Wick Communications

Things you have to know

In Innovation on January 18, 2012 at 11:49 am

Last week, I read a post on Steve Yelvington’s blog that noted the job skills required of reporters today have shifted. Steve is a sort of Internet savant at Morris Digital Works, which I believe is a division of the newspaper and news publisher Morris Communications.

He rightly notes that today’s job applicants are asked to shoot video and stills with a smartphone, to use multiple storytelling platforms, to embrace blogging and social media and to be able to mine data on the Web. When he and I graduated from school, we didn’t even have to know how to work a camera. If we could write a sentence without making fools of ourselves and exhibit an interest in the world, we could get a job with a newspaper.

Those days are gone and good riddance. We are all infinitely better off for the tools of the digital age. You know it’s true, even if, like me, you sometimes try to tell yourself otherwise.

Let me give you an example of the way new technology can improve your journalism, your reach in the community, even your understanding of the place you live.

Say you have an annual event that you always play up big in your community. You know what I’m talking about. Maybe it’s the county fair or the Fourth of July parade or a rodeo. I’ll bet you that your coverage from year to year is much the same. You tell folks what is going on beforehand, maybe in a special section, then you recap it in print afterward. Lots of photos… a couple stories. And done for another year. Of course, you may also be posting a video by now and you should be inviting conversation about it on Facebook. …

Now, with a little imagination, there is so much more you can do.

  • Tweet the heck out of it. Using hashtags, you can spread your word more broadly and even pick up some newly regular readers who only come for that once-a-year event. And don’t just tweet for the heck of it. Tell folks exactly where the parade is, push your content, retweet recipes from the winner of the pie contest.
  • Give a kid on the parade float a disposable camera.
  • Try mounting a video camera somewhere odd. In October, the Half Moon Bay Review mounted a camera on the head of a pie-eating contestant. Still makes me laugh. Just last week, Review Publisher Bill Murray took a GoPro camera with him when he paddled his surfboard out with some well-known big-wave surfers for an interesting perspective.
  • Start a blog or dedicated niche Web page solely designed to cover every aspect of the event. Invite all kinds of contributions. You might even find sponsors.
  • Actively court anyone with a smartphone to be your eyes on the ground. Let people know you want their photos, and post them online first.
  • Engage readers. Ask questions as well as give answers.

You should find some way to innovate for all kinds of business reasons, but the first reason to do so is this: It is fun. Covering the 48th annual Lumpkin County Pork Fest can be boring as all get out. Or you can find a way to have some fun with it. Try the later. And know that these are skills you need to develop in today’s media environment.

Clay

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