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Dateline NBC takes Facebook engagement to new level

While Dateline NBC’s correspondents have interacted with viewers on Facebook while the news magazine is on the air, Sunday night the subject of a segment answered viewers’ questions. David Goldman, who regained custody of his son after a highly-publicized legal battle in 2009, was interviewed by NBC’s Meredith Vieira for the broadcast (7 p.m. ET/PT). On Dateline’s Facebook page, he answered viewer questions during the show.

“Dateline has been working to break down television’s ‘fourth wall’ by making our story subjects available for conversations with viewers,” says Anthony Galloway, coordinating producer of Dateline Digital, in an interview with Lost Remote. “We started having our correspondents take part in conversations on Facebook and realized we could take the idea one step further by asking story subjects to do the same. It’s interesting because our viewers are sometimes our best editors and often ask questions that the story subjects are in the best position to answer.”

Goldman answered questions with producers chiming in from time to time — starting with the East Coast and again as the showed aired in the rest of the time zones. “We don’t have specific worries about what people might say,” says Galloway. “Inevitably there are people who disagree with a story subject’s perspective, but we’ve found that when a story subject or even a correspondent is involved in the conversation, participants are more likely to be civil and pose questions as part of a proactive debate.”

Dateline has also used Twitter on several occasions, from displaying the hashtag #winning during a segment on Charlie Sheen to engaging Twitter users to help find sources for a story on the Japan quake. When Chris Hansen tweeted that he was looking for new investigative story ideas, Dateline received hundreds of leads in an dedicated inbox. “It’s a win-win situation,” says Galloway. “Viewers have a more engaging experience and we have the opportunity to learn from our viewers and delve deeper into stories they’re interested in.”

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