Additional social media buzz needed

Stay TunedSince the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting tragedy was the talk of America in December, it was not hard to get St. Louis area residents to tweet and Facebook their thoughts for a new public affairs program — “Stay Tuned.”

The discussion about the tragedy and protecting children has become the most volatile topic on the social-media enabled discussion series. The series was created as a partnership between Donald W. Reynolds Fellow Kent Collins and the Nine Network (KETC) of St. Louis. Collins is also a faculty chair for Radio-Television Journalism at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The goal of the series is to create a new genre of public affairs television using social media to expand the public forum. In order for the partnership to be successful, the public forum will need to be expanded for topics both controversial and “quiet,” said Collins.

The Sandy Hook discussion “Our Kids,” did not rehash the details of the tragedy, but instead explored services and processes to protect potential victims and to identify potential risks. Watch the episode here.

Discussion also centered on helping people, especially children, who suffer from mental disorders that might trigger violent actions. There was little talk about gun control.

The broadcast included interviews with experts, journalists and citizens via Google Plus Hangouts, a video chat program. Viewers then had the opportunity to share their thoughts and opinions via Facebook and Twitter.

“Stay Tuned:” Giving a voice to the voiceless

Kent CollinsSo far, social media interaction on the series has been in direct relation to the volatility and timeliness of the subject manner. Participants have tweeted or joined the Facebook conversation to complain, offer a fix or agree/disagree with others joining in on the conversation.

The program has reached some who probably have never connected to the media before, said Collins.

“The key to the collaboration is to give voice to the citizens who have mostly been voiceless since the end of the colonial era townhall meetings and the development of mass media, which often deals only with officials, experts and eyewitnesses,” said Collins.

One such participant was an individual who had dropped out of high school. The girl didn’t have a computer or Internet connections at home to participate in a live video chat, but wanted to share her story.

“She took a bus at nine o’clock at night from her home to the TV station to appear live on the program to talk about her experience in a GED project,” said Collins.

Producers were able to reach her through a community organization that provides GED preparation. The Nine Network has established broad and deep connections with organizations in the St. Louis region that span cultural and social aspects of the community. These organizations have helped KETC find participants for the program.

“I think we’ve all been delighted about how quickly those organizations have jumped into the discussion,” said Collins.

The next step

The next step for the series will be finding new ways to intensify the social media buzz.

“We want the messages to be sent out that will be retweeted and resent deeper and deeper into the community,” said Collins.

One challenge will be reaching out to those who are not connected to social media. However, with the proliferation of social media use on public computers, this could help with the expansion of the public forum.

Collins and MU graduate student Kellie Stanfield have compiled a list of tips for television stations wishing to utilize Google Plus Hangouts in a public affairs or news program.

Jennifer Nelson-Pallikkathayil  
Senior Information Specialist


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