July 12, 2016

Kelsey Ryan gave her husband a hard time over the weekend for playing Pokémon Go. Then she saw people playing it in a park near home. So she downloaded the current cultural phenomenon and started playing.

Reporters, after all, need to try things and not just talk to people who are trying things, she said.

At work Monday, the The Wichita Eagle data reporter decided to see if she could find any virtual Pokémon lurking in the newsroom. She found something else, instead.

The Eagle is a Poké Stop. (“One of many set locations in the game where players can unlock different tools in their quest to ‘catch them all,'” Ryan explained.)

Wouldn’t it be cool, she thought, if they could get more people to stop by the Eagle? She didn’t want to get new subscribers or be pushy — just to connect. So Ryan talked to editors, got some Eagle swag, made a sign and set up outside. The Eagle tried its first Facebook Live video to let players know to stop by.

“This was taking social engagement and turning it into face-to-face engagement,” said Michael Roehrman, deputy editor of publishing.

Ryan would’ve been happy to be face-to-face with anyone. But in an hour, 60 people stopped by. It was a diverse demographic, she said: families, young people, couples.

“We’re not trying to sell them anything,” she said. “We’re not trying to make them subscribe or anything, but it gets our name out there.”

And maybe the next time there’s big news, some of those people (including other millennials like her) will think of the Eagle.

Ryan is planning a second Poké Stop swag giveaway on Tuesday and a second Facebook Live broadcast to announce it. She didn’t grow up playing Pokémon, but playing now is an opportunity to see what the community’s interested in.

Her editor downloaded the game and started playing himself on Monday.

“If something’s becoming a cultural phenomenon, I need to know what it’s about so I can do my job,” Roehrman said.

Ryan thinks other newspaper journalists may find that their newsrooms are also Poké Stops since the game chooses historical locations, she said.

“I’m just gonna take a wild guess that that’s gonna be a lot of newsrooms across the country.”

Update: Ryan says more than 100 people stopped by the Eagle for the second swag giveaway on Tuesday afternoon.

“We set a ‘lure’ for the Pokémon, which I think helped draw people, too.”

Wait, what’s a lure?

“A ‘lure’ is just that — a virtual way to bring more Pokemon to a particular spot so players can catch more of them at once,” Ryan explained. “You have to pay 99 cents for one, I believe. They show up in the game as virtual flower petals in an area so people know there are lots of Pokémon there.”

Wichita Eagle reporters Matt Riedl and Kelsey Ryan outside the paper on Tuesday trying to catch some engagement. (Photo by Jaime Green/Wichita Eagle)

Wichita Eagle reporters Matt Riedl and Kelsey Ryan outside the paper on Tuesday trying to catch some engagement. (Photo by Jaime Green/Wichita Eagle)

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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