Thursday, December 24, 2009

Including Those of Color in Future Journalism Efforts

The National Association of Black Journalists has a very active listserve on Yahoo Groups. Some of the bigger discussion topics are about including journalists of color on all the new media sites -- ones like Mediaite, Gawker, local ESPN networks like ESPN Boston and Huffington Post -- and of giving us access to the resources needed to become entrepreneurs and create our own new media models. You can read a post about that on the NABJ Digital blog here.

So it was with great interest that I read a post on the blog about NPR beginning to staff up its new local news effort, dubbed Project Argo. Project Argo won $3 million in foundation support from The Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Knight Foundation to tap a dozen unnamed local stations in the NPR network and setting them loose to offer “in-depth topical coverage of issues with broad national relevance and a strong local focus,” according to the site.

The funding is still being finalized but NPR is putting the pieces in place for a summer launch of its ambitious local news effort, known internally as Project Argo. Named by digital head Kinsey Wilson with Jason and the Argonauts in mind, this project is in search of a different kind of golden fleece—armed with $3 million in foundation support and a dozen stations committed to Wilson’s explains what NPR hopes to accomplish: “We want to demonstrate that we can build both authority and audience around the coverage of particular beats in these communities.”

When this project was first announced, I remember seeing a flurry of postings on the effort and how NABJ members could become involved. NPR has been up and down with hiring journalists of color, laying off what was seen as a disproportionate number in 2009, including several right after NABJ held a fundraising event at the station’s headquarters in October. NABJ President Kathy Times and VP-Broadcast Bob Butler sent a letter Oct. 27 to NPR President and CEO Vivian Schiller taking her to task over the layoffs.

In her Oct. 29 response to Times and Butler, Schiller offered a more focused breakdown of people of color on NPR’s staff. She defended her organization’s effort to maintain diversity and admitted that NPR could do better, saying she was working to boost the numbers.

To that end, NPR announced Dec. 15 that it had hired Keith Woods, currently the dean of faculty at The Poynter Institute for Media Studies, as its vice president of diversity in news and operations, effective Feb. 1. This is positive step, and we can only hope that Woods is able to back up Schiller’s commitment. Getting some journalists of color involved with the Argo project would be a great start.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday New Media News Roundup

  • Three industry forecasts predict that online will take in more advertising dollars than print by 2015, reports The blog post includes several charts that illustrate the point.
  • A week after the Federal Trade Commission's 2-day workshop on the state of journalism, the Online Journalism Review blog asks what should the government do help journalism.
  • Former managing editor and new BusinessWeek Editor Josh Tyrangiel has a YouTube video on storytelling across different platform.
  • CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves offers his optimism on the local media business an in interview with Variety.
  • Now that the Comcast-NBC Universal deal has been officially announced, NBC CEO Jeffrey Zuker has only nine months to prove himself to his new bosses, reports Bloomberg.
  • Finally, the 24/7Wall Street blog posts about 1o brands it predicts will disappear in 2010. At the top of its list: Newsweek magazine.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Is It a Good Time to Go into Journalism? Are You Thankful to be a Journalist?

I have a confession to make. Despite the love I have for my career as a journalist, I think it's pretty natural to sometimes be depressed about the prospects for my industry as we continue to read about layoffs and publications folding.

So when I saw this post on the Flip The Media blog -- Why It’s a Good Time to Go Into Journalism -- my first reaction was "what is he smoking?" But the title was intriguing enough for me to read the post, and writer Mark Briggs, CEO of Serra Media and publisher of Journalism 2.0 (free!), makes an effective case. In his post, he offers three premises:

  1. Journalism has a bright future. "Experimental news operations are popping up all over the Web as this decade draws to a close. Some have become sustainable businesses in a very short time. Others are still searching for viability while finding new ways to cover issues and communities," writes Briggs. I have written about these organizations both here and over at the National Association of Black Journalists Digital Journalism Task Force blog. Some of the ones of interest are MarylandReporter, Baltimore Brew, Voice of San Diego, and Texas TribuneDNAInfo, to name a few.
  2. That future is in your hands. "Journalism needs you. It needs someone who can bring a fresh approach without the baggage that burdened earlier generations," he writes. I see myself straddling between old school and new school journalism, and this old dog is working hard to learn new tricks to stay relevant in the future.
  3. Journalism will be better than it was before. "Transformation and evolution are messy, emotional processes. When they produce advancement for society and business, they are seen as healthy and worthwhile, but not necessarily to those on the front lines," writes Briggs. I have seen first hand my old school brethren continuing to resist making the changes needed to be relevant. They want to stick to the old ways, convinced that the old ways are still the best ways. I firmly believe that you can stick with the basic tenants of journalism while taking advantage of all the tools and technology out there that enhance your journalistic efforts.
And this gives me the perfect transition, to a post I saw on the Knight Digital Media Center's Online Journalism Review blog: How thankful are you for your role in journalism today?

The poll, done by Robert Niles, is completely unscientific and only had 58 respondents. But I still think the numbers are worthwhile as media companies continue to adapt -- sometimes painfully -- to the new journalistic world order. Thirty percent say they have a job in journalism, working for someone else, and are thankful for it. Fifteen percent say I have a job in journalism, working for myself, and am thankful for it.

