Atlanta News Directors Talk Social Media


The News Directors at the Atlanta TV stations gathered for an Atlanta Press Club Newsmakers luncheon to talk about social media. 

The Atlanta Journal Constitution writes that while 11 Alive, CBS Atlanta and Channel 2 Action News were on the dais at the Commerce Club, Fox 5'sMike McClain couldn't make it. (His assistant news director and former CBS Atlanta news director Eric Ludgood sat in the audience.)

The topic this time: social media's impact on TV news. The conclusion: digital and TV operations are increasingly integrated, a necessity to reach viewers who might not otherwise watch their news programming. They all believe wise use of social media drives people to their TV sets or digital streams.

11 Alive's news director Ellen Crooke showed the most enthusiasm, which is reflected in their newscasts.

"Any journalist who doesn't do social media isn't worth their salt," she told a sold-out crowd. "It's all part of what we do. It's integrated into everything we do. It's the future of who we are. It's who we are now."

Crooke, who joined WXIA-TV in 2008, said it's necessary to jump on the latest technologies. "We have to embrace every new thing," she said. "We are on Instagram and Vine. That allows us to speak to people. Some things will be a fad. Some things won't. When TV first started, it was the cool kids... We'll ruin our industry if we don't have that innovative feeling."

To be sure, social media bears risk, she said, adding,  "I always feel like I'm 140 characters away from getting fired!"

Lane Michaelsen, news director at CBS Atlanta, professed more caution. "We have to pick what we do and do it well," he said. "If we're all things to all platforms, what's the quality in that?"

Channel 2 Action News' Mike Dreaden, who became news director last year after 12 years as managing editor, said there has to be people in the newsroom watching social media trends. At the same time, he said he doesn't want obsession over social media to take away from the main product. "A great TV newscast still needs to be a great TV newscast," he said. " You don't want it to become something difference."

The school shooting earlier this week, Crooke said, reflected her station's integration efforts, where they were able to pick up viewers' concerns in real time and address them on the air.

Dreaden at Channel 2 said live streaming was so popular Tuesday that he said it was equal to three ratings points, a significant viewership. "I was blown away by that," he said. Those online viewers watching Channel 2 Actions on their iPad or iPhone aren't  measured by Nielsen yet but he said they will eventually.