Social Media Clubhouse – Invigorating Journalism Education

I just wrapped up a fun 20 minute conversation with Joy Mayer and Jeremy Littau at the Social Media Clubhouse just a few blocks away from the SXSW conference. We wanted to share our top three ways social media can invigorate journalism education.

Jeremy talked about how he is introducing the concept of a “classroom without walls.” Joy talked about how journalists should think about reaching her or her audience depending on the story they are working on and where those communities are talking. I talked about how important it is to build an online brand so when you have published work in any form, the information consumers can find out that you’re for real. 

Case in point: Joy talked about a student who completed a fantastic project about interactive museums. It was so good Joy wanted to blog about it. So when she asked the student where she should link when the student’s name showed up on her blog, the student didn’t have any social link that showed her knowledge base. Her blog was unused, her Twitter stream was dry… so it was tough to connect her amazing work to something that shows she’s legit.

I wanted to share a quick summary just in case someone wanted to chat some more here or on @jenleereeves, @mayerjoy and @jeremylittau.

SXSW – Real live Twitter

I’m attending my third South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas for the next week. I’m lucky to have a job that helps pitch in on an expensive but incredibly engaging experience with tens of thousands of people who tend to think and interact in social media like I do.

So many people think like me that I had a realization today about this conference: SXSW is like a live Twitter experience.

Before you laugh, let me explain.

In Twitter, you can follow conversations and join in at any time. It’s a fun way to meet new people and share thoughts. It isn’t rude to interrupt. It’s common to just talk. That type of experience happens all the time at SXSW.

After I talked about the SXSW experience with a first-time-to-SXSW friend who traveled to Austin with me today, I had this big aha moment. We spent two hours in the car driving to the airport discussing the conference experience. By that point, I was in “SXSW mode” and caught myself randomly talking socially to someone in the bathroom as if I was already in Austin. There is this flow of conversation here that you can’t have anywhere else. It’s the ebb and flow of ideas that can course through every nerdy location across this downtown area.

I brought this up to a few people after I had picked up my badge and became and official conference attendee. They seemed to agree with my vision.

SXSW is a live Twitter feed. And if people I randomly talk to at this conference don’t like it… Well, they’re missing out on the core fun of this event! #SAST

How to get started with Social Media

I have a chance to speak to the Missouri Press Association today with Joy Mayer at the Reynolds Journalism Institute. We have a chance to speak to editors and publishers – many who are lucky to have an engaged audience of readers in small towns across the state. We’re talking today about social media and how it is worth learning about before the core readers age out and the new readers never take their news product into consideration to use as a way to learn about their communities.

But the key tip I hope to share is how to get started in social media. We think this is important because of a little moment I had last week with a large lecture class I’m teaching this semester called Journalism and Democracy. It’s better known as “Journalism for non-journalism majors.” There are 236 students enrolled. All of the students are underclassmen and planning to graduate with a wide range of degrees. There are all kinds of differences until you ask how they got their news of the day. (I took a picture of a portion of the class during our first test of the semester.)

Last week, a class speaker and I asked the class to raise their hands to see who watched television news in the last 24 hours. Four hands went into the air. We asked how many people had read news from a printed material on a newspaper or magazine. Six people put their hand in the air. Then we asked how many people got news from the Internet. All but two people raised their hand. Two people explained they had been so busy with school and work, they had not opened the Internet in the last 24 hours.

Everyone raised their hands when we asked if they learned something new (news or personal, we didn’t differentiate for this question) that day from a social networking tool.

If this class is a peek into the future of news consumption, we better hop into social media and see what the heck is going on here!

But how do you get started?

Let me tell you how I did it. It starts with curiosity.