I encourage you to take a look at the poll and take your own temperature on the issue. Despite everything, I still love journalism in general and my job in particular. I don't know a whole lot of people who are paid for their lifelong hobby, like me!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday New Media News Roundup

  • For those of you keeping track of layoffs, here's the latest: Thomson Reuters has cut 240 staffers at its legal publishing division, reports; Washington Times has cut 40% of its 370 employees as it moves toward an online format, reports the New York Times; the Miami Herald cuts 24 jobs, reports the New Times; and Gannett lays off 37 and brings back furloughs, reports
  • YouTube has launched a channel dedicated to citizen journalists, reports the Telegraph. The new channel lets media organizations "request, review and rebroadcast YouTube clips directly from YouTube users.”
  • Bloggers can now get free legal help from the Citizen Media Law Project, reports Online Media Daily. The project targets independent journalists who write about matters of public interest, with those adhering to standards of "truth, fairness and transparency" receiving first priority, according to the program's FAQ.
  • The Telegraph has a profile of Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington. And you can read her thoughts on the new path for journalism, written for this week's FTC 2-day workshop here. You can also see my NABJDigital blog post on that topic here.
  • And former National Association of Black Journalists president Bryan Monroe's guest post on Huffington Post -- Why New Media Looks A Whole Lot Like Old Media -- is a must read.
  • Do journalists actually look like this? asks the 10000 Words blog. None that I've ever worked with!!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Hey! People Are Still Reading Newspapers!

I just spent the Thanksgiving week home in San Antonio with my family. My Dad loves to walk out to the driveway and pick up his San Antonio Express newspaper and spend time in the morning with a cup of coffee reading it from cover to cover.

I tease him about being a dinosaur, but I admit I do enjoy doing the same once he's finished with the paper. But it's something I don't do at home, having recently canceled my subscription to the Baltimore Sun.
A new report from Scarborough Research find that my Dad is not alone: 74% of U.S. adults, or nearly 171 million people, read a newspaper ‐‐ in print or online ‐‐ during the past week, it found. Other findings include:
  • 79% of adults employed in white collar positions read a newspaper in print or online
  • 82% of adults with household incomes of $100,000 or more read a printed newspaper in print or online
  • • 84% of adults who are college graduates or who have advanced degrees read a printed newspaper in print or online
This is a bit of good news for those working at newspapers. But looking at the bigger picture, my question is -- how long will it last? We've all seen the statistics about the younger generations relying strictly on the web -- and not necessarily newspaper sites -- for their news.

And even if we have this glimmer of hope, are the ad revenues needed to support readership ever coming back? I don't think so, as witnessed by media publishing companies continuing to scramble to find ways to bring in new revenue.
To me, finding new ways to sustain the traditional newspaper business model is the real puzzle that needs to be solved moving ahead.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What New Media Journalists Can Learn from Sarah Palin's Book

Ok, I'm going to admit it -- I did watch Oprah's show interviewing former VP candidate and Alaska governor Sarah Palin on her new book "Going Rogue." And I have marveled at how she is steely in her resolve to use said book to go after everyone (yes, that's you, Katie Couric) she feels has wronged her.

During last year's election, I became addicted to the
St. Pete Times' PolitiFact blog, which fact-checked the promises, pledges, statements and "truths" told by the presidential campaigns. The Internet has made that job a lot easier for anyone, not just journalists.

To this end, I really enjoyed
this post on the Talking Points Memo blog on the Associated Press's fact-checking of Palin's book -- even before it hit the shelves Nov. 17. In its fact check, AP found a virtual treasure trove "that detailed where her claims didn't line up with reality," said TPM. You can see some of what AP unearthed in the book here.

"[AP editors] bought a copy, ripped it from its spine and scanned it into the system so it could be read and electronically searched. A NewsNow moved within 40 minutes, followed quickly by multiple leads as details were gleaned from the 413-page manuscript," wrote Mike Oreskes, an AP senior managing editor in an internal memo obtained by TPM.

The point is, with all the tools out there -- free and low cost -- any reporter worth their salt can do similar checks on all types of stories. This kind of work does 2 things -- it helps sharpen our investigative skills, and, most importantly, it gives us a way to offer that extra value to readers -- who might even pay for it!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday New Media News Roundup

  • Folio magazine offers up the latest on layoffs at BusinessWeek magazine as it makes the transition to new owner Bloomberg.
  • The Associated Press ends up laying off 90 employees to meet its goal to cut payroll by 10%, reports AP. And the Gawker blog is updating a list of those being let go.
  • AOL is handling its layoffs of 2500 employees a bit differently. It's asking for volunteers, reports the Mashable blog.
  • The nonprofit Investigative News Network has raised another $500,000 in a bid for more than 20 nonprofits to collaborate on journalism, fundraising, and back-office operations, reports the Nieman Journalism Lab blog.
  • News organizations including the Washington Post and Huffington Post are using the new YouTube channel dedicated to citizen journalism, reports the Telegraph.
  • The Techdirt blog asks why "The Daily Show" -- a fake TV news program on Comedy Central -- has better fact checkers than some real media outlets.
  • Two brothers are hoping to compete against the Detroit Free-Press and the Detroit News by launching the Detroit Daily Press, according to the Isak blog.
  • And eBay founder Pierre Omidyar is launching a similar effort in Hawaii.
  • The excellent 10,000 Words blog has a funny post about the types of pictures stock photo agencies use to portray journalists. I've never seen these people in my newsrooms!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Why You Need that Career Blog

Lately, I have been doing resume reviews for young people. Most of them have pretty good resumes, but I've had to help them on putting them in order and getting them to show off what they can really do. I was surprised at how many of them did not have career web sites or blogs to be the home of their professional work.

