David Victor, senior staff editor for New York Times, presented to an audience of over 60 attendees the different ways reporters can use social media to enhance their storytelling.
In an hour and 27-minute presentation, Victor revealed a variety of social media tips to young journalists on such networks as Twitter and Facebook, as well as third-party aids to these networks, like CrowdTangle and Tweetdeck.
“I think a lot of times when we think about social media, we think about putting our stories out there,” he said. “You know, trying to get traffic from them or you think about horrible people harassing you. Yes that stuff exists, but I want to get past that and talk about the ways we can use it for good.”
Victor discussed how to search Twitter for story ideas and sources, how to monitor social media and how to find contact sources through social media and building Twitter lists.
Victor told a story of Michael Paulson, a religion reporter for the Times, who was working on an assignment centered around Orthodox Jews and members of other religions, who refuse to sit next to women on planes because it’s against their religion. In the story, he noted that you can’t go to an airline and say, “Excuse me; can you connect me to your most disgruntled passengers?”
Without having to go to airlines or ask random people about Orthodox Jews, Victor assisted Paulson in his research for sources and performed what he called “perfect source tweeting”— searching Twitter for keywords a person might use in a situation with an Orthodox Jew or in any other situation.
“The overall rule here is to think what your perfect source would tweet,” he said. “Imagine you are in the situation, think about what you would say.”
Through perfect source tweeting, Paulson and Victor were able to do eight interviews from Twitter and five were used in the story. Victor said when searching these tweets, think of keywords a person would use. He said the most common words to look for are “I,” “me” and “my.” Keywords used for Paulson’s story were “Jew,” “flight” and “plane.”
For a train crash that Victor covered, he searched for tweets reading, “I’m safe” and “I’m alive.”
He also stressed the importance of being aware of fake sources and how to verify if the source is telling the truth.
“Every time there is a mass shooting in this country, there are people who will fake tweets saying, ‘Oh my God, I was in that building. I’m so glad I got out,’” he said. “No idea why they decide to do this, but every single time, there are news organizations that seem to fall for it.”
Victor also taught the audience how to build a social dossier, which is a method used by The New York Times to identify people through their social media who may be named in breaking news.
In this interactive part of the session, Victor showed the audience his personal Facebook and asked the audience to point out ways to identify if he was real.
“Maybe look on the New York Times website to see if you actually have the position that you say you have,” an audience member said to Victor.
Searching through people’s profiles and viewing whom they are connected to provides good opportunities to find information on someone and to ask more personalized questions and verifying a source, according to Victor.
The social media tool Victor appeared to be the most passionate about, and whose use he encouraged, was Twitter lists. A Twitter list is a curated group of Twitter accounts that a user can personalize for his or her own profile. A user can also subscribe to lists created made by other users.
“If you have local TV stations, local newspapers that you’re competing against, student blogs, whatever that might be, you can put them all in a feed,” he explained. “You could create a list of college newspapers from across the country and maybe see which of their posts are doing really well and you might be able to localize the idea.”
To help with lists, Victor recommended the use of CrowdTangle, a third-party website that helps keep better track of your lists.
Also, Victor discussed how to talk to a source online for a potential quote or how to find general information you’re using in your story.
“Be specific about what you want and keep your requests simple,” he said.
Victor has worked for the Times for four years. Previously, he had served as the social media editor for ProPublica Inc. He graduated from Penn State University with a degree in journalism and is originally from Boalsburg, Pennsylvania.
“If you want to be a popular writer, do not write about race and ethnicity, because you will always get attacked by people who don’t want to talk about race and ethnicity.”
Jesse Holland, Associated Press race and ethnicity reporter and author, spent an hour and 15 minutes with student journalists at the SEJC conference at the University of Mississippi in Oxford talking about how reporting on race and ethnicity is a changing field.
Holland said a common thread in his 300-400 daily emails is “Why do you always talk about race?”
“Usually I don’t respond, because the obvious answer is, ‘I’m a race and ethnicity writer. It’s sort of what I do,’” Holland said, chuckling. “But there’s a more important reason why there are race and ethnicity writers, and that reason is demographics.”
In the past, even when he worked on other beats, such as being a Supreme Court correspondent for seven years, Holland said he continued to write on his own time about these issues. When the race and ethnicity job opened, Holland said he “decided to take my passion and make it my job.”
