By Tyler Nienstedt

Since graduating in 2015 from the University of Montana, Laura Scheer has been working her way up in the journalism world, specializing in environmental science, education and natural resource reporting. Now, she’s the city editor for Missoula’s daily newspaper, the Missoulian.

It is Scheer’s responsibility to align all the publication’s platforms with the most up-to-date news and that includes on social media. (The Missoulian’s Facebook page has almost 65,000 followers.)

Scheer recently answered questions about her approach to social media from UM student Tyler Nienstedt. Below is a transcript of their conversation, edited slightly for clarity and length.

Q: What does a typical day look like for you at work?

A: Every morning, reporters send me their beat notes. This includes both daily stories and longer-term projects they may be pursuing. Based on the reporters’ beat notes, I give them feedback, help them prioritize their time in terms of what needs to be reported now and what can wait, help them navigate who might be good sources for them to talk to and provide direction as to what angles to take and how to best tell the story and craft a narrative.

Next, I start to form a budget for the print paper, with the most newsworthy and compelling stories going on. Some days there’s so much news, it’s hard to get it all in. With only six reporters, we do our best to get to everything. Luckily, there is endless space for news online and we are a digital-first paper, so our most up-to-date reporting can be found there.

Throughout the afternoon, reporters file their stories and I edit them, helping to coach them along the way. I also edit breaking news as it comes in. We get stories posted online as soon as possible before ushering them into the print paper. Our executive editor, Jim Van Nostrand, also edits every story, as well as an evening copy editor.

Q: How do you decide what to post on social media? Is there specific criteria or guidelines posts must follow?

A: We post almost every story to social media. It is one of the best ways to get our stories out to readers.

Q: How do you keep your audiences engaged?

A: Social media is a great way for our readers to engage with our stories via comments, likes and shares. We also have recently been pushing out a lot of video content, which is another compelling platform to tell stories in addition to words and photos. It provides a different avenue for readers to consume stories, hopefully engaging more people.

Q: How often do you use social media to promote your work? Is there a single platform you prefer?

A: We use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to share nearly all of our stories on a daily basis. Generally, we utilize Facebook and Twitter to post stories and we’ll share photos (with links to our stories) to our Instagram.

Q: What is your biggest concern when making or approving a social media post?

A: Obviously we want to avoid any typos, spelling mistakes or grammatical or factual errors. We also want to make sure people not only see a headline and photo, but we generally post a short blurb as well, giving a bit more insight into the story they’re potentially going to click on and read.

Q: Do you/does the Missoulian do any data analytics when it comes to post ratings and interactions?

A: Yes. We look at data on social media interactions with our posts, as well as on our website. The data shows us things like which story was the most viewed on a given day or week and how much time people spent on an article. We can also see how people are reaching our content, whether that’s through Google, our app, social media, etc.

Q: Have you ever made a mistake on social media and if so, how did you handle it?

A: Of course, we all make mistakes! Luckily social media posts can be edited/fixed. If we see a mistake go up, we fix it as soon as possible. If it’s a factual error, we issue a correction, just like we would in print.

Tyler Nienstedt is a student in the UM School of Journalism’s Social Media and Engagement class, which conducted Q&As this semester with more than 20 journalists as part of a research project on best practices for journalists on social media.

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