With the explosion of the Internet and myriad tools to self publish, there is no reason why everyone -- especially those seeking a job -- can't have a professional web presence. And it doesn't have to cost money. Some people will pay for a professional web site, while most will just use free platforms like Blogger or WordPress to create a blog.

The professional web site/blog serves as your calling card. You can connect it to your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. It's especially important to use it for LinkedIn, as more employers look to that site for hiring. A trend I'm seeing is companies using LinkedIn exclusively to hire new employees.

There is no one way to create a career site, but the Personal Branding Blog offers four tips to follow when you decide to start one. And don't forget to include direct links to your best work.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday New Media News Roundup

There is just way too much news going on in journalism these days. I had 34 items for roundup this week, but that's just too much, so I managed to whittle it down to 12. Enjoy!

  • Anthony Moor, deputy managing editor/interactive at the Dallas Morning News has been wooed away by Yahoo to head up its local news page, reports Editor & Publisher.
  • The Mental Floss blog posts about 9 times they should have stopped the presses. Events cited include a profile of Pakistani Prime Minister candidate Benazir Bhutto on why terrorist fear her-10 days after she was gunned down by terrorists.
  • It seems surprising sometimes, but Google CEO Eric Schmidt is actually a fan of newspapers and print journalism, as outlined in this interview with the Nieman Journalism Lab blog.
  • Speaking of Google, it has launched a function that allows users to customize and curate their own news feeds using targeted key words, reports the Mashable blog.
  • The New York Times has launched something similar to what Google has done, allowing readers to create custom RSS feeds of its stories, reports the Resource Shelf blog. Did I mention the venture has 30,000 tags for you to choose?
  • The Times also reported a story that the company is laying off at least 25 editorial jobs next year and shipping them to the Gainsville Sun. The Sun is owned by the Times and its editorial staff is not represented by a union, the article noted.
  • The TweetMeme offers up the top 100 Twitter news sources, including BBC, CNN, LA Times, Reuters, Chicago Tribune and Education Week.
  • That Rupert Murdoch! First he plans to put up pay walls at all his newspapers. Then he announces that he will "hide" News Corp.'s Web sites from Google Searches, reports Mashable.
  • Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal's All Things Digital blog reports that News Corp. is looking at joining Time Inc. on its "Hulu for magazines" venture.
  • WYPR's The Brian Lehrer Show has TechCrunch columnist Paul Carr and Jeff Jarvis, professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and author of the blog, discussing the merits of citizen journalism in the wake of the Ft. Hood shootings.
  • A copy editor at the Toronto Star shows the Torontoist blog why copy editors -- who are being outsourced at the paper -- are still needed.
  • And last, but not least, the UK's Times Online has an interesting column on how the Internet is killing storytelling.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tips to Future-proof Your Journalism Career

In the past week, we've heard about big job cuts at Time Inc.'s myriad publications, along with AOL and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, among others. Right now, we're standing at 14,366 layoffs and buyouts at newspapers in 2009, according to the Paper Cuts blog.

While nothing is guaranteed in life -- or in one's journalism career -- there are things you can do to make it much harder for the powers that be to lay you off when that time comes. Most people don't realize it, but companies tell you what skills and knowledge they value. But some people do not listen.

Back in 2006, our company leadership told us that all things digital was where we were heading for the future. They specifically told us they wanted blogs, podcasts, video, photos and whatever else it took to get us from point A to point B. I heard them loud and clear and began scrambling to attend seminars, conferences, workshops, webinars and whatever else it took to learn these skills.

Am I perfect? No. But in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed woman is king. I've done enough to show my bosses that I heard what they said, took it seriously and took it upon myself to do what was asked. We have not been immune to layoffs. During the last round, I actually got a promotion, and my digital skills were cited as a big reason.

So I read this post -- 25 things journalists can do to future-proof their careers -- on the eConsultancy blog with great interest. A lot of them had to do with using digital media tools. I won't comment on all 25 recommendations, but I will touch on a few of them.

Number one on the list was Blog, and I agree. "Start your own personal blog today. Or better still, start a subject-themed blog. This will be very empowering if you haven’t done it before." I am a big fan of blogging. I've had a personal blog since 2004, which has morphed into this one. I started our publication's first official blog -- Towers and Tarmacs -- in 2006 (thanks to training from the National Association of Black Journalists). And I'm now posting regularly to the new NABJ Digital blog.

Write About Your Passion is number 4 on the list. I am blessed in that I get paid to write about my hobby and my passion -- all things aviation. But if your current beat doesn't do that for you, eConsultancy advises: "Try to write about a passion at least once a week. It will help build out your portfolio. You’ll feel happier about your work. You’ll be able to express your opinions. And you may engineer a way out of a dead end job."

Number 5 is Feeds FTW. The blog recommends setting up RSS feeds for search terms on sites including Google News, Twitter and Digg. For a great primer on RSS, check out this post on the 10,000 Words blog. It also recommends setting up Google Reader to push content to you directly. I don't know what I'd do without mine, which is split between aviation, social media and journalism sites.

Numbers 16 and 17 -- Objectivity Is Overrated and Subjectivity Kicks Ass -- can be a bit hard for some journalists to embrace, especially those used to the old rules. I still write by the rules in my publications, but on the blog, anything goes. We all have opinions, and the industry is moving toward a more personalized style of writing.

Be Platform Agnostic is Number 24. Gone, thank goodness, are the days when there were strict lines between the online and published product. These days, I write a story and decide where it will best fit. My unit has a monthly magazine, a weekly PDF newsletter, a daily premium subscriber web site, a free news site and a blog. I have learned to slice and dice an overall big story and funnel it to the most appropriate place.

