TV reporter finds social media changed journalism for the better

Posted October 13, 2015

Distinguished UW-River Falls alumnus Boyd Huppert of KARE 11 presented “Journalism: Our Changing Story” as part of the Working Journalists Lecture Series on Oct. 8.

Huppert’s presentation focused on how social media have affected the field of journalism and how news organizations can use it. Huppert said that he is still learning how to best utilize social media.

“I’ve been trying to figure social media out, and I made a lot of mistakes early on because I tried to write teases, and people don’t share teases,” Huppert said. Teases are short promotional announcements for upcoming TV news stories.

Instead, Huppert said that he has started writing narratives in his posts and carrying a camera to take high-quality photos to post on Facebook and Twitter.

Huppert said that he used to be the person in the back of the newsroom asking why social media was important. He talked about presenting a session at the Excellence in Journalism conference in Orlando, Florida, in September.

“I told the group there that me doing a session on social media would be equivalent to Donald Trump hosting a welcome party for immigrants,” Huppert said.

Huppert said that one of his stories in particular changed his perspective of the power of social media. In July, he received an email from a grandmother about the friendship between her 3-year-old grandson and his elderly neighbor. Huppert produced the Emmett and Erling story and it aired on his segment, “Land of 10,000 Stories.”

“I was watching the news in my family room with my wife, and my phone started pinging,” Huppert said. “And it was tweets.”

Huppert said that the next morning, the story was picked up by several other news outlets. On the following night, NBC Nightly News aired the story.

Television news used to only have one way to judge if it was successful: ratings. However, now the success of each individual story can be tracked. KARE 11 has a monitor in its newsroom that shows data through a service called Chartbeat. Huppert said that Chartbeat displays the top stories being viewed on KARE 11’s website at any given time.

“But what this has done, this has given viewers a seat at the table every day,” Huppert said. “Every morning meeting now at KARE 11 starts with that board, Chartbeat. What are people watching? What are people talking about?”

As far as how social media help the station make money, Huppert said that when his stories are shared on Facebook, it brings viewers to the newscast. He showed a chart from the night that one of his stories aired that measured how many people between the ages of 25 and 54 were watching KARE, WCCO, KSTP and KMSP. KARE 11’s viewership actually grew during Huppert’s story, and he said that it had to do with the fact that the story had been shared over 1,300 times on Facebook.

Journalism student Collin Kottke attended the presentation and said that it made him think about how social media will affect his future career.

“I’m definitely thinking about how Twitter and Facebook can help my journalistic endeavors now,” Kottke said. “I knew that it was going to be important. I guess I didn’t realize how important it was until Boyd pointed that out tonight.”

The Pew Research Center found that the percentage of Facebook users getting their news on Facebook has increased in recent years. In 2015, 63 percent of Facebook users reported getting their news there, compared to just 47 percent in 2013.

Business marketing student Alex Weiss was at the presentation and said that since coming to UWRF, his sources of news have changed.

“Being at home, I’m watching the news on TV, so I get more of it on social media now that I’m on my own,” Weiss said.

After the presentation, Huppert answered questions from the audience, including a question from Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Bradley Caskey.

Almost all of the 220 seats, excluding balcony seating, in the North Hall Auditorium were full, according to Professor Sandy Ellis, chair of the Journalism Department.

Huppert ended his presentation by offering some advice for journalism students who might be hearing that they won’t be paid much or that they will have to work awful hours.

“It’s a tremendous privilege to have people allow you into their lives and talk about tender moments like that, share things with you that they may not even say to their friends and then trust you to honor their stories,” Huppert said. “And I think that’s the greatest part of the job.”