So You Want to Use Social Media in the News

As some of you may have heard, while covering the terrible helicopter crash in Seattle, a Denver television station accidentally let it all hang out. Well, they didn’t, but they shared a picture on their live broadcast of someone ELSE letting it all hang out. So yes, congratulations to whoever owns that particular penis, because you have risen to some level of fame.

Sure, broadcasting the news is hard work, and you’ve got to keep a stiff upper lip while the cameras are running. You wouldn’t want to take too soft of an approach in covering the story. Sometimes you want to make sure you’re covering a wider perspective, and sometimes, you know it’s all about the length of your journalism. Keep in mind, though, any news coverage that lasts four hours or longer really needs to get some deeper scrutiny.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten all of those out of the way, let’s move on. See, over time, social media has actually proven to be quite beneficial. There are events that happen worldwide, and the only way people get to find out about them is via checking their Twitters/Facebooks/Instagrams (hey, sometimes the news is food-related). So, while I’ve never been a journalist, I am a social media user, and I’m going to share a few helpful tips for any journalist who is looking to use social media in their broadcasts.

1. Keep abreast of the trends

Listen, you don’t want to go down in history as the news organization that still gets supplemental information from MySpace. Unless, of course, you want your information to not only be terribly out-of-date, but for it to run the potential of causing epilepsy in people seeing it during your news story. Yes, I know that MySpace has changed, but, seriously, is anyone out there really using it even with the changes?

2. Make sure that you’ve already done initial research

The worst thing in the world for a news organization is to be wrong. The second worst thing is to be wrong because you’re taking everyone else’s words at face-value. While you might find plenty of good information by scanning through your social media contacts, make sure that you already know at least a little about what you’re covering. Otherwise, you could be running a news story about how much of a commu-fascist dictator the president is, without doing any sort of research into those political ideologies. (Note: If you are working for cable news, please disregard)

3. Check the names of the parties involved

Listen, maybe you’ve got a hot lead. You’ve seen someone tweet about the most breaking news story in the history of breaking news stories. Maybe they even posted the tweet without saying “#YOLO”. Think about double-checking their name. You wouldn’t want to necessarily spread that information came from @assfister27978134, when you can instead say “Jim”. Not to say that people with relatively unfriendly twitter handles aren’t going to be spreading good information, just that maybe it might be better to go with “sources say”.

4. It’s okay to be late to the coverage

This is something, overall, that news organizations seem to forget, although every once in awhile, it gets put on display. You don’t have to be the first to break the story. Especially not when that breaking story is full of speculation. Sure, you’ve got Facebook telling you all about the huge jets of water spraying all over the place, with locusts trying to eat into your studio’s walls, but maybe you should confirm that it actually IS some sort of end-times scenario before making it sound like an angry deity is exacting vengeance on the planet. As with tip #2, if you’re working in cable news, feel free to disregard this tip.

5. Don’t just stream images live, without checking them in advance

Seriously, people. Images on the internet run down a few categories. You’re bound to find cats, porn, cats watching porn, cat porn, babies, food, food porn, porn stars feeding cats, and then, finally, actual useful image content. The fact that only one station inadvertently aired a picture of a penis is surprising. And how many people out there have gone searching for a seemingly innocuous hashtag, only to be bombarded with more naked body parts than have been near Ron Jeremy? Seriously, image searches are dangerous, and they should NEVER be part of your live broadcast.

Use these simple tips to help make your news stories a little more social media friendly. Or, at least, if you make a mistake, be sure to quickly go onto social media, and say things like “shared a penis on live tv, thanks Obama #fml #smh #yolo #brunettes”. At least you’ll probably get a retweet or something.

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