RECAP: Phil Lewis On Social Media Journalism and More

Netta Dobbins
Netta Dobbins

On July 25th, we connected with Phil Lewis, Staff Writer at Mic, to discuss owning your tone in journalism, what makes good content and the dynamic of the newsroom during tragedies.

Starting as a teacher in Detroit, Phil was convinced to pursue social media journalism after his friend mentioned how active he was on social media. From there he received a job at Huffington Post, where he was molded and defined into the writer he is today. He is now an editor at Mic. 

See below for an excerpt from the interview and click here for the full interview.

How would you define your voice on social media and as a writer?

What's worked for me on social media and in my stories, as well, is adding a bit of stark and a little bit of humor. Kind of just speaking from a perspective of a young, black man from Detroit. And honestly, there's not enough voices kind of like that, or like mine, in the world of journalism… We kind of need voices that have different living experiences so we can see the world through the eyes of other people. If anything, I say that I try to be as genuine as possible and l love that people interact with me that way.

How has social media helped you in your career?

My position right now didn't even exist like 10 years ago. You can use Twitter now to surface stories and find stories. The way that we use social media now has helped us discover stories that people would've A. never found or B. would've ignored.

How do you decipher what is good content and what isn't good content?

There's so much that people just makeup and share. With social media journalism, you have to make sure that what you're looking at is verifiable. Which is probably one of the hardest parts of the job. You have to make sure what you put out is real because that's a part of your brand. Anything that I post on Twitter I'm making sure that I do at least 10-15 minutes of research before I put it out there because it's a reflection of myself. Social media journalism is different to me because now everybody can tell a story, everybody can share whatever it is they want to share. But it's up to you as a journalist to find out if it's accurate or not.

How do you keep yourself sane when reporting on tragedies?

Where I find solace is that you know we have to get these stories out. People have to know about these things. There was a Facebook Live video of Philando Castille and I remember watching it. I was up, I had to write all of that…It was just really crazy because everything was going on at like once. Alton Sterling was literally the day or two before… it was so much just going on in that space. On one hand, it's really kind of disturbing because you have to watch it over and over and over again… Was he sitting in this seat? Who was he with? What was happening in the video? You have to watch it multiple times and then write it out. You have to consume all of that…It's not always easy, but I wouldn't want to be doing anything else.

MiMConnect will host bi-monthly live Periscope chats designed to aid professionals in the media world.
You'll be hearing from people just like you, who will give their candid advice on a variety of subjects. 

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