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!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Online Journalism Review: Eight things that journalism students should demand from their journalism schools

I am a big believer in speaking with journalism students and mentoring them whenever I can. I am on the board of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's aviation communication program. I go back regularly to my alma mater -- American University -- to speak with students on new media and job issues. One of my favorite things to do at the annual conference at the National Association of Black Journalists is to speak with students.

As you have read here, I am passionate about journalists making the move to new/digital media. I've shared my experiences and am very active with NABJ's Digital Journalism Task Force. Students are in a position now to learn from the ground level what I had to -- and still am -- learn on my own.

I have to say that I was shocked when I was speaking with students at this year's NABJ that their schools were not teaching new media skills. And I'm not talking about mid to lower level colleges -- I'm talking about big-name journalism schools.

One conversation went like this: Thanks for your card. I see you go to BIG NAME JOURNALISM SCHOOL. How are your classes coming along? Great. What kind of courses are you taking? (She lists the courses). I notice you don't have any digital media classes on that list. Are you taking those courses? Um, no. Why not? We only have a few of those classes, but I haven't gotten to them yet. Do you have a web site to highlight your portfolio? A web site? A portfolio? I do have a resume, and I've done some work on the NABJ student project the past few years. You should put that in your portfolio. OK. When do you graduate? May 2010. What do you want to do? Be a journalist.

I could go on, but you get the point. Which is why I was happy to see this post from Robert Niles on today's Online Journalism Review blog on eight things students should demand from their journalism schools. While all of them are important, three really stood out for me:

  • A mentor. Niles recommends that students get mentors outside the university/college setting, and I agree. And please, students -- keep up with your mentees. We are working professionals and while we want to help, we don't have time to chase after you, so do the right thing and keep up with a person that could help you when it's time to get that job.
  • A place to hack. I developed my digital media skills by experimenting with all kinds of tools and technology, and your school should offer you the same. As Niles wrote, "And online publishing will not look the way it does today 10 years from now, just as it looks little now like it did 10 years ago. Students need forums in which to explore and test their interactive publishing skills."
  • Getting your name out there. With all the tools out there, there's no reason a student can't create their own web site or blog on a topic of interest and make a name for him/her self that will impress employers once they graduate. I have used social media to brand myself in aviation. I love where I work now and have NO plans to leave, but if that changes, I already have a brand that is known in my industry, which will make my job search much easier.
If your school isn't giving you any of Niles' suggestions, you have a choice -- go to another school that does or work with faculty, administrators and other students to get your school to offer them. And a bonus? It's something you can put in your work portfolio! Good luck!!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Journalists vs. Bloggers: The Battle Continues

I am currently working on a column about the joys and pains of blogging for the National Association of Black Journalists Journal. I’m talking with reporters who blog as part of their jobs. I’ve been doing this blog (and a previous incarnation of it) since July 2004. I started a work-related blog on the airport/security industry in August 2006 and currently contribute to Aviation Week's Things With Wings and Business Aviation Now blogs and write guest posts for other industry-related blogs.

Two questions seem to always come up when journalists talk about blogging: are bloggers as responsible as us and why should I do it? I’ll answer the second question in my Journal article. Today’s column will tackle the first question, which was spurred by a blog post from one of my Twitter followers – Nomadic Matt’s Travel Site – who asked “Is Travel Blogging Real Journalism?”

The simple answer is yes – and no. Just like journalists, there are good and bad bloggers out there (Matt happens to be one of the good ones). “Journalists think bloggers aren’t as good and bloggers don’t want to be associated with the `old media,’” writes Matt. “Clearly blogging is a new form of writing. But to me blogging is a more casual style that discusses your thoughts, hobbies, feelings. Journalism denotes a bit more research, formality, and neutrality in your writing.”

Since I am steeped in aviation, I’ll use what I see out there to illustrate this point. One of my good friends is Brett Snyder, who writes The Cranky Flier blog. Snyder is a self-described airline geek who uses his blog to demystify the industry via details and humor.

Back in April, Snyder, along with around a dozen other aviation reporters, attended the Phoenix Aviation Symposium, a must-attend event for the industry. While he was there, he snagged an interview with JetBlue CEO David Barger. JetBlue is among a handful of airlines that treats respected bloggers like Snyder with the same respect as journalist.

Snyder lives in Long Beach, Calif., and has followed JetBlue’s efforts to get a new airport terminal in that focus city. In what he called a throwaway question, he asked Barger about the progress being made.

