Join us on the third Wednesday of every month for Career Crossroads, a look at how journalists, bloggers, and freelancers are adapting to the changes in their media careers. Catch up on previous installments at http://bit.ly/careercrossroads.
Thanks to social media, journalists can connect with their audiences faster than ever before.
The Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project reports that half of Facebook and Twitter users get their news from these social platforms. That means your audience is just a like or follow away from breaking news every minute of every second of the day.
It’s rare to come across a journalist today who’s not tapping into social media to some degree. No matter their age or stage in their career, social media is an integral and often mandatory part of their jobs.
Some news agencies and reporters embraced social media right away. With others, well, it was a more gradual process of acceptance.
Longtime NY 1 News anchor and reporter Cheryl Wills is a witness to how social media has changed the news industry, for better and for worse in some ways. She started out in the business in 1989 after earning a journalism degree from Syracuse University.
This was before the internet takeover, at a time when people called the news desk with tips and story leads and when PR agencies mailed tapes to the station. Newsrooms were just becoming computerized. Today, everything is a click, tweet, or YouTube video away.
“It’s a double-edge sword,” says Wills. “You realize everything is at your fingertips, but you have to resist the urge to take the easy way out.”
Despite the convenience, Wills strives to never take the easy way out and draws from her journalistic training on every story.
“You still have to do your own legwork, make your own phone calls, verify,” she said. “It’s so critically important that we vet everything we do.”
Wills joined Facebook in 2009. She’s not big on using it for sourcing stories, but readily admits it’s a great platform to promote news stories and events to a vast number of people.
Although Wills has been on Twitter just as long as Facebook, she’s not nearly as active there. Tweeting can be risky, says Wills.
“I don’t tweet a lot because I’ve seen too many of my news colleagues reprimanded or fired because of a tweet that wasn’t thought through entirely before hitting the send button,” she said.
To tweet or not to tweet? The decision is entirely up to Wills, at least for now. Unlike a lot of media organizations that require social media engagement by their news staff, it’s optional at NY1, says Wills, although she believes they are rapidly approaching to the point where it will be a requirement.
If and when that happens, Wills will adapt just as she’s adapted to the numerous other changes that have occurred in her 25-year news career.
In fact, she’s already looking ahead, joining Instagram just two weeks ago. She announced it where else? Social media.
Have an interesting story to share about your media career? Beyond Bylines’ Career Crossroads series features stories and job advice for journalists from journalists. Tell us your story by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also catch up on the latest media moves by following @PRNmedia on Twitter.
Brett Simon is senior manager of PR Newswire’s media relations team. Follow her @savsimon.