Posted tagged ‘Facebook’

Creating reader engagement contests on MichiganRewards.com

October 8, 2013
Graphic artist Kevin Martin created this.

Graphic artist Kevin Martin created this graphic.

One area of my job that I need to work on more is community engagement, specifically creating contests that excite people, engage them with our news sites and social media channels, and inspire them to invite their friends to join in the fun.

And through a new reader rewards platform called Michigan Rewards that we recently launched, I have an opportunity to create contests that engage, and drive audience to print and online. I posted our first two contests Friday.

My selfie with Michiganmade Jiffy Mix.

My selfie with Michiganmade Jiffy Mix.

One is our #Michiganmade Selfie Photo Contest. It’s designed to encourage audience participation in our Made in Michigan coverage, a special section highlighting products made in Michigan. I’ve also created a RebelMouse page to complement the section, bringing in all #Michiganmade and #MadeInMichigan hashtags on Twitter, @PureMichigan tweets and Pure Michigan YouTube videos.

I’ve had fun promoting the photo contest, creating my own selfie with a box of Jiffy Mix, Pinterest board, and promoting it on all of our Twitter and Facebook channels with a beautiful graphic created by The Macomb Daily’s Kevin Martin.

This graphic was created in PicMonkey and shared on our social media channels.

This graphic was created in PicMonkey and shared on our social media channels.

The other contest is just in time for Halloween. We’re encouraging you to dress up your pets in Halloween costumes and shoot a video, upload it to MichiganRewards.com, and ask family and friends to vote. I’ve promoted it with a meme, a collage that I created in PicMonkey and a gif, my second ever.

My bunny Ari stars in the meme I created to promote the video contest.

My bunny Ari stars in the meme I created to promote the video contest.

I’ve also created Touts promoting both contests. In the Tout below that I embedded from Twitter, I humiliated my cat, Samson, by dressing him up as a sports reporter with a baseball cap, notebook and pencil. As you can imagine, he wasn’t too excited about it.

We’re awarding $100 for first place, $75 for second and $50 for third. So far, we have four entries in the #Michiganmade Selfie Photo Contest and none yet in the Best Costume-Clad Pet Video Contest.

I am excited to dip my toe in the engagement waters, so to speak, with these two contests and look forward to offering more. I’ve also set up a Word of the Day, featuring the name of a Michigan landmark in print and encouraging readers to enter the word(s) online at MichiganRewards to earn points toward prizes.

Look for more to come as I get to know the true potential of this new platform. And please share your ideas with me.

Check out my #Michiganmade board on Pinterest

Check out my #Michiganmade board on Pinterest

Covering a tornado while thinking digital first

March 23, 2012

ImageMy staff has been tested over the last week and passed with flying colors.

When a tornado struck Dexter, a small town west of Ann Arbor, Mich., March 15, my reporters’ and editors’ digital storytelling skills, community engagement efforts and digital first mindset, which they’ve been building on for the last couple of years, were tested as they covered the devastation, emergency response, community reaction, cleanup and healing as the community pulled together to overcome.

As a group of weekly publications in print, it has been an ongoing challenge to get our audience to realize we’re now a daily online. I think the tragedy of the tornado served as a reminder to readers that they don’t have to wait until Thursday to get their local news, and we were happy to oblige, providing breaking news coverage, from news stories, Storify compilations, photo galleries and videos to Tweets and Facebook posts, and SMS texts to email alerts.

Our coverage started at 5:16 p.m. March 15 as online coordinator David Veselenak sent a SMS text message to readers signed up for alerts that the National Weather Service had issued a tornado warning for Washtenaw County. This was followed by another text message at 5:42 p.m. that a funnel cloud had been spotted near Dexter. About a half-hour later, I received a phone call from David that he was en route to Dexter as a tornado had struck. I was on my way to the Dexter Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner to shoot video of the program and honorees, and my phone battery was just about to die. I asked David if he needed help, and he said he and Dexter Leader Editor Erica McClain were in contact and had it covered.

Still, while eating dinner and hearing from state Rep. Mark Ouimet that the car wash and Laundromat in Dexter were wiped out, I felt that I had to help with the coverage. So, I left and headed for downtown Dexter, filming uprooted trees, debris, traffic backups and police blockades while I found a place to park. I was able to speak to a Michigan State Police trooper directing traffic and then drove to Dexter High School, where a command center had been established, and interviewed the community engagement officer for the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department, schools superintendent and village president. Since I didn’t have a way to communicate with David and Erica, I decided to return to our office in Saline at about 9:30 p.m., put together my video and posted it on our website, confident my reporters were taking care of the news story and communicating with our audience via social media. My video loaded just before midnight, I shared it on Facebook and Twitter, and then drove home to charge my phone — and get some sleep. Little did I know at that time all of the efforts my staff had made.

