The Meek School of Journalism and New Media

The University of Mississippi

How journalists are using their smartphones to build audience

Posted on: July 26th, 2013 by elwalke1
Beech sends out a tweet before heading out on an assignment. She says, as a journalist, she feels “indebted to being a gatekeeper of important information.” Photo by Margaret Ann Morgan.

Beech sends out a tweet before heading out on an assignment. She says, as a journalist, she feels “indebted to being a gatekeeper of important information.” Photo by Margaret Ann Morgan.

Think Web first. A sign with those three simple words hangs in the Raycom-owned WDAM-TV newsroom in Hattiesburg, Miss. The idea is to remind reporters, producers and everyone else to push to Web, and smartphones make that job much easier.

Reporter Rachel Beech is perhaps the best example of someone who thinks Web first, and by extension, she goes mobile. A quick look at her Facebook posts (which she has automatically linked to her Twitter account) shows that she is always plugged in- and so are her followers.

“My online presence is important, because I see great value in communicating with others while keeping them informed about happenings around the Pine Belt,” says Beech. “People want an accessible avenue for information, and there’s no better place to access info than the Web.”

Perhaps Rachel’s “star moment” was during a mayoral election uproar, which has just recently been taken to a trial. With this constant coverage, Beech has learned the importance of not only immediate updates but also updates that are factual.

“Receiving information straight from the source quickly is critical,” she says, “and I try to do that as soon as news breaks.”

Her live updates boost her online presence, and she says it could not be done without having that mobile access in the field. “After receiving info, I relay it to the public- straight from my iPhone- as efficiently and objectively as possible.”

Here’s what the expectations are for making mobile newsgathering part of the reporter’s day:

  • Each reporter is supplied with a smartphone and is expected to use that for reporting in the field. As a reporter rushes out the door, equipment and coffee in hand, they are (or at least should be!) sending out a tweet and posting to Facebook to let their followers know what they are covering. While on the scene, several social media updates are expected, which should include both pictures and video. The quality of camera in the phones is high enough to allow the use of pictures and videos on the Web, as well as in television cut-ins.
  • Pictures are sent with a two paragraph story summary that is immediately posted to the Web, Twitter and Facebook. In addition, the reporter also sends back a ten-second tease that is used as a cut-in prior to the newscast. This is also posted to the Web. While the reporter is in the field, the Web producer back at the station is posting the content. But when a reporter returns, it is his or her responsibility to post a Web story along with a video to the website.

The goal is to create a news organization that keeps viewers in mind, every minute of the day.

This story was contributed by Margaret Ann Morgan, a 2013 graduate of the Meek School and a reporter for WDAM-TV.