Dispatches from the living amongst journalism's walking dead

Category: Surviving Page 1 of 2

Treading water in a plague

hoto/Birger Hoppe

A year ago today, I was diagnosed with cancer. In the days and weeks that followed, the news got progressively more frightening.

First, my doctor told me the variety of breast cancer I have, triple negative, is more aggressive, harder to treat and more likely to return than other types.

Then I found out the pain in my neck that had developed the weekend before was not, in fact, because I slept wrong, but was a swollen lymph node pushing up under my collarbone, indicating the disease had already spread beyond my chest.

Later, a genetic test would reveal the BRCA1 gene mutation that had been hiding in my DNA all my life, like a ticking time bomb.

Those weeks of terror are not unlike the news cycle we are all living in now.

Every day reveals new horrors and challenges brought on by the spread of COVID-19. As time passes, we find out someone else from our overlapping social circles has it, or has died from it. Much like the cancer support groups I joined after my diagnosis, the attendance in our daily lives is slowly decreasing.

The Only Way Out is Through

How the JSK Fellowship is teaching me to learn to lean on others

The last year has turned my life upside down in so many ways. The JSK fellowship gave me the time, space and perspective to find out what I want to do with my life and my career. It gave me a home and a community when I felt adrift. And more recently, the fellowship has given me a protective cocoon during what has been one of the hardest times of my life.

Nothing could have prepared me for April 1, 2019. As a journalist, I’ve always hated the carelessness of April Fool’s Day and the hoaxes it inevitably spawns. In 2014, I lost my job on this day. This year on this day, I found out I have cancer.  

It felt almost Shakespearean. The heroine is on top of the world, confident of her life and its direction, only to be felled by a major setback at what should have been her time of triumph. While it is never a good time to find out something like this, I’m lucky it came at a time when I have had so much support. All I had to do was learn to take it.

I’ve never been good at leaning on others. I hate asking for favors, but I love fulfilling them (blame my Ohio Methodist upbringing). For the past several years, I followed the advice of many a management book and “faked it until I made it” and part of that was also pretending I never needed help along the way. Admitting vulnerability and weakness was not an option, or so I thought. I’ve learned in my time at Stanford to embrace my vulnerability in the workplace, but I wasn’t prepared to have to do so in my personal life.

But then April 1st came.

At first, I tried to stay my usual self. Less than an hour after my diagnosis, I got on the phone in my doctor’s parking lot to interview for two different jobs. Then I had to call my mom and tell her the news. Looking back, I can’t decide if that chain of events was possible due to toughness, denial – or outright insanity.

My first instinct was to hide it, not only from all of my friends back East, but also the people who see me every day at Stanford. I didn’t want anyone to see my eventual deterioration. It quickly became evident that I couldn’t entirely keep my illness to myself. How do you reasonably answer a question like, “How are you?” without lying?

When I finally told the other JSK fellows, I felt a sense of relief I hadn’t expected. It didn’t feel like a defeat, it felt like a weight had been lifted. After the initial hugs and promises of support, my friends in fellowship really showed up for me in a ways I didn’t know I needed. In fact, I was a little embarrassed at first, to accept it.

They started delivering dinner to my house every day to take the load off my supportive and overworked husband. They offered to run errands and rides to where I needed to go. They’ve given me excuses to bail on things I didn’t feel like doing and taken notes in classes I had to miss due to my appointments. Within our circle, we can laugh at the absurdity of what I’m dealing with, whether that’s trying on hilarious wigs in pursuit of the one that’ll make me feel most normal or taking advantage of my newly minted designated driver status. They even all got temporary tattoos in homage to the one on my right arm reading: More. I have never been so touched.

Above all, my fellowship group has given me the confidence to keep dreaming and planning for my future, despite cancer being an unavoidable part of it. To many people in my life, my day-to-day health and status as a patient is an all-consuming aspect of our relationship. I’m encouraged not to worry about what I have to do, to just focus on getting better and let the future happen later, when this is all over.

But that’s not me. The other fellows know it and didn’t let me forget it.

I’m taking on the future I want regardless of what cancer has planned. I can learn to lean on my friends and colleagues, to ask for help when I need it and take time off (and naps) without guilt or fear of looking weak.  I will take a new job and give the best of myself despite the fact that I’m sometimes tired, nauseous and have no hair of my own anymore.

