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Do legal journalists need to interact with readers on social media?


Gigaom’s Mathew Ingram (@mathewi) writes today that for journalists, interacting with readers isn’t just good practice, it could mean survival.

The biggest single reason to engage (to use an over-used term) with readers or the people formerly known as the audience is that it makes your journalism better — maybe not right away, and maybe not in every case, but over the long term, hearing from readers improves your understanding of what you are writing about. And that applies to virtually every topic that is worth doing journalism on.

The other reason to do this is that journalism and media in general are becoming much more about person-to-person interaction and relationships, rather than person-to-institution or person-to-brand relationships. Do traditional journalism brands like the New York Times still have power? Of course they do — but individual brands within those institutions have much more than they used to, which is why writers like Nate Silver and Ezra Klein and Kara Swisher and dozens of others have left to carve out their own enterprises.

No question many journalists will use Twitter to “push” their stories out, or have someone do it for them in the name of their publication’s brand. But how many use Facebook or Twitter in an engaging fashion as part of their work?

In the case of reporters covering the law and the business of law for ALM publications, the ABA Journal, state bar publications, and association publications I don’t see many reporters interacting on social media.

There are legal journalists using social. I am getting to know some of them and they are getting to know me as a result. I am sure they are developing relations with others as well.

But many times I cannot find a Twitter handle for legal reporters when I want to give them attribution for a story. Probably not their intent, but it leaves me feeling they think they are above social interaction or don’t want to make the the time to interact with me as a reader.

Is it a coincidence that Breaking Media’s Above The Law is so popular and that their writers and editors are so social? Sure, some of the copy being sensational draws attention, but readers getting to know the characters writing the stories doesn’t hurt.

I can understand the time constraints and not really getting social. But legal journalists may not have choice.

They call it “social media” for a reason. Much of media moves socially today.

I’m 58 years old and I am more apt to get a news story from Facebook than the Seattle Times. The Seattle Times’ story will reach me via Facebook.

It’s as my best friend in La Crosse, Wisconsin told me almost 20 years when I grilled him about not getting the newspaper as a city council person, “Oh, I find out what I need to know right away – from friends who’ll tell me what’s important in the paper.”

People rely on others they trust for news and information. Your stories, as a journalist, move, in large part, because we share them. Get to know us as people, and allow us to get to know you as a person, and we’ll move your copy that much faster.

Journalism both reflects what’s going on in a community, locale or subject, and drives the discussion in the community.

You report on what we’re doing and talking about and we talk about what you report. We’re in this together and social media fuels this more than anything today.

As veteran journalist and professor at City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism, Jeff Jarvis (@jeffjarvis), writes:

Journalism must shift from seeing itself primarily as a producer of content for masses to become more explicitly a service to individuals and communities. Content fills things; service accomplishes things. To provide a service with relevance and value requires knowing those you serve, and to do that requires building relationships with those people.

Within the last few weeks, we’ve seen Facebook move to more of a news site feel with news being shared by users delivered to other users with a relevant interest. Twitter launched new features to give it more of a media feel. LinkedIn is showcasing more user generated and shared content than ever. Vibrant interaction ensues.

How can journalists compete if they’re not out there building relationships on social media? How can they get a feel what their audience is interested in and establish relations with sources if they’re not interacting with their readers?

We’ll help you get your stories shared across social media. We’ll help you write better stories. And we’ll help you develop a personal brand that withstands the decline of big news brands.

We just need to have the opportunity to build a relationship with you.

Image is courtesy of Flickr by Vincepal