Erica, who had turned on the Radio Reference scanner the night of the tornado for updates, grabbed the now-famous video from YouTube that an Ann Arbor resident shot of the tornado in Hudson Mills Metropark and she aggregated it to our website while staying in communication with David in the field. As David was en route to Dexter, Erica started making calls to dispatch and the fire department to verify information from over the scanner. She pieced together a story, adding information as she heard it and updating our audience on Facebook. With David’s eyewitness accounts, Erica added his byline to the story. Sheriff’s Community Engagement Officer Derrick Jackson released some information in a press release, which reporter Ben Baird added to the story. Erica updated Facebook and the story into the evening as more information was released and she answered readers’ questions on Facebook.
 
Also that night, reporter Amy Bell, who met David at McDonald’s in nearby Chelsea, aggregated content, posted on social media and searched for user-generated videos on YouTube. Reporter Sean Dalton was also in Dexter shooting video, conducting interviews and collecting information, funneling it to Erica over the phone. He checked out the temporary shelter at Mill Creek Middle School and the tornado-ravaged Huron Farms subdivision. Erica kept the scanner on until about midnight concerned about injury or fatality reports, routinely posting on Facebook and adding details. Before going to bed, she changed the headline online to reflect the additional damage Jackson had shared.

The next morning, Sean was up early shooting dozens of photos of the devastation and cleanup efforts for a Flikr photo suite set up by Eric and David to share photos with our sister publications and among staff. Sean covered an emergency council meeting on the tornado Friday and then returned to Joe and Rosie’s Café in downtown Dexter, where he filed his story, photos and two videos. Meanwhile, David filmed a few interviews on his Flip and both Erica and David wrote sidebar stories. They connected with residents who were returning home to survey the damage, and shot photos of the Laundromat and car wash before returning to their command post to start filing stories online. David attended a press conference, which Erica live Tweeted using the @HeritageNews account. David also wrote the story and produced a video from the press conference.

The Oakland Press, a sister publication, sent videographer Aftab Borka to help. Erica showed him and an intern the Huron Farms subdivision and the worst-damaged houses. More residents were in the subdivision at this time, so Aftab was able to shoot a video for the Michigan cluster of Journal Register Company newspapers and WADL-TV, one of our partners. Throughout the day, David shared our news coverage, as it was posted, with our sister publications to also post on their websites and for use in print.
 
On Friday, Amy went back to Dexter and wrote a story about volunteer efforts going on in the community. She also spent some time at Huron Farms subdivision, where she took a number of photos for our website. Sean’s coverage continued over the weekend, as I edited and posted his stories and shared links on social media. Also on Saturday, Ben contacted Dexter businesses and asked how they were helping the community. He first posted a story Saturday and updated it Sunday. In addition, both Ben and copy editor Tonya Wildt aggregated content shared by sister publications.
 
Reporter James Dickson, who wrote the story “Ann Arbor man who filmed Dexter tornado to appear on ‘Good Morning America,’” wrapped up the vast amount of our coverage by taking all of our raw video and some user-generated clips to produce a documentary-style video of the tornado, the aftermath, community response and cleanup.
 
In all, there were about two dozen stories, more than a dozen videos posted and scores of links shared on social media between Thursday night and Monday afternoon. Our text message subscriptions increased slightly and our @HeritageNews Twitter account saw followers increase by about 20 just over the weekend. The @ChelseaDexter account saw 14 new followers. Both accounts saw several dozen retweets over the weekend, as well.
 
By Monday morning, the metrics looked like this:
 
TOTAL PAGE VIEWS: 12,843

TOTAL VIDEO PLAYS: 2,605

TOTAL NEW ‘LIKES’ ON THE DEXTER/CHELSEA FACEBOOK PAGE: 40

All of this effort has paid off as we have heard from scores of readers, near and far, complimenting us on our coverage. The story about the tornado’s destruction in Dexter made the national news, and I think the community newspaper that was looked at for news every Thursday has become known as a source for up-to-the-minute news and information any time of the day.

Attorney speaks on ‘New Rules for the Digital Media Age’ at MPA convention

January 28, 2012

Note: These are live notes from a workshop at the Michigan Press Association convention. Follow the live Tweet stream at #mpa2012.