And last -- but certainly not least -- Do It Now. "Don’t fear the web. Don’t wait for your boss to tell you to learn some new skills. If you have a mental barrier and have filed yourself under ‘offline’ then slap yourself about the face, have a stiff drink, and then reset your watch." I was scared to death when I started my journey. I am an old school journalist who started her career on electric typewriters. But I love journalism, I love my job and Mama has a baby to feed, so I had to suck it up and jump in with both feet.

I did a quick count of the list and found I was doing 19 of the 25 tips. A nice goal for me for 2010 is to hit all 25! Again, there's no 100% foolproof guarantee that doing all this will protect you from layoffs. But it will make it harder for the boss to target you in cuts, and if the worst happens, you have skills that put you ahead of the game.

Monday, November 9, 2009

They Pitch -- But You Don't Want to Catch

While the vast majority of my career has been in journalism, I have worked on "the dark side," public relations, public affairs and corporate communications. Let me start by saying that I have nothing but respect for the HARD work that they do. If things go well, others usually take the credit. But if things go badly, the finger is usually pointed in their direction first.

Now that I'm back on the journalism side, I go out of my way to be respectful to PR professionals (not that I wasn't before). I thank them for relevant pitches, I send links/PDFs for the stories they pitch (they have to have something to show the client) and I praise the good ones to their bosses. And when I get a pitch from a professional that has nothing to do with my current beats, I send a very polite letter asking them to take me off their media list, since I don't cover what they are handling.

But like with any profession, there are good ones and bad ones, and I think the proliferation of digital and social media tools -- Facebook, Twitter and site-scraping tools, to name a few -- has exacerbated the problem of misdirected pitches. My beat is pretty simple -- anything to do with business aviation/corporate jets. But with so much information and so much technology, I'm seeing a virtual flood of press releases for everything from dating sites to movie reviews (none aviation related) and everything in between.

Recently, I ended up in what became a battle to get myself removed from a list that promoted restaurants. At one time, I covered the airports industry, and in that beat, I did cover new restaurant concepts coming to airports. But I left the airports beat last December.
No names will be used (although I'm sorely tempted).

I received several copies of the exact press release on a new restaurant opening in a major airport. It would have been a piece of news to interest for the reporter covering airports, so I replied to the PR person and told her this, also giving her the name, phone number and email address for that gentleman.
I didn't hear a peep back. But as the event got closer, I kept getting email blasts pitching the event and asking me if I was going to cover it.

I emailed again several times and tried to go to the firm's web site to remove me from their lists. No reply to the email and I was still getting the releases. I even tried calling the name on the press release and kept getting a community mail box.
The releases were coming fast and furious and no one was returning my calls or emails.

So I went for the nuclear option -- I called the firm's client directly and explained what happened, complete with copies of emails, calls made and attempts to remove myself from the list. I assured them that despite their overly aggressive PR firm, a story about the new restaurant would probably appear in the newsletter.

About 10 minutes after the call, I got an email from the PR person blasting me for going over her head and "tattling" to a client. I called her and tried to explain what had happened, but all I got was a string of expletives and threats. I hung up and called her boss, who was much more reasonable.

I did finally get my name off the list, but was all this necessary? No. And it looks like I'm not the only one with this experience, as posted on
The Bad Pitch Blog. We're all professionals and we all have a job to do. And those jobs are getting scarcer and requiring us to all do much more with much less. I just hope we can all learn from situations like this and work together for mutual benefit when we can.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday New Media News Roundup

It's Friday, so it must be time for the news roundup. Yee HAW!!
  • Chicago Sun-Times columnist Laura Washington has blasted the new Chicago News Cooperative for a lack of diversity. The for profit/nonprofit CNC will provide Chicago news to the New York Times. Chicago journalist Andrew Patner, in his The View From Here blog, noted that CNC had "no younger people (except a board member, Michael Davies, who owns a website service company with his father), no Blacks, no Latins, no one from the Sun-Times, no investigative reporters, no one from the Reader, no one who doesn't already know everybody else from other boards or service in the Tribune Tower."
  • How desperate are some newspapers to bring back print readers? New Zealand's Stratford Press has begun publishing at 3D edition, reports Scoop.
  • UK-based B2B publisher Emap has announced plans to introduce pay walls for its publications -- including Drapers, Health Service Journal and Retail Week-- within the next two weeks, reports Media Week.
  • Speaking of paywalls, long-time Newsday columnist Saul Friedman quit the newspaper, using his last column to publish a letter on why paywalls are a bad idea, reports Techdirt.
  • In an interesting experiment, the Chicago Tribune this week decided not to use any Associated Press content, reports But the paper still used copy from other publications, including AFP and Bloomberg.
  • But reports that AP has managed to keep 50 newspaper clients, including the New York Daily News, after revising its service plan. But another 130 newspapers are keeping their 2-year cancellation notices in place.
  • Alltop's Holy Kaw blog outlines the six types of new journalists. I put myself in the major shift category.
  • Al Jazeera English has launched new blogs covering the world.
  • Last, but certainly not least, Roland Martin, CNN/TV one journalist and National Association of Black Journalists secretary, used his blog to blast conservative columnist Rod Dreher over his remarks after NABJ sent a letter to National Public Radio expressing concern over its diversity efforts. “Rod, if you have an ax to grind about diversity of thought on NPR, fine. Keep complaining so they can hire a conservative voice like yours. But if you’re going to choose to write about ethnic diversity and dismiss it as not important, learn to do what real reporters do, and that is gain the facts, and write from a position of knowledge and not ignorance," he wrote.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Why Now, More Than Ever, You Need To Network

I got an email from my boss yesterday telling us that a mutual acquaintance had just lost her job in journalism. I had just seen her 2 weeks ago at a big industry conference, so I dropped her an email to see if it was true. Of course, it was. I offered my sympathy and said I'd do what I could to help her.

