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. Continue reading