As Sheryl Sandberg said in her 2017 commencement speech at Virginia Tech, “There are times to lean in and there are times to lean on… If you are there for your friends and let them be there for you…that won’t just make you more resilient, it’ll help you lead a deeper and more meaningful life.”


As much as it dominates my life right now, I can’t afford to let 2019 be my lost cancer year. This is the year of completing my work on disinformation and trust via Project Disconnect. It’s my year of establishing new lifelong friendships through this program. It’s my year for finding myself.

Thanks to JSK, 2019 is my year for new beginnings.


The above is a re-post from the JSK 2019 Medium site. I am still finishing up my JSK research project, but if you want to be alerted when the Project Disconnect report is available, please sign up for the mailing list or watch this space. 

I came here to learn about management, but I ended up learning about myself

When I first applied to the JSK Journalism Fellowship, “becoming a better person” wasn’t one of my goals. I saw the fellowship as a gift of time to focus on improving my professional skills, making new contacts in the industry and getting away from the news to figure out what comes next. I also looked forward to my research on what the news industry can learn from consumers of disinformation.

So far, the fellowship has been all of that, but it’s also been difficult in ways I didn’t even want to admit to all of my friends still toiling away in their day jobs.

Being at Stanford these past few months has been humbling in so many ways — being surrounded by young geniuses will do that — but nothing has hit me harder than realizing I didn’t know myself.

In the first week of my Transformative Design class, I was asked to write my own eulogy. This eulogy reflected everything I’d like for someone to say about me after I die, a sort of glimpse into how I see myself and what I value. In doing so, I realized I wasn’t on track to have that sort of legacy as a friend, as a mentor, or as a partner. I’d lost my way. I’ve spent the weeks since then figuring out how to get back.

Everyone I met going into this program — including the formidable alumni network — told me my classes were most likely going to be the least rewarding part of the experience. That couldn’t be further from the truth in my case.

I’ve been amazed by Stanford’s built-in focus on empathy across its academic offerings. The business school, especially, is far more focused on emotional connection than I would have ever imagined from the outside. I’ve spent more time than I ever thought possible learning how to communicate and be present, to let go of ego and be as open as I always imagined myself to be. It’s from these classes — and the people I’ve met in them — that I’ve already learned some truths I plan to carry into my post-JSK life.

  1. Reasons are Bullshit

One of my d.school professors, the venerable Bernie Roth, told us this in one of our first classes and I have really taken it to heart. “Reasons” are often excuses dressed up as something more noble. If we are being honest with ourselves and those around us, we should be able to leave reasons at the door.

We make excuses for our actions and behaviors to others — when we should be willing to take ownership of them (and apologize if necessary). Worst of all are the “reasons” we give to ourselves. When I started to peel back the “why” behind some of my own actions, I realized I had more control over my life than I thought.

For instance, I have been telling myself for YEARS that I fill my schedule with work, activities and favors because that’s what the people in my life demand of me. That may be partially true, but in actuality, I do that because it makes me feel useful. I chose that life — and knowing that now, I can now choose a (slightly saner) one. It’s liberating to let go of reasons.

2. Grant permission to be creative

I’m taking a leadership class from improv master Dan Klein that is focused on leading creative teams. Most of our first few classes were spent playing improv games, with the aim of turning off our egos and reacting without fear of judgment. It’s giving ourselves permission to be a bit wild — and doing the same for others around us.

We could all stand to embrace this idea to be better colleagues, collaborators and managers. How many newsroom “brainstorming sessions” have we all been in that largely resulted in more of the same (if anything)? To inspire creativity in others, we have to give permission to be wild. That means not shooting ideas down, not homing in on the easiest or most conventional idea and celebrating truly “out there” leaps. It also means giving everyone a platform to participate — and not just letting the loudest voices take over.

3. Find strength in vulnerability

Like many women who have risen to a management level, somewhere along the way, I got the idea that I had to be more like the men around me.

For years, I had been training myself to hide any signs of vulnerability. I saw my persistent sensitivity and empathy as an anchor preventing me from becoming a better leader. Stanford’s management classes have taught me that we should embrace our empathy and hone our vulnerability as a tool. In business and in life, people are far more willing to give us benefit of a doubt if we don’t present ourselves as infallible.

