Melony Roy has been a staple in the Philadelphia media scene for quite some time now, beginning as a production assistant at KYW Newsradio. In those halcyon days, Myspace thrived and Facebook was in its infancy. The question as to whether or not large media institutions like KYW should embrace this emergent technology wasn’t even considered relevant at the time.
These days, she wears a couple of different hats. You can find her at her main gig as KYW’s social media editor, a position she actually had to create for herself. Since Roy began driving its social media efforts, KYW has since seen the largest social growth of CBS-owned radio news stations, an impressive feat considering the number of affiliate stations across the United States.
Oh, and she was also named one of Philadelphia’s Most Inspiring Women by Femme and Fortune. Image: Femme and Fortune/Fayme Problems
As if breaking records isn’t enough, Roy was recently elected president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, where her leadership will further the organization’s mission of promoting diversity in newsrooms, and growing the skills of black journalists in Philadelphia and beyond.
We got the chance to chat with Roy about the wild, wild west of social media, Philly, and, of course, how to fight anonymous trolls and dangerous commenters online.
ChatterBlast Media: How does one enter the world of social media before there really was one?
Melony Roy: I always knew I wanted to be a reporter. I met the late, legendary NBC reporter Sheela Allen-Stevens when I was 12! That was my “Ah-ha!” moment in life. She interviewed me, I was on the news that night, I was obsessed.
I went to Seton Hall in North Jersey. When I moved home after college, I was, just like every other aspiring journalist, looking for a job. There weren’t many out there. When I finally did find a job, it was as an entry-level production assistant. I worked two days a week. So I juggled a couple of jobs for two years before I got promoted at KYW. So I really did start from the bottom.
Once I got promoted, things were a little bit different. Social media wasn’t entirely a thing when I was in college. We had no idea that social media would be what it is today. So obviously, no one really went to school for it. Everything I learned, I learned on my own. I basically had to create my job.
How did I do that? I found stories social media and pitched them and got them done. So I essentially proved that KYW needed someone like me to mine social media and the internet and convince them to make it my job and to let me report on it as well. I’ve been doing this for the past four years now. It’s been so exciting to grow our audience and learn how to tell stories on new mediums. I get to interact with our audience daily.
CBM: When social media has yet to be fully figured out, how do you navigate it for an industry like public radio, or journalism as a whole?
MR: It’s tricky. I think people are still trying to monetize social media, to this day. So certain businesses have certain goals with it, and that’s one of them. They want to see a return on investment. How I measure it is through our engagement. I try to make all of our stories stimulating and appealing, either visually or conceptually. It’s kind of a way to info-tain people.
— KYW Newsradio (@KYWNewsradio) January 5, 2017
CBM: Do you feel that you have an amount of flexibility when it comes to packaging stories for social?
MR: In the early days, it was very much the wild, wild west. We just didn’t know what the rules were. That all changed, obviously, and now we have far more of a structure. But now it feels like things are changing again, and we’re in a different creative space. Which is important. When you structure something for social, you can’t take away the creativity, plus your work needs to speak to the authenticity of the story.
CBM: What do you think reads as “inauthentic” on social media?
MR: You just have to be yourself, and you have to be consistent. As a public figure, I’ve struggled with how much information I should tell. So when the goal is having people coming to you for information and talking to you, you need to give more than you take as well.
Do you find that certain genres of KYW stories perform in certain ways on social?
MR: Oh sure. Abortion. Gun control. The election. Black Lives Matter. This is all stuff that provokes very strong feelings. In general, feelings demand the most attention.
CBM: Sure. And in situations with these stories, what’s your level of responsibility toward engaging with your audience?
MR: I engage only to make sure that the arguments or conversations don’t derail what should be a safe community. When readers resort to slurs and bigotry is when I enact hidden comments and censorship. Because seeing hate provokes more hate. I want KYW’s digital space to be one that encourages sharing opinions without having their identities attacked.
CBM: Who among Philadelphia’s greater media scene is embracing social and digital in a bold way?
MR: I quite like the work Billy Penn is doing. I like their social media. They have fun with the news. They have a lot more freedom than a lot of traditional outlets. Overall, it’s been really interesting watching people adapt to how this whole world keeps evolving. I’m liking all of Philly’s stuff so far. People have to get more comfortable with it, I think. I’m hoping that with time, we can all get there.
— Billy Penn (@billy_penn) January 9, 2017
Keith Jones from NBC10 does a great job with this. He likes to go live on Facebook the same time he’s on the air. It’s cool and quite impressive.
CBM: Do you set a policy in place for KYW reporters and their activity on social?
MR: We don’t have a set number of, say, tweets, we want our writers to compose or anything like that. I do work with them to try and maximize their content. But again, it’s all about how comfortable some of these folks are. That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned so far, in life, even: You have to meet people where they are.