Taking a passion to a panel at SXSW12

It would be magical if I could just share my brain and it would auto publish… There are so many ideas I hold in my brain that I wish I could get out into a computer screen for dozens of blog posts. Lately I’ve thought a lot about a panel I’m helping lead at SXSW next month in Austin. Most of my friends assumed I was holding a panel about journalism. It’s certainly one of the parts of my life where I spend a lot of time talking about and teaching.

But this is SXSW. I needed to share an even more specialized sector of my world. I decided to see if it was possible to blend my love of tech and social engagement with my love of the special needs communities.

And that’s exactly what I’m doing next month. I’m holding a session called Tech Unity Beyond the #SpecialNeeds Hashtag. Communities connecting on Twitter using the special needs hashtag is awesome… But there are other ways we can share. So many different sectors of the special needs world have their own circles. The challenge is, so many of these communities are discovering similar ways to help kids and adults succeed. The trick is getting the communication out there. It’s much easier said than done! So I’m calling EVERYONE who has a connection to the tech world or special needs world to come together and help us brainstorm. Spread the word, let me know if you can help. I would love to be able to share video perspectives or comments during the session. Here’s my YouTube video explaining the project:


Broadcaster versus Engager

A friend of mine in the social journalism world mentioned in a blog post how he isn’t an engager… because it isn’t possible. He’s a broadcaster inside social media. And that made me think. Social media has grown because it’s all about sharing and talking and learning. Why can’t media brands be a part of that and not just broadcast information? It’s a challenge I’ve focused on for years in my career as a journalist and teacher. That dual job gives me so many different perspectives. When I think about what I want to teach and what I want to accomplish in the newsroom, most of the time my goals match. I want to use my work in the newsroom as an example to my students. That motivation leads me to spend a lot of time thinking about what is the right balance between being a broadcaster and an engager.

Here’s what I am seeing: Broadcast journalism-focused students really understand how to broadcast content across multimedia platforms. But I think we need to teach the concept of engagement and listening earlier in the journalism school experience. I have a lot to do to try and encourage, teach and execute a comfortable engagement process for my young journalists to reach our news consumers. To me, engagement is why I got into this journalism business. The idea of connecting to the consumer and helping them better understand where they live and the decisions they make in life is thrilling. Technology makes that goal SO much more real than when I dreamed of it in the early 90’s. Broadcasting content inside social media is just the beginning. There are so many more ways to listen and learn after a newsroom shares information. One of my favorite ways to listen on social sites these days is a site called Kurrently. I stumbled onto a few additional facts beyond a new item our newsroom covered this past week.

In the KOMU 8 newsroom, we had a really difficult coverage of a three year old who died allegedly at the hands of his mom’s boyfriend. According to investigators, initially the boyfriend and mom staged a hit and run accident to try and hide the abuse. The details from the boy’s death was released and it’s all really heartbreaking. The small town where the boy lived had a small candlelight ceremony with a low turnout a day after his death. Comments on the KOMU.com site had a couple of people mention how they did not know about the vigil but they plan to attend an event next week. I hadn’t heard about the vigil until I read through the comments. That tipped me off to do some more searching. I used Kurrently and searched using the boy’s name. Almost immediately, I discovered a photography studio that has been taking yearly pictures of the little boy since he was a baby. The studio put out an album of photos in his honor on Facebook. More heartbreak. An hour or two later, mentions of the vigil started appearing in public Facebook posts. One person posted details, names of organizers and a phone number to one of the organizers. Our newsroom did a story on the event it over the weekend and we’ll be at the vigil later this week.

Instead of considering the job done after our newsroom broadcasted the details, I listened. I searched. I know our market wants to continue to learn more about this situation. According to our chartbeat statistics, it remains a top search item on our site. Simple mentions can go a long way by searching, listening and using tools that help.

The next step is taking the knowledge gained from social media and improve our engagement with our news market. There are ways to do that, no matter what size newsroom you’re juggling. We all are able to broadcast across more platforms and listen in new ways… What about using those skills to follow through with the true purpose of social media and engage? KOMU 8’s U_News show is one way we’re trying to merge traditional broadcasting with engagement. Our audience has a chance to jump into a web cam chat during our 30 minute newscast. We try to use our traditional broadcasting skills to offer our news market the chance to engage with other viewers or to let the truth come out on important issues. We can’t just broadcast our requests for engagement. We have to do the follow through. (By the way, one of my favorite people who talks about engagement is Joy Mayer. I highly recommend reading her insights!)


The overwhelming rush of social

As I teach and lead a newsroom at the same time, it’s incredible to think of the number of ways newsrooms can deliver information. When a reporter goes out to a story, we expect him or her to deliver information from a cellphone via Twitter with text, photos and video. We expect a written news story for the web along with possibly additional information and documentation. Then they must get multiple versions of a broadcast story  that may include on air time on the set or from a live location. That is a lot to do for any person who is at any point in a career as a journalist.

