Entries Tagged 'Education' ↓

The future… Who will lead it

I have always trusted that higher ed will be a leader in how journalism will look in the future. There are so few environments where you can experiment and push ideas forward like a higher ed environment. The problem: Higher ed runs in committees. Agile changes are rare.

So the Missouri School of Journalism is spending a lot of time talking about how we can be more agile. Should it be focused on a change in curriculum? Should it be a change in focus for the faculty? Should we move forward with more partnerships with the journalism industry? Should the journalism school work on more interdisciplinary partnerships?

So I’m trying to take some time to envision the future and what kind of faculty structure would change the way we teach. What would you do if you had a blank slate and the chance to teach journalism?

Making a good impression

I’m about to speak to a group of people attending the regional SPJ conference about making a good impression online. Here’s the slides… I’d love your thoughts about how you present yourself – or how you look at possible employees when you are searching online.

Social Media for Broadcast Journos

I attended a session with Chip Mahaney (@ChipMahaney on Twitter) during the second day of sessions at the RTNDA conference.

He focused a lot on Facebook and Twitter. It was great to hear what he had to say and really reminded me how important it is to focus on the social networking tools that people already use. (I say that often – it’s so great to hear someone else have similar thoughts) You can target people who are in your newsroom who already know how to use these tools and have them help you administer the products. They’ll teach you stuff you probably didn’t know.

Facebook is savvy with its product pages. Not only does it give you the opportunity to promote your newsroom’s brand, you can get creative, promote and track the activity on your page. This is something I haven’t taken the time to do yet but recently got the support of my station to move forward and really work on building a great identity on Facebook. What’s even better, Facebook has written up how to do it. It’s very smart.

Worried about snarky comments? Facebook requires less maintenance on the snarky level because people have to use their names and maintain their true personality on that site. It’s a great point. You will see fewer snark because you can’t slam a newsroom anonymously. Your reputation is important on Facebook… so you probably won’t muck it up just to leave negative comments on a newsroom Facebook page.

A big discussion came up over employees using Facebook at work. Everyone should have access to social media. Former news director and current MultiMedia Concept Group’s multimedia executive Joe Coscia said it really well: “This is the voice and pulse of what our market is saying.” He wants to hire younger people who have the smarts and know the technology. That’s what rubs off onto the rest of the organization. His big question (which is everyone’s question) is how is this going to help the core business. This isn’t driving the same margins. Maheney mentioned newsrooms should develop a written guideline for your staff on how they should manage their time. “I don’t mind Facebook use – but I want to know they’re on there promoting the company on company time.”

The next portion of the discussion to use your Twitter accounts to engage your audience. Some sites have a cache — there’s a delay in posting!! (Could be 3, 5, 10 minutes late!) Your logo, information can pop up right away using Twitter.

Chip showed how Tweetdeck works, how to search topics, follow trends and understand some of the basics of hashtags. Twitter isn’t a big deal because it is a website – what is great is the power of the site. Every post is open and viewable by anyone else. It’s powerful as the messages travel everywhere and anywhere. You can track trends with Twitscoop and other tools… Twitter gives you all of its content and it gives anyone a chance to harness that information. All of that content is free. These tools help organize the millions of tweets a day.

Assignment editor could create searches to keep track of information in your area. It’s portable. It’s quick. It’s informative. So dang simple.

Chip is going to offer advice on tech tools later on today at RTNDA… So he wrapped up with some general tools and advice.

How To Win Friends and Influence People,” by Dale Carnegie. Chip used this book as a great example on how to use social networking. So he tweaked the advice into today’s terms.

1. Realize the social networking world does not revolve around you or your station. It’s everyone’s home! You don’t have a tower. You’re not
2. Listen before you speak. See how people talk to each other. Figure out the terminologies. Ask questions. People love to help. But listen first.
3. Make your friends feel special. (@reply by a person’s name) A big personality who replies or comments and call someone out by name, it’s special to them.
4. Ask lots of questions.
5. Proactively manage the conversation
6. Bring something to the table that the online community values.

