I lived in Oklahoma for years, and so many people I love are in or near Moore.
I’m first so thankful that my people are safe. My best friend’s kids go to school just a few miles south of Moore. My 9-year-old called my friend’s 8-year-old last night to make sure she was okay and tell her he loves her.
Second, I’m heartbroken for the people whose lives just got torn apart. I can hardly bear to think about the parents and the children.
Third, I’m grateful for the first responders. I think of first responders as the people who run into tragedy rather than away from it, with a goal of helping. And while that of course includes safety and medical personnel, in my world, it also includes journalists.
Journalists in the Oklahoma City area are working around the clock to not only keep those of us far away up to date about what’s going on on the scene, but more importantly to bring that information to their own neighbors in shelters, staying with friends, working as first responders or wondering how they can help. I heard so many government or nonprofit officials say during interviews yesterday that they were getting their information and perspective from news reports, same as everyone else.
It’s easy, and understandable, to question the role journalism plays in a culture where information is everywhere. But imagine during a situation like this if there weren’t people committed to asking the questions we all have and to being our window into the tragedy.
It’s especially poignant for me, since I learned how to be a journalist while covering an Oklahoma tragedy. Every since the OKC bombing, when I was 20, journalism has been a way for me to cope — to have a purpose during times of disaster. Disasters are also what I think of first when I hear people question why journalism is worth investing in.
As a long-distance spectator, I’m grateful for the news footage, the photos, the questions, the facts and the survival stories. I’m grateful for the people who hug their own children, then head back out to talk to parents who have lost theirs. Who verify and share the names of people missing before they sort through the rubble of their own neighborhoods.
To the non-journalists out there: If you find yourself in a conversation about where you get your news, whether you trust journalists, or what role journalism has in your life, think about what you did when you had vital questions yesterday, and what it feels like to want to know something you can’t know on your own.
It’s How To Get a Job week in Participatory Journalism. I hear from students all the time that they don’t get enough of this while they’re here (or that they just feel like they could always use more), so all are welcome for our two classes this week. We meet Monday and Wednesday from 12-1:15 in Lee Hills Hall, 101A.
Today, we’re going to talk about figuring out what the narrative of your work is, and how to use social media to make that clear. Then we’ll go over some basics of resumes, portfolios, cover letters and references.
On Wednesday, we’ll talk about interviews and go more into personal branding. Then we’ll have a show and tell. The students on the community outreach team at the Missourian are going to make quick video pitches — what they would say if they found themselves in an elevator with someone who was hiring for their dream job. Here are some samples from last semester.
A few other links:
Here are some lessons I previously shared about how to behave professionally in the newsroom, and what pitfalls to avoid.
One I’ll add: Don’t misuse digital communication. Don’t ask a detailed question in a direct message or text message. Those are for quick things — answers I want to type on my phone. Don’t also ask something important, like whether or not I’ll be a reference for you, in a text or DM. Respect the importance of that question by doing it in a more thoughtful way, and using please and thank you.
Here’s where I collect links on how to get a job. See the related links to the left if you want more on a specific topic (resumes, cover letters, etc.).
Here’s what might be my favorite unconventional “resume” ever, because it gets across this guy’s story, not just his list of skills or experience.
Here’s why you should show a pulse and convey your energy and optimism.
I’ll likely add to this file today and tomorrow. And feel free to add your own links or questions in the comments!
Seth Godin, whose work inspires the heck out of me, had a recent blog post about audience.
He poses a list of questions for marketers, about how to make focused change by first determining who exactly you are trying to reach.
If you can’t answer this specifically, do not proceed to the rest. By who, I mean, “give me a name.” Or, if you can’t give me a name, then a persona, a tribe, a spot in the hierarchy, a set of people who share particular worldviews.
It reminds me of conversations we’ve been having in my newsroom with reporters: Who’s your audience? Where are they already talking? How can you reach them? What do you hope your story will accomplish? What can the audience do with your story, or in response to it? (Here’s a post I wrote recently about those questions.)
Seth has defined marketing as “the art of telling a story that resonates with your audience and then spreads,” and after listening to a recent interview he did with the show “On Being,” my view of marketing has expanded substantially. (On that show, he talked about it as trying to get noticed.)
Don’t journalists want their work to get noticed? Don’t most of us believe the work we do matters, in ways big and small?
After his list of questions to ask about who your product/message is intended for, Seth closes with this:
Now that you know these things, go make a product and a service and a story that works. No fair changing the answers to the questions to match the thing you’ve already made (you can change the desired audience, but you can’t change the truth of what they want and believe).
