Events, People

From Broadcasting to Engaging

A Detroit #140 Conference Preview

A lot has changed in the 30 years Stephen Clark has been in broadcast journalism.  Gone are the days of huge cameras, big recording decks, big batteries and carrying your own lighting everywhere.  The way people consume their news has changed too, with more people going online to get the latest headlines.

At a time when it seems more people are tuning out the news, Clark, news anchor for WXYZ (Channel 7 here in Detroit),  seems to be on a one man mission to re-engage the audience.  He offered an unheard of opportunity to his audience: the ability to directly influence the stories he reports on for the station.

His message to the audience at the upcoming 140 Characters Conference in Detroit is clear: I’m listening.

“I’d like to let people know we do have this avenue called the backchannel, which is more than just chatting with the guy on TV.  It’s a way for you to communicate to me stories that you think are worthwhile for us to cover.  I’m listening,” said Clark.

A little Twitter explanation is in order here.  A hashtag (#) is used as a way to easily group information on the social networking site Twitter.  It is typed before a word or phrase that people want to group information under.  For example, if you want to keep up with the 140 Characters Conference, you just have to search for #140Conf on Twitter to see the latest updates.  For the backchannel, just search Twitter for #backchannel.  Need or want more? Click here for a more in depth explanation from a Twitter fan group.

Clark has sourced a few stories now based on feedback from Twitter.  Using social media tools (like Twitter) in this way is something of an anomaly in broadcasting.  Many outlets see it as another way to broadcast their message, so Clark is hoping to engage his fellow journalists in changing that orientation.

“A couple of years ago, the big push was to get on the web.  So TV stations needed to get on the web.  Well we did, but I’ll tell you in the beginning we treated the website just like a little TV station.  We didn’t understand it had it’s own characteristics that allowed it to be different than just making another little TV station on the computer.  When you talk about the hesitancy in using social media, we’re thinking now of social media as the same as the website. It’s really also its own unique, different animal,” he said.

“Because of Twitter, I am allowed to be a lot more fleet footed,” he continued.  “I can find stories to cover more quickly, get them covered quickly, get them on the air and promote them.  Another thing a lot of my ilk are not noticing is how efficient it is to promote a story because of the amplification that is inherent to Twitter.”

Since the inception of television news, people have always been curious about what really happens behind the scenes, and participation is becoming the order of the day. Through using social media, Clark has his finger on that pulse. Here in Detroit, innovation is happening – this time, with news.

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