Friday, April 19th, 2013

Is Your Social Media Editor Destroying Your News Organization Today?

"The important thing, I think, is to—as soon as you know something that you sent out is incorrect, you correct the record. And it's OK, I think, to make mistakes in these circumstances. You—everyone will make mistakes, and it's kind of almost impossible to avoid them."
Slate's social media editor, Jeremy Stahl.

Over the last few years, most media companies have taken on social media editors, lots of them young-ish, lots of them "digital natives." (Some neither, of course!) Many of their jobs are construed as helping newsrooms do social media best: working with writers, working with official social media accounts, those kind of things. Some of them are more like lone Internet addicts. At the more "straight news" outfits, most of them play it pretty straight. Some of them misplace their resources: for instance, there was a big vogue for media organizations moving onto Tumblr. And then everyone found out that, while it was nice to have a stand-alone Tumblr publication, that it literally didn't do a single thing for a news organization. Didn't bring traffic, didn't bring non-Tumblr attention: they operate in a black hole, essentially. If you like reblogs of your gifs, great! But this was a thing news orgs had been sold on. At lots of media organizations, decision-makers don't know where to start with social media. And lots don't know where their social media editors should stop and start in their work.

Over the last 24 hours, we've seen a lot of different approaches. For instance, Liz Heron and Rubina Fillion were busy keeping the WSJ Twitter fairly dry and rumor-free. There was a 15-hour silence from Daniel Victor at the Times. Eric Carvin likewise is busy at the AP, working.

And all around them, other real news organizations were retweeting or sharing inaccurate information.

Others were saucier, and appropriately so.

There was a good bit of self-referential whatnots. That makes sense, kind of: social media is sometimes where you put the kind of things you'd say out loud in a newsroom.

But then it's not like most people in newsrooms know how to behave anyway.

And then there's the… more aggressive sort of social media editor, like the infamous Ant DeRosa at Reuters—or the Daily Beast's Brian Ries, who just pummeled Twitter relentlessly.

Why? He has 4430 followers. What does anyone gain? It looks like work, maybe, but it's not. (Is it? Maybe it is!)

Even so, he was doing a better job than most of the people on TV. Except, you know, they were distributing half-baked semi-information to millions, instead of dozens.

And then there was Matthew Keys, Deputy Social Media Editor at Reuters, once "considered a wunderkind of new media." His livestream today of any word, rumor, idea, anything: just absurd!

That's a minute's worth of Tweets. The sheer amount of useless, misleading and random noise put out by this account is unreal.

On the noise v. signal test, that's a lose.

Also? Most of these people were just watching TV, just like you. At least if they were in a newsroom, they had more than one TV on, so I guess that's a mild service?

What's the point? The point is: most of this sucks for your news brand. Is it not stressful enough that your whole office is trying to verify and break news, to then have these people babbling on?

Anyway. Crazy days. Who knows how to behave? Not most of the folks on the TV. Or most of the people on the Internet. And it could be worse!

And, to be fair:

We could say the same about this. The fellow makes a good point. We can pick this up next week!

An update, from the next day:

19 Comments / Post A Comment

Today I worked from home and turned off Twitter and cable news and watched "Entrapment" for free on HDNet On Demand.

It's a great heist film. I've seen it more than a few times!

LolCait (#460)

@bobby finger@twitter Great flick! Love anything with lasers.

@LolCait I love when Catherine says, "This is called entrapment!" She's defining entrapment to Sean Connery, but she's also saying the name of the movie! Clever line. Clever screenplay!

LolCait (#460)

@bobby finger@twitter I like how she says "Mac!" or "Mac…" or "Maaac." Lots of different ways for Catherine Zeta-Jones to say Mac.

@LolCait Also, I think Will Patton is accurately rated!

saythatscool (#101)

@LolCait hey didn't you go to Latin too?

Drawn7979 (#242,134)

@bobby finger@twitter
seen it many times, love it!

The Hairpin ought to do a story comparing the reports of male and female social media editors, if there are any…

bb (#295)

@Cathy Halley@twitter My guess is that you would find that some male and some female editors were restrained, some male and some female were hard-hitting/impulsive.

@Cathy Halley@twitter Probably the female ones were more likely to stop and ask for directions on how to get the source info to confirm the accuracy of a rumor, while the male ones just blundered around insisting they could find that info for themselves, and wound up getting totally lost.

Rodger Psczny (#3,912)

#manhunt !!!!

