This post is part the Lightspan Digital #MarketingHop on social sports, in which bloggers were asked to share their story about how social media is connecting people in the silent sports community.”
Use social media more as an antenna than a microphone.
That phrase from a social media conference at Marquette University has stuck with for a couple years now; probably the best advice I’ve heard on using social media as a tool for my efforts to generate news-focused stories about endurance or silent sports in Wisconsin.
It tracked beautifully with my experience – more than 20 years covering local news for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – and the way I went about my job. When I covered crime and local government, I made rounds of calls and visits daily, checked the police blotter, court filings and municipal agendas, and talked to officials and leaders for stories and information. Fittingly, in this context, we called it the daily run.
In this new world of journalism, twitter has become my tip sheet.
Scrolling through my feeds several times a day, I track the athletes and events I’ve written about and seek ideas for new features. I aggregate items from other publishers in a weekly Drop Bag on The Active Pursuit blog, and share valuable and informative content with my readers. Social media has exponentially expanded the amount of information readily available to me as a reporter.
A few examples: Word that Rapid Running was likely to cancel a planned half marathon in Sheboygan and keep the entry fees already paid, the progress of a cyclist attempting to set a new record for riding across Wisconsin and a news of a local runner’s participation in the Fat to Finish Line documentary all came to me via social media.
Equally important, the antenna of social media has improved my ability to explore different views of an issue and gain insight that I might have been missing – from hunting in state parks in Wisconsin to proposals to add a bike lane on the Hoan Memorial Bridge. In a number of instances, stories or issues that I thought had little significance exploded on social media, telling me that I needed to pursue that topic differently, or more aggressively.
Tracking my fellow endurance sport bloggers across the country also provides different viewpoints and a window to view how activities in the Milwaukee area compare to those in other cities. It’s the modern day version of localizing a national story.
I don’t ignore the microphone element.
Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and other platforms are my means of content distribution – allowing me to reach an audience far beyond that of a paperboy on a bicycle. They also allow me to engage with, rather than dictate to my audience or readers. It’s rewarding to initiate and participate in a discussion about training tips, new races, and the impact of public policy on our shared pursuits. Quite a change from the golden rule that dictated my early days in newspapers: “never become part of the story.”
The old cliché “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” comes to mind as I ponder the impact of social media in my work. In fact, what I’ve found is that I’m now melding the new tricks of social media with traditional reporting – the who, what, where when and why.
What has changed most dramatically is the pace. The process of reporting and sharing in my previous career took hours, sometimes days. Now, it’s minutes.
Covering the USA Cyclocross National Championships is an excellent example. Rather than reporting and writing a single story, I post race updates lap-by-lap, then aggregate those, along with other social media reports into a bigger package for later use. I’m publishing the results just as the winners cross the finish line, instead of the next morning, and putting up that antenna to check for other reports from bloggers, reporters, racers and spectators.
Tim Cigelske, The Beer Runner, (@thebeerrunner): A Not So Silent Sport