Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
What (if anything) do Facebook’s News Feed changes mean for fake news?
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
May 21, 2013, 10 a.m.

At The Miami Herald, tweeting’s about breaking news in the a.m. and conversation in the p.m.

Like other newspapers, the Herald has seen the benefits in relying on humans over bots in running social media accounts.

miami-herald-old-building-cc

Have you ever tried tweeting at a major news organization? How often have they responded or retweeted? Probably not often — and that corresponds to the findings offered by a GW/Pew study of 13 major news organizations which found “limited use of the institution’s public Twitter identity, one that generally takes less advantage of the interactive and reportorial nature of the Twitter.”

So when I went to The Miami Herald as part of a much larger project looking at newsrooms and news buildings, I was pleasantly surprised to find it, like some other newspapers, has actual people manning Twitter — breaking news “by hand,” interacting with readers, and having a genuine public conversation over the main @miamiherald Twitter account, with its 98,000 followers. (Aside from Twitter, The Miami Herald is making ample use of its Facebook account, posting new stories once an hour and relying on feedback from the 46,000-plus audience for stories and tips — and as an extension of the Public Insight Network pioneered by American Public Radio.)

In Miami, Twitter takes on two distinct modes during the day — in the morning as headline service and in the afternoon as conversation. “In the morning, we try to get the audience between 6 and 8 a.m. on Twitter and on the website,” says continuous news editor/day editor Jeff Kleinman, who says he wakes up at 4:30 to begin monitoring the news.

Kleinman uses Twitter to break news — whether or not it’s on the paper’s website. “We want to be first,” he noted, as he quickly dashed off a tweet about a boat fire in front of me. More often then not, though, there will be a link to a short two-paragraph story begun on the website. But not always.

Miami still remains a vibrant and competitive news marketplace with three local TV stations chasing breaking news, the Sun Sentinel, and even blogs getting in on niche action. So in the breaking-news morning environment, “If something happens, I’ll put it up on Twitter, I’ll write or have the reporter write two quick grafs on the homepage with italics that say ‘More to come,'” he said. “We’re constantly updating over Twitter and on the website as news comes in.”

There’s less time for conversation, but Kleinman is especially careful to do one thing: retweet what his reporters are offering from the field to the wider audience. “We’re not there, but they are, and Twitter is often the fastest way to say what’s going on,” he noted. So while the reporters have their own followings, their work gets amplified to a larger audience.

Take this example of breaking news:

Walter Michot, a former photographer who prowls the city with an iPhone (another story), has frequently broken news on his Twitter account, which has then been retweeted by @miamiherald. The mantra in the newsroom is to tweet, write, tweet, write, perhaps blog, and then write a takeout for the web and perhaps the paper.

Later on in the afternoon, Twitter and Facebook take on a more conversational tone. Luisa Yanez runs the @miamiherald account then. She focuses on three key things: curating incoming reporters’ work and retweeting it — adding additional substance if necessary; offering updates from the website; and responding to readers. The Miami Herald also offers updates about traffic and weather “as a public service and because people want to know,” Kleinman said, so followers might see something like this.

And then Yanez will retweet a reader who happens to chime in with a photo, in this case, Marven The Martian (@DaReelMJ), who offers a twitpic of the nasty weather brewing.

The Herald also uses Twitter as a direct way to ask its readers to pitch in for story help:

The main Twitter feed doesn’t shy away from letting reporters show off their spunk. For instance, on Evan Benn’s first story for the paper (yes, they hired someone):

That, of course, is what they call in the newsroom an only-in-Miami story. And it prompted some only-in-Miami community conversation:

Kleinman and others acknowledge that the tweet-to-web traffic conversion isn’t what they’d like it to be. But for them, Twitter is a way to build an audience, establish their continued brand prominence, and carry on a conversation. And while The Miami Herald newsroom might be losing the best view in journalism for a new home by the airport, location might not matter as much as it once did, because their conversation with their audience is virtual.

Those who doubt that a newsroom that is struggling with staff and budget problems can handle putting the time and energy into social media should look at Miami and see a case of what’s going well. And those who think that community conversation is too hard to handle should also pause and consider the possibilities that do exist when a newsroom engages with its community. Especially if it’s about eating python.

Photo of outgoing Miami Herald building by Phillip Pessar used under a Creative Commons license.

POSTED     May 21, 2013, 10 a.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 45,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
What (if anything) do Facebook’s News Feed changes mean for fake news?
Plus: Lessons from Bolivia and Slovakia, and what’s the reach of fake news in the EU?
Newsonomics: NPR’s Ross Levinsohn scoop delivers a double blow to Tronc
The Tronc rollercoaster continues: Just as it tries to unveil a familiar strategy (“gravitas with scale”!), its top digital leader’s past catches up with him.
Media companies should open up an HQ2
If it’s good enough for Amazon, why not for news publishers? Trade in your New York rent for a wider, subway-phobic pool of talent.