Sunday, February 22, 2009

Real World: Welcome & Opening Session

As promised this is the first of several posts on the various sessions I attended at Real World in Atlanta on Friday.  After parking and checking in (and amazingly enough NOT getting lost in Atlanta... there's a first), we got coffee and settled down at our table to talk to the other people we were sitting with.  I was with two girls from my hometown of Sarasota who had driven all the way from UF to attend the conference (try to contain your shock that I was co-existing with Gators), and we were at a table with a few other students and PR professionals.  

After a quick introduction, the day started with a panel of employees from CNN (moderated by PRSA|GA President Mike Neumeier).  The participants included Victor Hernandez (Director of Coverage), Lila King (Senior Producer of User Participation - &, and Jennifer Martin (Director of PR - New Media & Digital Networks).  The questions focused particularly on new media and how social media has affected politics in the recent years.  

Here's a summary of what I thought were the most interesting points:
  • Between the '04 and '08 Campaigns, social media evolved from candidates pushing their message to "the people" (voters) pushing the message for them.
  • Social media in the '08 election was used for real time updates and connecting people, in conjunction with the rise of citizen journalism.  This was when people started to realize social media isn't just a fad.
  • iReport has allowed coverage to become more personal.  When viewers were asked what they would want to ask the presidential candidates, questions ranged from campaign-related to questions about their personal lives and on a more local level.
  • In addition to providing information to voters, Obama literally brought people along on the trail with him via Twitter.
  • Social media allows huge gaps to be bridged (age, cultural, geographic, etc.)
  • It's not necessarily more important to have viewers on the TV versus online, it's really just important that people are consuming the information being put out there by news stations.
  • Citizen journalism is definitely helpful to journalists (rather than harmful) - it allows for a multiplicity of voices and perspectives.  
  • It is still the journalist's responsibility to collect and synthesize the information provided by citizen journalists.  This shows how citizen journalism complements (not replaces) traditional media.
  • Citizen journalism enables two-way communication.
  • While it can be tough to remain neutral (there is no "view from nowhere"), there is a difference between being biased and simply letting people know where you're coming from (the Fed Ex/Twitter case was mentioned as the perfect example of crossing that fine line).
  • Always remember how important transparency is - identify yourself!

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