San Antonio Social Media Breakfast

Tracy Marlowe  |  February 18, 2009

This morning I attended the second monthly Social Media Breakfast, hosted this time by Apple Annie's Tea Room. 

I am so glad that my friend Colleen Pence turned me on to these breakfasts.  What an amazing group of people!  I was really blown away by the collective intelligence in that room.  It included a wealth of business owners, social media/marketing gurus and journalists who are all wanting to keep their finger on the pulse of this ever evolving and powerful giant that is social media. 

The topic was "The media in transition" with an emphasis on the effect that social networks are having upon traditional media and how savvy journalists are forging into and leveraging the social media realm. 

The speakers today included:

•  Donna Tuttle (@writeontime) of the San Antonio Business Journal

•  Laura Lorek (@lalorek) of the San Antonio Express News

•  Elaine Wolff (@emwolff) of the San Antonio Current

•  Joe Ruiz (@joeruiz) of KSAT Channel 12

All four proved to be dynamic speakers and provided a great deal of insight into the challenges that traditional, especially local, media are facing and how they are stepping up to the plate to take advantage of the opportunities presented by social networks.

Each presenter agreed that since this is a relatively new realm for all, there is really no wrong way to delve in it at this point.  Each media outlet was tackling social networking, news sourcing and blogging from a slightly different stance.  But they agreed that we are all still learning and prone to possibly stumbling along the way.  If we don't venture in we can never hope to master this area.  Experience is truly the only way to figure out what works best.  The worst thing to do would be to worry about "doing it wrong" and do nothing at all. 

Some interesting perspectives included the idea that the true job of the professional reporter is to collect, synthesize, filter and disperse information.  With the growth of social media and the "citizen journalist", today's reporters are not becoming obsolete.  While both roles are important, we look to the professional journalists to maximize the resources available to them more so than the typical citizen writer on the web. 

Professional reporters generally have years of experience and training and should be better able to filter though all of the sensationalistic information available and boil it down to the true news that is worthy of being told.  Then, most importantly, they must fact check and craft that information into stories that aren't just digestable by the public, but interesting and relevant.

Not to downplay the citizen journalist.  After all, that's what we all are basically if we write a blog or put content out on the social mediasphere. 

But someone in the breakfast pointed out that most of today's known and trusted reporters have spent years working their way up from the bottom.  Many starting in small publications.  Some even getting their break on the obituary desk right out of college and writing their way up the food chain.

Meanwhile, citizen journalists can basically hop online today and be writing directly to an international audience within minutes without any prior experience. 

It just means that we as internet news consumers have to continue to always consider the source.  And thus underscoring the importance of a trusted, experienced journalist as a news source.

Even with the dawn and embrace of social media, there are still strong brands that have been developed by traditional media sources.  People have been turning to these trusted news sources for years, even decades, and they still turn to them as a constant resource to provide them with the true news that they are looking for.  Some may still read the paper.  Some may go online.  But they still turn to that name that they trust, as long as the news still seems pertinent and current.

Another important job of the reporter that was pointed out was staying tuned in to the pulse of what is happening on a local level and keeping a local market informed.  Everyone loves CNN.  But CNN isn't going to tell you about the local judge who was just uncovered purchasing kiddie porn through a sting operation.  It will still be the local news you will turn to for such stories and local reporters we'll have to trust to do that kind of digging.

It was discussed over and over again that one of the greatest things about social media for reporters is that the resources for stories have turned from a trickle into a waterfall.  There is now an never ending resource of information for reporters.  All they have to do is send out a Tweet on a topic, and a flood of information comes pouring in.

The job now is to filter it down into only what is factual and relevant.  And who best to do that than a reporter?

And who else is better than a reporter to point out what is true news and what is sensationalist.  We discussed the balance in how traditional media is shifting to the online realm and still trying to monetize so as to maintain a strong business model.

The reporters want to tell the news.  The business owners want a 20-30% profit margin.  Where's the balance?  A new economic model probably needs to be explored as the balance between traditional and digital media is found so that a happy medium is found and that the news continues to maintain integrity.

If news shifts to all online and the business model is based upon pay-per-click ads, then stories will abound about Eva Longoria and Tony Parker buying a new puppy just so that they can get the clicks. 

But is that the news we truly want our journalists focusing on just so they can pay their salaries.  I think not!

Anyway, it was a really inspiring and enlightening breakfast this morning.  I wish that I could get that fired up over my cereal every morning before going to work!

As markets age and younger markets move more and more to the web for their news, it'll be interesting to see how traditional media will continue to evolve and embrace the Internet as a conduit for news collection and distribution. 

How do you see traditional media continuing to change?  Do you think newspapers will ever go away?  At least the printer versions? Any ideas on how traditional media could better leverage social media and the Internet to make money?  Do you trust professional journalists more than you do citizen journalists?  I would love to hear from you!

by Tracy Marlowe

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