Even as participants at this year’s World Congress were debating the merits of social networks, INMA itself was experiencing a major boost in online influence through a professionally run editorial operation leveraging just such social media.

The technique is called “fusion journalism,” and at World Congress the blogging operation was spearheaded by Western iMedia, a multi-platform editorial startup operated out of Western Kentucky University.

Kerry Northrup, director of Western iMedia and leader of the team of nine multi-platform journalists who covered the event, says it’s a new vision of journalism, applied in a real-time situation.

He describes his team as “entrepreneurial journalists” who not only are re-invigorating traditional mainstream media, but also helping to shape what ultimately will become the new mainstream media. In this new model, Northrup said, it’s first about the story, and then about the medium – or rather, the media, plural.

“We integrate multiple formats and platforms to produce the most effective story, connected to the most significant audience,” he said. “We don’t just tell stories, though. We also produce the environments in which people engage those stories across multiple media and technologies.”

During the event, Northrup said, it was important never to lose sight of the main objective: “Our job is to inform. Our goal is journalism that gets noticed, because if it doesn’t, then what’s the point?”

INMA Executive Director/CEO Earl Wilkinson characterized the effort as an “echo chamber,” an idea that apparently resonated with the audience. Western iMedia’s editorial team produced 58 blog posts, 26 videos and 236 tweets during 78 hours of event coverage.

On-site participants and global followers amplified that with thousands of additional contributions and re-tweets using the promoted #inmawc hashtag. Some of those commenters were in turn connected to networks of sometimes more than 15,000 more followers, and often continuing beyond that for several levels.

The metrics were impressive. INMA’s Klout score – one of the leading metrics of digital impact – jumped 42%, and the organization’s measured reach increased nearly 20%. At one point during the event coverage, the interactive conversation through Twitter and Facebook engaged more than 100,000 people, according to data from TweetReach. That is more than 200 times the number actually sitting in the Sheraton conference hall at the time.

The World Congress coverage online got roughly double the number of eyeballs this year compared with the previous year, and triple the year before. Site traffic on the second day of the conference set a record and on the third day smashed that record by another 30 percent.

Western iMedia’s approach was to treat World Congress as one big story with many moving parts developing over several days, and also to encourage a strong level of involvement from the audience.

“We built the editorial plan around publishing a video-rich multi-blog,” Northrup said. “Each post was a piece of microjournalism capturing one aspect of the discussion, but combining into a comprehensive report, plus heavily engaging a local and worldwide audience in a running conversation through social media.”

Other aspects of Western iMedia’s coverage included:

  • Story Cards (see above) distributed to all participants that encapsulated the entire editorial program, from blog to Twitter hashtag to mobile QR code.
  • Basic training on social media for the portion of World Congress participants who were not already engaged online.
  • Providing an outline of  a series of summary articles for INMA’s Ideas magazine, pulling content from the multi-blog and quotes from the Twitterstream.

Bob Ogle, online editor for INMA, said Western iMedia managed to take a fast-moving event and produce a cohesive record that will continue to resonate long after its conclusion.

“World Congress is difficult to cover because it takes place so quickly,” Ogle said. “Each presentation is rich with information that often isn’t easy to absorb, and as soon as one presentation ends, the next one usually begins immediately. There’s not a lot of time to catch your breath. So the challenge is to accurately reflect the key points of each presentation, engage the audience, and still keep pace with the event, and I think iMedia’s concept of  ‘fusion journalism’ was the perfect solution for that challenge.”

The iMedia team


Ky Bright of Western iMedia
Ky Bright of Western iMedia

Ky Bright
project lead; video lead; video/imaging journalist

Studying broadcast news at Western Kentucky University with a minor in Latin American studies, graduating in May 2012. Will intern at WLKY-TV in Louisville this summer. Plans to work at a television station upon graduation with an ultimate goal of working for ESPN.

Michelle Child of Western iMedia
Michelle Child of Western iMedia

Michelle Child
writer/audience lead

Studying public relations and French at Western Kentucky University, graduating in May 2012. Will intern at WKU's on campus PR/ad agency Imagewest starting in September. Aspires to join the Peace Corps or work abroad in the non-profit sector.

Julie Crabtree of Western iMedia
Julie Crabtree of Western iMedia

Julie Crabtree
writer/editor/content lead

Recent graduate of WKU School of Journalism & Broadcasting with an additional folk studies concentration. Currently a legal assistant with intentions to get her graduate degree in library science and become a librarian. No matter what her career, Julie’s love for writing will keep her busy with freelance work.

Katie Gibbs of Western iMedia
Katie Gibbs of Western iMedia

Katie Gibbs
video/imaging journalist

Studying broadcast TV/film production and creative writing in the nationally recognized WKU School of Journalism & Broadcasting with aspirations to be a documentary filmmaker. Director/technical producer at WKYU-TV PBS station. Katie will graduate in May 2012.

Chelsea Haynes of Western iMedia
Chelsea Haynes of Western iMedia

Chelsea Haynes
writer/editor/digital operations lead

Seeking a bachelor's degree in news/editorial journalism with a minor in geography. Aspires to be a web producer working in multimedia, with an ultimate goal of working for Circle of Blue reporting on the global freshwater crisis. Chelsea will graduate in December 2011.

Ali Kresslein of Western iMedia
Ali Kresslein of Western iMedia

Ali Kresslein
video/imaging journalist

Studying broadcast news and marketing at Western Kentucky University. Hopes to work in the TV news industry as a reporter. Ali will graduate in May 2012.

Laurel Mallory of Western iMedia
Laurel Mallory of Western iMedia

Laurel Mallory
video/imaging journalist

Seeking a dual bachelor's degree in broadcast TV/film production and dance, with additional study in criminology. Aspires to incorporate international travel into her future career. Laurel will graduate in December 2011, and plans to do freelance production work in Bowling Green, Ky., before continuing her career abroad in 2012.

Jake Ryle of Western iMedia
Jake Ryle of Western iMedia

Jake Ryle
video/imaging journalist

Studying broadcast news at the WKU School of Journalism & Broadcasting, with a minor in geography. Received a National Scripps Howard Scholarship and will be a sports intern at Channel 9-WCPO in Cincinnati this summer. Co-anchor of the "Extra Point" Sports Show and anchor/reporter for WKU's NewsChannel 12. Jake will graduate in May 2012.

Mary Beth Wimsatt of Western iMedia
Mary Beth Wimsatt of Western iMedia

Mary Beth Wimsatt
writer/designer/audience specialist

Seeking degrees in mass communication and environmental health science at Western Kentucky University. Plans to obtain her master's in environmental law and policy and eventually a degree in environmental land use and policy law. Mary Beth will graduate in December 2011.

Kerry J. Northrup of Western iMediaKerry J. Northrup
iMedia/newsflow coordinator

Creator of the US$2.5 million Newsplex prototype convergent newsroom-studio for demonstration and training in cross-format editorial techniques, now working with media organizations worldwide designing tech-savvy multiplatform newshandling operations from the journalism up. Holds the Turner Multimedia Professorship at Western Kentucky University. He is also a board member of the Global Editors Network. Until 2009, he was a director at the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) based in Europe. Prior, his career encompassed two decades as an award-winning journalist, editor and executive for a variety of newspapers, magazines and broadcasters, including a corporate position at Gannett. He has consulted for 34 newsrooms in 22 countries as a recognized expert in media innovation, editorial technologies and newsroom management.

WKU Integrated MediaFor more information about Western iMedia, email iMedia@wku.edu.