ONA “aha” moment

I’m attending the Online News Association conference this week… and I have an hour to decompress before the next meetup. I thought I’d brain dump a few things about the experience and lessons I learned today.

In the last session I attended, I sat near a woman who said she felt this was the first conference she attended where journalists are positive about the industry. One of my friends mentioned “journalism is NOT dead!” when he checked into the conference on Foursquare.

We’re feeling kind of good here.

To add to it, I feel really lucky I get to touch two worlds inside journalism – higher education and professional practice. I get to attend presentations and meet with really smart people while thinking along both of these worlds. What can I share with my students? What can I use in my newsroom? I leaves my brain spinning and with very little room to remember the names of people I’ve met. (Sorry.)

But I wanted to share an “aha” moment that I know a lot of other online journalists have already had… But it took me to attend a Google search presentation and then another panel on analytics to convince me to make a change in how I run my news website and how I teach. I need to teach trends.

Trends. Why am I behind on this? Oh, I knew it existed, but hadn’t spent time to think about its potential. I know I can’t use the excuse that I’m busy. All of our newsrooms are busy. I need to think about trends because there are search engines and tools out there that could HAND me access to more engagement with my audience. These are tools that could give my students the tools to get that next job and better engage with their audience when they move to a new community.

It’s a little “aha” moment where I had to wake myself out of the “analytics can tell me what I need to know” attitude.

I walked up to Will Sullivan (aka Journerdism) who is running for the ONA 2011 Board of Directors and is a 2010-11 Reynolds Journalism Institute fellow. He was at the St. Louis Post Dispatch before the fellowship and I casually asked if his paper was watching search trends. And of course he said yes. I’m so thankful I attended this event to remind me about tools that are out there that can help! Of course search statistics don’t mean everything. But it is something I should be doing for my newsroom to help move us forward and do our very best in covering our market.

It was a good “aha” moment.

(For those of you who are curious, I plan to spend more time with Google Trends. Also, check out the Google Insights page. That’s how I created the trends grid above. It shows the ebb and flow of search about the Online News Association since 2004 in the United States. It’s not the only tool out there, but it’s pretty fun to play with.)

Lunch and real advice

It’s my yearly Real World Homecoming Lunch! That means I have dozens of alumni sitting down for free pizza (Shakespeares Pizza for those who know Columbia, MO) and a chance to share career advice to current students.

Alumni have a chance to join in on the live blog below to share advice and thoughts as well. (Heck, if you’re a professional who wants to join in even if you aren’t alumni, your input is welcome as well.)

The event starts at noon Central Time and ends at 2:00 p.m. Have fun!

A wonderful time of the year

It’s the week leading up to Homecoming at the University of Missouri. Back when I was a student here, it didn’t mean very much to me. It was annoying to see all of the crowds while I needed to study. But now that I’m a professor, I’ve found Homecoming is a powerful opportunity to bring together many of my former students and classmates.

This year is the seventh time I’ve taken advantage of the Homecoming event and invited as many people as possible to meet current students so they can share lessons learned in the “real world.” Last year, I even had a couple of students live blog the event so alumni could participate even if they couldn’t attend the event.

This year, I’m pondering on another idea… What if journalists (mostly alumni) shared their thoughts even in advance of our big Friday lunch bonanza so more lessons learned can go to our current students (and even others in the industry – we’re all looking to learn as we move along with our careers). So… if you’re on Twitter, use the hashtag #journotips and share the lessons you’ve learned in your career. If you have a chance to attend my lunch, warning – ESPN GameDay has taken over my lunch location, so I’m working on a new one as soon as possible.

Baby Jessica and Chilean Miners

In 1987, I watched a live broadcast of a little baby rescued from a well in Texas. I cried and celebrated the return of this little girl to her family. I was engaged in watching the wall-to-wall coverage on CNN. It was a new cable channel that focused on the news 24 hours a day. The constant news coverage was a novelty. Little Jessica McClure’s survival and rescue was amazing to watch. (Did I mention I was in seventh grade at the time?)

