Journalists On Social Media: Q&A with MTPR’s Joshua Burnham

By Elinor Smith

Joshua Burnham has been working at Montana Public Radio for seven years. He’s the digital editor, and throughout his career, he’s noted many changes in social media and its environment. He’s adapted MTPR’s social media plan throughout his career to make up for the changes. Burnham has won the “Best Digital Presence” twice by the Associated Press Television and Radio Association in 2018 and 2019 for Western states in the Radio II category. Burnham was also awarded Radio Website of the Year from the Montana Broadcasters Association in 2017, 2018 and 2020. Journalism student and the producer of the student newspaper’s weekly podcast “The Kaimin Cast” Elinor Smith talked with Burnham about his work and below is a transcript of their conversation, edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: Over the course of your career, you’ve been with MTPR for quite a bit. How have you seen platforms like Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram kind of evolve since the time you started?

A: So, Facebook has changed probably more than anything. There’s been an exodus of younger people from it since I started. And it’s just a very old platform. And the way they’re doing it now is they want to do everything they can to keep you on Facebook. So it used to be you could get link clicks back to your stories, or to your podcasts, or whatever. And it’s just not a good use for that anymore. And so you have to start thinking about doing stuff natively on Facebook. And that means like, when we have briefs or something like that, I’ll just post them directly to Facebook rather than linking out. So, things like that. Facebook advertising could still be good. I don’t know that it’s worth boosting individual posts. But if you’re advertising for your organization or a podcast in general, Facebook is pretty good for that. Twitter. I don’t know Twitter’s kind of Twitter. I haven’t noticed any big differences since I have been there. I think it’s grown. But it’s still a very niche audience. I always tell the reporters like Twitter is the least important thing. It’s a lot of reporters talking to reporters. It’s very helpful for sourcing things like: ‘I’m doing a story on heat exhaustion. Do you know anybody who can talk to me about things like that?’ So it is good for that. But, I think maybe 3% of the country is on it or something. It’s really small. Instagram is going all toward video, TikTok influence has hit Instagram, and they’re promoting reels. If you want to get reach on Instagram right now, reels are the place. Video stories are still doing well. We do carousel sometimes … Those are still helpful. But yeah, video, you got to get into video. I would say one of the most surprising things. Since I’ve started there is that we know from market research that video is one of the top ways people find podcasts. So, a lot of people actually think a podcast means a video, something on YouTube. And that was a surprise when those numbers came out. And so it means pushing more stuff on to YouTube at this point for us. And that might be because those are just like audiograms. Right? It’s just audio where the waveform and we haven’t had a ton of luck with those. But, NPR has started to do those for some of their podcasts. We’re giving it a try. This is a new thing in the last month, maybe. So, we’ll see how that works out.

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Journalists On Social Media: Q&A with MTN’s Ashley Washburn

Ashley Washburn is a multimedia journalist working as sports reporter and anchor at the Montana Television Network, which is a network of CBS affiliates with local stations in just about every major city in Montana. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from San Diego State University in May 2019. During her time in San Diego she covered her university’s athletic department. Later she interned with ESPN and worked as a morning news producer for NBC 7 San Diego.

UM Journalism student Meghan Fatouros interviewed Washburn about her ideas on best practices on social media. What follows in a transcript of their conversation, edited slightly for clarity and brevity.

Q: How do you decide what is beneficial to post and what is not? How does this pertain to sports journalism?

A: If there is one thing about this industry, it’s that building relationships are more important sometimes than being the first to break a story. This more pertains to sports, but I always weigh the situation and I’m definitely careful with putting information out there about college athletes. I also try not to post anything (breaking news wise) unless I have the information confirmed by two different sources and I feel 100% confident about the information that was given to me. If there is any type of uncertainty, it’s an automatic no because I don’t want to get into a situation where I was wrong or say something incorrect that backlashes and hurts my credibility.

Q: Has there ever been a moment you chose to delete something or backtrack?

A: Going back to my first answer, there isn’t a moment I can think of currently mainly because of that checklist I just stated. Having several sources is always important, and you need to feel 100% confident about what you are putting out there. If there is any sense of doubt, try to find more information or put it on the back burner until you are certain.

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Journalists On Social Media: Q&A with Newsy’s Maritsa Georgiou

By Katy McCumber

Maritsa Georgiou, a 37-year-old broadcast journalist, spent 15 years at NBC Montana before moving to the national market as a correspondent for Newsy, a multi-platform news channel often watched on streaming services. An alum of the University of Montana School of Journalism, Georgiou has covered COVID-19, politics and wildfire coverage while working for NBC Montana. Additionally, she won the 2021 Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism. The Cronkite Award is given every two years to “shine a spotlight on journalism that seeks truth, examines inequities, serves the public, and demonstrates the indispensability of a free and trustworthy press.”  The judges highlighted her investigation into the planned removal of USPS blue collection boxes before the 2020 election. With nearly 12,000 followers on Twitter and 2,400 followers on Facebook, Georgiou boasts a large audience on both social media and as a news anchor.

UM Journalism student Katy McCumber recently chatted with Maritsa about her work while Maritsa was covering hurricane Ian in Florida and they specifically talked about how she uses social media as a journalist. Below is a transcript of their conversation, edited slightly for brevity.

Q: Let’s start with the big question: what’s the biggest challenge on social media in your job as a broadcast journalist?

A: Definitely the nastiness and hatred that circulates online. In the last six years, if you go to any news I’ve posted on Twitter or Facebook that gets a lot of comments and traction, there aren’t many stories that don’t turn political and nasty. Most posts take a turn for the worst. The things you would think of being a totally benign story, that there’s no way they could make political, and all of a sudden, someone’s fighting in the comments. It’s wild.

Q: What are some of the journalistic guidelines you follow within your own work on social media?

A: Well, the one thing is, I really try not to inject my opinion wherever I can. The whole point is to put posts out there and let the audience make their own opinions and judgements. Now, that doesn’t mean that I won’t spell some things out for people, like, you know, follow the trail, this is interesting and here’s why, or here’s the course that this took. That’s my number one rule. My number two rule is to really, really, really, double check everything before I post it. With the nastiness on social media, there is nothing worse than making a mistake, because you become fresh meat. But if you do make a mistake, acknowledge it, correct it, apologize, and move on.

Q: For sure. Could you give me an example of a mistake you’ve made on social media?

A: Oh, when I first started covering COVID, I inverted a number once on the number of cases in a certain area. Those numbers are super important- if you get it wrong, that totally changes what you’re trying to report.

Q: Does being a journalist make you use your social media differently?

A: Definitely. There are things I post on my personal Facebook that’s private for only my friends and family that I would never post on my public accounts. For instance, my kid. In recent years especially, when I’ve seen hatred against journalists grow more, I’m really protective of my son, and I don’t want to make him the target of anything. Also, on my personal page, I don’t post political things. Often, the things people use social media for, I don’t, because I have a responsibility to keep my personal opinions out of things. I can get personal on my private stuff, but I don’t get political, because that’ll kill you.

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