You as a leader in a newsroom can implement these tools:
1. Be online. You don’t have to be the biggest consumer, but you need to be out there with a genuine interest. You need to show that it’s important and you care.
2. Learn to keep score. This is for any kind of online work. Check the metrics on your online properties. Hold yourself accountable for raising traffic month to month.
3. Start small. Move fast. Start with one thing – one tool to connect with your audience. Maintain it and keep it moving. Do something new again next month. One month, get onto Twitter. Next month, get onto Facebook. Do seminars to teach the culture. Take advantage of the social networking experts in your town. (Chip’s town has meet ups where
4. Exploit your expertise. If it’s weather, communicate really well about weather. If it’s investigative reporting, do it.
5. Learn a new skill every month. If you can do it, your staff can do it.
6. Experiment. It’s OKAY to fail, as long as you “fail fast” and learn. Don’t let it linger out there. See what works and move on. Set a time limit and decide if you will move on or keep it going.
7. You can’t stand still. Learn. Go to Mashable and learn.
8. You can’t try everything at once
9. Hire people who know more than you.

Your staff needs to know how you stand on social networks. Be open and honest.

Let’s Talk Twitter at RTNDA!

I’m preparing for a big presentation with two of my former colleagues at the Radio-TV News Directors Association meeting in Las Vegas. Dr. Bill Silcock of Arizona State University and Kelly D. Hicks from KCTV5 in Kansas City will join in on the fun. We hope to introduce Twitter to people who may have heard about it but haven’t taken the step to use it.

I think there are all kinds of different ways to use Twitter – I hope we can teach those who are interested the most efficient ways a newsroom and a journalist can use this tool.

What are ways you use Twitter for yourself as a journalist or for your newsroom/brand. I love hearing and knowing all of the many different ways. That helps me guide and teach future journalists how to think in as many directions as possible!

In honor of Las Vegas, I want to share a moment I experience on my flight as I arrived into town. One of our flight attendants happens to be an Elvis impersonator… And he and the rest of the crew put on a show. I was pretty far in the back of the plane – but I hope you can enjoy the fact that we got a performance and we lit up the aisle using the flight attendant alert lights.

UPDATE: The three hour presentation and one-on-one help time was awesome. I hope anyone who attended (or wish they had) will leave questions and comments here. The conversation doesn’t have to end with this session. To help with that, here’s the slides (and more that we never had time to show) from the presentation:

Assessing the journalists of tomorrow

I love journalism. I love teaching journalism. I love finding ways to help the industry. I love finding the best ways to send my students out into the world of journalism with as many tools in their bag. That’s why in the last few years I’ve spent a lot of time guiding my students through the process of building an online portfolio site. I’ve also grown towards guiding my students through social networks and helping them develop a personal brand.

Some of my first lessons: Get online. Build a blog and name it something that includes your name (notice how that is something I already do?). Get onto @jenleereeves) You want your name to be searchable. That is another thing I recommend my students should do. Google themselves. It will give them an idea of what they need to do to boost their name. Some of my students have no problem. Their work at KOMU is the first thing you see. But others have very generic names or other people have succeeded in getting their identical name up there in the Google ranks. Those are the people I really work with. They need to blog and leave comments and link to other blogs. They need to get involved and connect with others online. I also recommend everyone gets a LinkedIn account. It’s a professional venue to share and talk solely on a professional level. Facebook is a wonderful place to connect, but it is not created to focus on professional interactions! I also recommend my students build an online portfolio. Many of them are doing great things using free tools like Weebly, WordPress and Wix. I recommend they use free video compression tools and post their video using beautiful tools like Vimeo or Motionbox. Once those sites are created they need to make sure that URL is connected to all of their social networking identities. I’ve seen graduates get jobs just from the viral nature of forwarded emails where one news director likes what they see but can’t hire to her or she forwards the links to friends they know who are hiring. I had one student who didn’t send out a single resume over the mail. She just sent links. I think that’s fabulous. I hope to see more.

Honestly. I just hope to see my students get hired!

I try to keep track of helpful tools that let journalists collect and share their work online. Feel free to visit this page and let me know if you see any other tools in my list. The more I can collect, the easier it will be for us all to do great work without worrying about the technology getting in the way!

