of bad weather. He hadn’t heard anything about that possibility, so I was his initial source for this news. Then he looked at his iPad for more information.

I asked: “How do you and your friends find out if schools are closed or delayed because of weather?”

He replied: “Instagram.”

I had asked the same question of high school students two years ago. Their answer then: Facebook.

My son’s choice of news source was confusing to me, because I think of Instagram as a place to look at photos posted by friends, not for breaking news. But sure enough, a little after 9 p.m., he said: “Ah-ha. We’re on a three-hour delay.” He showed me that several of his friends were posting screen-grab images from Twitter and the school system’s website making the announcement.

It turned out that our area got nothing but a cold, hard rain on Friday morning. No white stuff, no black ice. And no snowy scenes worth posting to Instagram.

Q&A with Melissa Kotacka on college admissions and social media

Melissa Kotacka is assistant director of admissions at UNC-Chapel Hill. She is known on campus and beyond for her active and lively use of Twitter. In this interview, conducted by email, Kotacka talks about her job and how college admissions is changing in the era of online and social media.

Q. Describe your job. What do you do on a typical day?

A. Oh, boy. Honestly, there is no “typical day” in college admissions. Our work is so cyclical that what we’re doing in September is vastly different from what we’re doing in April or November or June or January.

Our office has about 50 full-time staff, plus another 16-ish seasonal readers. I work on the recruitment side, which entails counseling students and families through the college search and application process; conducting information sessions and events on campus; staffing fairs, school visits, and events off campus; reading applications as a part of the admissions committee; and any “other duties as assigned” that pop up on any given day.

We refer to the fall as “travel season” because our recruiters are doing just that: traveling around North Carolina, across the country, and even internationally to meet and recruit the best and brightest students to Carolina. This is by far my favorite time of year, because while students (and parents) might be nervous, they’re mostly excited. We get to have conversations about goals and aspirations, and we also get to dispel some of the urban legends that float around among PTA circles.

Yesterday, I was in the office as one of our “deans of the day” (our equivalent of being “on call”). I met with a few students and a principal who visited our office, plus talked to many people on the phone who called for assistance. In between, I scheduled out-of-state school visits and college fairs (my colleague Damon schedules our N.C. travel).

Through the end of September, I’ll be in New York City and on Long Island. A day on the road usually entails three to four private visits to high schools, where we meet with students and counselors for anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes to talk about Carolina and our admissions process. More often than not, we also attend college fairs in the evening, so our days can stretch pretty long, since visits usually span the full school day and fairs usually run until 9 p.m.

Travel season also entails a lot of time in cars, airports and Panera/Starbucks. George Clooney’s character from “Up in the Air” has got nothing on your average admissions officer.

Q. Prospective students and their parents can get information about UNC in print and online, in course catalogs and on blogs. What is the approach of the admissions office in this regard?

A. Over the past few years, we’ve moved to a mostly electronic knowledge base. It’s more accessible for students and parents; fits with university goals of sustainability; and allows us to update materials more quickly (because as soon as you print 10,000 copies of anything, something changes).

Our goal is to be as accessible and informative as we can; online resources are a big part of that. Of course, we do have print materials available, but they’re meant more as a snapshot/teaser to encourage students to explore our online resources.

Starting last spring, we’ve been fortunate to have a team of interns from the School of Journalism working specifically on social media strategy. That has involved increasing our Facebook and Twitter presence and creating other projects to deliver information to students both on-demand and in an engaging manner.

The team I work with is also increasing our “virtual visit” presence through the use of Skype and Google Hangouts, which allows us to “visit” schools we might not be able to reach in person. For students who don’t have the time or resources to visit campus, online media and resources are invaluable in the college search process.

Q. You are prolific on Twitter. What do you and others in the admissions office hope to achieve there?

A. I started using Twitter as a way to stay informed about the various things happening on campus and to share those stories with prospective students.

As an office, we use Twitter as a major resource to collect stories about what students and faculty are doing NOW – for example, at a program in Salt Lake City last week, I was able to share that Steve Case, co-founder of AOL, was on campus speaking in Econ 125 that same morning. Twitter also helps us to share what we’re doing NOW: integration with Foursquare lets us “check in” to events and school visits; we post updates from our admissions blog; and we link to scholarships & other opportunities for prospective students.

As for individual staff, we find that the networking factor is huge – both on campus and off; it puts a human face to the people who are reading applications (we are real people with real lives who are not at all scary). It’s even helped us plan travel: while Damon was in Atlanta last week, a school counselor in Georgia who follows me invited us to visit and within the hour, it was scheduled.

Q. What are other colleges and universities doing with social media and student recruitment and admissions? What trends do you see emerging in the near future?

A. What timely questions: just yesterday, there was a #SocAdm12 discussion on trends and practices in social media usage for admissions purposes. Having a presence on the networks students use is just the beginning: We have to engage them too, lest we just be posting into a vacuum.

Many schools blog (UVAJohns Hopkins, and MIT); many tweet, both institutionally (UC-BoulderNCSU) and as individual staff (UVaDeanJ); some leverage Foursquare (DukeHarvard).

At an institutional level, many schools have YouTube accounts – UNC included – and this is helpful in our mission of showing students what our campuses are like. It’s one thing for me to stand behind a table at a college fair and tell you about life at Carolina; it’s another for you to watch a video of the Carolina Ukulele Ensemble performing on Polk Place or read a blog entry from a senior about her favorite Carolina moments.

