Marcus Riley, the TMJ4 Digital Media Manager, talked to students about the importance of social media to a newsroom, as well as useful ways that student journalists can effectively sharpen their multimedia skills, while speaking at UW-Milwaukee.
UWM students filled up a Bolton Hall classroom on a Monday afternoon to hear Riley, who has been with TMJ4 since October of 2015, speak about how he uses social media in the newsroom. The event, hosted by the Minority Media Association of Milwaukee, was attended by 25 students and faculty who were eager to learn from Riley’s experiences in the field.
Although Riley did have a quick presentation planned, he mainly spoke off the cuff while answering various questions posed to him by UWM students and faculty. He spoke for two hours about his daily roles as the Digital Media Manager in the newsroom, and the importance of using social media to connect with the viewers of a TV station. His roles include updating the Facebook and Twitter feeds for the newsroom, while engaging with users online. Riley also encouraged young student journalists to focus on being a more effective writer, while speaking at length about the role of journalism today with the development of fake news on the rise.
Jack Fennimore and Keio Horton of the Minority Media Association introduced Riley to the audience. Fennimore and Horton spoke about Riley’s background in the media and his achievements while working with nine different TV Stations throughout his career. Riley has worked with TMJ4 since October of 2015 but started off his career as a weatherman for a news station in West Virginia.
Riley began his presentation with a short video monologue highlighting recent Facebook Live videos that have been posted on the TMJ4 Facebook page. Some videos included past election coverage such as live interviews with Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders. Other videos were comprised of local weather or sports coverage.
Riley spoke at length about Facebook Live, mentioning that he attempts to find a specific audience for the videos. “You can’t take TV content and throw it on Facebook,” added Riley.
One video in specific shows Riley in search of a Green Bay Packers fan during the NFC Championship game in Atlanta. When Riley finds a Packers fan, he also finds an Atlanta Falcons fan, who stares at Riley and exclaims “what the heck,” much to the delight of Riley as he thought the fan may shout an expletive.
“A lot of fans want to know what is happening right before the games starts,” said Riley about going live at sporting events. “It’s shocking that it hasn’t happened yet,” said Riley, when asked if anyone has sworn during one of his live streams.
These videos were the basis for Riley’s visit, as much of his presentation thereafter revolved around the evolution of the internet and social media in the newsroom. “Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t,” Riley said about using social media to reach a bigger audience. “It’s a different mindset, it’s changing every day, and I think it is a ton of fun.”
Riley shared his experiences of working in newsrooms when the internet was just starting to gain traction. “We used to tell people ‘make us your homepage.’ Nowadays you don’t hear anyone saying that,” said Riley. “I’ve made some good bets in my career, and I’ve made some bad bets in my career. I’ve seen things change a lot over the past twenty years,” Riley said about the emergence on digital media today. “I graduated without even knowing what the internet was.”
Riley’s role at TMJ4 is to engage and involve the audience on social media platforms. He shared that he is constantly looking for unique and different ways to bring people to the TMJ4 website or news station.
UWM students were mainly impressed by Riley’s experience in the field. “He showed me how important social media is in the journalism world,” said Nyesha Stone, a UWM Journalism student who is focusing in print media. “He also taught me that maybe I should consider incorporating social media into my career.”
Riley was also able to give practical advice for students pursuing a career in Journalism or Digital Media. “At the end of the day, you might have all the digital knowledge, but journalism is still journalism and telling a story is still telling a story,” Riley shared with the audience.
Riley encouraged students to learn all the tools they can before they enter the job market. “Today you have to be a five tool journalist. You have to write, take pictures, shoot video, edit, and do social media,” Riley explained to students. However, Riley mainly encouraged students to work on their writing first and foremost before applying for jobs in these fields.
Dwayne Lee, a UWM journalism major, was impressed by Riley’s advice about attaining a job within the media. “He said what other people within the Journalism Department have told us students about the importance of writing,” said Lee. “You may have a good digital presence, but if you can’t write you are woefully inadequate for the job market.”
Riley also spoke about the emergence of fake news that has been a hot topic within the media today. “Journalism is as important now as ever,” Riley remarked. ”To a degree journalists are under attack like never before, but I think when you really want to know what’s happening, traditional journalism has the advantage,” Riley shared.
Riley mentioned that one problem with fake news is that many people just read the headline, and share the story because they want validation as to what they already believe is true. “Traditional newspapers and stations have an advantage as opposed to some blogger from some site I’ve never heard of,” Riley said. “I think traditional journalism is going to be just fine.”
Sabrina Johnkins is a member of the Minority Media Association at UWM and was also present at the event. “It’s really empowering to see a successful African American presence in the journalism field,” said Johnkins. “It just shows that if you work hard enough, you can be a success story.”