At last week’s news:rewired conference, I attended a session about Newsroom Architecture. The topics discussed were quite far-reaching, and in her presentation, Helje Solberg, executive editor of the norwegian paper VG, spoke about how her newsroom use social media. She said staff are asked to now spend 10% of their time working on social media.
It struck me that using Twitter and Facebook had previously been seen as procrastinating in the past, but now it’s actively being encouraged, and that’s a promising step forward. Social media can be a great tool for newsgathering, content distribution and community engagement when used correctly. Solberg spoke a lot about the essential role it played in the recent Oslo blast and Utoya shootings, and how it became an invaluable source of news. However, as great as it is that social media is becoming so accepted and encouraged, Solberg admitted when questioned that not all staff are keen to engage with the new 10% rule.
I was disappointed to hear this, especially considering the successes that the paper has enjoyed using it. I have limited experience, and plenty of respect for the hacks of many years, and I think there’s a lot that we as aspiring journalists can learn from them. But, I think it works the other way too. Journalists of all ages and levels of experience should be engaging with social media, as Solberg’s new rule suggests.
If anything, I think we should be spending more than 10% of time plugging content and engaging with audiences, while newsgathering should be a constant process.
The idea that there is resistance to shifting a work focus to accommodate social media is disappointing. Journalists need to be flexible and open to new ideas in a rapidly changing industry. If people aren’t buying a paper, it seems logical that you’d want to sell your content in some other way, on Facebook, for example.
I think there’s a lot that we as young wannabes can offer in the world of social media. We’ve grown up with it, and evolved with it, from Myspace and Bebo (look me up, innit), to Facebook and Twitter. And there’s something to be said for that level of engagement with social media. You might not think it, but you know a lot about what people like and don’t like to see in social media marketing- probably a lot more than you would learn in a book or on a course as “more experienced” hacks might be forced to do. Just consider the amount of time you must have spent on social networks over your lifetime. For years of your life, you’ve been plugged in, and that brings an experience and expertise that can’t be easily be replicated with teaching.
So, I see it as our job as young wannabes to drive forward this promising commitment to social media. Keep tweeting, and learn how to use Facebook properly for content distribution. Be actively thinking about how to better use each tool, and not just spamming links. If nationals expect you to use social media for at least 10% of your time at work, you should be learning to use it properly now. Experiment, and engage: your experiences could make you an invaluable asset in future, as social media continues to grow.
At Wannabe Hacks, the handover is now complete, and we’ve just received a Social Media Style Guide. It looks like we’ve been slacking, so the challenge applies to us, just as much as it does to you. Leave us a comment with your thoughts on the growing importance and recognition of social media in journalism, or get in touch on Twitter @wannabehacks, or on the Wannabe Hacks Facebook page.