Ken Haddad says he began the “Vaccine Hunter” project when he noticed a huge influx of emails and viewer feedback to the Graham Media NBC affiliate from people having trouble finding vaccines. “It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to offer life-saving information to our viewers,” he says.
People looking to secure appointments to get their COVID-19 vaccines are turning to WDIV’s Ken Haddad, ClickOnDetroit’s digital content manager, for help. WDIV is the NBC affiliate in Detroit owned by Graham Media.
Haddad is helping people in real time, personally answering dozens of emails every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day.
His efforts have been noticed by public officials like Ron Klain, President Biden’s chief of staff, who retweeted one of Haddad’s posts.
Donna Harper, from WDIV’s creative services department, says Haddad’s “Vaccine Hunter” project was his own idea.
“Ken just decided one night that there was a need, and he took it upon himself to fill the void,” Harper says. “He hasn’t stopped since.”
She says ClickOnDetroit, WDIV’s website, has been the No. 1 news website in Metro Detroit for three months in a row “because people are so hungry for vaccine information and this is a testament to that.”
According to Comscore, ClickOnDetroit had more than a million unique views in February, says Harper.
Haddad says he began the Vaccine Hunter project when he noticed a huge influx of emails and viewer feedback from people who were having trouble finding vaccines.
He says even though they were posting a lot of information about clinics on ClickOnDetroit, appointments were going so fast that by the time the information got out, it was quickly outdated.
So Haddad started a live blog tracking everything in real time, “so people could act really quickly on appointments near their houses.”
He also started tweeting everything from CVS appointments to slots at local community clinics and county health department openings.
“The biggest reason we did that is just to offer our readers the chance to grab these appointments as quickly as possible,” he says.
Haddad says he knew there was a need for the information, but he didn’t expect it to take off as quickly as it did. “People were sending it to their friends,” he says.
Word of mouth about the blog and its practical, helpful nature spread quickly. Because Haddad’s name was in the story, people were contacting him directly.
“Just the fact that I was able to respond was such a huge relief for them just to talk to somebody,” he says.
Haddad estimates that he’s helped some 400 people since he began the project.
“The cool thing about that is a lot of these people are using that information to help other people,” he notes. “I get a lot of responses like, ‘I used this to find appointments for my whole family or my coworkers’. So there is that whole secondary part that I can’t even estimate. It’s just kind of spreading.”
Haddad’s familiarity with municipality websites and combing through aggregate sites for drug stores and grocery chains is how he finds the appointments. “And there are really, really active Facebook groups in our area that are called ‘the vaccine hunter groups,’ ” he adds.
Engagement is through the roof, he says. “The live blog on our website has had 150,000 views since it started, and my Twitter account has 4.1 million impressions in the last 28 days.”
Haddad sees this as a great example of how local TV news can work as community service journalism.
“It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to offer life-saving information to our viewers,” he says. “It just feels like the best use of our platform right now.”
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