The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Panel discusses social media

Tuesday night, members of the Eau Claire Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Western Wisconsin Press Club presented a panel of experts who addressed the use of social media in print and broadcast news today.

Dr. Christine Boese, information architect and former writer for CNN, Sara Boyd, web producer and writer for WCCO, Jason DeRusha, reporter and blogger for WCCO, and Dr. Mike Dorsher, associate professor at UW-Eau Claire and one of the founding editors of the Washington Post’s Web site, made up the panel. The discussion was moderated by Leader-Telegram online editor Don Lyksett. The event was held in the CJ Center in Hibbard Hall, with all panelists present except DeRusha, who joined the discussion via Skype.

The SPJ president, senior Jenny You, said the organizations presented the panel discussion in hopes of educating journalism students on how professionals use social media and what guidelines to follow when using it themselves.

According to an definition, social media includes “the various online technology tools that enable people to communicate easily via the internet to share information and resources. Social media can include text, audio, video, images, podcasts and other multimedia communications.”

A national survey conducted by George Washington University and Cision found that a majority of journalists routinely use social media sources when researching stories.

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The online survey, conducted in the fall of 2009, found 56 percent of the 371 print and web journalists surveyed said social media was important or somewhat important for reporting and producing stories. Of those who utilize social media, 89 percent said they use blogs for their online research.

The panel discussion ranged from the pros and cons of using amateur video and other content found on social media Web sites, whether or not concrete guidelines for using social media could be made and how some newspapers and television stations are using social media to draw in their audience and even find sources for stories.

DeRusha said he routinely uses his Twitter account as a promotional tool to capture his audience’s interest and to learn about issues that could be newsworthy. He also said he thinks his audience likes the fact that they can contact him.

“. You show people that you’re listening to the opinions of the people out there, not just the elite,” he said.

However, Dorsher remained skeptical as to how reliable social media Web sites can be.

“No one knows if you’re a dog on the internet,” Dorsher said.

Throughout the discussion, the audience members were able to pose questions to the panel. Senior Jake Johnson asked about the emergence of social media Web site users being cited as sources in the news.

“Suddenly we care about what anyone who has a Twitter account says,” Johnson said.

Boyd responded to Johnson’s question, saying it was a “tricky thing to balance.” She said that while social media users’ opinions should not substitute for experts’ opinions, they could still be useful to gather and report on the opinions of locals.

At the end of the event, the panelists were asked to sum up their thoughts on social media. Boese said she thought social media was helpful to journalists by “bringing in (the audience’s) voices.”

Boyd said social media, when used in a positive way, is an asset to journalists. She said it was important for journalists to find a way to not spam their users with constant messages and to use the Web sites wisely.

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Panel discusses social media