4. Know your values, and call on them often

When I was younger, I had no trouble stirring the pot if something went against my values (just ask my bosses from back then). In my more recent years, I’d gotten tired of being the squeaky wheel. I was tired. I’d have these managerial out-of-body experiences where I’d see myself espouse some company line I didn’t even believe in and say to myself, “Who ARE you?”

In holding fast to our values in our work, it creates a semblance of control (something I know I crave). We can’t always control what happens, nor can we control the behavior of the people around us, but we can control how we react to them. Speaking of that…

5. Create a culture worth fighting for

In my management classes, we speak often about our role as leaders in setting the tone and culture of the groups we move in and oversee. I’ve been a part of some great cultures over the course of my career, but also some incredibly toxic environments.

I find myself now thinking back to the occasions I could have stopped a bad culture in its tracks — or promoted a better one — by being willing to be the roadblock. Being that roadblock may have meant lower productivity, harder conversations, hurt feelings, potentially less money coming in…but it would have been worth it in the long run.

As Irv Grousbeck, a truly inspiring business professor, said in our management class, “Communicate your values and live the example openly. Work hard, be nice, say yes.”

Luckily, it’s easy to say yes when you are part of a group like JSK.

So even aside from the hands-on training I’m receiving in innovation, problem-solving, management and business strategy — I’m also learning how to be a better leader, a better journalist and a better person. I’m rediscovering what I value in myself and in others, and focusing on what I really want to do with the rest of my life. Try fitting that into a brochure.

Note: This is a repost from the JSK Class of 2019 Medium Site

Making community engagement an everyday process

This weekend, I was fortunate to be invited to speak to the Kiplinger Fellowship program at Ohio State University. Twenty-four working journalists are learning new skills and strategies on social media, new media tools and community engagement.

My presentation, featured after the jump, is aimed at reporters to help them better connect with audiences, brand themselves and work more efficiently in the social sphere. I hope others may find it helpful/interesting.

How to build, manage and customize a Crowdmap

So you’ve got a great idea for a user-contributed map you need to launch RIGHT NOW. Ushahidi’s Crowdmap makes it pretty easy, and hopefully this post makes it even easier. All examples shown are from TBD’s Crowdmap for D.C.’s election.

First of all, if you’re mapping a crisis, Crowdmap recommends checking our their Emergency Response Strategy first (pdf).

Also, check and see if anyone else has done your map idea with a Google Search. If someone else has already built a map of what you want to do in the same area, maybe you should just help them out instead of replicating the work.

The Quick Build

Sign up for a Crowdmap account at www.crowdmap.com and log in.

1. Click on Create New Deployment

2. On the deployment setup page, pick a url, name and tagline for your map. Keep SEO in mind here to make it easier to find. (You can edit this later, so don’t sweat it too much). Click Finish.

3. Click on admin dashboard for your map or go to http://yourmapname.crowdmap.com/admin

This is your map’s Dashboard. Bookmark it. Your map is now live and activated. If you need to launch it right now, you can – though there’s further additions and customizations you can do. Note: With the default settings, people will only be able to submit reports on the site.

More after the jump (had to do it for images…)

Uses for Foursquare in news reporting

Aside from all the fun marketing options, Foursquare can be very valuable for reporters, bloggers and other news organizations. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Find a source with ties to a specific location

When you go to a venue’s page on Foursquare, you can see who has recently checked in there and who is there the most often (aka The Mayor). Say a popular local eatery recently closed – find a frequent customer to interview for the story.

2. Find a source on the scene – fast

In addition to the venue page, you can use Twitter’s search to see publicly posted Foursquare check-ins in near real-time. Go to search.twitter.com and enter 4.sq AND your keyword to see who’s there right now.

3. See where your contacts are –and where they regularly go

Follow your beat contacts and sources on Foursquare and be opened up to their every move. When a Foursquare contact checks in, you can see where they are or have been under Friends.

4. Alert people as to news at a location

Check in where news is happening and leave a shout message as to what’s happening. You may also want to add a link to a story or your Twitter feed for those wanting more info. If you aren’t at the location, but want people there to see the news item, you can cheat (just this once!) and use m.foursquare.com to leave your shout. Note: People have to be friends with you to see this info.

