Today is the three-year anniversary of UNC student body president Eve Carson‘s death, and Friday I asked readers on Twitter to share their memories of her or how she influenced them using the hashtag #EveToday. The response has been overwhelming, with an outpouring of Tweets all day long that is still continuing. I compiled the Tweets using Storify so that people could read through the dozens of messages at once. It struck me as I did so how much social media has changed the way we communicate even in the three years since she was killed.
In March 2008, I was still two months away from joining Twitter. I posted no updates about her death on Facebook, shared no links to any of the many stories I wrote about her death and only RSVP’d to a memorial service held a few weeks later. The Daily Tar Heel wasn’t on Twitter or Facebook either but let readers to submit messages to a Memorial Wall. In 2008 and in 2011 we tailored our approach to where our audience was, which is what we should be doing. Asking for #EveToday-style Tweets in 2008 would have yielded us few, if any responses. Our audience simply wasn’t on Twitter then, or even in 2009. Even last year I’m not sure if we would have gotten quite the reaction we did today. People are simply much more comfortable with social media and using it throughout their life.
I welcome this evolution. I remember feeling very cut-off from the rest of the UNC community when we all department for Spring Break days after she was killed. There was no easy way for us to mourn together. Reading through the Tweets today was comforting, an instant reminder that out there, hundreds more felt just like me – saddened by her death and inspired by her life.
I wanted to raise awareness without being alarmist, preach safety tips without being smarmy (or reminding students of their parents) and reach as many people as possible. Wednesday, day 6, I started brainstorming hashtags with other editors. The incidents have reminded folks of Antoine Dodson and his infamous “hide your wife, hide your kids” interview. We somewhat seriously considered making reference to that, in part to build off of what students were already tweeting and in part because we felt the viral video’s fame could help grab students’ attention to this issue. At the same time, we didn’t want to make light of the very real threat the victims had faced. We settled on #lockthedoor, snappy yet relevant, given that the intruder entered through unlocked doors each time. I’ve curated Tweets using Storify to show how I used the account throughout the day:
I typically use the @dailytarheel account to share links and respond to individuals. Rarely is it used to Tweet frequently on a single topic in a single day, but I decided this issue was important enough to dominate the feed for most of the day. But because of that, I tried to take a joke, hoping students would appreciate it and perhaps tuck away some of the useful advice as well. Any complaints about the hashtag so far are about equal to the amount of complaints we might generally get about anything. I’m not too worried that we’re offending followers, but it’s something I’ll be watching.
The intruder is still at-large, but I like to think that this campaign helped raise awareness at least a little bit today. From our analytics I know Twitter was a top referrer to our stories online, and the hashtag was trending in Chapel Hill at one point. I plan to continue with it until they catch someone, or until the incidents stop. Ideally, we’ll hear good news soon. What do you think? I would love to hear suggestions for ways we could make this reach and resonate with more students.
My Olympus voice recorder and a pair of headphones.
A Casio Exilim that shoots video, records audio and takes photos.
I wish I would get into the practice of keeping my Nikon D-40 with me more often so I could get better using it, but it’s so bulky for most of my everyday use. Eventually, I’d love to have a MacBook to take on the road with me, but I can send short breaking news text to Twitter or e-mail from my Blackberry until then.
For the breaking news kits I hope to build at the DTH, I think some version of the above is a good start. We use Flip video cameras, and there’s no debating their ease. A microphone for the audio recorders would be useful to gather audio for publication and not just internal note-taking.
Because The Daily Tar Heel’s strategy next year involves social media more than ever, we felt it would be helpful to establish a policy to guide reporters on how to use it. My goal was to create a policy that emphasizes the value of social media while sets some standards so as not to embarass the paper.
In general, we plan to trust our reporters to know what is acceptable and what is not. We’re going to accompany this policy with training at the beginning of the year on how to use social media.
10 rules for using social media:
Use your own name and photo. If you using your account for DTH reporting, identify yourself as a DTH reporter in your profile.
Tell your editor if you plan to tweet as a DTH reporter. Likewise, let your editor know if you plan to livetweet something.
In general, do not post something online that would not be appropriate to run in the paper or on dailytarheel.com.*
You must disclose yourself as a DTH reporter to potential sources the same way you would if you were meeting face-to-face.
Do not disclose political affiliation on profiles and do not write about your political preferences in updates.
Do not criticize a colleague’s work.
Promoting your work via social media is encouraged.
