Here’s part three of my series, what’s an online-first newsroom look like. Today, I’ll talk about what a typical day should/could be like in an online-first newsroom. (Be sure to read the rest of the series: Part one examines the over-arching ideas that form a f0undation of an online-first newsroom; part two examines the nitty gritty.)
A typical day in an online-first newsroom should be different than in a traditional newsroom. If it’s not, your newsroom isn’t online first enough (or at all.)
One note: I’ll be highlighting what’s unique about an online-first journalist’s daily routine. But social media and multimedia shouldn’t be all you do. You still need to engage readers through more traditional means — going to a school board meeting to meet officials and parents if you cover schools or having an informal coffee with sources. I’m a huge proponent of journalists getting out of the office and going to the scene of the crash, the crime or the trial. Online first shouldn’t change that. And of course, you’ll still need to interview folks, do research and write stories.
Before I get into the details, a word about time management. Learn it. Using social media as a journalist and engaging the community means more work — but it adds more value, too. When I explain to other journalists what I do on my beat, I often get an exhausted look from them: “How do you fit it in?”
My answer: You have time to do what’s valuable to you. Make the time. Get organized and get into a rhythm. You don’t need to check every social-networking site every day or even every week. Dip in and out.
Here’s how it works for me. Of course, a typical day might be different for you, depending on the day, the beat or your personality. (I’m what you call a type A-plus personality, pretty frenetic.) Hopefully, these ideas will inspire you to add some social-networking and multimedia to your workday. Because new media can easily overwhelm even the most organized journalist, I’ve divided my list of what I do into things I check every day, every few days, once a week and regularly. You can’t do everything every single day. But remember: If I can do this; you can. Really, you can.
- E-mail: Check e-mail first thing and repeatedly throughout the day. I use e-mail groups to sort through the hundreds I get daily. I run frequent contests on my blog, which all come through e-mail. So contest entries get one group; potential guest blogs get another. I deal with the most important e-mails and then save the rest for later. I re-check my e-mail frequently, so if I hear from a reader, I can respond very quickly.
- Twitter: Right after e-mail, I check Twitter, see what people are saying and check if I have any @replies or direct messages from other people on Twitter. I also check if anyone started following me overnight, and I’ll check out his or her page to see if I want to follow. Then I get a few good tweets out — from my blog, from my newspaper’s breaking news blog or retweeting smart tweets I’ve read. Depending on how busy my day is, I’ll try to check in on Twitter near lunch, mid-afternoon and right before I leave for the day. I’ll tweet, retweet and check search.twitter.com, where you can find out what people are buzzing about on Twitter.
- Blog: I firmly believe that journalist bloggers need to blog pretty much every day. My goal is three new posts daily on my Family Life blog, a goal I meet most of the time. (I’m not quite there with this blog.) I try to schedule posts for days when I’m off, and I’ve bl0gged through every vacation at least occasionally. Frequent blogging rewards the readers who keep coming back with new content. Plus, it helps your blog get crawled more frequently by Google for new content. I don’t tweet every post; just the ones I think have a wider reach. I respond to comments on my blog as quickly as possible.
- Facebook: I update my status through Twitter frequently. If someone responds to my status updates, I try to reply quickly. I treat responses like blog comments. It’s a conversation, so I need to keep up my end.
- News sites: I try to read my newspaper’s Web site, The New York Times and The Huffington Post every day or several times a day. Journalists must be informed. Period.
- Other blogs in your niche: I suggest journalist bloggers have a good working list of blogs in their niche to read regularly. Some you might read daily if they update frequently; others every few days. It helps to add the blogs you like to Google reader, so you’ll get a feed to all of them in one nice, neat page. It helps you not forget to check them. As I read, I also bookmark interesting posts in Delicious for use in later blog posts.
- Google alerts: I have Google alerts set up for stories about parenting (my beat) and for my name, Gina Chen and my Twitter name, bloggingmom67. That way I can see what others are writing about on my beat and when someone mentions me. I get an e-mail in my inbox daily with these alerts, and I read them right away unless I’m having a horrifically busy day.
- Check trending topics: I check Google Hot Trends and Twitscoopto see what’s getting a lot of buzz in the blogosphere, twittersphere and Web.
At least once a week:
- Comment on other blogs: My goal is to comment at least 10 times a week on other blogs in my niche. (That’s not a lot; I’ve heard bloggers recommend commenting on 30 to 40 blogs a week, but 10 is all I can swing.) It helps me connect with other bloggers and join the larger conversation. It can also help increase my blog traffic as readers of the other blog reads my comments and possibly check out my blog.
- Check niche social-networking sites: For me, this includes Cafe Mom and Twitter Moms, but it would include other social networks in your niche. I might post a blog post at Cafe Mom, link to my blog on it or add a story to that site’s hot list. I also check Linked In.
- Newsletter to readers: Nearly every week I send out a personal e-newsletter to about 300 of my blog readers and sources. This is not a RSS feed or e-mail newsletter of just my post titles. This is a personal letter to my readers. The readers have signed up on my blog or through a personal request from me in e-mail or by phone. I usually invite anyone who I interview. It’s set up like a list-serve, so they can opt out whenever they want. I use this as a source list to gather ideas for stories, to invite readers to write for my blog and to send them direct links to notable posts on my blog. I also offer contests (usually children’s book) just for subscribers as in incentive. It’s a great way to boost blog traffic and engage readers. I consider my subscribers a mini focus group, and they just love being sort of “insiders in the news biz.” (At some point, I’ll got into detail on this in a separate post.)
- Use multimedia when it makes sense: In an online-first newsroom, multimedia — video, audio and podcasts — should be part of every day’s news package. But not every journalists has to dovideo every day. It makes sense to put some thought into it. I’ve done videos for my blog with the Flip Video camera and edited them myself; I’ve teamed up with my husband, a videographer for my newspaper, to do more lengthy video pieces. The idea is to be thinking about how you can best communicate a story to readers, engage them and give them a choice in how they get their information. Then pick the right tool for the story.
Please share your ideas. I’d love to add to my list.