And, amazingly enough I was able to help her. I put in a good word for her with a hiring manager who was looking to fill a job dealing with social media. I was also able to get her a talk with a company looking for a consultant.
I was able to do that for her because I have always taken care to cultivate -- and feed -- my network.

I work in aviation, which is an industry where people tend to stay, even as they shift from company to company. I joined the industry in 1992. The last time I've actually had to apply for a job by submitting a resume and being interviewed was in 1993. Every job I've had since then has been because of my network.

Back in the late 1990s, I worked for a company that was sold, and the new management team changed things drastically. I wanted to move on and when I informed my network, I had 3 jobs to choose from. And it's been like that ever since. Even though I am perfectly happy in my current job, I still get calls from companies and people who offer me opportunities.
Part of the care and feeding of the network is to reciprocate whenever possible.

As a reporter, I hear about things all the time and I will pass them along to people in my network. No matter how busy I get (and I am busy), I will call or email key people that have helped me in my career just to see what's going on. And you are also responsible to help people in your network who may have fallen on hard times, because you never know when that person may be able to return the favor.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Why You Need That Elevator Pitch

Last week, CNN did a networking/job search event in Washington, D.C. I went because I was hoping to pitch myself as an aviation expert for CNN on future stories. As such, I had a chance to watch as others chatted with the various CNN representatives at the event.

One thing that was glaringly apparent was that many job seekers did not have a good elevator pitch. Mine, at exactly 15 seconds, was simple and to the point -- I wasn't looking for a job, aviation is a big topic of interest to CNN, they needed to have some new -- and more diverse -- people speaking about the industry, and I could help with my expertise in business/corporate jet aviation, airports and airport security and the airlines, tossing in that I've also worked for 2 airlines and an engine manufacturer. I gave them my card, asked for theirs, thanked them for their time and moved onto the next person.
Using this method, I was able to get 10 business cards.

But it wasn't easy. The format of the networking was people sprinkled across the room and you ran up to a person with a CNN name tag. The process was a bit chaotic, and it didn't help when people used the time to either tell their life story or drag on about what CNN needed.
Had I been searching for a job, I would have visited the CNN job site -- -- to see what openings were available to see what CNN was looking for before going to the event.

I then would have matched my current skills set to what they were looking for and created my elevator pitch around that.
One person really stood out, because I kept seeing him say the same thing to every CNN person. He blathered on about how "I can do everything" and "I want to go where I can fit best" then peppered them with questions on exactly where the jobs were in CNN. He didn't seem to have a clue on exactly what he wanted to do. I saw variations of this scenario throughout the night.

These are busy people who know exactly what they need. One, they probably don't know exactly all the jobs available at CNN, and two, they should not be telling you what is available unless they are doing the hiring directly.

You never know when you're going to get that chance to pitch yourself, so you should have one ready. For tips on how to create the perfect elevator pitch, I recommend
this post on the Harvard Business Publishing blog. Good luck!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday New Media News Roundup

It's Friday, so it's time for the news roundup. Here are my picks for the week.
  • The 10,000 Words blog (you know I love this blog) offers 10 Ugly Truths About Journalism. My two favorites? Journalists are biased and no one has all the answers. On a side note, please vote for this blog in Mashable's 2009 Open Web Awards' "Best Site for Journalists" category.
  • As many journalists mull the decision to stay or start a new career, this new poll from finds that most job seekers are open to career changes.
  • The blog posts about a topic I've covered regularly here: hyperlocal news blog start-ups. This post follows the trials of Justin Carder of Instivate, maker of the free Neighborlogs publishing system for local news sites, and founder and owner of the Seattle neighborhood blog
  • And speaking of start-ups, the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz takes a look at others out there, including, Baltimore Brew and Chitown Daily News.
  • I recently saw a post on one of my journalism listserve asking whether someone should write for free. A post on the Editor Unleashed blog offers 5 questions to ask before you make that decision.
  • And I'll finish this post with 5 Things to do before submitting a magazine article, from the Urban Muse blog.
Have a great weekend!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Journalism to PR: NOT As Easy As You Think

I know that I have a very unusual career as far as journalism goes. First, I've always worked for independent B2B/trade newsletters. I've never worked for a general media newspaper or a magazine. I've also taken several breaks from journalism to work on the public relations/public affairs side of the business.

Oh, the grief I took from my journalist friends for going over to "the dark side." I heard things like "you're selling out" and "you're going to miss journalism" and "how can you actually flack for INSERT NAME HERE when you wrote about them for so long?" I have always taken jobs because I've seen an opportunity to learn a new skill or just shake things up, and it has always worked for me.

But as journalism continues to hemorrhage jobs -- 13, 868 so far in 2009, according to
Paper Cuts -- I now hear those same journalists who pilloried me for my trips to "the dark side" saying they now want to look at public relations as an option. I also heard this a lot when I attended this year's National Association of Black Journalists annual convention, and I've been meaning to do a post on this very topic. What I have to say to these journalists is -- PR is not as easy as you might think it is.

The biggest mistake journalist make is thinking that just because they can write, they can just take those skills right over to PR and smoothly transition in. No, no and NO. Some of the skills do transfer over -- writing/editing, attention to detail and curiosity.

