Ruud Questions: Anna Gonzalez (from News 8 Austin)

Following Anna on Twitter I became intrigued by what it was she was doing. In this interview she shares how she helps evolve a TV-straight-to-web production line into a standalone news platform that works with the TV side of things. Underlining the value of social media and social networks she says that sharing information is a form of activism " but is also realistically hesitant to sent people offsite.

You're the senior web producer at News 8 Austin.

What should we picture for that function? Webmaster? Writer? Editor? What is it that you do?

I oversee the running of the site.

This is a new position for the station, and I believe a relatively new position in the industry.

Over the last two years, I've had the opportunity to tour stations around the US. What I've found is a lot of managers ready to admit they are unsure of how to utilize the station's web site. "We need someone to lead the station," they would say. But they would struggle between hiring a veteran journalist (seven to ten  years of experience) or someone new who "gets it." Thankfully the News 8 managers and I shared a common vision.

my job
to turn
the site into
another news platform
If you visit today, you'll notice there are opportunities for growth in all areas. My job is to head up the development - not the technical side but the content.

I work with three other producers. Before I arrived, the web producers were copy editors and the site was a place to archive everything you saw on TV. The social media accounts were automated - if updated at all.

My job is to harness the energy of the news room and turn the site into another news platform. Every day I see it grow with the help and feedback of every single person in the news room. As it turned out, everyone "gets it," there just wasn't a person to see the ideas through.

I can't tell you how ecstatic I am to work with an entire team of people excited about the future of online news and who want to be a part of this development.

I also oversee editorial content and I write content. I have raised the bar for web producers and shown them how to tell a story from a multimedia perspective. They have in turn surpassed the bar I set, creating web exclusive content as well as content for television producers.

I also work with a talented flash developer on creating interactive elements to enhance stories.

My goals for this year are to bring my team of web producers up to the title of multimedia content producers who are trusted sources in the news room and to increase interactively on all levels of the site and on the newscast.

When you say that you want to strengthen the relation between television and web content, what do you mean? How does that ideally look to you?

I'm always pointing to two spaces in the air, drawing a circle between the two and saying, "this is what I mean by the TV/ web relationship - it's like the circle of life (as cheesey as that sounds). One platform feeds the other."

I am constantly asking:

  • What resources can the reporter give the viewer online that they couldn't give on air (like links and numbers or extra content)?
  • What extra elements are online and how can we create dynamic on-air content to entice the viewer to go check them out?
  • When web producers create web-only content, what can we give to the television producers?
  • How can we take viewer interaction online and broadcast it on TV?
  • How can the reporter's televised story be enhanced by the text and not just a transcript of the story they produced?

Basically, the two should compliment each other and the people producing the content on both sides should think about both platforms in telling the story. Sometimes that means having two people work on one story to do it justice.

In my blog post Working Breaking News Via BlackBerry I also talk about the importance of having a web producer on the scene of major news  events to deliver a complete story.

Is "citizen journalism" today what callers to the tip line were before?

I think it's deeper than that.

People have the opportunity to help professional journalists, which changes the way we tell the story.

I've been excited about inviting the viewer into our territory for the last five years, but what I've come to understand is that in many cases, technology isn't readily available to stations. Not every local news site can provide what social media sites do.

Yes, we can harness them, but you're sending people away from your site. Should that matter? No -- but it still does in our competitive environment. Thankfully, sites like Flickr, CoveritLive and YouTube allow you to embed that content, so that sometimes is the answer.

People were initially scared of bloggers and citizen journalist, saying they just don't understand the integrity of the profession. Sites like Twitter have proven the audience will correct false information quickly. I've learned We must always have an editor, and having multiple voices to contribute to a story can only enhance our mission of delivering relevant information.

You and you and your husband produce digital content. Digital content is easy to reproduce, to take away, to steal. Where is this going? How can you, or how can the news station you work at, continue to produce content that is immediately taken and (re)used by others without any monetary benefit to yourself?

Honesty, in all the videos I produce, I'm reaching for an experience. I want to blow it up on a screen and see if I inspire others. I love mash ups, and remixes and don't worry about money.

It pains me to see someone use my content under their name. I'm still territorial - I want credit where its due and do the same for others.

As for the station, I believe all stations should make their video embeddable. The content we produce is like music and art - we get paid for it and it shouldn't be stolen. But you can reach a wider audience by at least having it embeddable on other sites.

It's hard to answer questions like "what do you think will happen" -- so instead let's ask; what do you think should happen on the web, in social media, social networking?

We're all still growing up together in this industry, aren't we?

Social media and social networks are evolving and so is the way we interact with other people.

Sharing information is a form of activismWe said, "social media should do more good!" And we answered the call when we were needed. Mashable reported the Red Cross raised one million dollars in aid money for Haiti through ten dollar donations made via text message.

We said we wanted more people to interact and not remain anonymous and behind their computer screen. More people started having meet ups and tweet ups.

We want social media to get to know us and recommend things from books to friends; the tech is there.

Now I want social media to make us money.

The web should remain free, and valuable content producers should be paid. News8 is thankfully supported by a successful television business model based on subscribers (we are owned by a cable provider). But there are other important voices not being heard and content not being produced because we can't figure out a way to support the content makers.

The purpose of the information produced daily on the web is to create informational content and entertaining content that's easy to share with others.

Sharing information is a form of activism.

About the Author: Ruud Hein

My paid passion at Search Engine People sees me applying my passions and knowledge to a wide array of problems, ones I usually experience as challenges. People who know me know I love coffee.

Ruud Hein

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