External media: Traditional and Online ones
During 2015, there have been several occasions for contacting or being contacted by external media.
We started on 15 January 2015 with a short TV interview of 6 Bulgarian Wikipedians in the largest private TV station, bTV, taken on the occasion of the 14th year of the establishment of Wikipedia. The interview, in which User:Spiritia, User:Алиса Селезньова, User:Сале, User:Laveol, User:Спасимир and User:Ilikeliljon volunteered to participate after public invitation on the Village Pump, was logistically supported by User:Justine.toms, professional online media communicator and one of the wiki educators in BG WP, who made the contact between the journalist Borislav Lazarov and the Bulgarian wiki community. This TV broadcast led to the idea to try to reach an agreement with bTV for content donation from theirs, mainly documentary images and videos, of encycopaedically notable people, events and places. Despite the initial interest and readiness for such a donation and possible cooperation, a couple of months later it was already obvious that it will not be led to successful accomplishment. The legal team of the television probably felt insecure to deal with the Creative Commons free licenses, and hesitated to become the first media company in the country to set an example in this kind of media donations.
Another big interview was given for the weekly magazine "Tema" in April, and it was inspired by the then running article writing contest within the region of Central and Eastern Europe. The journalist Svetoslav Spassov contacted the wiki community via Spiritia, as one of the administrators of the Facebook page of the BG WP. She and User:Лорд Бъмбъри (Lord Bumbury) were invited for a three-hour interview, during which a wide variety of Wikipedia-related topics were covered. A 4 full-page interview was drafted, sent back to the two Wikipedians for verification, and published on paper, and online a month later.
After establishing this initial contact with the journalist from "Tema" magazine, in June we offered him and he accepted to write about the Freedom of Panorama, which was a hot topic with respect to the then forthcoming voting of Julia Reda's report in the European Parliament. Spassov took an interview from the Wikimedian Dimitar Dimitrov, User:Dimi z, who is one of the best prepared speakers on the topic. The interview and the reportage got published on paper, and online a month later.
Again, inspired by the CEE article writing contest (which was advertised by the BG WP's sitenotice), a purely online media, Webcafe.com, got interested in interviewing representatives of the BG wiki community and made the contact via User:Laveol, who is also professionally engaged with journalistics and communications. The interview took place in the middle of May and was delivered by Laveol, Spiritia and Plamena Popova, who has been legal advisor for multiple legal issues, which the community has faced in the last 4-5 years. It was a really very positive interview, with several really strong points made by the Wikipedians.
On 1 June, BG WP started its first edition of a "Wiki Loves X" contest, namely the "Wiki Loves Earth" 2015. It was promoted with a Wikipedia sitenotice and an intensive Facebook campaign. A short article about the contest and the Bulgarian participation appeared in the first days of the contest in the online lifestyle media Kafene.bg. Having this publication in the very first days of the contest was a good idea in terms of recruiting new photographers.
At the end of this contest, after having the 10 Bulgarian shortlisted images for participation in the international phase of the contest, Laveol helped for publishing the ten photos in the photo gallery section of one of the leading online news media in BG webspace, Dnevnik.bg. All the ten images were meticulously attributed, in order to set a positive example of the usage of freely licensed content from Wikimedia. They were also accompanied with a running story giving an overview and statistics about this contest in BG Wikipedia and abroad.
On 1 September, Dnevnik.bg again were the first to report about the start of the first "Wiki Loves Monuments" photo competition, too, with an article, linking to the landing page of the competition.
On 6 October, Salle and Spiritia participated for a 40-minute talk about Wikipedia in the real-time talk show "Priemnata" of radio "Braille FM", a specialized radio for visually impaired people in Bulgaria. The talk covered some of the most popular discussion topics related to Wikipedia, like "Who is editing Wikipedia?", "How reliable is it?", "What are the guiding principles?", "How are articles structured?" One question, "How to start a new article?", asked over the phone by a listener, was especially interesting in the context of Wikipedia being accessed by visually impaired people using specific speech synthesis software tools. After the end of the show, the hosts of the talk show and the Wikipedians agreed that this will not be their last participation, and next time there can be a specific real-time questions-and-answers session with the listeners, as well as real-time edit-a-thon on air using specific software for speech synthesis, used by Bulgarian visually impaired users.
- Archive copy of the talk is pending.
