Broadcasting LIVE! – Social Media in the Newsroom

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It’s no great surprise that social media is an increasingly popular form of communications today, and social media has moved on well beyond instant messaging and static pictures.

More and more applications are being developed that support multimedia and include live real-time video. What these new forms of social media have created, especially from a journalistic perspective, are ways for viewers to participate and actually become part of the story. While I’m not a person who generally sits and watches a newscast on a regular basis, I do enjoy watching journalism, especially where they that utilize these new media types to augment their program content.

Vicky Nguyen - NBC Bay Area

Vicky Nguyen – NBC Bay Area

One particular program that I’m a weekly fan of is in, of all places Silicon Valley, California. NBC Bay Area investigative reporter, Vicky Nguyen, is also the anchor of the NBC Sunday morning news. What called my attention to this newscast being broadcast 2,900 miles away? It was Vicky’s smartphone co-host, with help from a popular new application known as ‘Periscope‘. When Vicky starts her Periscope Broadcast, a all of her followers are immediately notified, and can watch her live.
(Follow Vicky on Twitter @VickyDNguyen)

 

Fletch:
Vicky, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us today.

Vicky Nguyen:
Oh, it’s just a pleasure to be on the Podcast with you.

Fletch:
It’s kind of turning the tables a little bit for you, right? You’re normally the interviewer.

Vicky Nguyen:
That’s true and I have to say I’m really pumped to be the interviewee. I have a lot of respect for all of the people we ever put on camera, because they do an amazing and phenomenal job, considering I do this every day and I still don’t feel like I give a great interview.

Fletch:  
We’re talking about social media. When did you first discover social media, and when did you decide to make it part of your broadcast?

I started to realize, there’s an opportunity here

Vicky Nguyen:
Well, I think that any journalist these days has to recognize the strength and power that social media provides. It’s a completely different medium to connect with your audience, your viewers. I started in earnest, really, when Facebook and Twitter came out. I have to say I was really reluctant. I was not an early adopter in the sense of, “Hey, let me get on this and promote myself”. Initially, it felt like a very self-promotional type of tool. Then I started to realize, there’s an opportunity here for tremendous interaction. It allows viewers to see that you’re a real human being; you’re not just a reporter and a robot that appears on camera. You’re a person with feelings, who lives in their community, who has opinions, who does their best not to let their bias and personal feelings be reflected in stories. You still try to do balanced reporting, but I think that people appreciate that we’re also human.

Fletch:  
NBC Bay area is one of the leading affiliates for NBC. What did the local producers and news directors feel about bringing this ‘new media’ in?

They want us to see and explore the ways that we can connect to our audience.

Vicky Nguyen:
Luckily, we have management here at NBC Bay Area that’s very supportive of the new technology. We’re in the heart of the Silicon Valley, so it’s all around us. When you talk about Twitter, and Periscope, and Facebook, that’s all in our backyard. It’s natural for us to know what’s happening, and also our teams are encouraged to use these technologies. There are guidelines and there are standards that we want to follow. We want to be journalists when we are on social media; we’re still representing our company and still acting as professionals, but it is a more intimate medium and it allows you to speak to people in a way that you may not speak to them via the airwaves on television. We embrace new technology. Periscope is probably one of the newest ones, and that new feature of Facebook mentions where you are able to do the live videos.

They encourage experimentation. They want us to see and explore the ways that we can connect to our audience. They talk about being content agnostic. That is the idea that we’re putting our stories out there, whether it’s via web article, or traditional television broadcast, or live report, or if it’s overt social media, we need to provide information for people that’s original, and compelling, that matters to them, that’s relevant to them in their communities.

Fletch:  
I think what’s really cool about Periscope, or at least what attracts me to it, is I get this ride along view. You treat Periscope as, hey, come on in to the studio with me and sit down next to me while I broadcast. You’ve got the visual of you from the side, which is obviously different. Even when you’re not on camera or not speaking on camera and it’s quiet time, you lean over and you have a quiet, even whispery sidebar conversation with your viewers. It’s just this incredible viewer interaction. I feel like I’m part of the content.

Periscope [is] very relevant and germane to the newscast.

Vicky Nguyen:
I think that’s really important. We want our viewers to feel like they’re part of the conversation, that we’re not talking at them, that we’re having a conversation with them. At the end of the day, that’s what we’re doing. We’re covering the stories that should matter to our viewers and we want to include them in that process. We want to take them behind the scenes when we can and we want to hear their questions. There have been times when I have been doing my Periscope during my live broadcast of the Sunday morning show and viewers will ask me a question. I will then ask the question to the political analyst that we have on set. That doesn’t happen all of the time, but I try to pay attention to what the Periscope viewers are curious about and what they’re saying. Sometimes, it’s very relevant and germane to the newscast. To be able to bring that in from outside from a completely different part of the country or sometimes a different part of the world, I think really enriches all of us.

