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Top takeaways from our social media journalism panel

Patricia Cruz

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We invited editors and producers from across the industry to share their advice and experiences of being a social media journalist.

The panellists included Chandni Sembhi, senior producer for PinkNews, Helen Thomas, senior social editor for VICE, Neve Gordon-Farleigh, TikTok producer for Journo Resources, and Will Thompson, social media manager and digital sports journalist for Sportsbeat.

Helen and Will both did their NCTJ training with .

What is a social media journalist?

In the age of social media, journalists have adapted to find stories, write pieces, film videos, and publish them in the spaces the public are most likely to consume them.

There is increasing demand for multimedia journalists who can navigate social media, consider audience analytics, and get creative with journalism that suits every type of social media platform.

Our social media journalism panellists gave advice to aspiring journalists via Zoom.

What skills do you need?

To be a good social media journalist, first and foremost you need to be a good journalist, reporting on the news quickly, accurately, and fairly.

You also need to develop some specific skills to make the most of the platforms available to you.

Will said: “One of the most important skills is your research because social media is a constantly changing landscape.”

Chandni and Helen agreed, saying you should learn the changing rules and trends of each platform, what the algorithms are, and learn to read and interpret social media analytics.

Helen said: “Numbers are the best proof of what people want. Not that we should let the algorithm decide our content, but you can use stats to guide you.”

There are plenty of tools out there to help journalists tell stories on social media.

Chandni said: “I use Canva all the time, it’s great. It helps to create a consistent theme across your platforms.”

How can you start getting experience?

The first step to launching any career is to get some real-world experience.

Although finding work experience can be difficult, there are loads of ways you can get started.

Neve said: “It’s about being able to put yourself out there. If there isn’t experience coming to you, make it yourself – create a blog or a YouTube channel for example.

“Showing your transferable skills might pay off more than a week of work experience where you make a few phone calls.”

Helen added that having a successful personal social media profile can boost your chances of landing a job in social media journalism.

She said: “TikTok is a really good resource. If you have the confidence to do it, it’s definitely something I would recommend.”             

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What are some tips for applying to jobs?

All the panellists discussed the need to understand the brand of the company you are applying too.

Will said: “You have to understand the audience you are talking to. You have to know the tone of voice of who you are working for.

“Social channels are the shop windows for the brand, it’s what everyone sees, it’s public. You have to be mindful of the power of social media.”

Helen said it’s important to read and care about the publication you want to work for so you come across as genuine and enthusiastic.           

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What are the biggest challenges?

Chandni spoke about the difficulty of navigating what you should be paid.

She said: “Pay can vary so wildly in this industry, it can depend on so many different things. When you’re starting out it’s really hard to know your worth.”

Will shared the challenge of coming up with fresh ideas when scheduling so much regular content.

He said: “Everyone gets creative block. Like with every job, take a break so you can come in fresh. You need to look outside the box.”

The panellists agreed about the need to be as impartial as possible.

Neve said: “Sometimes you do need to leave your opinions at the door. Find your niche and be consistent.”

What training do you need?

The panellists discussed the different routes you can take into social media journalism.

Helen said: “I would recommend doing an NCTJ journalism course because there are certain things you really need to learn, like media law and impartial reporting.

“I did a part-time course which meant I could work freelance alongside it. The NCTJ is very hands-on which I really liked.”

Chandni said: “Journalism courses are so good for meeting people and having those ready-made industry contacts.”

You don’t have to go straight into a journalism course to become a social media journalist – plenty of people go into the industry having had different jobs beforehand.

Will said: “It’s never too late. Go out and get the experience.

“There’s a lot of brands who want to use an authentic voice so if you become a micro-influencer who has an in-depth knowledge of something you can start working with brands and become a go-to person.”

Neve believes if you work hard enough you can always find a way into journalism.

She said: “If you’re willing to fill the gaps in your knowledge – with an NCTJ course, or another way – I certainly don’t think it’s ever too late to change your career path.”

Check out our blog on how to prepare for an NCTJ journalism course!

