It’s difficult to explain that I’m not exactly a reporter anymore, but I am still a journalist. When I tell people I’m one of TBD‘s community hosts, the most common reaction is: “Oh…what’s that?” Fair question, and the four of us are aren’t great at answering it.
If I only have one sentence, I usually say that “we get real people involved in the news process.” It’s a wildly inadequate description, and people who are actually listening know it.
So instead of talking vaguely about engaging, crowdsourcing, blogging, recruiting and reporting, I thought I’d let you in one the last three days on the job. I can’t say these are standard days, because there really aren’t any standard days and weekends are unusual, but this’ll at least give you a cross-section of what we do.
This is a strange day for me: I’ve got an actual reporting assignment during the Rally for Sanity and/or Fear. I wasn’t hired to be a traditional reporter, but on big days like this our job descriptions become irrelevant. No boxes here, and I used to be a newspaper reporter so I can still occasionally wield a notepad.
I polled 75 rally-goers and took a few hundred photos before going home. Had my Internet and/or phone connections worked, I would have been tweeting and twitpic-ing the hell out of the rally. I upload my photos to TBD’s Flickr gallery, post my story and I’m done. Our full-time reporters do way more interesting work than this.
Shortly before noon, I create a CoverItLive event for a live chat during the Washington Redskins game. I had arranged for three bloggers in our TBD Community Network to lead the chat, and I got them set up to participate then promoted it on Twitter and on our homepage.
About 15 minutes before kickoff, I realize it’d be pretty awesome to curate tweets from Redskins fans during the game using Storify. I could show the emotional swings by capturing how fans were feeling minute-by-minute after every twist and turn in the game, I thought.
So during the game I constantly searched Twitter for the most interesting tweets and wrote a narrative to tie them together, all the while offering game analysis in the live chat while approving user comments. About 15 minutes after the game ended, I posted the result of that Storify effort.
For the rest of the night, I monitored our TBD Community Network blogs for new posts about the Redskins game. When I found one, I’d pitch them to our web producer so they’d land on TBD’s homepage. And I wrote a blog post inviting fans to weigh in on a pressing question for the Redskins.
Almost immediately after waking up, I again searched for new Redskins posts from our network, and promoted their latest posts on our sports page.
At 10 a.m., I appeared live on one of our television shows, NewsTalk with Bruce DuPuyt, to discuss my weekend coverage of the rally.
Immediately afterward I set up a CoverItLive chat with Mike Jones, our Redskins beat writer, and began promoting it on the site and Twitter. I moderate the chat, approving questions and asking follow-ups to reader questions.
When news broke that Randy Moss had been waived by the Minnesota Vikings, it couldn’t have been more than five to 10 minutes before I had a blog post up asking whether the Redskins should try to pick him up. I added a twtpoll to the post, then tweeted the link from @bydanielvictor, @tbdscrum and @tbd.
While keeping an eye on that conversation, I took my aggregation shift. This largely consists of reading through posts from our 196 network members, looking to see if I can geotag the posts with a specific neighborhood, town or zip code, writing or editing a teaser, making sure the headline is in proper style, and posting it to the site.
During that shift, I also sent out e-mails to two blogs that cover the Washington Capitals, introducing myself to folks I’d like to join the network.
…The point of this all is to say: We do a lot of different things, and every day is different. Today, for example, we’ll be plotting user reports about polling problems on a Crowdmap, and monitoring a Foursquare experiment spearheaded by our social media editor Mandy Jenkins. On Saturday, fellow community host Nathasha Lim monitored a Twitter account for out-of-towners to ask questions about DC, while community host Lisa Rowan led a Halloween costume contest. Most days are filled with a lot more recruiting new blogs for the network, and responding to questions or comments from our existing members – especially senior community host Jeff Sonderman, who is blessed/cursed with the coding skills to field the more technical questions. (And it’s all under the guidance of Steve Buttry, our community engagement team’s fearless leader.)
So if you have any ideas how to better condense that all into a sentence, I’d really love to hear it. It’d be great to see fewer confused looks.