The first few years were spent crossing the country, covering stories of tragedy and racial violence.
“After I started the job as race and ethnicity reporter for the AP, Ferguson happened,” Holland said. “So, I ended up spending about three weeks in Ferguson, Missouri, and then a few months after that is when Charleston [South Carolina] happened… And then after that, Baltimore happened.”
Holland said some of his favorite stories he’s done under the race and ethnicity beat have been about history.
“At heart, I guess you could say I’m a historian. I love writing about the past. I love looking at things that happened 100, 200, 300 years ago — and seeing how it still affects our lives today.”
By 2040, Holland said, the U.S. will become a minority-majority country.
“And that means, for the first time in its history, there will not be a majority race in America. There will only be a collection of minorities,” he explained. “No race will be more than 50 percent, and this is according to the U.S. Census.
“So frankly, as a business, that means as journalists we have to recognize that our readership is changing; that we will no longer be able to depend on one race to make up the majority of our readers. We now have to cover everyone. And you can’t cover everyone by writing one story.”
The second change, Holland said, is going to be covering white Americans as a minority.
“We’re having to learn now, as an industry, how to cover white Americans,” Holland said. “Race and ethnicity used to mean you cover everyone but white Americans. That’s changing.”
Jerry Mitchell, veteran investigative reporter for the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, reminisced on his journalistic legacy of bringing justice to former Klu Klux Klansmen during his speech at the SEJC Best of the South Awards Banquet on Friday, Feb. 17.
“I truly believe we work in one of the world’s most noble professions,” Mitchell said, addressing the crowd of about 300 students and advisers. “And when we are at our most noble, we make a difference in people’s lives.”
He noted this difference can come in many forms: by telling stories, telling the truth or even changing the conversation.
Mitchell recalled when he was in high school and then-Gov. Ronald Reagan visited his hometown, Texarkana. He covered Reagan’s speech as the editor of the Tiger Times, his high school newspaper. He recalled a day spent with Hillary Clinton and the time he interviewed Douglas Adams, author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”
“That’s the beauty of journalism,” he said; “you get to meet so many amazing people.”
Mitchell is a Pulitzer Prize finalist and won a MacArthur genius grant. His career has focused mainly on racially motivated crimes and racial reconciliation; his investigative endeavors and stories led to the conviction of four Klansmen.
“You have far more power than you realize,” he told the students.
Mitchell said he’s always been inspired by Medgar Evers, a NAACP field secretary who investigated racial crimes, such as the infamous Emmett Till murder in Mississippi in 1954. Evers, 37, was shot and killed in his driveway on June 12, 1963, by Byron De La Beckwith, a Klansman.
Mitchell discovered the Mississippi Legislature had sealed all the records concerning Evers’ death for 50 years. That was his cue to start digging.
“If someone tells me I can’t have something, I want it like a million times worse,” he said, chuckling. “If you’re like that, you belong in reporting.”
He discovered the Mississippi State Sovereignty Committee aided De La Beckwith’s defense attorney to keep him from being convicted.
Thirty years later, Mitchell interviewed De La Beckwith and later found himself in the courtroom when De La Beckwith was finally convicted for Evers’ murder.
“I just felt chills, because the impossible had suddenly become possible. I believe that’s what journalism is all about,” Mitchell said.
At the end of his speech, Mitchell addressed the public’s attitude toward news media today. He mentioned how people are calling the press “dishonest,” but brushed it off with, “Oh, please, I’ve had worse insults from Klansmen.” He noted his career has been filled with death threats, as many journalists’ lives are, but encouraged students not to be afraid of what people say.
“The thing is, those death threats led to an unexpected gift for me,” Mitchell said. “The gift of living fearlessly. Living fearlessly is not about living without fear; living fearlessly is about living beyond fear. Living fearlessly is about living for something greater than ourselves.”
Deb Wenger, a trainer of Google News Lab, led an interactive presentation at the SEJC convention at Ole Miss, which demonstrated ways that aspiring journalists can utilize accessible tools to improve their future writings.
“How many of you search Google more than 10 times a day?” Wenger asked to a crowd of about 40 students as she introduced her presentation.
All hands in the audience rose in response.
“The goal of the perfect search engine is to understand exactly what you need and return exactly the results that you want, regardless of what you put in the search box,” she declared.