In 2005, I heard a lot of my students talking about this thing called “Facebook.” They were sharing and distracted and always talking about it. So I hopped in. You just needed an email from .edu account. I had one. So I dug in and created an account. I watched interactions between students. (I had a rule where I would never “friend” a student, but I would accept friend requests. I would only choose to “friend” students after they graduated.) My husband would harass me for using Facebook. But I saw merit in the natural way people interacted with each other. I created a profile for my newsroom and tried to see what kind of interaction I could get in that space. Eventually Facebook created the opportunity to let brands build pages on the site. All of these developments grew while I was already in the space. I understood how it worked because I played with it on a personal level first.

I did the same thing with Twitter. I created a personal account and a newsroom account in June 2006. I had heard some people talking about the tool and I’d seen how easy it was to share information from your phone by just sending a text message. So I signed up. I would text messages and post quick 140 character messages. For my newsroom, I just posted an RSS feed of links. About a month or two into my personal use of Twitter, I realized how searchable the account was on Google and other search tools. I had used the names of my children in many posts and decided to delete the account so my name wouldn’t be linked to their names. But I returned to Twitter with a new account in October of 2006 after watching how Twitter was used to help relay information during a large group of wildfires in Southern California. I still follow the Los Angeles Fire Department thanks to that event. News and emergency officials used Twitter to share information about safety, the size of fires and rescue efforts. I started talking about journalism and mom stuff on a personal level, but I would call my son “the boy” and my daughter “the girl.” The first time I met up with Twitter followers in my town, they were so excited to meet my children and finally learn their real names.

Working with Twitter is a little trickier to understand how to use on a personal level than Facebook. I highly recommend trying Twitter with  a tool called TweetDeck. Most new Twitter users notice how it makes more sense to read and connect with people. You can search by terms, people and conversations called hashtags – these are chats where everyone includes a word with a hashtag in the front. When you follow the hashtag, you can jump in and converse or just peek in on the conversation. Some of my favorite hashtag conversations are #journchat, #wjchat and #smcedu

I didn’t get to this point where I could easily converse immediately. I warmed up to it. But I kept trying. I would @ a person and see if he or she would respond. I have made friends and colleagues through Twitter. I have learned about my community and found new connections to news consumers.

If you want to read some of my other posts about Twitter, feel free to click here to see my a webinar I did on Twitter a while back that still holds true. Also, I keep track of great tools for journalism that are free or really cheap. I have a great list of Twitter tools included!

I would not be linked to my town the way I am without the help of Twitter and Facebook. It is not the end-all-be-all of journalism. But it is a way to connect with many people who are not consuming my newsroom’s material in the traditional ways. And as my class full of 236 underclassmen become professionals, their communication and information collection styles are going to affect us all. It’s great to jump in before you’re playing catch up.

Checking in to locations… media… and ideas

Check in services first came to my attention when I attended the SXSW Interactive festival in 2009. Foursquare announced a cellphone-based tool that let you “check-in” to your location and let people know where you visited. The more you visited, the more credibility you would gain inside the game. If you check in enough to one spot, you become the Mayor. If you check in enough times based on Foursquare-prescribed settings, you earn “badges.” I have collected 44 so far since I first officially checked into Foursquare in October 2009. (I didn’t join during SXSW because it didn’t allow check ins in my town… In October of that year I started to pretend Chicago was Columbia because I just wanted to play with the technology. Foursquare opened up to all locations in January 2010.)

I like checking in. I love the badges. I love being a mayor. (I fluctuate mayorships between 23 and 26 locations.) I am really busy with work in my newsroom, campus and taking my kids all over the place for activities. I rack up the points, the badges and the mayorships. I love it. I also love the simplicity of sharing my location on Twitter or Facebook if I think there’s a reason behind it (to talk about a sale, concert, activity or something else my friends or followers would like). I’ve met people through Foursquare by checking in and finding other people at that location. I’ve met up with people I know by discovering they were in the same spot as I was just by checking in. It’s all a bit self-centered, but I enjoy the fun behind it. I’m obviously competitive and this is a simple competition to play throughout the day. During SXSW 2010, I discovered the joys of Gowalla and blogged my thoughts about it after the conference. I clearly love this stuff.