There’s been a push in the past few years for colleges and universities to jump into the “next big thing!” for recruitment purposes, but I think this economy has pushed all of us to be more creative about how we leverage our time, money, staff, and resources; social media and other online resources are going to continue to be a big part of that.

What Abe Simpson yelled at

Clint Eastwood’s appearance at the Republican convention is the talk of Twitter and morning TV today. As part of his shtick, the filmmaker spoke to an imaginary Barack Obama, who was represented by an empty chair.

The chair has, of course, led to various online memes, including this one with a “Simpsons” reference:

Some people seem to think this is an odd coincidence, equating Eastwood with Abe “Grampa” Simpson. But I knew immediately that this was an altered version of a real “Simpsons” joke. Here’s the original:

How did I detect this? For one thing, my colleague Bill Cloud is known for giving students extra credit for headlines that include “cloud” references. Secondly, I’m a longtime “Simpsons” viewer to the point that I am probably in the 1 percent in “Simpsons” trivia.

So if you see that “Old Man Yells At Chair” image on Facebook or Twitter in the coming days, you’ll know it wasn’t the real gag. Changing an image for a news event is, of course, part of how memes work. That’s fine. And it’s harmless in that it doesn’t cast an actual person or organization in a bad light, unlike this one.

This is not the only time “The Simpsons” has used headline humor. More about that here.

Q&A with Amy Bartner, social media editor at the Indianapolis Star

Amy Bartner is social media editor at The Indianapolis Star. In this interview, conducted by email, she talks about her job, her transition into it from reporting and careers in social media.

Q. Describe your job. What is your typical day like?

A. My job is one part strategy and one part sitting behind the wheel of our main-branded accounts. Or, two parts strategy and one part account-manning (or the vice-versa), depending on the day.

I plan and brainstorm creative new ways for reporters to reach readers, wherever those readers might be. This ranges anywhere from a “check to see if you can find the subject of the story on Facebook” to a multi-faceted strategy for number of posts, fan engagement and acquisition like one we created for the Super Bowl.

When it’s not bigger-picture stuff, I’ll work to constantly feed the beast that is social media. It’s like laundry — it’s never done.

Q. You use a lot of social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. How do you decide where to concentrate your efforts?

A. I’ll go where I know people are. Sound like a stupid answer? I have good reasons, I swear. If I hear multiple people (my friend? My family? If my mom knows, we’re too late) talking about a service, I’ll go there.

Then, I’ll watch the numbers. Number of users on any given site is tops, but number of interactions within the site is important, too. There are fewer users on Twitter than on Facebook, but the number of tweets sent out daily more than doubles that number of people with Twitter accounts, which gives it much more value.

Same goes for Google+ — its marketers/developers would have you believe it’s not as empty as we all might think, but the number of shares/interactions on it is pitiful compared with Facebook, Twitter — the big ones.

You have to also pay attention to new, rising sites. We should be early adopters, but there’s no reason to be first and waste resources. Watch the community for a little while — because, as we all know, each social media site has its own little ecosystem with built-in protocols and rules — and develop a start-up plan. THEN join. I’m not saying to wait months, but there’s no sense in rushing.

The next thing I’ll look at is the amount of traffic directed from those avenues to our site. A rising social media site will direct traffic to our news site, whether we’re there or not. Which brings me to the last thing to look for: It doesn’t matter if it does direct traffic to us. If our readers are there, we need to be there, too. Period. (And then figure out a way to get them to us.)

Q. You were a reporter before becoming a social media editor. What skills did you keep during that transition, and which ones did you have to learn in the new job?

A. I had heard all through college that it was important to be a reporter before moving to any other spot in the newsroom, and I don’t know that I really ever believed it until I became social media editor. But because of my background, I’m incredibly anal about the voice and tone of everything I push out on social media, whether it’s from my own account or The Star’s.

It’s in AP style. It’s in English. I triple-check every link I sent out. It’s vetted, verified and correct — just as it would be if it were in a story.

That’s what separates us from the rest of the world. We’ve been trained to be accurate and quick, above all else. I’m not sure why some view social media as a reason to throw all that we were taught in journalism school out the window, but it’s not.

As for skills I had to learn, I had to learn to be engaging and more or less (stealthily) demand the conversation. When I was a faceless byline on a newsprint page (or, even a webpage), I often didn’t see that conversation taking place.

So I’ve had to learn how our audience works and direct that interaction accordingly. And, speaking of interaction, social media is the epitome of a two-way street. Readers not only want journalists to be responsive, they expect them to be. This is a hard thing for many classically trained journalists who were never taught to be part of the story or to put their own voice in, or even to interact with readers.

Q. What advice do you have for someone looking to go into a career in social media?

This career is in great demand, and I don’t think we fully realize where it’s going to go. I’d love to have a team of people at my news organization who strategize and plan for each section of the newsroom and who are constantly on and interacting 24/7. Not only that, but because social media affects so much of our audience’s lives, I believe this is a missed beat opportunity in most newsrooms.

Many of the students I’ve met don’t know their value in this area and how much they can truly help journalists who were out in the field before social media. So, students: You’re invaluable and no matter how much you’ve been told that being on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. is a waste of time in class, stay current and read everything you can. When you’re in the real world, you’ll become a resource. Seriously.

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