What happened next ended up getting Snyder – and his blog – national coverage. Barger used the interview to blast Long Beach Airport’s management for dragging its feet on the promised expansion. You can read my post about it here. Long story short, the story got picket up by the Long Beach Press-Telegram, the LA Times, BusinessWeek and USA Today, stirring up a debate on bloggers as journalists.

What is lost in the noise of this conversation is that like it or not, bloggers — especially one with the good reputation of Snyder — are doing the same hard work that I do as a journalist. It is dangerous for people and organizations to just blow off Snyder and other bloggers. After all, it was Snyder that actually broke this story; only then was it picked up by the “regular” media.

The Long Beach Press-Telegram even wrote a story entitled "Don't Shoot The Blogger, In This Case." “Not all blogs are reliable, but Snyder's certainly seems to have a good reputation,” said the story. “So while the [Long Beach city] council may not always like the news, it shouldn't shoot the messenger.”

Yes, there are thousands of industry-related blogs out there, and 90+ percent of them aren't worth reading. But Cranky is not one of them, and there are many other airline/aviation bloggers out there doing great reporting. The ones on my Google Reader include:

In the end, it’s all about who you trust, whether you are a journalist, a blogger or both. I am a huge fan of social media rock star Chris Brogan, who coined the phrase “trust agent.” He defines it as: “people who use the web in a very human way to build influence, reputation, awareness, and who can translate that into some kind of business value.”

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday New Media News Roundup

The Economist is testing a cellphone-based delivery service in New York City, reports Subscribers will get a text message with stories in the next issue, including a link to order. You have until 9 in the evening to have delivery by 6 in the morning, even beating the newsstand. Response to a similar test in the UK was “moderate,” said the web site.

Online magazine pioneer Salon is mulling a revamp of its current form from longer magazine pieces to shorter, more real-time posts, reports

The Almighty Link blog offers up the top 10 journalism links on Delicious. I’m happy to say I’ve read 6 of the top 10 links. My favorite? “Top 10 Lies Newspaper Execs are Telling Themselves,” from the SimsBlog.

Patrick LaForge, an editor at the New York Times, offers up his list of third-party apps he uses on his iPhone at his Palafo blog. The ones on his list that I use on my iPod Touch are: Google, Might Docs, Facebook, TextPlus, Yelp, Urbanspoon, NY Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR News, Pandora, ITv and Midomi.

If you’re not subscribed to Mindy McAdams’ Teaching Online Journalism blog, you really need to be. Her latest post offers up the Reporter’s Guide to Multimedia Proficiency, a step-by-step guide giving you the tools to teach you all the tools and tricks.

Kudos to St. Petersburg Times TV/media critic Eric Deggans on his The Feed blog post calling out the Tampa Tribune for using others blog posts without paying for them. He outlines the case of LA-based writer Tina Dupuy, who made her case on YouTube and got the newspaper to cough up $75 for her submission.

I file this under “don’t hate the player, hate the game.” Jeff Jarvis’s Buzz Machine blog blasts two reporters for dumping on the use of Twitter as a reporting tool. Put me down as in favor of Twitter.

Writing headlines and subheads has always been the bane of my existence. That’s why I was thrilled to see this post on Copyblogger covering 5 Sure-Fire Sources for Headline Inspiration.

Journalism Online now plans on charging a 20% commission on subscription fees from members who join the pay-for-news venture founded by Steven Brill and 2 other partners, reports the Nieman Journalism Lab blog.

And speaking of pay for news, the Mashable blog reports that the Google has submitted a plan to the Newspaper Association of America on a micropayment system to charge for news based on its Google Checkout model.

The Internet Manifesto has published 17 declarations on how journalism works today. Numbers 5, 6 and 25 are my personal favorites.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Newspaper Mantra: Must...Raise...Cash

