Dispatches from the living amongst journalism's walking dead

Month: February 2011

TBD to eliminate most staffers, including yours truly

Journalism watchers probably saw the news today that my employer, Allbritton Communications, will be eliminating many staff positions at TBD and refocusing the site on arts and entertainment. Despite what I thought a bit earlier, my job is one of those that will no longer exist in its current form. I don’t really know what my next step will be, but I ask that you keep me and my soon-to-be-unemployed colleagues in your thoughts. Thanks.

Transcript: What does a social media editor do?

Here’s the transcript of my journalism jobs chat on Poynter.org Tuesday. There were a lot of great questions about what I do as a social media editor, the workflow, metrics, handling criticism and managing corrections.

We had more than 200 participants and more questions that I could get to in one sitting. If anyone has a question that didn’t get addressed, I’ll be happy to answer it in the comments.

Chatting live with Poynter today

I’ll be chatting with Joe Grimm and the good folks at the Poynter Institute at 3 p.m. ET today about the role of the social media editor in the newsroom. I expect to get questions about what I do and possibly some inquiries into what’s going on at TBD.

If you’ll be around, hop on to the chat or read the transcript afterward and we’ll see how it all turned out.

First try at using Xtranormal for news at TBD

In a wjchat a few weeks ago, we were brainstorming ways to use non-traditional new media tools for news. One of those tools was Xtranormal, an animation site that allows you to make cartoon videos with no offsite tools or experience. In that chat, I had suggested using it to re-enact conversations or press conferences.

Today, I put that idea into action at TBD, using Xtranormal’s tools to make a cartoon re-enactment of a phone transcript from the FBI investigation of an indicted public official in the D.C. area. I had enough free credits to build the most basic video (though it doesn’t cost much to buy more), so I built the one you see around the web where animals talk to one another.

Xtranormal’s tools made it very fast and easy. You pick a package, background and characters. You enter the dialogue as text in the order you want from the characters you want. To add pauses, sounds, camera angles and movements, just drag and drop them into the text at the right place. All told, it took me about 40 minutes – and that’s just my first try at a long transcript.

Jack Johnson, the former county executive for Prince George’s County, Maryland, is talking to his wife (also indicted) about hiding money and destroying evidence. The video is after the jump.

TBD’s future is TBD, but then again, it always has been

If you didn’t read about all of the drama regarding TBD this week, well allow me to catch you up. On Wednesday, TBD’s six-month anniversary, our staff and the rest of the world found out TBD was going to be restructured internally, leading most to incorrectly assume the site’s going under.

As social media editor at TBD (and still employed!) I figure I can briefly lay out what’s really happening, as far as I know right now.

  • WJLA, the Allbritton sister site whose website had been replaced by TBD, will be getting its own website back – in addition to TBD.com.
  • TBD Editor Erik Wemple and most editorial staff will now fall under the management of WJLA News Director Bill Lord. The way that structure looks isn’t all that clear right now, but then again, we were never big on org charts at TBD.
  • TBD TV will have its branding reverted to News Channel 8, though it’s website will still be TBD.com.
  • Nobody was laid off, though a few jobs are changing. For instance,  I’ll likely be working social media strategy for the new properties in addition to TBD.

Anyway, I’m sure I’ll write more about this when I get a better handle on it myself. For now,  I just wanted to explain what I know and share a bit about how it all went down.

And if you’ll allow me to get a little personal for a moment, I’d like to share a favorite anecdote about TBD.

We had a staff meeting on the morning of TBD’s launch that has particularly haunted me lately. We were all exhausted from being up all night for the final switch-flip (I had briefly napped in a shower stall at the Allbritton gym), but triumphant smiles were everywhere. We’d been working for months to build this idea and were antsy to get started on executing it. It was a great moment.

Erik gave us a rallying speech that especially resonates right now. He told us to look around the table and savor the moment. We should remember the team as it was right then and there, because it wouldn’t always be that way. Some people would leave, we might get dismayed along the way, but on that day, at least, we were all together and we’d just started something we’d all poured our hearts into.

That’s the whole reason I’d gone into TBD to start with – I wanted to work toward  common goal with people who inspired and challenged me. I still do. Though we’ve lost far more of the people around that table than I ever thought we would by now, I know I don’t regret any of it for a second.

Despite all the changes – and I acknowledge they may look bleak externally – we have a great group of people who were brought together around the same dream. You don’t just drop something like that overnight. We’ll see how it all goes.

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