Entries Tagged 'Brain dump' ↓

I have 5 minutes

I was asked to present my experience at the Reynolds Journalism Institute as a member of the first class of fellows. As a faculty fellow, I was able to spend a lot of time working, thinking and trying to institute my lessons learned with my students and my newsroom at KOMU.

Five minutes.

I wish I could really summarize this experience in five minutes. But since I have five minutes, I’m going to focus on how I grew and changed my goals. I first focused on how newsrooms can collaborate. It’s still important… But I learned during this time that even if I find the most amazing way to bring multiple newsrooms together with the help of technology, it isn’t worth the effort if people don’t use the information. That’s why I moved to the most important word for my life as a journalist and as a journalism professor:


We need to find ways to teach our journalism students and our industry how to respect the process and work it takes to build community. This is crucial as more people turn to journalists for their personal skills and abilities – it’s very possible they aren’t going to them because of their newsroom. We need to be open, honest and connected. Hopefully I can search for ways to share this knowledge so we can all use the great skills of the journalism profession in this new socially connected world.

View more presentations from Jen Reeves.

What do you think? I’m going to try to say these things in five minutes – but I have a lifetime to try to expand upon these thoughts.

Mindcasting versus Lifecasting

I love to follow trends and as I dig deeper into the many ways to use social media in the news business, the more interesting it is to watch trends in this quickly changing world. The big talk I’m seeing right now is the difference between mindcasting and lifecasting.

Mindcasting is when you broadcast what’s on your mind. This blog post is a mindcast. I’m typing out my thoughts on these two different styles of social communication. A lot of journalism professionals who are looking at the future of the industry tend to mindcast. They share links and tips and ideas about what is happing to the profession of journalism. Lifecasting is broadcasting what you’re doing in your life. If you are at the gas station, you mention how you’re filling up the tank. If you’re in the waiting room of the doctor’s office, you might mention how you’re not looking forward to stepping onto the scale when the nurse calls you into the examination room. A person who lifecasts talks about the day to day activities in their life. Usually you’ll see these two styles in many different forms on Twitter.

That made me think about how I tweet. I thought about it a lot especially after I got blasted by a person who has been in the broadcast profession for a very long time. He complained about how I tweet. He complained about how I tweet about going to the grocery store (which I actually do on a very rare occasion). I told him he could stop following me and not need to worry about my tweets. But he just kept complaining. What I couldn’t get him to understand was the fact that what I write on Twitter is something he can choose to read or not read. That’s the great thing about the microblog experience. You can choose to read and you can choose to not read. It’s much easier than deciding to unfriend a person on Facebook. A Twitter stream is just a Twitter stream. You don’t loose any other connection with that person. If you follow them on Facebook, you also lose all of that person’s contact information. If you unfollow on Twitter, you just don’t “listen” to that person’s little comments – mundane or non-mundane.

The interaction with this person made me realize that I use Twitter with a combination of mindcasting and lifecasting. I have a bunch of followers who seem to be okay with that style… And I had to think about what is appropriate for a journalist. If I was working in a more traditional newsroom, would I tweet differently? I doubt it. I think the items I tweet about show the many facets of my life: journalism, newsroom management, higher education, technology, parenting, parenting a child with physical challenges, owning a dog, running and exercise, marriage, and you know – sometimes it’s about grocery shopping. It makes me real. It shows the reality of being a journalist who is more than just a journalist. We’re all like that… Or at least, we all try to expand our life beyond work.

I’d be curious to hear what you think – in a mindcasting or lifecasting way.

So many things to talk about

As I get closer to the end of this year’s RTNDA conference (soon to become RTDNA – Radio Television Digital News Association), I am leaving with a lot of topics that I would like to think about more.

First, I was confronted by a long time journalist who basically yelled at me for my Twitter presence. I was told that he had no interest in when I go to the grocery store and that I should get out of his face with all of my updates.

I told him that he can stop following me and he’ll never know another special moment in my life. But that didn’t seem to calm him. I got him pretty bothered and it made me wonder if more of the older journalism leaders have this kind of attitude even though I’ve offered to explain how this tool actually works or attempts to work with journalists. So I shook it off and moved on. There is a super simple solution if he wanted: Just don’t follow me and he’ll never worry about a single thing.

Another issue: Tools. I love to talk about the tools I use to get great work done to connect with my community or to enhance the tools I’m already using (like Facebook and Twitter). I need to write a full post with video and explainers on the most popular tools out there.

Also, it would be great to get a better idea what news directors and other hiring managers want from job hunting journalists. Do they want to see a DVD of work? Will a website suffice? (Probably not since there are still newsrooms where the internet connection isn’t fast enough) I’d like to interview more managers out there and get a better idea of what’s really going on.

