How Washington Post Editors Use Social

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Everyone is a publisher in today’s Internet-based, social-driven world. Anyone, anywhere can start a conversation or contribute to a trending topic.

So how are traditional media outlets breaking through in the age of infobesity?

By shifting gears to keep up with their readers.

As part of the Cision Connects event series, four top editors from The Washington Post came together to discuss this changing state of the media

Ann GerhartAmanda EricksonAllison Michaels and Terri Rupar spoke about everything from 2016 presidential election coverage to what a “typical” day looks like. Here’s a glimpse at what they had to say about social media’s role in the newsroom:


All four editors touched on how they use social to monitor public opinion and decide on story angles.

“It’s not so different from what you all [as communication and marketing professionals] have to do,” says Ann, senior editor-at-large for the paper. “You have to distinguish your brand. What we’re trying to do is be consistent in our ‘brand’ and make sure we’re adding something, which you can’t find anywhere else.”

Social has forced the the paper to rethink its coverage too. “It gives us an ability to see much more quickly what our readers are talking about,” says Ann.

After presidential debates, for example, the digital team uses Snapchat to create Stories correcting any inaccurate statistics or false claims.



Ann admits to using social media quite frequently for story ideas.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean she relies on social sources alone. She suggests old-fashioned pitching techniques like calling and having a cup of coffee for those representing the government, a non-profit or other organization within the district.

“If I get someone in the government calling, I always call back. Frankly no one seems to do that anymore, so it’s not as crowded as you think,” she continues. “This is a town that is based on relationships.”


Deputy digital editor Allison Michaels discusses how the digital team strives to put its stories right in the palm of readers’ hands. “Our approach is to personalize these stories for the platforms they’re on,” she says. The Washington Post disseminates its stories on traditional platforms like Facebook and Twitter, but has also added newer social platforms like its Apple Watch app.

National digital editor Terri Rupar adds, “Our Twitter followers may not be the same people sitting on the website waiting for live updates.”

“Facebook is the best way our pieces get shared,” says Amanda Erickson, assistant editor of PostEverything.

Allison also highlights the importance of tracking social engagement when building out stories. “When there’s a thirst for more information on social, we’ll write a follow-up story.”

But what worked yesterday might not work again tomorrow as The Washington Post quickly found out last year. When the White House decided to publish President Obama’s State of the Union Address on Medium before he started speaking, social users had something to talk about before the president went on live TV.

“Previously, we’d have that up for people who could Google it the next morning,” says Allison. “Now, we had to figure our new role, which led to the collaboration with Genius.



Image via Cision

Tags : social media

About Katie Gaab

Katie Gaab is a content marketing specialist for Cision. Previously the senior editor for Help A Reporter Out (HARO), she enjoys connecting audiences to exciting, new content. She's a dancer, avid concert-goer, foreign language nerd and book worm. Find her on Twitter @kathryngaab.

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