by Kelly Frank Green, UFSocial Contributor
The All-Access Pass.
It’s kind of a right of passage when you become a journalist. Your photo is snapped. A number is assigned. A logo is embossed. You get your first badge. I remember my first badge with that beautiful, colorful NBC peacock. I felt like a bad-ass! (And don’t think I didn’t try to casually flash that sucker every time I could.)
Then you grow up. You see a lot of things. You cover a lot of stories. The badge becomes a necessity, a lifeline, a key in and sometimes a one-way ticket to a swift exit. There are several reasons a foreign correspondent, a beat editor and a photojournalist should use social media but the greatest of all is access. It’s not just access TO the user/reader/viewer but it’s also access FOR the user/reader/viewer.
FOREIGN NEWS CORRESPONDENT
NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent is Richard Engel. I don’t know him personally but have interacted with him over the years in coverage and find him to be very sharp. His political views are worn on his sleeve at times and he is deemed controversial by many for his public comments on ISIS, Syria and the Middle East in general. He is very active on Twitter and truly worth a follow.
Foreign correspondents broaden perspective for their users by giving them access to places they can’t go. They both expose and enlighten. Below, you will see a small collection of Richard taking you to places (Everest) you may never see. Additionally, it’s an opportunity for the correspondent to get intimate and if necessary, defend their reporting. You may recall that Richard Engel was kidnapped in 2012 in Syria. In one of his tweets, he talks about that and adds the additional context of linking to his story:
We heard two explosions and some gunfire from direction of industrial area near paris airport.
— Richard Engel (@RichardEngel) January 9, 2015
— Richard Engel (@RichardEngel) April 29, 2015
We discovered we were taken by Sunni thugs who worked hard to mislead us into believing they were pro-gov militia. http://t.co/7oxo2KjCvT
— Richard Engel (@RichardEngel) April 16, 2015
While I can argue a case for social media and the foreign correspondent, I would much rather let the foreign correspondent do it himself! Below is a lengthy but fascinating segment on MSNBC with Richard Engel. In it he discusses what I believe is perhaps the greatest reason that foreign correspondents should use social media: they can affect change. He talks about the power of social media in the face of violent regimes among other things. It only strengthens the point that the foreign correspondent is able to give us access we’ve never had before.
LOCAL BEAT EDITOR
We don’t really use beats in my current newsroom In fact, the beat is a bit of an outdated concept in most TV newsrooms I have been in. I was curious to see if the word “beat” would even come up in a basic google search with a semantic tie to a journalist. This is the result:
As you can see, it pulls from the concept of the police officer’s area of surveillance. There are reporters who naturally gravitate to certain areas they live in but the days of the crime beat, city hall beat and county beat seem to be behind us. The one beat that lives? The Political Beat.
The benefits for a local beat editor include all those mentioned above for the foreign correspondent but I would also add that for this person specifically, it’s a great resource. A local beat editor can narrow their focus, create lists of key influencers in their beat, follow and engage with local organizations and develop relationships. Social media give a local beat editor a multi-directional channel to talk with their users as well. This really applies to all but for local–it can become intimate because most of the time you are working where you live.
PHOTOJOURNALIST AT TV NEWS
When I first got into TV (and I do mean TV) I was working for my father on a magazine style show. It wasn’t journalism. It was infotainment. I learned by spending hours upon hours hanging out with the photographers/shooters. They were incredible. They could see things I never saw. They could look at a vast landscape or a person’s face in an ugly room and find the most beautiful shot possible. I became a sponge. I learned how to shoot, frame, iris up, iris down, rack focus and so on. I learned that a story isn’t much of a story without pictures. (is it any surprise the social media that performs the best is visual?) So I took this knowledge with me when I entered a newsroom, ever-vigilant that a good picture or a good piece of video will always add impact.
For everything I said above, photojournalists should be on social media. They typically are motivated by the visuals not just the facts. They see things others don’t see. They capture the moments that sometimes don’t require any words. They are promoters and advocates of journalism and take GREAT pride in what they do. I’m lucky in that I work with a lot of people who just *get* social media. Fortunately, some of them are photojournalists. I’ve captured two tweets below from Jim Zorn on Twitter and Erin Coker. Erin is just starting to develop her tweet chops but Jim speaks the language well and 99.9% of the time includes a photo.
One thing that hasn’t entered our newsroom yet but I believe should and will: Periscope. There is no one more primed to use that then the photojournalist. When they are on the scene they can live stream using their expert eye bringing people access to what matters. The other aspect of Periscope I like specifically for the photojournalist (and the foreign correspondent) is the ability to interact live in real-time with the viewer as things are happening. Viewers/users can ask questions and perhaps even steer coverage. It’s a whole different level of engagement.
If you work in a newsroom, you are in the business of information dissemination. In this new media world we occupy, we all have the opportunity to tell stories any way we want. I’m a believer that everyone who works in this environment should be on social media: producers, managers, photographers, digital staff, on-air talent and so on. Each person plays a role in the craft of storytelling and we all have something to offer the social discussion. We are the all-access pass only this one doesn’t require a velvet rope and a clipboard.
About the Author
Kelly Frank Green is a journalist and writer with more than 17 years experience creating informative, emotional and provocative programming. She’s worked for CNN, NBC & Fox News, and now works at the CBS affiliate in Atlanta as Senior Managing Editor: Broadcast, Digital & Social.