5. Use your expertise (and drive traffic to your stuff) with tips

Leave a tip based on your knowledge of a venue, neighborhood, landmark or intersection. If you have it, leave a link to a blog post or story you’ve written about it for more info.  (Note: Don’t just use any old post, try to make it actually useful).

More: See what the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Bravo are doing on this front.

6. Learn about a location

The tips left behind at venues can be very useful for us as both patrons and profilers. They tell you what to order, what to avoid and what to expect when going there. It may or may not be great for reporting, but it helps when living (trust me).

7. See where the people are

On your Foursquare mobile app, you can see what locations near you have the most check-ins right now. Visiting a site like Social Great can also help you see these trends.

8. Show Where You Go

You can use a Foursquare account to show where you are or where you’ve been in your area, something that could really be of use to neighborhood reporters or bloggers in particular. You can display these on your blog or Facebook page using a variety of available apps.

Recommended Links

A Beginner’s Guide to Location-Based Services

Foursquare and other location-based services hold tremendous opportunity for media companies willing to get on board with an unconventional approach to interaction while it is still in its infancy. Following is a very basic overview of these services, including a glossary and tips for those who may not be familiar with these tools.

What are location-based services?

These are any programs or applications that take advantage of the mobile web and GPS capabilities of certain mobile phones to create an interaction based on a user’s location.

An Overview of What’s Out There

Foursquare is a popular location-based app that combines elements of Twitter, city guides and computer games. Users “check-in” to locations via a mobile app, alerting their friends as to their whereabouts and earning points, badges and special offers from local businesses.

Gowalla is the next closest competitor, though it operates on a slightly different system. Here’s an excellent comparison. Gowalla’s best asset is its “trips” features, which lay out a group of destinations in a particular city for someone to trace the path. This has huge potential for media and the travel industry.

Twitter added geolocation to its tremendously popular service earlier this year – and in mid-June they unveiled Twitter Places, which has venues targeted by geolocation that users can append to tweets. One leg up on the others is a feature  where users can explore recent tweets and other venues in their Places location.

Keep an eye on Twitter in this space – they have a lot more users than all the others combined, which could really push geolocation services further into the mainstream.

You can also never leave Facebook out of the equation. They are constantly developing new features to take on other social media – and word is they’ll be launching their own location-based features this summer.

There’s also MyTown, which isn’t as widely used, but has a unique focus on the gaming aspect of these apps. MyTown has a touch of Sim City and Monopoly in its gameplay, allowing users to accumulate and spend virtual cash to buy and rent property.

Early forerunners to these apps are Loopt and Brightkite, which were mobile apps/sites for early adopters of smartphones to find one another. Problem was – there weren’t all that many of us to make it very interesting. Loopt has recently added new features to become more focused on recommendations. Brightkite has, for the most part, remained without a focus on gaming, existing for more of a bare-bones check-in to alert friends as to your location.

Glossary of Common Terms

Check-in: This is where you tell the app where you are. You can check-in from just about any kind of venue – hotels, restaurants, stores, attractions, intersections, etc.

Shout: A tweet-esque message accompanying a check-in on Foursquare (though Gowalla offers something similar). This can be sent out to Facebook and Twitter if you have it set up that way.

Tip: User-added advice that pops up when you check in to a venue on Foursquare. This is what makes Foursquare useful, so tip often!

To-do: Like a tip, but more of a note to oneself.

Badges or Pins: Certain patterns of check-ins can lead to a user earning these virtual rewards.

Trips: Gowalla offers a collection of venues one can check into on an organized tour of a city. You can create these yourself or take public trips.

Mayorships: Some businesses offer exclusive offers for the user who has checked in to their location the most on Foursquare – aka The Mayor.

Do’s and Don’ts of Location-Based Services

Don’t check in at home – not only is it cheating, but it can be dangerous. Don’t check it at someone else’s house without permission and really, don’t check in anywhere you think it might not be wise to share (like where your kids go to school, for instance).

Don’t broadcast your location to Twitter or Facebook unless it’s actually interesting. At least include a shout or message if you intend to share your location beyond the service.

Don’t cheat. Foursquare is a game people take seriously, so don’t check in as you’re walking/driving by a place or otherwise stack your stats.

