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5 tips for finding a journalism association that fits your niche and fuels your passion

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When I headed to LaGuardia for my flight to this year’s Online News Association conference, I unexpectedly found myself at my gate two hours early. Many ONA members work in New York, so I scanned the crowd, and, as expected, saw a friend nearby and joined him for a drink. (Why not, it’s journalism, right?)

I refer to this colleague as a friend, although I know him only from the previous three ONA conferences. (He and I both work in social media and have since kept in touch on Twitter.) When we were talking about how much we genuinely were looking forward to catching up with other ONA members, he said something that really struck a cord with me: “Going to ONA is like going to a family reunion.”

For me, reconnecting with someone I’ve met at the conference the year before or finally meeting a Twitter friend in real life nurtures my need for a sense of community in my career. And more often than not, those conversations lead to friendships and motivate me professionally. On the final night of this year’s conference, I talked with the Arizona Republic’s Megan Finnerty about her deep commitment to the Arizona Storytellers Project. Hearing the extraordinary effort she has put into making this project a success made me ask myself what more I could be doing to create excellent work.

Other journalists left ONA13 similarly compelled to up their games. In the weeks since the conference, Gannett’s Sarah Day Owen urgently declared a renewed commitment and accountability toward her career goals.

 

In a similar post, Michelle Minkoff, a data journalist for AP, celebrated that exhilarating feeling that happens when people with similar passion get exposed to each other’s expertise.

I know some people question the value – and the expense – of joining professional organizations, but I’ve found ONA to be an essential part of developing my career and building my brand. I first attended ONA10 while in grad school and gained invaluable insights into the state of the greater journalism industry. The following year I went to ONA11 as an employee at Gannett Phoenix and got to meet colleagues from other Gannett properties. And at ONA12, a cocktail-party conversation with another ONA/Twitter friend (like I was saying … ) led to a freelance opportunity with Spundge, a career move I would not have considered if it weren’t for a conference session I attended just days before on making the leap from the newsroom to a startup.

According to ONA director of operations Irving Washington, over 1,600 journalists attended ONA13, with nearly 640 first-time attendees. Joining ONA or any one of the 41 journalism associations in The Council of National Journalism Organizations can provide you a network of colleagues and guide your career. Most organizations have an annual conference – you’ve probably seen the hashtags in your Twitter feed – with sessions relevant to students, academics, freelancers and journalists working for news organizations.

So how can you find the group that’s right for your career?

Finding a journalism association that fits your niche and fuels your passion

  1. Ask your managers, colleagues and former professors which groups they’ve joined. I first learned about ONA from my online news professor. Other faculty members were active with Investigative Reporters & Editors, American Society of News Editors and National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. If you work for a news organization, find out if it encourages membership in specific groups and whether membership fees can be included in your compensation package.
  2. Watch your Twitter feed. If you’re following other journalists, you’ve seen a steady stream of conference hashtags. Click through to the session schedule to determine whether the topics might interest you.
  3. Look at the LinkedIn profiles of your connections who do the jobs you’d like to do. LinkedIn profiles include a space to list organization memberships. Look at the Organizations subheading of the Background section for the associations other journalists have joined. (You may also want to look at the Groups section, which lists the LinkedIn groups individual users follow. That list could include journalism organizations in which they are interested but may not yet have official membership.)
  4. Spend some time on The Council of National Journalism Organizations siteThis comprehensive list of organizations includes medium-specific,  beat-specific, job-specific and interest-specific groups of journalists. Their Twitter list of 41 member organizations offers a quick way to start following several groups and see which conversations appeal to your interests.
  5. Visit specific organizations’ websites and review recent conference schedules. Before you invest in a membership, learn about the groups’ missions and priorities. Looking through past schedules should give you a good sense of what issues, trends, and tools the organizations find relevant.

 


 

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Social Media One-Night Stand offers latest resources, supportive community for social media pros

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As a recent transplant into New York’s journalism community, I’m constantly keeping an eye out for opportunities to connect with other news and social media professionals. This is a huge media community, and breaking into it can be overwhelming. How does a new arrival find her people? Fortunately, New York has professional organizationsonline groupsmeet ups and conferences for journalists working in all areas and at all levels of the craft. As a journalist working in social media, I was excited to find Columbia University journalism professor Sree Sreenivasan’s Social Media One-Night Stand: An Advanced Workshop for Journalists, Bloggers & Media Professionals. This intensive, inexpensive way to learn about new online tools and connect with others doing similar work not only exposed me to valuable resources for updating my skills but also unexpectedly gave me a network of colleagues to get to know.