But I hit a snag last summer when I had knee surgery. I was stuck in a chair with ice on my leg. I couldn’t check in. But that’s when I discovered the point behind tools liks Miso and Get Glue. You have a chance to check into the media you consume (and with Get Glue, you can also check into the wine you drink) and earn badges. I’m a big Get Glue fan and I’ve earned many “stickers.” You can show them off on Twitter and Facebook just like the location-based tools, but Get Glue also encourages you to play with the site and you can earn real stickers. (Although I’ve requested my stickers a couple of times and they’ve never shown up at my house. I do know other Get Glue users who did get their stickers.) I loved the chance to continue with my checking in obsession but with different material. I instantly envisioned opportunities for broadcast news outlets to encourage people to watch the show live by offering stickers.

But rewind a few months earlier and the Huffington Post started offering badges of honor for people who interacted with the site at a certain level. The Type-A Parent site started doing the same thing recently where members can earn “achievements.”

I’m listing all of these earning opportunities because I think I might have an idea to help engage my local audience as we head into the 2012 presidential campaign season. I’ve written before about how I have learned from failure of my Smart Decision ’08 project where I combined newsrooms to deliver an incredibly deep amount of information leading up to the 2008 election. The biggest problem was I never found a way to engage with news consumer and I could not get people who were interested in educating themselves through out site to participate and share. But what if I worked with a community of engaged citizens and used their help to encourage other people in our market to join in with the help of social awards. These would be badges of honor that would prove a person is educating himself or herself leading up to the election. Those badges could be posted on Twitter, Facebook or even their personal websites. I think it could be a really fun way to share, collect and encourage news consumers to participate in an election project. I’m just throwing this idea out there… but I want to find someone who wants to play! This could grow into a really fun project.

I need to walk the walk

This is the time of the semester when I meet with my students one-on-one to assess their career goals and help them best develop their online portfolio to get them the job they want. I range from helping them build a website on a free tool to teaching them how to set up and manage a server – usually building a WordPress site but I have at least one student who wants to hand build a site using Dreamweaver. Each time I speak to a student, I remind them to document the work they are doing in our newsroom. The more they verbalize their work, the more interested a hiring manager will be when he or she sees this potential employee’s knowledge.

It’s a great idea, right? So why don’t I do that more often.

Obviously it’s because life is busy. But I should walk the walk if I’m going to talk the talk to my students.

Right now I’m helping launch a new content management system (CMS) for my newsroom. At the same time, we had one of the greatest engagement experiences with our audience during a major near-blizzard in our area. I blogged about the snow storm engagement on PBS’s MediaShift blog and I plan to write even more later in the week about that experience. But while I build the CMS, I’m thinking about where to go with our Facebook engagement. It’s really grown in the last month and I want to keep it going.

Now I’m pondering my next steps. There are two questions swimming in my head. Do we want to extend our brand into individual fan pages for our on air personalities? Do we want to start holding contests and other opportunities where our Facebook fans can win something if they click the “like” button?

Contests on Facebook
I talked to one of my favorite Facebook groups about my personal challenge when it comes to Facebook and offering winnings to people who like the page. I’ve seen newsrooms offer the chance for a free iPad and jump 14,000 fans. But I question how many of those fans will actually engage with the page. I realize a huge jump of 14,000 additional people would find at least a couple hundred of those fans engaging. But for some reason I love the organically grown community. You know, the kind that forms naturally because of similar interests and cares. The kind where you build a relationship that is founded on information and communication. I kind of see these prize drawings as a bribery. I’m saying bribery is bad, I just question that it’s the best option for a community’s foundation. In the last year, my newsroom’s Facebook page has grown from less than 500 to more than 5,600 fans. It’s a wonderful natural growth that really bloomed thanks to our snow storm coverage.

