The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

April 21, 2012

Carol Stark: Newsrooms must adapt to readers’ habits

By Carol Stark

— Riddle me this.

Who counts only one friend on a Tuesday and a week later finds she has been joined by 108 more?

Give up? OK, it’s me, the last person, apparently, in the free world to join Facebook. Actually, I’m still not sure if I joined, signed up, created a page or opened an account. And, get this. I also have a Twitter account. I’ve tweeted twice and have one follower.

 Until a week ago my experience with social media had been limited to The Joplin Globe’s Facebook page and tweets.

 Needless to say, when I reached out to a few of my friends, their responses ranged from “It’s about time” (from a 70-something friend) to “Chief!!!!!” (from a former employee.)

 Both made me smile.

You see, I’ve never found myself at a loss for a friend. But lately, I have found myself at odds trying to figure out the best way the Globe’s newsroom should use social media to complement its print product and its website. Some newspapers do it, and others do it well. I want to be among the latter.

Besides, I think both Scott Meeker, enterprise editor, and Alexandra Nicolas, web producer, were getting tired of me asking them so many questions about Twitter and Facebook. How can you lead by example, if you don’t set the example?

It all hit home a few months ago when one of our sources told me we didn’t tweet enough. He said that was how he kept up with breaking news throughout the day. He simply follows several news sources on Twitter and checks to see what’s new. He said he wished he saw more from us.

A study released last week on the reading habits of Americans announced that half the news-reading population at some time during the day read news on a phone or a tablet. And there are now people who get all their news through social media.

We’re making some changes in our newsroom so we can do a better job of keeping our social media group of readers in the loop. We have nearly 11,000 of them on Facebook and about 2,300 following on Twitter. On Saturday night, for instance, we provided coverage of the Joplin High School prom on Twitter, then came back to the newsroom to write up the account for our paper readers. Before the last person in the newsroom shut out the lights, a version of the story was also posted to our website. And, I’m sure, early today, we’ll ask our Facebook readers to take a look at the photo gallery we created with our own photos, as well as those we asked to be tweeted to #JoplinProm.

So, how did I start my late foray on Facebook? Well, the first thing I did was “friend” members of my newsroom staff. I knew they couldn’t very well not “friend” me back. But now, I feel like something of a stalker.

 For instance, I’ve learned who the night owls are and who gets up at 4 a.m. based on their Facebook posts. Some of the more prolific posters provide details of meals and purchases.

I think it was on Day 3 of my introduction to social media that I discovered, via my phone, that Mike Wallace had died. Then, I sat back and watched as all the news apps on my phone began gathering details. It was a news feed on steroids.

A few days ago, the same thing happened all over again when Dick Clark died. Except I noticed a news agency tweeted out Dick Cheney had died, and had to come back to retract the tweet. That’s the biggest problem I see with news and social media. It’s all done so quickly, there’s more chance for error.

I will always be a faithful print reader, whether that be a book or a copy of the Globe. But, I won’t dictate your choices. So, follow along with us in the Globe newsroom in whatever way you choose.

It’s an exciting time to be in the news business.

Carol Stark is editor of The Joplin Globe. Address correspondence to her, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802 or email