February 17, 2021

Exploring the world of student publications’ TikToks has been a delight, and this week, editors at The Daily Aztec and The Hofstra Chronicle discussed how they’re using TikTok and how their newsrooms took cues from The Washington Post.

(If you missed last week’s issue, editors at The Daily Campus [Southern Methodist University] and The Villanovan [Villanova University] shared their TikTok strategies — it’s worth catching up on.)

Interviews have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

The Daily Aztec, San Diego State University

Brenden Tuccinardi, editor-in-chief

How did your publication decide to start a TikTok account?

I was the engagement editor at the time and was using TikTok personally. One of the accounts that I first followed was The Washington Post, and I thought we could do something similar. On Tuesday night, when all the other editors were putting pages together for our weekly print edition, and I had nothing to do, I decided to make a TikTok with the graphics editor at The DA. Our first TikTok wasn’t anything special, just a recreation of that Mr. Sandman cat trend with one of our papers, but our weekly TikToks quickly became a tradition in the newsroom.

What do you see as the goal of your presence on TikTok?

When I started The DA’s account, I’ll admit getting TikTok clout was a motivating factor. Since then, though, it’s morphed into an effort to open up the newsroom to our readers and introduce them to the staff. It has always been a great creative outlet that lets us be a little more playful and cheeky, which isn’t something that can come through in objective reporting.

What does the workflow look like for conceptualizing and creating a video? 

We don’t really have a structured workflow for conceptualizing and creating our TikToks, which is probably not the best practice. In the beginning, it was really just me and the graphics editor sitting on a couch in the newsroom and showing each other TikToks we thought were funny. We would find a trending concept, sound or effect that could be related to the newspaper or journalism and run with it through this process. Since we both didn’t have a lot of previous video editing experience (other than iMovie), we relied heavily on the app’s built-in tools.

What’s your favorite video from your publication’s account?

This is tough because each video is basically a mini-adventure from production night. If I had to choose, my favorite video is our attempt at the #MakeItADress challenge. It’s by far our most popular. Em and I stapled and taped together newspapers to dress as a mini arts and crafts project. The sad part is that the sound is copyrighted, so the video doesn’t have the same vibes anymore, but the original version lives on my camera roll and Twitter.

What advice do you have for student publications that might be considering launching a TikTok?

Do it because there’s nothing to lose and so much to gain, not only in terms of audience engagement but also newsroom development. Making TikToks was a great way to cut through the stress of being a student journalist and it brought a lot of bright energy to The Daily Aztec’s basement newsroom during those late-night grinds to get the paper out.

The Hofstra Chronicle, Hofstra University

Gabriella Varano, managing editor

How did your publication decide to start a TikTok account?

Our former editor-in-chief had joined the app in mid-2019, saw its growing popularity and thought that adding the platform would be a different way to reach our online audience. She also saw everything that The Washington Post’s account was able to accomplish — present the news through relevant trends and humor — and wanted to add an element of humor to our brand that we didn’t have at that point. Our social media evolved a lot under her direction in general, so creating a TikTok account was a natural next step in our progression as a media organization.

What do you see as the goal of your presence on TikTok?

The goal of our presence on TikTok is to share a different, (hopefully) funnier side of our organization. The Chronicle shows a lot more personality on TikTok, and the app also allows us to be creative on a medium other than print. At first, we wanted to give a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to be a member of The Chronicle, but once the pandemic sent us home, the message shifted. In the fall of 2020, when some of us were able to return to campus, we focused a lot on TikTok trends, using it as more of a recruitment and promotional tool. This semester, we have plans to continue to do that, as well as highlight the amazing articles that are sure to be written and their writers!

What does the workflow look like for conceptualizing and creating a video? 

Before (and sometimes during) our weekly social media meetings, a few editors will scroll through TikTok to see what the relevant trends of that week are. Our editorial board will also send some of their favorite TikToks of the week in our group chat and we pull ideas from those videos as well. Then, we brainstorm ways we can put our own Hofstra Chronicle spin on them. By the end of the meeting, we decide on a concept.

When we have a print edition of the newspaper, the social media editors will help distribute the physical copies across campus and film a TikTok at the same time. If we aren’t in print, members of the social team on campus decide on a time to meet up and film. That same team will work on a shot list so that the filming process moves a bit quicker (but new ideas often pop up as filming occurs). The editing process begins shortly after that and goes through some revision and approval before being posted to all of our social media platforms.

What’s your favorite video from your publication’s account?

My favorite video from The Chronicle’s account is our take on the “Oh No” challenge. A few of us met Dave Jorgenson through a Hofstra University networking event and were able to sit down with him (over Zoom) to talk about his work process. After that, the way that we conceptualized, filmed and edited videos dramatically shifted and the “Oh No” TikTok was the first result of it. Even though it was near the end of our semester, it gave us the tools to start this semester strong. Not to mention that Dave Jorgenson retweeted the TikTok on Twitter, so that was pretty cool!

What advice do you have for student publications that might be considering launching a TikTok?

Plan, plan, plan! It’s really helped us to be more effective in the filming and editing of our videos. We have a pretty small social media team in the first place, so being organized and purposeful with our time has significantly improved the quality of the content we create. Being able to have another creative outlet also invites a variety of people to join the newspaper because we aren’t just a newspaper anymore — there’s so many ways to get involved, do good journalism and hone our skills — and TikTok is one way we’re able to showcase that.

One story worth reading

Often, journalists move from reporter to editor roles without being trained on just how to be an editor, and this is especially common in student newsrooms. That’s why I found Holly J. Morris’ tips for NPR Training on building a good editor-reporter relationship so helpful. (I know I’ve been guilty of jumping into copy-editing mode when reading a first draft.) Among her pieces of advice: Editors, don’t offer insincere praise, and please, please, don’t insert errors into your reporters’ stories.

Opportunities and trainings

💌 Last week’s newsletter: How student newsrooms are using TikTok to entertain and engage audiences

📣 I want to hear from you. What would you like to see in the newsletter? Have a cool project to share? Email blatchfordtaylor@gmail.com.

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Taylor Blatchford is a journalist at The Seattle Times who independently writes The Lead, a newsletter for student journalists. She can be reached at blatchfordtaylor@gmail.com…
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