Detroit News Anchor Realizes How Twitter Has Changed How He Engages With Viewers

from the silverfish-hand-catch! dept

One of the key points we tried to hammer home at our Techdirt Saves* Journalism event in June was the importance of realizing that news organizations are really in the business of building community. So many in the news business focus on the belief that they're in the "news" business, but that's never really been the case. The news has always been the piece that brings together a community (and the business of a news organization has usually been to then sell that community's attention to advertisers). The biggest problem that news organizations face these days isn't scary "news aggregators," but that there are now many, many, many other communities that people can join, and most of them treat their members a lot better. Many traditional news organizations, in contrast, seem to have a rather condescending view on "community." They lock up comments, they complain about readers, and they focus on just delivering the news, not engaging with their community or enabling their community to do anything useful.

Thankfully, that's not true of all news organizations (or individuals within news organizations). More and more are recognizing this important point, even if they do so in unexpected ways. krharrison points us to a great block post from Stephen Clark, a newscaster for a local Detroit TV station, about his realization of how Twitter is changing the way he relates to the community of folks who watch the news:
As I've reported in this blog before I have had a very long one-sided relationship with the people who watch my newscasts. I talk, they listen. If they had something to say to me they yelled it at the TV screen like Don Quixote tilting at windmills. Twitter changed all that. I can now hear you and I can now answer you...

I can't speak for the dozens of people who check in regularly every night... sometimes at 6 or 7:00.. but mostly 11:00. I don't know exactly what they get out of it except a kind of cool experience of actually conversing in real time with the guy on TV. But I can tell you what I get out of it. For the first time in years I actually feel like I'm talking to someone rather than at them. Frankly it's energizing!
Of course, the next step is to go beyond just talking "to" them and to talking "with" them. But that will come. In fact, getting to that point, Clark explains an amusing way that the community tried to connect with him, picking up on the recent Old Spice commercial meme of "Silverfish Hand Catch!", where some of his viewers started saying that if 100 people retweeted the request, Clark would close the broadcast by saying the line on TV. He didn't get the 100 retweets, and admits that he wouldn't have said it anyways (noting he probably would have lost his job), but he did do an "air" silverfish hand catch surreptitiously, to let folks know he was paying attention.

But, much more interesting was the realization he had while all of this was happening:
It was all a bit silly sure, but I realized something else was going on. The audience of our 11:00 newscast wasn't just talking to me... they were talking to each other! I felt like Alexander Graham Bell when he made his first call to Watson. The backchannel worked!
I know that many folks around here still like to mock and dismiss communications tools like Twitter, but many people are realizing what powerful tools they are for conversations and for building communities where none really existed before. And, in businesses where community and relationships are everything, that's quite powerful for those who figure it out.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jul 30th, 2010 @ 7:00pm

    Well then

    At least someone gets it.

    Good on Stephen Clark. I predict big things for him (although maybe not in the broadcast media gig.)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2010 @ 9:17pm

    "I know that many folks around here still like to mock and dismiss communications tools like Twitter, but many people are realizing what powerful tools they are for conversations and for building communities where none really existed before."

    Looks at the article, about egging people on to say “Silverfish Hand Catch." Indeed we shall bow down to the Twitter Gods and take back our words! How dare we mock such a communication medium!

    “Silverfish Hand Catch!"
    “Silverfish Hand Catch!"
    “Silverfish Hand Catch!"
    THIS is the FUTURE of communication!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 1st, 2010 @ 12:35am

      Re:

      Looks at the article, about egging people on to say “Silverfish Hand Catch." Indeed we shall bow down to the Twitter Gods and take back our words! How dare we mock such a communication medium!

      I would suggest not mistaking the message for what's actually happening. It might make you look foolish. Yes, in this case the specific message was silly, but it would be a huge foolish mistake to ignore what the underlying capabilities mean.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2010 @ 9:15am

        Re: Re:

        What message, that a cult of low IQ personality can attract a rabid low-IQ following? Color me unimpressed, still. If there's any other message presented here, you haven't done a very good job outlining it.

        If you watch the newscast of this twitter broadcaster, they still have the exact same condescending tone they've had for 40+ years. They talk down to the viewer, they make inane jokes irrelevant to the subject, they cover sports and weather for the majority of their broadcast? Fucking insulting, is what it is. Twitter did nothing but keep people engaged to the droll of passive media. Maybe that will last another 10, 20 years?

        Look, I'm impressed with the Internet as a communications medium, but never any singular commercial entity like Twitter, Facebook, even Google. This isn't progress to engage as a customer of these entities, putting our data on a private service. Who knows what is happening with the mined data? Who knows how this can bite you back? They simply don't have your interests at heart. The Internet is neutral. For now (and I'm not worried if it wasn't, there will be ways around its bias anyway.)

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          icon
          Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 1st, 2010 @ 9:43am

          Re: Re: Re:

          What message, that a cult of low IQ personality can attract a rabid low-IQ following?

          When you say something as pedantic, uninformed and downright idiotic as that, it's obvious that you are not interested in learning and live only to put down that which you do not understand.

          Good luck to you.

          If you watch the newscast of this twitter broadcaster, they still have the exact same condescending tone they've had for 40+ years.

          Spoken like someone who simply cannot comprehend dynamic spaces. Give it time.

          They talk down to the viewer, they make inane jokes irrelevant to the subject, they cover sports and weather for the majority of their broadcast? Fucking insulting, is what it is

          To you, perhaps, but you seem to be ignoring the actual conversation that is happening on that back channel. It's actually allowed for a segmenting of the market that was not possible before.

          Look, I'm impressed with the Internet as a communications medium, but never any singular commercial entity like Twitter, Facebook, even Google.