Wenger showed how searches can be narrowed, depending on what is entered in the search bar.
She exhibited how to include or exclude words that appear in search results, as well as how to locate postings specifically from certain domains or posted by particular websites.
“This is a good tool if you do a lot of Google searches to refine and narrow what you get,” she reiterated.
Wenger then shifted from word searches, to image searches.
She asked the audience, “How many of you have had a story before where you didn’t have an image, so you went to Google Images to find something that would fit with it?”
The majority of hands rose again.
Wenger stressed the importance of using searched images in stories if the rights are available.
“The one that you’re looking for is the one that is labeled for reuse and modification. That means that you can take that photo and do what you want with it,” she explained.
She also showed attendees how to conduct a reverse image search, to discover where an image originated. She stressed that reverse image searches can often unveil hoaxes or “fake news” once the origin is discovered.
She projected a picture of a photo that circulated as Malaysia Airlines 370 crash footage. However, after a reverse search, she proved that the photo had been edited and was obviously a photo from the television show, “Lost.”
She projected another image of a ballot, circulated on Election Day, which claimed Donald Trump was not on the ballot in Oregon. After another reverse image search, it was revealed that the photo originated from a man’s personal Facebook profile.
“It’s probably not an official ballot if it’s on only one guy’s Facebook feed,” she suggested.
Wenger joked that she uses this feature to check pictures provided by students as excuses from tests and homework assignments. She gave the example of a reverse search that she did on a picture of a car accident.
She chuckled as she said, “I upload and I’m like, ‘Huh! Amazing! How’d you end up in Brazil?!”
The audience joined her laughter.
“This is where I think it gets fun,” she said as she switched gears from image searching to discussing Google Trends.
Google Trends tracks the trends of popular internet searches, updating results every three to five minutes.
“We’ve become a much better predictor in breaking news situations about what the problems are that people are interested in,” she proclaimed.
Wenger asked the audience to guess one of the five most commonly searched cities in the United States within the past year.
“I still haven’t heard one,” she teased as an array of incorrect cities were called out from eager students of the audience.
Eventually, a student called out, “Flint, Michigan?” and was rewarded with a large T-shirt that Wenger tossed across the room to him.
She flashed the five most-searched cities on the projector: Flint, Baton Rouge, Charlotte, Dallas and Palm Springs.
She continued to test and toss T-shirts to other students who correctly responded and exclaimed trends.
“The most important thing for us as journalists to think about with Google Trends, is how much more honest it is than polling or talking to people. It allows us to connect to our audience about what they’re really asking questions about,” she said.
Searching behind a computer is a safe, judge-free zone, she said. People are more likely to ask questions behind the safety of a screen, than to risk potential ridicule for ignorance from peers.
After a presidential debate last fall, Wenger said that the most-related search to Hillary Clinton was, “What is Roe vs. Wade?”
“We always have to take this data and apply it to journalism,” she explained.
She elaborated that through Google Trends, journalists can get ideas on what questions people want answered in stories, as well as what topics people care to read about.
She offered one final tip regarding how stories can be improved through the use of visuals and maps, by utilizing My Maps and Google Street View.
She prompted attendees to download the Google Street View application. She then urged everyone to test it by standing, rotating in place and taking a 360-degree photo of the auditorium.
“Page views are still relevant and important but ‘time on site’ is something that has become even more important to news organizations to try to keep people on their site,” she said. “So, when they take that extra time to absorb what’s on that 360 image, that’s a benefit.”
Wenger also explained how maps serve as a helpful contribution to stories.
“Any web map can be embedded on any website. If someone makes a map that works, you can use it,” she declared. “And get in the habit of searching for a map if your story has a geographic component to it.”
She gave the example of a map that tracked the path of Malaysia Airlines 370 before it disappeared. This map was featured in a story about the crash. She also provided the example of a map pinpointing where fires were in California embedded in a fire cover story.
Through the many Google News Lab training sessions that Wenger has led, she said she often finds that many journalists are ignorant of how to access of these tools.
“Tools have gotten better. Google News Lab has listened to journalists and made them easier for them to work with, but journalism students are extremely busy,” she explained. “You may have heard about it, but unless it’s in your daily routine, you forget that it even exists.”