But in the end, you are the slave to the company you're working for. If you don't believe in the company/organization, you will never last. As such, you will have to write things that you'd never write as a reporter. A PR person's job is to put the best face on all news, no matter how bad. When you do a good job, everyone but you gets the credit. When it's perceived that your efforts didn't go well (with it NOT being your fault 9 times out of 19), the s**t rolls down hill -- right on you.

Example: I worked for a company where an executive, on his own, decided to accept an interview request from a major newspaper. When we found out, we first tried to talk him out of it, because there were a lot of things going on that didn't make it a good time to do an interview. But he was hell bent on doing it, so we tried to prep him the best we could. But he had an ego and thought he could "handle" the reporter and refused to do any prep.
So the interview went ahead and it was pretty much a train wreck.

The CEO was unhappy with the interview, and the executive blamed our team for not prepping him. So even though we had emails that showed that he had tried to prep him, we ended up getting blamed for the fiasco.

I urge you to read
this post from The Bad Pitch blog entitled "The Axed Hack's Guide to Flacking: Are Journalists Meant For PR?" I also recommend this post from BNET's Catching Flack blog.

And if this is really something you're considering, please -- talk to people who have made the same transition and get advice. Email me if you don't know anyone else. I'm happy to pass along my experiences.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Fast Five

It has been a busy week. I've just come back from Orlando where I covered the biggest show of the year for my little slice of the aviation business. But I didn't want to go a whole week without posting anything. Every Friday, I do the "Friday Fast Five" for the National Association of Black Journalists' Digital Journalism Task Force, which I co-chair. So I decided to share them with you this week. Enjoy!
  1. Seven Things to Consider Prior to Launching Your Business Blog: it's geared more toward marketing, but I thought the tips would be appropriate for journalists thinking about starting a work-related blog;
  2. 25 things I wish I’d known when I started blogging: I wish I had known at least 15 of them when I started my company's first approved blog back in 2006;
  3. 7 Unique and innovative maps: NABJ Region VI director Mark Luckie strikes again on his 10,000 Words blog. Just save the time and subscribe to his feed here;
  4. Five Great Sites for Writers: She offers links to sites that offer everything from freelancing help to the craft of writing; and
  5. Eight Public Media 2.0 Projects That Are Doing it Right: the Media Shift blog shows us eight public service/non- profit organizations doing journalism in a whole new way. These examples can serve as a template for all of us looking to take our craft to the next level.
Have a great weekend!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday New Media News Roundup

There's a lot going on out there that I would just love to blog about, but the time constraints in my life preclude me from doing so. So here's the week's roundup of links on new/digital media trends I thought would be of interest. Have a great weekend, and enjoy!

  • I am now addicted to the 10,000 Words blog, written by NABJ Region 6 Director (and multimedia God) Mark Luckie. I really enjoyed his recent post on 10 ugly truths about modern journalism. I'm especially struck by numbers 6, 8 and 10.
  • First we have professional sports -- the National Football League and Major League Baseball -- starting their own television networks. Now we have the L.A. Kings hockey team hiring its own reporter -- Rich Hammond -- to cover the team, reports the Paul Oberjuerge sports blog. The emphasis is on reporting, just like Hammond did in his previous gig at the LA Daily News.
  • The Media Shift blog makes the case for why we need a shield law for bloggers and citizen journalists.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What's In Your Mobile Multimedia Bag?

I am a regular reader of the Oyster Hotel Review blog. Oyster, which started in January, hires journalists to do extensive, independent hotel reviews, including hundreds of pictures. Check out this review of the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York City (full disclosure-one of my best friends is a hotel consultant who works there).

A recent blog post caught my eye: An Oyster Reporter’s Mobile Workspace. Writer Paul B offers pictures and the 17 items he carries in his multimedia back pack. It includes the normal stuff, but it also has items including pen and paper, Advil and Zeiss wet lens wipes and cleaning cloths.

I'm in Austin, Texas, this week covering an industry show, and I get many comments about my own Swiss Army Multimedia back pack (bought at Sam's Club for $40), so I thought I'd share what I carry in my own bag.
  • FujiFilm S800 FinePix camera with 2 sets of 4 Kodak rechargeable AA batteries;
  • Allegiant Air mouse pad;
  • 1 4-pack each of AA and AAA batteries
  • Olympic digital audio recorder with hand mike, USB mike and lapel mike
  • Bag of plug adapters that cover the world
  • Ethernet cord
  • Victorinox SwissCard with nail file, ruler, scissors, toothpick, tweezers and screwdriver (the size of a business card)
  • 4 ink pens (1 with 1GB thumb drive) and 4 reporter notebooks
  • 2 1GB thumb drives
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Hand lotion
  • Business cards
  • Umbrella
  • Belkin 3-outlet, 2 USB port mini surge protector (cheaper on eBay)
  • iPod Classic
  • iPod Touch with iBend holder
  • Sharper Image noise-canceling headphones (for flights and editing podcasts)
  • Apple iPod recordable headphones
  • Universal iGo charger for Blackberry and iPods
  • Flip Video Camera
  • Mini camera tripod
  • Business cards
  • Breath mints
  • Sewing Kit
Some of my journalist friends laugh at my bag -- until they need something they've forgotten. Click here for my past post on multimedia bag choices.

I was a Girl Scout growing up, and you know their motto: Be Prepared! What's in your bag?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday New Media News Roundup

It's been awhile since I've done one of these things, and I had a lot I was saving. So let's get started.