Personalities on Facebook
We have a couple of on air personalities who are already finding great interaction with our newsroom’s main Facebook page and their personal pages. I don’t want to fix what isn’t broken, but I wonder if I’m missing anything at this point. We have a strong Facebook news page, but we also have one anchor who is getting even better engagement from viewers who are her Facebook friends. These are people who she friended as viewers instead of viewers who clicked “like” on a fan page. We’re working on security permissions so she feels comfortable asking questions en masse but also posting pictures of her family. I might continue my “organic” feel with this situation. Our hub of Facebook delivery will remain our current fan page while our on air personalities will be asked to use their personal pages with security or create a fan page if they don’t want to use their personal profile. I think as Facebook continues to change, I’ll continue to change how we reach out and connect with our viewers.

I also reached out on Facebook to ask many people who are working in newsrooms… It’s incredible to see the many different ways Facebook is managed (or not managed.) I’ll try to walk my walk and document our successes and failures more often.

The power of journalism

[This post is a part of the Carnival of Journalism hosted by DigiDave. You can read the entire collaboration here.]

I’m lucky – that’s what a mom friend told me yesterday during a snow day while we watched our kids tear up my house. I had to ponder that after I had waken up at four in the morning AGAIN so I could help my newsroom manage school closings after a particularly deep dump of snow in the area. But I had to think about it. The core of journalism is to inform the community. I have the opportunity to wake up at ungodly hours and drive through dangerously deep snow so I can make sure others don’t do what I do. I get to inform my community about the things that are most important to them. At the same time I get to show future journalists how you get the job done.

Working in a newsroom is a blessing and a curse. So is the job of a journalism professor. My friend told me she thought I was lucky because I am a professor. She explained it’s because I have something to show with my job. I do have a lot to show for it. I have hundreds of former students doing amazing things in the industry and beyond. But lately I’ve made sure my focus as a professor is expanded. The things I teach my students are useful for anyone. A teacher in Palo Alto, California has a similar perspective and is teaching her high schoolers the power of journalism. NPR-affiliate KQED’s MindShift blog spoke to Esther Wojcicki about her teaching philosophy. She thinks teaching journalism skills to all high school students will help them become more media literate and understand how to create digital media. She helped launch a site called 21stcentury. The site is rich with information that could be useful for anyone looking to enhance their knowledge base.

I think it’s incredible how many freshmen arrive in college with little to no experience in digital media. Their parents blocked them from using social media and other digital publishing tools during high school in fear they would make bad choices. That fear is not isolated to high school parents. My college students tell me their parents are constantly emailing them links to worst case scenarios. The message: “Don’t use new social media tools. It might hurt you.”  The fear of making a mistake is holding back so many people. I attribute that fear to a lack of digital media literacy. If more people saw the strengths of these new communication tools, I honestly think community connections and conversations can only get better.

Universities are inside a comfortable bubble where you can push the envelope. My job gives me an unusual opportunity to work in a practicing newsroom and teach. After years in “normal” newsrooms, the added university link has afforded me so many opportunities to explore, make mistakes and learn so much about the changes in the journalism industry. Those changes also translate into changes in how communities communicate and share. Why not expand the university bubble and bring the entire community into that zone of comfort? The lessons I am teaching should spread into the community.

When I first taught journalism, I required my students to volunteer during the semester to prove to them that it’s important to connect with the community and not just work in the newsroom. You can’t be a good journalist if you don’t physically connect with your community. I feel the same way about universities – especially journalism schools. We have powerful knowledge that can only help an ever expanding community need.

I’m taking action. I really believe my university connection has afforded me knowledge that’s worth spreading. A portion of my capstone students will help me connect the lessons learned in my Advanced Internet Applications class and sharing them with our community. One team will create how-to videos and guides for our newsroom’s audience so they can feel more comfortable using social media tools and basic digital publishing platforms. Another team will help the new Social Media Club chapter that I’m helping found in our community. Through the club, my students will help develop educational community events. I even have a team learning how to create a social media-based fundraising event for a local family resource center as part of Twestvial Local 2011. I want to break down those walls of fear and help many more people understand why this changing world is worth jumping into – not blocking.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if these ideas expanded into the fabric of an entire university community?