Note: That said, you can go to m.foursquare.com to leave shouts if you aren’t on the scene but want to update users as to what’s happening at a location. This is good for breaking news when you aren’t on location.

Do know that it isn’t for everyone. If you don’t like people knowing where you are, don’t use it. If the only places you regularly go are your home and workplace, Foursquare isn’t made for you (and that’s OK).

Upcoming: Using Foursquare in journalism

Creating one Facebook page for both sides of your life

Thanks to Facebook’s near-constant changes to their privacy settings, it’s tough to keep documentation on them up to date. In preparation for staff training here at TBD, I’ve completely overhauled these resources for anyone wishing to use Facebook for their professional journalism uses as well as their personal lives. I hope you’ll find these useful.

Intro to Facebook for journalists (and any professionals): A guide that explains the basics of Facebook with a glossary or terms and a look at demographics.

Setting up an All-Purpose Facebook Account: Setting up a Facebook page you can easily use for personal and professional contacts.

Sharing Your Content on Facebook: Using your newsfeed to promote content, blogs and social media accounts.

More resources on Facebook you should check out:

Weather coverage made easy

Weather is big business for those of us in news, especially when it gets to be extreme weather like just about every state has experienced in the last two weeks.

Lots of news outlets have developed amazing new ways to get out weather information and pull in interaction from readers, but sometimes what’s simple can work in a pinch.

Most of the time when we’ve had snowstorms in the past, we at Cincinnati.Com have had a basic story file set up that we re-top and add to throughout the day as the news changes. Without the occasional total re-write during the course of the news cycle, it can end up reading like a very long Frankenstein of an article, with the possibility of specific items getting buried in all of the text.

I recently set up a basic WordPress blog specifically to handle weather events news to avoid this problem. It has links to all the basic weather info we have available on the site, a way to search all of the posted entries and tags/categories that make posts easy to browse by topic or location. The blog uses the TDO mini Forms plugin that can allow our reporters – and our readers – to submit updates from where they are.

Even though we haven’t yet gotten a lot of reader submissions, the blog has been immensely helpful from a news management standpoint. Reporters can file to the blog from their homes, phones or satellite offices, all we have to do it click “publish” in our dashboard. No re-writes are necessary because as the story develops, we can just add news posts. The format also provides an easy way to “sticky” important posts at the top and generates an easy link for the day’s event cancellations.

This easy method of publishing updates weather news has been a great supplement to our info releases and content on Twitter, on our mobile site, text alerts and all of the usual photos and videos we bring out fr every story. The blog’s been doing great traffic on storm days and, from my view, has been a huge burden lifted from the backs of already busy online editors (such as myself).

Because this info has such a short shelf life, I’ve just been deleting all of the old content as soon as the storm coverage ends. We don’t want readers coming back for new weather updates only to find outdated info from last week’s storm. I know that isn’t the greatest option for the sake of SEO and outside linking, but it has made it very easy to essentially launch whole new blogs for each circumstance. I’m curious to hear others’ thoughts on what they would do to prevent link breaks and confusion.

Anyway, that’s been our publishing plan these past two weeks – and if it’s something you think you could use, go for it. WordPress is free, quick to set up and has lot of plugins to enhance user experience.

What has anyone been doing to cover these storms online? What have you been reading?

Recommended reading: Industry trends and survival skills

Industry News and Ideas

  • Is there a flaw in the proposed federal shield law? This scathing rebuttal to an overwhelming support of a Federal Shield Law has definitely caused me some pause. For every organization that needs a shield law to protect sources that deserve it, others can exploit it to push through a salacious story that isn’t true. A much-needed “other side” to the discussion.
  • Reflections of a Newsosaur posits: How long can print newspapers last? Alan Mutter takes a look at the Pew study of newspaper reader demographics to extrapolate just how long the print readership might last. He says the population of print newspaper readers will drop by nearly a third within 15 years and probably be less than half the size it is today by the time 2040 rolls around. Aside from that, how long can newspapers afford to print for that shrinking audience? (He touches on that in part 2, which is linked.)
  • Former journalist Charles Pelton says media outlets are not properly leveraging their talented experts on staff into moneymaking opportunities for fear of ethical impropriety. I agree that his ideas, if handled properly, would not create issues and could create new revenue streams. His analysis is missing a very critical element: He obviously hasn’t worked at a media outlet in the age of mass layoffs. Many papers, in particular, have gotten rid of their on-staff experts and whoever is still left behind are so over worked already they could never take on this extra workload. Let’s mail this back ten years, eh?
  • Michelle McLellan at the Knight Digital Media Center is compiling a listing of online-only local news sites, from the corporate hyperlocal networks to independent local sites and blogs. She’s missing quite a few places, but watch this space to see what else pops up.

