(image credit: Kiplinger Program/Ohio State University)

svt kiplinger fellowMoa Frygell a SVT reporter and news anchor based in Umeå, Sweden. She recently travelled to the United States as one of 30 journalists selected to be a Kiplinger Fellow. Here she reflects on the program and writes about learnings she took from it that would be relevant and valuable for other regional reporters in Europe.

I was one of a lucky few who were chosen to be a Kiplinger Fellow this April. The Kiplinger Fellowship is sponsored by the Kiplinger Foundation to train professional journalists in digital and social media during a week’s stay at the University of Ohio in Columbus. You can read more about the fellowship, and how to apply, here.

The lectures and seminars were all interesting and thought provoking, but some of them where obviously more useful for larger and national news associations. Others, though, included tips and tools that I find very useful in my everyday work as a local reporter. I'm going to write about some of them here.


There is nothing new in asking your readers/viewers to tell you a story. As journalists we are depending on the public to tell us what's going on in their lives, we want to know if someone has done them wrong and we want them to tell the story in front of a camera. Crowdsourcing online is just another way of doing that.

Why is crowdsourcing useful?

Two reasons: You want to get stats or tips that you can't collect from public sources or you want people to engage in your news.

By using online forms you can easily ask people for information, these forms can automatically be transferred into spreadsheets or plotted on maps. Here is a list of tools that can do that.

  1. Crowdsourcing - creating news

    One of the biggest issues with crowdsourcing in a local newsroom, with a limited audience, is to find a subject that is suitable. It needs to be something that is engaging enough for a lot of people to want to share their story, but not too private and/or controversial, because then people are scared off.  There is also the issue of what you want to use the data gathered for. If it's mainly to get tips for news stories or if it's a strategy to engage people and strengthen your brand. Anyhow, you should not ask for too much information. If you want people to tell you what they voted for, and why, your wise not to ask them for their phone number as well, but if you (as we did) want to make a map of where Skellefteå AIK-fans live , people have no problem writing down their street address.

  2. Crowdsourcing - breaking news

    Another type of crowdsourcing can be used if you're working on breaking news stories - social media news gathering. Following a hashtag or Twitter feed during a breaking news situation is not news anymore, but during kipcamp we were taught strategies to make the job easier.

Imagine the scenario: A breaking news event is happening somewhere that is too far away for you to get there in time, or you don't have resources to send out a team. It's a nightmare, basically. This is what you can do:

Find out where the event is taking place. After that you can search social media by location to find pictures, eye witnesses or first hand information.

Using Gramfeed you can search Instagram for location, hashtags or name. I used it to find images and video during a nazi demonstration in Umeå . If you don't find pictures of what you want, you can search by location to find a "photographer" who you can ask to take pictures for you.

Twitter advanced search is a similar tool for Twitter. You can search location to find eye witnesses or pictures of a specific event, or use a hashtag search to get all available information about something.

Layar allows you to see any picture or tweet that was uploaded in the place where you physically are. That means that if you arrive to a scene too late, you can scan the area with your phone to see if someone uploaded any information from the spot.

By using Foursquare you can see if anyone have checked in to a place that you are interested in. You can also check in yourself, introduce yourself and ask for witnesses. Sadly, Foursquare is not common enough in my part of Sweden to be of any real use.

In my experience, living in the north of Sweden, there are too few people using social media to get useful information from hashtag searches. Location is much more reliable.

Find out to whom it's happening. After that you can search for that person's social media accounts, see who are his or her friends and if there are any connections between people involved in the event.

Facebook graph search can be used to find relationships, background or interests. If you, for example, want to get in contact with someone who lives in Umeå, but is originally from Crimea, you just type "People living in Umeå who are from Crimea" and the relevant matches, if any, will pop up.

Check your information. Sources are neither more or less reliable on social media. This is a list of some spectacular photographs of Hurricane Sandy that have circulated social media. Only problem is that they're fake.     
News gathering in the field

Mobile devices are great for news gathering in the field . But there are a few things to be cautious of:

Know your tools. There is no use having a lot of cool apps on your phone if you don't have enough practise to use them in a real life situation.

  • Make sure everyone has a task. If four journalists are sent out to a breaking news event there should be one taking pictures for online and social media, one videofilming, one talking to neighbours and so on.
  • Settle a hashtag with other media. This benefits all. Otherwise readers have to scan through different hashtags and you might have to end up using two or even three.
  • If more than one reporter is tweeting from the field you should take measures to ensure the quality of what you deliver through your main feed. Curate and choose the most relevant information to tell the story. All reporters' feeds can be done available through twitter lists or tweet maps.
  • Most importantly. Check reception. There is no use creating a lot of great content if it can't be shared. In my experience, connection in many parts that we cover is too bad to share video, and sometimes even pictures. 
  • Here is a list of tools that can be useful in the field in a breaking news situation.

Creating shareable content

Now, let's say we are great journalists who produce interesting and important news, we want people to share them with friends, both in real life, like over the dinner table, and on social media.

During Andrew Springer’s (of ABC) seminar we were introduced to the "Hey Martha"-effect. Basically we want people who are watching our news to shout for their family members going "Hey Martha, you need to come see this". This "Hey Martha"-effect is also what makes people share news in social media.

Considering what shows up in my own Facebook news feed sometimes, the "Hey Martha"-effect can seem discouraging for every serious journalist. But it's not about what we share in our news feeds, but how we package it. Just like you don't use the same layout or angle for broadcast and online, you need to find the angle for social media.

These are Andrew Springer’s lists on what and how to publish on social media:

Five stories that are inherently social:

  • Breaking news
  • Stories that touch the heart
  • Outrage stories
  • Listicles
  • Long reads

How to package news for maximum reach:

  • Mixing up links and pictures make your updates show up more frequently in people's Facebook news feeds.
  • Create lists from news (i.e. list of top20 party schools, 22 jobs that men are paid more than women)
  • Find the outrage
  • Identify your market and your audience - and their interests
  • Think about the social media packaging already before you go out in the field - than it's going to be easier to find the right angle.

Where to go from here?

These examples are only a taste of what was taught during Kipcamp. I really enjoyed my time over there, and even though the lectures were of great value for me professionally, the most important lessons were the discussions about journalism with other great journalists. Talking about ethics with American journalists who view protection of privacy in a totally different way than Swedish journalists do, or discussing freedom of the press with a Chinese journalist were great experiences that I've written about here

Please, feel free to contact me if you have any questions or if you want to know more about the Kiplinger fellowship. 

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