Reflections: Engaging the Community

ISOJ speakers addressed innovative and effective ways to work with the community and have them happily work with the news.

VG Multimedia editor-in-chief Espen Hansen presented ways the in which his site excels with community needs right when they need it.

When the Icelandic volcano sent massive clouds of dust disrupting air travel, the site acted quickly to help the community. They created a page focused on getting people home.

Similarly, when swine-flu had become an pandemic and Norway had urged all citizens to get a shot, this site became the hub telling the community where to get and who got priority. Hansen said he recommends that all his journalists spend at least 10 percent of their work time interactive with the readers.

Amanda Zamora of The Washington Post presented very creative ways to give the readership news while creating unique forms of engagement. The examples she gave dove straight into the community and started conversations. There were posts that asked the community to give feedback about how responsible the Washington, D.C. power company was for power outages.

Jennifer Preston’s presentation had an emphasis on call and response reward for user engagement. She opened with the statements of focus being: value for our journalism, value for our users.

As the New York Times’ former social media editor she had many examples of how timeliness was the highest value. Preston gave examples of the first time tweets made for the most current factual information and were integrated into paragraphs of stories.

There are also many different ways NYTimes has giving the news value for the users. By giving the user a chance to submit their photos to maybe get published, a news organization has created a fun way for the user feel attached to the news.

Similarly by giving the user a chance to submit their ideas of how to fix the budget, a news organization hasn’t told the reader what to think but made them part of the issue.

Jim Brady spoke on how utilizing good internet journalists is a great tool for news organizations. The relationship between news organizations and its contributors should be an informal, level playing field one.

He made the point that social media should feel conversational and not like a robot tweeting headline after headline. He said no matter how virtual the internet becomes, when the human element gets lost the news will suffer.

Mitch Gelmen, vice president of, spoke on the importance of engaging with the contributors. Examiner, which is a completely user generated news site, has over 70,000 contributors with about 3000 stories per day.

ISOJ 2011: Engaging the Communities With the News Q&A, from Knight Center on Vimeo.