Maintained Facebook group and page
During 2015, the Facebook group and reference page of the Bulgarian Wikipedia, were heavily maintained by several people from the community, most notably User:VladislavNedelev, Лорд Бъмбъри, Спасимир, Spiritia, User:Tropcho. These two web locations have been designed to exhibit different communication patterns, as they functionally refer to different audiences. The group has been generally considered to be more appropriate place for community discussions, related to the guiding principles, news or hot thematic debates in Bulgarian Wikipedia, or Wikipedia in general, to free licenses and free culture, Wiki-related events, etc. The page has much more the purpose of a showcase for featured articles, featured images and videos, as well as some biographic or event-related articles that relate to the current date.
With the first edition of the "Wiki Loves Earth" photo contest in Bulgaria, we made a very good use of the Facebook page by showing selected pictures from other countries from previous years, as well as some of the most qualitative images that have been currently uploaded for the contest. One of the contest jury members, User:Vodnokon4e wrote a series of intriguing and witty analyses of the best selections from previous WLE editions, which he published in the Facebook page and in his personal blog.
- Maintaining the Facebook page as an educational experience
To be developed!
It is of crucial importance for the development of the user group and the community as a whole, to have more people engaged with communication with media. It is important to have media outreach performed by both people who have prior experience from the past (like Spiritia and Спасимир), yet the sustainable and working strategy would be to share this experience, and promote new, fresh faces.
In this sense, we are happy to have people who are professionally engaged in the area of communications and public relations, like Justine Toms and Wikipedian User:Laveol. It is important to have such people building positive relations with media, and more importantly, given the media market situation in Bulgaria, not media in general, but the independent, responsible and qualitative media.
Having built some relations, we can rely on having some important topics being considered/covered. This was the case with the second publication in the Tema magazine – on the topic of Freedom of Panorama in EU, which came as a result of the first interview given a month before and the positive contacts established as a result. Moreover, it is noteworthy that practically no other media in Bulgaria (except the IT-specialized website technews.bg) covered the topic about the Freedom of Panorama, despite that the outcomes of this decision would affect virtually everybody.
The "Wikimedians of Bulgaria" User Group does not have designated agents for media outreach, and different people from the community have been contact points in different situations. In the majority of the cases, the community reacts to invitations for interviews, and in less cases there has been a proactive reach for media attention (for instance, the Freedom of Panorama-related text in "Tema", and the materials about "Wiki Loves Earth" photo contest in Kafene.bg and Dnevnik.bg). We can thus hardly formulate extensive organizational experience, though in the "Lessons learnt" section we still can share some insights.
- DISCLAIMER: The text below currently reflects only the experience and POV of User:Spiritia
- Journalists' expectations and prejudices
- Media, especially "traditional" paper and electronic media, demand urgent reactions when they make an invitation for an interview or reportage. They usually require the answer immediately or by the end of the day, because of the dynamics of the media, and due to their expectation that they contact the public relations officer of the wiki community. Generally, journalists are used to talking with designated spokespersons, rather than amorphous anonymous communities. They usually approach us, knowing that Wikipedians are volunteers, but often act or demand us to act as if we are professionally involved, paid staff, expecting a top-down hierarchy and decision making process. Usually, this attitude is reflected in their questions during the interview, and is one of the things that we need to carefully explain.
- On the other hand, probably due to us being volunteers, some journalists regard the whole engagement with Wikipedia as something simple and intuitive enough, and some of them have frankly declared in the beginning of the interview, that they have not "bothered to prepare" for the interview.
- Top-of-mind considerations when a journalist calls for an interview
- The respective contacted person shall be quick in analysing the case and defining:
- The benefits of such a media participation.
- No need to be "omnivorous", not all media deserve us to talk to them, e.g. yellow press. The Wikimedia community is already authority, and can certainly allow the luxury to be picky, and opt not to respond to some media requests.
- The min and max number of required interviewees.
- In short interviews, many participating editors cane be a distractor, and will make it more difficult for the journalists to outline the best messages.
- The constraints of the situation.
- For instance, does the media require physical presence of people or can interview over the phone?
- Is the meeting point a communicative place with wifi connection if the operators want to record the process of editing Wikipedia (they often do!)
- Who are the most appropriate representatives, if the topic is specific, etc.
