Social media unlocks Tennessee flood coverage for new readers


FFacebook, Twitter and other social media have become ubiquitous in journalists’ toolboxes. These tools unlock the value of content by engaging new readers in unique new ways.

The power of social media was showcased recently in Tennessee.

Record rainfall sent a river over its banks and flooded Nashville in early May. Journalists at The Tennessean and produced exceptional print and digital content. Covering a huge story is in their DNA. They do it very well.

Woven throughout their coverage was sweeping use of new techniques and tools. These are no longer add-ons to traditional journalism. They are essential tools for delivering content.

Knight Stivender is senior editor, digital development & niche content at The Tennessean and Knight shared information that shows both the reach of social media and the widespread adoption across the staff.

Use of Facebook and Twitter soared during the flood. The Tennessean’s main page on Facebook now has almost 5,600 fans and its main Twitter account has more than 4,000 followers.

In response to this viral blog post written by one of their bloggers, Tennessean Social Media Director Eric Shuff started a Facebook fan page. It has nearly 20,000 fans.

Lifestyles Editor Arienne Holland curated this collection of Nashville bloggers' reactions to the flood, which ran in print and as a featured post at It included the hugely popular “We Are Nashville” post.interactive version of it.

Assistant Lifestyles Editor Kristin Whittlesey had the idea to create, print and distribute a free resource guide for those affected by the flooding. Eric then created an

The Tennessean staff worked with to implement a flood-specific widget so users could quickly report problems to government officials.

Tennessean sales executive Wendy Dyes began a Facebook group called “Pay It Forward Nashville” for people who needed flood relief to help connect with those who could help. It has more than 6,000 fans and has attracted the attention of the television show, Extreme Home Makeover.

Tennessean designer Chris Rapking created an interactive “Flood Wall” for people to share their stories and thoughts. It has dozens of quick bits of emotion, sympathy and thanks, presented in a real-time and interactive way.

We understood the outpouring of sympathy toward Nashville from both inside and outside the city, and negotiated with the administrator of the “Nashville” fan page on Facebook (a Kentucky resident who went to college in Nashville) to take over management of the page so they could better distribute information and connect with folks who wanted to express flood emotions. It has 40,000 fans.

Tennessean videographer Steve Harman's videos on our YouTube channel and in Brightcove have received hundreds of thousands of streams.

One of the biggest changes in journalism in the digital age is that readers expect to be active participants.

By welcoming them into what we do, our content is made richer and deeper.

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