We're not rude; we're social media specialists.

Don’t worry, we’re not rude; we’re social media specialists. #cjsm (Photo by Jennifer Gaie Hellum)

For less than $150, attendees of the evening workshop saw a quick-paced lineup of presentations that ranged from tips from high-profile social media specialists to demonstrations of new tools and success stories from entrepreneurs:

We also got what felt like a social media pep rally from Sree, the event’s host. His boundless enthusiasm for social media showed as he appealed to us to share content – a lot of content.

Throughout the evening, Sree encouraged us to embrace the intimacy of social media, saying “This isn’t a flight; get up and walk around! Take pictures up close and share them on Instagram. Tweet what you’re learning. And make sure you include the hashtag #cjsm!” We were an obedient bunch, to put it mildly. Not only did we send hundreds of tweets with the presenters’ advice, we also shared Sree’s ad-libbed tips – and tagged them with #cjsm, of course: 25 Sree tips, as shared during the #cjsm Social Media One-Night Stand

  1. LinkedIn is highly underappreciated. Work on it. You are more than your job title. (via @redheadlefthand)
  2. Trying to learn LinkedIn once you’ve been laid off is too late. (via @dimitrakny)
  3. Keep and open mind but don’t let your brain fall out. (via @Manhattan_Mama)
  4. Practice social media skills when you don’t need them so they’re there when you do. (via @IlanaKowarski)
  5. If you can build a great quality product, the money will come later. Don’t think about your exit strategy. (via @soorajgera)
  6. Find the social media that works for you! (via @KapsSocial)
  7. Do something because you love it, not because you will make money doing it. (via  ‏@AudreyPadgett)
  8. Think of your social media sites as your embassies. Your website is your home. (via @AmyVernon; tip later attributed to @JimReynolds)
  9. Flipboard is the first social media I check early in the morning. (via @riotta)
  10. Social Media is a great way to amplify your message but takes effort and works best when you are passionate. (via @Manhattan_Mama)
  11. Be an early tester and late adopter of tech. (via @AndreaSmith)
  12. Add to your bucket list: work for a startup. (via @redheadlefthand)
  13. Laser-focus think about your brand. (via @CornichonP)
  14. Be careful about building your brand around your employer.  (via @redheadlefthand)
  15. For Twitter usernames, pick shortest possible, recognizable handle. Or at least memorable. (via @7SkiesTech
  16. Putting your employer’s name in your Twitter bio is like tattooing your boyfriend’s name on your arm. (via @IlanaKowarski)
  17. Use social media with a spirit of generosity. Give ppl useful info, and you will gain a following. (via @IlanaKowarski)
  18. Numbers aren’t everything. You can have a small # of followers and be doing great work on #socmedia. (via @IlanaKowarski)
  19. Embed codes are changing the world and we need to understand them. (via @esills)
  20. Every piece of content should be clickable, linkable, likable, shareable, embeddable. (via @JenniferPreston)
  21. If you’re good in real life, you can be great on Twitter. (via @ckanal, attributed to @ericaamerica)
  22. Your Twitter bio should reflect the best, current you. (via @AlexisGelber)
  23. The header photo on your Twitter profile is a great way to share something about yourself. Use it to highlight your brand. (via @jghellum)
  24. If you can’t add to the signal, don’t add to the noise. Add value when you post on Twitter. (via @JenniferPreston)
  25. Humility is important on social media. It comes across better than boasting.(via @IlanaKowarski)

In between presenters, Sree shifted from master of ceremonies to head cheerleader, as he spent the breaks giving shout-outs to industry leaders as well as attendees with success stories. Whether promoting the work they do or the paths they took to get there, he shared the stories of those on hand who had used social media to develop a niche, promote their brands and establish their careers. (These introductions continued to the very end of the evening, when he and a few dozen die-hard attendees gathered for late-night pizza nearby.)

And for those who ended the night perhaps overwhelmed by the tasks and responsibilities that go with being a social media specialist, Sree offered words of reassurance with this final, insightful slide:

 

In breaking news, verification and humility remain essential for a credible personal brand

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the impact of breaking news coverage on journalists’ brands. I first talked about it with my sons during the highs and lows of the Boston Marathon bombings coverage. The sheer volume of available information and demand for instant reporting made what historically was a difficult job fundamentally more complex, with amplified consequences. CNN’s John King’s doubly erroneous report that a “dark-skinned male” had been arrested by authorities received widespread criticism and led him to publicly address his “embarrassment“. Meanwhile, people lit up social media to praise NBC’s Pete Williams for his responsible and accurate coverage.