The members of my community outreach team will be paired up with some of our reporters this week to ask some key questions about what they’re working on. These reporters are all pitching projects — meaty, lengthy projects that they’re hoping editors will give them many weeks to work on.
My goal is that the reporters will bring an awareness of audience and a sense of who they’re writing to — and for — to their early work. Because really, if you can’t answer that fundamental question, what’s the point? If you can’t picture the people who you think will really benefit from the information you hope to share, why is it worth your effort? Not every day-turn story is worth this approach, of course. But for any project, series, investigative report, etc., it’s a discipline I think we should make part of our routine.
Here’s the list of questions I wish reporters would answer about any project.
- Who’s already talking about what you’re covering? Where/how (offline and online) are those conversations taking place?
- Whose experience or expertise could help you in your reporting? What sources are you looking for, and how could we get creative about finding them? (This could be specific people, or communities of people.) Or should we invite someone to contribute their own voice as a companion to your story?
- Is there an opportunity for — and would there be benefit from — letting the community know what you’re working on as you’re still reporting? Is there any danger in doing that?
- What do you hope your story will accomplish? Is there conversation that might (or should?) follow? If so, what could (should?) we do to facilitate or be a part of that?
- Who’s your target audience? Who do you think most needs — or would most enjoy — the story you’re telling and information you’re providing? How can you make sure they’re invited to see what you produce, and interact with it?
- What can the audience DO with your story, or in response to it?
I think 15 minutes spent with this list could help make a project relevant. It could help foster a community’s connection to a project from the early stages. It could show community members what they stand to gain by getting involved with their news, and how a relationship with news could help them be more involved in their communities.
I know reporters feel overwhelmed by all their being asked to add to their plates. But a focus on the audience seems necessary for news organizations, and I think that can begin with individual reporters.
What would you add to the list?
What should we as journalists share about ourselves? When does our disclosure enhance our credibility? When does our transparency lead to a deeper connection with our audience?
In my Participatory Journalism class last week, we muddled our way through those questions. And the questions came up again in the Columbia Missourian newsroom on election night. (That is, after all, how we teach here: We look at principles in the classroom, and reinforce them on the job.)
We talked in class, of course, about the View from Nowhere. We talked about where we’re all coming from, and what perspectives we bring to the choices we make as journalists. We all have biases that we bring to story selection, to the framing of stories, to the questions we ask, to the decisions we make about word choice.
We talked about this modern, American notion that we should all step outside ourselves to do Proper Journalism — a notion that doesn’t always hold up if you work in a small town where everyone knows all about you, or if you work elsewhere on the globe, where partisan journalism is expected and preferred. I got to rant about the word objectivity, and how being separate from what we cover doesn’t always lead to journalism that’s reflective of its intended audience.
It feels safe to say that nowhere is the “o” word more invoked than in the case of Journalists vs. U.S. Politics. We don’t share our opinions or ideologies publicly. We don’t admit we have them. Heck, sometimes we don’t even vote.
Here’s the thing: This drives me crazy, and I’d love to see it change. But politics doesn’t feel like the right area for us to experiment with transparency, especially at a community newspaper.
Note: This has been updated for folks interested in the class for Summer or Fall 2013.
“Engagement” is a buzz word in journalism these days. But what does it really mean? And how does it get incorporated into daily news?
In J4700/7700, Participatory Journalism, students become part of the community outreach team at the Columbia Missourian. They all get experience with social media, analytics, identifying audience, being ambassadors for the newsroom, crowdsourcing and comment moderation. They learn how to make the news more social and conversational, how to ask questions people want to answer, and how inviting participation with the news is a key step in staying relevant as news providers.
I started to gather some of what we’ve been doing with the #CoMoSnow in February, but I ‘ve been too busy doing the journalism to explain what we’ve done so far. Here’s a column that our boss, Tom Warhover, wrote about some of it.
Sound like stuff you’d like to have on your resume and in your portfolio of work? Here’s what you should know before asking for a consent number.
Here’s a link to this semester’s syllabus, which is in a google doc because it’s always a work in progress.
Here’s a link to a diagram I made of what we cover.
Here’s a dated but still maybe useful blog post about what the team did in its first semester, Fall 2011.
The fact that a blog post from a year ago is dated should tell you something about how our team works. It’s constantly evolving. It’s a giant experiment. “Because we did it that way last time” is pretty much never a reason for doing it that way again. We’re constantly assessing the effectiveness of what we’re doing, tossing out ideas that aren’t working and inventing new strategies to try (something journalists need to know how to do).
Journalists are great at telling stories, often right up until the point of telling their OWN story.