It’s so fascinating how I continue to help coordinate and expand the roles of journalists in my newsroom. It’s also led me to expand my attentions. I no longer have one central place (like this site) where I share all of my knowledge. I have Twitter (which I’ve used since October 2006), Facebook (since March 2005), LinkedIn (since April 2006), my Google+ page (which is new), Facebook journalism and blogging groups, my course Facebook page, my course Tumblr, my course blog, and my advocacy site and its many social outlets. (Oh, and I love Instagram.) I juggle all of these resources while encouraging my students to focus on one work brand (KOMU or KBIA) and one personal brand (on a portfolio to help them get a job).

It’s no wonder my brain feels busy all of the time.

With my experimentation of so many different tools, I wouldn’t recommend this mode of sharing. Keep it centralized as you build your identity online. Leave comments and share links of information that come from smart people you want to know and talk to. Write strong blog posts and find others who will be interested in what you have to say. You can’t assume they’ll come to you and learn. If you snag a job that lets you experiment… that’s when things can start to get messy. The important thing is to find ways to report back the lessons you’ve learned. I’m lucky to have a class and a newsroom where I can do that. I also get to share my knowledge in spaces like #wjchat and at local meetings for hacks/hackersIRE.

Of course, there’s this space as well. And it feels good to get back to sharing my knowledge here again.

(Photo courtesy of Aramil Liadon/Flickr)

UPDATE: I guess I should clarify after reading my student Max’s blog post. This is what happens when I dump the thoughts in my head. I juggle a thousand different social media tools for many, many different purposes. When I say focus, I mean focus on yourself, your interests and experiment for yourself (a portfolio and social media energy for yourself) and your career (managing multiple social tools for your workplace) before you start adding all kinds of other projects.

Coming back

The last six months have been pretty crazy. Our newsroom launched a social media-based newscast and it was met with a lot of interest from around the world. It’s called U_News with Sarah Hill. The experience has been pretty remarkable… especially with Sarah’s deep jump into the social media world. Her ability to interact and make rich contacts through these spaces have been impressive. The biggest challenge for us is continuing to grow and encourage our market to participate.

U_News is proof that taking the web to broadcast is challenging when you are still following the traditional sales model of a newscast. I’m hoping the show will live on long enough for us to experiment not only with different ways to deliver news but to find different ways to help traditional broadcasters take the power of social and remain profitable.

For now, the show is a 30 minute program at 11am. We’re adding “passwords” during the show to encourage viewers to drop the word on an assigned type of social media to win tickets or something cool. People sit in a Google+ hangout to discuss topics that matter to the local market and sometimes important topics from around the world. The show includes viral video, fun photos and serious news from the day. Hopefully we’ll also continue to grow and change just like a social program can… organically.

I’m headed into a new semester with new students and new ideas. It will be interesting to see what kind of ideas they find for the show and for the industry.

In the last six months, I’ve had a chance to speak at a number of really fascinating events, speak personally with incredibly smart people and participated in communities and experiences that are mind blowing. I will do the best I can to try to document these experiences more on this site. I’m also blogging at Born Just Right, my #jenclass blog (along with its new #jenclass tumblr), weekly at Support for Special Needs.

Real World Homecoming Lunch

Today’s the day for my yearly HUGE Real World Homecoming Lunch – if you want to join in on the fun but couldn’t get into town, you can keep up with the discussion and pitch in your thoughts inside these live blogs:

We have two different tracts of discussion… Content producers and content managers. You can also pitch in using the #realworldlunch hashtag.



We have a team of students who are helping cover today’s events and they even put together a blog: http://realworldlunch.wordpress.com

Extras worth sharing

I just had a chance to speak to a group attending the Excellence in Journalism conference in New Orleans and Society for News Design in St. Louis… This has given me a chance to speak to journalists who I don’t get to speak to as often. Focusing on helping mid-career journalists think about work and life experiences is something I’ve wanted to do for a while.

That’s why I loved have a chance to talk about how to take your mid-career life into a more multimedia experience. I talked about how you have to change your mindset, play and connect to promote your work. I realize that sounds easier than you think… but guess what? It really is that easy. If you play, you learn. That’s exactly how I got to where I am in my career.

Beyond what I had to say, I want to share a list of links of tools that I think are really helpful:
delicious.com – save all of those links you don’t want to lose and tag them with searchable terms
bit.ly – make a shorter link for something you want to share and get instant analytics that show who clicked on it
Mobile Reporting Tools: RJI 2010-11 fellow Will Sullivan and a team of students analyzed all kinds of mobile tools and listed them based on the type of phone. I HIGHLY recommend you play with all of the available tools you can with the phone you own.
Also, check out A New Guide: A team of my students recently interviewed journalists across the country to come up with some best practices for journalists using social media.

