The do’s and don’ts of reporting via Facebook Live

Originally published on Burnt Q Tumblr

By Samantha Reichstein

And we’re live in 3….2….1!


In the world of broadcast journalism, these words accompany bright lights, a camera crew and reporters greeting a broadcast with the latest headlines of the hour. While this still exists as a normality in the news world, social media provides a new outlet to the field, providing a variety of perspectives through digital platforms.

This past Friday, The University of Texas at Austin’s Moody College of Communication hosted a social media summit, inviting those that work in the print, television and online fields of journalism to speak about various social media skills in panel and discussion-designed sessions. One in particular focused on the rise of Facebook Live, a social media platform changing the face of news organizations, and allowing a different perspective for storytelling that engages with audiences in real time.

So I’m here to give you the 4-1-1 to make sure your first Facebook Live post hits maximum engagement and minimum scrutiny. Following these tricks from the live-streaming discussion, you’ll be a pro in no time. And by pro we mean slightly-shaky visuals with decent audio … this is Facebook Live we are talking about!


DO go live if it builds up to a moment



If you go live on Facebook, but nobody interacts with the post, does it really count? It’s important for journalists to take a step back and make sure what they choose to go out and report on are things others would choose to watch and engage with. Some of the best examples include showing an audience activities they may not be able to do in the moment but still wish to experience, such as the Houston Chronicle’s Facebook Live post featuring a reporter sliding down the newest water-coaster ride in the city


DON’T depend on newsroom conversations for coverage



Facebook Live is exciting because it is different than the norm. Why go through the extra-effort of tuning into a live broadcast when you can just watch the same thing on TV later that day? Depending on talking heads for coverage is boring and usually unenthusiastic. While those in the newsroom are the most up-to-date on many of these newsworthy topics, few wish to watch these kinds of broadcasts on new-age social media platforms.

DO think about your initial shot



Many hiccups can occur throughout the Facebook Live process, but one you have full control of is deciding which shot begins your video. For the Dallas Morning News, this worked in their favor during their live coverage of the ‘Cocks not Glocks’ protest on UT’s campus. The initial shot? A girl waving something not necessarily rated PG. “We decided to stand behind it, but we did not think of the auto play. It is hard to think about the moment you start out with,” said Amanda Wilkins. Did this jarring image create more engagement and lead to the coverage’s viral phenomenon? Absolutely! But as journalists, we must weigh the pro’s and con’s of ethical conflicts like these, and determine if our decisions reflect newsworthy content.

DON’T be afraid of minimal equipment



Reporters don’t have time (or necessarily need) to grab microphones and set up tripods when in a dash to report via Facebook Live. The Dallas Morning News team learned this first-hand with their Facebook Live footage of the police shootings that occurred this past July. “It was a messy video with no production, but it was real,” said Managing Editor Robyn Tomlin. It may seem scary going out with just a pair of headphones and a charged iPhone, but capturing real events in real time requires minimal equipment.

DO try things out of the box… with some pre-planning



Facebook Live is meant to showcase ordinary events in an extraordinary way, so if an idea comes to you that may seem outside the newsroom norm, this platform may be the solution! However, many warn that reporting completely “on the fly” could present some problems. Try and plan at least some staging of how you want your video to look to a live audience, including visual techniques and reporting strategies, such as a selfie-stick or the hand-held approach. Even the smallest details you can kink out before hitting “record” can make all the difference

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