Entries Tagged 'Fellowship' ↓

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:

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.

Back in the saddle again

After an intense week at SXSWi, a very sick child, a death in the family and Spring Break where I needed to give my elementary school-aged son attention (he deserves that from time to time)… I’m finally back to blogging about journalism and technology. I’ve found a constantly growing interest in social networking from local businesses, organizations and media outlets across the country. I love talking about it. I love writing about it. I really do think we’re on the cusp of a new way of communicating and sharing.

What I also found from all of these talks and discussions is how everyone would love to have a picture of what the future looks like. I wish I had that answer. But I’ll give you a few ideas.

Forget everything you know now and watch it become more organic. The information you want will be at your fingertips online or on your cell phone (or whatever the future of a phone looks like). You get to choose how you get all information. Video on demand, feeds of information, photos, conversations. You pick when you want it and you learn about new developments on your own terms. I envision journalists to be the people who help you take all of those pieces of information and get more context behind them. If you are interested in a new business in town, you’ll hear and read what other people you trust are saying and you’ll go to the journalism source to give you the history of the building, the owners, the food and the restaurant’s safety history (if its been around long enough). We’ve all had to make a conscious choice to be informed or uninformed – It will be so much easier to be informed. But it will also be much easier to be informed on your own terms. You’ll have to reach out to make more sense of it all. You’ll have to make a choice to confirm the information you gather.

I talked to a reporter at the Baltimore Sun about how the Baltimore Police are using Twitter to announce shootings and other illegal activity in the city. The reporter told me how she wondered if people who read that Twitter feed will think they’re fully informed about the city’s activities. I told her that at first people will think they’re informed. (It’s novel! It’s transparent!) But after a while, they’ll want more. Hopefully they’ll look to the local newsrooms to help provide more background from those 140 character alerts. The trick: The newsrooms need to be paying attention to where people are gathering their own personal information. The newsrooms need to take those sources and provide a deeper understanding to they continue to be an important part of informing the public. That’s always been the goal of journalism – And I truly believe that will never go away.

The great CMS debate meets face to face

I love to talk about content management systems (CMS) because they are wonderful tools to help you communicate. But CMS is kind of like a hat. You like using it because it helps you. But everyone likes a different style. There are all kinds of styles of CMS. Many businesses use one to manage the workflow of information needed online. There are so many types but a specific type of out-of-the-box CMS that is worth talking about is open source. Open source means the code behind how the CMS is built is open to everyone. If you understand the code, you can build it on your own and talk to the online community about what works, what doesn’t work and help change the CMS for the greater good of its users. There are three major ones: Joomla!, Drupal and WordPress (this blog is written in WordPress).

In an Iron Chef-like match up, a team of developers from each CMS had 100 hours to build a website based on a specific list of specifications and design. Then representatives of each team would appear face to face to show off their hard work during the South by Southwest Interactive festival. I had the chance to attend the face off and found it to be very fun to watch.

It was a battle to the end. With a mix of good humor and serious competition, leaders from Joomla!, Drupal and WordPress met face to face during a Monday session called “The Ultimate Showdown of Content Management System Destiny” at South by Southwest. The panelists included Steve Fisher (Joomla!), Colleen Carroll (Drupal), and Matt Mullenweg (WordPress) and led by George DeMet of Palantir.net. The room was packed full of CMS fans, with a heavy emphasis on WordPress. You could hear a small group of men chanting for their favorite CMS before the event got underway. The mood was festive but there was an air of competition brewing as each person threw CMS taunts at each other.

DeMet came up with the idea and explained how each team of developers were given the task to build a website for a community leadership program in Elgin, Illinois. The developers were asked to use a number of web-based social networking and collaboration tools. The end goal is to build websites that are general enough to be able to be downloaded by organizations and communities to meet their needs. All of the specifications are listed on Palantir.net’s blog or available in a PDF format. The teams were also expected to stay true to a site design created by Mark Boulton who is well-known for his web design and book, “Five Simple Steps: A Practical Guide to Designing for the Web“. Developers could only use freely-available software to build the sites and function on a shared hosting space (Linux/Apache/MySQL).