Fletch:  
You’re such a great investigative reporter. That was my next question. You’ve got viewers from all of the country and even all over the world, which is just amazing. I can’t believe the amount of people that come in from Europe every week.

Vicky Nguyen:
I think it helps that we’re in a timezone that really compliments the timezone of the folks over across the pond, because we get a lot of British folks. Last time we were talking to some folks from Russia, so it’s nice, because you’re exposing your stations brand, and the content, and the stories that you’re doing to a completely different audience that you wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to talk with.

Fletch:  
What do you think your kids are going to think when they grow up? “Mom, get off social media.”

Vicky Nguyen:
They actually watch the Periscopes sometimes. I think it’s amazing, the language and the literacy that they’re going to have with social media and how they consume content. It’s not unusual to them. This is just part of their normal lexicon. They don’t remember a time when there wasn’t Periscope, or Facebook, or Twitter. To them, it’s all one in the same. “Either I’m seeing Mom on TV, or I’m seeing Mom the iPad, or the phone and I’m putting in hearts, I’m typing in questions.” It’s a really awesome level of interactivity. I think that that’s going to be the new norm. That’s what people expect.

[A]ny journalist worth their salt is going to [incorporate Social Media] into their toolbox, because it’s not going away.

Any news organization and any journalist worth their salt is going to recognize that, embrace it, and learn how to incorporate that into their toolbox, because it’s not going away. This is the future and this level of communication with your viewers is so important. I think, honestly, it really strengthens the bond that I have with viewers. It strengthens my credibility. It gives them a sense of here’s a real person who is doing her job, who is trying to serve the public as a journalist, and who has feelings, thoughts, emotions, opinions, and who I can talk to. I hope that at the end of the day that makes them believe more in the reporting that I do, because they say, ” . . . I know her” or at least “I can ask questions, she’ll give me a direct answer.” I think that anything you can do to enhance the authenticity of who you are as a journalist, it really helps.

Fletch:  
I think that people think that anybody who’s on TV is placed on a pedestal and they become untouchable to people, but in reality, people are people. When I met you in the Valley, I was a bit starstruck, but then, after about two minutes, I began talking to you, and said to myself, “Wow, she’s just a real regular person, and a really nice person at that! And she has a lot of insights and ideas.” Using this form of media does a great job of extending that ‘personal Vicky Nguyen’ out to the public that they don’t normally get to see. They see the clean, polished NBC Bay Area news Vicky and they don’t always see the personal side. Like I said, I feel like I’m sitting next to you during your broadcasts. Normally, I don’t watch the news, but I love watching YOUR news on the west coast, 2,900 miles away. Go figure, right? It’s amazing.

Investigative journalism can be very challenging on the soul.

Vicky Nguyen:
That is amazing. It’s really encouraging also to hear. Sometimes, you put it out there and you just don’t know. Is it connecting? Is it resonating with people? To get that feedback is great and it really encourages us. Sometimes you’re doing your newscast, you’re doing your stories, you’re trying to hold these officials accountable, and they’re not happy that you’re asking questions. They’re insulting you. They’re attacking your professionalism. Investigative journalism can be very challenging on the soul.

When you have people out there who appreciate the work that you’re doing and can tell you in real time, “Hey, this is really cool. Can I see the prompter? Can I see the stories that are coming up next? Can I see the meteorologist and what they’re doing?” When they become a part of it, it makes it feel like a community. I think that’s really important, because that’s what we’re doing as journalists. We try to make the world a smaller place; we try to make the world a better place in our corner and these tools just allow us to connect with people, like you said, 2,900 miles away.

I really appreciate that, Fletch, because I think at the end of the day, I want people to know that I am doing this work because I care about where we live and I care about making this a better place to live. I am a mom. My kids go to school here. I work here. I vote here. I pay taxes here. These are all things that we share. I think that when we can highlight our similarities more than our divisions, it’s a better place to live.

Fletch:  
Fantastic. We’re sitting here, talking with Vicky Nguyen, who’s NBC Bay Area’s investigative reporter and Sunday morning anchor of the news. Thanks so much for talking to us and thanks so much for all the work you’ve done. I know you’ve done a lot of work on public safety with the post office issue out there and dialing 911. You’re very supportive of all the carries law. On a personal level, thanks very much for that. Great job watching the news and I’m going to look forward to watching you every Sunday morning.

Vicky Nguyen:       
Fletch, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much for having me on your podcast. I really appreciate it.

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