I remember when journalists were all abuzz after it was revealed in a Politico story that Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth had canceled a series of health care salons. The Post was selling spots to these exclusive salons -- which they said would feature the paper's health care reporters, Obama administration officials working on the issue and key members of Congress -- for upwards of $250,000. We were all gasping about what we saw was a blatant blurring of the sacred line between church and state -- editorial and sales. At first, the Post stonewalled and refused to cancel the salons. But after the controversy started to grow, Weymouth was forced to cancel them. "Absolutely, I'm disappointed," Weymouth said in an interview in the Post. "This should never have happened. The fliers got out and weren't vetted. They didn't represent at all what we were attempting to do. We're not going to do any dinners that would impugn the integrity of the newsroom." But the bigger question was why did the Post feel it needed to do this in the first place? Simple - to bring in cash. We've all read ad nauseum about how newspapers large and small are being decimated by a precipitous drop on ad revenue, causing a collapse in the advertising-based model that has been in place almost since the beginning of newspapers. The Post itself has admitted that its Stanley H. Kaplan Educational Centers now provide almost half its revenues. Which is why I found this post on the Nieman Journalism Lab so interesting. The New York Times is using its three-year-old Knowledge Network to offer online classes to readers for between $125 and $185 a pop. But the real news is that 3 of its well-known columnists -- Nicholas Kristof, Gail Collins, and Eric Asimov -- would teach classes in the network. A spokeswoman said that only "a handful" of reporters participate in the nearly 100 courses offered. But it makes me wonder -- if these 3 courses take off, how will the New York Times resist the temptation to tap other star reporters and columnists to participate in the Knowledge Network? And one has to wonder what the sales people at the Washington Post and other newspapers are brewing up to bring in revenue to replace that lost by the drop in advertising. Food for thought...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Entrepreneurial Models Can New Life for Old School Journalists

I have to apologize-I am way behind on my posts after dealing with my entire family-- including me--getting sick last week. But I'm medicated and rested, so here we go.

As we continue to read/hear about journalism job layoffs and buyouts, we all have to ask the question -- is there still a way to do our craft and still get paid? Buzz Machine blogger Jeff Jarvis has come up with an intriguing idea: instead of laying off your talented journalists, offer them a blog, sell ads and split the profits 50-50. In Jarvis's plan, the journalist would actually own the blog, and the newspaper could actually be an investor if the writer wanted to start a business.

I like this concept on paper, but I'm thinking it would only work with certain beats that have a strong, built-in ad base already. I could see it working in my beat of aviation because there are myriad companies/suppliers out there that would potentially be interested in supporting a knowledgeable blog.

CNN/Fortune's Brainstorm blog has a post about a group of ex-AOLers who are actually putting this concept into practice. Lewis Dvorkin, a former news content manager has launched the True/Slant blog. True/Slant calls itself the digital home for the “Entrepreneurial Journalist,” allowing "knowledgeable and credible contributors" to build their digital brands "using tools that enable them to easily create content and craft stories filtered through human perspective."

“That could be a journalist, or it could be an academic, anyone with incredible subject-specific knowledge, who blogs under their own name,” Dvorkin told Brainstorm. Two names I know well are Miles O'Brien, CNN's former aviation and space reporter and Rolling Stone reporter and "Real Time With Bill Maher" contributor Matt Taibbi.

Former AOL programming chief Jim Bankoff created SBNation, a home for more than 200 individual sports communities covering baseball, basketball, college sports, football, hockey, soccer and general sports. I clicked on the Silver and Black Pride created (hard to find these days) blog to check on coverage on my beloved but beleaguered Oakland Raiders. It seems I'm far from alone in my pain! LOL Last, but certainly not least, former AOL vice chairman Ted LeonsisSnagFilms, a site dedicated to getting bigger distribution -- and revenue -- for independent filmmakers.

It will be interesting to watch how these experiments develop, and how journalists will tap their inner entrepreneur -- either willingly or forced by circumstances -- and take advantage of these opportunities. I was pleased to see that this year's National Association of Black Journalists had several workshops for those interested in creating their own entrepreneurial models, and new president Kathy Times has made that a cornerstone of her two-year term.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Friday New Media News Roundup

It's Friday, and I'm glad to see the end of the week. And I'll end this week with the usual news roundup. There's a lot to cover this week, so here we go.

From the Social Media Biz blog, Cali Lewis, the host of offers 7 great tips for those of you wanting to jump into the wonderful world of podcasting.

Don't we all get tired of bad news about the gloom and doom in the media industry? That's why I was glad to see this article in Media News on five media outlets that actually work in this economy: Family Circle, MSLO, Clear Channel, Gawker and HBO.

Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam writes about all the things that were supposed to be the future of journalism -- but ended up not quite making it. Does Knight-Ridder's VuText ring a bell?

Having worked on the journalism and public relations/corporate communications sides of the business, this article in the Agency Spy blog caught my eye. It reported that ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky has hired USA Today advertising reporter Theresa Howard. She answered an ad for the job. Interesting...

Ladies and Gentlemen: it is now time for your Journalism Online LLC update. You can see past posts from me on the concept here and here. The Techdirt blog is reporting that one of the venture's founders, Steven Brill, is now predicting "10% to 15%" of online readers will pay for a subscription to Journalism Online. That is up from the 5% to 10% when the venture was first announced.

