How journalists are using Reddit to find and share stories

Victoria Taylor

With thousands of active community groups on specialist subject areas, and a wealth of stories being shared, Reddit is a great tool for journalists – but there are rules and ethical issues, the news:rewired conference in London heard today.

Reddit communications director Victoria Taylor describes the site as a ‘content community that belongs to its users’.

The average person stays on the site for 20 minutes each time, three times a day. There are 21 million votes on content each day and 7,000 active communities.

Founded in 2006, Reddit claims 32 million visits per month in the UK. The top countries worldwide are the US, Canada, UK, Australia and Germany.

She said: “If you’re looking for really passionate dialogue about a specific topic, Reddit might be a great place to look.”

Taylor advises to start by listening – do a search on a topic – then join a conversation and identify yourself. Above all, she says, respect the community when sourcing content – be very transparent about how the story will be used.

James Cook, contributing editor at The Daily Dot, said Reddit had two main functions for journalists: sourcing stories and sharing stories.

He said:

It can look a little bit confusing. It looks a little bit overwhelming. I always say: sign up and get started and you can start following what you’re really interested in.

Identify yourself when you use Reddit: say you’re a journalist. Reddit is a very intelligent community. Be honest about who you are and you’d be surprised the reaction that you get. People are nice in general. They’re polite.

Cook also says using Reddit should not be used just to promote your own content. There is generally a ‘10% rule’ – your stories should not make up more than 10% of your total submitted links.

“If all you’re doing is adding your own stories, it doesn’t look great,” he added.

Fergus Bell, social media and UGC editor at Associated Press, says Reddit can be used to verify stories as well – used alongside other in-house verification techniques. “Reddit is a big source of stories for us,” he said.

When an unusual story or picture emerges, Bell says: “It’s really easy to get caught up in the moment. One of the things you can do with verification is tap into the Reddit community, look down the page and the community is forensically analysing (the evidence).”

He said there were other ethical issues to consider when dealing with contributors who might not have realised what would happen when a story goes viral.

People who are posting don’t necessarily know the impact of what is going to happen. We have to think about how we respond responsibly with people sharing content.

We reach out, but not at the expense of safety. If we knock on someone’s door and ask them about their familiar member that was killed, we make every effort to approach that same situation in a digital space.


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