Mingling with fellow journalists down the pub, or rubbing shoulders with potential contacts at a business dinner – all valid forms of networking but these days, it seems, the hobnobbing is being done online.
Social networking sites and applications have created a wealth of resources that journalists can use to contact people that they previously wouldn’t have been able to reach. Web 2.0 has opened up a whole new way of interacting with the community. As Alison Gow discussed in her blog, journalists can now use applications such as Twitter to extend their network, find potential interviewees and follow up leads.
So let’s say, for instance, that I decide to write a story about unusual things that people collect. I then ask all my contacts about whether they know anyone with usual collections but no one comes up trumps. In a web 1.0 world, I might have had to discard the story but in web 2.0, my contacts don’t stop after I’ve exhausted my address book: in web 2.0, contacts can be endless.
So, for example, I could pop onto Twitter, throw the question out there and see whether anyone replies:
If that doesn’t work, I could just go and do a Twitter search to see if anyone has discussed unusual collections and hopefully then, I have a potential story! Of course, just like any journalist working in web 1.0 or earlier, I would verify that the contact does indeed have a fascination with milk bottle top collecting, but if everything checks out ok, then I have my first interviewee.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. By engaging with the online community, we can gauge people’s reactions to our articles, and open up a dialogue using the article as a spring board. This could create a sense of bonding with the reader, lead to follow-up articles based on reader’s comments, and become part of the wider conversation, rather than trying to speak above it.
But of course inviting comments from the online community can have its downsides, one of them being trolls.
These ugly little critters are basically online users who make a habit of posting aggressive, insulting messages on forums, blogs, wherever, in order to provoke emotional responses from other users. These are an occupational hazard for the journalist, or anyone else, who wants to engage with the online community, and people just have to rise above those who just want to be deliberately vindictive under the cloak of anonymity. But as Kristine Lowe reported, Norwegian social network, Origo, has introduced anti-troll measures which seem to be forcing the gremlins back into their holes.
The idea behind it is that people are less likely to troll if they can only blog using their own name – suddenly insulting people at random isn’t so much fun if everyone knows who you really are. It’s a great idea, and although it would be harder to implement over here in the UK because we don’t have to register our mobile number by law, it would definitely be worth a try and banish those trolls from whence they came.
Troll photo courtesy of Tyler Platt, aka Chromafly