I gave a short talk at the Polis Journalism Conference on Friday as part of a panel discussing ‘innovation in transparency’.
I joined Luke Lewis, editor of BuzzFeed UK, Will Moy from Full Fact, and Eric Newton from the Knight Foundation, who were also presenting. The panel was chaired by Samantha Barry, social media producer at BBC World News.
In my 10-minute talk I went through three major news events from the region I am responsible for in terms of social media at the Wall Street Journal.
I was speaking the day after the YouTube ban was imposed, and two days before the elections.
The WSJ has a Turkish-language news site, plus a team providing news from Turkey for the global English-language site.
The focus of my talk was how audiences can follow our journalists reporting in real-time on Twitter, explaining how we retweet reporters from the various WSJ accounts, including @WSJ account, which has 4.2m followers.
One way we help readers find our journalists is by creating Twitter lists. Here’s a list of the nine reporters WSJ has in Turkey.
Earlier this week, following the Twitter ban in Turkey, Joe Parkinson, the Wall Street Journal’s Istanbul bureau chief, hosted a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), allowing the Reddit community to directly connect with Joe.
Ukraine / Crimea / Russia
I shared this tweet from Paul Sonne, one of the first we saw being shared on social media of the flag change in Crimea.
A couple of hours later he tweeted the following.
Alan Cullison shared this tweet. I chose this example as I think it embodies what the WSJ has been doing for 125 years. Alan gives the facts but does not speculate or offer conjecture as to who the military trucks belong to.
Paul Sonne also hosted a Reddit AMA, answering questions on Russia, Ukraine, Crimea and Putin. The AMA had 50,000 views and connected potential new audiences with one of our expert reporters.
Syria: Tweeting a war
I then introduced Sam Dagher, the Wall Street Journal’s correspondent in Syria.
I could have chosen any number of examples of Sam tweeting the war, but focused on the week-long evacuation of Homs, when people were slowly brought out of an area that had been cut off for 18 months.
The UN reached a deal with the Syrian regime on the Thursday night and Sam took the road from Damascus, heading north to Homs and tweeting to take readers with him on the journey.
Sam’s tweets explain the facts.
I chose this tweet for a talk headlined ‘innovation in transparency’ as I like the fact that Sam didn’t try to push a view that he was the only reporter there. By the Monday Sam was one of only two western journalists there (a Norwegian TV journalist being the other).
Sam uses traditional reporting skills, attributing the facts to a source.
And he tells us what he doesn’t know.
Sam throws forward to his next article online, which will contain some of the facts he has not had time to share on Twitter.
And Sam adds a human voice, giving snippets of information in real-time, arguably something Twitter is able to do better than any other platform.
I particularly like this tweet and feel this was such a valuable part of the story to share with readers.
Sam answered questions, dispelling myth and rumour when necessary.
'A day in hell'
The next tweet was sent 10 minutes before the ceasefire was due to end on the Saturday, a day which one UN official described as “a day in hell”.
When I spoke to Sam on the Monday he said that he could hear one of the rebel leaders saying his men were getting “antsy” as they hadn’t fired a gun all day. Sam said he was hungry at this point as he hadn’t eaten all day and he was aware anything could happen; the UN officials were inside the area under siege and the situation was extremely volatile.
But despite the uncertainty, Sam was still tweeting, sharing what was happing with readers.
And in addition to tweeting, Sam was taking pictures and shooting video on his iPhone. And of course he was writing a story for the website that would become a page-one story on the print edition of the Wall Street Journal that would be on breakfast tables all over America the Monday morning.
I ended the presentation with this tweet, another example of the colour Sam shares in his tweets, giving Wall Street Journal readers and a wider network of Twitter followers the story in real-time.
Here are my slides from the talk, most of which are included above.