I also heard this issue discussed at the New York Times and the BBC College of Journalism Social Media Summit the following weekend, just hours after the manhunt ended. Although branding wasn’t specifically addressed, the discussion did include how hasty reporting and careless social media activity can affect journalists’ relationships with their audiences (which, I’d argue, is branding.)

As The New York Times’ David Carr shared, he’s learned sometimes it’s best to sit back and take a breath:

“The lack of friction is what makes it particularly dangerous. My response –  I care about my followers on Twitter, I want to look after them and keep them close – my response when big things happen is to lift my hands up, is to wait. Because I’ve gotten lit up by …  ‘Ooh, that’s juicy, that’s spicy… ‘ Just hit the retweet button and on it goes, and it all goes to shit.”

I imagine most of us have made that mistake; I know I’ve certainly retweeted a provocative development in a breaking story only to later wish I hadn’t. But as Maya Angelou once said, “When you know better, you do better.” The social contract between journalists and the public demands we do better. Because whether you’re a reporter on the scene or on your TweetDeck, your brand is only as strong as the level of credibility you have with your audience, and they have to be able to trust that you’re providing them with facts. Especially during breaking news. If you’re not dealing with facts, you’d better make that clear.

Last Friday, CBS news anchor Scott Pelley addressed his concerns about recent breaking news coverage in his powerful acceptance speech for the 2013 Fred Friendly First Amendment Award:

“Our house is on fire. These have been a bad few months for journalism. We’re getting the big stories wrong. Over and over again.”

Pelley wasn’t speaking from a holier-than-thou position; he was speaking as someone who’d recently failed to do his job as a journalist. He humbly acknowledged that he himself had made the inaccurate report that Adam Lanza’s mother was a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and that it was her classroom Adam had attacked. He took full responsibility for his having gotten caught up in the race for the scoop and then warned his colleagues against relying on social media alone in this era of “instant reporting”:

“In a world where everyone is a publisher, no one is an editor. And that is the danger that we face today. We have entered a time when a writer’s first idea is his best idea. When the first thing a reporter hears is the first thing he reports … Twitter, Facebook and Reddit: that’s not journalism; that’s gossip. Journalism was invented as an antidote to gossip.”

This should make us pause.

He’s talking about our profession, our tradition and our integrity.

At a time when our direct access to information, whether images, eyewitness accounts or citizens’ reactions, gives us immediate opportunities to get our work (and our names) seen, we increasingly are left to police ourselves. When we don’t, we do so at our own risk. Pelley is warning us that our impulses to gain visibility during a high-profile event better be tempered by the discipline to follow the bedrock principles of journalism, regardless of distribution method: Verification. The responsibility to do no harm. The fundamental distinction between the news gathering and news reporting processes. Reporting the facts.

Pelley didn’t stop there. He continued with an indictment of the need “to be first” as an irrelevant incentive, created by news organizations rather than the public:

“If you’re first, no one will ever remember. If you’re wrong, no one will ever forget. How does it serve the public to be first in this frantic efffort that we so often see – that we all succumb to – how does it serve the public if we’re first?

You know what first is all about? It’s vanity. It’s self-conceit. We do it to make ourselves feel better. No one’s sitting at home, watching five television monitors, going “Oh, they’re first!” That’s a game that we play in in our control rooms. Nobody does that. Maybe a touch of humility would serve us better, and serve the public better as well.”

Pelley’s reflections in the wake of his reporting error, as well as his actions, suggest he’s taken these words to heart. He received considerable praise for his measured reporting in the moments immediately after the Boston bombing and appears to have only strengthened his reputation.

We, too, can learn from his mistake by considering the consequences of being undisciplined in those “frantic efforts” and what that does to our brands. We must decide for ourselves, as Pelley stated, whether we have “the courage to be right when others would rather be first.”

