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Editor column: Roles of social media and video grow in Tribune’s newsroom

By TERRY ORME

| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published Mar 28 2014 11:56 am • Last Updated Mar 29 2014 08:03 pm

There is a decent chance you are reading this on your iPhone. It also is possible that you came to this column via a link on Facebook.

News is accessed and consumed differently these days. Sure, it is just as likely that you are reading the paper spread out on the kitchen counter, a cup of coffee steaming nearby.

At a glance

Gehrke, Harvey journalists of the year

Salt Lake Tribune reporters Tom Harvey and Robert Gehrke have been named Digital First Media Journalists of the Year for metro-sized papers. The honor is for their ongoing investigative reporting into possible criminal wrongdoing by former Utah Attorneys General John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff.

This is what judges had to say about their work:

“The Tribune’s relentless investigation into apparent wrongdoing by Utah’s newly elected attorney general, John Swallow, represents local watchdog journalism practiced at a high level. This shoe-leather reporting, relying on both sources and documentation, shows admirable skill and persistence. This award recognizes both the importance of the work and its high quality. Through the efforts of Robert Gehrke and Tom Harvey, The Tribune has served its community well, creating reform and sending a loud signal: Yes, public officials, somebody is watching.”

The metro category includes The Denver Post, St. Paul Pioneer Press and San Jose Mercury News. The Tribune is among the 75 newspapers managed by Digital First. Gehrke and Harvey will now be considered for the overall DFM Journalist of the Year Award, which will be announced April 23 in St. Paul, Minn.

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But more and more, phones and tablets are how readers, especially young readers, find news. And social media offer paths that take them to sltrib.com.

Those are among the findings of the Pew Research Center’s exhaustive "State of the News Media 2014" report released Wednesday. Another tidbit: Digital audiences are spending more of their time watching video on those small screens, and they are viewing more news video than ever before, and sharing it via social media.

The most popular social media site — Facebook — is seen by news outlets, including The Salt Lake Tribune, as a hook to snag readers. One day last week, for example, more than 25,000 visitors came to us through Facebook links.

News content is growing in importance to social media users. Pew data show that 50 percent of those users share or repost news stories, and an almost equal percentage use Facebook and other sites to discuss the day’s issues and events.

The challenge for us, Pew points out, is that consumers of news via social media are only occasional visitors to news sites. They may follow the link to a story that interests them but not make that news site a regular stop on their daily treks through the Web.

The message for newsrooms? Social media are small parts of a much larger digital strategy, but places where you need a robust, constant presence.

The Pew surveys show growing momentum in news video consumption for sites such as sltrib.com. More than a third of all adults in the U.S. watch news video online — the same percentage who get news from Facebook or watch cable TV news. Not surprisingly, the demographic skews young for those consumers: In the age-range categories from 18 to 49, nearly half watch online news video, almost double the percentage of 50- to 64-year-olds.

These numbers are reflected in new priorities in our newsroom. In 2013, we posted 321 videos to our YouTube page. So far in 2014, we are on a pace to more than double that number. Over a 24-hour period last week, our reporters posted eight short videos through our Tout application — from astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson explaining why Pluto is not a planet, to coach Kyle Whittingham discussing prospects for Utah’s 2014 season.


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Jennifer Napier-Pearce, our multimedia specialist, hosted live video interviews with such newsmakers as Utah House Speaker Becky Lockhart, Rep. Jim Dunnigan and Sen. Jim Dabakis last week. Her TribTalk has become a Monday through Friday lunchtime mainstay, with one of those days focused on sports and hosted by Brennan Smith. Those segments are archived and also may be downloaded as podcasts. Many viewers watch them later in the day or week.

From our point of view, the journalism sandbox is getting bigger, and that’s exciting and full of new opportunities.

At the same time, Pew points out that the financial side of the digital revolution remains unclear and daunting. Video and social media are not solutions to challenges faced by newsrooms.

But, as Pew numbers demonstrate, people are watching and sharing the content. It is making an impact. That alone is reason to get into that sandbox and play.

Terry Orme is The Tribune’s editor and publisher. Reach him at orme@sltrib.com.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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