New media brings new readers

For Greg Mercer, It’s all about the reader.

At 34, Mercer has accomplished himself as a writer, columnist, national award winning journalist and a reporter with the Waterloo Region Record.

“Things have changed quickly at The Record,” Mercer said. “There’s definitely more of a rush to get things done. It’s a balancing act really, to get information out quickly and responsibly. Some people are more open than others to these changes and others don’t see the value of media. But, we can’t afford to not change with the readers,” he said.

It’s another day at The Record. Mercer walks in just after 10 a.m. with a fresh smile and a bright hello to everyone he passes. The tall, New Brunswick born journalist sits at his desk and prepares for the day as he checks his messages.

It’s unusually quiet in the newsroom. There’s no shouting about deadlines and no back and forth banter between reporters and their smoking editors.

“We have lost bodies in the newsroom and this of course, makes a big difference. But also, many interviews and comments are done through twitter and Facebook for example. There’s more of a silent interaction happening. It’s a different place,” Mercer said.

With new media taking over many news rooms throughout Canada, Mercer remains dedicated to his readers in providing quality news stories.

This laid back lad from the east coast studied journalism and political science at St. Thomas University in Fredericton. He misses the peacefulness, the open spaces and the quiet pace of life back home, but he has no problem dealing with the rush of his on-line newsroom.

“It’s become so normal. We don’t even think about it now. When writing for the web, you have to be short, sweet and in a hurry. You continue to write many versions of the same story throughout the day,” he said.

It’s a process that has become second nature for Mercer, from the “first brush” with breaking news, posting the story on-line, rewriting it as the day moves on and then a final version is produced in print the very next day.

“It’s great to be able to show readers the story as it happens. Remember, there are different types of readers out there and many of them want their news now,” he said. “It allows us to give more to the reader. The paper version is very one dimensional. On-line, it’s so much more interactive. It allows for more opportunities to reach many more people on many different levels.”

Mercer is now entering his eighth year at The Record. Prior to this, he worked for The Mercury in Guelph which is where he, his wife and new daughter Norah reside.

Norah is now 4 months old. As a new dad, how does Mercer balance fatherhood and his demanding job?

“We’re so lucky. She’s such a good-natured little girl. She’s easy on us,” Mercer said.

But nevertheless, with social media today, it’s inevitable that his work does often come home with him at the end of the day.

“The demands are greater. It used be that you would file and then go home. Now, people can message you anytime and people expect a quick response. Your job follows you in your pocket,” he said.

But people, is where Mercer makes his mark. His calm, kind, and happy nature is well respected by both his readers and co-workers.

Chris Herhalt has been a reporter at the Record for nearly three years. He sits directly across from Mercer. New movie “must sees” are discussed as well as hockey standings and then news stories and ideas are bounced back and forth.

Mercer has taught Herhalt a great deal about the job. “Greg has been so helpful and respectful. He is a great listener. He has a way with people when he interviews them. He genuinely cares and he takes the time with them no matter how much he has on his plate. People notice this and they love talking to him,” Herhalt said.

Mercer also seems to have a knack for generating great story ideas and often writes features of human interest. “He has a different style and such diverse interests and perhaps it’s his way with people that he finds all of these interesting stories,” Herhalt said.

As for new media today, Herhalt too, sees the impact it continues to have as a reporter today. “It’s a permanent and constant aggregator,” he said.

Both Mercer and Herhalt stress the importance of social media. “It’s about reaching out to as many as you can,” Herhalt said.

For any journalist just starting out, Mercer offers his best advice. “Be open to new things, it’s an interactive world, people want to talk to you, be open to doing that in any new way you have to,” Mercer said.

The phone rings, another interview, another story, this is Mercer at his best.



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