#lifelessons. Or, how to make yourself popular in the newsroom.

  1. I’m giving a quick beginning-of-the-semester lesson in
    professionalism with my class tomorrow — one that I hope will help my
    team ingratiate themselves to the rest of the newsroom. Some of my students have a lot of experience in office or newsroom settings, and some do not. Some have worked in my newsroom before, and some have not.

    I want to
    emphasize that how they conduct themselves — in the newsroom and out —
    plays a huge role in their perceived credibility, their working
    relationships and their ability to collaborate.

    After all, you can’t get anything done in a newsroom by yourself. If you want to work solo, find a new profession.

    So, here we go.

  2. mayerjoy
    I’m all about the life lessons today. “When you stop in someone’s office, it’s a good idea to first introduce yourself.”
    Wed, Aug 29 2012 10:23:01
  3. mayerjoy
    More #lifelessons: Before you launch into a five-minute story, ask to see if the person you’re addressing has time to talk.
    Wed, Aug 29 2012 10:23:44
  4. I got some useful advice from my friends on the Interwebs today.

  5. robweir
    @mayerjoy another #lifelesson: “you busy?” should be a request for information, not a hello.
    Wed, Aug 29 2012 10:36:45
  6. robweir
    @mayerjoy i mean, seriously: “Hi, you busy? [sits down] Here’s my large and complex problem.”
    Wed, Aug 29 2012 10:49:35
  7. This one from a former student is practical. Feel free to be a squeaky wheel if you think your editor, or a colleague, has forgotten to follow up on something. But don’t squeak at an annoying decibel. (Rachel has experience squeaking at me, and she does it professionally.)
  8. rschallom
    @mayerjoy Send friendly reminder emails–things get lost. Key word: friendly.
    Wed, Aug 29 2012 11:11:56
  9. BE PLEASANT. Eye contact. Smile. (Crazy suggestions from Shaina.)
  10. ShainaRC
    @mayerjoy Learn how to give a proper greeting: eye contact, smile, firm handshake, clear pronunciation of name #lifelessons
    Wed, Aug 29 2012 10:53:09
  11. This next one is huge, especially in a newsroom with 250 people every semester. Don’t assume people know who you are.
  12. rclnudson
    @mayerjoy I just moved to edit for a new group and half the people stop by, ask where their story is and never say who the are or what story
    Wed, Aug 29 2012 14:35:00
  13. And Megan offers this total classic.
  14. meganeruyle
    @mayerjoy always ask, “how can I help?” when you’re at lose ends at work. Or at home, sometimes. #lifelessons
    Wed, Aug 29 2012 15:37:33
  15. A word to the wise, and the perfect closing, from a member of last semester’s community outreach team:
  16. WieseHannah
    @mayerjoy If you use a leaf blower to clean your cabin at camp, you’ll set off the smoke detector.
    Wed, Aug 29 2012 11:24:09


What would you add? Comment here, or tweet to @mayerjoy with the hashtag #lifelessons.

Breeze Richardson of Chicago Public Media shares the power of metrics

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.

Breeze Richardson on engagement metrics
Participatory Journalism class at Mizzou, May 2, 2012

I always leave conversations with Breeze:

  1. Smarter
  2. Determined to change the culture of journalism
  3. Optimistic about opportunities for change
  4. 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.

Be a Tigger not an Eeyore, and other job-hunting advice

In my Participatory Journalism class this week, we’ll be talking about how to get a job. We’ll start tomorrow with some basics of cover letters, resumes and interviewing. (Guests are welcome — we’ll be in Lee Hills 101A from 12-1:15.) Overall, though, the theme of the discussion will be about how we tell stories about ourselves — how we craft the narrative about ourselves that we want people to experience.

Here are a bunch of links I’ve saved related to job-hunting.

Here’s a smaller, curated list of the best ones for new grads. I made it last summer when I was teaching at the Poynter College Fellowship program.

So, what’s your story? Is it consistent across platforms? Do you have the quick version ready to go in case you find yourself in an elevator with your dream employer and have seven floors to make an impression? Do you have a longer one that makes for a killer cover letter? Do you have details to back it up for the interview conversation?

Continue reading “Be a Tigger not an Eeyore, and other job-hunting advice”

A note for student editors: There is life after major screwups

Some college newspaper editors here at Mizzou have landed in a heap of controversy after the publication of an April Fools issue.

They’re in good company. Young journalists learn early that their mistakes have big consequences, that they have to learn in the public eye and that jokes they find funny are lost on a larger audience.

I know about these situations personally because I was one of those students. As the editor of my college paper, The Oklahoma Daily, I was the object of an outraged audience’s wrath not once but twice. Both times, I published something I thought was going to be helpful for discussion about race relations on campus. And both times, the audience made it clear just how wrong I was.

And boy, was I wrong.

