News as conversation

My book, Engaged Journalism: Connecting With Digitally Empowered News Audiences (Columbia University Press, February 2015) examines the changing relationship between journalists and the audiences they serve. I’m eager to hear your reactions. For Tuesday’s class, please read Chapter 2: News As Conversation (the PDF is on Blackboard under “assignments”). By noon on Monday, Sept. 14, post a reaction of 100 to 200 words as a comment on this post addressing the following question: How (if at all) did the chapter change the way you think about the role the audience plays in the journalistic process? In your response, cite specific examples from your own reading of the chapter, as well as your own observations and experience. It’s not acceptable to piggy-back on your classmates’ answers without reading the chapter yourself. This assignment is worth 10 class participation points.


  1. This chapter changed the way I viewed social media as a tool for newsgathering and as a source of information. To receive candid reactions from the public, journalists must engage them “directly and personally.” Allison Linn did this when she posted a short blog post on titled “Hey Middle Class, Tell Us About Yourself” to get public responses to the 2011 Census Report. Because Linn chose to engage the audience this way, she was able to receive more than 700 candid responses and create a project titled “We Are the MEdiam: Living on $50,000 a Year.” This kind of interactive, engaged journalism gets the audience involved in the newsgathering process and makes them a more dedicated readership. I also learned that live streaming events, like The Texas Tribune did with Wendy Davis’ filibuster, or live tweeting and reporting events using applications like CoverItLive, can make the audience feel a part of the news as they will tune in and follow events that are relevant to their lives. The biggest takeaway from this chapter is creating news that is applicable to their daily life.


  2. As a Coloradoan, I loved the mention of press coverage and opportunity for people to use their voice on different journalistic platforms and speak about the Aurora tragedy. Readers had the chance to join the conversation and speak out, engaging with others about feelings and hope. It really brought the community together in a time of great sadness. It occurred to me that the role of the audience in the journalistic process is important for that reason, to bring people together, and also it is important because with engagement, readers become more loyal to a news source. Then, in turn, journalists bring content relative to their readers lives and better represent their audience. I think my favorite takeaway about involving the audience from this chapter was that “today’s journalists can’t just gather facts and quotes and dispense them to the public; they must actively seek out their audiences and create opportunities for interaction.” I feel like this quote is so relevant to what we are doing in this day and age with Twitter, blogs and other social media; we have the opportunity to tweet out to someone or to engage in comments and seek out more info that way or to provide support to others, engaging in journalism when we don’t even realize it.


  3. With so many different news outlets and so many new ways for audiences to gather the news, outlets must begin taking into consideration their viewers/readers opinion and voices in order to keep them loyal, interested, and engaged. It is not only this competitive landscape that requires journalists to interact with users, but also necessity.
    Sometimes stories can be hard to tell, especially in the wake of tragedy; if journalists are unsure of how to best tell the story or want to hear the opinion of their readers, taking to social media is an all encompassing aspect that can achieve informative and interactive results. Such was the case in the “Where Was God?” question regarding the Aurora shooting.
    Opening up the conversation can also aggregate different viewpoints and angles that journalists may not have picked up on otherwise. But, too achieve this you can’t simply expect readers to come to you. According to Steve Buttry, “A lot of the conversation is never going to come to the newspaper or the newspaper’s website…So we need to join the conversation where it is.”
    The real time results of using social media can be especially helpful to journalists when covering live events. Because a journalist can’t be in multiple places at a time or pick up on every occurrence during entertainment, political and sporting event, do using the comments and reacts from engaged readers and viewers can help them pick up on subtleties, or pay further attention to things that catch the audiences attention.
    It is additionally critical for journalists to meet the needs of their audience. The Election Control Room did a great job of doing this by giving readers the power to view and read what they wanted on whichever social networking sites they preferred. This live stream was a milestone for the world of journalism and heightened the importance of giving readers options. Deciding what is important to them does not just mean what they want to read about though…in the case of the royal baby, the Guardian enabled readers to hide oversaturated news coverage, an option that pleased their audience greatly.
    For these many reasons, I now how a comprehensive view of how important the audience is to journalists and the many ways in which their engagement and commentary can be of use to an outlet.


