As I just mentioned, I follow a lot of sports reporters on Twitter. As a group they talk back and forth a lot to each other but also a lot to fans themselves via @ replies and also Direct Messages. I have a bunch of Direct Messages with comments that are just a bit to edgy to post publically but also take some shots back at players and coaches (which I also suspect follow said media types and probably not want to hear said things). Nothing scandalous and often are just plain laugh out loud funny. If they are doing it with me, they are doing it with others which in addition to being fun, has increased my loyalty to them as writers and broadcast journalists.
Of course I follow a lot of other media types and none of them (other than some of the New York Times columnists) are as interactive as sports guys and I wonder why. The local Saskatoon media are good but I suspect that is because we are all in Saskatoon. I would suspect other local media is the same way but other national types are other TwitterFeed robots or are there to publish, not listen and definitely not interacting.
Now the weird thing is that while I am a media junkie, outside of few favorite writers and reporters, I don’t find myself looking forward to what they have written or reported on like I do with sports reporters. It isn’t that I don’t follow a lot of news because I do, it just that I don’t follow individual national reporters like I do with sports reporters and a lot of that has to do with how Twitter has changed that relationship.
If I am a publisher or a struggling media company (oh let’s just pull one out of thin air… Canwest Global for instance) and there is a way for more people to watch our news programs and care more deeply about what we are publishing, I would be all over that. Instead there is a RSS feed powered bot that publishes the Global National News account. A very pedestrian 1,800+ followers which is a paltry amount considering it is one of the big three national newscasts in Canada.
If I was Global, I would get Kevin Newman Twittering several times a day about stories they are working on and then I would get a couple of interns to read what people are sending him, check out leads, and react to feedback. Also it gives them a reason to interact with other reporters, media companies, and sources by linking and talking back and forth. Don’t follow the Anderson Cooper model of just talking about your show (we know he has the best hair but there is more to broadcast journalism than nice hair) but interact with the rest of the web. I am sure the normal answer as to why this isn’t done is that it takes a lot of time doing their makeup and hair for television but c’mon, have you seen the amount of followers that some of the national sports reporters have. While not exactly Ashton Kutcher type followings but their followings can actually read.
In a day and age where media companies are trying to make us care about them again, not taking social media seriously doesn’t seem to be a strategy that is going to pay off. This isn’t just about Twitter but other social media sites as well. The Oregonian is uploading it’s photos to Flickr. For those that keep saying that the internet is going to kill newspapers but stuff like this is the future: mixing a paper’s output with related web communities that benefits both parties in the end. It gives me a reason to care and reconnects me to what is happening at that media source. I have linked to this video on Vimeo before.
My question is where are the stories like this before the papers close down. Where are the stories that allow us to connect back to the story tellers themselves. The tools are all there, it’s up to the media companies to use them.