- Sometimes media are interested in people with narrow but deep expertise in some topic, like the Freedom of Panorama and free licenses.
- In general, they are in such a hurry that "anyone would do" (meh!)
- Some other considerations and useful tips
- Recruiting volunteers to be interviewed.
- Informing the community for the media outreach opportunity on the local Village Pump is "the wiki way" of doing it, but since this is asynchronous, often non-personally-addressed communication, it may not work well in urgent cases.
- In such cases, checking the Recent changes for editors who are currently online and fit within the expected profile, is a better tactics.
- Another option is to contact the spokespersons via a social network, like Facebook group. People tend to check their Facebook quite often and get immediate personal notifications.
- Do not procrastinate, media are in a hurry. Define strict deadlines, but also encourage participation.
- Educating new spokespersons.
- Media want fresh faces and fresh voices, and are right to expect it from such large and amorphous community as the Wikipedian one. Especially if you are building a long-term connection with certain journalists, next time they interview you, they would be happy to have another volunteer as a speaker, too.
- The best strategy is to gradually involve new spokespersons, and give them the possibility to go together with the more experienced once, and they discuss their performance, analyse mistakes and good points, collect feedback from the rest of the community.
- Not a good idea to throw a completely new representative alone "in the deep cold waters".
- Considerations for asynchronous media.
- Some people tend to think that the interview will feel better if given to a media, which doesn't broadcast them in real time, e.g. "paper media". They feel that they in the asynchronous mode they can correct speech mistakes, clarify possible misinterpretations, will have more time to explain themselves. This is true so far, but do not forget that journalists then will take their time to put the material in some shape, and this often leads to (involuntary) changes in expressions and meanings.
- The tip is: always ask to have a preliminary look at the material before publication. Some journalists may decline this request, out of fear that they will risk their independence, and their media's editorial policy. Hence, the request shall be formulated as proposal to double check the specific wiki terminology in use, promising that no journalist's expressed point of view will be altered.
- Considerations for synchronous media.
- Sometimes, the interview is in real time and there is no post-processing of the material. This is good in terms that you will not be afraid of having some of your words altered without your knowledge or agreement. On the gloomy side, this requires you to overcome any stage fright and stress from microphones you may have, and to practice speaking clearly and fluently, without awkward pauses.
- Always be ready to cite statistics by heart or quickly show them on screen, and provide some illustrative material.
- Any journalist will be happy if you provide them with additional illustrative material: photos, screenshots, statistic charts, infographics.
- Even when they do not understand them, journalists LOVE numbers; this is a law of nature. Experience shows that journalists often approach Wikipedians for interviews, without making their preliminary research on the topic, or they have some vague / fragmentary / biased ideas of the community that stays behind Wikipedia. Almost always, especially when this is their first encounter with a Wikipedian, they want to clarify their vague idea, so they want some quantitative, measurable and tangible orientations, i.e. numbers. Almost always they ask about the number of people in the community (and are often stricken with awe when they learn how little number of active volunteers actually keep in running, compared to the enormous number of users). So, do not miss a chance to strike a journalist with awe, and go prepared with some "hard" statistical data to cite (active editors, article traffic stats). Journalists are also impressed by the number of language versions (280+) and the number and diversity of sister projects. It's always a good idea to show them your local Wikipedia's ranking among this sea of other versions (List of Wikipedias).
- Always be ready with some success story, and provide side information carrying some positive message (we're full with such!)
- Especially when the interview goes in a "wrong" direction, the journalist is overly critical or holding some anti-Wikipedian point of view, be prepared with some positive - recent and local - counterexample, which can change the discourse. It can be loosely related or even unrelated, but make sure that you mention it in an intriguing way, before the time has finished.
- Keep your eye on the watch.
- What in "Keep your eye on the watch." you did not understand?! :)
- Try to maximize the effect of the media connection.
- Try to establish long-lasting contacts with the journalists, ask them for their contacts and give yours.
- Tip them of forthcoming events that can make it into the news: forthcoming anniversaries of either the local Wikipedia or the English one (15 Jan 2001), of some article writing or photo contests, educational or GLAM activities, anything.
- Consider the possibilities to kindly request content donation from the media, e.g. portraits of notable people for their biographic articles, footage of important events, etc. If you prepare it in advance, you can immediately use the occasion what your community needs are, and how the media can benefit from donating content under free license to Wikimedia.