When we look at a newscast on the TV set we immediately feel there is some type of mediation. There is an anchorman or anchorwoman sitting in front of a teleprompter reading the news and presenting stories that have already been produced. We don’t see the cameraman and have no idea who he is. Almost everything is completely planned in terms of how the show will run. As members of the audience, we listen to the story from our side (the television set). I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to feel any sense of presence there, neither from the reporters, nor from us as active members.
The opposite happens with social media. When reporters use social media both them and us are present at the location they report from. There is almost no mediation, or at least we don’t feel it. We feel we’re part of the story; that we’re right there with them, like when we play video games. The difference is in fact that physical presence which allows journalists to show us different angles, unedited scenes, and to portray stories from their own perspectives. Thus, social media give newsrooms a chance to morph traditional storytelling into an innovative and creative form. Also, social media give news correspondents, cameraman, and beat editors the opportunity to work collaboratively to distribute content outside the television screen in a way that makes audiences feel that presence. This is what I will immediacy illusion.
Even though the following roles are different, what they have in common is that presence. This is why they should social media:
Cameraman at TV News:
- This is our chance to meet them because we never do with TV news. We only see their names on the credits at the end.
- Their technical knowledge about filming, video and audio can drive them to produce excellent material for platforms like Vine, Twitter, and Periscope.
- They can present a different perspective while they are on the go. What we see through their eyes on a TV newscast usually follows someone else’s instructions or direction. If they use social media, they can step away from that role and even do their own directing.
- They can develop relationships with audiences who are only used to see the reporter or news correspondent as the “face” of the news organization they represent. Thus, they can present their human side on social media because we can meet them, their families and what they do when they are not on the go.
- Because they are the eyes of what we see, they may see potential in some stories that can potentially represent new material for reporters.
- It’s possible to give a voice to someone who doesn’t have one (usually). The example below is about a cameraman who went further, even made a silent movie about himself and posted it on YouTube!
Example:Paul Martin (@ukcameraman):
He is a freelance cameraman (news, sport, and documentary) to news and broadcasters in the UK, including BBC and CNN. He uses Twitter, Google+, email list, and has a blog. He is basically building his own brand.
- He shows his face (which we normally don’t see) so that the audience knows who is talking to us. Also, he gets to set a tone and voice (funny sometimes), so we can meet him at a more personal level. Finally, he shares part of the normal life he lives:
- He gives the audience teasers about what type of live coverage he is doing on a particular day.
- He gives us access to behind the scenes production shots and shows audiences editing equipment and personnel they usually don’t see:
- He presents a series of stories about things that happen to cameramen, giving us access to how their day it’s like.
Blog: (The Amazing and Unbelievable Adventures of a TV News Cameraman and Underwater Rat Throttling Champion
- Blog posts are a compilation about cameramen related news and views, but also about life on the road, like standing in the rain and cold for long periods of time. Some of these include:
- How to Annoy a TV News Cameraman:
Ask “Is that thing heavy..?”
“I will go for a soft one to start… This usually only gets a raised eyebrow from the cameraman involved, so is not too serious.”
- TV news cameraman and General Election trail tribulations
- How to Annoy a TV News Cameraman:
The result is a blog, not only about technical stuff, but also about a day in the life of a cameraman. Honestly, it’s the first time I see something like this, and now that I think about it, cameramen have a lot to talk about. He speaks casually, straight to the point, no holds barred.
Paul Martin is a great example of how we can feel the presence of people we usually ignore. I think he found a perfect angle and he is one of the few I was able to find who does it well. He gives us that presence illusion instantly through social media.
Foreign news correspondent:
- Foreign news correspondents are in charge of presenting audiences with stories about what happens in other countries, including war and politics. This means they present us with reports from places usually nowhere near us; completely unfamiliar. Because they may represent the only way audiences can learn about these matters, their use of social media becomes more important.
- Social media provide for different ways in which these correspondents can distribute content in different forms, written, audio or video. Because there are so many platforms available, this means there are more options to present different parts of a story. For example, most of us haven’t been to Syria or Ukraine. Our concept of these places is constructed with what we see on traditional media. But we can construct better images about these places if foreign correspondents take the time to portray them on social media. This can be done with hard news, as well as soft news like below. There is no time for this on a newscast, right? Max Seddon is a foreign news correspondent in Russia.
- Social media is timeless. When Nick Robertson is reporting from the Vatican, where there is a time difference, we don’t have to wait for the newscast to see what’s going on. If he uses Instagram at 3:40am, my time, to post a photo or video, I’m able see it when I wake up the next day. I will always have access, even though I have to look for it (in Twitter’s case, like the example below).
- They usually interview government officials. With social media, there is no time constraint regarding how much you can say in an established amount of time. In a newscast, there’s a limited amount of time. This is not the case with social. On Twitter, you can present stories divided in more than 1 or 2 posts, even with the 140-character limit.
- A 30-second story on a newscast can morph into a 4-day event on social media with much more detail. When the Pope visited Sarajevo, Nick Robertson created a sequence of posts on different days narrating what was going on. This is very effective in order to build expectation and keep the audience alert.
- Social media give these correspondents the ability to use pictures they take, which may resonate more with the audience because they look like pictures we can all take, thus we can relate. Someone like us is making it possible for us to be at that place with him or her.
I would like to conclude by saying that news beat editors should also use social media. I spent quite some time searching for social media accounts of local beat editors. Sadly, only a few have presence on social and the content is in the form of general headlines about breaking news. They have both the small and big picture about a particular area; they have access to a lot of information. However, I found that they prefer to keep their role in traditional media, rather than capitalizing on social to distribute a form of content that may be valuable to audiences. They are losing the opportunity to capitalize on the immediacy factor and their presence to make people like me feel part of their role as journalists.