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Journalists need to promote their stories on social media networks, online editors say

August 21, 2009
Jesse Newell, online sports editor for KUSports.com

Jesse Newell, online sports editor for KUSports.com

Never before have journalists had to promote and market their own work as they do now, Jonathan Kealing, online editor of the Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World told participants June 29 at the Mid-American Press Institute workshop.

But thanks to new social media networks that promotion is easier than ever, said Kealing, during his keynote address on “A Pitch for Social Media,” at MPI’s “Covering Sports in a Twitter World” at the Millennium/ Four Points Sheraton Hotel, St. Louis.

“If we don’t promote that we’re doing these awesome stories, no one else will,” Kealing said.

Journalists used to have to rely on the promotions and marketing departments of newspapers and news organization, he said. Now journalists don’t.

They are able to use Facebook and Twitter pages to let readers know about stories and projects they are working on.

“The power of Twitter is when people start spreading your stories for you,” he said.

Kealing said pure promotion doesn’t work well, but promotion with information does.

“We’re catching on now that everyone on staff is a brand and we have to market that,” Kealing said. “You are the keepers of your own brand and you have to decide what your brand is.”

Kealing said his staff tweets when they post a new video, a new interview and with the latest scores.

Facebook and Twitter are integral way to connect with readers, he said.

After the University of Kansas won the NCAA national basketball championship in 2008, his staff put together a multimedia package that highlighted the win and recapped the season.

The package got 50,000 plays.

Jesse Newell, online sports editor for KUSports.com, said they got the idea for the package from a project the New York Times did covering the 2008 presidential campaign.

The Times covered the latest news and used earlier reports as a scrapbook of the election, Newell said. KUSports.com covered the outcome of the championship game and then told the story of the season leading to the game as a scrapbook.

Every time they updated the story, they would tweet to let readers know it had been updated. They also had everyone in the newsroom tweet about it.

“We used Twitter to promote the hell out of this,” Kealing said.

In addition to KU sports, the Journal-World also covers high school sports thoroughly and promotes its coverage.

Kealing shared a video interview his staff put together on best high school basketball player the city has had in five or six years who was signed by Colorado State, a Division I school.

Asked how they cover the tougher stories online, Kealing said each story on the Internet should be told the best way possible. He agreed that softer stories lend themselves more to multimedia packages.

“Telling tougher stories with multimedia is hard,” he said. “Perhaps words are best for that. The majority of our stories are told by words. Sometimes our best stories are word stories. And that’s OK, because our traffic is driven most during work hours during the week” when people are at work and can’t play multimedia packages.

Tougher stories can be multimedia package but they take a lot of cooperation from the people involved, he said.

While news organizations are still trying to determine ways to make their Web products turn a profit, Kealing says people in the newsroom should be working on ideas on how the news organization can make money.

He said he tries to come up with an idea a month that justifies his salary. A recent one was to create a sports travel Web page that will help fans travel to Big 12 games throughout the year. He said he is working with the advertising department to sell ads to hotels and restaurants in Big 12 cities.

Newell said one of the goals of the site will be to get readers involved and have them share information on the best places to eat and stay and best moments of the season. He said he hopes that people interact with the site and have a conversation.

“We used to be the voice of the reporter and the voice of the fan,” he said. “What you’re seeing now is the voice of the fan.”

During his presentation, Kealing also discussed:

— Training. It’s a big part of his job. He works with all reporters and editors and holds regular training sessions so that everyone understands how to shoot photos and video, get video and audio and tell stories in different ways.

— Editing readers’ comments. He says editors should encourage readers to comment on all stories but don’t be afraid to take comments down if they are in bad taste. “You can edit. The person who makes the comment is liable. As long as you don’t edit their comment, you’re not responsible. You can take comments down. No problem.”

— Guidelines for Twittering: He tells reporters that they shouldn’t say anything online that they wouldn’t say in a professional setting.

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