Tim Akimoff: ‘Journalists help find the needle in a haystack’

I knew I liked Tim Akimoff when he made a Harry Potter reference.

The digital content editor at WBEZ in Chicago explained his take on people who have not studied journalism handling social media or other journalistic responsibilities in the workplace — a topic we’ve explored often in the classroom. He said, “I don’t want to sound like someone from Harry Potter saying ‘You’re not a pureblood’ about people with non-journalism degrees,” but goes on to say that they should have a strong sense of editorial background. He allows the interns at WBEZ to run the company’s twitter with supervision, to give them experience of making these editorial decisions. I admire this technique, of trusting someone with a job and realizing the best way they will learn is by doing.

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Tim spoke about how important it is to be relatable to an audience and how he personally relates to his audience by making posts a little more personal now and then. “If you’re just pushing out links all the time, you’re kind of useless, people can get that somewhere else,” he said. “When you make things more personal it draws people in and makes social media what it’s meant to be.” He then goes on to explain that social media is a fantastic way to to digitalize your beat. Since I currently cover the Film & Television beat at Daily Emerald, I took these words to heart and imagined the many possibilities the digital world would give my beat (in a much lighter sense than the crime beat examples he was giving, may I point out.) Whether it be tracking tweets or Instagrams from a red carpet or film premiere to finding inspiration in what a successful company like Entertainment Weekly does with social media.

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I found it interesting how much thought goes into how to make a radio station format work and evolve, and the struggle with design meant for newspapers or print that end up problematic for the station. Again Tim speaks of the important of engaging an audience; audience-focused journalism allows the public to become involved and gets at the heart of where people’s behaviors are at, including their mobile behaviors. On Twitter, they try to incorporate video to engage with people. They are lacking a mobile site, which is a smart digital stately in making news more accessible. They also began ‘This American Life’ Podcast which draws in locals in relating to the city they live in.

Data Journalism allows you to get to the heart of a real issue, and more than anything you want your audience to become involved, and to care. Tim’s advice reaffirmed by belief that you have to find human elements in what you do, think of a bigger picture, and to challenge yourself in the pursuit of growth.

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