Fast forward to 2010. For the last 68 days I have watched the world’s coverage of 33 miners trapped for 68 days in Chile. The men have survived in a section of a mine where there was air and the ability to receive nutrition and communication from up above. Workers have struggled to find a way to bring every man back. That process started tonight. And I am glued to the media coverage. But this time, I have watched all of it on my computer while my husband watched baseball on the TV. I watched it on a lot of different sites. I started with TweetBeat’s miner page where I was able to watch tweets from everywhere and watch a UStream of the BBC’s broadcast. I also followed the live coverage on The Huffington Post’s live blog, CNN.com’s live stream and live blog and MSNBC.com.

I haven’t watched any coverage on television… It’s completely online. I feel incredibly connected to this experience just like the day rescuers brought Baby Jessica back to land. I cried watching the little 8-year-old boy cry as his dad was the first miner to return. I laughed as the second miner cheered and yelled and ran around celebrating.

I shared that experience with my husband who is sitting next to me on the couch and with friends on Twitter and Facebook. One of my friends, Zara Arboleda, expressed it best on Facebook from her newsroom in Fresno, California: “Technology is amazing. I’m watching this Chilean mine rescue with friends around the country. And good, old fashioned technology (a capsule, a hole and a rope) has saved the first of 33 lives… what a news night!”

It’s incredible how an emotional story is an emotional story – with old school broadcast or the many new communication tools of today. It’s just even easier to be a part of the experience… especially when someone else has taken over the TV.

(UPDATE: One other thing I discovered as I surfed this miner rescue online. The country of Chile is sharing the live feeds and even a constantly updated Flickr feed of the rescue. That’s incredibly savvy.)

Exploring the New Facebook Groups

I was thinking about going to sleep tonight… when something changed. A former student of mine invited me to a rolling conversation on Facebook. Rolling you ask? Well, Facebook changed in the last 24 hours.

Mark Zuckerberg and his Facebook team announced a number of new changes that include being able to download the content you’ve posted to your profile and the development of groups. I asked my new Facebook group on Social Journalism about a link that summarizes the changes, and Craig Kanalley from The Huffington Post shared his explanation. Groups have existed before on Facebook. But this time, it’s alive.

I’m not kidding.

I was going to go to sleep. Instead I jumped in and found a lively, flowing conversation underway. It’s hard to explain, so I took a screen capture. (I asked permission first.)

Let me explain what you’re looking at. This isn’t your normal wall post. When you post, you just hit enter and it pops up. Seconds later, another person’s post pops up. It’s live. And you don’t have to be friends with that person to have the conversation. I’ve always said Facebook is a space where I can communicate with people I know and I’ve met face-to-face while Twitter is a place for me to have great conversations with people I don’t know. Well. This changes it all. For the last hour or so, I’ve had a conversation with people I know on Twitter but the conversation is on Facebook. This conversation is hosted through a tool I played around with during SXSW earlier this year called Hot Potato (I an assuming the live chat function is what makes this new group experience possible). The Hot Potato concept was creating specific online “rooms” where people could have Twitter-like conversations but only people who are interested in the topic would read it. That’s what’s happening with the Facebook group concept. I had envisioned Hot Potato as a great thing for conversations during conferences so my Twitter feed wouldn’t be so loud. Mark Zuckerberg saw it in a wider perspective.

So one person on this new Facebook group asked me if I know what kind of implications this brings to journalism. My initial reaction is this is an enhancement to the current Facebook fan/like pages. It’s an opportunity to talk about topics in real time with people who have similar interests… or a similar newsroom. I immediately created a new group for my newsroom. I run a mommy blog Facebook page and I’m trying to wrap my mind around the pros and cons of adding a group to the page as well.

There are different types of groups. The one I played in tonight is closed – that means I was invited in and you need an invite to participate. There are also open groups and secret groups. The open and closed groups are searchable. The secret groups are only known by those people who are invited. I created an open group for my newsroom and one I might use for current and former students of my #jenclass. The amount of oversight for these groups may be impossible. I’m not saying that is good or bad at this point. I am curious to see what could happen when my “traditional” newsroom hooks up with the general public with the new Facebook group experience. I am hoping we could create a new even more personal interactive experience.

