Once upon a time, ratings were pretty much the only way of judging commercial success for local television news. But that's no longer the case. Witness a new report by TV Spy, a broadcasting-industry website, which grades Denver TV outlets and personalities by social-media engagement. Using that measure, 9News is the clear number one, while Kyle Clark, anchor of Next With Kyle Clark, tops the talent chart in part because of the ways he uses Facebook, Twitter and Instagram beyond simply establishing and extending his brand, as he explains to us in the following Q&A.
Clark's mastery of the form is no surprise to us. In our 2017 Best of Denver issue, we named Clark the Best Media Figure to Follow on Twitter, writing that he is "not only a frequent tweeter, but a hilariously snarky one. Recent examples include, 'Not saying we always see eye-to-eye, but at least @AdeleArakawa has never pulled a gun on me on set,' 'I'm told being the #1 show in your time slot is overrated' and 'Come for the journalism. Stay for the passive aggressive commentary on the state of the media.' That's one invitation you won't regret accepting."
According to TV Spy, Clark's efforts have generated a 1.14 share of the social-media market when it comes to Denver television journalists, with more than 131,000 followers across all platforms. And his cohorts are nipping at his heels. Five of the top ten personalities on the Denver TV social-media list work for 9News — a fact that's no doubt contributed to the signal's dominance in this arena. Over the past thirty days, 9News registered a 36.9 share of the social-media market, followed by Fox31, with 28.2, Denver7, at 24.6, and CBS4, which clocked in at 9.5.
Below, Clark, corresponding via email, lends insight into his online life.
Westword: Is social-media reach for stations now as important as ratings — or at least growing closer in importance?
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Kyle Clark: Social media is a crucial way for journalists to connect with and serve our audiences. It's one more measure of how we are connecting with people.
How important is having a strong social-media presence for a TV anchor or reporter?
I think it's vital that broadcast journalists are accessible and accountable. The days of preaching the news at people through a television pulpit are over. We now discuss the news with people. Our community rightfully demands two-way conversation that respects their voices and uses ours to amplify theirs.
Is an understanding of social media now such a key that journalists may not be hired if they have little understanding of how to use it?
I'm probably not in a position to answer questions about hiring.
When did you first begin using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram?
I've been on Facebook since I was in college. I joined Twitter in 2008. I've been on Instagram for a few years.
Did you understand from the beginning how important these platforms would become — or did that knowledge dawn on you over time?
I began using Facebook to connect with friends in college, but it wasn't until I came to 9News in 2007 that Facebook became a place for journalists to connect with the community. I initially joined Twitter as an interested observer more than a participant.
Has the station encouraged you to use social media as much as possible, or has that been your choice?
9News encourages journalists to be active on social media. The extent to which we use social media is up to each of us individually.
Do you have to clear any of your posts with management — or are you able to put your thoughts out there in real time, without having to get anyone's go-ahead?
If I'm doing hard-news reporting on social media, it must follow 9News's standards for reporting on any platform. All of my posts must follow our social-media guidelines. 9News management has never preemptively censored one of my posts or directed me to edit or delete a social-media post.
Was there a moment when you realized the kind of impact social media could have when it came to amplifying the impact of an issue or story?
It would be difficult to pinpoint a single moment. Being a journalist on social media over the last decade has been like standing on the beach as the tide comes in. Its rise was imperceptible at first, and all of a sudden we're knee-deep.
There's a sardonic feel to a lot of your posts and tweets. Did you consciously develop that tone, or is it simply a natural reflection of how you communicate in everyday life?
I'd hope my writing on social media reflects how I communicate on-air and in everyday life. I think it's pretty easy to tell when a journalist is pretending to be someone else, whether on-air or online.
Have you helped any new employees, or veteran ones, when it comes to branching out on social media?
I have incredible respect for my colleagues who have adapted to social media. Adele Arakawa's quick wit is perfect for Twitter even if it took some convincing that it was worth her time. Kim Christiansen's thoughtful perspectives really connect with people on Facebook. I don't recall any colleagues who have outright dismissed social media. I think it's helpful when news outlets allow journalists to find their own way on social media rather than forcing them into using it in a particular way. That kind of awkwardness tends to be pretty transparent to the community.
How much time do you spend using social media on a daily basis?
More time than I'd prefer. One of my goals for 2018 is striking a better balance.
When is the latest, or earliest, you've posted something?
I've posted within five minutes of falling asleep and within five minutes of waking up. Neither is probably advisable.
Does the time social media takes ever become oppressive and leave you wishing you could unplug for a while?
I would love to unplug for a week or even a month. I think it would be good for my mental health. I've been unable to do it. FOMO, ya know?
Have you ever posted something that you either immediately or eventually regretted — and if so, can you offer examples?
It's fairly common for individual social-media posts, especially tweets, to age poorly because they're often so devoid of context. That's why I think it's important to add context over time and thread those posts together when possible. One can always cherry-pick a post or tweet from days, weeks, months or years gone by that seems inaccurate or tone-deaf. It's important to realize that while social-media posts exist forever, they are created in the moment, speaking to a current dynamic and the facts as they are known.
Have you deleted any tweets, Donald Trump-style?
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When I delete tweets, I try to provide context on why. For example, [Wednesday] night I deleted a tweet referencing why Denver Public Schools said it was withholding public records. I mistakenly typed "deliberate process" instead of "deliberative process." I deleted the tweet within minutes, but it was already being shared and gaining traction. So I tweeted that I had deleted the previous tweet and explained why.
What advice would you give journalists and others about how best to use social media?
I'd encourage journalists to be genuine, accountable and accessible on social media. I believe social media primarily should be used by journalists to be of service to our community, providing insight, analysis, information, a smile or a laugh. When journalists use social media primarily to promote their own work, they're missing the mark. If journalists spend most of their time on social media being of service to others, they'll quickly build a community of people who are willing to mobilize to make a positive impact when needed.