Michigan Press Association general counsel Robin Luce Herrmann led a discussion Jan. 28 with her team of attorneys at the 2012 Michigan Press Association convention about latest Michigan media law matters. Topics included “How to protect your Internet assets.”

Media in the digital age

Terms of use and privacy policies
Need rules for people accessing and using your digital products. How will you manage posts that you may allow, copyright issues, editing and removing posts.

Report Abuse buttons: Used to manage content. Allows people to alert us to potential problems on website.

Terms of Use posted on website. This is a contract between media and user. You tell them what they can and can’t do. You want to protect your intellectual property, copyright.

Using social media for newsgathering: Many reporters now look to social media to gather news. We use it to find out what’s going on in the communities and world around us. How can a reporter use that for a news story or can he/she use it and what are the risks. If a Facebook page is public, with no privacy settings, then, according to Facebook’s terms of use, you are allowing everyone to access and use that information and associate it with you. When using social media for newsgathering, keep these things in mind: What does that site say in its terms of use; you don’t want to violate the policy if take something from the site. Facebook’s terms of use are straight forward, but Twitter’s less so. Attorney suggested consult with MPA attorney when you want to use something from social media website. Make sure you’re not violating terms of use. Even so, the site won’t provide “absolute protection” to you if someone complains.

You should treat information collected on social media sites the same way you would if someone came in and handed it to you in person. You verify the person who gave it to you is a reliable source and has the right to give you the information, and whatever they give you, you independently verify.

You have to be careful of confidential sources as there are degrees of protection. Keep in mind that smartphones are good newsgathering tools, but they could harm your confidential source because they can track where you have been, and that info could be subpenaed. If trying to keep a source confidential, you may want to leave your smartphone back in the newsroom and just take notes.

A lot of law enforcement agencies have outdated policies and that can come into play if videoing at a scene of a crime and they see it as interfering with an investigation. Our most concern is to be able to get the story and then educate police on the issue if they overstep bounds and try to restrict us in doing our jobs.

Michigan is a one-party consent state, so we can record phone calls as long as the other party agrees.

Anonymous posters: Some publications are using Facebook to police posters because there are some protections. If you allow anonymous posters, you have to be upfront with your terms of use and whether you would out them if it came down to it or you thought it was newsworthy. Everyone has some degree of protection for its anonymous posters.

In a lot of jurisdictions across the country, there have been some tests developed. We have a First Amendment right to speak anonymously. In order to reveal an anonymous poster, you have to notify the poster, tell that poster. Court has to review the complaint first, before considering whether to reveal anonymous poster. Media’s terms of use may require you to post on the anonymous poster’s behalf.

Intellectual property
Intellectual property involves domain names like your website, Twitter and Facebook accounts, Twitter handle and copyright. Question of copyrights. Who owns the photo and can I use this? If it’s a work-for-hire and copyright is transferred. It’s a question of fair use. Fair use determines whether we can use it. Fair use is whether in advances discussion. A mechanical process involved, forces of nature and a machine can’t be copyrighted.

Stock photos and Google images: Images taken from the web can be risky to use. If you Google, sometimes you’ll pull up database images and you can’t necessarily use those images.

Can’t trump access to public records under copyright. Law enforcement, for instance, can’t copyright photos from crime scene if you get your hands on it and publish it.

Domains and social media handles: Domain names registered on first-come, first-served basis. If you have a trademark, you may be able to take your domain name from someone else if someone else got it first.

Facebook and Twitter have detailed terms of use policies and you can get your name back if someone else owns a social media account using your company’s name. If employee opens social media account, do you have an agreement with employee who created it to get it back if they leave your employment? Non-competition agreements protect newspapers when sales people with connections to customers placing advertising leave your employment. Urged protect property (social media) accounts. Need to specify whether you can use your social media accounts and blogs after the employee leaves employment. If want control, though, the paper could be held responsible for posts.

Posting gone wild: Defamation and Devaluing Your Image
Online comment section: In print, any third-party content can be vetted. However, online comment section, there’s no review and it’s automatically posted. This raises questions of liability, if it’s defamatory content. If you’re a web host, you are generally not responsible. But if you’re a content provider, then you’re responsible.

You have to be careful what you do with respect to what is posted under the Communications Decency Act. It’s OK to remove for relevance, you can edit, but can’t insert defamatory materials; if you remove content and change message and it becomes defamatory.

You can be held liable for republishing third-party content into your own larger posting. A website owner who incorporated a third-party email is an example.

