Digital Discussions

Tracking Journal Register Company's Digital Transition

Using the tools to tell the story

with 6 comments

It made headlines when Sky NewsNews Corp‘s Brit-based news site — announced it was dedicating someone to scour Twitter for news leads.

“Having a member of the team committed to Twittering will not only further increase Sky News’ presence in the Twittersphere, but will also highlight the power of Twitter as a newsgathering tool,” said online news editor for Sky News, Jon Gripton.

Twitter is the premiere omnidirectional communication tool journalists have access to. At their cores, our print, web and mobile platforms push content to the audience. That is why we all strive for reader and user interaction. That is why media outlets have put a premium on user-generated content.

What Sky News did was embrace the fact that communication does not begin and end with the news organization. While the idea of having a dedicated staffer to pour through the endless stream of tweets is groundbreaking, it’s also tied to our legacy of failures. Newsrooms once dedicated one individual to computer-assisted reporting when that was new. More recently newsrooms had dedicated online staffers who produced content solely for their digital offering. By making tools like Twitter a specialty — just as we have with everything in print from obits to sports agate to pagination — we have made it more difficult to adapt.

Being familiar with, and effectively using, these tools will make our organizations better, will make our reporting stronger. It will also help us deliver a fuller, richer news package to our users.

Our job is to utilize these tools and to provide context. Our journalist training and experience is the backbone of what we do. Twitter, Facebook and social media tools are just that … tools.

The BBC’s World Service director Peter Horrocks says:

“We need to apply our ethical principles in the same way to social media as we do for our other reporting. Just because it is social media it can’t be different. So we don’t take a different view. But it is a faster medium. It shouldn’t be too difficult to use social media in the same way as live reporting. So it will be used according to the same principle, only the way we deliver it and how we use it has to change …”

So, how does all of this apply to community journalism?

The folks at The Record in Troy, N.Y. implemented the tools we have all been talking about for the past 60+ days to tell the story of a robbery suspect and the ensuing manhunt and lockdown of  Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

The Record’s news staff — including Tom Caprood, Jessica Pasko, Dave Canfield, Jeff Couch, Jim Franco and Siobhan Connally (and others) — utilized their Flip cameras to capture video; worked to post alerts and updates on; and pushed out messages through Twitter that served as updates and traffic drivers.

But the team didn’t stop there.

They utilized Twitter to find sources. By sending out tweets asking RPI students to contact reporters and to share information the staff was able to provide users with first-hand reports from students throughout the news event.

Jim Murphy, The Record’s publisher and senior publisher of JRC’s NY group, says The Record’s news staff dedicates time each week to discuss steps for further integration of video and social media tools in their daily reporting.

“This response to a breaking news story is an example of how the entire Troy newsroom is embracing the new news ecology … the coverage here is demonstrative of how far we’ve come in a short period of time and the return we are earning on investing resources in training and the time we carve out for having these discussions.”

Congratulations to the team in Troy. Examples like this will help showcase the power of these tools as we continue our transformation.

So, the discussion today: How have you used social media tools to engage your audience — beyond content distribution?


Written by Jon Cooper

April 7, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

6 Responses

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  1. At The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio, two of our young reporters, Kelly Metz and Megan Rozsa, have started a lively blog called “News: From the Field” which they describe as “a tale of two rookies surviving in the new age of print journalism and lessons learned on the job.”

    They give readers insight into the new news ecology; they offer reporting tips that our community bloggers and other reporters can learn from; they invite guest posts from other reporters, and they are fun to read. Check out Kelly’s post “The multimedia superhero”


    A month ago, I started a blog called Tell the Editor ( is a continuing conversation with readers, whose posts and responses appear as well as mine. This blog has fostered discussion of important civic issues such as the construction of a high school and civic campus in the downtown area. I’ve also used it to keep readers informed about our efforts in the new news ecology and to recruit community bloggers. It’s also an open door to my office for any reader to use anytime on any topic.


    In January, President Obama came to our area for a town hall meeting and to visit a few spots. We used Twitter and Web updates to keep readers abreast of his movements and doings from arrival of Air Force One, throughout the day, until Air Force One touched down again back in Washington, D.C. We also covered his town hall meeting with live streaming video on our Web site

  2. We use social media internally to improve our newsroom, too.

    For a year or so I’ve been doing a blog called TomSays for the newsroom staff. I use it to critique the paper, to offer journalism tips, to give positive reinforcement and the occasional boot in the fanny, as needed. Many of our staffers are not long out of college, so teaching them the lessons of reporting and editing in the “real world” is a big part of what we do.

    Morning Journal Staff Talk is another internal blog I just started for any newsroom staff member to say anything on their mind or ask any questions or offer any praise, whatever, pertaining to The Morning Journal.

    These blogs don’t replace face to face communication in our newsroom. They augment it. The blogs are a place where staffers can go to read or to post as they have the time. With everyone constantly on the move gathering news and making a paper on differing shifts, getting everyone together in one spot at one time every day is not practical. But on the blogs, we are all “together” all the time.

    • Great idea Tom, especially for groups with more than one newsroom or several shifts where you can’t always get that one-on-one time. E-mails can get lost in the shuffle, especially with the volume of them we get in newsrooms. Think I’m going to steal this idea!

      Matt Grisafi, GM, Intercounty

      April 7, 2010 at 5:57 pm

  3. Tom, are your internal newsroom blogs password-protected/truly internal, or just quiet enough that just your staff knows about them? Or are they open to public inspection as well? Sounds like a good virtual “bulletin board” for not only you, but other staffers, to make notes/post reminders, etc. Would you be willing to send some of us outside your newsroom a link so we can see what it’s like? Matt

    Matt DeRienzo

    April 9, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    • Matt, I’d be happy to e-mail invitation links to other editors who want to check out our internal blogs.

      TomSays is my blog and is open for reading by current staff members by invitation. Morning Journal Staff Talk is another internal invitation-only blog. Staff talk is an open forum for all to post and comment on posts.

      The Staff Talk blog was just recently started, but the TomSays blog has more than a year worth of content.

      Those who would like to look around in the blogs, just send me your e-mail address and I’ll send you an invitation. Contact me at

  4. Tom,

    The blogs look great, and we are stealing the idea … we’ve set up an internal blog for our entire operation here, across all departments, hoping to get all departments thinking about and involved in and generating ideas for the changes that we are making. Thanks so much for this idea.


    Matt DeRienzo

    April 13, 2010 at 8:35 pm

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