Stefanie Murray, the Assistant managing editor/digital media at the Detroit Free Press, gave a talk on the importance of social media to modern journalism on February 23 at Washtenaw Community College.
Murray, an alumnus of both Northwestern University and Central Michigan University, started out as a reporter at the Lansing State Journal. She has since worked at The Ann Arbor News, AnnArbor.com and has been at The Free Press for just short of a year and a half.
When asked which social media sites were the most important to journalists, Murray did not hesitate to respond: Facebook and Twitter.
“You have to be where your readers are,” Murray said.
And that’s where the Freep is.
They’re also using Instagram and Storify and keeping an eye on all of the new apps and tools out there that help us stay connected.
Murray has worked hard to teach the veteran reporters of Freep, from Tom Walsh to Mark Stryker, how to be present and interact with their readers online. This is essential, if the Freep and its writers want to stay relevant.
Far beyond the technical side of using Twitter, Murray says that it’s essential to know how to connect to your audience, and knowing who they are.
Readers are out there living the news, in the moment. They are the ones who witness accidents, hear homes explode a mile away and they are the ones impacted by the choice of Emergency Manager by Governor Rick Snyder.
And they want to talk about it. They want to Tweet about it. They want to send in photos and they want to comment on the stories of the reporters that they feel like they know.
They want to give story ideas to the reporters that they have come to trust.
Social media gives them that opportunity. In an instant.
It makes The Free Press, its reporters, and the world of journalism in general, accessible. The Free Press has built its social media brand on that very concept. They don’t say things like ‘come to our website!’ or ‘Subscribe!’ all over Facebook or Twitter.
They post headlines and links and their reporters post comments on what is happening right now. They engage their audience, making sure to comment on their own posts and respond to readers. This validates that the opinion of the reader is valued. And, let’s face it, who doesn’t need validation?
One important question about legacy publications like The Free Press using social media is: is it profitable?
“That’s a great question,” Murray says. “We don’t have pay-wall,” so readers that link to stories from social media don’t have to pay for them.
But the more people click, the more advertisers will pay for prime web locations. The more links are out there on Twitter and Facebook, the more readers click, the more those prime spots are worth.
Clicks = Dollars.
Welcome to 2013 journalists. If you are trying to do this job without social media, you’re not likely to get far, at least not from where Stefanie Murray is sitting. And she’s no amateur.