Another random thought – RTNDA is the first conference I’ve attended this entire year where I felt like I was working with people who have a common goal: Help our industry. There are people who actually feel the way I do without feeling that need for constant self-promoting. There are people who want to help the broadcast industry continue to grow, learn and succeed. I’m relieved. I was starting to think I was the only naive person out there who just cared a lot and wanted to help find solutions and change for our industry!

How many communities are too many communities

The most amazing part of my fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute is how it has given me so much access to people who know how to build communities online. For a couple of years I have beaten my head on the wall trying to figure out why I haven’t been good at this process.

The simple fact: I have too many jobs. As a professor, newsroom manager, fellow, grad school advisor, technology and policy committee member, technology faculty council member… mom, wife, dog owner, home owner… I could go on and on and on. To build a community I would need to shuffle priorities and lighten my load.

This is a big reason why Smart Decision ’08 didn’t take off as a community. It’s why I’m not pushing too hard to publicize my current economy project. I had initially thought a collaboration of traditional media content that is aggregated into a single site would bring enough viewers to develop a community. After working with Jane Stevens and watching her project grow, it makes more sense to develop the community and supplement it with traditional media aggregation. Jane is working on creating a structure of web-based health communities that focus on specific topics. She’s also helped launch a journalism web community called the RJI Collaboratory. These communities need time, attention and commitment.

While I have tried to develop my Money Commons site, I have also taken all of my lessons learned to KOMU. I have changed the way we use Twitter. We have launched a social networking community. We’re trying to find better and more effective ways to use our Facebook page. I have had a chance to share what I’ve learned about social networking to media outlets and many more faculty and students than I evercould have talked to if I was working exclusively out at the television station. I’m so darn lucky for this opportunity. I hope to have better ideas on the steps to take towards expanding my Money Commons community. My time with RJI is coming to a close, but I’m going to continue to look to a future of helping the Missouri School of Journalism prepare for an unknown but exciting future.

And now… Time for a brain dump

My head is spinning around with a thousand ideas while I attend sessions at South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin. I can go from a session on aggregating information to a session on mom blogs and bump into someone you’ve always wanted to talk to but never had a chance. It’s been a great experience.

It’s so interesting to be around so many people who understand technology… A conversation I’ve heard a lot is how these web and interactive-based ideas we are talking about are often not supported by higher management. It’s the case in industries across the board. It’s not just a problem for journalism. But watching another newspaper fall today (the Seattle Post-Intelligencer) is more reason for me to feel the need to dump my ideas on how to change the way we teach journalism students of today. The P-I is doing things a little differently than the Rocky Mountain News closure. In Seattle’s case the “paper” will live on in a web-format only. That means many traditional journalists will have to turn their thought process completely around and put web as the priority. Sure, many newsrooms are starting to put that priority out there. This is the first time in a long time where the change in priority is about to be come the only priority. Journalists need to think web first.

So how do these long-standing journalism schools do it?

I have an idea that I’ve been working with for a while and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

For years journalism students have been taught how to get dropped into a story (it can be breaking news, developing news or just feature stories) and be able to become “instant experts.” A general assignment reporter for a broadcast station is sent from story to story with no over arching purpose beyond covering the community or city. A general assignment reporter for most newsrooms follows a large beat on a city or education or entertainment (you get the drift)… But no one is specifically focused on one topic and tasked with building a community and understanding the existing community surrounding that topic.

Jane Stevens is working on fixing that challenge as part of the Reynolds Journalism Institute. She’s working on creating a web structure that will help journalists do good journalism even if they don’t have a traditional newsroom to back them up. It would basically be an out-of-the-box tool for community building and focused research and journalistic work. She’s leading a project to create what she calls a “health shell.” It’s a web structure were individual journalists can collect data about various aspects of the health issue and collaborate online with a website where you can share a community of people who care about that topic. It’s exciting to watch some of my students get to really know an element of health that they find important. Some current topics are fitness, senior health literacy and mental health. The student journalists are learning what it takes to gather sources and get a solid understanding of a niche. But here’s the trick: when the student wrap up this semester, some are going to graduate, others are going to run off for the summer. How can we keep this project sustainable within this higher education environment?

That got me thinking about journalism school curriculum.

Here’s my idea. I kind of base it off of how we make the radio-television sequence work. In the first semester you learn the foundation of skills. In the second semester you refine those skills and get good enough to work in the newsroom. In the third semester you are a regular reporter each week. For a community-based website, you could do something similar. In the first semester you learn the foundation of skills it takes to be a multi-media journalist and how to gather data and collect information. In the second semester you are an assistant to the lead community journalists for a specific niche website. In the third semester you are a leader of the community. It requires something different. Instead of becoming a general assignment reporter, you learn how to be a niche reporter. You learn what it takes to grow a connection with your community and get to know it well enough to be a legitimate presence online. The challenge: students would have to pick a niche during the first semester and stick with it. If they hate the niche by the end of a year and a half, then at least they know what it takes to gather up enough sources to really get a niche website rolling. Then they know what it takes to find another niche and get a job doing it elsewhere. That research and community building can be taken into so many directions after graduation. I think it would be amazing. Plus, the niche websites at the Missouri School of Journalism would continue to rock.

