Learn a little, teach a little, everyone wins

The second year of a Reynolds Journalism Institute program that turns a journalism student into a teacher of digital and social media skills at a community newspaper was another big hit.

The 2019 edition of the Potter Digital Ambassador Program sent seven digitally savvy young journalists from the Missouri School of Journalism to seven newsrooms for a week during the students’ winter break to help and train the staff in a variety of areas including video production, social media analytics and other digital skills.

Student Gabriela Velasquez’s many tasks for the Ozark County Times included developing a how-to guide for Twitter and Tweetdeck, presenting on monetizing Facebook and demonstrating how to shoot mobile video quickly. 

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm on both sides for this program,” said RJI Executive Director Randy Picht. “You’d be surprised how much you can accomplish in a week.”

The professional journalists also had an opportunity to share their insights about community journalism as they worked side by side with the young journalists.

“I learned about what it means to cover hyperlocal news, and I got the chance to talk to people with valuable experience and insight into the newspaper industry,” wrote student Aviva Okeson-Haberman, of her experience working with the West Plains Daily Quill in West Plains, Missouri, a community of about 12,000.

This year’s newsroom partners were Call Newspapers of the St. Louis area, Jefferson City News-Tribune, Lamar Democrat, the County Times, the Quill and Warrensburg Daily Star-Journal, all of Missouri.

The program is funded by the Walter B. Potter for Innovation in Local Journalism endowment.

If you would like to learn more about the program or learn about other ways RJI is helping students help the news industry, contact Mike McKean, RJI’s associate director.

2019 Potter Digital Ambassador Program participants

Student: Sam Mosher
Editor: Gloria Lloyd:
Paid circulation: The four mastheads published by Call Newspapers reach 50,000 people and businesses by mail
Pub day: Tuesdays

GOALS: Giving people what they want on social; getting into routines with Instagram and other social media; figuring out our analytics reports; and producing videos.

Contributions and results:

  • Led a focus group to get feedback from readers.
  • Taught staff how to improve social media visuals.
  • Trained the newsroom group about analyzing data on analytics, responding to well-performing stories.
  • Created social platform scheduling on Hootsuite and Tweetdeck.
  • Set up weekly analytics report to be emailed to the newsroom leaders weekly with best performing stories.
  • Improved posting techniques on social media.
  • Created the “Potter Ambassador Bible” with all presentations, research and handouts.
  • Set up an automatic reply system for Facebook Messenger.
  • Trained staff through a mobile video presentation with basic video concepts, examples of social media and equipment.

Student: Kyle Brown
Editor: Gary Castor
Paid circulation: 15,000 daily, 18,000 Sunday
Pub day: Daily

GOALS: Substantially improve the quantity and quality of video; increase engagement of community through social media; set up analytics report and measure results.

Contributions and results:

  • Produced a video guide, made branded bumper for videos.
  • Created strategy for improving Twitter posts.
  • Held mobile video training session.
  • Set up Tweetdeck as a social scheduling platform.
  • Rejuvenated Instagram account.
  • Revitalized the newspaper’s YouTube presence.
  • Compiled analytics report and monitored data.
  • Improved Facebook posts.
  • Set up weekly analytics report.

Student: Kasey Carlson
Editor: Melody Metzger
Paid circulation:  2,000
Pub days: Wednesdays

GOALS: Build engagement with existing subscribers and opt-in e-mail users; build online “reach” and increase unique website visitors; use the website in a more robust daily manner; explore and experiment with ways to convert users who engage with us on our digital platform to subscribe.

Contributions and results:

  • Created social media schedule.
  • Created guides on how to write good copy for Facebook and how to create social media graphics.  
  • Made Canva graphics for them to use in place of stock photos they often pull for recurring events and meetings.
  • Taught staff how to schedule posts on Facebook and how to keep track of when she posts using the social media schedule I built for them.
  • Put together a guide on how to schedule posts to Facebook.
  • Created a handout on Facebook analytics to track progress and how well their posts are doing.
  • Put together a how to intro guide for mobile video and mobile video editing.

Student: Gabriela Velasquez
Editor: Sue Ann Jones
Paid circulation: 3,100
Pub days: Wednesdays

GOALS: Create a digital plan for a small newspaper with a small staff and little time to dedicate to online work; position the newspaper on Instagram; reach young people in the community so they are vested in the newspaper and become subscribers/customers.

Contributions and results:

  • Created an analytics account.
  • Developed a plan for monetizing use of social media.
  • Set up a Hootsuite account and trained staff.
  • Created guides to Twitter and Tweetdeck.
  • Monitored analytics and provided feedback.
  • Took several videos, monitored metrics, shared with staff.
  • Set up weekly analytics report.

Student: Tess Vrbin
Editor: Cody Thorn
Paid circulation:  3,000
Pub days: Wednesdays

GOALS: Improve social media content; enhance website appearance; become more competitive.

Contributions and results:

  • Created a consistent, daily social media presence.
  • Created Instagram account, posted link on FB page and began gathering followers.  
  • Started a Hootsuite account for social scheduling and made a spreadsheet for tracking.
  • Watched web traffic increase, particularly via Facebook.
  • Gave staff feedback on social posts.
  • Filmed a wrestling match on FB Live that reached 1,000 people and had 430 views.
  • Tracked clicks on online ads through Squarespace.
  • Taught staff to produce videos using Kinemaster app.
  • Started a YouTube channel to host embedded videos.
  • Showed how to create interactive timelines.
  • Set up an automatic weekly Google analytics report.

Student: Kaylin Burris
Regional News Director: Amy Neal
Circulation: 4,000
Pub day: Tuesdays and Fridays

GOALS: Improve interactions with followers on social media; instruction on evaluating and understanding analytics; using on-the-spot videos.  

Contributions and results:

  • Set up a social media schedule on Hootsuite for Twitter and Facebook posts.
  • Established routine for scheduling social media daily.
  • Trained staff in sharing content on social media.
  • Created a style guide for consistent, professional posts.
  • Shared and explained data on Twitter analytics, Facebook Insights, Blox analytics and Google analytics.
  • Established Tweetdeck as a listening tool.
  • Created a weekly Google analytics report to arrive via email.
  • Wrote a guide for Hootsuite with screenshot to explain the process.

Student: Aviva Okeson-Haberman
Publisher: Allison Wilson
Circulation: 4,000
Pub day: Tuesdays and Fridays

GOALS: Reach a younger demographic; increase readership for print product; improve internet presence and social media perspective to increase the audience for online product; improve presentation of the free hyperlocal web content; generate ideas for new online sites and how to present them to the audience and social media users.

Contributions and results:

  • Set up accounts on Instagram and Hootsuite.
  • Created weekly social media analytics report.
  • Trained staff in sharing content on social media.
  • Created graphics to post on Facebook, Instagram.
  • Developed flyer to post on local businesse advertising Instagram page.
  • Trained staff on using video for Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
  • Created “10 ideas for videos to shoot with your phone”
  • Developed list of ways to improve newsletter, website and social media posts.

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