Reuters’ De Rosa Wants Social Media at Center Stage

This post is part of the Social Media Editor Series, featuring interviews with social media editors from news organizations about what they do and where they see social media in journalism going.

Anthony De Rosa did not begin his career at Reuters as a social media editor—he wasn’t even in the editorial section.

A marketing major from Rutgers University, De Rosa began working as an API manager for a financial startup that Thompson, which later merged with Reuters, would soon buy.

De Rosa said he had used variations of online social media since he was a teenager, but only discovered its real power later.

“I think during the Green Revolution I started using [social media] a lot more,” De Rosa, the 36-year-old who oversees Reuters’ approximately 30 social media accounts, told The Content Strategist. “It got my attention as being a way to see what’s going on in other places and provide information that wasn’t available.”

De Rosa, who attracted Reuters’ editors through his highly touted Tumblr, Soup, brought to the position many of the initial sensibilities that drew him to social media. Part of that is an ability to find information that will become popular.

“I really enjoy just sifting through all the information that’s coming at us all day long, being able to pick up something few people are able to dig up,” De Rosa, who began as social media editor last July, said. He said he focuses on finding additional information that can contribute to the story and provide a welcome update for readers.

The main Reuters Twitter feed alone has more than 1.7 million followers, so this information can quickly go viral. “You kind of know [a post will be popular] if it’s a missing piece or something that explains what others weren’t able to explain about a major story,” he said.

To find such information, he pores over documents, cultivated Twitter lists and multimedia content from around the world.

These days De Rosa is steering Reuters away from its dozen auto-fed social media accounts and leading its nearly 3,000 writers—600  of whom he said use social media for work—to social media to aid reporting.

“The first thing I want them to understand is that [social media] is great way to inform themselves; the second is to build audience and drive viewers,” De Rosa said. “It’s important to stay on top of what’s going on with the given topic they’re covering.”

De Rosa reaches Reuters journalists by holding bimonthly trainings led by those already using social media in the field. The workshops consist of journalists explaining how they’ve gotten value or information from social media.

“People think it’s real when they can hear from another journalist how they use it,” De Rosa said.

Eventually De Rosa wants to move social media into center stage in news coverage, as a viable, pertinent and fun element of the main story.

“It seems like a lot of reporting has social media off to the side bar: here’s the article, here’s the things that happened to be said about it on social media,” he said. These social media tidbits tend to be commentary or comments.

De Rosa, who also writes an opinion column and hosts the Tech Tonic video channel for Reuters, wants to integrate verified social media information into the article with the rest of the reporting.

“We’re trying to blur the lines more between traditional news and verified social media,” he said. To do so, De Rosa said, reporters must follow the same rules as they always have.

“I would revert back to traditional journalism ethics and practices when it comes to social media,” De Rosa said. “Apply the idea of being skeptical and finding corroborating information—don’t go off half-cocked without making sure you’ve confirmed the shared information with multiple sources.”

De Rosa relies on common sense, established sources and services like Storyful to decide what to trust, when it comes to social media content, such as videos from Syria.

For De Rosa, using social media responsibly, but also with an open mind, can lead to better reporting.

“I think they’re trying to be less prescriptive and more trying to guide people to use common sense for the most part,” De Rosa said of Reuters’ social media policy. “When you put too much pressure, it puts people on edge—it doesn’t allow them to use social media as it’s intended.”

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