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Elon alumna discusses social media’s influence in journalism, job search

October 19, 2012

She showed social media permeates various facets of life.

“In 140 characters or less, how do you want to spend the rest of your life?” Elon Alumna Olivia Hubert-Allen asked a class of journalism students who immediately understood the reference to Twitter’s character-limit.

The students exhibit a familiarity with social media platforms, but Hubert-Allen exemplifies the advantages available through such tools.

Hubert-Allen, digital journalist at the Baltimore Sun, used social media to establish and maintain relationships that helped her land her first two reporting jobs.

“I like to think I was so talented I would get it anyway, but social media helped,” said said.

She discussed social media’s influence in her job search and journalistic experience with the Elon class Friday morning.

Hubert-Allen shared a presentation originally designed for Baltimore Sun reporters titled “Social Media Sleuthing,” which shows how social media is an effective reporting tool. Social media provides avenues to access information otherwise unavailable, she said.

Social media platforms help find “off the book” people, background information about sources, and recognize relationships between sources, according to Hubert-allen.

The Baltimore Suns’ crime reporter represents how someone can use social media for journalistic purposes. Monitoring Twitter accounts have informed him of fires before the news even comes over the blotter, she said.

Twitter also helped him find sources regarding an assault against a drunk man on St. Patrick’s Day. Searching for people who had conversed with the man on the media platform confirmed a Twitter profile belonged to the assailant and provided records documenting his actions.

By the time the police had enough evidence, the news organization already had the story, she said.

“It was no surprise to us,” Huber-Allen said. “We knew what was coming and all because of social media.”

Another report, which concerned the death of a homeless man who was killed while sleeping on the beach by a trash truck, was also realized early because of attention to social media, she said.

The Facebook of the woman who was driving the truck contained incriminating posts that indicated she had been drinking the night before getting up for work.

“We knew a lot of the information before the police or around the same time as the police because we had been quick on social media,” Hubert-Allen said.

Nevertheless, she cautioned against dependence on such tools.

“Social media is an asset in your tool box, not your new tool box,” Hubert-Allen said.

Twitter responses to Olivia Hubert-Allen’s inquiry about advice for student journalists.

But the conclusion of her presentation further revealed social media is a powerful instrument for gathering information. An inquiry she posed on Twitter provoked other users to post advice for college students searching for jobs.

Twitter responses to Hubert-Allen’s request for tips generated discussions regarding marketable skills and how to successfully network. Advice ranged from encouraging students to take more math classes to recognizing everyone can be a valuable connection.

However, Hubert-Allen communicated the key to success in three words.

“Never stop learning,” she said.

Her personal anecdotes showed knowledge of emerging tools contributes to accuracy, efficiency and progress.

Social Media Tools Recommended for Journalists:

  • Facebook– helps find sources and provides background regarding their activity, education and relationships.
  • Twazzup– generates information relevant to Twitter and displays posts that have demonstrated influence (measured by retweets), frequent activity and timeliness.
  • Twinagulate– shows commonalities between Twitter “friends” to help locate connections between Twitter users
  • Muck Rack– a directory of journalists who are on social media. This tool helps users look at people from other organizations and monitor what is being discussed
  • LinkedIn Advanced Search– helps find potential sources. Users can search accounts according to company, previous employment and location.
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