By Max Bartley

Maritsa Georgiou. Courtesy photo.

Journalist Maritsa Georgiou started her career at NBC Montana in 2006 during her junior year at the University of Montana. She worked as an evening anchor for NBC Montana focused on politics, wildfire reporting, and special projects, primarily the Montana addiction epidemic.

Georgiou graduated from UM in 2007, earning a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism. She currently covers Montana for Newsy, a national news network headquartered in Atlanta.

Her Twitter account, where she shares a broad range of topical journalism with focus on the pandemic and Montana, serves upward of 8,500 people and her Facebook and Instagram accounts bring her follower count to over 10,000.

Georgiou recently answered questions from UM student Max Bartley over email about her experience with the pandemic, social media, and journalism. Below is a transcript of their discussion. It has been edited slightly for clarity.

Q: Did you use social media differently during lockdown?

A: I had a lot more time to be active on social media because I was working from home and not anchoring, and people were desperate for information on COVID numbers, mandates and more. It became a really interactive tool for me to use while engaging with viewers.

Q: Did the pandemic lockdown have any noticeable effect on your job, your industry, and your visibility within your industry?

A: ABSOLUTELY. I never thought we could work in TV news from home or anchor a show from home, and we did. I was in shock when I first saw the Today anchors come on screen from their home studios. As far as visibility, it both increased and decreased depending on what lens you’re looking through. I went from anchoring three shows a night to producing short segments for those shows from home. My on-air time decreased, but my visibility in reporting stories that were shared across platforms increased.

Q: Did you find new ways of connecting the public to resources and information due to the pandemic?

A: Yes, I started sharing lots of links and screen grabs to try to connect viewers to useful information and places they could look for updates.

Q: (On Twitter especially,) Is creating a thread style post or a single one better for engagement, and by extension should one be replying to or liking their own posts? Does that manipulate the algorithm?

A: I think it just totally depends on the topic. If I’m tweeting about wildfire updates, I think it’s really helpful to put it all in one thread so it’s easy to find. Same goes for COVID or a press conference or event I’m live tweeting.

People like to be able to scroll through for pertinent information easily without having to search for individual tweets or listen to an hour-long meeting. However, sometimes tweets do get lost. It really depends on so many factors.

You lose me when you say things like algorithm, because I’ve never understood how that works or based any of my posting off it!

Q: What type of content do you find gets the majority of positive engagement? What about negative engagement?

A: Dogs. Always dogs. Kids, too. If I share information that nobody else has that people find useful, that gets a lot of good traction. Also, anything that helps people. I was tweeting about vaccine appointments for months and people were so grateful to be able to access the information easily.

Nearly any post can garner negative attention because that’s the unfortunate world we live in. Politics is guaranteed to be a lightning rod, but then again, that goes for a lot of things now: COVID, vaccines, mandates, global warming, blue dress/white dress.

Q: Do you have any advice to young or new journalists on how to find an audience and how best to remain neutral while engaging with a social media audience?

A: It’s good to stay neutral, but don’t be silent to do so. You can add background and context to things as long as you’re stating facts.

My advice on finding an audience is figuring out what you care about. If you care about something, it will come through and help you connect with people on a real level. Also, be helpful and kind.

Q: Is social media a strong political forum? Is it a good/appropriate place to hold politicians accountable?

A: Absolutely. I don’t know if it’s where I would engage with the politicians to hold them accountable, but certainly keeping track of what they say is important for follow up interviews.

Also, so many of their comments are posted on social media before email now.

Q: How do you use social media in the reporting process?

A: I use it pretty much in every way you can think of. If I need an interview for a story and can’t find one, I’ll solicit help there. If I have a tip I’m starting to look into, I’ll post what I find throughout the day. Not only does it take viewers along on the ride, it also provides an interactive communication channel that might alert me to angles I never would have thought of or questions that should be asked.

Q: Do you share/delegate any of your social media posting responsibilities, including researching and fact checking?

A: No. I handle all of it.

Q: How does a modern journalist remain ethical in a world of “feed the beast” journalism?

A: The 24-hour news cycle has made this challenging, but sticking to facts and making sure you’re staying balanced is critical.

Q: How much time is put into verifying data before drafting a post?

A: I don’t like to post anything unless I’m certain it’s solid. That being said, I’ve made mistakes along with everyone else. What’s important is recognizing, acknowledging and correcting those mistakes openly and honestly.

Q: Do you feel it best to run corrections or delete posts/articles found to be inaccurate?

A: YES. Always. Do your best to be accurate, factual and fair. But when you fail, own it, take responsibility and learn from it.

If I delete a post, I generally like to let people know I deleted a post and why, unless I catch the mistake instantaneously.

Max Bartley 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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