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
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 …
@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 ·
The most retweeted #NewsFoo tweets: comments on Ignite Talks and un-conference sessions
When writing news for social media “your primary audience isn’t your reader, it’s your reader’s contacts” @SaraCritchfield #newsfoo
— Tim O’Reilly (@timoreilly) December 1, 2012
Love that @waldojaquith uses github.com/unitedstates to share public data sets and code related to US laws #newsfoo #opengov
— Tim O’Reilly (@timoreilly) December 1, 2012
Today’s questions at #newsfoo – how do you call for a revolutionary action on the internet without being immediately arrested? Anyone?
— Laurie Penny (@PennyRed) December 1, 2012
“I wish the women would talk more and the men would interrupt less.” – someone to me just now at #NewsFoo
— rachelsklar (@rachelsklar) December 1, 2012
Overheard at #newsfoo about the Filter Bubble: “Do people want to be informed or do they want to be reassured?”
— Jim Frederick (@Jim_Frederick) December 1, 2012
Listening to @lara talking about trust and serendipity. The more you trust a curator, the more likely you’ll go along for the ride. #newsfoo
— Andy Carvin (@acarvin) December 1, 2012
@acarvin serendipity is unexpected relevance. #newsfoo
— Jeff Jarvis (@jeffjarvis) December 1, 2012
How to build a more diverse speaker roster for your conference, for @tasneemraja’s great #newsfoo panel http://www.racialicious.com/2012/11/30/solving-the-pipeline-problem/
— Joe Germuska (@JoeGermuska) December 1, 2012
Neat #search tip from @mattcutts: drag an image onto the logo on google.com to @google it. #newsfoo
— Alex Howard (@digiphile) December 1, 2012
“Hackers” has become an overdetermined term – includes activists, artists and criminals all in the same term. @oddletters at #newsfoo
— Ethan Zuckerman (@EthanZ) December 1, 2012
Journalists need to plan for and report on what *doesn’t* happen as much as what does, says @derekwillis in great #newsfoo ignite talk.
— Christopher Sopher (@cksopher) December 1, 2012
Post-Foo blog posts: reflections, resources and a photo collection
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 …
December 3, 2012 · Derek Willis
@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
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 …
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 …
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 …
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 …
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.” …
December 2, 2012 · Ryan Osborn
Some sites/tools at @Newsfoo: http://t.co/IDwgtIfI #newsfoo
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!
I recently got a Twitter notification announcing my third anniversary as @jghellum. I joined Twitter in the summer of 2009 as the first assignment of my journalism grad school “boot camp.” Our cohort hashtag was #bc9, and it’s been fun watching the subsequent classes’ hashtags emerge each fall – the latest being #bcxii – as Cronkite school associate professor Leslie-Jean Thornton (@ljthornton) guides the aspiring journalists through the art of the well-crafted tweet.
When I saw a recent tweet from Fast Company soliciting Twitter best practices under the hashtag #TheRules, I thought of those aspiring journalists navigating a medium that doesn’t actually have written rules and trying to figure out how to use it professionally.
— Fast Company (@FastCompany) September 10, 2012
Many Twitter users offered helpful advice. However, some took exception to the use of #TheRules, defending the organic nature of how Twitter etiquette has emerged. I contributed several strategies of my own, and in a nod to the objections, adopted a less rigid (and perhaps less intimidating for newbies) hashtag, #TheTips:
— Jennifer Gaie Hellum (@jghellum) September 10, 2012
Because Fast Company’s crowdsourced rules weren’t specifically geared toward journalists, I thought I’d share the effective tweet-crafting practices I learned during my Twitter boot camp, conventions I’ve picked up along the way and #TheTips I’ve shared with colleagues in the newsroom as they joined Twitter.
- Use your byline or a form of it as your Twitter handle. Each tweet is an opportunity for connecting with your audience. If they can’t connect your handle with your byline when you share worthwhile information, you’ve missed the opportunity to build relationships and become part of a community.
- Select a headshot, whether a candid or a studio photo, as your avatar. When your tweet shows up in other’s Twitter feeds, you want them to feel like you’re having a conversation, like you’re looking them in the eye and they can trust you.
- List your location and link to your blog, portfolio or LinkedIn account. Twitter is about connecting; provide opportunities for others to connect with you locally and online.
- Maximize your bio profile content to communicate your brand. Avoid generalizations and obscure references and instead list the qualities of your brand (your current position, unique experience and/or professional aspirations) that set you apart from other journalists and compel others to follow you.
- Write concisely. Use your 140-character limit to tighten up your writing. Use fewer than 140 to allow for easy retweeting.
- Avoid serial tweets. If you need more than three tweets to make a point, write a blog post instead. Series of tweets are difficult to RT; blog posts aren’t.
