CelebrityDialogue: Dan, what are your responsibilities as Digital Platform Manager in ABC News Radio?
Dan: Many and various! When I came to ABC News I had to learn a ton of internal systems and various B2B models. But I was also provided the freedom to make this job my own. I began as the ‘Digital Audio Manager’ and was in charge of our podcasting initiatives. But ABC News Radio had no digital platform aimed at consumers. As we all know, content on the web does not exist in a bubble. So I began building several websites and digital products. These sites and applications are intended to concurrently serve our Affiliate radio stations as well as the general public. Over time my job morphed in to a hybrid of overseeing podcast delivery, business development, exploring and executing on various business models, building websites, and working on other emerging platforms. We’re now on the cusp of launching our digital product and I’m pretty stoked to show off what we’ve built.
CelebrityDialogue: Should every company have a social media policy?
Dan: Yes. Social media is an undeniable part of media culture. A policy shouldn’t be limited to “don’t do this lest you risk angering Standards and Practices.” Social media is a powerful way for news outlets to crowdsource information and engage the public. A strong social media policy can help an organization leverage human assets as well as engage users in relevant, timely, and creative ways.
CelebrityDialogue: Do you enjoy covering news and taking interviews or do you like content management more?
Dan: There’s no one way to answer that question. In my heart I’m more comfortable on a campaign or in some strange country with people with guns. But I’m equally attracted to the organic nature of content sharing on the web and to that end I love working on abstract ideas and actualizing digital platforms. The most simple way to answer your question is by stating that I much prefer Doing over Talking.
CelebrityDialogue: Are there any real life journalistic ethics that become blurred when it comes to online journalism?
Dan: Ethics are platform-agnostic and are pretty basic. By this I mean, the same ethical guidelines used in ‘traditional’ media do apply across the web with no exception. However, lines are blurred much more easily online for a few reasons. First, volume. There are simply more people publishing content. As a result, more people are faced with issues that were previously only under the purview of ‘journalists.’ Second, knowledge. I was not trained academically as a ‘traditional journalist,’ but the same could be said for most of my journalistic colleagues. Experience is the key – I’m not the world’s best or most experienced journalist, but some things are basic: No quid pro quo, and “Off Record” is off record. One of the great things about the web is that question about journalist ethics – previously an obscure conversation piece – are discussed and debated openly. One of the biggest problems of social media ‘journalism,’ however, is not the lack of good journalism. The web has highlighted many great journalists. The problem is the tabloid nature of ‘reporting.’ Many well-known web news outlets fail to fact-check and frequently pay for sources. These outlets are staffed by good people, but I would not call tabloid stenography ‘journalism.’
CelebrityDialogue: You have covered United Nations since 2007. Tell us about your experience during Darfur humanitarian crisis.
Dan: Well, I actively blogged and Twittered the coverage. A lot of that can be experienced first-hand on my site. I was in Darfur in March of 2008. Remember, that was during a period of social media emergence, but pre-main stream adoption. So really the use was as an experiment. As with the Presidential Campaign in 2008, most journalists were still learning to use these tools. Particular challenges included typical tech challenges like getting sat phone service in the desert, battery life, and protecting the gear. I also used broadcast journalism and would call in live to political talk shows while on the ground. I would use broadcast to push social media. For example, we traveled to some very remote places in what was either South Sudan or Darfur (the border was/is ambiguous). One particularly hot day we purchased slaves. I used a sat phone to record a segment for the Talk Radio News Service. This segment was posted as a podcast. I then called a radio station, did a report, and encouraged listeners to check out the website and Twitter feeds. This resulted in a landslide of comments and ReTweets. This, I believe, is the power of social media. I was able to use a live radio report to push both consumption and redistribution of an asynchronous (podcast) piece of content. This resulted in greater awareness of an atrocity that was in the process of being committed.
CelebrityDialogue: You covered the last US Presidential campaign. What was the most interesting moment that you encountered during the events that you attended?