I just discovered Mark Luckie's 10,000 Words blog on journalism and technology. Where has this blog been all my life, combining 2 of my current passions? In this post, he offers up 10 ugly truths about modern journalism.

I have a friend who recently graduated from college and is frustrated by the lack of journalism jobs available. I heard that a lot from young people at the National Association of Black Journalists conference in August. So here's a post from the Journalism 2010 blog on 5 reasons you should go to grad school.

Are you looking for ideas on what makes a great media site? B2B Online offers its thoughts are the 10 best, including the Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek and PoliceOne.

The DVAFOTO blog offers examples of the newspapers it thinks are still producing great journalism. "Ian Fisher: American Soldier" by the Denver Post was amazing! With all this bad news, it's nice to see that someone is acknowledging good work.

I've been blogging quite a bit lately about the debate on how to use social media in journalism. A new survey from Middleberg Communications finds that 70% of journalists use social media to help them with reporting, according to the Journalistics blog.

The Christian Science Monitor's New Economy blog posts the 10 biggest magazine closings of 2009 so far. I'm still in mourning the death of Gourmet magazine.

I'll end the week with this gem from the TechDirt web site on the Austin American-Statesman's pitch on why you need to buy a print newspaper. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

To Credit or Not to Credit Blogs: That Is the Question

I am a reporter and a blogger. I get a nice salary to search out and write stories for subscribers who pay a healthy amount of money to read what I and my colleagues write.

One of my big pet peeves is when I see a blogger take stories that I have put in the time to write, write about it with their own spin and don't offer acknowledgment of my work or even a lousy link to my original story. As someone who writes about a very specific corner of the aviation industry, I can tell when a blogger has done original work or has taken what's already been written out there.

But now I learn that some bloggers have the same concerns. I have a friend who has been writing online about the aviation industry since the mid 1990s. She has developed some great sources (I'm sometimes jealous) that give her information leading to some major scoops. On more than one occasion, I've seen major media outlets take what she's written wholesale and written their own stories with not a whit of credit. These media outlets have good reporters too, but they don't cover aviation exclusively, making it hard to understand how they could have gotten the same story as my friend just 1 day later.

The Nieman Journalism Lab writes about the case of a blogger named Miss Heather, who uncovered a major zoning violation in her Brooklyn neighborhood and wrote about it on Aug. 19. The New York Post picked up the story and wrote about it on Sept. 2. Ok, I know what you're going to say--maybe the Post reporters learned about the story on their own.

But one of the reporters -- Alex Ginsburg -- actually credited Miss Heather for her scoop on the story in the comments section of her blog. “Post policy prevented me from crediting you in print,”he wrote. “Allow me to do so now. You did a fantastic reporting job. All I had to do was follow your steps (and make a few extra phone calls).”

And here's another example. New York University has two blogs dedicated to its community. NYULocal, which says it wants to offer information on what’s happening in the neighborhood, "the most recent J-Sex fumbles and the worst Lil Wayne videos." The other is NYUNews, which is the companion blog to Washington Square News, the independent student newspaper of New York University.

It turns out that NYULocal has a bone to pick with with NYUNews, accusing the latter of "leaving with things that we sought out, claiming them as your own and never acknowledging their source. I’m talking, of course, about our posts." You can see the entire open letter, here.

“`Link economy' means you shouldn’t be reporting on printing charges at NYU two days after NYU Local without a single reference to the fact that you found the story on our site. When we miss important stories that WSN reports on, we post them on Local with a link to the original. Aside from the fact that crediting with a link is common courtesy, we share a lot of readers these days, and realize it would look rather silly if we didn’t acknowledge your existence by linking to stories you’ve scooped us on.

NYU Local The Demise of Free Printing At NYU

Two Days Later…

WSN Changes Eliminate Free, 24-hr. Printing

My own policy is to link and credit any blogs I use in my own work. There are bloggers out there doing some great work, and to me, it seems foolish to act like they're not there.

Monday, October 5, 2009

What Are Newspapers' Social Media Policies

Late last month, the Washington Post came out with its guidelines on how its reporters and editors should handle the use of social media tools. Social media gurus came out en masse to blast the Post's policies, even blasting the fact that the policies were actually leaked by

The big issue was with this quote from the memo released by senior editor Milton Coleman: “Personal pages online are no place for the discussion of internal newsroom issues such as sourcing, reporting of stories, decisions to publish or not to publish, personnel matters and untoward personal or professional matters involving our colleagues. The same is true for opinions or information regarding any business activities of The Washington Post Company.” writer J.D. Lasica said: "Transparency, it appears, is a foreign idea at the Post. So is humanity — the opportunity to show readers that news is not a commodity produced by a faceless institution but a rich, collaborative process where a lot of fast-moving decisions affect how a story is written and played."

Here's what the Post said in answering a question during an online managing editor chat Sept. 28:

Alexandria, VA:
Is the newspaper's new social media policy unnecessarily restrictive? Isn't this a case of management that doesn't understand social media overreacting after seeing Raju Narisetti's tweets?

My worry is that instead of the give-and-take that followers are used to having with Post reporters like Rick Maese, HowardKurtz, and Dan Steinberg, we'll just get bland links to articles without any of the interaction and commentary that is the real value of a service like Twitter.

Followers of ABC's Jake Tapper and the New York Times' David Carr on Twitter benefit from their employers' common-sense approach to social media. Why does the Washington Post feel there's a need for a restrictive written policy?

Liz Spayd and Raju Narisetti: We had been discussing coming up with guidelines for several months so that our staff is on the same page in terms of using social networks. These guidelines will continue to evolve as new technologies continue to emerge and become popular. The guidelines we have announced seem to make sense for now.