If an employee uses social media to make favorable comments about a service or product of his employer and does not disclose his employee relationship. If you’re a reporter and retweet a story, are you endorsing that information and if doing it under a newspaper account, is the newspaper endorsing? You have to be careful.

Publishers may be liable if give employees tools and encouraged to Tweet. Social media is becoming inseparable with some job functions.

You should have a social media policy.

Workplace issues
Concerns: Employee productivity and blending of work and personal lives
Pluses of social media: Marketing and business development, recruiting tool, knowledge gathering tool and increases communication among employees

When looking to hire people, if you look at their social media you may find out things you aren’t supposed to learn in hiring process, such as health issues, political affiliations, religious background, etc. If you make those attempts and the potential employee finds out they may assume you discriminated against them. Google has a policy not to Google information about a potential employee, because you can’t use that information in making your decision.

Social media at work: Employers allowed to monitor employees’ Internet use at work; no expectation of privacy; company policy may give privacy rights. There are still potential issues an employer could be exposed to information regarding protected classes or the information gathered could be misused.

MPA conference presents “Making Social Media Work for You’

January 27, 2012

At the Michigan Press Association’s annual conference Jan. 27 at the Amway Grand Hotel in Grand Rapids,

Gov. Rick Snyder was the keynote speak at the Michigan Press Association conference.

after a luncheon featuring Gov. Rick Snyder as the keynote speaker, social media was among the topics reporters, editors and publishers were interested in. Matt Resch moderated a panel discussion looking at social media — how it’s used now and speculating how it will be used in the future. The panel was billed as being composed of “a college student, a young newspaper entrepreneur and others who understand the importance of new technology for reaching out to readers and advertisers.”

Journal Register Company’s own Rick Kelley was among the panelists speaking on social media.

Resch referred the audience to “Social Media is a Cocktail Party,” written by a social media consultant who advises large companies on social media efforts. The book explains how people use it and interact with it. The book notes a lot of simple rules: The party will go on whether you are there or not and the same is true with social media. It will go on whether you decide to be part of the conversation or not. You first get to “the party,” listen and see where you fit in. Jump in and speak in circles where you feel comfortable. Don’t be slick or fake, because people can sniff it out and walk away.

News media is the content provider. Look at Twitter or Facebook pages and they have links and topics coming from content providers, Resch said.

Social media strategy important, panelists say. How has audience influenced how you have inserted social media in your business plan. Kelley said we have two audiences: print and online. Knowing we have two audiences allow us to do a better job of targeting. Look at platform demographic, not just age demographic.

It’s about engaging the audience through social media. Facebook polls allow topics and questions to go viral. Find comfort level of readers. Ask people to “like” you. This will drive you to top of news feed.

Resch asked who owns social media accounts: news organization or individuals? Kelley says the law is not keeping up and it will be a major issue as case law sorts out this and other related questions.

Tweeps follow you for a particular reason: They find value in what you’re tweeting, whether news links or particular interests or insights. Panelist notes that the beauty of social media is held in transparency. It’s evolving and moving faster than we can keep up with. One panelist says business owns its account but individual accounts held by the individual.

Twitter account Panelist Kate Jacobson, editor in chief at Michigan State University’s State News, says it’s fun to produce multimedia journalism — to do audio, video, social media, use smartphones in the field while posting breaking news.

Multimedia element should be different than story. Don’t repeat the story. Should be a sidebar of sorts, Jacobson said.

Let people behind the scenes to see how the newspaper industry works. Let them into your editorial meetings. It’s about transparency.

A lot of people don’t understand their privacy settings. People need to learn about privacy issues on social media, one panelist said.

Community Media Lab and citizen journalists discussion prompted by Kelley brought some questions from the audience about libel and potential lawsuits when you’re dealing with people who are not trained journalists. One audience member said she thought in the future it will be the citizen journalists who will be held liable, not the news organization, just as bloggers are responsible for their content.

Mashable.com best resource for social media do’s and don’ts, one panelist said

Tips from panelist

Spotify playlist for local musicians; fashion editor should have an account on pintrist; photographers should shoot behind-the-scenes photos using smartphone and upload to Instagram. These are social media tools and they are designed for sharing. Suggested staying active on Twitter. You can create filters on TweetDeck to customize news feeds.