*One quick warning – if you get invited to a new group, you’re immediately in the group. You can remove yourself or change the permissions of the group. I immediately turned off email notifications. That helped save an incredible mess inside my inbox as the conversations got really rolling online tonight.*

Time and knowledge

I hold two jobs (professor and newsroom manager), I have two kids, two dogs, a husband and the drive to try and stay healthy. Each of those focuses require time and energy. On most days I’m juggling all of those responsibilities at the same time. I am lucky to have access to technology that helps me keep track of a lot of things at the same time. I’m constantly trying to modify my workflow to get better al all of these focuses. Often someone comes up to me and asks how I do everything that I do… I often just say, “I don’t know.” But there are some things I can explain… especially with the technology I use to back me up.

First, I own an iPhone ,an iPad and a Mac Powerbook. I subscribe to MobileMe so all of my calendar items match up no matter what tool I’m using to enter an event or responsibility. I do everything I can to not double book meetings. Using a $100 subscription to MobileMe seems a bit expensive, but it has saved me many, many times from overbooking or double booking my world. My calendar is organized by work, work outs, personal events, my children and specific roles I hold (events based on the classes I teach and my web responsibilities are examples). I haven’t merged my husband’s schedule into my calendar, but I’ve considered doing that as well. I recently added a category where I can put assignment desk story ideas into my own calendar because I’ve noticed my newsroom tends to lose news releases and scheduled events when I’m not tightly babysitting the paper version of our assignment files. The calendar system isn’t perfect, but I can easily see my busy schedule and try to keep up with it. (Of course everything I schedule can change at the drop of a hat if breaking news happens in our newsroom.)

My phone allows me to keep up with email as best I can. I also use Google Voice to get transcribed voicemails sent to me as a text message and as an email. This helps me respond to voicemails since I’m famously terrible at responding to them. This change in my life workflow has made me a better communicator with people who are phone communicators.

I tend to be more of a text-based communicator. I get swamped with email, so I don’t always respond fast enough for email senders’ liking. Quick conversations are better accomplished as text messages or Twitter direct messages. That’s because I am running around a lot during the day. I don’t have a lot of time to sit down and focus on an inbox. I usually have time in the morning to really respond to email and time after my kids are in bed at night. That means there’s a big chunk in the middle of the day when I’m not glued to my inbox. I’m glued to my phone, just not my inbox.

I’ve tried to fix my email problem by creating a specific semester-based email account for my students (I’ve created one for the fall, spring and summer semesters). That way I can notice email alerts from them and respond quicker. Since I look at my email on my phone the most, I have all of my inboxes open at the same time so it’s easily to see when there’s a new email in my class inbox. I’m not responding quickly to every person who sends me mail, but I want my students to get priority, and I don’t really want to create folders during each semester… I guess I’m lazy like that.

While I’m juggling all of the information coming in via email, text and social media (I mainly follow chatter on Twitter and Facebook), I try to keep up with industry discussions so I can stay up to date and help my students follow the many developments in this changing media world. I have “liked” newsrooms, blogs and other organizations across the country so I can see the updates in my Facebook news feed. I also keep track of the latest posts on Twitter along with specific topics I can follow thanks to Twitter lists. I’m working on a quick post on how I share all of those links I read and peruse with my students. I promise to share a link here when that happens.

As for keeping up with a list of to do’s… I’m still working on making that work. I have tried Things, Remember the Milk, Google Tasks, iCal To Do lists… But so far, I haven’t found the right way to really encorporate a list into my current life workflow. I’m hoping I find that perfect solution soon!

Do I keep up with everything? No. Are my eyes and ears open to a lot of conversations and activities at the same time? Yes! And I know the constant juggle of life and work that I can do with the help of technology helps make that possible.

Watching from afar

I didn’t get to attend… The many jobs I hold and a low travel budget kept me from attending the Block by Block Community News Summit. It was a chance for many small community news start-ups to meet together, get to know each other and talk about the future of journalism. I may not have attended in person, but technology allowed me to keep an eye on the event from afar. My favorite mode of watching was the #bxb2010 hashtag. I loved it so much I archived it with TweetBackup so I can look back and find the many teachable moments shared during the meeting in Chicago. I also kept track of it from a live feed and live blog through the Reynolds Journalism Institute (where I had a fellowship in 2008-09). The leader of the event, 2009-10 RJI fellow Michele McClellan, also kept a Block by Block blog.