Scott Pelley’s speech in its entirety (by Quinnipiac University via YouTube):

News Foo 2012 curated highlights: popular tweets, photo summaries and post-Foo reflections

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Last week I had the very unexpected opportunity to attend the invitation-only annual journalism gathering called News Foo, which was hosted by O’Reilly Media at ASU’s Cronkite School. The three-day event included loosely structured “un-conference” sessions and two evenings of Ignite Talks (which hopefully will be posted online as they were last year.) Tim O’Reilly and his team brought together 150 brilliant, fearless innovators in technology and journalism (Friends Of O’Reilly, or FOO) who wouldn’t necessarily cross paths but nonetheless share the same goal of improving the way we create, distribute and consume news. He encouraged the attendees to put down their devices and actively participate, to reach out to folks they didn’t know and to attend sessions unrelated to their work. It truly was about getting out of one’s comfort zone and embracing intellectual stretch.

I can’t express how intimidating, inspiring and, frankly, inconceivable it was for me to be with this accomplished group of people. These creative, driven men and women are empowering journalists in conflict areas, crafting visual representations of data that elegantly express the outcomes of government policy and creating digital tools that change the way we tell stories. I left the event determined to figure out how I can rise to their level of knowledge and make a meaningful contribution to providing high quality, relevant information to society.

Although I wasn’t able to stay for the entire event, I did follow #NewsFoo tweets closely and read blog posts that followed. Here’s my curation of news, tweets, photos and posts about News Foo 2012.


News Foo 2012

NewsFoo brings together media professionals to discuss innovation

NewsFoo brings together media professionals to discuss innovation

December 3, 2012 · Downtown Devil · By Alexis Macklin

NewsFoo caps its number of invited attendees at 150 in order to bring the freshest ideas for the news industry back each year. (Alexis Macklin/DD) Heavy hitters in the news and technological industry conversed at the fourth annual NewsFoo Camp at the Walter Cronkite School this weekend. NewsFoo is an exclusive conference with a focus on innovation in news creation. The discussions are not planned until the participants arrive to provoke new …

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@TimOReilly kicking off #newsfoo by explaining the history of unconferences at O’Reilly Media. As usual, proud to work with and for him.

@TimOReilly kicking off #newsfoo by explaining the history of unconferences at O'Reilly Media. As usual, proud to work with and for him.

November 30, 2012 · Instagram ·

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The most retweeted #NewsFoo tweets: comments on Ignite Talks and un-conference sessions


 

 

  

 

 

  

 

 

 

Post-Foo blog posts: reflections, resources and a photo collection

#newsfoo 2012 highlights captured from afar

December 2, 2012 · The Linchpen 

NewsFoo just wrapped up its third event. I haven’t been since 2010, but I followed along on Twitter again this year. Below are some good bits from the unconference (in chronological order). [View the story “#newsfoo 2012 highlights” on Storify] #newsfoo 2012 highlights I wasn’t there, but I followed along on Twitter. Here were some awesome bits from the event (in chronological order). Storified by Greg Linch · Sun, Dec 02 2012 19:56:35 How do revolutions report on themselves? @BaghdadBrian …

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Thoughts (and some suggestions) on #NewsFoo: http://t.co/nqYKYLch

December 3, 2012 · Derek Willis

Thoughts (and some suggestions) on #NewsFoo: http://t.co/nqYKYLch

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 @A_L: I’ve never been to #newsfoo, but @derekwillis’ account is the most honest I’ve seen of the event yet. http://t.co/WQUOz4PO

 

Fine #newsfoo talk Sunday on keeping source identities safe, by Danny O’Brien of CPJ. Get the guide at http://t.co/AXDokH05

December 3, 2012 · Steve Doig 

Fine #newsfoo talk Sunday on keeping source identities safe, by Danny O’Brien of CPJ. Get the guide at http://t.co/AXDokH05

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Some Notes and Photos from NewsFoo

Some Notes and Photos from NewsFoo

December 3, 2012 · Hey Elise · by Elise Hu 

The spawn, the spouse and I just got back from NewsFoo, an unconference put on by O’Reilly Media and the Knight Foundation. The 150-ish attendees are all involved in technology and/or journalism in an interesting way and I’m certain I was the dumbest person there. If you’ve never unconferenced, the main idea is that at more traditional and scheduled conferences, all the best connections and interesting conversations end up happening at lunch or during coffee breaks. So unconferences …

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OMFG NewsFoo!

OMFG NewsFoo!

