Social Media Journalist of the Year

Scroll down to meet the nominees for Social Media Journalist of the Year

Open to anyone who regularly uses social media to enhance the public’s awareness of their own work and that of their publication/website. Entries may focus on an individual’s year-long all-round input or specific cases where an individual has shown imagination, technical awareness and flair to use the medium to full effect.

The Shortlist

Cahair O’Kane, The Irish News

Across the year 2019, Cahair’s personal Twitter account @CahairOKane1 generated a total of more than 20million impressions, at an average of just over 1.7m per month.

Primarily, Cahair uses social media to create engagement and spark debate on sporting topics.

The first entry centred on a huge national debate sparked in June 2019 over the issue of the GAA’s central funding of one of its units, Dublin GAA. Cahair’s initial single-tweet reaction to the debate generated 140,000 impressions, and having then written his weekly column on the subject, the teaser he put out the night before publication had 157,000 impressions.

In November, Cahair published an interview with local GAA Allstar Ronan McNamee in which he talked publicly for the first time about his battle with depression. Again, using social media as a tool to draw readers to both the print and online editions, Cahair’s teaser tweet the night before was widely shared, creating an awareness of the interview which would have helped drive sales.

The interview itself once shared was a huge draw with more than 5,500 people who clicked through to read – from a link in Cahair’s tweet alone.  

While the bulk of the day job revolves around covering the GAA, a graphic Cahair created and tweeted about Manchester United’s transfer policy was picked up and used as part of a debate on the subject on national radio the following morning. The tweet listed the players United had bought and the money spent on them since 2013, and appeared on the timeline of more than 33,000 people.

Over the year, Cahair used the platform for breaking new stories that would not have held for the print edition, such as the naming of Rory Gallagher as the new Derry GAA manager in September 2019.

All of this has created huge engagement and helped drive The Irish News as a market leader for sport.

The judges said:

Not afraid to tackle contentious issues head-on on social media, such as the funding of Dublin GAA.

Cahair shows bravery and an understanding of what the audience want from their journalists.

Daniel Russell, The Nottingham Post and Nottinghamshire Live

Politics dominated the news agenda in 2019 and with it came the opportunity to try something different and reach new audiences. Daniel came up with a social media strategy to cater to both things and at the same time provide top quality journalism around key subjects during the General Election.

Facebook Live Hustings:

This started with the tradition of hosting hustings with candidates from Nottinghamshire. However, instead of hiring out a room NottsLive hosted its hustings live on Facebook using a TV studio and professional industry equipment.

Daniel orchestrated four hustings covering different areas, which were viewed by more than 35,000 people.

The majority of viewers watched live interacting throughout and programmes were later shown on Notts TV, the city’s television network. They were also shared by political parties too – reaching thousands more people.

General Election WhatsApp Service:

On the General Election night Daniel ran the newsdesk with a social media focus to provide an extra service for readers who stayed up.

Daniel decided the quickest way to do this was deliver every update through a dedicated WhatsApp broadcast list. Messages sent to thousands throughout the night were well received and included a mix of reaction and results.

Each message had a link to a rolling live blog which was read around 80,000 times. The loyal WhatsApp audience were waiting for every update, given before other forms of social media.

Instagram Stories:

Quality was also the focus for one of NottsLive’s emerging platforms – Instagram.

In early 2019 Daniel changed the Instagram strategy to concentrate on quality Instagram Stories spread throughout the day. This proved to be a huge success and Instagram in 2019 gained 225,310 clicks. The number of people following the account has also more than doubled from 15,000 people to more than 30,000. This growth and quality strategy is now being used across Reach PLC.

The judges said:

Filming a live hustings on Facebook that is TV quality is very impressive and offered a great service to readers at an important time.

Goes beyond the obvious when choosing platforms to reach the audience he wants, making his output with the reader and how they consume content, first.

Kristian Johnson, LeedsLive

Kristian’s role as a live news reporter with LeedsLive means that every single story he tells is tailored for their digital audience, who predominantly visit the site through our social media channels.

Following an award-winning 2018 documentary on the Leeds sex zone, Kristian filmed, produced and edited his second Untold Stories documentary in 2019. A film on male suicide, which was premiered on LeedsLive’s Facebook page, featured an incredibly emotional interview with the family of a 23-year-old man who took his own life. Kristian also shone a light on what Leeds is doing to help by showcasing the work of Andy’s Man Club – a support group which has grown massively in recent years.

The second entry, Kristian filmed, produced and edited a video of one of the LeedsLive reporters working a shift in McDonald’s. His technical ability and flair for creating incredibly shareable content was reflected in the figures, which show that 1.7 million people have viewed the video on Facebook; eight-and-a-half times more views than any other Facebook video on LeedsLive. It was the perfect topic to go viral, with people all over the world hooked by the idea of what it would be like to work in a busy kitchen at one of the world’s most instantly-recognisable brands.

Thirdly, as the site’s go-to reporter for Facebook Live, Kristian hosted a 30-minute Live from the General Strike for Climate. The strike saw thousands of schoolchildren shut down the busiest roads in Leeds city centre. Bringing coverage to those in their homes and workplaces, Kristian relayed essential information about road closures and timings, and conducted live interviews with the organisers and researchers from the University of Leeds to give people context. He also live-tweeted from the event too and included timelapse footage to show the true scale of the protest.