          Again, do not mistake the specific medium for the message. This is not about "Twitter" the commercial service. If Twitter were to go away tomorrow, you can bet this would live on.

          This isn't progress to engage as a customer of these entities, putting our data on a private service. Who knows what is happening with the mined data? Who knows how this can bite you back? They simply don't have your interests at heart.

          What does that have to do with anything? If you want to be a paranoid freak, that's your decision, but don't mock others for doing useful things with the technology just because you can't comprehend it.

          People said similar things about the telephone when it came out.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            identicon
            Christopher Taylor, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 8:55am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I'd suggest you dial down the condescension and consider what's being said. Sure, he's getting interaction with his viewers, but it isn't substantive interaction. There's no growth or dialog here, no increase of intelligence or learning. Its just entertainment-driven interaction, like MTV's scrolling "dude I love this song" nonsense they used to run. This isn't some important phenomenon, its kids passing notes and the news anchor is vapid enough to take that as monmentally impressive.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              icon
              Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 5th, 2010 @ 2:39pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Sure, he's getting interaction with his viewers, but it isn't substantive interaction. There's no growth or dialog here, no increase of intelligence or learning. Its just entertainment-driven interaction

              How do you know that?

              And, even if it is the case (and it's not, actually, if you look) how do you know it doesn't morph into something more substantive over time.

              like MTV's scrolling "dude I love this song" nonsense they used to run

              That was one way. This is multi-way (viewer to newscaser, newscaster to viewers and -- most importantly -- viewers to viewers). It's worth understanding why that's important.

              Dismissing it as "kids passing notes" is wrong. Pay attention.

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Eric Brown, Jul 31st, 2010 @ 5:05am

    Stephen Clark

    Unlike my parents, our evening ritual doesn't include watching the 11:00 news before going to bed at night. However, Stephen has put a spin on things, as I now participate in his twitter hash tag #BackChannel, and the really wild thing is this, If I had something newsworthy to contribute, he IS listening and would respond, in real time, because he has.

    When have we the "people" ever been able to have such an open and harmonious communication, it is a really cool time we are in, and hats off to Stephen Clark and Channel 7 WXYZ for pushing the envelope,

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jul 31st, 2010 @ 12:03pm

      Re: Stephen Clark

      The people have had this capability for a while now, the interesting thing is we've just made the middleman (newscasters) basically irrelevant. Who likes being spoken to in a condescending way like most mainstream American Media does?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Charlie Wollborg, Jul 31st, 2010 @ 7:57am

    The Interactive Anchor

    I had the opportunity to go behind the scenes with Stephen Clark's backchannel newscast. I posted my report here:
    http://bit.ly/9YoZDk

    I also got him to say "Silverfish Hand Catch!" on camera. Here's the evidence:
    http://youtu.be/1vtgNsXWY-U

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    sue, Aug 1st, 2010 @ 10:45am

    newscasters tweeting

    This is fantastic news about Stephen Clark. I'm going to tell you a story about a CNN reporter. :)

    I recently was watching Ali Velshi's newscast and noticed he was reporting something about unemployment. Since my site, http://iget2work.com deals with tracking unemployed people, providing info, humor and stories about unemployment, i started by responding twice to an unemployment question he posed on his twitter account. In 24 hours, he didn't respond & I believe only about 2 people responded to his question. So there wasn't much activity or energy going TWO WAYS there! It all seemed rather ONE WAY.

    I dm'd a few of my loyal, wonderful followers (i have around 28k followers) to tweet Ali about iGet2Work. They did. All in their own words with great support. Mr. Velshi thought it was spam and for the first time responded to us! However, he responded in what one follower called a 'nasty gram'.

    This apparently inflamed some more of my follwers and people (unprodded by me) stepped up and, in effect, tried to school him about what twitter is. It seems that his attitude has changed a little bit about what twitter might be for him. He only has around 12k followers vs. about half a million for anderson cooper. Maybe someone will show him this article and he will absorb the many ways that newscasters are LOVING using twitter~!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    darryl, Aug 1st, 2010 @ 12:41pm

    News is about News, not 'community, or touchy, feely crap..

    importance of realizing that news organizations are really in the business of building community.

    I thought they were in the business of providing the NEWS..

    People watch the news to find out what is happending in the world, and what the weather is going to be like the next day.

    What community ? a community between the news announcer and YOU... wow.... great.. that will help.

    What is this new and amazing 'community' going to do to improve the quality of the news ?
    NOTHING..

    News is about 'community'.. haha.. RIGHT.. thats funny.

    So out of the millions of viewers watch, less than 20 talked to him.. failure..

    But 7 points for trying..


    (btw: in australia, every news program, and news and current affair programs, have facebook, twitter, and phone texting services for viewer feedback..)

    WE've been doing it for years. :) here in Australia.

    It is nice to see that the US is slowing catching up on these things.

    we even have viewer comments on a banner, during the program. Do you guys have that?
    Direct and real time feedback to the news as it happens ?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Patrik, Aug 2nd, 2010 @ 10:27am

      Re: News is about News, not 'community, or touchy, feely crap..

      "we even have viewer comments on a banner, during the program. Do you guys have that?
      Direct and real time feedback to the news as it happens ?"

      Of course we do. Even Nickolodeon and MTV do it, since the late 80s. This sort of thing was done long before the internet was vogue. MTV ran viewer comments on Valentine's day back as far as '93 at least, and the show TRL was pretty much based around the premise of instant viewer feedback and banners.

      And yes, every news organization (or product, or ice cream stand, even some homeless people) belongs to all the requisite network sites. Even our fake newscasters like Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart have accounts. You're missing the point of the article: people aren't communicating with the news programs--that's always been easy--people are communicating directly with the newscaster.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2010 @ 10:04pm

    people still use twitter?????

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This