In the interest of transparency, staff meetings are considered open unless otherwise stated.
It is acceptable to “friend” sources, but do it evenly. For instance, if you cover the Chapel Hill Town Council, if you wish to follow one member on Twitter, you should follow all of them.
Respond to people who contact you via social media. If you aren’t the appropriate person to answer their questions, refer them to whoever is.
In making this list I looked at several professional papers’ guidelines on social media. Most missed the mark with the limits that they placed. I want to make it as easy as possible for readers and sources to contact DTH reporters and place a high premium on transparency. My experience with social media is that it’s expanded my reporting capabilities and made me more responsive to our readership, and I wouldn’t want to limit other reporters.
Feel free to comment with suggestions/improvements. I’m also interested to hear if other college papers have social media policies or are looking to create them.
I joined Twitter just over a year ago, after the early-adopters but before the masses. Connecting with professionals and college media gurus online opened up a world of things for me to read and learn.
It’s also changed how I do journalism. I’ve used Twitter to livetweet a presidential debate; update students at UNC during a bomb hoax; provide instant updates from a court appearance for six men charged with murder; and gather story ideas. Part of dailytarheel.com’s redesign process has included gathering feedback from Twitter followers.
Twitter’s invaluable, and if you don’t like it you probably don’t use it enough. There are people out there tweeting what they had for lunch, but if that’s all their feed offers, I don’t follow them. There’s more to Twitter: If you focus the community of people you follow on those with like interests and thoughtful updates, it’s worth the time and effort.
Filed under:social media | Tags:online journalism, Twitter
Three to 5 inches of snow is predicted for Chapel Hill on Tuesday — exciting because of how rare snow here is and because it’s a chance to try some collaborative journalism.
Inspired by the recent efforts in Washington state following flooding, I’m really interested to see what Chapel Hill’s online community of journalists and residents can do. In situations like this, where news organizations have a public service responsibility, it makes no sense not to do as Ryan Thornburg suggests: ”Collaborate on commodity and breaking news; Compete and crowdsource on analytical and accountability journalism.”
I plan on Twittering (@saragregory), uploading photos to Flickr and saving other weather-related articles to Publish2. I’m going to use a #CH-snow hashtag for it all. If you’re in Chapel Hill/Orange County, I invite you to do the same and see what we can come up with collectively.
And of course, it’s quite possible — it being the South, after all — that nothing will happen, and grocery stores will sell out of milk and bread for no reason.
Filed under:social media | Tags:Chapel Hill, Flickr, Publish2, Twitter
Public Policy Polling’s most recent poll (conducted Sept. 27-28) shows that younger N.C. voters aged 18-29 haven’t decided who to vote for beyond the presidential race.
The number of undecideds is higher among that age group than any other in the gubernatorial race between Republican Pat McCrory and Democrat Bev Perdue and in the senatorial race between Republican Elizabeth Dole and Democrat Kay Hagan. In that age group, 18 percent say they don’t know who they’re supporting for governor, and 14 percent don’t know who they’re backing for the Senate. By comparison, the undecideds in the presidential race at that age is only 5 percent.
Tom Jensen, who runs the poll, writes that overall the numbers suggest about one-third of the electorate is up for grabs in the next four weeks. And since so many young voters are up for the taking, that could bode well for the candidates who can attract that youth vote.
Several are campaigning this weekend to that end. There’s a Students for McCrory Web site and students were Pit-sitting for him at UNC-Chapel Hill on Friday. N.C. State’s The Technician reports that McCrory is campaigning at a barbecue before Dole tailgates with students before the N.C. State football game Saturday.
The ultimate arbiter of all things youth – Facebook – breaks the candidates’ Internet support down as follows (as of Oct. 3):
Rachael Oehring, a DTH writer for Diversions, asked me to respond to some questions about Twittering for a story she’s writing for a features class. I’ve already posted about my experience Tweeting this weekend during the presidential debate and at an Obama/Biden rally, but I thought I’d include my responses here:
Q: You live-tweeted the Obama rally the other day, and I was just wondering how you got the idea for that? Were there other people in the press area doing the same thing? How was the experience of being at the rally in the first place, and what was it like sitting there texting while Obama was speaking?