Four prolific Mississippi-based journalists discussed continuing their professions in a largely Republican state at a time of increased hostility toward the press at a 2017 SEJC panel held in the University of Mississippi’s Overby Center for Southern Journalism Feb. 17.
Titled “Assault on the Media,” the panel featured Jerry Mitchell, an investigative reporter with the Jackson Clarion-Ledger; Marshall Ramsey, an editorial cartoonist for the Clarion-Ledger and radio host; Kate Royals, an education reporter for Mississippi Today; and Ronnie Agnew, executive director of Mississippi Public Broadcasting discussed the current state of distrust towards the news media on both a local and national scale.
Bill Rose, senior Overby Fellow for the center, first asked panelists about President Donald Trump’s 77-minute press conference that occurred two days prior, during which the commander-in-chief claimed the media are no longer trustworthy.
Agnew, erstwhile executive editor of the Clarion-Ledger and four-time Pulitzer Prize judge, said with every tweet, Trump weakens his own power.
“I think it plays well in some parts of the country, but I believe that when you cry wolf as many times as the president has with the media in 6 a.m. tweets, people with brains can start to decipher for themselves what is news and what is not,” he said.
Ramsey, an editorial columnist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Clarion-Ledger and USA Today, said members of the media must also face “trolls,” or people who make contentious statements for shock value, who have been “emboldened” by the polarizing national discourse.
Mitchell said regardless of what subject matter reporters cover, journalists must exercise caution, especially in a time when objective journalism may fall prey to U.S. public opinion, which he said is “splintering” in wake of polarizing news media outlets such as Fox News and MSNBC.
“We have to pick our battles as journalists,” he said. “I think the more important battle is truth, and the more important battle is reporting on things.”
Agnew said the press should consider what it misses when reporting; he noted that the press missed covering Trump when it missed speaking to community members.
“How did we miss Donald Trump?” he asked the crowd of around 130 students and collegiate faculty members. “How did we miss this discontent of the country that would put Donald Trump in office? I think because we weren’t watching. We covered the incendiary things that he said … We didn’t cover the people who were actually embracing his message.”
He advised the audience to “cover the people” instead of “covering the celebrity.”
Ramsey, meanwhile, said journalists should take note of who they follow on social media, as well as avoid creating an “echo chamber” of concurring opinions on their feeds.
“We can all now go safely into our little news bubble and we can get a la carte news how we want it, when we want it, what we want to hear,” Ramsey said. “I’ll sit there and read different views on my Facebook feed from different people and (will think) ‘Wow, did they watch the same thing I watched?’ Then I realize that they were watching a different news source than I was watching.”
The panelists also discussed covering Mississippi, which Mitchell said has poor records laws. Mitchell, a Pulitzer Prize-nominated investigative reporter with the Clarion-Ledger whose work has prompted four Ku Klux Klansmen’s convictions, said developing sources is crucial to community reporting.
“There’s constantly roadblocks — people are never going to make it easier for you to get what you’re trying to get,” she said. “You just expect it.”
Brian Blakely, a senior mathematics student from Louisiana Tech University and photographer for the university’s newspaper, said although he is not a journalism major, the panel spoke to what he sees his coworkers experience.
“It’s still interesting to see and hear the stories of people and the trouble’s they’ve had then and how things have changed over time,” he said.
Category #14: Current events
Friday, Feb. 17, 2017
Time Allotted: 12:15-1:15 p.m. Farley 124
Materials Provided: Question sheet, pen
Materials Not Provided but Allowed: None
Suggested resources: Print, broadcast and online news sources from Nov. 1, 2016, through Feb. 13, 2017; familiarization with the names and titles of major national and world leaders.
Prohibited Materials: Laptops, phones, any outside material; anyone seen reading from something brought from outside will be disqualified.
Exercise/Assignment: Contestants will take a multiple-choice quiz on major events from Nov. 1, 2016, through Feb. 14, 2017.
When completed, the category proctor will collect your question/answer sheets. Put your assigned number on the test, not your name or university. Rankings will be assigned strictly by score.
Category: Public Relations (teams of two or three allowed)
Friday, Feb. 17, 2017
Time Allotted: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Farley 126.
Materials Provided: Scenario only.
Materials Needed: Laptop computers
Prohibited Materials: None. You are free to bring any materials and/or to use the internet.
