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Tabitha Hale Shares Media Tips With Citizens!

Tabitha Hale, managing editor of the new interactive news site Rare.us, joined Watchdog Wire and several citizens on Twitter today to talk about the role citizens can play in the ever-changing news media. With more blogs and other online platforms for sharing news than ever before–not to mention the rise of social media–the power has shifted from the few (the legacy media) to the many (anyone with an Internet connection and a passion for uncovering the truth). Here are some of the best tips Tab offered on becoming part of the citizen journalism movement:

Tip #1: Be someone sources want to connect with

No one enjoys dealing with angry or aggressive people, online or in real life–so always be respecful. And when building a following, humor never hurts. There are a lot of voices out there, and showing your personality will help you stand out from the crowd.

Tip #2: Measure twice, report once

During the terrorist attack in Boston, Tabitha and her colleagues at Rare were never the first to report on breaking news. And they’re fine with that, since so much of the “breaking news” reported by CNN, the Associated Press, the New York Post, and other legacy outlets was false! When reporting, always take your time and make sure your information is true and verified before publishing it.

Tip #3: Update your story as better information comes in

We’ve come a long way when “Stop the Presses!” was more than just a figure of speech: back in the day, once a newspaper printed a story, they couldn’t modify it. Now, making changes to stories posted online is as easy as clicking a mouse. This means you can post an article about a developing event, and add more details later as they become available.

Tip #4: Go to social media first as a story develops–but don’t believe everything you see!

With few exceptions, all news breaks first on Twitter, so if you want the details of a story before it’s on TV, that’s the place to go. But use caution: much of the “in the moment” information reported on Twitter is unsourced and unverified, and is often incorrect. To sift through information on Twitter, see which claims are backed up by eyewitness accounts and photographic evidence.

Tip #5: Know how to use both Facebook and Twitter

If you’re new to social media, you may think that the two biggest sites work the same way–but they don’t. Twitter works more as a clearinghouse for news–a great place to get information out quickly. Facebook appeals to people more directly, which makes it an ideal place to share stories driven by pictures or video.

Tip #6: Find sources you can trust

In a nutshell: always go local. The best sources are the people closest to the event, so you’d prefer someone who was at the scene over an “expert” who lives hundreds of miles away. Also, give extra weight to who/what/where/when/why questions and answers, which provide the nuts and bolts of any good news story.

Tip #7: Get it on video

We’re living in what is very much an audiovisual culture: people want stories that they can see and hear, not just read about. Not only is video more appealing than text to most audiences, it’s also the best way to bust a politician. Remember when this Congressman said he didn’t care about the Constitution? A citizen caught it on camera, and nine months later he was out of a job.

Tip #8: Give the people what they want

An old bit of workplace advice is, “If everyone in your office is wearing a blue suit, you need to buy a blue suit.” Journalism works the same way: if everyone in your town is talking about a tax hike, you need to report on that tax hike if you’re going to build your following. And you can get creative, too: if most people are talking about education, and you have a story on a wasteful public transportation project, write about how that money could have gone to schools instead.

Tip #9: Fill in the gaps

The media can’t cover everything–there simply aren’t enough of them! But citizens can. By covering what you can cover–think local events that you know inside and out–you can become part of the worldwide movement of citizen journalists.




Kevin Palmer

Staff writer at Franklin Center. Contact me at kevin@watchdogwire.com

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