  4. Engaged Journalism is an awesome, insider’s look at how industry professionals work to keep their audiences engaged and updated using real time news outlets like live-blogs, Twitter, and comment capabilities. The chapter “News as Conversation” was educational for me. I am learning more and more how useful your audience is in crafting good stories. Stories that really resonate with an audience can be hard to find but if the audience can bridge that divide and put those story ideas – the ones that matter to the community – into the hands of a journalist, the journalist gets the opportunity to craft a story that his audience will really care about and respond to. It’s a great effort of teamwork with a lot of integrity.
    Like Brian M. Rosenthal, a Times staff writer, said “The story is not coming from Twitter. Twitter is being used to supplement what you know and broaden your understanding of what’s going on.” David Beard, director of digital content for the Washington Post made a great point, too – Today, he said, “the world is communicating with us every second. We’d be silly to mute those voices and claim to be representing our readers.” Now that journalism can be a conversation, 9 times out of 10 it should be.
    But, while using your audience to help form quality stories that matter is an awesome way to do journalism, it doesn’t take away from the job journalists are doing all on their own. David Boardman, a 2010 Pulitzer Prize-winning Times editor, discussed the importance of journalists in a “citizen-journalist” society, where every man and his Twitter account can “report” if they so choose. “I believe violently that professional trained journalists who are paid to spend their days collecting, vetting, and analyzing information are essential for a community,” Boardman said. “I don’t think the crowd is enough. But the crowd is a valuable tool.”


  5. This chapter brought to light a different perspective about digital journalism that I hadn’t fully considered in-depth. Though the concept is rather simple, it didn’t occur to me that one of the best ways a journalist can improve their content is by actively engaging an audience simply by asking a question. It also didn’t occur to me that if this question evokes a significant response as Dan Gilgoff’s did, those reactions in effect become an event that can be recorded as well.
    Another point I found to be helpful is that it’s not just important to get a response from readers when I giant breaking news story unfolds, but to actively seek stories by following what’s trending on Twitter. As Gilgoff was quoted saying, this can lead to an array of different angles that you might never have thought of, which is one of the most powerful tools for any journalist.


  6. Engaged journalism is a gift to us journalist in today’s world. People live behind their phones and computer screens, and with that, readers are looking at online articles and have the opportunity to post a reaction immediately. With the easy accessibility to engage readers by live-blogs, tweets and articles, journalists have all the power we need to connect to our audience. The catch is, we need to write to the audience and aim at what is relevant to their lives. The quote, “today’s journalist can’t just gather facts and quotes and dispense them to the public; they must actively seek out their audience and create opportunities for interaction” really opened my eyes to what we are learning and doing today as journalist. I loved the question, “Where was God in Aurora?” Dan Gilgoff nailed it. Gilgoff asked the question that every person was thinking during this horrific tragedy. I asked that question myself as I learned about what happened to the 12 innocent lives that were taken. It was reassuring to know that I was not the only one questioning God’s presence that day. Others who felt lost during this tragedy were connected with millions of others who were in their same shoes, all thanks to Gilgoffs audience-driven conversation. That question connected the community when the community needed each other the most. “We can shed light on what everybody’s thinking about today,” now that is a powerful tool.


  7. One thing that stood out to me was how the audience can play a negative role, specifically regarding the reaction part of the journalistic process. When discussing comments online, Steve Kelley said “whatever you’ve achieved in that story gets drowned out by this chorus of idiots.” Fortunately for me, I haven’t really fallen victim to trolls online, but I have seen countless amounts of people making unnecessary comments about a story. When that happens, it without a doubt takes away the quality of a story because rude comments create a hostile environment and also distract people from what the purpose is- the story.

    I had a professor tell me he never reads comments about his stories, so I decided to read them. I see why comments often have a negative view; they start irrelevant arguments. I do like that readers can post comments, but some readers use that ability to control a story instead of compliment it. Journalists are making the effort to have audience participation, and readers should participate without taking advantage.


  8. Social media and the ability to immediately deliver the news is a powerful tool that all journalists need to learn how to wield to their advantage. Engaging the reader, whether it is through live tweeting an event or live blogging, is key for journalists. If we aren’t getting a response from our audience to what we are putting out there, then we are not doing our job. I like that we are encouraged to ask our readers questions to get them to join the conversation.

    In this course I am quickly earning how important it is to stay engaged with the news and the readers. With Twitter and other forms of social media, it is easy to track stories and events that people are interested in. Writing about the news is important, but it is also important to cover the topics that people like to spend their time reading about.


  9. What stood out to me is that audience engagement is really important, whether if that is through social media or one a news website. Journalists must remember to engaged audiences through social media platforms like Twitter. I think I could do a better job at asking my followers what they think of a story, instead of just posting a link. This could create a dialog, hopefully a good one. Also, it is important to remember your engaged audience. I never thought about that. Not only do journalists have to be engaged, but they have an audience that is engaged with their writing as well. You want to be able to continue to cater to that audience, as well as bring in new audience members. I think that can be a constant struggle for news media.


  10. This chapter brought up some really great points about how the audience plays a role in the journalistic process.

    Before taking this course, I hadn’t realized the importance of simply engaging readers, sharing my work, reaching out, etc. Nobody had really ever told me to do so. I figured ‘if my readers want to engage with me they will, and I’ll respond.’ I also believed that the people who would reach out would be the more passionate ones on both the positive and negative ends of the spectrum. But my outlook has since changed.