The judges said:

Excellent live reporting from the climate strike, a story with both local and national interest, that included capable pieces to camera, extensive footage and diverse interviews on the hoof. The McDonald’s short video is great social media content that again works at both a local and national level and would have involved organising with PRs to film behind the counter. A journalist who clearly understands how to make an impact on social media with stories that capture readers both locally and nationally.

Lee Ryder, Newcastle Chronicle

Lee’s entry offers a social media package for Newcastle United coverage on the North-East media circuit.

Using Facebook and Twitter Lee covers every kick of Newcastle United’s games for the first team, Under-23 side and Under-18 team going to matches that others just don’t cover.

The first of his three entries show how Lee engaged his audience after Newcastle United’s 5-0 loss at Leicester City.

By sharing his online Chronicle article, which detailed what had gone on in the tunnel and behind the scenes afterwards, Lee reached an additional 184,722 people and there were 19,037 engagements as supporters raged over the poor performance.

That was in stark contrast to a visit to Leicester earlier in 2019 when Newcastle United won and the reaction of the travelling fans really did say it all. The second entry included a Twitter post with a short but effective video of fans celebrating. It gained 284,000 impressions and over 161,000 views.

Building on the Tweet, Lee posted his match report and player ratings underneath it which helped bring in another 60,000 impressions. Lee uses his Facebook page to report directly from Press conferences to establish an instant way of engaging with supporters to get their views on what has just been said by the manager.

In his third entry, Lee reported via Facebook Live after breaking the news that star midfielder Sean Longstaff had picked up an ankle injury and would miss the crucial trip to Liverpool.

The judges said:

A consistent performer who tailors output to exactly how football fans want to read and watch content about their team in the 21st century.

Lee is clearly at the heart of Newcastle United and understands its fans, delivering content that resonates with his audience as a result.

Will Hayward, WalesOnline

In the role as social affairs correspondent Will tackles complicated issues that require nuance and explanation. And Will’s substantial Twitter following have grown through his use of long threads. His entry shows a series of tweets that dig down into a complicated issue but retain the ability to be shared quickly in an accessible format.

His first thread on climate sceptics was, Will says, important. Climate change and global warming is one of the biggest issues facing society. Despite this there is a huge amount of misunderstanding of global warming by the public and serious amounts of misinformation. Due to this an environment reporter can not simply “report” what is happening. It is also necessary to explain the fundamentals in increase understanding of the subject. This thread did that and pulled no punches.

Secondly, domestic violence is a topic Will has covered extensively. It is truly is an unseen epidemic and Will has tried to put together a body of work that can illustrate that. The thread of domestic violence showcased the sheer volume of the problem in the way a single tweet could not.

Social media is also a great tool for finding stories. The video Will made looking for people from every country in the world living in Cardiff has been watched close to 100,000 times. That project is well underway and it is all down to this tweet which utilised video and social media in an original way.

The judges said:

Engaging and hard-hitting threads which showcase complex problems with deftness and skill.

Uses social media in a way that really engages his audience with tough subjects.

Zoe Chamberlain, BirminghamLive

Brummie Mummies is known as the ‘go-to’ network for parents in Birmingham. As parenting editor at BirminghamLive, Zoe created Brummie Mummies as a way of sharing family content, and she has nurtured and developed her much-loved community on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, digital newsletter, radio and at major conferences. As a result, she now reaches up to 200,000 people a month.

Throughout 2019, Zoe has used her social media network to:

  • Bring people together in real time by organising and hosting bespoke, sell-out social events at attractions like LEGOLAND, Thinktank and Sea Life Centre. These events have saved families more than £120 on days out in 2019 and raised thousands for Reach plc and our Give a Child Health Fund charity.
  • Tackle hard-hitting parenting issues affecting the community by helping families struggling with Universal Credit, holiday hunger, special education needs, health issues, bullying and more. For example, Zoe contacted the Department for Work and Pensions to ask for a Flexible Support Fund for a struggling mum and campaigning for a troubled school to be reassessed by Ofsted, which led to additional support as a result of an ‘inadequate’ rating.
  • Published exclusive news of attractions, events and exciting things to do guides that families say are ‘invaluable’, such as a Christmas grotto guide, which reached more than 75,000 people in Birmingham. Zoe’s stories received more than a million page views in November.

As part of her role, Zoe ran multiple social media training sessions for Facebook trainees at Facebook HQ in London. She’s enabled real-time working collaborations between mumpreneurs by inviting them to share their Kitchen Table Business successes on the Facebook page.

All the while, Zoe has empowered parents to help me with every stage of the story-telling process, asking for their ideas, recommendations, videos and photos.

The judges said:

A local journalist running a hit Facebook group that is embedded in the core community of her paper’s readers is the stuff of every local editor’s dreams. This is a huge advantage to the newsbrand and at a time when print is declining across the industry, offers a way to reach the same key audience where they are online and no doubt has given Zoe some scoops on the way. She is a real asset to the local newspaper and community alike.