As a journalist in today’s world, to see your story trending on Twitter or Facebook is a big deal. People are sharing what you’ve written and your take on the story.
Last week, Jason Boog of Mediabistro wrote a story on the Zimmerman juror who decided to write a book on the trial, and then dropped the plan. Not surprisingly, the story took off. It even trended on Muck Rack’s home page, meaning verified journalists were sharing it with their Twitter followers too.
Muck Rack emailed back and forth with Jason about his viral story and the ways that journalism can proliferate across multiple channels. Here’s what he had to say about the topic.
Photo credit: Coy Gutierrez
Muck Rack: How often have you been a journalist? What do you like to cover?
Jason Boog: I’ve been working as a journalist since 2004, the year I finished New York University’s graduate journalism program. Since then I’ve covered a variety of beats, ranging from immigration stories to legal reporting to my current beat as the publishing editor at Mediabistro.
MR: How long have you been familiar with Muck Rack?
JB: I discovered the site in 2011. I was writing a post about online tools for writers, and author Jill Morris had recommended Muck Rack. Your site has always been a great way to explore the range of reporting and opinions about a big story.
MR: What was your first reaction to knowing you’d been one of the top articles featured on Muck Rack?
JB: It was a real honor to see journalists I admire discussing and sharing my story. But it was also an overwhelming day. I knew when I wrote about Juror B37 signing with a literary agent it would be a controversial story, but it became a very emotional topic online. We were flooded with comments and the story kept evolving well into the night.
MR: What do you think is key to writing an article with a widespread response/readership?
JB: You need a strong team. I am part of a network of blogs covering all corners of the media. Without the support of my colleagues at Mediabistro, that story never would have reached so many readers. In particular, TVNewser, FishbowlNY and the Mediabistro Twitter feed all helped me share the story.
You also need to be flexible. I kept updating our story over the course of the day, sorting through an avalanche of opinions and new information. Our editorial director Chris Ariens helped me cope with the news and comments as the story evolved.
Jason’s Muck Rack Profile
MR: What is a steadfast rule you live by as a journalist?
JB: Chase something new every day. I have been covering the publishing beat full-time since 2009, but every day I discover something I never knew existed. The joy of discovery keeps me inspired.
MR: How do you use Twitter and other social media platforms to interact with your readers?
JB: I edit the GalleyCat and AppNewser blogs for Mediabistro. I launched Twitter accounts for both those sites, and our readership grew as these platforms matured. I post all day long on both Twitter feeds, trying to blend our stories with reporting from trusted news sources. I use Facebook once a day to talk to our readers about a story and we have a Tumblr blog that helps share more lighthearted visual content.
MR: Do you think social media has helped or hurt, (or both/neither) the news industry?
JB: It has both helped and hurt the news industry. These new tools really helped GalleyCat grow and connected me with thousands of new readers. That’s my favorite thing about social media, being able to interact with readers on Twitter and Facebook every day.
At the same time, these tools are dangerous. Within an hour of publishing my story about Juror B37 finding a literary agent, key facts were already distorted on Twitter. All day, I tried to fight this misinformation by putting important points in bold and updating as the story evolved. Later that night, I had to write a stream personal messages to readers circulating rumors that GalleyCat was a publishing company set to publish a book by Juror B37.
Journalists have a duty to monitor (and react to) distortion in social networks, but that’s hard to do when a story spreads so quickly on Twitter on Facebook.
Ultimately, the literary agent and Juror B37 decided not to pursue a book deal. I wrote about that news, added an update (in bold) to the original story and circulated the new information as much as I could the next day. But a couple days later, you can still see people retweeting about this book deal that never existed.
We need to respect the power of these mind-boggling tools, and these experiences can help us become better journalists. I learned a lot this week, and I think I’ll be more prepared the next time a big story strikes.