Many publishing companies either don't have policies or are in the process of developing them. For me, I use a common-sense approach to my social media activities, dividing my personal and professional lives. Click here for guidelines for the Associated Press. Click here for the New York Times guidelines. And here's the Wall Street Journal's guidelines.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Social Media's Place in the Craft of Journalism

Regular readers of this blog know I have fully embraced some of the social media tools out there enhance my journalistic efforts. I know that many of my brethren are still suspicious about using things like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, CoverItLive and YouTube, among dozens of applications.

The fall 2009 edition of Nieman Reports argues that social media is not a "tool" for journalists, but "the ocean we’re going to be swimming in—at least until the next chapter of the digital revolution comes along. What needs our attention is how we’re going to play roles that bring journalistic values into this vast social media territory," writes Geneva Overholser.

But another writer for Nieman Reports, Robert G. Picard, questions whether all these new technologies and platforms really a good idea for news organizations.
"Is each one equally useful? What are the real costs in staff time and the operating costs to be on the various platforms? What is actually achieved for the news organization in being there? Does every news organization need to be active on all of the platforms? Finally, how can a news organization achieve optimal benefit across platforms?" he asks.

Picard does see a benefit of journalists using online tools to get "information, ideas and feedback." While social media and blogs allow the public and and journalists to interact and bring up topics that may have been overlooked, he feels it could become a double-edged sword.

"In many instances, the content that news organizations produce (at a cost) is distributed by others, thus removing the need or desire for many people to seek out the original sources of the information," Picard wrote. "This circumstance, of course, threatens the commercial model because of its deleterious effects on revenue and cost recovery."

Evidence is growing that news organizations’ Web sites are offering some benefits, said Picard. "Less evidence has been found to show that social media activities do likewise, especially for newspapers," he mused.

The thing about social media is there's really no handbook for journalists -- or anyone else for that matter -- on how to use it most effectively. It's all just trial and error. I try different things all the time; some things work, and some things don't. But as a journalist colleague recently told me: don't be afraid to fail. And you'll never know what works best for you if you don't at least try. You can click here to see a dizzying array of the Web 2.0 tools and applications out there. Have fun!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Journalists as a Brand

In the past two weeks, I have had lunch and coffee with my social media guru friends. Leah Jones (@leahjones) runs her own company, Nativ Media, where she teaches musicians and artists, among others, how to use social media to promote themselves. During lunch, we talked about how social media was also a way to brand yourself, and how journalists are reluctant to brand themselves.

And my coffee partner Ludo Van Vooren, an aerospace social media consultant told me that it was too late -- I was already a brand because of my efforts on my company blog, my Twitter account (@AvWeekBenet) and Facebook, among other things. You can see my video interview with Ludo on social media here.

So if you're a branded journalist and the worst happens, you can either start your own business based on that brand or sell your services -- complete with a blog, a Twitter account and your Facebook/LinkedIn accounts -- to the highest bidder.

Which is why I found several posts on this topic quite interesting. First is a post on the Personal Branding Blog specifically for journalists entitled "Creating an Online Presence to Develop Your Brand." Writer and journalist Vadim Lavrusik encourages us to take advantage of tools available to help build your online presence, "which results in further shaping and developing your brand."

First, journalists need to have a personal blog where potential employers and the public can get a sense of your professional credentials and you have a home "where all your online personalities meet," writes Lavrusik. It can also be a place for people to contact and connect with you, he adds. I've had this blog since August, and will continue to use to to highlight my work and discuss ongoing changes in journalism.

Lavrusik calls out those who are still afraid of Twitter. The microblogging service is ideal because it allows you to stay in contact 24/7 and connect with like-minded people. "No one cares about what you had for lunch or that you’re going to sleep now," he says. "Instead share your expertise, your professional ideas, articles you’re reading about the industry you’re in and of course the blog posts you write or are articles you are featured in."

I use my @AvWeekBenet handle to connect with aviation, social media and journalism professionals around the world. I also use it to post links to my work, retweet other articles and news of interest and offer my own thoughts on what's going on in my three worlds. I have gotten story tips, ideas and pitches that I think have enriched my work.

Then there's Facebook. "Remember that 45 percent of employers now screen applicants’ social media sites, " writes Lavrusik. "Be careful about your statuses and how they reflect your character and professionalism."

I have a friend who has waited to join, and has taken a very measured approach to how she uses it. I wish I had that guidance when I created mine. I would have made it strictly professional. Every day I'm deleting some people and putting people into separate categories and different feeds. But once that's done, it should be a great tool. I also am an administrator for our publication's fan page, and I've created several aviation-related groups.

Lavrusik ends with LinkedIn, what he calls "Facebook for professionals." "What I often find is that journalists and professionals don’t take advantage of using LinkedIn or maintain it. They simply create the profile and expect the magic to happen," he writes. "Building a strong network takes a lot of work and a real desire to stay in touch with people that could have a business proposition for you, a job, or simply some professional advice."

I attended a seminar with Sree Sreenivasan, dean of student affairs and a professor at Columbia Journalism School and noted guru on these issues. He covered Twitter and Facebook in his session, but he offered a great primer on the potential of LinkedIn for journalists. His best advice? Keep your profile updated and 90%+ completed. I've also joined aviation and aerospace-related groups that have helped me in my work.

For more reading on this topic, see the articles below.
And there are some journalists out there who have done a great job creating their personal brand. Some of the ones I read are:

Good luck and have fun out there creating your own brand!