By Jourden Redmond
Lindsay Rossmiller is the digital sports editor for the Billings Gazette, but she does so much more than edit copy. She keeps all stories moving and functioning on the Gazette’s digital properties, edits photos, produces graphics and videos, tracks analytics and handles all the social media. Rossmiller recently chatted over email with UM student Jourden Redmond about her approach to social media. Below is a transcript of the conversation, edited slightly for clarity and length.
Q: What does a typical day for you look like at work?
A: I work when sports happen so my schedule is typically Tuesday-Saturday and more in the afternoons or evenings. So, I tend to work anywhere from noon to 8 p.m. or 4 p.m. to midnight, depending on the day or season. If there’s breaking news, that may change. A typical day for me usually starts with checking all our social media notifications to see what needs responding to, then looking at what new stories have come in since I last checked. I work on scheduling stories to post on social, editing stories and whatever projects come up. For example, this week I’m keeping my eye on seeding for high school playoffs in soccer, volleyball and football so I can build brackets we can embed within our ongoing coverage.
Q: How often do you use social media to promote your work? Which platform do you use the most?
A: Every day. Personally, I use Twitter most to promote my own work because that’s my most work-centric platform. However, since my job involves handling our 406 social media accounts, I use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to promote all our stories. I think about what stories will do best with our different audiences on each and what posting times are best, as well as different strategies to get our stories in front of the most people.
Q: Have you made any mistakes when it comes to social media. If so, what did you learn?
A: Be responsive and humble. It can be tough when, for example you’re tweeting updates at a live event and you have a typo or tweet out something that someone corrects you on (historic stats are always sticky if you don’t have them right in front of you). I’ve found that people are much more engaged (and often times become more loyal) if you’re willing to acknowledge and correct mistakes and be transparent about it. We’re all human.
Q: What is the most important thing to remember as a journalist?
A: I heard a quote that, although I can’t remember the source, has stuck with me. It’s that “the right to speech is free, but the right to be heard is earned.” I think about that a lot, both personally and as our brand. This job depends on trust. Trust so sources tell you accurate information and trust with your audience so they choose your stories out of all the information they have access to. If you don’t work to build that trust, it’s really hard to do this job.
Q: How do you respond to negative reactions on social media?
A: Truthfully, it can be hard. I try to be really intentional about the amount of time I spend looking at them (when I have the ability to control that – if it’s breaking and blowing up, that’s more difficult to limit) and also try to take it into context. Are they actually mad at us or just the situation? Is there something that actually needs correcting? And if that is the case, I’ve found that being responsive to fix whatever the error is can sometimes turn them into an even more loyal reader down the line. Sometimes it’s as simple as a misspelled name in a box score, other times it’s only being aware of part of the story. Showing that you’re committed to getting it right can go a long way.
Q: How do you avoid bias in stories and social media?
A: I try to ask a lot of questions. You don’t know what you don’t know so rather than assuming I fully understand, I ask a lot of follow-ups, whether that’s of sources in stories I write or when I am posting our reporters’ stories to social. I’m not perfect, by any means. But I’ve found that when I seek out other perspectives, that helps. At times, I’ve even gone to people with no personal interest (i.e. friends who aren’t sports people) to bounce things off of for a fresh viewpoint.
Jourden Redmond 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.