Ahhh. It feels better to let that out.

I have attended all kinds of sessions and I’ll try to write about some here and there as I go but I really felt like I needed to get this one out there as soon as possible!



I’m headed to Austin, Texas to take part in the monster South by Southwest Interactive festival (SxSWi). It’s days and days and days of networking, conference sessions, product testing and social gatherings. Heck, I’ve even found a group of people that runs each morning. I hope to take this time to meet hundreds of people who are involved in thinking big and thinking social online. I hope to meet dozens of people I’ve met on Twitter. I hope to learn about ideas and ways journalists can better tell stories. I hope to learn about new tools that will help journalists be journalists even if they don’t have a newsroom. It will be a heck of an experience and it can be pretty overwhelming to even figure out a schedule.

I hope to twitter the experience throughout the week… And attempt to summarize one or two “aha” moments each day. If I have enough time, I’ll also try to share bits of video and photos. If there is anything you’re interested in learning about the event – please let me know. I’ll ask questions and meet people for you if you can’t attend the festival in person!

Agile talk

I have a mind that is full of agile development… and skills that take weeks if not months to launch.

So as I struggle to find ways to bring traditional newsrooms to work together… I struggle with what content management system to use or some kind of way to bring content together in an agile way.

SO… How should we do this? Drupal, WordPress, Django, Joomla, something that doesn’t exist yet?

Here’s the other big question. What is our priority as traditional journalism stalls out? Is our priority to become famous for figuring it all out… or is our priority to work together so we actually figure out doable solutions? I honestly want to find doable solutions for the good of our industry. Is anyone else out there who wants to join with me? We may not have our names printed all over the universe, but good journalism will survive.

I’m okay with that. Is anyone else game?

Discovering Drupal’s Community


I’ve never attended a DrupalCon before… and I have to say, it’s fantastic to talk to people and learn about what’s going on with this open source CMS. But the best things I’ve learned have come from side conversations and small unofficial sessions called Birds of a Feather or BoFs. I’ve been able to meet other wonderful journalists and media specialists who really care about the industry. I’ve also learned about a fantastic initiative the Knight Foundation set up called the Knight Drupal Initiative (KDI). It was a very quickly set up initiative where the Knight Foundation recognized the flexibility and potential of Drupal… and how a bit of funding could help this open source tool improve dramatically. One of the initiative’s first grants went to Addison Berry who wants to build up to date handbooks so more people can understand how to use Drupal. I’m really excited about Berry’s plans. I attended her “Documentation is Hot” presentation yesterday and I think she’s doing an incredible thing for Drupal and the community people who know Drupal is powerful but we can’t figure it out on our own (like me!).


I had a chance to attend the KDI BoF (like how I used all of the acronyms in one sentence?) yesterday where participants and organizers talked about what could happen in the future. They’re unsure if they’ll hold another KDI grant process again. I really hope they do. During this conference I’ve had a chance to talk and scheme with a wonderful Twitter user named Margaret Rosas (@mrosas). She’s out in Santa Cruz doing wonderful work for public media (with the help of a Knight Foundation News Challenge Grant). We understand each other and I love her cause. She explains how she hopes to align an Army of Geeks on the MediaShift Idea Lab. I think the KDI could help her extend this vision to locations beyond Santa Cruz. I would love to help build a Drupal community in Columbia, MO. There really isn’t one… And my time here has helped me learn about the Drupal Groups site and how many journalists are building community there. I didn’t even know! So I am now a member of Drupal Groups. You can find me here and watch as I join more groups and find new ways to learn about Drupal. I will never stop learning so I can continue to teach the best I can. I really to do want to arm Mizzou’s future journalists with an arsenal that will allow them to be good journalists who can do good work AND eat under a roof.

By the way – my attempt at holding a Mizzou J-School alumni meetup was a success last night. There were six former students who came from a range of graduation years between May of 2003 (right before I started working at the journalism school) all the way through December 2008. It was wonderful catching up, drinking a couple of beers and giving alumni members a chance to meet each other. Hooray last minute gatherings set up over Twitter and Facebook!