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Journalism

Article: Trust and Journalistic Transparency Online

Patricia Cruz

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The study “Trust and Journalistic Transparency Online” by Michael Koliska from Georgetown University experimented on news consumers’ trust as brought on by transparency, and further, in the second experiment, explored the reasons for the findings in the first.

Transparency in journalism is defined as opening up the journalistic processes (production, decision making) to outsiders, i.e. making journalism more transparent. Karlsson (2010, 2020) further divides transparency into disclosure, participatory, and ambient transparency. 

Defining trust, on the other hand, in journalism has been tricky, as it has been associated with credibility. Kohring and Matthes (2007) define the four elements of trust: 1. trust in topic selectivity; 2. trust in fact selectivity; 3. trust in accuracy of descriptions, and 4. trust in journalistic assessment. 

This study recruited its participants from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk) platform. There were a total of 1092 participants. They were presented with a news story about nanoparticles – a topic that was unfamiliar to most and therefore had a low risk of partisan opinions. The article was presented in six different webpages that had differing transparency items in them.

There were 11 different trust items in the first experiment. Based on the results, the hypotheses were rejected. They were H1: A a) production transparency news item and a b) producer transparency news item will be trusted more than a non-transparent item. H2: A full transparency (both production and producer transparency) news item will be trusted more than a) a non-transparent article, b) a production transparency article, and c) a producer transparency article. And H3a: A full transparency news item will be trusted more than a full transparent article that includes biased information about the producer. H3b: A producer transparency news item with neutral personal information will be trusted more than a producer transparency article with biased information.

Nevertheless, the participants agreed that the journalist was trustworthy and that they sometimes trusted the news media. On results, it was speculated that the participants did not recognize the transparency features as cognitive heuristics and did not interact much with the transparency items. 

The second experiment was similar. There were a total of 379 participants, who were not the same as in the first one. They were assigned to read the same article as in the first about nanoparticles, placed again on five different webpages with varying transparency features.  

Further on, the participants were asked to recall the transparency features (such as hyperlinks, author bio, editorial explanations etc.) and to recall specific information from the article and the transparency features. 

The participants recalled items such as the photo (84% of the ones assigned to the webpage with a photo) only 34% could correctly identify the journalist. Similarly, 53% of those who had seen an editorial explanation recalled it, but only 26% could recall a detail from it. Participants also had trouble recalling the individual transparency features they were exposed to.

It was noted that the participants had better recall on items that were part of the actual story than the ‘digitally outsourced’ transparency items. It is possible that this information is not adequately processed or they failed to acknowledge the utility of this information. 

In conclusion, it still remains unclear how the link between transparency and audience’s trust is created. The question remains on whether news consumers recognize transparency features as markers of journalistic quality.

The article “Trust and Journalistic Transparency Online” by Michael Koliska is in Journalism Studies. (open access). 

Picture: scrabble tiles spelling trust by Ronda Dorsey.

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Journalism

News ideology and media storms in France and Israel

Patricia Cruz

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The article “What Happens in the Eye of the Storm? News Ideology During Media Storms” by Doron Shultziner from Hadassah Academic College looked at the nexus of news ideology and media storms using two media storms to analyze the topic: the Yellow Vests Movement (2018) in France and the Occupy Movement (2011) in Israel.

Media storms are defined as events or topics that take up a substantial part of the coverage for a period of time. They typically peak after few weeks in the beginning and then begin to fade. They have been studied widely with various terms being applied to them like “media event” or “media hypes”.

In the past 15 years, there has been an increase in the amount of studies on media ideology. Measured against the hypothetical gold standard of pure objectivity, media bias can be seen when coverage varies from source to another in different weighings and so on, with professional considerations having been overtaken by ideological ones.

The ideology is often seen in framing – as in this case, left-wing media tends to frame the protests positively and right-wing negatively. This was one of the topics in this study.
There were two data sets for the study: the Israeli one and the French one. The Israeli dataset consisted of coverage from Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel Hayom, Maariv, Haaretz, Makor Rishon (a national-religious newspaper), and Yated Neeman (an ultra-religious newspaper). Israel Hayom, Makor Rishon, and Yated Neeman are right-wing, the rest are left wing.