Continue reading “A note for student editors: There is life after major screwups”

From research to real life: New community outreach team builds on RJI engagement work

This was first published on the RJI blog.

I spent last year at RJI studying audience engagement — reading, talking, interviewing, writing, more reading — and ended that year motivated to put what I’d learned into practice.

Luckily, the job I came back to was in a newsroom built on experimentation, with colleagues willing to go along on the engagement ride.

In August, we kicked off the Missourian’s community outreach team, made up of students in a class I teach called Participatory Journalism. (The class has existed for years and was developed by Clyde Bentley, also an RJI fellow.) This year, the focus of the class broadened to include more ways the relationship between journalists and their communities are changing.

The underlying principle lies in a diagram created by Meg Pickard at The Guardian, which crystallized my goals.

The team’s tasks are diverse. We started out with some specific goals, succeeded at some, failed at a few and adapted others. We made up a lot as we went along, and a spirit of experimentation and assessment guided us.

I want to share some highlights from our first four months, and I’d welcome your ideas, feedback and questions.

Continue reading “From research to real life: New community outreach team builds on RJI engagement work”

What it takes to succeed on my team (hint: it’s mostly initiative + attitude)

I’m prepping my Participatory Journalism syllabus for the spring semester and adding some descriptions of how I grade.

In my class, as with many others at Mizzou, the students are graded largely on their work in the newsroom of the Columbia Missourian. I’m their professor in the classroom, and I’m also their boss on the community outreach team. So while they’ll have some typical classroom assignments, the biggest column in the gradebook is for their newsroom performance and their portfolio of work.

Because of that, I like to include a narrative description of the grade ranges, so students can know what to shoot for and so I have something to point to when grading. Here’s the one I’m working on for this semester.

newsroom success:

The underlying philosophy if this class is experimentation, invention and enterprise. If you show up in the newsroom for each shift waiting for instructions, and do only what you’re specifically asked to do, you’ll get a C, for average performance. Here’s how I would describe what I’m looking for in the newsroom, and how that generally translates into grades (recognizing that no one fits every criteria for every grade range, of course). This applies specifically to the 60 percent of your grade that is based on newsroom performance.

Continue reading “What it takes to succeed on my team (hint: it’s mostly initiative + attitude)”

A blog is just technology: A brilliant response to a tired argument

One of my favorite posts/articles of all time is Am I a science journalist?, from Ed Yong, author of the Not Exactly Rocket Science blog for Discover Magazine. In the post, he addresses the false dichotomy of journalists vs bloggers.

I had my class read it for today, and I can’t wait for the coming discussion.

Yong makes a point I often try to make about the very definitions of “journalism” and “blog.”

When I write for my blog, I do so in exactly the same way as I would for a mainstream organisation. I ask whether stories are worth telling. I interview and quote people. I write in plain English. I provide context. I fact-check… a lot. I do not use press releases, much less copy them. I don’t even own pajamas.

My point, and it has been said many times before, is that blogs are simply software. They are a channel, a medium, a container for all sorts of things including journalism. Meanwhile, journalism is a craft. It is about involving accuracy, the collection of information, the telling of stories, that can be practiced anywhere by anyone with the right set of skills. It is not a newspaper. It is not a job title.

Journalism is a process. A method of collecting, verifying and sharing information. There’s no certification necessary, and no membership card required.

Continue reading “A blog is just technology: A brilliant response to a tired argument”

Designers as user advocates: My talk at #sndstl

I’m thrilled to be speaking this weekend at the Society for News Design annual shindig in St. Louis. My topic is a really happy marriage of the two primary focuses of my career: design and community engagement.

Turns out, they’re not so different.

Designers have long been speaking up for the consumption of information. For making information clear, accessible and enjoyable. That focus on the user experience is what I’ve always loved most about design, actually.

I’ll put my slides at the bottom of this post (though I’ve never made the kind of presentations that make much sense without the accompanying words coming out of my mouth).

The main purpose here is to share links to some of the projects and posts I mentioned in my talk. Usually, I make a custom Delicious tag and url, and just share that. But Delicious isn’t working so well these days. So here you go, folks who were in the audience today. And for the rest of you who stumbled by? Good luck making sense of this collection of randomness!

Continue reading “Designers as user advocates: My talk at #sndstl”

The community outreach team: A progress report

First published at the Missourian’s Transition blog.

In August, I wrote to Missourian readers about what I hoped my new community outreach team would do. Now I’d like to share some of what we’re doing day to day.

Here’s a running list of the tasks we’re assigned, beginning with some routine ones and leading up to some exciting experiments. Many of these come straight out of the community engagement discussion guide I published as part of my fellowship at the Reynolds Journalism Institute. Many are also inspired by or directly borrowed from what I learned through a series of interviews.

Continue reading “The community outreach team: A progress report”