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An Interview with Ed Walker

Ed Walker is an online communities editor at Media Wales and the founder of Blog Preston. He was one of the speaker at yesterday’s panel discussion “The news frontier: engaging the community”.

Do you have community managers who are staying constantly in touch with your readers or you rely mainly on your journalists?

My background is as a journalist. I still report news for the website and I do the community stuff alongside it. To me they go together. These days you can’t be just a journalist – find the story, write it and publish it. Now you have to be engaged with your community. The people who drive most traffic to a website are those who are really involved with their community, who post on Twitter and Facebook and use all kinds of social media. We don’t have a “community manager”, we share everything between the online team in our office. It is a team effort and I think it has to be that way.

In your talk you mentioned that you choose the best comments and “reward” them. What do you mean by “best” comments? Do you think this is an objective approach to report news?

If they don’t swear, if the comment is not written in good English or it doesn’t make sense, then it is a “bad comment”. If the comment makes a really good point and adds some value to the story, or it is just interesting, then we can publish it in the article or distribute it. You just use your good journalist’s instinct and then can say which is a good and which is a bad comment. And we always choose a good mix of comments around the story, not just one point of view.

Do you have professional Social Media strategy? Or do you rely mainly on popular tools and use them.

There is supposed to be a central Social Media Strategy. But what we found particularly in South Wales is that Twitter is great, but when you go North no one uses Twitter, people are on Facebook. So, you have to adapt what the community uses. We don’t need a special Social Media Strategy, because the things are changing constantly and what we need is to know how to use different kinds of Social Media in different situations. Twitter is good for breaking new, Facebook for comments and letting people to get really angry about something (joking). Our strategy is based on all the journalist’s principles – checking, verifying, etc. We don’t use it in the sake of using it, we use it only when it adds value to a story.

Do you rely on user-generated content and citizen journalism for your stories?

It is a mixture. We always prefer to send our journalists, when it is possible. We use user-generated content, when it makes sense. We wouldn’t take some random piece from someone we don’t know. There is too much risk in that. But when we have established relationship with local people , bloggers or students, then we might take something from them. We don’t rely on user-generated content, but we try to take the best of it.

Interview by Desi Velikova


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