Surviving

  • The Austin Statesman’s social media editor shares advice on creating fast, easy niche products from existing content. What’s your interest area? Your beat, your section or your newspaper doesn’t have to be the end-all, be-all for what interest your readers – but you can be the trusted aggregator for niche news if you want to be.
  • The OJR’s Robert Niles always has great tips for the reporter looking to build a life outside a newsroom. Here he talks about building a better online presence by shifting your focus from writing stories to creating assets.  This means serving as your own archive and brand manager, building a source base and connecting with readers outside your day-to-day reporting.

10 ways journalists can look like Twitter newbies

I read a lot of Twitter feeds from reports and news outlets in my area (and at my paper) and I frequently see lots of little mistakes here and there that just make we mince and think, “Oh, those haters on the Internets are going to have a field day making fun of this newb.” Admittedly, I may even be one of those haters some days.

You don’t have to be some online expert to look like you belong on Twitter – just avoid doing the following and nobody will know you’re a dog (or just an old-school journalist) on Twitter.

1. You sign your tweets

In my book, this is the biggest sign that someone is a journo without a clue. Do you seriously need a byline on your tweet? If it is your own account, your name and picture should already be on it. If it is your news outlet’s account, I repeat: Do you really need a byline on a tweet? You only have 140 characters to work with and you’re wasting them if you feel the need to sign your name to the sentence you just blasted out.

2. You ask the Twittersphere to respond by direct message

Probably the most frequent error I see. If you put an inquiry out on Twitter, do not ask people to reply by DM. Just ask them to reply. Why? Because if you aren’t following the person who wants to reply to your plea for sources, they can’t get through to you. Ask for replies or put your email out there instead.

3. You put out general links instead of specific links

I know you really, really want people to read your blog or website, but you don’t have to make it a chore. If you want to promote a certain post, send the link to the post. If they like your blog, they’ll bookmark it or subscribe by RSS – they don’t need your site’s home page force-fed to them on Twitter. Especially avoid saying, “New post about blahblahblah at yourhomepage.com! Check it out!” Someone might come across that tweet in a Google search two weeks from now and that post/story may be off your front page by then. Don’t waste people’s time. Use a URL shortener like bit.ly or tinyurl if you need to fit in a long link.

4. You don’t post links at all

The absolute worst. Don’t say, “I’ve got a new story/blog post about X up online now. Check it out!” Everyone who sees your name on Twitter doesn’t know your website or your news outlet. You’re part of the stream that could be coming from lots of Twitter sources – and you’ll quickly be forgotten if you do this. Right after they laugh at you.

5. You never reply to anyone else

Twitter is not a tool for you to blast out links to your work. It’s a space for interacting with your followers and asking questions of those you follow. Even if you only reply by direct message to friends’ inquiries, you need to reply when you are asked a question. you should also take the time to read others’ tweets and reply once in awhile. You might even learn something!

6. You don’t follow anyone

Slightly worse than #5. Everything said there applies. Don’t know anyone on Twitter yet? Go to Twellow and search by your beat, city or interests and start following some people. Go to Muck Rack and follow other journalists or news organizations. And re-read #5 – if people reply to you, follow them. Make them the beginning of your Twitter circle

7. You never re-tweet

This is a clear sign that you only use Twitter to push out your own content and don’t read anyone else’s. If someone says something interesting, if they reply to you and you want to share it or they pass out a link you’d like to pass on, hit re-tweet. It takes less than a second to pass on someone else’s tweet to your followers. Have you never read a tweet from someone else worth that one second? If you aren’t using a Twitter client with a re-tweet function, there’s also a button to re-tweet on the web form (just hover over the tweet with your mouse and you’ll see it).