Content Management and Meetups

As I get deeper into the fun of DrupalCon, I realize I should start a talk about content management systems. A small one broke out on my Facebook page yesterday when my brother-in-law talked about how his newsroom (The Sporting News) is having a challenging time moving content into Drupal. I think almost all newsrooms are having that kind of problem. CMS is a pretty young tool. Four years ago when my newsroom moved to a CMS instead of Dreamweaver we didn’t think beyond the fact that our life would be so much better in a CMS environment. We didn’t think we’d want or need to move CMS later down the line. So we didn’t think about what it would take to move all of the content from our current CMS and move it into a new one. Well… It’s going to be miserable. And now that I’m on the hunt for a new CMS (we aren’t spending any money on one yet, I just want to know and be ready the moment it makes it onto a budget line), I am more concerned about the ease it takes to move away from the CMS. That’s another reason why I like Drupal. Once the content is in there, you can manipulate and port the information really well. I think that’s the wonderful thing about open source products.

I’d love to hear what other folks think about CMS and portability.

Also – Since I’m in DC, I’m setting up an impromptu gathering for Mizzou alumni and any of my Twitter/blog followers if they’re interested:

It would be great to hang out, enjoy a beer in a hipster kind of place.

Media and Drupal workflow

I got to sit in a session where we’re learned about how newsrooms are using Drupal in varying ways. In a discussion called “Drupal in the Newsroom,” representatives from NY Observer (Tom McGeveran), Mother Jones (Nick Aster), and a representative from The McClatchy Company (I’m working on the name since I ran out of batteries and was scrambling for a plug when everyone was getting introduced) joined in a panel discussion.

McGerevan said the New York Observer takes a lot of the essential elements of Drupal and uses them in the newsroom. The newsroom operates in a way where most things are published to the web and then changed, improved, repackaged and put into the print publication. He says the news product more native to the web in its workflow. But they haven’t built any custom workflow into the CMS. They have customized Drupal for editorial needs. They found templates and ways to package content to do the things they need. In their recent relaunch of the site, they have editors applying a weight to a story. That determines how much prominence it has on the site. No more scheduling of the story items. It’s a thought process that is more web native. I really like that!

McClatchy’s workflow is rapidly developing. When they first started experimenting with the CMS, they were looking at standalone builds. They saw a lot of instances where affiliate IT departments were using Drupal as a back end or adding widget items into existing CMS. The Drupal commenting system is the only thing they would use it for. But as McClatchy newsrooms gain more knowledge, they’re using it more. Some newsrooms want to use it as a primary data entry site to feed the content into their core CMS and eventually use it to the print product.

Aster said Mother Jones used to consider itself as a magazine that happens to have a website. Now they’re working with the belief that they’re a 24 hour news agency. That thought process started changing when they introduced blogs two years ago. The web-focused workflow is more relaxed and once people realized that is a better process, the use of Drupal was welcomed. This process also created a less complex approval and permissions process to get articles and blogs published to the site.

The first thing that came to my mind was whether the newsrooms are working on any Agile development concepts using Drupal. Apparently McClatchy used Drupal to build a mom community in only a week and a half! I think that’s amazing. If I was able to build a functioning community site in that short amount of time, I could have four or five test projects running! Okay. Maybe three.

It was interesting to see where the conversations were going with the session. There was more culture talk and workflow talk than an actual discussion in how Drupal functions. I kind of really wanted to talk about Drupal functions. But the discussion turned to how did the newsrooms change culturally to become web-focused. The one thing that stood out from all three men was how all three newsrooms have an open source environment. They all said it made sense to work with an open source product. That was so great to hear. I’ve hit snag after snag from cultures that don’t work with Drupal’s flow.

The one workflow item that I really enjoyed hearing about what how Mother Jones is using Drupal’s features to create more of a community through online readers and potential contributors. Mother Jones wants to be able to share investigative journalism online where the community can help steer the conversations into solutions. The magazine added two little flags in Drupal where the comment can be a recommended solution or a documented result on behalf of the problem.

In the end, I got the feeling that the room was full of people bursting to talk about journalism and how we can find really great solutions for the industry… and the possibility that Drupal is one of those solutions. One person asked if Drupal was a fad… I mentioned that statement on Twitter. Ben Shoemate, who I finally met in person after talking on Twitter, mentioned to me that he felt that question was a bit dramatic. The real question is this: Do these newsrooms all expect to switch content management systems every two years? That’s when I really figured out why we’re doing all of this.

We are looking for solid CMS that is flexible enough to do what we want it to do today and what we’ll want it to do tomorrow. And if it isn’t flexible enough tomorrow, it needs to be able to export all of its data easily to prevent an ugly CMS divorce. That’s what matters. It doesn’t matter if Drupal or WordPress or Django are the fads. What matters more is if we don’t like the CMS, we can export, get out and move on without losing data.

So that’s where the question of output of web content that can go right into the print system becomes very important. If you can export web content to go into a newspaper, then you can export all of your content into archives or into an alternate CMS.

I’d love to hear what you think!