How Journalists Make the Most out of Their Social Media

Sarah Tuttle-Singer is a journalist and the New Media Editor for The Times of Israel. She enjoys writing stories about people and stories that connect people, as well as issues of social justice in the Old City of Jerusalem. In this interview, she shares with us how social media plays a role in her life as a journalist and writer.

How often do you share your own articles and other content on your social media accounts?

Several times a day — mostly Facebook and Twitter, although I’ve been playing around with Periscope — and I love it.

How does social media fit into the process of writing and distributing your content?

Big time. Social media (Facebook primarily) is my conduit for sharing what I write — whether it’s an article that sits on a site like Times of Israel, or whether I use Facebook as its own micro-blog.

It’s also the community hub — I see conversations online that inspire me (or piss me off!) and I respond. Social media is incredibly reactive — it’s always in flux — the mood changes, and my writing moves with it.

What are the advantages/disadvantages of being a journalist in this age of social media?

Ohhhh great question — we are in the throes of a revolution in journalism thanks to social media. Information is disseminated rapidly. Back when there was only print journalism, we had the one day news cycle — every morning (or evening) you’d read the paper and catch up on the events of the day. Then radio and TV and then the internet changed this paradigm and you had the one hour news cycle where the news updates every hour — — we still have that here in Israel where the news comes in once an hour no matter what. But with social media, you now have the one second news cycle — as soon as something happens and as soon as someone sees it happening BAM it’s out there on Twitter and Facebook. And sometimes the facts get misreported or twisted and the story comes out wrong.

Social media has also changed the way journalists engage with the audience — with talk-backs (comments) we begin to know the people who are reading, and it changes the playing field. There can be a real conversation between the journalist and his or her readers which is both exciting and humbling and also (at times) a pain in the ass.

What’s the hardest challenge you’ve faced with social media?

I write a lot about a few topics: My kids and family, sexuality, stories about experiences here in Israel, the mishaps and the miracles of living here. I write in a very personal style and I take seriously the intimacy that comes between my reader and me.

When I write about abuse, I hear from women who have suffered terribly. When I write about abortion, I hear from women who want to share their story. When I write about conflict vis-a-vis Israel and Palestine, I hear from people with strong opinions, too.

I’ve also made the choice to open a window on my Facebook wall into my life — I share pictures of my rolling green fields outside my house, I share pictures of my kids (although I’ve stopped doing that as much now that they’re older) I share glimpses into my life — my hopes, my dreams. So when I write a blog or an article, it isn’t just the narrative — there’s also the person behind it.

This has been amazing in many ways, because I connect with my readers, but it’s also left me vulnerable to attack. I’ve been called “bitch” and “Nazi.” My parenting decisions have been criticized. My FASHION decisions have been criticized. People can be really mean. And dollars to donuts, if I were a man, people would NOT make these kinds of comments.

This has not stopped me in any way, shape, or form — in fact, it’s been a catalyst for being even more outspoken.

How do you handle criticism you get when sharing on social media?

I really try to listen. Mostly, the “criticism” isn’t really criticism. It’s name calling, and it’s counter productive, and frankly, it’s from people whose hate I welcome. What do I mean by that? I mean that the people who say really nasty things are not people I care about — in fact, if I DIDN’T piss these people off, I would worry about my own moral core. They’re bullies. Worse, many of them are bigots.

But sometimes — and this is why it’s important to keep listening — people have said things to me that become great teachable moments where I reevaluate my stance on an issue. And while it’s seldom my opinion changes, sometimes I realize that I may have been a bit strident or shrill. And sometimes, I do realize I was wrong. And then I apologize. Publicly. And quickly.

That’s one of the most important things about social media — if you want to be taken seriously and if you want to create a genuine conversation with your readers, you have to be accountable. And authentic. And when I mess up, I will say so quickly and succinctly and try to learn from my mistakes.

Can you share one good experience you had with an article you wrote and shared using social media?

Ohhhh SOOOOO many — I’ve had women tell me that the article I wrote about my abusive ex-boyfriend encouraged them to leave their abusive partners. I’ve had Israelis and Palestinians connect over the comments on articles I’ve written and have genuine discussions. I’ve been able to share my perspective as a mother in Israel and help people abroad understand what it’s like to live under rocket fire. When I’ve written about my mom dying, I’ve been able to connect with people who knew and loved her, and I’ve even managed to find a long lost friend of hers who lives in Israel. Despite some of the pangs that come with using social media that I described earlier, I am so grateful to it.

What are some of your favorite tools you use for social media and journalism?

Facebook for sure — because you can write a lot and connect with an array of people. Twitter is fun, but I like to write a lot and 140 characters or less is challenging. Periscope is my new favorite — it’s a live-broadcast tool that lets you film something and share it immediately. I had an amazing experience using Periscope recently — I was on a rooftop overlooking Jerusalem that connects the four quarters of the Old City, and I filmed the view, and people from all over the world came on and typed wonderful questions to me about God, and religion, and Israel /Palestine, and I got to share my perspective and read theirs. It’s fun — you should totally try it. It’s not a tool you use to drive traffic to an article, but it’s a great way to be a little more three dimensional on social media.

Have you used Start A Fire? If yes, can you share your thoughts and results?

I think Start A Fire is a wonderful platform — a great way to link the personality of the journalist and the articles. The Start a Fire team is doing a wonderful job, and I’m excited to be an early user!

You can follow Sarah & her stories on Facebook.


Originally published at blog.startafire.com on June 6, 2016.

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