Dwight Silverman is the Interactive Journalism Editor for the Houston Chronicle and the online Chron.com. His Tech Blog is filled with great advice for the average person that is just trying to get their computer to work, along with great info for what I like to call the "gadgetist," or those that love and use gadgets.
I have followed Dwight on Twitter for sometime @dsilverman, and noticed how effectively he uses the medium in a conversational manner. If you follow him, you can expect links to his blog, but interspersed with interesting commentary and interaction.
I asked him to be my first Media Profile Interview because I think he is getting that mix between hard journalism and social interaction right, and I think that will be a key for the survival of journalism. He also makes some great point about (and how NOT) to reach journalists through social media.
1. Which social networks do you use professionally? Twitter mostly; Facebook a little.
2. Do you also use social networks personally, and do you keep these accounts separate or combined? I use Twitter in a personal way occasionally, in that I sometimes address my friends through it, or I talk about recreational things I'm doing that might be interesting to others – seeing a movie, going to a festival, eating at an interesting restaurant. But Twitter is primarily how I interact with those who interested in my tech-related writing and experiences. Facebook is probably more my "personal" social network, but I am not that active on it. I guess I'm more of a "lurker" there.
3. Which social network do you find most useful and why? Twitter, for sure. I think Twitter is incredibly important for journalists, because it allows them to interact closely with the people they cover; other journalists; and their audiences. It's also an incredible resource for information – you can ask a question and, if you have a critical mass of followers, you're likely to get a useful answer. Finally, it's also become the ultimate breaking news service. If something is happening, you are very likely to find out about it first via Twitter.
4. What are some of the ways (say 5 or so) that you use social networks in your reporting? I use Twitter to keep a close eye on what Houston Twitter users – particularly those who are involved in tech – are saying. I also use it to test column and blog ideas. I've used Twitter as a kind of informal polling system, asking users what they think of a particular topic. I've used it to recruit people to help with news coverage. And, of course, I've used it as a liveblog for events I'm covering. Afterwards, the updates I've posted also become my notes for a later blog post or even a print column or story.
5. What is the most interesting story you have ever covered due to connections or pitches you received through a social network? Probably the recent series of cable cuts suffered by AT&T; in north Texas, which caused the data network for many of its Texas wireless users to go down. I found out about it through Twitter, then used Twitter to determine the breadth and length of the outage. Another one: We used Twitter to recruit people to help us cover the Democratic caucuses during the Texas primary. We had 5-6 folks use Twitter to say what was happening inside their caucuses, and then we posted those entries in a blog.
6. What is the biggest faux pas that you have experienced on a social network by someone looking to get you to cover a story? I've had only one PR person try to pitch me publicly, in old-school fashion, via Twitter. It's intrusive and jarring. It's not appropriate, and feels that way.
7. What is the ideal way to get your attention in a social network? Be real and interesting, and contribute things of actual value to the ongoing conversation. If you're shilling, that comes across quickly and it doesn't work in social media. Have something worthwhile to say, and contribute meaningfully to the overall community.