Establishing social media credibility as a new journalist

By Alana Ray Osborne  

“We are all digital now,” says Mike Reilley, the Director of the Cronkite News Digital Production Bureau. The 21st century digital media landscape now requires all journalists to build an audience and maintain credibility across social media platforms.

Many students graduate from college in the fall or spring term, but what happens when a journalist or reporter is building a social media presence for a new beat and in a new place?


Cronkite students in the Cronkite News Digital Production Bureau (Photo by Alana Ray Osborne)

Students graduating from established journalism schools learn the crux of journalism values: to seek truth, to be transparent, to be honest, to be ethical, to be accurate and to be fair.

Two journalism veterans – Mike Reilley and Thomas Linn, news reporter at KOMO in Seattle – share their years of knowledge with students stepping into the professional industry. They provide steps to building social media credibility as a professional journalist.

The first step is truth building. Linn expresses the vitality of saying only what you “see with your two eyes,” and confirming all statements to ensure accurate and quality information. Although we live in a 24/7-news cycle where content is always available, it is most important to strive for the most accurate information. If graduates adhere to fact verification rather than being the first to break a story, Linn says people will still be engaged, informed and up to date. Linn reminds graduates that a journalist’s ownership and accountability is essential.

The second step is fact checking. Linn says it “is on you to make sure the story is 100% factual truth.” When building credibility in your delivery, whether it is through social media, online or print, you always have to create trust. If you do not focus on this central notion, Linn says you “will destroy [trust] before it is even built.” Journalism will always be a growing process, you will make mistakes, but ensuring you adhere to accuracy is key.

The third step is trust building. Reilley states that to enrich trust building, a journalist needs to enlist several verification tools. For example, he suggests that before trusting any video or photo one should Google reverse image search. Reilley says to verify all content prior to publishing for both citizen journalism and mainstream outlets.

Reilley reminds journalists to recognize the skepticism and fear that can exist in consumers. He says there has always been concern for trust building with the web, but it is our responsibility to have cultivate trust.

“People should be skeptical,” says Reilley.

When curating any content on social media, Reilley says it is journalists’ responsibility to provide accurate, fair and useful information. He reminds a journalist to always integrate social media into news coverage whenever possible. It is the journalist’s responsibility to provide content that builds trust.

The fourth step is to be receptive to consumer dialogue. People can now react in real time, and although they “might not like [the] news, [they] have a level of trust,” says Reilley. He challenges a journalist to be receptive to the consumer’s response. He also reminds journalists to recognize consumer feedback.

“People often mistake discussing as a criticism,” Reilley says.

As journalists, all we can do is commit to truth telling and being available to the open dialogue.


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