Durhams spoke yesterday to my JOUR 4953 seminar class on how media report on political campaigns and local, state and national elections. The veteran journalist told the students he has three primary jobs: 1) helping to post breaking news on JSOnline; 2) guiding the newsroom in its use of Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc., and 3) looking for new ways – think Pinterest! – the paper can use social media to further its storytelling and expand its online audience. "The fun thing about my job is it shifts – because every six months the technology changes," he said.
The North Carolina native also shared how social media helped the Journal Sentinel beat its state and national competition during the huge protests against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's budget cuts last year. "Social media ... taught us that we had to beyond traditional sources to get the news," Durhams said. At the same time, he said, it's important that reporters and editors never allow social media to supersede normal journalism ethics or values.
As much as he enjoys his work, Durhams knows it may not last forever given that social media will soon become second nature for most journalists. He put this way: "It's almost like, 'Do we need a telephone editor? Do we need to teach people how to use the telephone? Well, at least for awhile, we will."
"Great speaker today," James Scotton, who is co-teaching the course with me, said afterward. "Very valuable and the class obviously loved him." Yes, they did. Hoping that Durhams will return this semester to talk more about how the Journal Sentinel is using blogging, Storify and other social media as part of its election coverage.