Thursday, August 23, 2012

Out-of-office reply

Two reporters for our sister university-focused paper, the Colorado Daily, recently made a point to go hang out on University Hill at popular bars and chat with the students they write about. They posted pics of their experience on Instagram and Facebook, and I caught up with them after to see how it went. Here's the low-down. 

Q&A with Ashley Dean, music writer

How did you promote your "outside office hours" before and during so people knew you were there? 
We took a photo of our charming faces and posted it on the Colorado Daily Facebook account, saying we'd be out for the night, starting with the Sink at 7 and updating from there. We Tweeted from our personal accounts, took pictures with Instagram, and checked in everywhere on Foursquare.

How did you communicate with the students? Did you start conversations or did you wait for them to come to you? 
We spent most of the night at The Catacombs, which has a bunch of pool tables, foosball, giant Jenga, ping pong, etc. Getting in on the games was a fantastic ice breaker. You don't have to creepily approach anyone and you can have a casual conversation while you play, rather than feeling like it's an interview.

How many people did you talk to, and what did you talk about? 
We only talked to maybe 6 people. There just weren't a lot of people out. Whitney talked with them about classes, where they live, what they like to do. I chatted up some students about what kind of music they like and talked to some non-CU students who were playing an open mic.

Did you learn anything? Get any story ideas? 
I got some band recommendations to check out. The students really confirmed what I've always thought is popular genre-wise around here. 

What were the challenges, and how might you recommend other journalists who want to connect with the community address them? 
I think the challenges were things that can be easily overcome just by leaning from mistakes. We were out a little to early, so students were scarce at the first bar we went to, for example. I think the challenges would be different depending on how you're engaging and you just need to take note an adapt quickly.

Will you do this again?
Definitely! First of all, it was fun. I met some cool people in the community and spent time with a fellow reporter. And even though I didn't come away with a solid story idea or something, I feel like I've got my finger on the community pulse. It also shows our fairly young readers that we're fun/cool/whatever. Student panels have told us they love to see the writer's personalities come out in the paper, and I think this sort f takes that a step further. The people we talked to were saying it's cool that we're out doing this. I think it send the message that we're not much different from them- we're barely any older, we have a lot of the same interests and we're living an having fun in this community, too.

Next, I talked to University of Colorado beat reporter Whitney Bryen. 

Q&A with Whitney Bryen, CU reporter

Why did you decide to do this?  
Even though I don't live in Boulder, covering the campus is pretty easy. I spend most of my time during the work day on campus talking to students, profs and administrators and getting a feel for the campus and the hot topics.

On the other hand, as a sort of campus life reporter, it's difficult to know what types of things students are doing and talking about after classes since I go home to Denver. So this was an experiment in spending time with students outside of campus and trying to delve into their social world. In short, community engagement.

Did you learn anything? 
I felt like I got a better idea of what people think of the Daily and what they remember about it. I didn't feel like there were any solid story ideas from this one but I feel like there's potential for that in the future. 

Will you do this again? 
Yap, we're going out again Thursday. While I don't feel like we have the hang of this yet, it has potential. Oh, and it's a fun night out, too. We had good times, if you can't tell from our posts. 

Whitney signing the ceiling at The Sink

Follow Bryen's future adventures with community engagement here:

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