- Know the keywords related to your beat. Use Google Trends to compare terms and find those most frequently used to increase your tweet’s exposure beyond your followers.
- Use hashtags. They flag your tweet when the subject of your tweet isn’t part of your message.
- Learn the shorthand. Use RT when you retweet a message in its entirety; use MT if you’ve modified its content to the point of altering its message. If you create your own message based on information you learned in someone else’s tweet, credit them at the end with a HT (hat tip.)
- Monitor your Twitter page as a snapshot of your brand. When you follow others, they in turn will make a split-second decision of whether to follow you, based largely on your bio and most-recent tweets.
- Engage your audience. Ask questions and respond to @mentions. Share links relevant to your beat and join conversations that are already happening.
- Always attribute tweets to the original source. It’s bad form to hijack shortened links posted by others and present them as you own.
- Avoid the #humblebrag. Presenting self-congratulatory news in a self-deprecating way looks desperate. Most people will see through it and some may question your sincerity.
- Don’t protect your tweets. If you’re there to engage your audience (why else be here?), don’t protect your tweets and prohibit interaction with the public.
- Take private conversations offline. Twitter is about sharing information at least some of your followers will find valuable. If no one else gets it, send DMs instead.
- Play nice. When engaging in a discussion on Twitter, be a good listener and be professional. No one likes a bully, and any tweet can be captured in a screen grab.
During the past week, seasoned journalists and renowned academics exchanged volleys over whether journalists should concern themselves with their personal brands. As someone who has spent the past year and a half blogging about personal branding for journalists, I felt compelled to weigh in and share how someone from the newest generation of journalists felt about this career management strategy.
The debate began when Medill School of Journalism student Leslie Trew Magraw requested to interview two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten about how he built his brand. Instead of discussing how he’d grown his reputation throughout his four-decade career, Weingarten used Leslie’s assignment to deliver an indictment of the media’s focus on marketing and the consumer’s influence on content. He then took a shot at the new generation of journalists for not being willing to work hard to earn their reputations:
Now, the first goal seems to be self-promotion — the fame part, the “brand.”
Many veteran journalists are very uncomfortable with the notion of a person having a brand, believing that focusing on marketing your talent automatically detracts from attention to your work and compromises your integrity. They came up in the business at a time when journalists didn’t have to worry about marketing their careers; producing good work and being associated with a reputable news organization was enough to “make a name for yourself.”
For many journalists, the changing media landscape’s effect on employment dynamics – from long-term job security to professional nomadism – requires proactive management of their careers. Fortunately, having a career strategy and professional integrity and are not mutually exclusive, and it is from that perspective that I write about personal branding.
I have to believe those on both sides of the branding argument want the same thing: to make a living with integrity while doing a job they love. If we can rise above the branding versus reputation semantics and generational finger pointing, young professionals in all fields can benefit from journalism’s branding discussion as they seek to establish their careers.
Personal branding is fundamentally about how to distinguish yourself from those with whom you share general characteristics. That is to say, your brand is your intrinsically unique set of qualities that give you value. If you want the people with whom you interact professionally to see your singular value, you first have to be able to be aware of it yourself first:
Be authentic. Your personality, passions, life experiences, values system and beliefs inform the kind of work you naturally are drawn to. Use that knowledge of your core values as the foundation for your career decisions. Without that awareness, that compass to guide you, you won’t be able to determine whether an opportunity is a good fit. As an extroverted news junkie who’s happiest when I’m providing people with information they find useful, my working as a social media producer allows me to professionally be true to who I am and do so confidently and credibly.
Understand where your talent and skills lie and use them. Your brand is meaningless unless you produce quality work to support it, and that starts with knowing what you do well. Many resources are available to help you identify your intellectual strengths and natural talents. You may have figured that out a long time ago or may still be struggling to pinpoint your greatest asset. Taking aptitude tests and talent assessments helped me appreciate my interest in languages and affinity for storytelling that I’d taken for granted, which eventually led me to journalism.
Communicate effectively. All the passion, hard work and talent in the world won’t get you where you want to go if nobody knows about it. That’s why I’m writing my blog, participating in Twitter chats and connecting online. Knowing how to clearly and effectively share what you’re about as a person and an employee is the difference between being in the loop as opportunities arise and being left in the dark.
- Reach out to colleagues at work, at events and online to learn more about your profession.
- Make sure you can tell them what you have to offer that sets you apart from others.
- Take advantage of tools such as blogs, portfolio sites and YouTube to create a digital footprint where you can express creatively express why you have value in your field.
- Keep your online profiles up to date, making sure they collectively provide consistent information.
- And finally, be smart about what you post on social networks and Twitter. Whether you consider it personal or professional, it all affects your brand.
These strategies don’t relieve you of the responsibility of hard work; in fact, they add to it. And when it’s done to build a personal brand authentically and competently, I don’t know how anyone could argue with that.