It’s my observation that there are three types of newspaper reporters when it comes to Internet use beyond searching for information: those who “get” it and totally embrace its use as a way to report news; those who don’t understand the Internet’s value as a media source and, as a result, resist its use as much as possible; and those who fall somewhere in the middle (they essentially understand or accept the value of online media methods but don’t use them quite right).
The first type is self-explanatory. If you understand the power of online reporting and the use of social media to further the reach of a reporter’s words, you know a reporter who “gets” it when you see his or her work.
The second type is still too common. A great example of this type can be found locally. There are two smaller daily newspapers that primarily cover La Salle County — The Times and the NewsTribune — and they both have reporters who “get” it and reporters who resist having to do anything beyond writing and occasionally shooting a photo for the print product. Reporters at both newspapers obviously were directed to create and use Twitter accounts, and as best I can tell, all the NewsTribune reporters embrace this to varying degrees, but there are still some Times reporters who don’t use Twitter at all — one reporter even locked his account so you can’t follow him unless he approves you doing so! They obviously don’t understand the value of reaching out to a wider audience through such newfangled means.
An example of the third type works for the Chicago Sun-Times. Lynn Sweet, a columnist and Washington bureau chief for the newspaper, uses Twitter and blogs, but she doesn’t do it quite right. Earlier today, she tweeted a reminder that the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner is tonight, and that people can follow her at @lynnsweet for notes and photos from it. That is a good use of Twitter. But when I clicked on the link she included in her tweet, I found her accompanying blog post, which began as follows:
WASHINGTON–The White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner is tonight, with Saturday Night Live headwriter and comic Seth Meyers the headliner. Meyers–I locked eyes with him for a mini-moment at the New Yorker party Friday night–speaks after President Obama, always a hard act to follow.
That is an example of Sweet trying too hard to impress and not quite “getting” it, which she tends to do on her blog. Believe me, nobody cares that Lynn Sweet locked eyes with Seth Meyers for “a mini-moment.” Another example of her trying too hard on her blog is the many instances of her writing “as I reported earlier” or a similar phrase. Newspapers have a long tradition of patting themselves on the back for reporting something first — and I have no problem with that — but when it’s done often by the same reporter in the first person, the writer can come across less favorably.
With that said, at least Sweet is using social media, and she gets credit for that. Too many reporters still resist using social media, and that’s a real problem in the journalism industry.