I am lucky.

Making a change

A new year is a great reason to make changes. So after months and months of discussions with my husband, we’re making the move to living a DSL-only lifestyle. We use DirecTV for our television (mostly sports) viewing and more of our movies and television shows are coming from Netflix Instant. We rarely use our landline and we dislike the company we’re working with. So today I made a call to a locally owned phone/internet provider and signed up for their DSL. When it moves in, we’re getting rid of the landline and living a new cellphone-only lifestyle. It’s kind of strange but only because we’ve never lived without a landline. We have hundreds of current and former students who already go this route. I shouldn’t be concerned. But for some reason, it feels a little strange. I was raised in a telecommunications family. My dad used to sell telephone switches and other components when I was a kid. We had dozens and dozens of phones in our house at a time. But everything changes. My home with be land line free. My parents sell real estate these days. It’s just another symbol of how we all need to be flexible with changes at work and at home.

So with a cell-only lifestyle, is there anything I need to change in my at-home world? I’d love your input. My only guess is I need to make sure my cell phone is nearby – have plugs everywhere to keep the phone charged. Any other advice is appreciated!

[Photo credit goes to spanut on Flickr]

Big things for 2011

I’ve had a chance to wrap up 2010 with a great group of students followed by an awesome winter break with the family. We celebrated the holidays with both sides of our family (we held a mini-Christmas with my husband’s side of the family followed by the full thing with my side). We also got to take the kids to Disney World for four days. It was awesome… and when cell phone connections were working properly, I had a chance to pick up a few Gowalla stamps of the parks and some of the rides. (I was bummed I couldn’t connect inside the Magic Kingdom where they had a holiday-only Cinderella’s Castle stamp.) I did snag a stamp for all four parks… and one of my favorite rides, Toy Story Mania.

I also tried to play with the many items you can collect and trade in the game. All in all, most spots had dozens of Mickey hats. Once you collected a hat, it was tough to find many others. In the end, I collected a Mickey hat, a hitchhiking ghost, a tour bus and a partner statue. I had hoped to find some extra surprises with the park’s Gowalla experience, but maybe because I had a hard time with my AT&T service, I didn’t find it.

Now that I got to enjoy my fun and games, it’s time to get back to work. I’m co-teaching a class on campus that is known as the journalism for non-journalism majors class. My partner in crime, Jake Sherlock, and I plan to bring as many perspectives and views of the industry as possible. I have a great group of students signed up for my capstone class and I’m fleshing out some great projects for the students. My newsroom is also working on launching a new content management system. This is a really exciting change for us!

I’m also planning on attending at least three conferences this year: SXSWi, BlogHer bet and BlogHer ’11. I’m trying to take some of my journalism focus and look at the many new ways I can expand it. I have so many students who are learning their core skills can be used in many non-traditional ways. I hope I can arm myself with more knowledge to help guide them beyond the newsroom experience. So while I’m working on teaching and helping run the KOMU news, I’m hoping to continue to expand my views. It’s challenging to see everything out there if I’m just in the newsroom working with in a more traditional setting. Luckily I work in an environment that allows me to try to innovate.

So, grab your thinking hat and join me while I try to figure out how we can take all this vast knowledge of the changing world and spread the word. My first step towards that goal is helping launch a Social Media Club in our town. I’m looking forward to helping share knowledge in my community and helping grow a more converged alliance of people in my area who understand the growing power of how communication and sharing is changing!

QR Codes

There are SO many people who have blogged about QR codes and have used them a LOT more than me. But this evening, I spoke to a group of young journalists who were really interested in how I put together my current business card. My QR code that takes you to the About page of this website. I use a WordPress plugin that helps mobile users view this site in a phone-friendly format. My business card gets a biographical enhancement for anyone who has a QR code reader on their phone. I’m including a look a portion of my card to give you an idea of how I it looks.