KimO (#10,765)

You’re so right, official social media feeds were useless across the board. I tried to tune it out and just watch journos on the ground; they were way more informed but also a LOT more cautious. Sounds obvious but it really made me think a lot about how I consume news in general.

I usually keep an eye on @clarajeffery in a crisis–good eye, level head, good sense of humor, always up late. Social media editors should take a page from her book and try to help people find legit primary sources and offer perspective when they can. Take a breath and use your critical faculties. Jesus.

Is social media then a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing?

MikeBarthel (#1,884)

Appreciate the update, can you please also include a number in curly brackets to indicate how credible you believe that information to be

Hey everybody, listen up: I gotta go take a time out, and then I'll come back here and post some more comments. Have to use the bathroom. Ate a lot of Mexican food last night. 'Nuff said. Thanks for understanding.

smoothyjuiceyz (#243,300)

I gotta go take a time out

Drawn7979 (#242,134)

me too, we all do.

I'm a long-time critic of Matthew Keys and I've been documenting for some time how Keys heckles and harasses me on the Los Angeles Times website under stories describing his indictment on charges of joining and hacking with Anonymous.

I'm right to criticize why Reuters allowed him to go on publishing news on a Twitter account identified as affiliated with them, after an indictment in which he is not only charge with hacking and defacing a fellow media outlet, but also stealing emails from another media company. These are ethical questions; he wasn't on assignment for Reuters or anybody else at the time he disguised his identity to hang out with Anonymous, but he later published a news story on the Reuters web site that essentially bragged about this practice of disguise. Ever since the Food Lion court case, journalists have had to watch it when they go undercover, as misrepresenting themselves in order to cover something critically can get them into trouble (as it also did for Breitbart).

It's not about whether Keys is guilty or not; it's that he is defiantly proclaiming his innocence and savaging everyone who asks really legitimate questions about what he was doing in the IRC channel with Anonymous hackers for months on end, knowing of their crimes, and not telling authorities.

Reuters at the very least, even if they felt they had to keep him on payroll, should have waited until the trial was over with a verdict before allowing him to continue running the company's Twitter feed.

Anthony de Rosa, his superior, is another Reuters swaggerer who I would like to see reprimanded for his outrageous behaviour. I've rightly called out his tendentious comments, nasty partisan posts and heckling. He has me blocked on Facebook and I think it should be standard procedure that no news media blocks their readers unless they can be shown to be engaged in commercial spam or obscenity or real threats. A reader who asks legitimate questions about tendentious news coverage doesn't even fit in the "troll" category that these arrogant young men who were weaned on 4chan love to use to delegitimize their critics.

De Rosa was denouncing the New York Times and accusing them of perfidy for updating their coverage in a way that he felt didn't serve the cause of Occupy in covering the Brooklyn Bridge story. Huh? Isn't there any ethics involved in not using your perch to denounce your fellow journalists? Let media pundits and the Columbia School of Journalist and Poynter, etc. engage in media analysis, just cover the news. And why take Occupy's side when they did in fact block the bridge, and deliberately! I said to him, "Just cover the news, don't make it yourself," and I get blocked.

As for the police scanners, it's part of the swaggering armchair nature of the Matthew Keys sort of "journalism" that they use raw feeds they get access to and show off and don't do journalistic work. Their feeds abound with Scribd links to unanalyzed dumps of court documents, links to scanners or links to Ustreams. A real journalist would be sifting through these and checking with cold calls on the actual real telephone, not timid emails. Keys always acts as if he has some special conduit because he picks through these relatively obscure back ends to news stories that in fact are available to the public if they bother. That's not journalism, it's scavenger hunting. Then run a blog and don't pretend you represent a journalists' operation.

I actually defend the right to publish the police scanner news, even if wrong — and if you don't like it, then have the debate about whether the police scanner should be encrypted (and that might be warranted especially on a chase this dangerous).

I myself heard the exact same scanner and published it, and then published the correction. I think Reddit, bloggers, even journalists have the right to be wrong and have the right to engage in public discussions. There's just way too much net-nannying going around this protected speech under the 1st Amendment.

But the question is why a journalist, paid and with resources, can't do what a blogger can't do, which is pick up the phone and call the police contacts they should have, live. THAT is the issue.

Reuters should not call these people journalists. They are public relations mavens. Therefore their job description needs to be rethought, and they shouldn't hire swaggering young geeks who harass their customers and draw the spotlight on themselves.

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