Since I have asserted it’s time to define how journalism can function in social media, I’d like to offer advice on how to start or how to improve your use of social media.  Let me put forth a suggestion that we not think of social media as “media.”  I know when I think of other media, I think of competition.  Social media is only competition when you choose to let it be.  Social media platforms are tools to utilize to help achieve your news goals. 


Social platforms are not just Twitter and Facebook.  Social platforms include blogs, vlogs, live chats, instant messages, message or chat boards, text alerts, even the Web site and more.  Wikipedia has a clear definition of social media and the various platforms and the functions of those platforms.  If you’re not already using a social platform, pick the platform or platforms that can be used to highlight and expand your news product.


Ask why you want to utilize social platforms.

Is it to promote your product?

Is it to create contacts within your local community?

Is it to reach a new group of people within your community?

Is it to find new sources and story ideas?

Is it… ?


Once you know why you’re using these social platforms come up with a strategy and a plan to achieve the strategy.  Advocacy, transparency and interactivity are the goals CBS4 News strives to achieve by using social platforms.  I discussed this social media strategy and gave examples of how that strategy is accomplished in Twitter Brings Viewers and News Together. 

Why do I utilize social platforms?  I use these tools as resources that connect me with the people in Colorado, and even internationally.  I use these tools to promote stories without just posting a headline or a tease.  I use these tools in hopes people will turn on CBS4 News instead of other media outlets.


I believe the best way to promote the news, is to actually talk about the news.  Talk creates interest.  I ask for input and ideas on the stories we’re covering.  I’ve asked followers what questions they want answered on specific stories.  In turn the reporter acknowledges these questions and even answers at least one in the story, such as in CBS4 Gives Several Hands-Free Devices a Road Test. 


I also encourage reporters to sit down and talk about their stories on social platforms.  Reporter Karlyn Tilley went undercover on a puppy mill rescue and did a series of stories on the puppies.  It was a highly promoted story.  I talked to her about personally promoting her story on Twitter by talking about her experiences and answering questions.  She agreed.  She sat down with me, announced she was there posting @cbs4denver and opened a dialogue.  She stated her timeline, that she was would be talking about the puppy mill rescue for an hour.  When her time was up, she signed off and thanked those for participating in the conversation.


After participating in such conversations people are vested in the news product themselves.  Often they will then turn on CBS4 News before they turn on another newscast.  Luke Wignall stated in Twitter surprised me today, it just might be my community newspaper, “I find myself clicking on her (my) links, reading the next level of information if the thing she posted happened to catch my eye, meaning that CBS 4 in Denver now has more of my attention on a daily basis then it ever did before, and by a large margin.”


Social platforms are great tools to connect with new resources.  As an assignment editor my job includes pitching story ideas and knowing what is happening in the metro area as well as within the state.  I need to know what is going on around me locally and nationally that may have a local connection.  I enjoy being pitched stories through Twitter or Facebook.  Not only do people share story ideas with me via these platforms, I have found several stories just by paying attention to the conversations being had on these platforms. 


Three days after I created a Twitter account I found a financial story that fit the CBS4 News series, Beating the Recession.  I talked to the producer about my story idea and was given the green light to set it up.  I contacted, Dr. Taffy Wilkins Wager, @moneyinmarriage, through Twitter and set up the story.  Colorado Money Expert Asks For Financial Secrets aired in two different newscasts.


In breaking news situations Twitter and Facebook have been important tools to help distribute information and to know immediately what was happening through those sharing what they were witnessing.  The community shares information, pictures and video with us on breaking news events.  An example of this is the below picture of one of five tornadoes that touched down in and around the metro area on June 7th. 

We are then able to share this information with our viewers, on the Web site and by re-posting what is shared with us, we are helping keep followers up-to-date.  To me, this is no different than using live phone interviews, the eye witness sound or statement or the man-on-the-street interviews that are often used in covering breaking news.


Twitter has even helped me cover breaking news.  I have been contacted by people who see something going on in their neighborhoods to ask me what I know and to alert me to the situation.  I spoke of one such incident in How Twitter and I work together.


My strategy in using social platforms is:

  • Content – I provide useful information on stories the station is covering and share what it’s like to work in a newsroom. I look beyond what the station is covering and post items that may not make the news, like community gatherings or crime alerts.
  • Consistency – Daily I am going to talk about what I am doing in my job. I do not give away exclusive stories or give away the news integrity at all. For example, I kept a secret from Twitter. I am going to do my best in a breaking news situation to keep the public updated with as much information I can and as fast as I can.
  • Conversation – I respond and talk with people as I would if I was having a one-on-one discussion or a group discussion.

I achieve my strategy by being personable and sharing about myself.  I do this to relate to people.  I am showing that I am just a regular person, doing my job, just like they do their jobs, only my job happens to be in a news room.  I do not, however; share personal opinions on news stories or on topics like politics and religion because I am a journalist and I am representing CBS4 News.   I do not discuss company business, internal issues or personnel matters. 


If I ever find myself in a heated or combative conversation, I will take the issue to a manager.  To date, this has never occurred.  I have had conversations on editorial decisions and responded to criticism.  These conversations lend to transparency and let people be heard.  If someone is correct on a mistake that is made, I respond to thank them for pointing it out and explain how the mistake will be addressed or fixed.


In the Denver Post article A New Directive for News Directors it was noted that I, “Assignment editor Misty Montano maintains a feisty Twitter page, becoming a brand within the Channel 4 brand.”  I did become a brand within the station brand without even realizing it.  I believe I have connected with people as a journalist in a new way that many people felt journalists couldn’t do.  I have had the support of the CBS4 News managers and support. 


A few of my coworkers, such as meteorologist Stacey Donaldson, have also branched out and use social platforms in similar way.  However we have all had discussion with the news director on our personal strategies with using social platforms that maintain and function within the CBS4 News brand.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a strategy.  If you have a plan of action, you can define your role in social media, instead of letting social media define you.