UPDATE: One other tool that really helps in getting sites noticed by Google: Use Google Analytics! It helps you see who is visiting your site AND it brings Google to visit your page more often!

A trip to the Newseum


The last time I visited Washington DC, the new Newseum hadn’t opened yet. It was close, but not quite. So when I returned this week, a little piece of me kept urging me to go there. It kind of feels like a building that is supposed to represent everything I do and teach. So Saturday morning I decided to hop on the Metro and just go. A mix of a beautiful day and the stillness of a Saturday morning let me just wander around the area to enjoy the huge buildings and monuments. DC has such a rich history – it is really wonderful to see a massive monument to journalism mixed in with it all.

Inside is full of interactive and simple exhibits that try to tell the enormous tale of journalism… where it started, how it developed and where it could go. The most meaningful exhibit for me was the September 11th display. It touched me and brought me back to where I was in my newsroom that day. Hearing the stories from the many reporters and photographers who were on the scene at the time just really moved me. Most of all, I learned more about Bill Biggart. He died as he took pictures of the World Trade Center. Somehow his cameras were found under the rubble and 150 of the digital pictures he took right before his death were able to show what he saw. His gear is on display for everyone to see. Pretty awesome.

The other section was inside the Internet, Radio and Television section where a display looks at the future of the news. The exhibit already included the closing of the Rocky Mountain News and the effect Twitter has on the journalism industry. I ended up having a great conversation about the future of journalism with some of the other people visiting the museum.

In all.. I think it’s a good place. It’s wonderful to touch and see the history of journalism. I didn’t need convincing that journalism is important… but it might help convince skeptics. The museum has so many stories about heroic men and women who go above and beyond to help tell the stories we may or may not know we want to hear, watch or read.

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!

Twitter for Jurnos Part 2

At the request of some of my blog/Twitter followers, here’s the second part of my Twitter webcast from earlier this week. Have fun and please leave comments and thoughts.

If you want to sit down and watch part one, go here.
If you want to see my notes on Twitter basics, go here.

And now… Part two:

Working with Drupal Code

I have no clue how to code — I know how to hack into code and fix things the way I want them… But I attended a gentle introduction session at the start of DrupalCon in Washington, DC. We started out with terminology so I don’t feel so stupid. Addison Berry presented the first session I attended.

There are 1400 people attending this event!

First and foremost, Drupal is a content management system. It helps you manage a website built onto a framework. Drupal was made to be flexible to do what you want it to do. The CMS framework that makes it so flexible are constructed from APIs (Application Programming Interface). It does all kinds of bits of code that let you do tasks so you don’t have to hand code your website. It’s wrapped up in a nice little package for you. Drupal has a ton of APIs that are built as “modules.”

Here’s when the discussion gets deeply nerdy. If you aren’t interested in code… Here’s what I learned. There is a step by step process that helps Drupal function. It looks for all of the things you want to happen with the site and then it delivers that content to the site’s look or theme. If you think through what you want, the code comes together for you. If you build it and then try to make changes on top of your structure, things break. Also, the theme is more powerful than the actual code. It can trump the code… or the theme can fight the code. I’m pretty sure that’s another problem I found during my Smart Decision ’08 experience.

The sites folder that comes with a Drupal install is what you would probably mess around with. But the includes folder is actually worth looking into. It gives you the lay of the land and tells you what you’re working with. (http://api.drupal.org information is all in this file. It’s your own reference to explain things for you.) You can learn about the common functions of Drupal code. These functions are a little machine.

Drupal has a concept called “hooks.” It’s a naming convention. hook_* where hook is replaced by your module name. It lets you create a system where a module defines the system and another hook can connect with another hook.

Hook example: Think of Drupal of a train. It looks for a hook_perm function (each is a train car) in your module file. The API tells you what needs to go into it. Drupal searches through the whole site and grabs the items that have a hook_perm. Drupal grabs all of the cars (module perm files) and then it goes to the themes where you can snag alter functions. It’s a step by step process to get the site to do what you want it to do. Once it gets to the theme, that’s when it gets pretty. So once the site has all of the “look” and it delivers the content to a web browser. The hook system is why Drupal works… but it’s also why it can be challenging if you try to fight the hook process. If you work from the beginning to build a site following the hook process… then you won’t get in big trouble> Most troubles hapeen when you try to hook on extra stuff after you’ve built the basics of site. Ugly things happen… and that’s where I hit major snags with smartdecision08.com.

