I came up with the term social reporter a couple of years back to bundle up my experiences in journalism, community engagement, partnerships, and social media. But what’s the essence? A neat little iphone mindmapping app (via Neill Williams) helped me distill three social reporting principles, as you can see here. Given the time of year they could be resolutions: Make Sense, Be Positive, Help Out.
I’m not sure I can live up to the challenge of these resolutions, but here’s how the ideas emerged.
Firstly, social reporting has certainly proved a better label than blogger when reporting events with tools including a mix of video, audio, Twitter. Others like Tim Davies have refined the art and produced excellent advice for younger reporters.
Then I’ve always had the idea that social reporting could have a wider role, and it was particularly encouraging to see Steph Gray making it a key role in digital engagement. More recently I’ve been discussing the part social reporting could play in development of the IDeA knowledge hub, with Steve Dale and Ingrid Koehler, and musing about the emergence of passionate human clouds and how to find one’s way through the fog.
Jeff Jarvis, suggesting journalists must see themselves as more than storytellers, could be talking about social reporters:
When we open ourselves up, we can think of journalists as enablers, as community organizers (not just of information but of a community’s ability to organize its own information), as teachers, as curators (how could I get through this without using the word at least once?), as filters, as tool makers, as algorithm writers.
For those in social media, Scott Gould also says that this year we must make sense or die:
There’s too much content, both online and offline, for everyone to cohabit – meaning those that lack clarity will, by the end of 2010, die. Furthermore those who aren’t making sense probably don’t have much money left to continue not making any sense, so unless they start making sense, they too will die.
Jemima Gibbons, in her excellent recent book Monkeys with Typewriters, helps us focus on the benefits and values behind social media, not just the tools: Co-creation, Passion, Learning, Openness, Listening, Generosity. There’s deeper inspiration for social reporting amidst the many interviews that make the book such a good read. Interview with Jemima here.
I think that Etienne Wenger, specialist in social learning, might stretch his term social artists to include social reporters, as I took away from his inspiring presentation a year ago in Lisbon.
If people think Lloyd Davis can be a social artist, I’m keen to join the club. Lloyd has succeeded brilliantly in making the Tuttle Club a new sort of social space … maybe social reporters can do something similar online, as well as help Tessy Britton and David Gauntlett with their work in researching the idea and practice of social space development.
Thinking of Tessy reminds me of Thriving Too, and that Be Positive should be a principle for social reporters. How can we create spaces where people can do good stuff simply by focussing on the negative, and the problems (underline NB to self). Amy Sample Ward distills the essence of collaborating for social benefit in this review of Hildy Gottlieb’s book The Polyanna Principles. I’m extremely fortunately that Amy is a collaboratator in Social by Social … so there some better chance of my picking up on the principles instead of sinking back into an easy old reporter habit of just stirring things up.
So … out of all these ideas randoming gathered and occasionally reported, I’ve distilled:
Make Sense by using social media to capture content at events and elsewhere; listen out for the conversations taking place; highlight the stories that you hear; interpret for different interests; comment to add your own ideas, and aggregate to make it easier for people to follow what’s happening in many different places.
Be positive so there’s more chance of good things emerging from your reporting: make friends, applaud other people’s successes, celebrate together, and spot opportunities (while not ignoring the problems).
Help out and promote collaboration (rather than highlighting conflict) by encouraging, supporting, and signposting people to other resources.
I suppose I should also add Be Brief … and that’s the virtue of an iPhone app. The mindmap took about 15 minutes on a bus trip, and if I had stayed with the iphone I could have simply added the first paragraph and posted that. The rest is mainly rationalisation – with a bit of interpretation, applause and signposting.
Already thinking Go Mobile where possible.
Update: now inviting discussion over in the Socialreporter group at SocialbySocial.net. Do join us.
Further post here on social reporters as accountability journalists.