Chuck Williams: Old dogs, new tricks and social media

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.comJanuary 6, 2014 

Social media has changed every thing -- top to bottom and even the stuff in the middle.

Flashback to 2008.

The Ledger-Enquirer editor at the time, Ben Holden, had just returned from a conference. He held a meeting to tell the staff what he had learned.

Over 30 years in journalism, it was just another meeting. Knowing what I know today, I should have paid better attention. Holden's message was "change was coming." Truth is, change was already here, the newspaper industry was just slow to embrace it.

I remember walking out of that meeting and asking another editor what I could do to get with the program. When it comes to technology, I have never been an obstructionist, but I have also admittedly lacked some of the skills and interest to be really good at it.

That editor told me to get on Facebook. My response was something like, "Isn't that what my kids are doing?"

Yes it was.

That night I went home and logged into Facebook. Immediately these people from my past flooded back into the present wanting to be my friend. It was a strange world -- still is in many ways.

Today I have more than 2,500 Facebook friends and use it almost hourly. It is the first thing I check in the morning, and the last thing I check before going to bed.

It is where I wish people happy birthday, find out who is pregnant, who has had a child and who is changing jobs.

It is where I discuss sporting events -- in real time.

It is where I keep up with all four of my children. Don't get me wrong, we still talk, but the day-to-day stuff that is important shows up.

It also where I link the stories I write for this newspaper. And it is where I generally get the first reaction to my work. People will comment on it. Sometimes they will share it with others on their news feeds. Facebook shares of Ledger-Enquirer online content are a good thing. They mean more people are clicking and reading.

Not long after Facebook, I jumped on Twitter, which I also use regularly. As an old sports copy desk guy, Twitter is wonderful. I treat it like a wire service. I can decide what comes into my feed and get the kinds of information I want.

In the last year, Twitter has become important for my job because federal Judge Clay Land has allowed us to tweet out of his courtroom. That gets information to interested people as quickly as possible. It also makes a journalist's job harder and easier at the same time. You have to get it right, and you have to get it quick -- 140 characters at a time.

In the last week, I have been using Twitter and Facebook a lot at the BCS national championship game. Even though I am all the way across the country, it is almost like I didn't leave,

It is all about connection -- and maybe old dogs and new tricks.

Chuck Williams, senior editor for content, chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.com.

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