Monthly Archives: November 2008

Lessons in community from community editors #8: Carlos Virgen, Walla Walla Union-Bulletin

The latest in this series comes from Carlos Virgen of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin:

1. You must engage the community in person.

Making digital contact is great and useful but actually meeting face to face is perhaps even more important. Particularly in a community that may not be as technically savvy as others.

Our town has a population of about 30,000 and the outlying areas bump that up to about 45,000 55-60,000. Although I am sure that the majority of those people use email, some of the other web tools are often alien to them.

2. Take small victories when you can.

We’ve tried a couple of community social networks, neither of which grew very big but each of these was able to connect us with a handful of people that have led to other networks.

Our sports community site connected us with a growing but under-reported group of BMX families.

Our general community network connected us to a local dog-owner social network that will be tapped for an upcoming series on local pets and their owners.

Social networks lead to social networks.

3. Do not think of the social network as an extension of the company.

It’s not. If it is, then it isn’t a social network. Be willing and ready to give up the reigns.

If you are lucky this will happen quickly and you will have a core group of users that will steer it responsibly. This is a sign of success.

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Journalists are economical

I once had a job interview with a national broadcaster where I was asked about the then-current Lewinsky-Clinton scandal. When I replied that I felt it was time to move on, the interviewer frowned. I didn’t get the job.

This interview came to mind this week when I read Journalists and the information-attention markets: Towards an economic theory of journalism by Susanne Fengler & Stephan Russ-Mohl.

According to them, my opinion on the Lewinsky story meant I was something of a journalistic spendthrift.

Because Fengler & Russ-Mohl’s paper argues that, just as we treat publishers and newsroom managers as economically motivated, we should do the same for journalists. Continue reading

BNP members names mapped – anonymity (and backs) protected

In the UK the leaking of a list of the members of far right party BNP online has created a classic new media problem for journalists: anyone can find the information, but no one in the mainstream media dare publish it for legal reasons… or can they? From Ewan McIntosh (via Stuart on the 38minutes blog):

“To republish the list would be illegal, so newspapers such as the Guardian printed the numerical stats on line-art maps. Far from breaking the law, it was crowdsourcing that came up with a better solution, both allowing us to see how many BNP-ers are on our doorstep without revealing their names and exact locations. Cue the anonymous, but powerful, BNP member Google Heatmap, which has since allowed our Government ministers to realise the pockets where local politics lets people down.”

Are these the biggest moments in journalism-blogging history?

Here’s another one for that book I’m working on – I’m trying to think: what have been the most significant events in the history of journalism blogging?

Here’s what I have so far (thanks Mark Jones and Nigel Barlow):

What have I missed? This is a horribly Anglo-American list, too, so I’d particularly welcome similar moments from other countries.

Lessons in community from community editors #7: Angela Connor of WRAL.com

I’ve been speaking to news organisations’ community editors on the lessons they’ve learned from their time in the job. Today, Angela Connor, Managing Editor/User-Generated Content WRAL.com and GOLO.com

1. Acknowledge good work

As a community manager, it is important to make your members feel valued and appreciated. When you come across a great blog, interesting comment or great photo, send your compliments to the author, and do it publicly on their profile page or directly on the content.

Remember, you’re the community leader and your opinion matters a great deal. So don’t be stingy with it. Positive reinforcement goes a long way, and it will make that member feel valued and vested. Once that happens, they’re in for the long haul.

2. Ask for help

As the person responsible for the well-being and growth of the community, it’s easy to feel and operate like an island, putting all of that work on your own shoulders.

But as the community grows, so does the number of stakeholders. Use them to your advantage.

Contact your top posters and most involved members and ask them to greet and reach out to new members. Ask them to work on a community-driven FAQ. Tell them what kind of content you’d like to see more of and ask them to help you build it.

Not everyone will jump right in, but you may be pleasantly surprised by the level of response.

3. Know when to walk away

Community management is a tough job and there are days when it can be extremely stressful. From trolls running rampant to direct abuse from visitors and an overflowing inbox filled with pettiness, sometimes it can really take its toll.

When you find yourself feeling like your head is going to explode or as though you’ve reached the end of your rope, get up and walk away. Or better yet, log off the site and just take a deep breath.

Find a message board for community managers and vent with like-minded souls familiar with your plight. And remember, there’s always tomorrow.

Lessons in community from community editors #6: Sarah Hartley, MEN

I’ve been speaking to news organisations’ community editors on the lessons they’ve learned from their time in the job. Today, Sarah Hartley, head of online editorial for MEN Media, publishers of the Manchester Evening News and www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk. Her role includes managing and developing its online communities. She also blogs about online journalism at www.sarahhartley.wordpress.com and is on twitter @foodiesarah.

1. Participate

Unless you’re accepted as a member of the community, it will be difficult to successfully manage or maintain it. As in life, outsiders are mistrusted or their motives misconstrued.

Participating doesn’t just mean adding your own comments or clarifications to debates when required, but can also mean responding with further action.

If an inaccuracy is pointed out – amend it and don’t be worried about doing this publicly; it shows you’re listening. Taking on board legitimate points made by other members of a community you belong to is one way to ensure your blog/product/news service or whatever is more successful.

2. Not just a policeman

The MEN site is unusual among newspaper websites for pre-moderating all interactions with the public – comments, picture submissions, video etc. so my take on this may be slightly different to sites who post-moderate.

The pre-moderation policy means the team editing this material every day need to make snap judgements on what is, or isn’t, acceptable. No small task. The danger we have to guard against is that the activity becomes all about preventing things from happening rather than enabling them to happen.

So while policing for dangers is necessary, it’s important to remember that it isn’t the only activity – some encouragement and welcome is also needed.

3. Spell it out

Take a look at your terms and conditions. Are they written in English or legalese? Users can’t realistically be expected to understand what “defamation” means or have intricate knowledge about the race relations act.

However they can, for example, be expected to sign up to not insult others or use bad language.

Publish guidance notes on the standards of behaviour you do expect but make sure they have a friendly approachable tone to them. As well as helping users get an illustrated idea of what’s required, it also cuts a lot of time in explaining why something hasn’t been published because you can refer the user back to the policy.