Happy one-year anniversary!

Well, the one-year anniversary of this blog and the Suburban Digest page is actually May 24, but I’ve been swamped since then. It’s been a little while since I posted something here about the weekly Metro page, so better late than never, right?

The purpose of the Suburban Digest is to provide comprehensive coverage to cities in the Jackson metro area where majority of Clarion-Ledger subscribers reside — Brandon, Byram, Canton, Clinton, Flowood, Madison, Pearl, Ridgeland and Reservoir area. Last spring when Executive Editor Brian Tolley came on board, he talked about Passion Topics (subjects/issues important to readers) and how important it was to provide better coverage of the ‘Burbs. That’s where I came in as the reporter on the newly created suburban beat, to take charge of this effort and maintain the weekly content.

In its first year, the Suburban Digest raised awareness of several things you may not have known were happening in your area. By connecting through social media, emails, countless business cards and city government meetings, I have made so many connections with people living in my coverage areas. If a city mayor and board of aldermen voted on an ordinance that would have significant impact on you, it would appear on the page. If an area school or nonprofit is having an event to raise awareness of an issue, it appeared on the page. If local community groups are making positive changes and advancements, it appeared on the page. The main photo changes every week, alternating among the communities along with the column. We try to show people doing ordinary and extraordinary things every Thursday, and the Quotables section shows what people are saying/thinking regarding important local and national issues and public figures.

The first year was a big learning curve for me, as I went from covering two cities (Canton and Ridgeland for the Madison County Herald) to seven. I am learning a lot about these growing municipalities so the page is the best way to keep up with your city. Every Thursday it’s on the second page in the Metro section and online under the “News” tab at clarionledger.com. You can follow this blog for extra information, photos, videos, etc. and follow my Twitter account, @Terricha_CL  and follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/terricha.bradleyphillips?hc_location=stream to keep up. I appreciate all of the “likes,” views, follows and shares, and I’m ALWAYS open to comments, story/column ideas and tips. If you want to submit an idea, email tbradley@jackson.gannett.com. Please share this post with anyone living in the coverage areas.

You rock!

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2012 in tweets.

Call me a copycat, but I saw a very good blog post by my colleague Alex McDaniel titled, “What Does Twitter Say About Your Life in 2012?”  and read about a free tool named Vizify that allows users to create interactive profiles using information aggregated from social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn and Instagram. So, I wanted to see what this year looked like for me and the tweets I put out. Needless to say, this was a busy year full of changes in my life, personally and professionally.

These are the terms I tweeted the most in 2012 — yes, I know there are 19 days left in the year.

STORY-133 uses, 4 responses

I had my first hurricane experience with Isaac and did double duty for the Suburban Digest page that week.

The week I moved from The Madison County Herald to The Clarion-Ledger was busy and stressful.

#SUBURBANDIGEST-75 uses, 2 responses

I tweet using this hashtag almost everyday because this page prints every Thursday. My new beat is rolling along!

The main column carries good news and feature articles from eight communities in the metro area.

CANTON-71 uses, 3 responses

I depend on social networks daily for information from my communities.

Multimedia is something I’ve taken on this year as I strive to have a multifaceted beat. This particular video has over 4,000 views.

JACKSON-49 uses

My first tweet from this twitter account at an assignment in Canton.

My first experience seeing (and smelling) dead bodies.

RIDGELAND-46 uses, 3 responses

I have a soft spot for our military. These are the most selfless people in the world.

It’s nice to see my place of residence get an app!

VIDEO-42 uses, 8 responses

One of the funniest assignments I’ve had.

HOME-32 uses

I use the word “home” a lot as it is my favorite place before and after work.

GOOD MORNING-30 uses

I like giving positive words on my Twitter account and interacting with followers.

PAGE-29 uses

The growing pains were killing me when I first started the Suburban Digest page.

My tweet for 12/12/12.

CITY-28 uses, 6 responses

On September 11, the city of Jackson presented me with a parking ticket. Never again!

Suburbs and social media

Ever since graduate school and entering the wonderful world of professional print journalism, I have seen how important social media is to my job. Back at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications, I didn’t frequent Facebook that much because it was still relatively exclusive to college and high school students in 2007-08. I don’t recall cities, businesses, and people older than 30 (no offense, middle agers) being on Facebook. Not even my professors were on the site! Anyway, using the site for my stories and assignments wasn’t really needed.

Fast forward to 2009, at my first real gig at the Mansfield News Journal and Bucyrus Telegraph-Forum in central Ohio (both are owned by Gannett, which made my transfer here easy). I vividly remember being assigned a story about a violent fight at Galion High School, where a foster student and popular football player attacked a senior in a classroom, sending the kid to the hospital with serious injuries. The victim’s classmates created a Facebook page out of support for his recovery and to update the Galion community on his progress. That page allowed me to keep up with the student’s condition, connect with his family members and friends, and show how Facebook helped me get sources and information that was able to be confirmed. That’s when I started to see the importance of being connected to the community through social networks.

When I moved to Ridgeland to begin my job at the Madison County Herald, I had to start a Facebook page for the Jackson metro area. I didn’t want people to confuse my collegiate page with my professional work, so a “professional” page was meant to establish connections and build sources. At my old job, I rarely stayed on Facebook and Twitter out of fear for being scolded by editors; now I stay on both sites so I can stay updated on happenings throughout Mississippi. Since fall of 2010, I have built a good network of friends, young professionals, cities, media, businesses, residents and city officials on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. These connections have gotten stronger since assuming my new beat as suburban reporter for The Clarion-Ledger in May. Since I now cover nine areas – Brandon, Byram, Canton, Clinton, Flowood, Madison, Pearl, Reservoir area, Ridgeland – for the weekly Suburban Digest page, I made sure to look up and send requests for multiple elected officials, businesses, media outlets, residents and city/resident led Facebook pages.

The most active city and resident pages are from Byram, Canton, Cinton, Madison/Madison County and Brandon. Residents post comments daily on issues, accomplishments, events, new businesses and crime! Byram Police Department posts weekly incident reports, Clinton is all over the map with business, city, economic development and school news. Canton residents post about events and how they can support each other and help the city improve and grow. And it goes on and on. When I need help from city officials, I send Facebook messages and some answer immediately. Take for instance Byram Alderwoman Theresa Marble, who answered my question while on Facebook chat. I asked about the city’s two new traffic lights for a brief on the page and she is SO helpful!

I finally understand why it’s so important for journalists to stay connected to their communities. Instantaneous communication and information is so helpful for us, but it’s also to our detriment. The opportunities to be scooped or scoop any other media outlet are constant. I always stay conscious of this, even making sure I don’t make errors or give improper tone or context. It’s fun, challenging, helpful and enlightening for me. The suburbs, from what I’ve seen, are pretty active and more are joining Facebook every month because they see how great it is to stay connected. This makes my job a little more fun and easier.

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