Attracting listeners to Instagram

I don’t often listen to popular music on terrestrial radio, but this afternoon my kids were asking for songs as we drove home, so I turned on a local station. Just as I did, I heard a DJ come on (do they still call them that) and started talking about drinks and a glass.

“Do you ever want a drink at night? And you’re searching for the right glass?”

I thought for sure it was an ad. But he kept going.

Romeo from Kiss 108 on Instagram

tvradioromeo on Instagram – screenshot

“I just found the coolest glass. I posted it on Instagram. Search for tvradioromeo. Check it out and let me know what you think.”

I have to admit, I had to Google his name again once I was home in order to recall it, but I looked. And it’s pretty cool.

Have you heard radio broadcasters do anything similar? What works best to get you to follow someone on social media?

Is there room in New Hampshire for another TV station?


photo by Matthew Keefe

The Boston Globe took notice this week of a new player in New Hampshire. I worked with someone who is now at NH1 – which kind of sounds like VH1. She left her previous job several weeks ago to help start the station, but this week was the first broadcast.

What’s interested is that they built the station and its broadcasts before it built a website. (“An evening newscast launched this week, and a website is on the way,” writes Meg Heckman.) The station, which will also have a radio station and newsroom, does have a Facebook page and Twitter account (which, for the most part right now, post the same items). Short news blurbs, including mug shots and pictures from news conferences, were posted to these accounts well before the first broadcast. But the website is simply a landing page with links to those accounts.

In 2014, what does it mean to build a TV station that does not have a website? Is it okay to solely depend on Facebook and Twitter while the site is launched? If it was me, while all of those 120 employees were working to wire the former schoolhouse, learn the new equipment, and meet each other, I’d pull five or eight aside and have them working on a site that would have launched not just when the broadcasts started, but before then.

David Skok visits Northeastern University

Boston Globe front door

photo by Tony Fischer

David Skok, digital adviser to the editor at the Boston Globe, spoke to Jeff Howe’s Media Innovation Seminar on Wednesday night.

I’d tell you all about it, but the meeting was off the record.

Suffice to say, it was a thought-provoking, insightful conversation. I look forward to continue watching what he does at the paper… er, news outlet.

Looking ahead – will journalism survive?

At the age of 12 I knew I wanted to be a journalist. I watched the Today Show as I was eating breakfast and getting ready for school. I watched the evening news as my mother got dinner ready. I was in awe of the reporters telling stories from all over the world. That’s what I wanted to do.

I did it. I went to school. I got a degree in broadcast journalism. I studied newspaper journalism. I wrote for our university’s student-run, independent daily newspaper. I had multiple internships. I was ready.

I graduated from college 14 years ago. In the time between deciding what I “wanted to be when I grew up” and then, the journalism industry has changed drastically. It has changed even more since graduating.

Fourteen years ago there was no such thing as a smartphone, but now it’s being credited with saving journalism. Frank Rose writes in his piece, “How the Smartphone Ushered In a Golden Age of Journalism,” “Statistics from The (New York) Times say roughly half of the people who read it now do so with their mobile devices, and that jibes with figures from the latest Pew report on the news media broadly.” In fact, the Pew report indicates that people with smartphones are reading more news than ever before.

Additionally, reporters are using smartphones to help them tell a story. They can take pictures and video to place into their pieces. They can look up data and information while on the road – and even place a call using the same phone. Once the story is written – which can be done on that same smartphone – the reporter can share the story using social media apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

Clay Shirky suggests current journalists “get good with numbers” – in other words, focus on data journalism. “Learning to code is the gold standard, but even taking an online class in statistics and getting good at Google spreadsheets will help,” Shirky writes. He adds journalists should learn to use social media not just to share their stories, but to help cultivate them. Use the platforms to gather story ideas and sources. They can also be used to crowdsource photos and multimedia that can be used in their reports.

But with more businesses foregoing the traditional newspaper and television ads in exchange for far less expensive online advertising and even building their own apps, the funding to support these endeavors is falling by the wayside.

Gannett announced this summer it is spinning off its print business, separating it from its broadcast business. This has free-fall written all over it. The New York Times quotes Craig Huber, an independent research analyst as saying, “It makes it a more risky portfolio because they don’t have a digital segment to fall back on or TV stations to fall back on. They are probably going to feel more pressure as a stand-alone newspaper company.”

So newspapers fall apart and leave us looking at all of our news online. Is that bad? Shirky suggests in his piece  “Newspapers and the Unthinkable” from 2009,

“Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism. For a century, the imperatives to strengthen journalism and to strengthen newspapers have been so tightly wound as to be indistinguishable. That’s been a fine accident to have, but when that accident stops, as it is stopping before our eyes, we’re going to need lots of other ways to strengthen journalism instead.”

How do you do that? How do you strengthen journalism? Outlets need to look at and change their funding mechanisms. They need to give their reporters and editors the support they need. And they need to be aware that the audience they have had will likely be further splintered. But people still want to read good reporting, and that is why this industry will survive. Will it be as robust as it was 20 or 30 years ago? No. Andrew Leonard writes in Salon, “In her book “The People’s Platform,” Astra Taylor reported that one 2011 study found ‘44.7 percent fewer reporters working in the [San Francisco] Bay area than a decade ago.'”

But will journalism survive? Of course it will. Will it look even more different than when I was a 12-year-old eating cereal watching the Today Show? You betcha.

An Intern Did It

But was it really the intern? Yes, an intern at the NTSB is getting the heat because s/he confirmed the racially insensitive names of the pilots behind the deadly Asiana Flight 214.