Live blogging from the Michigan Press Association conference

January 27, 2012

Note: This is a live blog post and notes from the Michigan Press Association convention. Follow live tweets at #mpa2012.
Heritage Media reporter James Dickson asks question of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder

It has been about six years, but I am finally back. And a lot has changed in the industry since I last attended the Michigan Press Association’s annual convention in Grand Rapids. I am ready to learn some new techniques to apply to my craft, and I’ve brought two colleagues along for the ride. Heritage Media-West reporter James Dickson and copy editor Tanya Wildt are with me after making the 138-mile trek from Ann Arbor at 5:30 this morning.

Our first session, hosted at the spectacular Amway Grand Hotel, is “The Shape of Things to Come,” and the presenters are current and former college newspaper editors, and the talks is being moderated by Joe Grimm, professor at Michigan State University, who was introduced by Ken Winter, North Central Michigan College and Michigan State University Journalism School instructor, consultant and Petoskey News-Review editor and publisher. Listen to the talk here.

Do you think of print or digital when you think of a job in journalism? This was the first question posed to the student panel. Kelsey Schnell says, “Yes, I will work online,” notes they’re talking about eventually ending print edition of student newspaper. “Ideally, I’d like to stay in print, but I guess I will go where the job takes me,” says Mike Martinez.

How and where do you get your news? The second questioned posed to the panel: Mostly online, phone, through news apps; Twitter and picking and choosing what’s interesting.

Poll: How did you find out Michael Jackson died. Many heard on television, from radio, Twitter, Facebook and print. Make sure to fact check Twitter reports.

Important to uphold standards of journalism. Example, how it was tweeted that former Penn State University football coach Joe Paterno died before he had.

Student editor suggests write a 200-word preview with a photo and put it online, and response from audience will tell you whether to write a followup and produce video, possibly write a column. Let the audience help steer your efforts. Don’t waste time on a story about something no one or very few care about.

It’s important to know your readers, market and demographics. Serve both print and online readers, and cross promote everything.

Question from the audience: When is the last time you used a phone (to do an interview)? “It’s still old-school journalism in this new realm,” Kate Jacobson says, stating she prefers phone or in-person interview over email. Don’t let people hide behind technology and craft carefully-considered answers. Journalists want authenticity.

Advice for smaller or private colleges: Work in social media if you have fewer resources. “It’s free, so it’s not hard, and just brand yourself,” said Jacobson. If it’s a commuter campus, report and Tweet on local road conditions. This will help drive traffic, bring in an audience that you can share other news with. “Don’t worry about the size (of your audience; it’s about the activity (and engagement).”

Jacobson: MSU State News seeing a shift to online advertising and it’s “pumping serious gas in our car.” Print is down to six pages because print advertising is down. Subscriptions help a little bit.

What alerts do you have out there to get the news, Grimm asked. “Hard news matters.” More students interested in writing features. News aggregators like Gawker, Google and Yahoo have good news alerts, pulling from a variety of websites. Gawker has clever writers who aggregate content.

Most news originates from websites. In the new world, students were asked, “What will people pay for?” Students “don’t like paying for stuff.” Students willing to pay for some news content if it’s exclusive content and just what they want. One student pays for ESPN sports. He pays for small-town news because it’s not as shared on social media and those subscriptions are reasonably priced. Long-format writing, one student pays for. Has had a subscription to Esquire since he was 15.

Some college newspapers hoping to monetize Twitter stream by putting ads in feeds.

Thoughts on local community journalism. How do we build community and conversation like our local newspapers have done. Students say great thing about social media is community can share content, comment on content on social media. This builds community and conversation.

One student’s parents didn’t renew subscription because the newspaper isn’t “fun” to read anymore because it got so whittled down as advertising support dropped off and pages were cut, limiting local news coverage.

The session concluded with: “We’ve got to write something good before we tell someone to read about it.”
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder answers question of Eastern Echo reporter at Michigan Press Association convention.

A Twitter Newswire

August 3, 2011

As a member of the Journal Register Company’s ideaLab (#JRCideaLab), I’ve been tasked with establishing a Twitter newswire in my newsroom. The idea is to have reporters create lists within their individual professional Twitter accounts or, as I did, establish an account (@ElectionFollow) dedicated to following local political candidates and active party members and political watchers, with the goal of generating story leads from their tweets. I’ve asked my followers to use #mielection in their story lead tweets to make it easier, but I can’t depend on them to do that, so I’ll have to continue to look at their individual tweets.

The thought is that there are many untapped sources and stories in cyberspace, and reporters should start paying attention on social media to what the audience is interested in — what’s relevant to them — and utilizing the audience as sources, experts or for their story leads. While the plan is to start off small with stories focused on the upcoming general election in the weeks leading up to the election, the goal is to establish a thriving and robust Twitter (or social media) newswire, where reporters regularly turn to for potential stories, producing at least one a week.

