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!