But where did those names come from? Did the intern think them up on his/her own? Or, rather, did someone from the station call or write this person, supplying the names, and asked if those were correct?

In which case, which is more egregious? What the intern did was wrong, and s/he was probably told at the beginning of his/her term to report to a supervisor. There is no question this is a big international event, and therefore an intern should not be the one to confirm any information about the event.

However, the names? If someone at the station supplied those names and thought it was funny, what is happening to that person? That is truly offensive and should not be overlooked.

Editor’s Note: The intern has since been let go by the NTSB, but what about the station – what kind of discipline is happening there?

Editor’s Note: Apparently the station provided the names, but according to a statement on their website never sounded them out. The intern then verified spelling, but the station didn’t ask that person’s title. So where did the station get the names initially?

Enough With The Images

The stories of the survivors of the Boston Marathon bombings are coming out, giving us hope and letting us meet some amazing people.

There is Heather Abbott who was waiting to get into a bar after having gone to a Red Sox game with her friends. There is the mother and daughter, Celeste and Sydney Corcoran, who were at the race that day to cheer on Celeste’s sister. There is college student Victoria McGrath who was told a white lie to get her through the immediate moments after the bombings.

I have read and learned of these stories not through watching the evening news, but seeing them online. I have chosen to digest the news on my terms, to choose the stories I want to see, and only when I feel up to it.

I have clicked on headlines like, “Victims Look Ahead,” and “Survivor to Rescuers: ‘You Saved My Life'” and “Boylston Street Open After Bombing” hoping to see new images of hope and survival.

Instead, within seconds of watching, the images of the bombings are edited into the piece. Each time I have had to stop watching.

No matter what the story is — whether it’s the inspirational story of a woman who decided to have her foot amputated, or the touching story of a man rushing to save the life of a young college student — every one of these stories has used these images.

It doesn’t matter which network or cable station – they are all still using these images, nearly two weeks after the bombings.

What is to be gained by using these images now? Of watching when the bombs went off? Of seeing the moment when people were killed or maimed? What is the purpose?

We know what it looks like. We know what it sounds like. We don’t need to be reminded of it every time we want to be inspired and try to get back to “normal,” whatever that is now.

Imagine how these families and friends of those killed or injured feel every time these stories air. They think, “It’s nice to see how ___ is doing, and what an inspiration s/he is.” And then… that image.

Why is this different from 9/11? Why could it be decided then not to repeatedly show the plane crashing into the second tower, but now it’s okay to show a bomb blowing up and killing innocent people? Because there were three people killed, not 3,000? Because it’s Boston, not New York?

Why? Please, stop using those images of the bombs exploding. We’ve had enough.

What the What?

I learned of the on air flub of a certain anchor in North Dakota pretty early in the game. It’s what happens when you have several friends in the business, they share things.

A lot of it was, “Can you believe this happened?” “He said what?” or “Poor guy.”

It was well after I saw all of this that this anchor got fired.

After watching a few of his interviews as he made the talk show circuit Wednesday, I have so many questions.

Now, I will never say I was good when I started. Heck, some will even say I wasn’t good when I got out of the business. And that’s fine. But I will say there are some things about the television business that go without saying.

  1. A mic is always hot. Always. No matter if you’re sitting on the set or standing in the field, a mic is always hot. A close friend of mine, who is still in the business never swears. Ever. That way she’s never inclined to when she’s holding a mic. It’s a darn good habit. Because of her I say “crud” a lot more than other words.
  2. An IFB is a must. Having worked in a very small market, I know that generally speaking in addition to anchoring the news you are also producing it. In order to facilitate this, you need to be able to communicate with your director. And if you’re not producing it, and you have a producer sitting in the booth, that producer needs to communicate with you on the set (or in the field). This particular anchor claims after three weeks on the job he hadn’t been fit for an IFB yet. I came out of college owning two IFBs – one to use every day and one for a back up. If you are going to anchor a show, you need an IFB. In addition to being able to communicate with your producer or director, you need it to hear soundbites and full stories. I don’t understand how you can try to anchor a show without an IFB.
  3. Anyone who has ever anchored would be lying if they told you they weren’t nervous for their first show. Your hands may shake, your voice may crack, you may mispronounce things. It happens. The audience is generally forgiving. Especially in small markets. It’s where reporters and anchors go to make mistakes. But at the same time, reporters and anchors, good ones at least, try to be as prepared for this first (and hopefully subsequent) shows as possible. They read scripts dozens of times, they put pronouncers in the scripts, they ask their co-workers how to say something, they listen to tape. They know — generally — what to expect. Rehearsing happens during commercial breaks, in the newsroom, and during packages. This brings me back to number 2.
  4. If this particular anchor had an IFB they would likely be getting a countdown from the control room, whether the director or master control operator, that they were about to go on air. The rehearsing would stop, and he would be ready to go, whether he knew how to say the name or not. (I’m also curious why the London Marathon was the second story in this show.)
  5. “He can report, shoot, and edit,” says one morning show host trying to get him another job. Great – so can the rest of the broadcast journalists graduating. Doesn’t really set him apart in 2013.

His 15 minutes are about to expire and then he’s going to have to figure out what he’s really going to do. It’s too bad the station decided to fire him rather than suspend him. Reporters and anchors make mistakes in small markets so they don’t make them in big ones. Now, this was a pretty big mistake, but just for a moment imagine if he was simply suspended, would he be making the talk show rounds asking for an offer from ESPN? No.

What do you think should happen now?