Monday, June 22, 2009

Social Media and J-schools

I have always been a glass-half-full, look-ahead-to-the-future type of girl. So it was interesting for me to read this post from the Mashable blog, which is a staple on my Google Reader. The post was entitled "10 Ways Journalism Schools Are Teaching Social Media."

Writer Vadim Lavrusnik emphasizes this is NOT teaching students how to use Facebook and Twitter, since they are already experts on these tools. It "means that professors are delving into how these tools can be applied to enrich the craft of reporting and producing the news and ultimately telling the story in the best possible way," he wrote.

While all 10 tips were important, three jumped out at me as a way not only for students to have a competitive edge when they enter the world of work, but they are also ones that we "old school" journalists can use to give us the same edge.

Number one was Promoting Content. Ironically enough, the person Lavrusnik points to as his example is
Sree Sreenivasan, dean of student affairs at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. I recently had the chance to sit in on Sree's lecture on how journalists can use LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter for work when he was here in Washington, D.C. You can see my post -- and listen to the lecture -- here.

Social media tools are bringing readers to news sites and in many cases are increasing their Web-traffic, wrote Lavrusnik. I use these tools to promote my own work, and the numbers show that my traffic has increased. I'm also reaching aviation enthusiasts that may not have been aware of our publications.

Number two is News Gathering and Research. Lavrusnik cites Jeff Jarvis, a professor and director of interactive media at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism, who says students need "to know how to use real-time searches to gather information and keep up on what is breaking." Those searches can be done using tools such as Twitter, FriendFeed, OneRiot, Tweetmeme, Scoopler and SearchMerge, said Lavrusnik. Twitter has become an invaluable tool for story ideas and sources.

And last -- but certainly not least -- is Building Community and Rich Content. "Sure a journalist can use social media tools to have a conversation with their audience, but what’s the point? The greater goal is to build a community through engagement," writes Lavrusnik. "Crowdsourcing, live blogging, tweeting — it’s about building a network around issues that matter to the community." And Jarvis notes that social media should help journalists, but not take over.

I have used Twitter (@avweekbenet) and Facebook to a lesser extent to promote my work and contribute to the conversation during challenging times for aviation. My readers feel a connection to me, which helps me do my job better. I see that my hard work is paying off, in this recent blog post about Aviation Week's coverage at the recent Paris Air Show versus our competitor, Flight Global. I was called
"the Aerospace & Defense Social Media Queen."

I know I may be sounding like a broken record, but it does bear repeating-- these days, journalists MUST use every tool available to them to keep relevant in a business (and it is a business) that has become ultra competitive. NABJ has been moving to remedy this situation with the Media Institute, but drastic times call for drastic measures, and training for members should be a priority for the new NABJ board, a board I want to be a member of, representing Region II.

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