The Missouri School of Journalism’s student association held a really smart event last night. Professors and professionals from the area met with students for a “Networking Social.” The idea was to meet and greet and get experience talking to people you don’t know. I spoke to a number of freshmen, sophomores and juniors from the journalism school. We had all kinds of conversations. I loved it. Everyone introduced themselves, gave me solid eye contact and seemed to pay attention to what I had to say. Somehow, my experience turned into a mini-career counseling session to the many students I met.

After meet and greet time ended, the “pros” sat on a panel and gave tips on how to network.

My main tips:

  • Don’t stare at your phone all the time during conferences. I’ve made more contacts walking in the hallways and meeting areas by looking up and making eye contact.
  • Don’t travel in packs at events. Separate. Don’t see the people you know during a conference until at the end of the day during a conference. That way you have no choice but to meet new people during sessions and hallway wandering time.
  • Find creative ways to meet people. I bring power strips to conferences that eat up battery power. So why not share? During the SXSW10 conference, I came up with one simple rule: If you plug into my power strip, you need to introduce yourself. No requirement to trade cards, no further networking required. But by the end of the conference, I was using the #powerfriends hashtag on Twitter. Anyone who happened to use my power strip could network with me on Twitter thanks to the hashtag. It was fun. And nerdy.
  • Follow up. One you’ve made all kinds of contacts, follow up with an email. Make notes on a notebook or even the person’s business cards so you remember who they are when you send that note. You never know when one of those new contacts can become your new best friend. (By the way, I don’t always successfully follow through with this tip. I wish I was better at this. I honestly think I need to schedule full days away from the newsroom just to focus on networking.)

The big question at the end of the event was: How the heck did you make that QR code on your business card?

Here’s how I did it. First I searched “QR code generator.” That’s how I discovered Kaywa‘s generator. All you have to do is type in the information you want added into the code. (In my case, it’s a link to my website.) You can choose which size QR code you would like to create. Once you create it, you can embed it into a website. Or you can just save the image. Once I had my image, I went to Moo to create my  new business card. The site lets you give it whatever look you want and you can attach an image on the details side. It isn’t that complicated, but it makes a clean looking business card that has a talking point the moment you hand it over to your new contact. (Plus it’s just fun to compare QR code readers and talk about tech tools that I like.)

Have fun!

Manning the election fort

My newsroom is buzzing around preparing for election night coverage. My nerd-self is buzzing about the cool ways you can participate in election day online. The one we’re looking forward to the most at KOMU is our CoverItLive chat we’re planning online tonight. We have experts, candidates and candidate representatives jumping in to give our online viewers a chance to ask questions and get a new perspective on election night. You’ll be able to view the chat starting at 7:00 p.m. CT.

If you use Twitter, there’s the Twitter Vote Report project. All you have to do is go to your polling place, tweet about your experience and add “#votereport” to your tweet to get registered onto a national map of polling places. The site is also asking you to participate even if you don’t use Twitter. You can send a text message starting with #votereport to 66937 (MOZES). Also, you can call 567-258-VOTE (8683) or 208-272-9024. There are even apps for iPhone and Android users.

Facebook is targeting all users ages 18 and up to vote. There’s a notice at the top of each person’s newsfeed reminding you to vote. You can also tell others you voted by posting a vote badge onto your wall. Facebook also created a voter page where you can search for your polling place using Google Maps.

To top things off, Foursquare has created a map that tracks the number of polling place check ins across the country. It created a special “I Voted” badge and website for members to add to their collection. To get the badge, all you have to do is say #ivoted into the Foursquare message. You can also post it to Twitter by adding #votereport to include it into the Twitter Vote Report at the same time. (By the way, if you like Gowalla, you can get an “I Voted” pin if you use the word “vote” or “voted” when you check in.)

These are just a few of the interactive ways to share your participation on election day. I hope you get a chance to go out and vote!