    I agree with John Hiner of MLive Media Group, but I hadn’t really thought much about his point until reading this chapter. Hiner believes that “engagement leads to well-informed, better-directed reporters—which, in turn, drives commercial success because ‘we’re more in tune with what the community’s actually interested in.'”

    While some people who engage are going to be negative, it shouldn’t stop you from engaging at all. As Tiney Riccardi explained, I am the authority on the topic and if I engage with my readers, some will come to believe that and know it. On negative comments, Frank Blethen said “it’s such a small group and they’re not very valuable customers.” I giggled at that – he has a point.

    Working for a paper this summer, I managed to experience this. Some of my pieces managed to garner a few comments here and there. The negative comments, while sometimes silly, were crushing for a new journalist with not-very-thick skin. But the positive comments were thrilling and made me want to work harder. Some comments also simply made me think about my stories from different angles and how they come across to other people.

    I think that’s why engaging the audience is so important. Even though journalists are supposed to be unbiased and report facts, it’s often tough when you’ve been working on a piece for a while. Engaging readers is a great way to monitor this. You can look at your work through the eyes of the audience and produce better journalism. A nasty comment here and there isn’t the end of the world. If you show your audience that you care about the journalism you created and are engaged, it will enrich the journalistic process and the readers’ experience as well.


  11. This chapter changed the way I look at the role the audience plays in the journalistic process because it exposed me to how many ways the audience can now participate. From posing questions such as CNN did and having people comment and respond, to searching hashtags to see what people are talking about, to responding to individual viewer’s tweets, there is so much that can be done to connect to your audience. This is extremely important because “engaged users stay loyal to a news site because its content is relevant to their lives.” It’s amazing to think back to when the only connection newspapers or magazines had with their audiences were answering letters to the editor. While this was the only thing they could do, it was pretty inefficient. If I wrote a letter to the New York Times asking them a question about an article, they would only be able to answer this question in the next paper they printed. By then, readers probably forgot what the previous article was that I was asking a question about, and who knows if I would check in to see if my question was answered in the next paper.

    Obviously loyal users drives commercial success, but I thought it was interesting to view engagement in a way that makes for better journalists. Since journalists can see what their audience is interested in and talking about, they can deliver what their audience wants. I thought the quote, “The world is communicating with us every second. We’d be silly to mute
    those voices and claim to be representing our readers” by David Beard was a great representation of engagement.

    When I interned for Thanks! this summer, I ran their social media accounts. My boss told me that I must engage with the users, especially over Twitter. When we first started out, I would direct message every single person thanking them for following us. Many of them would respond and I would continue a conversation with them about Thanks! over the direct message feature. When we got more followers, I stopped direct messaging them all, but I would favorite and respond to tweets, even if they weren’t directed at Thanks! I think people on Twitter like to be recognized and it’s really cool to see people from all over the world come together and have the chance to communicate.


  12. How (if at all) did the chapter change the way you think about the role the audience plays in the journalistic process?

    The chapter helped me realize that the role that the audience plays in the journalistic process could be very important and crucial. I learned that collaborating with the audience will push journalism to be better. I used to think that since print journalism was dying that journalism in itself was dying as well, but I now see through this chapter that it is making journalism in a way more relevant and creative to search for the story and interact with its audience. I love the way journalists are thinking of creative ways to start a conversation with it’s readers such as Linn’s project: We Are The Median: Living on $50,000 a Year. It’s creating a community that is open and a safe place to share opinions. I am very excited with the direction that journalism is moving!


  13. During the first two weeks of class, we discussed the pros of online media versus print media. The most useful aspects of online media can be divided into four main sections – immediacy and urgency, non-linear news presentation, reader interactivity, and multi-platform multimedia content. Although I understood the different components of each of these sections, I did not grasp the enormity of the role that online audiences play in the journalistic process until reading this chapter.

    Journalists have the ability to create communities by actively involving their audiences in the stories they cover. The original “Where was God in Aurora?” tweet created a community of more than 10,000 audience members in mere hours. In an effort to keep the conversation alive, CNN journalists brought in expert voices to add educational and meaningful depth to the discussion. In this sense, journalists are actively connecting experts with their audiences for audience members’ benefit.

    In a quality over quantity like fashion, today’s interactive journalism allows journalists to see what stories audiences are still talking about and focus on those rather than just receiving more clicks. Plus, ever-improving search tools make it easier for journalists to discover what is trending now – especially on more typical news days when there is not a horribly tragic event such as the shooting in Aurora, Colorado.


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