Some journalists in New Orleans asked me to share some tutorials about Twitter. I really like the guide Twitter put together for journalists. I also like Mashable’s Twitter guide and its Facebook guide to help you think about the potential of those tools. I’m also writing a series of tips on Google+ for the MediaShift blog. You can see my first post here.

Here’s a look at my presentation… I hope our conversation from the presentation can continue here and on Twitter (using the #jentalk, #eij11career and #sndstlcareer hashtag).

Broadcasting Social Media

I haven’t been able to post on any of my blogs as much as I’d like because my newsroom is on the race towards launching a one of a kind newscast a week from today. Our goal is to bring a static newscast into a more interactive experience with the help of social media. We’re using a number of tools to bring it all together – Including a product that’s never been used in the United States to broadcast nearly live posts from Twitter and Facebook. (I say nearly because a producer can pick and choose the posts to air. There is a level of moderation to keep potentially inappropriate posts on television.) We asking our viewers (and even you if you want to play) to use #UonTV as our hashtag to contribute content. We’re also asking community leaders to turn in their community events via video. This will replace our interview segments where organizers usually sit on the sit and talk with an anchor for two minute. There might be a live Skype conversation but there will also be pre-recorded Google+ hangouts where we focus on interesting topics of the day. We’re trying to harness the power of social media and encourage our market to jump in and share with us. Here’s a little video where our interactive anchor Sarah Hill explains how the show will work.

We’re very excited to see this site launch. A capstone team of students in my class are helping coordinate and lead the development of the show’s social media desk – a team of people who will keep watch on social conversations for the show. We’re planning on letting this role develop as we learn what works and what doesn’t work for the newscasts. Hopefully we’ll be able to document the experience so other newsrooms can learn from us!

By the way – if you’re curious about what I’m teaching in my class, here’s what this week’s focus is on: Building your name brand online.

Testing CoverItLive

Bear with me… we’re learning how this works. If you really want to participate, that would be awesome. We’d love a live experience. Thanks for your help!

Twitter Talk: Why you should “get” it

I know Twitter will not be used by every person in the world. I’ve never expected that to happen. But for a very long time (search Twitter on this page, and you’ll see years of me bringing it up) I’ve felt the need to explain why journalists should use it.

I’m still talking about it… and not everyone believes me. Unfortunately, the more mainstream Twitter gets, the bigger mistakes people make when they take Twitter information and twist it around without even knowing they missed the point.

Here’s the perfect example… and it’s pretty terrible because New York Times journalist (who really knows her stuff around social media) Jennifer Preston was slammed by a conservative writer who claimed she was biased by retweeting a person running social media for the White House. Preston created a really helpful Storify that explains what happens: Continue reading →

Using social in the classroom

My class (best known as #jenclass) has evolved from teaching Dreamweaver and Flash to teaching my students how to think outside the box and deliver information with the help of technology. It can be mobile technology or social media… It depends on their personal goals.

A couple of months ago, I had a chance to present to my fellow faculty and staff at the Missouri School of Journalism to talk about how I use social media inside and outside the classroom. Here’s a look at my slides:

I’ve found great success in using my classroom as a social experimental space. I also use it as a way to stay in contact with my current and former students. In the classroom, I encourage tweeting with the #jenclass hashtag. It gives my students a chance to share live notes with each other. Yes, there are times where the note taking turns into a completely off topic side conversation, but I follow the hashtag and can call the students out if they lose focus. I also use CoverItLive sometimes to let students practice the skill of live blogging. It’s a skill that is only done well if you practice. It’s tough to practice if you don’t have reasons to live blog!

I also make it clear to my students that it’s easier to reach me via social networks than leaving a voicemail. My class hashtag extends beyond class discussion. Current and former students share links and ideas throughout each week. (Right now the stream is quiet since I’m not teaching a class, just managing the newsroom at KOMU.)

I recommended experimenting with your comfort zone to the faculty and staff who attended my session. One person commented how I’m much braver than he is as a teacher. I said I’m lucky to have flexible students who are hungry to learn in this space. Each semester is different for me. I never teach my class the same way, so every semester I learn something that worked and something that didn’t work. Luckily, I ask for input throughout the semester and most of the time my students feel comfortable telling me when they feel they understand what’s going on and when they feel lost!

I loved having a chance to share some of my higher ed ideas to my peers. It’s something I don’t get to do often enough. It’s funny how so many of us are doing really great things, but we’re so busy working hard we don’t take enough time to share.