I enjoyed the discussion during the event, but I think I’m even more interested in the aftermath. Many of the attendees and journalism organizations are still talking about the meaningful weekend. Small journalism organizations don’t often have a chance to see so many people who understand each other. Small journalism organizations don’t often have a chance to discuss the challenges of funding and the future of funding whatever we consider the future of journalism.

Here is a list of some of the great blog posts and discussions I’ve followed today:
Howard Owens: For -profit, non-profit and ???
Susan Mernit: Block by Block 2010: Time for the next steps
Nonprofit Communicator Blog: Online news experts descend on Chicago
Megan Garber (Nieman Journalism Lab): Block by Block: Once you’ve launched, what’s Phase 2 of a community startup?
Anne Galloway: Bit by bit, “Block by Block,” small online news publishers find their way

I realize there are many more posts and talks in the days to come, I’ll try to continue to add links here.

Cheerleading to a large audience

I spoke to a large classroom today – it’s a presentation I do each semester for a course that’s best known as “journalism for non-journalism major.” I usually get up in front of the class, talk about the new and incredible developments in social media and hope that at least oner person gives me eye contact at some point in the 50 minute presentation.

I usually start things off like a cheerleader. Super excited. Super energetic. I was never a cheerleader in school… but I’ve had the energy to do something like that. Somehow my energy reached more than one student today. I actually had the class interacting with my questions. I had students raising their hand to add more input. I made a couple of jokes that had some people actually respond with a chuckle. Some students chatted with me after the class.

It was awesome.

I’m energized from the experience. I’m not sure why. But I had to share because it’s little moments like these that make me extra happy to have the chance to introduce and share the world of journalism that I love.

Talking about blogs

I often speak to classes about ways to build your personal brand… and I consider blogs as the core of that brand building process. A blog is a space to share your brain, your interests or at least examples of your professional work. The more you post and share and collaborate, the easier it is for search engines to find our who you are and what you’re all about.

Today I spoke to a group that is assigned to post weekly blogs. It’s a task I enouraged a few years ago. Students early in the Missouri School of Journalism should try to think about web-based writing early on in their journalism career. I’m glad it was added. About a year from now, the students in today’s class who start blogging will end up taking my class. That means I end up reading what these young bloggers write. After a few semesters of reading these old blog posts, I realized I need to better explain blog tone. That’s what I tried to do in class today.

What is blog tone?
What I mean is I think there’s a difference between a “dear diary” tone and a conversational tone. I’ve found many new bloggers who are given an assignment to use a blog tool start off sounding a bit giggly and nervous. Often the blog posts talk about fun with friends, student life and comments that sound similar to “Oh my gosh! I just reported my first shift in the newsroom.” I challenged the students today to try to think about their tone as a professional from the start. They can be conversational: “My newsroom shift included the challenge of traveling two hours into our viewing area to shoot a package, get back and turn it within an hour and a half. It was exhausting but I’m proud of the final result.”

The only way to learn about the difference between diary and conversational is tricky. So I told the class that this is a great time to jump into blogging. For most students in the classroom, there’s at least a year before they head into the “real world.” They can learn a conversational tone with enough time to practice, get input and then jump in feet first into the less officialy, but just as important ways of delivering news, information, thoughts and experiences.

By the way, if you’re curious about how I’m trying to tackle student fear of failure, feel free to visit my new blog post on PBS’s MediaShift blog.

[Photo courtesy of Adikos via Flickr.]

How do you….

(I just posted this to my class site… and thought I’d share here as well)
I try to stay up to date on a lot of things at the same time. Often when I stumble onto something that may be really useful, I don’t have enough time to really dig in and read it. So I use a couple of ways to save information that I find interesting.

First, if I am reading a Website that I think has good content, I save a link to Delicious. This is a site that helps you save links and add searchable tags. My full Delicious page is: http://www.delicious.com/jenleereeves
If you are curious about what I’ve read and saved about Twitter, you can go to http://www.delicious.com/jenleereeves/twitter
I have tagged things under dozens and dozens of different tags.

I also have a quick saving process in Twitter. If I see something I’d like to go back and read again later, I often favorite items. You can check out my favorites (mind you, I favorite things beyond journalism – I also tend to favorite mommy-related topics): http://www.twitter.com/jenleereeves/favorites

There are all kinds of other ways to share… How do you like to share links and conversations?