How journalists can follow the story/find contacts online

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How journalists can follow the story/find contacts online

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(a few notes/ideas of using online resources for journalism from a recent 30 minute workshop with 2nd year Online Journalism students) – this is by no means definitive, so feel free to add any suggestions, comments below
There are so many ways a journalist can follow the story, search for contacts or get leads online – but starting off is the hardest part.
In this blog post I’l be running through a few very easy steps to jumping in – often using tools you may already be aware of.

SOCIAL NETWORKS

eg Twitter, Facebook (less mainstream ones mentioned in Other Tools below)
YOUR PROFILE
I would suggest having a professional account, especially if you already have an account and use it for day to day chatting to friends, posting pictures of nights out etc.
If you need convincing – perhaps these reasons will help:
Reason 1 – potential to upset bosses
Countless examples of people being fired for criticizing their bosses, talking about getting another job. being unprofessional, being offensive etc. drunk pictures, sweary tweets. keep them separate.
This doesn’t mean you cant be human on your professional tweet, just not an animal.
Reason 2 – your company could claim ownership of your followers
Recently a man was sued for his followers, He was using his own account to promote the companys work – when he left, they wanted him to leave his Twitter account, and his followers, behind.
Reason 3 – Content may not be suitable for your personal account
Friends don’t necessarily want to see your work
some may not like the work you are doing … may not be suitable
Imagine youre doing research on neo-fascists – and you decide to follow a few groups for research – do you want your friends seeing that?
Now, whether that is true or not – it shows that if you are searching for something a little unsavoury, illegal etc or dealing with people, it is best to have a separate account.

 

Name: If you already have an account using your full name, consider changing it to a nickname, and using your full name on your professional account – remember, a potential employer/contact will probably do a search for you – which account do you want them to find?
Also, avoid a username that alludes to your current situation – eg Davethestudent, or JohnBCU – in 2/3 years you won’t be a student any more. Also avoid employer names for the same reason.
picture – I would choose something clear and recognizable – it’s amazing how many people at events will come over because they’ve seen you on Twitter.
So now you have your account set up, the question is …
WHO TO FOLLOW
Who’s on there
celebrities
councils
MPs
sports
experts
other journalists
General advice
you’ll end up following lots of people
don’t be afraid to stop following people if your interest changes
e.g. you’re working on an education story – so you’ll follow lots of teachers  – for example. once the story is over, you don’t need to keep getting their updates
use lists  – group the types of people you are interested in so you can see them all together
Finding that first person
  • name search people/organizations/publications you know
  • check articles on the subject  – is the writer online?
  • check organizations websites – a lot now promote their social network accounts
  • Google search subject area + social network name …
Next step
Youve now found someone to follow …
  • check their profile – they may have other accounts, organizations mentioned
  • who are they following? (very useful) who follows them? (not as useful)
  • Lists – the lists they follow and the lists they are a member of – find similar people
  • look through some of their tweets – who are they talking to / replying to?
WHAT FOLLOW
Hashtags (Twitter)
As well as following people, you can follow events (whether temporary or ongoing) with hashtags. These are words, preceeded by a #, which users use to show the subject of their tweet.
With certain services you can search and follow hashtags .. which can be set up for TV shows (eg #xfactor, or for individual conferences, events.
Lists (Facebook, twitter)
If you find a list of interesting people, you can follow the whole list, instead of the individual people. Again, certain readers let you do this.
Groups (Facebook, LinkedIn, google groups)
Join groups, follow conversations, get involved …
HOW TO MANAGE
Ideally this shouldn’t be something you are sitting down to do once a day, but you are notified about updates as-and-when, to suit you
Various ways to interact with Social networks
  • official website – Facebook.com, twitter.com
  • phone app – eg Boxcar for Iphone (covers Facebook, Twitter, email etc) – most smartphones have built in notifications for Facebook/Twitter or apps you can add
  • computer desktop application – eg Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, Destroytwitter
  • via SMS
  • via email notifications
DestroyTwitter2 – http://bit.ly/ykTwOX
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RSS FEEDS

a way to keep an eye on websites without having to keep checking them
Sign up to a Google Reader account
Ways to Subscribe
  • search for subject area/names via SUBSCRIBE button
  • manually add URL via the Subscribe button
  • click on an orange RSS button on a website
  • click on RSS button on URL bar in browser (most show if there is an RSS feed available now)
How to Read those feeds
Google Reader, but many other RSS readers sync with your Google Reader account
  • Google Reader website
  • desktop reader – eg Feedemon, RSS Bandit
  • phone app – eg Feedler, Feedly, Flipboard
  • online readers – (list from Geek Adda http://bit.ly/w6Amie)
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They Work for you

 Allows you to keyword search MP’s speeches in Parliament
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GOOGLE ALERTS

A way of keeping an eye on whats happening
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OTHER TOOLS

LinkedIn Specifically
How Journalists Can Use LinkedIn http://tnw.co/ypyo3e
Useful to have professionally
good for job hunting
find company contacts – and approach
Follow companies
Browse company stats
Also
Youtube, Flickr, Soundcloud (music site) – a lot of content – a source for contacts
Quora –  a questions and answers website – very professional. not as busy as it was but still useful
Meetups.com – people organising meetups – useful for finding sources, interviewees, interest/action groups
Podcasts – Itunes … search for subject areas – a lot of interesting content

About Author

Caroline Beavon

A communication professional with 12 years journalism experience and a genuine passion for new technologies. An experienced blogger and social media user

“I’d recommend Caroline to anybody who’s after unique style, creative ideas and professional approach” Magdalena Sybilska, Improvement and Efficiency, West Midlands