How social media can improve your reporting on protest movements

Los Angeles Times reporter Kate Linthicum has spent her share of time at Occupy protests, but she's found social media to be essential in tracking the movement online.

"So much of the Occupy movement has played out online," she said via email. "Just as much as encampments, it's where many protesters met, strategized and documented their demonstrations."

By monitoring those channels, "I had at my fingertips literally hundreds of first-person narratives reflecting in real time the thing I was trying to explain to readers."

Linthicum and Martin Beck, the Times' reader engagement editor, took part in a Poynter live chat about how reporters can use social media to track protest movements.

Though Linthicum has used these techniques to cover the Occupy movement, other journalists can use them to cover protests at the political conventions in Tampa, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C.

Among the topics we discussed:

  • How social media can help you find key people involved in "leaderless" movements
  • How you can use Twitter and Facebook to find photos and videos
  • How social media can help you decide if you should go to the scene
  • How Facebook and Twitter can help you track a movement when there isn't news
  • The importance of email listservs

You can replay the chat below.

This chat was conducted in conjunction with a McCormick Foundation Specialized Reporting Institute, "Covering social protest movements in an age of social media," to be held Sept. 27-29 at California State University, Fullerton. McCormick will pay for attendees' travel and hotel costs as well as some meals. The application deadline is Aug. 25.


  • Steve Myers

    Steve Myers was the managing editor of until August 2012, when he became the deputy managing editor and senior staff writer for The Lens, a nonprofit investigative news site in New Orleans.


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