When you have decided to use Twitter or other Social Media tools in your news organization you need to use them as one in your strategic news plan. If you have a lead on a story and are willing to post the new information on your Web site, post it also on all Social Media platforms you are using. Don’t just break the news on only one tool. Even worse don’t fully share the information on one platform, but only tease on another.

On August 12 all media outlets in Denver were following a developing story involving a stolen car, injured car owner, and search for the suspect and young child with the suspect. I don’t remember the exact time but somewhere around 6 p.m. I confirmed with the Denver Police PIO that the stolen car was found in Wyoming and the woman and child in the car were in custody. The PIO however would not confirm the woman and child in custody were the woman and child involved in the car theft.

CBS4 News Reporter Shaun Boyd found out from the Wyoming Highway Patrol PIO the problem was the name.  The woman had given Wyoming deputies a different name from the name the Denver Police had for the suspect. No police agency had yet been able to identify her. He was able to tell the reporter which detention facility she was being held in Wyoming and said he thought there was a mug shot, but without a name he wasn’t sure it would be released to the media.

I honestly didn’t have much hope in getting a mug shot for a suspect without a name, but I called the jail and left a message for a lieutenant requesting the mug shot of the woman from Colorado that was taken into custody earlier in the day. As expected, I didn’t receive a call back. This is where I admit I did not fully do my job. Next I should have also called the sheriff’s department but didn’t because I was told by the deputy that answered at the jail that the lieutenant was the only one I could go through. I’ve been on the desk for too long not to know I should’ve tried other departments. (Shame on me!)

At 8:59 p.m. I see a tweet from @kusadesk saying they had a mug of the suspect. I froze for an instant as I realized they had gotten something I hadn’t. With my heart and heard racing I immediately checked the KUSA Web site. Sure enough the story that was published at that time had the mug. I shouted out to the newsroom that they had gotten the mug and I would do all I could to get it.

With a groan and hand to my forehead I realized I hadn’t called the sheriff’s office. I looked online for the dispatch number and called. In one breath I introduced myself to the dispatcher and explained I wanted a mug of a woman that hadn’t yet been identified. The dispatcher was very polite and knew exactly who I was talking about. She asked for an email address for her supervisor to email the mug. Within minutes I had the mug.

I saved the mug for the Web team to post and for the graphics department to create a graphic for the upcoming 10 p.m. story. Then I posted the mug on Twitpic and Twitter with information updating the story.

This created a highly entertaining conversation on Twitter about how suspects look in mug shots. The mug shot had over 70 views. As soon as the mug shot was added to the CBS4 News Web site I Tweeted a link to the story on @cbs4denver and on the CBS4 News Facebook fan page saying the mug shot had been added.

By 9:45 p.m. the CBS4 News was sharing the mug shot with all those who follow on Twitter, fan on Facebook or monitor cbs4denver.com. Only readers of kusa.com and the viewers of 9 News at 9pm on My20 would have seen the addition of the mug shot. There was absolutely no reason for KUSA not to share that mug shot on all of its Twitter accounts as well as the Web site.

When you are holding new information to break it during a newscast, then you withhold it from all platforms, like the day I kept a secret from Twitter. Today when I had information on a serial bank robber that no other media seemed to have I asked the news director how long he wanted me to hold the information, the suspect description, from Twitter. I knew it would quite a while until the crews arrived on the scene of an attempted robbery, but also knew it was important to get out the suspect description, even though the information was two hours old. We decided to hold the information for a few a few more minutes to get closer to the top of the 5 p.m. newscasts. We didn’t want to give the other news stations enough time to track down and confirm the exclusive information we had in time for the top of their newscasts.

Finally when you are using various Social Media tools, the same promotional tactics hold true as we write for the Web or air during newscasts. If you are the first to break a story, there is no harm in a later update on Facebook or Twitter saying, “we first reported.” This is exactly what KMGH did last week when Chatfield High School was evacuated due to an unknown odor. They were the first station to Tweet information about it, so an hour later when they updated the story on Twitter “we first reported” was in the Tweet. It’s simple and clear. They were on Twitter with the story before the other stations. Kudos to them.