Dan: Similar to covering Sudan, the Presidential campaign was a myriad of unique experiences and technology served as a unifying theme. Again, may of these experiences are documented on my website and in my Flickr stream. I do, however, have a few interesting antidotes. Most journalists on the campaign were aware of social media – particularly Twitter. It was interesting to watch the growth of the medium evolve over the course of the campaign. The New Hampshire primaries and both nominating conventions stand out. During both the Primary and the Conventions our team was working literally around the clock. We would go to bed at 1:30 or 2am and then be awake for the morning drive shows at around 4 or 5am. This went on for a week in New Hampshire and almost three weeks during the Conventions. In New Hampshire a short video on Ron Paul hit the Digg front page on three different occasions and completely borked our sites. A few of us were awake for days – literally – concurrently covering the Primary and trying to keep our web systems active. During the DNC live-streaming video of Hillary Clinton and Obama was a lot of fun. I used Qik and saw comments flow in like a river as the video streamed. During the RNS in St. Paul I was caught in a riot and literally stuck between 5k pissed-off protesters and 5k riot cops. I have a picture of standing sandwiched between the two groups. As I held up my press credentials a riot cop raised his M-16 and literally stuck it in my gut. Instead of phoning home to my boss I used the remaining battery in my phone to text my content partner Jack Rice a link to photos I was live-blogging to Flickr of the event. Twitter came in handy during that event. My followers were able to see my area from police choppers and relay back to me good and bad areas to cover and/or escape routes.
CelebrityDialogue: How was your experience in the Wired Magazine?
Dan: I occasionally write very brief blurbs for ABC, Wired, the MTV music blog, and a few other outlets. For some reason publishing in print bring some cred. I’m a big believer in print, but suspect that the value is more in the higher social equity than the actual impact print makes on the reader.
CelebrityDialogue: You started your career early during college days. How it all did start?
Dan: Well, I’ve been a fan of news and broadcasting for as long as I can remember. My grandfather is a HAM radio operator, and while growing up I was a huge radio fan. In college I studied under the legendary and award-winning radio personality Dave Diamond (www.davediamond.org). Diamond was my mentor in college and taught me the ins and outs of music publishing. My first company – Creepy Sleepy Music – was founded in 2001 as an ASCAP-affiliated music publishing company. Diamond encouraged ethical ambition and to push yourself. This lead to a stint of running my college radio station, which in turn lead to a few years as working as a jock on commercial radio. After living a few post-college years in California and working – failing, really – in the music business I returned to school. This was in mid-2004 and the early days of podcasting. I started a political radio show with a very good friend. Together he and I made tight content and pushed the content to the web. The Creepy Sleepy show caught on and developed a small but loyal following. I covered the 2006 mid-terms independently. Specifically I reported on South Dakota’s ban of abortion. This coverage lead to a job with Ellen Ratner and Talk Radio News. Ellen grabbed me and threw me in to covering the UN and developing digital platforms for her various projects. This then lead to working for ABC News.
CelebrityDialogue: How can your fans follow you on the internet?
Ha! I hate the word ‘fan’ as it sounds condescending. But semantics aside my website is located at http://www.danpatterson.com
and I’m on Twitter and Facebook as @danpatterson.
CelebrityDialogue: Last question. You like to “microblog”. Please explain the term to those who might not have heard of it before.
Dan: The term ‘microblog’ is simply a jargony expression for ‘short posts.’ My site aggregates posts like Tweets, status updates from Facebook, music from Last.fm, and video from Vimeo. This isn’t useful to most people, but I like the meta-data snapshot that the aggregation provides. However, I’m a big believer that ‘microblogging’ (read: Facebook and Twitter) is a form of social engagement the common person uses on a regular basis. Often social media types are early adoptors and will hop on every single new platform. I like to be where People are and use tools People use. Hence I use Facebook and Twitter to engage with people who live outside the tech bubble. So my ‘microblog’ is simply a hub for a lot of this social activity.
CelebrityDialogue: Dan, thank you so much.
Dan: Thank you!