Social Overload

By: JIE JENNY ZOU | Published: October 2, 2012

View overlooking NYC's Washington Sq. Park during the 2012 NYPC J-Conference. Photo By Jie Jenny Zou

This past weekend’s New York Press Club’s Annual J-Conference at NYU was a social media blast. Besides simply printing a Twitter hash tag on the programs as it’s done previously, NYPC was aggressively social this year with a designated social media corp and two large screens displaying live tweets at the conference keynote.

My reporting professor at Columbia also has my class jumping onto Twitter and Facebook in an effort to not only ‘market’ our classmates’ published stories, but build a live conversation around them. The whole concept centers on getting ‘influencers,’ i.e. relevant social power brokers, to draw more eyes and ears to a particular topic or story.

What I’ve learned thus far: a group of social media-enabled journalists converging together can be a dangerously effective tool in garnering retweets, replies and shares. My question: what does it all mean?

As journalists we’re taught to avoid boring our audiences to death—good reporting, good writing and good presentation comes to mind—but are we ready to take our stories into our own hands in a new way?

A guest lecturer in my reporting class turned my social media world upside down when she suggested that we shy away from becoming everything to everyone on outlets like Twitter and instead focus on it as a means of strengthening our reporting. I don’t mean randomly tweeting at someone for a quote, but building a presence online that helps potential readers and sources get to know what you as the reporter are interested in.

Sounds obvious, right? I thought so too at first, until I realized I’m nothing but another student journalist on Twitter that shares things I’m reading from the professionals.

So here’s how she puts it: There aren’t any hard or fast rules. No daily tweeting minimums or gaining X amount of followers. Instead, it’s getting this source in this industry to reply back to me regarding this topic or taking advantage of the 6 degrees principle to meet someone you couldn’t ordinarily meet in the realm of traditional reporting.