December 4, 2012 · oddletters.com · by molly

Sometime between the power outage Thursday night that left most of Cambridge in the dark and severely messed with my ability to construct my Ignite slide deck, and getting up at 5AM to catch a taxi to the airport, I started to have serious doubts about whether I should go to NewsFoo at all. Reading over the guest list (NewsFoo is a by-invitation conference) was an exercise in “Oh God, everyone …

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From #newsfoo: five opportunities for the news industry

From #newsfoo: five opportunities for the news industry

December 5, 2012 · Knight Foundation

It was a real pleasure to attend my first NewsFoo conference this past weekend. Sponsored by O’Reilly Media, Knight Foundation and Google, NewsFoo gathered a cross section of folks (read: rock stars) in the digital news space to talk about an agenda created on the spot. One of the most interesting …

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News Foo: What we learned, where we’re going

December 6, 2012 · knightlab.northwestern.edu

We wanted to take advantage of the great brains assembled at last week’s News Foo event, so we proposed a panel to suss out “big questions in journalism” that the lab should tackle. As might be expected from an unconference, the conversation ranged a lot more widely than our official topic. For starters, a number of folks had general questions about how the Lab works: Who are your stakeholders? Will your tools …

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“We need to put more digital designers into our news operations. I am talking about those visual…”

December 6, 2012 · Saila’s Miscellany

“We need to put more digital designers into our news operations. I am talking about those visual designers who can realize ideas and experiences into code because knowing how to write code helps produce better prototypes, and the best way to communicate an idea is through an interactive prototype. Producing quick prototypes brings ideas to life sooner, quickening the pace of decision making and software development … Ultimately helping Journalism respond faster to how quickly technology changes on the internet.” …

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Some sites/tools at @Newsfoo: http://t.co/IDwgtIfI #newsfoo

December 2, 2012 · Ryan Osborn

Some sites/tools at @Newsfoo: http://t.co/IDwgtIfI #newsfoo 

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Just posted a bunch of photos from #newsfoo – please help tagging, identifying peeps! https://t.co/pBcNseBT

NewsFoo 2012

Flickr · 32 photos | 135 views 

Items are from between 01 Dec 2012 & 03 Dec 2012. Subscribe to the set “NewsFoo 2012” Grab the link: Here’s a link to this set. Just copy and paste! 

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Written by Jennifer Gaie Hellum

December 7, 2012 at 10:11 pm

ONA11 put the spotlight on social media as a reporting tool

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In 2010, I attended ONA’s annual conference in Washington, DC, as a journalism graduate student. I knew I was interested in finding an online journalism job after graduation, possibly doing social media, and thought ONA would be the place to gain insights on how journalists were using social media. So I took advantage of the student registration rate, had some business cards made and envisioned my meeting all the social media people I followed on Twitter.

But aside from a few sessions that touched on community engagement and an impromptu project for Intersect, I didn’t find many discussions about the kind of work I thought I might do in a social media job. Don’t get me wrong; I learned a lot at ONA10 about online news operations, emerging technology and digital reporting tools. As a first-time attendee, however, I left the conference without handing my card to anyone in social media and thought maybe ONA wasn’t a forum where social media played a very prominent role.

What a difference a year makes.

Any doubt I had about social media’s place in online journalism was completely dismissed at ONA11 in Boston. From the opening paragraph of the co-chairs’ welcome in the conference program (“Social media tools continue to transform the way news breaks …”) to the standing room-only Twitter and Facebook sessions, it was clear social media’s increasing role in journalism was being fully embraced at this year’s gathering.

It’s understandable. In the year since the 2010 conference, social media continued to transform the newsgathering and reporting process:

This year’s conference organizers apparently noticed the increased interest in social media’s journalistic value and responded by adding a social media track of sessions, and I hit them all. I heard NPR senior strategist Andy Carvin share his live-tweeting and tweet curation insights as part of the keynote lunch panel discussion. I fought the crowds to see Twitter content team member and digital strategist Erica Anderson and Facebook journalist program manager Vadim Lavrusik each lead a pair of sessions to share best practices and strategies for using their sites. And I took notes as Storify creator Bert Herman, along with Washington Post’s social media producer Katie Rogers and ProPublica director of engagement Amanda Michel, discussed Twitter’s strengths as a reporting tool. As an unexpected bonus, I ended up interviewing Reuter’s social media editor Anthony DeRosa for my blog after meeting him at his session on personal branding. (More on that in my next post…) Journalists working as community managers, social media editors and online engagement directors led a range of discussions about using social media to do serious journalism.

This time, I didn’t hold back from introducing myself to them. I asked for advice and shared what we’re doing at azcentral to incorporate social media tools into our reporting. Incredibly talented people doing creative, innovative things to connect with their communities were more than willingness to share what they know with me. I left ONA11 energized by what I’d learned and who I’d met, knowing I definitely was in the right place.