Exercise: When you arrive at the competition room, you will be given a hypothetical situation. The situation will NOT be a crisis, but will be a situation that a fictional organization is facing or a challenge that it wants to take on.
For the hypothetical situation given you, address how you would approach the situation in a complete eight-step PR campaign/program/plan.
Type up your report with clearly labeled sections of your plan. For example, label “Situation,” “Research,” “Survey questions,” “Action tactics,” etc.
Note that grammar, spelling, punctuation and AP style errors will count against you.
Submission of final report: Email your report no later than 2 p.m. to
At the top of the report, put ONLY your contestant number (no names/universities). Entries with a time stamp later than 2 p.m. will be disqualified.
Your report must include the following:
I. Description of problem/situation/Research
a. State the situation
a. Secondary RS. Describe the secondary RS you would do. If you have time, actually do some SR on the topic of the campaign and provide the results.
b. Primary Research. Explain here what primary research you would conduct. Explain what you would research, how and what information you would hope to get. Write at least three sample survey questions you would administer.
c. Target publics. State who the TP will be.
d. Objectives Write at least one objective.
a. Explain your strategy and key messages.
b. Slogan: create one to call your plan.
c. Spokesperson. Will you have a spokesperson? If so, tell us why you chose him/her. If not, say why not.
a. Actions & Events: State what actions you would use and why. Explain when, where, and how the actions would occur and what would take place. Write up a schedule or program for one of the events. For example, might you have a walk or run? A rally? A seminar?
b. Communications What is your communications plan? First, give your overall communications plan. List the communication methods you would use and explain why you chose them. Explain what mass media, social media or controlled communications you would use and how/why.
Briefly describe/list/explain what would be on the website for this plan and what it would be called.
Write a short news release announcing one of your tactics or your campaign and include a quote from yourself as the organization’s communications professional. Use AP style and format the news release the way it would look if you sent it out.
Write/illustrate three social media posts from two separate social media you would use. In other words, that will be six total posts. ** Schedule when and where you would post which item. Use your campaign slogan as a hashtag. For example:
|Date||Social media post|
|Oct. 3, Facebook post||Are you ready? If you’re going out for a run, get ready by finding at least one buddy to run with you. This message is from the Ole Miss campaign about personal safety. #StaySafeRebels (Illustration of two female students jogging together.)|
List the items you would need to buy/rent/pay for and give a rough total cost. Don’t worry; all you have to do is estimate it. You will NOT be graded on how exact your amount is.
State when you would begin planning, when your campaign would take
place, and dates of your events. This does not need to be very thorough.
State how you plan to evaluate the campaign. Of course, you cannot really evaluate it; just state what methods you would use.
Category # 12: TV News reporting (two-person teams allowed)
Friday, Feb. 17, 2017
Time Allotted: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Materials Not Provided but Required: Camera, tripod and microphone. Laptop with appropriate software for editing. (If you are unable to provide your own laptop for editing, email email@example.com and we can discuss options. The Meek School of Journalism & New Media at Ole Miss uses Adobe Premiere.)
Students will be provided with sufficient space for video editing in Farley Hall.
Prohibited Materials: None
Assignment: Participants will be given four hours to develop a :60-:90 television news package based on a news conference in the Overby Center attached to Farley Hall on the Ole Miss campus. Katie Kaiser from Visit Oxford will speak to media about a number of events taking place in Oxford the weekend of Feb. 17-19. She will share details on the impact of that weekend and other spring events on local businesses and residents.
The news conference begins promptly at 10 a.m. and will be held in Overby Rm 249.
Submission: Students are asked to post their packages to YouTube. The video should be titled without using the contestant name or institution, and that information should NOT be included in the package itself. USE ONLY THE CONTESTANT’S ASSIGNED NUMBER. Contestants should sign off as: “This is Contestant #(whatever your number is), reporting for SEJC.”
Links to scripts and edited packages must be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than 2 p.m. Be sure to make the video “public.” URLs that are not accessible may be disqualified. The subject line of the email should include ONLY the contestant number and the title of the contest (TV News Reporting).
Judging criteria: Stories will be judged for accuracy, creativity and clarity. The quality of the visuals, use of compelling sound bites and natural sound, and the strength of the writing in the script submitted will be evaluated by the judges, along with the reporter’s delivery on camera and in the narration.