Teresa is a Digital News Specialist at Digital Services. Prior to joining NPR, Teresa was social media editor at PBS NewsHour, where she played a leading role in shaping NewsHour's social media, outreach and engagement strategy.
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Members of the West Virginia National Guard’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High-Yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package draw water sample to determine levels of contamination.
Credit West Virginia National Guard Public Affairs via Flickr
When thousands of gallons of a chemical spilled into a river in West Virginia in January, leading to a water crisis that affected over 300,000 people, West Virginia Public Broadcasting provided comprehensive coverage on the radio, on television, on their site and on social media.
We’ve heard this a lot lately: Fun stories, not serious stories, work on social media.
But we’ve found otherwise. You can shape serious stories to make them shareable and more informative for the public. We’re not talking about watering down serious journalism — we’re talking about crafting stories for the digital audience.
This happens every day in the Local Stories Project, which curates the most shareable member station content and distributes it through the NPR Facebook page. We’ve seen that people have an appetite for interacting with important stories that affect their lives. We found similar results in our research into the types of local stories that foster engagement.
Still, we wanted to be sure. Can serious stories actually get as much attention as fun ones on social media? And how can reporters and editors shape serious stories so that the audience will like, share, comment, retweet, etc.?
To help answer these questions, we reviewed 809 stories from the Local Stories Project that we then classified as either fun or serious. These were station stories that were posted to the NPR Facebook page and geotargeted — only people in each station’s local region could see them.
The surprising results offer insight into how serious stories can be shareable.
How do you make a serious story shareable?Through the Local Stories Project, we’ve found that serious stories can be just as -- and sometimes more -- shareable than fun stories. See our definitions of serious and fun stories.