“Hot News: Smart Tools” alums offer newsgathering tips
When it comes to using digital tools in everyday newsgathering, as a journalist you gotta do what you gotta do. That’s what Journalism & Mass Communication students, alumni and faculty members heard during the Homecoming panel, “Hot News, Smart Tools.” Three JMC alums shared their experiences using social media in newsgathering, including their coverage of the major stories that hit Colorado this summer and fall.
Panelist Jordan Steffen (’10), a reporter at the Denver Post, once resorted to climbing atop a bank of porta-potties to get a cell signal to file her stories. “My smart phone is my ‘everything,’” she said. “I am definitely a product of my generation.”
Even journalists who didn’t grow up with instant digital technology are on board. Fellow panelist Tim Wieland (’91) news director at CBS4 in Denver, said he’s heartened that even his seasoned staffers seem to be embracing the ever-changing landscape of journalism. “Some of our most prolific posters are our more veteran journalists,” he said.
Doug Conarroe (’83), publisher of North Forty News, a monthly based in Wellington, Colorado, said using social media is a must, especially in today’s climate of staff cutbacks. He recalled the scene after a round of layoffs at his former employer, The Tacoma News Tribune: “I had a line at my desk with folks asking, ‘What do I need to do and learn?’ If that doesn’t motivate you, I don’t know what will.”
All three panelists agreed that embracing social media and digital storytelling tools doesn’t mean old-school fact-checking techniques are out the window. “None of the technologies we use changes the fact that we must fact-check,” says Steffen. “I always confirm two times before I tweet out as fact.” Wieland agreed: “Social media is a vital part of our brands and opens up an avenue for us to be the voice of accuracy,” he said.
And, it’s an evolving landscape. Conarroe said he picks up new tools with every major story. “I didn’t have Storyify going during the High Park Fire this summer, but I’d have killed to have a curator.”
Amid the challenges of using digital tools (lack of cell service and high-speed internet in parts of North Forty’s readership, the sheer volume of information – and misinformation – flooding onto social media channels in tragedies like the Aurora theater shootings, to name just a couple), Wieland, Steffen and Connaroe said old-fashioned pen and paper do still occasionally come in handy. But time is a luxury these days. “Am I just as fast on a pad and paper? Yes. Can I file just as fast? No,” said Steffen.
Even with the ever-present pressure to be first with the facts the panelists cautioned students to use social media wisely. Said Wieland, “The power of a tweet is massive. Everything you put out there matters. You can’t take it back.”
Follow JMC’s Homecoming panelists on Twitter:
Tim Wieland: @CBS4Tim
Jordan Steffen: @JSteffenDP
Doug Conarroe: @NorthFortyNews