Thoughts from the Bullpen…
Being involved with media for over 40 years now, I have seen the ever changing landscape of media.
Back in the 70’s and 80’s, when you showed up for an event, people would take notice and want to give you information. If it was a sporting event, they hoped their picture would appear the next issue of the paper. I remember my first job as a photographer for the Burbank Scene (the paper had an office on the Golden Mall) as the greatest thing in the world in 1976. As the 1990’s ended and we raced into the 21st century, it appeared the internet would change everything.
When 2010 came along, I and a few others saw the writing on the wall about the future of newspapers. While the information was great and important, it was always a days-old story. People could look on their phone and get up to the minute news, weather and sports.
While there will always be a need for thorough reporting, we felt it was time to go digital and in April of 2010, we launched Burbank N Beyond. We thought it would work – and it did – but the name was hard for people to remember. Thus, myBurbank was born exactly two years later in 2012.
It was hard at first getting the average Burbank resident to know who we were and to turn to us for information. It took a few years to start gain followers. During that time, we concentrated on being at events in Burbank, expanded our sports and school reporting and covered all the accidents and fires.
We found that unlike the Burbank Leader which was based in downtown Los Angeles, our staff lived in or around Burbank and were always on the scene. People got to know who we were and started to look to us for local news.
Local advertisers started to believe in us based on the fact that people were talking about us and we had a strong social media following. Advertisers saw our numbers of over 30,000 viewers a month as a good investment in their businesses and they liked supporting a local small business also.
Twitter and Facebook became good tools to steer people to our website. While we couldn’t pay enough for full time reporters like the Leader, between our reporters and press releases we were able to get a lot of news out that we thought would interest people in Burbank. We thought we found a model that was working and growing.
Things have started to change recently.
Now, besides Facebook and Twitter, there are Instagram, Next Door and everyone has a website. This is fine and good to supplement news outreach, but the role of the media is to have a central place people can go to for all kinds of different information.
While we, as editors, can decide what is right and wrong for the site, as well as what is “Fake News” or gossip, we strive to share factual information. If we ever make a mistake and are called out on it, we go back and make corrections to get it right.
Facebook is great to stay connected with your friends, but as a news source, it is unfiltered and like the new site, Next Door, it encourages people to post whatever is on their mind.
What bothers me is that official news sources are starting to bypass the traditional print, broadcast and online media and taking messages right to these other sites, like Next Door and Facebook, thinking their message will reach a large majority of the people.
I first started noticing the City of Burbank starting to post items about repaving streets in Downtown Burbank and street closures on Next Door, Toluca Lake (which is not part of Burbank.) Nothing was sent to us here at myBurbank about that information.
Recently when the heat wave started, we wondered why nothing was sent to us about cooling centers. Were they going to have them? If so, where? We were told the information was posted on the Burbank Library’s Facebook page:
The Central and Buena Vista Libraries are open extended hours tonight (Friday) and Saturday as cooling centers. Buena Vista will also have hours on Sunday from 1-6 pm. The libraries will not offer full services during these extended ours but are open for anyone who needs a cool, comfortable place to sit and access to water and bathrooms.
That’s great for the 948 people who follow them on Facebook, what about the rest of the Burbank population? Why not also send that same thing off to the rest of the local media?
If you add up the police, fire and City’s Facebook pages together, their reach still falls below the number of myBurbank followers. Over 100,000 people live in Burbank so we all still have work to do to reach more people.
During the recent brush fire in the Verdugo Hills, we were never sent anything officially by either the City of Burbank, Burbank Police Department or Burbank Fire Department until a day after the evacuations were ordered. Then it was more of a release about there being a fire and the stats used by the Los Angeles Fire Department. It was incumbent on us to listen to radios and make phone calls for information. Of course that is part of our job, to find out and report news. What makes it frustrating is missing the things that we do not hear on the radio and that other agencies decide to post to their different media outlets.
As an example, people asked us about how to get supplies to the firefighters. We called and found that they could bring supplies to Station 11. When Station 11 was full of donations, the City put it on their Twitter account it was full and to not bring anything else. We were never told and continued to tell people to bring supplies.
We were never sent any official communications during the La Tuna Fire except one general press release about the fire although I see different social media posts with other official documents from the City. This lack of official information gets frustrating for us and our readers.
We are lucky enough to have over 30,00o unique readers a month who visit our site (much more when a huge event takes place) and over 33,000 people follow our Twitter feed. We picked up 1,500 new followers alone during the fire.
We are not saying the City should not post to their own different forms of social media but what we are saying is they should hit the cc button and also sent out official notices to all the media and news outlets.
No matter what, we will continue to find out things one way or another.
In case you are not a Facebook person and you have no idea where to search for information, it is important that you know that you have a source for only news that pertains to Burbank.
Even if you are involved in all different forms of social media, do you have time to check the police website, the fire department’s website, the City of Burbank website, the Library’s website, then start checking all of their Twitter accounts and then, of course, their Facebook accounts? I think they should have all of that on their sites, but also send it to the working media.
We also encourage you to follow all of the different City departments that interest you. We just hope that when you need overall information, we will be here to provide it and that City agencies will make more of an effort to reach a wider audience by including us more regularly in their outreach.