Journalists Can use Social Networking

Session presenters Andy Carvin and Patrick Cooper from NPR and USA Today respectively gave examples of ways reporters can use sites such as Facebook and Twitter to create good journalism. Journalists can use tools via the Internet to increase audience interest and participation in their stories.

The session was designed to give journalists some ideas on how to incorporate social networking tools in their stories. Andy Carvin, a journalists at NPR News, started by saying that reporters should not be afraid of Internet tools because crowd sourcing and citizen journalism is not a new concept. He told a story about Benjamin Harris the editor of the very first independent newspaper, Public Occurrences both Foreign and Domestic, would only print on three of his four pages. The last page was for people to fill in any news they thought was important. "This man at the same time created both crowd sourcing and citizen journalism" Carvin said.

Mediator, Cory Haik, of the Seattle Times, said that editors have to remember that there is an audience out there that is ready to engage if only given the opportunity.

USA Today's, Patrick Cooper, said that journalists were responsible for training the Internet spaces to do what worked for them. Often writers and editors are mediators in the Internet communications between news entities and the audience and they are able to mold the spaces and make sure that participants remain ethical. "We had our guidelines of ethics; they worked in print and during our online transition so we knew they would work again" Cooper said.

Cooper added that USA Today knew they had to add this new social network aspect because that kind of innovation was what USA Today was known for; "there was no one way to do it. We figured out what worked and what didn't."

Haik had some advice for those that were wary of social networking, "the only right way to use it is the way it works for you."

Carvin added, "All of this participation only happens because people love NPR and they cared about the news we created."

Compiled by Dilane Mitchell, Howard University