Reporters, readers benefit from using social media | OPINION
By SAMANTHA PAK
Redmond Reporter Reporter
March 22, 2013 · Updated 10:29 AM
When I graduated from the University of Washington’s (UW) journalism program in June 2008, the use of social media in the industry was still fairly new.
Most publications had websites with comments sections for readers’ responses but other than that, there weren’t many opportunities for reporters to directly interact with their readers. We could reply to an email, take a phone call or meet with an individual who’d stopped by the newsroom, but those situations, in my experience, were rare unless someone was particularly passionate about something we’d printed.
But now with social media, readers can comment on stories on our website, through Facebook or tweet us on Twitter.
And for those who think we don’t pay attention to those comments, we do.
There have been a number of cases where readers have posted followup questions, pointed out where we may have gotten our facts mixed up and even corrected us on our (occasional) spelling errors. And when we’ve become aware of this, we’ve worked to answer those questions, clear up any confusion or run spell check as fast as possible in order to provide our readers with a quality paper.
In addition to keeping us on our toes, social media is another forum for community conversation. With our stories as a starting point, I have seen readers engage in dialogue with each other on topics that interest them, from sharing what they would like to see come to downtown Redmond to commiserating together over the closing of a popular ice creamery to asking why the post office can’t come back to downtown. And whether the comments are good or bad, as a community newspaper, we welcome your feedback because it shows we are covering issues that matter to the community.
I’ll admit when I first learned about Twitter in college, I was a bit skeptical of its purpose and usefulness. I didn’t join the “Twittersphere” until just after I started working at the Redmond Reporter. As I began tweeting the stories I’d written for the paper, I noticed I began gaining followers with Redmond connections. I found this encouraging as people began recognizing my byline and knowing who I was.
But the true power of Twitter in journalism was revealed to me when a reader who followed me on Twitter sent me a direct message about a bank robbery downtown with the suspect still at large. The Redmond Police Department (RPD) notified us within minutes of my receiving the message, but if they hadn’t, that message I’d received would have prompted us to contact them before they contacted us.
As much as you may see me or my editor Andy Nystrom out and about town, we can’t always be there when breaking news happens. But when it does happen and we’re on it, social media is a tool we use to keep readers abreast of the story as it email@example.com or 425-867-0353, ext. 5052.