Lauren Donovan Uses Social Media to Flip the Narrative

Journalists Should Be Individuals First

Lauren Donovan is a 24-year-old journalist working for KCCI, the Hearst station in Des Moines, Iowa. Don’t let her age fool you: she is a well-established weekend anchor and morning reporter, with a social media following in the thousands.

Every Sunday through Thursday, she drops two-minute “Today I’m Following” videos onto Twitter —summarizing her assignment of the day, what facts she has gathered so far, and whom she has talked with. These short clips aren’t promos for the newscast — they are relaxed, conversational “translations” of her stories specifically for her Twitter followers.

“I felt like it was very me, it was genuine, it was real. It actually helped me to get to know my stories better, because if I can’t convey this in a low key, colloquial way, then I don’t understand the story myself.”

Donovan’s “Today I’m Following” videos range from major floods to Escape Room controversies — and usually get twice as many views as the traditional TV reports she posts later on in the day.

“I think people trust you more if you can reveal to them how you’re understanding the story yourself because…sometimes, you can get [an assignment] totally in your wheelhouse, and then the next day you’d be assigned to do something on home ownership and that’s nowhere you’ve ever been as a 24-year-old millennial who’s renting an apartment with her cat,” Donovan said.

The videos aren’t scripted. Thirty minutes to an hour after she gets her assignment, she picks up her phone and starts recording.

“I just did it one day, and then I did it the next day, and it felt normal.” Donovan said.

Based on the number of retweets, Donovan quickly realized that the “stream of consciousness” approach was a hit. Now her goal is to be a consistent part of her followers’ news diets.

“Like you’re watching a reporter trying to figure things out, piece it together. I get my New York Times briefing every morning, I listen to certain podcasts when I wake up. So somebody is counting on that video from me.”

Social media is where Donovan found her voice, but when she started out, she said she would put on a “news voice,” thinking that was what viewers wanted. But she found that viewers responded more if she was genuine, if she showed flaws — not unprofessionalism, but a distinctive, authentic personality.

“Don’t be dishonest to people,” Donovan said. “I think a lot of people in TV news try to have that Ron Burgundy (“Anchorman”) mentality. And that’s the furthest thing from me I think you’ll ever get.”

For Donovan, social media helps define her as an individual.

“I don’t want to ever just be ‘Lauren the Journalist,’ I just want to be Lauren,” she said. “I think a lot of people in our field put all of their identity in their role on air, or their roles as journalists. I’m not trying to be this person in a suit…[and] I hope that that makes people trust me more.”

Do you know an anchor, reporter or meteorologist who is creatively using social media and deserves to be featured in our next Social Media Spotlight? If so, email us at cronkitenewslab@asu.edu and we’ll check out the story.

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