A: I decided before the rally that I wanted to live-Tweet it. Until this weekend, I’ve chiefly used Twitter socially vs. journalistically. I wanted to try live-Tweeting an event to see what would work and what wouldn’t. I live-Tweeted the presidential debate with the DTH’s State & National editor, Ariel Zirulnick, on Friday, and learned a lot from that. Our Tweets were too much of a minute-by-minute run down of what was happening, which, with so many people watching the debate, wasn’t needed. In retrospect, we both wished we had included more analysis. I think that my Twittering from the Obama/Biden rally was a good mix of “This is what he said” and crowd reaction. I wish I had brought my laptop, because text-Twittering limited my speed.
I didn’t see anyone else in the press texting, and I kind of felt weird being the only one. Some in the press had laptops and they could have been Twittering, but I didn’t see one way or another. I haven’t seen the result of anyone in the press twittering the rally.
Q: How do you think a technology like Twitter fits in with traditional news outlets? This might be a bit of a stretch, especially since the DTH is pretty open to new technology, but how do you think other papers will utilize this technology? Do you think we’ll reach a point where there will be a bevy of press twittering updates at press conferences and events and such?
A: I would love to see traditional news outlets embrace Twitter more. There’s a balance to strike, because by and large the public hasn’t embraced Twitter, so the audience this form of reporting is directed at is small, but as a story telling form I like it. It’s bite-sized information that I can choose whether to receive or not. Many of the newspapers that have embraced it seem to have embraced it as another way to distribute news as an RSS alternative, but I think robot-Twitter accounts have their limitations. What I enjoy about Twitter is connecting with the other users. At its core, Twitter is simply social networking, and when newspaper’s don’t have that interactive element between their Twitter and their readers, I think readers are more likely to lose interest. I would love to see the press Twitter updates at meetings etc. Its another way of reporting, and then journalists can go back to those “notes” to write the story, which ideally is more nuanced and analytical than Tweet updates.
Q: How does tweeting an event differ from, say, live-blogging an event? Is there a difference?
A: I’ve never live-blogged an event, but I feel the principals of it vs. Twittering are similar. You’re trying to do updates as quickly as possible and as thorough as possible as the time allows for. Twitter imposes an additional space restriction because you only have 140 characters. You’re required to focus in on the key points.
Q: Do you think that something like Twitter is going to alter in any way how news is broken, does it fit in with the 24-hour news cycle of TV news networks and Web sites?
A: I think Twitter’s already altered how news is broken. The earthquake this summer was broken on Twitter before the Los Angeles Times had anything. And it’s not just Twitter that’s changing how news is broken – Wikipedia had Tim Russert’s entry updated to include his death before any news organization released the news. Social media in general makes it a lot easier for non-journalists to break news (and for journalists to break news). Twittering doesn’t give the full scope though – it’s great at announcing the news but hard to fit context into the space allowed. One of my favorite Tweets is this one by @lonelysandwich: “To be fair, if CNN could get away with HOLLYF**K EARTHQAKE!!!1! as the extent of its coverage, they’d likely have scooped your a**, Twitter.” (** mine).
Filed under:ideas, social media | Tags:Twitter
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and running mate Joe Biden spoke at the depot Saturday. Both men emphasized the economy. “We can’t have another four years like the last eight years,” Obama said.
From the press risers overlooking the crowd of nearly 20,000, I was struck by the number of supporters taking cell phone pictures and videos of the speech. Search on Flickr for Obama and Greensboro, and a fair amount of photos from Saturday’s rally are posted. These amateur photos add to the wealth of content from the traveling press corps and the in-state crowd that showed up to cover the event. Greensboro’s News & Record has a really nice slideshow of photos from the rally (and audio and text of the speech), but there’s no interactive feature to let reader’s submit content. It only goes one way.
The event was also another try at live-Twittering an event. I liveblogged the first presidential debate with DTH State & National Editor Ariel Zirulnick on Friday, but Saturday I Twittered for myself and not the DTH. I didn’t have my computer with me, so my updates were text only, which limited my speed. And I don’t get Tweets sent to my phone, so I wasn’t able to see or respond to all the @ replies I received until I got back to the office. That made it very much a one-way street.
I think my strategy – Tweeting mostly one-liner quotes with a few describing the atmosphere – worked better for this style of event than for the debate the night before, when all of America was watching and didn’t need the blow-by-blow account of what they watching. In that case, more analysis would have been appropriate.
The DTH plans to liveblog other election events this semester via Twitter, and I’m looking to experiment with different Tweeting styles to see what works best. What do you think? What do you want from live Twittering from an event?