Newsroom inspirations

Getting personal with your readers and getting more views

One of the first lessons any reporter learns in Journalism 101 is to remain objective. But in the social media age, some of the most successful stories are those found in the Life or Human Interest sections where things can get a little personal.

After recounting his son’s first surf lesson in  HANGIN’ 10 Intro to surfing a delight for my autistic boy… and his teacher, reporter Greg Sullivan of The Herald News saw a spike in Facebook views. Here, he and Editor-in-Chief Lynne Sullivan of The Herald News discuss how to craft an excellent personal narrative and get the attention your story deserves.

What inspired you to share this experience with your readers?

GS: “To be brutally honest, it was at the suggestion of my wife – Editor-in-Chief Lynne Sullivan. She has written much about autism in our newspaper. In fact she won an award a few years back for an autism series. When she suggested the first-person, I thought it might be a good idea. I was hesitant writing about my own son. Would doing the first-person piece be akin to inviting folks over to the house and making them watch your home movies? But I’ve forced a lot of first person – in smaller bites – on our readership in my columns, with mostly positive reaction.”

Was it easy to write a piece with your family as the subject?

GS: “Yes. Like any decent or above-decent parent, I like to talk about my family and the interesting things that happen to them. This was just talking to the readers.”

Do you have any tips for reporters who are trying to write a little more personally in their work?

GS: “Can’t say if this is good advice for everyone, but … Just let it rip. Don’t overthink it. From the heart, with a little brain mixed in.”

The story is getting a good buzz on Facebook with dozens of likes and plenty of shares. What kind of promoting did you do to make sure it got attention on the web?

GS: “Aside from posting on the Herald News website, I tweeted and FB posted on both my own page and the Herald News Now [Facebook] page. I found skywriting prices a bit high and scrapped that idea.”

As an editor, Lynn was strategic in using some of Facebook and Twitter’s sharing features, such as user tagging. Her efforts paid off in a matter of hours.

LS: “I tagged a bunch of the common autism activist groups and even a few autism surfing groups …  Facebook told me this morning that this post was performing better than 90 percent of our posts.”

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