Mashable writer Leah Betancourt offers tips on how journalists can use YouTube to upload and share news. "News videos fall into three categories: rebroadcasts of current material; original videos and distribution of news; and archive of older video footage. Media companies, indie news organizations, and even citizen journalists are putting YouTube’s voluminous video database to work in all three ways, and the lines between these three uses tend to blur and overlap," she wrote.

The Nieman Journalism Lab blog has an interesting post about how four local neighborhood papers that use editors to train volunteer reporters.

And finally, Popular Science magazine has dumped the paid model for its digital ezine, reports Media Week. Using Zinio, the publisher "hoped to get 900,000 downloads for the first four issues combined. But the first issue, priced at 99 cents, sold just over 5,000," said Media Week.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Artisanal Cheese, Artisanal News? Why Not!

Among my many interests, I am a foodie. I've always enjoyed eating different types of cheeses, but a trip to Paris in 1995 began my love affair with artisanal cheeses. Local grocery stores are now offering cheeses from all over the world.

And my office in Washington, D.C., is mere blocks from
Cowgirl Creamery, considered one of the finest artisanal cheese stores in the country. Which is why this article from the Nieman Journalism Lab caught my eye: "If it’s good enough for cheese: What would artisanal news look like?"

Writer Gina Chen writes about what the future might hold for news organizations that decided to take the artisanal approach. Components would include:
  • Story focus would be niche, not mass;
  • Journalists would use different skills and would handle a story from start to finish;
  • Publications would put responsibility in the hands of "a few overseer-type facilitators," along with writer/editors "who lead rather than manage;"
  • The focus would be online first, with regular story updates;
  • News web sites would offer readers "just about everything someone needs to navigate their community, aggregated and easily searchable;" and
  • The print publication turns into a magazine offering "local community, full of in-depth, change-the-world pieces."
Chen doesn't know if the concept would work, but says that maybe it's something more publications might consider. The University of Missouri's Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute web site has an interesting article on Web-based niche news sites and links to one that are making a go of it. Ones I read regularly are, Baltimore's own and the award-winning investigative journalism site This is just more food for thought as the transformation of journalism continues.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Your Stories: Do Blogs Steal or Promote Them?

I write about a specialized section of the aviation industry. Except for a few stories, you rarely see the issues I cover appear in the mainstream media. I read with interest this post from the PBS Media Shift blog about whether other blogs steal or promote original stories.

The question came up after Washington Post reporter Ian Shapira was originally happy when Gawker did an excerpt on his July 9 story about how to speak to Generation Nexus. Granted, the Gawker piece was actually very snarky about the job of "business coach," and the Shapira's story got a link at the very end.

The Media Shift blog reports the following: According to Shapira, his editor told him: "They stole your story. Where's your outrage, man?" Stealing is a serious charge in the world of journalism, even though story ideas, scoops and angles are stolen daily. If a blog is excerpting content from a news story and crediting and linking to the original, isn't that so-called stealing really a form of promotion?

So Shapira wrote his own piece in the Aug. 2 Washington Post, blasting Gawker for rewriting and republish his story," cherry-pick the funniest quotes, sell ads against it and ultimately reap 9,500 (and counting) page views?" He talked about all the labor and time spent to write the story and how it took the Gawker writer a half hour to write his post.

Shapira then looked at the hits on his story, noting that Gawker was the second-largest referrer of visitors to his story. But he also questioned whether those visitors were helping improve the bottom line for the Washington Post.

And the Post is not the only one doing this. The Techdirt blog reports on how CNN allegedly ripped off the work of Radley Balko, a reporter with Reason who did a major investigation into the work of Steven Hayne, a Mississippi medical examiner whose practices were questioned in the magazine. Techdirt notes that "Anderson Cooper 360" used Balko's research, and sources interviewed by CNN even acknowledged that research, but did not give him credit in its report.

So back to the Media Shift blog. Writer Mark Glaser discussed his own experience with a blog that covered his work. He decided to create the Steal-O-Meter, "to help denote where a practice falls between "stealing" and "promoting."'

Looking at the Post/Gawker stories, Glaser noted the following: multiple quotes were lifted from the story, usually the best ones; a summary of the rest of the story was added to the blog post. In the end, he determined that the Gawker post appears to promote the original Washington Post story, "but doesn't give people many reasons to check out the original."

The Gawker post fell under what Glaser called the Drive-By Summary. Other categories are: Summary with Spin, Deceptive Excerpt, Retold with Story Credit, Aggregator Blurb, Reuse without Authorization and Link Love. So now we have a guide, for what it's worth.