Menu function (in the includes folder as menu.inc) – Drupal needs the menu system functions that make it work. The menu system is not the menu module. The system works like a router – that’s how Drupal knows how to produce anything on your site. The menu system maps URLs to take you to that site. Without the menu system, the site won’t work. The menu module is not needed – it’s just the UI for you to graphically create navigation for a site. (most people don’t turn it off)

Form API (FAPI) – is a “thing of beauty” but most people get scared. The form API lets you build forms on your site. Drupal FAPI – form.inc has all of the functions in there. It handles the form, validation and submission. Instead of building it with HTML tags, it is just an element in the array – a big PHP array for every single thing. Drupal takes that array information and turns it into the HTML for you. Why would you let Drupal do it? It doesn’t just create a form, it does the security and verification for you as well. The idea is FAPI takes care of all of the security stuff. You just list out what you want in the form and Drupal takes care of it for you. Drupal has your own default and submission process. You can change it to have required and non-required elements. You have complete control when you build your own form module. When you’re trying to alter a form someone else built, you can go in it and tweak it (which is how I do anything in code). It’s great when you know what you’re doing… frustrating when you don’t. But once you get it, it’s a much easier way to build forms.

Databases – database.inc and database*.inc are in the includes folder. When you need a new table, insert new tables and take out tables, this will do it for you. This helps you securely pass and share information without a concern of breaking security holes (SQL stuff that I don’t know). You can just pick all the items you want for a database, it will build it for you. Just tell it what fields and tables you want and Drupal will do it for you.

Theme layer – is the last step. There’s an include files (theme.inc). It runs the entire theme system. It’s how Drupal gets output. Information runs through the theme to output to the front side of the web world. Drupal has a system module that has default tpls files (template files). Drupal by default has block, box and page template files in the system module folder. Blocks are a module – but the system has a block section as well. The core html output goes into a tpl file inside modules folder. If you want to change the tpl file – go into the system module, it will automatically change everything you want. page.tpl is what is most often changed. Anytime you want to modify html, see if there’s a template file to work on. Copy it, paste it and go.

In the end, themes rule. It controls everything in the end. Module output uses theme()
The order of priority is theme_function_name() (is there a theme function?)
phptemplate_function_name() (the engine of drupal)
mytheme_function_name() (final item that trumps all – it gives you total control of everything)
Copy and paste function into anything you want – change the logic, the wording… anything you want. It trumps anything the coders did for the site. Themers end up trumping the coders. When it comes to output the theme has control and this is probably where I’ve also hit snags. The code sometimes doesn’t agree with a theme. If you keep the module code really generic, it allows the theme to give it control on a lower level and the module can be used multiple times.

Yikes. I think I kind of picked up on the way Drupal actually works!!
Developer/Theme handbooks
Drupal source/api.drupal.org
Dev/Theme mailing lists (drupal.com/mailing-lists)
IRD:#drupal (#drupal-dev) #drupal-themes
Issue queues
Paper books: http://drupal.org/books

Those are my notes and I promise to go through that and improve what I’m trying to say. I promise.

My attempt at helping journos learn Twitter

I held a brown bag session this afternoon over lunch to show how I use Twitter and why I think journalists should take a look at it as a new news source. It isn’t the end all be all answer to all of our challenges, but I do think it’s a change in how we gather and share news and information.

I loaded up the first half of the presentation… The second half included questions and answers and a little bit of show and tell. If you have questions or need some show and tell, leave a comment here and I’ll see if I can help get you started.

Here are the slides I used during the presentation just in case you’re curious. I ran through a few pretty quickly to get to the second half of the presentation.

All of my follow up notes to this presentation are a permanent link to the right of the blog called “Twitter Tips.” Please feel free to leave comments here if there are additional details that were missed.

UPDATE: You can go here to watch part 2 of the webcast.