The French dataset consisted of coverage from Le Figaro, Le Monde, Libération, and L’Obs – listed here from right to left ideologically. The articles from both datasets were coded either positive, negative, or neutral based on several criteria.

The results show that media storms are a multi-media phenomenon, affecting a number of newspapers at once. The findings also demonstrate a media bias: if professional considerations were the only thing that mattered, the coverage in left- and right-wing media would have resembled each other.

Instead, there was a trend of negative coverage in right-wing media and positive in left – and what is more, the lines of coverage moved to opposite directions, showing increased polarization. There were differences between the storms: in the Israel case the newspapers chose their sides early and there was no significant move, but in France the lines diverged as the media storm went on.

News ideology also operated through production bias mechanisms, such as sizing of articles or their placement in the newspaper (front page or somewhere else). Due to the differences of the two cases, the hypotheses regarding the decline stage of the storm were hard to assess.

The author notes that the study has implications for future research. It proposes that media storms may be high-risk events that even challenge the ideology and interests of the news organizations. As important, politically charged events become media storms, they may become political storms instead.

The article “What Happens in the Eye of the Storm? News Ideology During Media Storms” by Doron Shultziner is in International Journal of Communication. (free access).

Picture: Storm Approaching by Johannes Plenio @jplenio.
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Covering women’s sport: My sports journalism career highlights

Patricia Cruz

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There has never been a better time to work in women’s sport and for early-career sports reporters, the opportunities are endless.

Here, multimedia sports reporter Milly McEvoy shares how she has covered everything from the Olympics and Paralympics to international women’s cricket and football tournaments, only a year after finishing her sports journalism course.

In June 2021, fresh off finishing my Multimedia Sports Journalism qualification with in Manchester, I made the move down to London to join Sportsbeat as a reporter.

It feels like a lifetime ago, but what has come in between also feels like a blur – it has involved international rugby and football, the British Athletics Championships and domestic cricket and netball (and lots more) in person. 

I have also covered the Summer Olympics and Paralympics, Wimbledon, the Commonwealth Games, remotely and I have had the opportunity to interview sportspeople involved from the grassroots to the top of the game. 

On top of all that, I spent two months covering the Women’s Cricket World Cup in New Zealand. 

As I came to the end of my history degree in 2020, I already knew I wanted to be a sports journalist, but I started thinking about what form that would take. 

I quickly settled on women’s sport. 

I had always kept an eye on women’s sport, and proudly say the first sporting event I ever attended was a Women’s Euros football match in 2005, but my interest in sport came from what was easily available – and even two years ago most women’s sport wasn’t. 

2020 was a slippery slope to full-on obsession including listening to the 2020 Women’s T20 World Cup final on 8 March in the early morning on the radio. 

Even across the airwaves, the sound of 86,174 people packing into the MCG showed to me that there was plenty of appetite for women’s sport, people just need to be able to see it – and read about it. 

Fast forward two years and Australia were winning another World Cup, but this time, I was there to see it with my own eyes before heading to the press conference to speak with captain Meg Lanning. 

What had led to that point at around 9pm on 3 April 2022 was two months covering one of the most exciting tournaments cricket has ever seen, and I’m luckily not yet jaded enough to have cursed having to rewrite my match reports as momentum swung wildly in several games. 

I learnt so much from covering that World Cup producing over 120 previews, reports, reaction pieces and features, but my favourite one was the last thing I did in Aotearoa, speaking with a slightly hungover Grace Harris the day after she had won the World Cup. 

Having returned to the UK, I enjoyed a full circle moment in July as I covered the Women’s Euros, and just like the 2020 T20 World Cup, I watched from afar as 87,192 fans cheered the home team to victory. 

Except, this time I was writing the match report for the Lionesses and I couldn’t get into the Wembley press box because there were so many people eager to cover women’s sports. 

It feels like England’s win will be a turning point for women’s sport, one that is long overdue, and I am excited to be part of what is to come and grateful and proud to have been a small part of what has already been. 

You can find out more about our multimedia sports journalism course here.

For a taster of our award-winning journalism training, sign up for one of our free workshops here.

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