Let’s say you’ve been a journalist for a while but you feel a bit out of the loop when it comes to using social media and multimedia. OK, not just out of the loop–totally overwhelmed. And you’re worried some kid just out of college is going to steal your job one day because they have skills you don’t. Should you go to grad school?
“Lord, no,” says Jen Lee Reeves of KOMU-TV, who’s on the faculty at the University of Missouri. “You can teach yourself anything. You just need a little quiet time.”
At this week’s Excellence in Journalism conference in New Orleans, Reeves shared a simple, three-point plan for getting up to speed: play, create and connect.
“Jump in and play with free stuff,” she advised. “Share what you love.”
Start by setting up Twitter and Facebook accounts, if you don’t already have them, and use the same picture and name everywhere. Make sure you create a profile with your work information on it. Consider claiming your name on about.me and point people to your content.The point is to establish yourself online. “If you call someone to interview them, they are totally going to stalk you,” Reeves said. “If you don’t have a presence online they’re going to be suspicious.”
Next, build a website or a blog and start writing about something you care about, whether it’s cooking or working out or something else. Reeves blogs about her daughter, who was born with one hand. What has she learned from that experience? “It made me better about doing journalism,” she said. “I learned how to build a community on the Web and Facebook and I’m now using those skills for the newsroom.”
If getting personal online feels uncomfortable, write about the experience of reporting a story and link to your own work. “I wouldn’t republish a story, but taking a screen shot is perfectly OK,” Reeves said. In addition to her blog, she also has her own “named” website, jenleereeves.com, where she writes about media.
Bottom line? “Our readers, consumers are everywhere and we need to reach out to them everywhere or we are going to miss a source,” Reeves said. “We know journalism. Let’s prove it, on all platforms.”