Q and A with Kristi Waite, KOMO 4 News Media Director

Laura K. Umetsu, Editor in Chief

The news has changed drastically since I was a child. And childhood for me wasn’t that long ago. With the advent of online tools like Facebook and Twitter, newscasters can have instantaneous deliverance and input of news stories.

All this change has led to new job opportunities within the realm of news media. I interviewed Kristi Waite, the Director of Digital Strategy for KOMO 4 News, for the details on these changes, and how these changes led to her to her job.

Q: What drew you to media?

A: It was the amount of opportunities here. I am in a business that has been doing things the same way for 50 years. You had newscasters behind a screen, having a one way conversation with the viewers. They would say, “I am an anchor. I tell you what’s happening in your town.”

All of a sudden, social media comes along, and people, your neighbors, everyone, has a voice. It’s really fun. It’s amazing to help shape that. At KOMO 4 News, we have 45,000 followers on Facebook. We have 21,000 followers on Twitter.

All our anchors have fanpages as well. So adding Facebook and Twitter accounts together, that means on average we are reaching almost 70,000 viewers a day with news as it unfolds, just with social media applications. That’s a lot of information going out, especially in breaking news.

Traditionally, when there was a breaking news story, we would cut in whatever was on television. And this would typically be at least half hour after the event has happened. Now, we have the ability to get things on the web far quicker than T.V. We also can get a lot of our stories through Facebook and Twitter tips.

Q: What is the most memorable social media experience that you’ve had at KOMO?

A: One of our former anchors just passed away, of a brain tumor. Her name was Kathi Georzen, and she had been an anchor for 20 years. Towards the end of her battle, the tumor had caused severe damage to her face, which prevented her from broadcasting over the air. But because of the internet, she was able to stay connected with her viewers.

It was a very transparent experience. She was able to bring viewers along for the ride. Her Facebook fanpage had 91,000 fans. That’s more than any talent or news organization. She is one person. Her story is an absolute testament to why social media matters and why it works.

Q: What is the typical day like for you?

A: I make sure social media policy is being followed throughout the company. I work with KOMO 4 News, but on a larger scale, with Fisher Communications. This means that there are other television stations that we work with. Just to give you an idea of the sheer amount of multitasking I do, I am an administrator of 230 Facebook fanpages. I work on staying on the forefront of what is happening. Facebook changes every day, and I develop new initiatives to increase viewer interaction along with these changes.

Q: What kind of internal procedures do you have to follow?

Overall, I have to follow strict guidelines. The SEC regulates me lifting my finger. We have to be really cautious. As long as we’re sticking to reporting stories which are authentic and true, we should be fine.

It’s different for administrating a talent page. First of all, there are multiple admins for every fanpage. As a talent, you can’t just admin own official fanpage. This takes care of the possible scenario where someone gets fired and starts talking bad about the station. While this has never happened with KOMO, this has happened in the industry. The other issue we work at resolving is user error. Sometimes you think you’re posting on personal account, but you’re really posting on your KOMO account. We work to protect the privacy of our employees so that they keep their privacy.

Q: What is your advice to KOMO 4 anchors and the general public for things that you want to  keep private?

A: Whatever is on your fanpage or personal page, imagine that it’s public. Nothing is private over Facebook. If I wanted a story on you, it doesn’t matter if I’m not your friend. If there is a compromising comment that you made, we’ll get it. All we need to do is find someone who is your friend to take a screenshot.

It’s the same with potential employers. They will find a way to see what you don’t want them to see. Even if you aren’t tagged in a photograph, your face is still your face, even if it’s not tagged. Make sure that everything  about you on the internet that is public really reflects the best of you.

Always err on the side of caution, especially if you are considering running for office someday. The media will comb your name for everything you’ve ever said online. Always stay on top of these things, for the sake of your professional image.

Kristi Waite is the Director of Digital Strategy for KOMO 4 News, a major news station that covers news for Western Washington.



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