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!