8. You use your news outlets main website as your web link in your profile

Sure, it’s a minor point – but it makes you look like a journalist without a clue. If someone wants to contact you off Twitter, this link doesn’t help. If you have a blog or a profile page on your paper’s site or on your own, link it there. If you have a Google Profile, Facebook page, Linked In account or anything at all that reflects you, put that link there. Think about it, would you ever believe a source whose contact information was so incomplete? Which leads me to…

9. You don’t have a profile picture

If you use the default icon on Twitter, 90% of users will just assume you are a spammer or simply someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. Again, would you trust a source without a face or some sort of recognizable image? It doesn’t have to be “you” per se (though it would help your cause), but it shows you made the basic bit of effort to complete your profile.

10. You exclusively tweet just about your published work

I’m not saying you have to get personal or tell everyone what you ate for lunch, I’m just saying you need to loosen up a little. Tell your followers who you’re meeting with today, what you’re working on or what’s going on at a event you’re covering. Feel free to add comment or answer questions on the news of the day (within all the usual ethical limitations of course) or re-tweet info from other users. Or, if you’re really feeling comfortable, go ahead and get personal. Readers and sources can like journalists when they seem like real people.

The “lost” generation of journalists may be my own

In a recent post on Reflections of a Newsosaur, Alan Mutter lamented a lost generation of journalists among those coming out of college right now. He was right about the lost generation, but I think he has the wrong people in mind.

Instead, I think of my own age group – those too young to have ever experienced the heyday of newspapers and too old to live on hope alone.

Sure, there are a lot of journalists coming out of college right now (or in the last year) who will never be able to work in a newsroom as most of us know it, but I think they are better off than one might think. They’ve been trained in multimedia, they’re inexpensive, flexible and are far better prepared to become “new” journalists (mojos, start-up reporters, bloggers) because they never learned the bad habits of “old” journalists. Best of all, idealism is on their side.

No, I believe the truly lost generation of journalists may be my own.

A few days ago, Pat Thornton, an industry blogger and founder of Beatblogging.org posted that he left journalism. In the time I’ve read his work, Pat has always been full of ideas for the industry and he really believed it would change. For him to give up is really saying something.

As Thornton noted, “Maybe I would have been better able to withstand the upheaval in journalism if I had known the good times.”

And he isn’t alone. In response to Thornton’s news, a former classmate of mine, Meranda Watling, tweeted, “I want to believe journalism can make a difference. I haven’t given up yet. But I’m not sure how long idealism sustains you.”

I know this feeling of near hopelessness isn’t confined to our “gap generation” of journalists – but we are victims of some seriously bad timing.

We got to work just as or just before the bust started. Many of us attended journalism school in the late 90s/early 2000s, just as those schools were starting to rethink their focus on the web. If we learned anything about it there, it was half-baked, at best. Some of us got further training on our own or on the job, but many just got laid off (if we got jobs at all).

Consider this: Of all the very talented journalists I knew in my days in Kent State student media – 18 of 25 right off the top of my head are no longer in the business due to layoffs. From my experience, most newspapers killed their young first.

Even those who have managed to stay employed don’t have it so great. We, like everyone else, wait around for the next shoe to drop.  Every potential mentor and helpful editor has lost hope – or their job. If there are older journalists still working alongside us, we tend to catch a lot of the animosity over the widening technology gap.

Like Pat, we have been frustrated watching traditional media flail around looking for a business model, many ignoring much-needed changes in favor of doing what they’ve been doing for decades. Maybe we try to push change and just end up more isolated. Maybe we gave up a long time ago and are just going through the motions.

We can try to go on to other journalism jobs, but we’re up against experienced veterans put out of work by layoffs and kids right out of school who will work for (sometimes literally) nothing. Competition is a lot more fierce than it was even five years ago.

Eventually, my generation may have to leave journalism altogether. I know I’ve thought about it a lot, but I’m just not ready. News is too much a part of my life to take a backseat – at least, not until all the options run out. Part of me wants to stick around to see if it’ll ever be what I thought it’d be like – and another part admires Thornton for having the guts to give  up that ghost while he still has time to make a long career doing something else.

While I think journalism in some format will still be around for the long haul, I have to wonder how many people my age will still be around to contribute. More importantly, will anyone care?

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