At KQED Public Radio’s The California Report in San Francisco, part of my job is to connect with communities across California and find diverse voices talking about community health issues for our airwaves. While on-the-ground outreach is the ideal way to build relationships with sources, it’s impossible for one person to embed herself in all of California’s 58 counties.
That’s where social media comes in. Tools like Twitter, LinkedIn and social media networks has helped me find a wide range of voices, as well as follow conversations in my health beat. At Health Journalism 2013, I did a presentation with Dori J. Maynard, the President of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education in Oakland, Calif., (follow her at @TeamMije and @djmaynard) on how to navigate Twitter and LinkedIn to find sources. We started with Twitter.
Reporters should follow individuals and organizations that serve diverse populations (need some Twitter 101? Check AHCJ’s tip sheets here and here, Twitter’s Help Center, Mediabistro, and Mashabable’s video tutorial). Follow ethnic media in your coverage area. Also, think outside traditional “health” box. Don’t just follow health organizations and media – think about arts groups, youth groups or theater groups in the regions you are covering. For example, I follow Cornerstone Theater Company, a community theater group in downtown Los Angeles. The staff has since connected me with various community members who have been affected by community health issues on everything from trying to get access to health care as a homeless person in Skid Row, to preventing gun violence in South LA.
But if you’re following hundreds (or even thousands) of people on Twitter, it can be hard to keep up with the conversations. That’s where creating Twitter “streams” can be useful. There are a number of third-party social media sites you can use to create streams – I use Hootsuite.com (here’s a link on how to create streams in Hootsuite).
These streams allow you to follow different conversations using hashtags, Twitter lists, and search terms. For example, a stream with the hashtag #Latism and the search term ‘health’ provides a window into health-related conversations from, or about, Latino communities in real time.
Twitter lists, on the other hand, are a list of individuals or organizations you follow on Twitter that you have personally added to that groups. For example, my Twitter feed @skalantari has a group called “California health professionals,” and another list called, “diverse health groups.”
Here are some other Twitter tools worth looking into:
We also talked about how to use advanced search function in LinkedIn to find voices for stories. Buying the pro version makes this tool more powerful (but I’m happy with the free one). An attendee at the panel also recommended looking into the LinkedIn for Journalists training program for your newsrooms.The advanced search engine allows you to search LinkedIn profiles by ZIP code, language, industry, search terms, and more; combined they can be a very useful tool. I provided the example of searching for somebody who can talk about issues surrounding breast cancer treatment and prevention among Bay Area Latino communities. Our newsrooms already has a lot of great sources who could speak on this subject, but new sources are always welcome. I typed in the keywords “breast cancer,” indicating I was looking for Spanish speakers, and searched within 75 miles of a ZIP code in San Francisco.
And the results:
From the list of 23 people in the search results, I found a Spanish speaking public health nurse in San Mateo County who is a part of the part of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses and has worked on breast cancer issues for a community health clinic primarily serving Spanish-speakers.