A lot of time was spent talking about how the teams worked together on the site creation and the effort it took to build the sites. The Joomla! team never met face-to-face. Developers spanned across the globe and spent most time talking over Skype or conference calls. The Drupal team started with a face-to-face sprint to get the site started and then they worked together to finish the rest of the work. You can follow how Mullenweg’s WordPress team completed their tasks by visiting  a site they built to keep up with the project. Here is a comparison of how the sites came together under deadline:

  Drupal Joomla! WordPress
Total Hours 79.25 57.25 90.5
Hours spent
on front end
21.75 15 36.5
HTML Validation No
(8 errors)
Yes No (8 errors)
CSS Validation No (7 errors) No
(1 error)
No (21 errors)
Page weight 180K 140K 154K
Lines of custom PHP/JS code 220 30 1,808

DeMet mentioned how most validation errors were minor. But Carroll said the Drupal Community learned a lot from the discovery of those errors and they were able to put in a number of new patches to help improve the overall CMS. Mullenweg and Fischer said this project helped in similar ways. Mullenweg talked about how his team had a great time outside of the development by adding Zoolander-related content. The added fun was not a requirement. The Drupal and Joomla! teams added filler to populate their sites.

The crowd seemed pretty disappointed when it became clear there would be no live demonstrations of the websites. All of the sites can be viewed from the Ultimate Showdown of Content Management System Destiny website. They did get to hear reactions from Boulton and Senior Program Officer Marybeth Schroeder from the Evanston Community Foundation. DeMet had worked with the organization before and used its needs to launch the competition in the first place. The crowd enjoyed watching her reaction as she looked through each versions of the website. Schroeder had no CMS preference before looking at the sites, a perspective that was not easy to find in the SXSW session. There was an attempt to record how she used each site. In one screen capture video, you could see her trying to figure out the WordPress dashboard. In the case of the Joomla! site, Schroeder had a hard time adding a location for an event.

From the designer perspective, Boulton said he favored the WordPress and Drupal sites for how they stayed true to his design. He gave Joomla! a hit for not following all of his typography. Fisher countered that they made that decision because the Joomla! team didn’t like it. Boulton did not say anything specifically about the usefulness or user experience of the sites.

In what was expected to be a dramatic end to the competition, DeMet asked the crowd to vote on who should win. Many people yelled out how they felt they did not have enough knowledge of the sites to pick. Others yelled out the CMS they already supported. That indecisiveness let to a draw. DeMet announced all three CMS won and tried to figure out a way to share the belt-buckle award.

There may be no defined answer on what is the best open source CMS. It was clear this project helped motivate the open source communities to team together and come up with products that can help non-profits launch a website that meets their needs. Each development team will make their work available for anyone to use. The Joomla! and WordPress teams even created help videos on the showdown website. The event at SXSW was also a great way to talk about CMS and get open source products more play among a large and growing population of tech-minded people who are looking for a new way to share information online.

DeMet plans to talk about the showdown again in April at a pre-conference event for the CMS Expo in Evanston, Illinois.

A couple of fun things came out during this session. First, the WordPress song is TOO funny. Also, you can enjoy this Drupal song. There was a Joomla! song but I can’t find it online, plus it’s instrumental and a bit boring compared to the other two!

(You can see a similar version of this post at CMSwire.com)

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!

Journalism of the future

There is a lot of talk about the future and how we are at a turning point of change here at the South by Southwest festival in Austin. It’s exciting to be here and talk to so many people about it. It’s hard to break it all down in one blog post – but I’m going to summarize my thoughts in this post and then get into more later today.

There are currently a number of tools that help journalists do things differently. But we are so early into this process that none of us can fully wrap our minds around what it looks like. What most of the journalists I’ve talked to are saying is we need to make some pretty radical changes. I’ve also had time to work out how I envision a change in journalism curriculum. It’s taken the last week of conversation – but I hope to spend some time today writing it out for all to see!

But first – I’m going to head to the SXSW convention center to learn and talk!



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!

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: