Brian Stelter and David Carr at Social Media Week NYC

Social Media Week has officially kicked off and this morning in New York, Brian Stelter and David Carr, of the New York Times sat down to discuss how they use social media in their reporting.

You may remember the two from the documentary Page One, in which David Carr plays the digital adaptor and Stelter, the digital native as the Times struggles to make paywalls and the online world work for them. They make a good team on the media pages of the Times and on-stage. Between their sense of humor and of gravitas about how to practice journalism in the digital age, they offer a unique perspective.

You can watch the panel discussion here, but there were two major themes.

Waiting for the Link

In response to a question about how social media is a big, scary world for breaking news, Carr explains how the Times tries to monetize the “spike” moments. By using monitoring tools, the Times is able to see trends online from their followers and get a feel for what’s going on and what they should be writing about at any given moment. The problem, for everyone of course, is how to grab those big moments and drive traffic.

Stelter then admits that it can be hard, especially on Twitter. When news is breaking, he often finds himself wanting to get it out there as soon as possible. Instead, he’s learned to “wait for the link.” By this he means, waiting just an extra ten minutes until a report is up on the Times’ website and then tweeting it. Carr jokes:

I’ve seen you waiting for the link, and it’s not a pretty sight.

It never is, is it? But it’s good advice for journos operating in a newsroom these days. If at all possible, before tweeting or posting a breaking story, as a reporter for a certain newspaper, you should try at all costs to link back to your publication or even a colleague reporter out in the field for that story. As they say, keep it in the family. That’s what creates value for your organization.

Reading and Producing

While discussing how they monitor big, media events Carr and Stelter have different methods. Stelter re-quotes a teenager he wrote about years ago where the kid says, in light of social media:

I don’t go seeking the news, if it’s important, the news will come to me.

This was true in the case of bin Laden’s assasination. Carr admits that he was perusing social media following the news and gathering information, as journalists do, getting into “someone should do a blog post on this” mode. When he went into the CMS to start to file something, he saw that Stelter already had 900 words on it. We’ve all been there, right?

That, Carr notes, is the difference between digital natives and adopters: “reading and producing, reading and producing” in a constant wave.  Carr is just starting to (maybe!) ditch his files of paper before he sits to tap a story out. But reporting now means remaining in motion. Read, produce, and hope you’re getting it right in between.


I like that both Carr and Stelter embody the blending of hard journalism and the growing importance that the peanut gallery of Twitter and other social media. It’s a pretty good example that old media is new media these days. The whole talk is worth a listen. They discuss media ownership, their predictions for how news will be produced (like “Mystery Science Theater,” says Carr), and if you want to talk about paywalls and digital subscribers in the vein of Page One, there’s some of that in the Q&A segment at the end.

When asked when the Times will go totally online, Carr replies, “Never.”

So much for the old media/new media debate. Are  you attending any Social Media Week events anywhere?  Have any dream panel topics you’d like to see discussed? You can follow on Twitter from afar with the hashtag #SMWHQ.