When it comes to getting a job, it’s vitally important to be able to craft your own narrative. Prospective employers don’t just want to know what you’ve done, where you’ve worked and what you’ve covered. They should be able to learn:
What you stand for or believe in. Why do you get out of bed in the morning? What kind of work keeps you going?
What you’re like as a person and a colleague. How would your coworkers describe you? What’s your energy level? How do you collaborate?
All of this of course is leading to …
What you would be like as an employee. What would you bring to their team, beyond the skills listed on your resume and reflected in your portfolio? A very smart editor told a newsroom full of students last year that she likes to hire for attitude, then teach for skill. (I wrote about her in this previous job-hunting post, along with similar advice to be an Tigger, not an Eeyore, which might be my all-time favorite.)
One of my favorite examples of a job hunter creating his own narrative is this use of Storify by @scottrocketship, in which I get a sense of what he does, what he’s good at and who he is.
(If you’re looking for more job-hunting links, you’ll find the highlights I used in this year’s class here.)
So, when I talk to my students about personal branding and how they sell themselves, we talk about the consistent narrative they need to make sure their online identities project. We talk about the importance of energy and personality. We talk about how a cover letter needs to be more than a description of what’s in their resumes.
And we talk about what would happen if they found themselves in an elevator with someone who had a job they were dying to get.
With that in mind, I made the students in my Participatory Journalism class make “why you should hire me” pitch videos. I think they’d say the experience was both awkward and helpful. It was totally contrived — conversations like this usually happen a bit more organically, with less you talking directly at them for 60 to 90 seconds.
But the exercise was useful, I think. It at least made them think about what they would want to highlight about themselves.
Five brave and kind students agreed to let me share their pitch videos publicly. Give them a shoutout in the comments. Even better? Leave feedback or job offers!
And away we go …
What would you add? Comment here, or tweet to @mayerjoy with the hashtag #lifelessons.
When it comes to the relationship between a news organization and its community, most of us would do well to pay more attention to small-town newsrooms.
These are folks who have:
— a well-established standing as the go-to place for news
— a solid relationship with the people they serve
— a market share that would make bigger operations salivate
It is with that in mind that I prepared to do a workshop last week with members of the Missouri Press Association. The daylong seminar, hosted at RJI, also brought in high school and middle school journalism teachers, who were in town as part of an ASNE training program.
The topic of the workshop was social media, but I’ll embrace that term only if we define it loosely, as media designed to be social. Designed to be acted on, contributed to, talked about and passed along. And these ideas are not at all new to community news, which is often designed to be stuck to the fridge or mailed to the grandparents.
The part that’s new is figuring out how the well-established, social relationship between newspaper and community translates to the digital age. As Dave Marner, managing editor of the Gasconade County Republican, talked to me about last year, what does it mean to fill community scrapbooks these days?
My research into how Missouri’s community newspapers are making the transition to the digital world led me to discover one of my all-time favorite newspaper Facebook pages. Allow me to introduce you to the Houston Herald, which takes the news directly to its community in a way that respects readers’ time and makes it easy to be in the know.
The Herald is a weekly newspaper in south central Missouri, in a community of just under 2,000 and with a print circulation of 4,000. The paper’s Facebook page, which launched in 2008, has 2,500 likes.
Now that’s penetration.
The unbelievably smart and passionate Breeze Richardson of Chicago Public Media chatted with my Participatory Journalism class this afternoon. We talked about the engagement metrics she has set up, which she described beautifully in this RJI blog post, the need for a culture of assessment in newsrooms, and how to best effect organizational change.
I always leave conversations with Breeze:
- Determined to change the culture of journalism
- Optimistic about opportunities for change
- Wondering if she’s hiring, because I’d love to work with her
I want to share just a few of the highlights from today’s conversation.
- “If something is going to be institutionalized, it should be tracked and measured.”
- Whenever possible, tie specific projects and efforts back to an organization’s strategic plan. If you have a mission that talks about bringing in more voices from the community, and you can tie specific efforts to that part of the plan, you have clear backup for your ideas. You also have a way to hold people accountable — something to point to that offers justification for the strategy.
- Know what you’re tracking and what you’re not tracking, and track metrics that address your goals. This is another way of saying one of my favorite metrics mantras: The ROI of analytics data that lead to no action is zero. Track only what helps you make decisions.
- Newsrooms are not used to being held accountable. Digital journalism has given us a window into audience, and being responsive to that audience is not always comfortable.
- To reward people who focus on engagement, credit staff by name whenever possible. Don’t underestimate public praise as a motivator.
- Think about what concrete steps reporters can take to make their stories engagement-friendly. This is one my newsroom is about to take on — a best practices guide for implementing the diagram on the wall of our newsroom showing the kind of journalism we value.