I introduced the idea to staff about a month ago and our online coordinator/reporter, David Veselenak was asked to be the first to set up the lists on his account and generate a story. He has produced one, so far, but has had a difficult time writing a story each week from it. While I established @ElectionFollow Twitter account to “lead by example,” I suspect the enthusiasm for this project is not at the level I would like to see. I will continue pushing it at our editorial meetings and begin to hold staff accountable for results. In the meantine, it would be helpful if the audience encouraged the effort via Facebook, Twitter and email. If you like the idea, tweet it or post on our local reporters’ personal Facebook pages or our newspaper fan pages.

Often, I think, reporters get in a habit of doing their jobs a particular way and aren’t open to new ideas — or maybe curious but not motivated to actually pursue them — especially if they think their current approach works good enough. But, in my opinion, they need to get out of their comfort zones and start innovating, experimenting with new technology and utilizing all of these new opportunities, such as social media, to produce more crowd-sourced, multimedia journalism.

A reporter can find some interesting news tips on Facebook if they’re following local residents, officials, and community leaders and stakeholders. For example, in my Facebook news stream Monday, I saw a post from Saline City Councilman David Rhoads: “One of the softening units at Saline’s water treatment plant is out of commission for repairs. The less water we can use, the closer the water will be to the normal softness, until the unit can be repaired.” Six comments followed, and I emailed the comment stream to Saline reporter Kevin Doby. The next morning, he fleshed out the story and posted it online.

This example is exactly what JRC wants to see more of in our newsrooms. The challenge is getting everyone to embrace it. Hopefully, through this post and more opportunities to come, they will see the value and get their own newswires up and running.

Rethinking Facebook

July 7, 2011

I was a sophomore at Oakland University when I first heard of Facebook. I think it was 2003.

I distinctly remember the first time I was made aware of the (then) new social networking site. I was at a party and one of my friends, a Scottish soccer player, was telling me all about it.

It sounded like a really cool site.

I went back to my dorm room later on that night and tried to find it so I could sign up. Unfortunately, my friend’s thick accent had led me down the wrong path.
Apparently there was no such site as http://www.faceboot.com.

A few days later, though, Facebook exploded on our campus and it was impossible to avoid it. I’ve been an active user ever since.

Facebook is part of most of our lives now. It helps us maintain relationships, share photos and make sure our friends know what we are thinking from moment to moment.
But with the explosion of social networking as a way for companies and news services to share information and media, it’s important for us to rethink how we are using Facebook.

Sure, Facebook is a great tool for sharing links and getting headlines into newsfeeds of thousands, but it’s important to remember that it can also be an unparalleled tool for keeping track of and making new contacts.

As a sports reporter at the A2 Journal in Ann Arbor, my beat includes covering all the high school athletes in the area. But in addition to keeping everyone up to date on the current high school sports stars, it’s also important for me to keep my finger on the high school standouts who head off to college to play sports.

In the past, this normally meant calling coaches or athletic directors to try to get phone numbers for current and former players. This could be a very time-consuming effort that often led to dead ends and stories that were killed before they even had a chance to become anything. But now, Facebook allows me to directly contact any athlete that has an account (and almost all of them do).

Recently I created an alternate personal Facebook account for myself. This one has no videos of my son, no embarrassing photos from college and none of my real friends commenting on things.

This profile is simply “Mike Larson, A2 Journal Sports Reporter.” From this account, I have added high school athletes from my coverage area as friends (I realize this could be a slippery slope, but I am convinced it can be done in a very professional manner). In addition to adding current high school athletes, I have also added many former athletes who are now playing in college.

So now, I have a database of athletes that can be reached with a simple Facebook message.

In addition, I can use this Facebook profile to do so much more.
I can post a status like, “The Pioneer-Huron game is this Friday, any score predictions?” And people will comment on it, allowing me to do an impromptu poll, which might turn into a really cool blog post.

I can also tag individual athletes in my postings. For example, we upload the front page of our sports section to Scribd, and I can share it on Facebook, and in the description say something like, “Check out the sports section, top stories include Skyline hockey and Greenhills basketball. There’s also a great photo of @Jordan Woods” (The “@” will tag the person in the post, and make the story show up on their wall). It’s cool because it gets the link out to another huge group of people, and it is kind of a badge of honor for whoever gets singled out.

Facebook can be used for so many things these days, it’s important for us to all realize its full potential.