Our social media strategy at TBD worked because I hired Mandy Jenkins and managed (most days) to stay out of her way.
Mandy is one of those people of whom I know that someday I will say, “I knew her when …” After I hired her, I told the story of how she was already telling me things I didn’t know about social media before she sat down for the interview.
That was just the first of many days that Mandy amazed me. Soon she will be amazing colleagues at HuffPost Politics, the next step for one of the best digital journalists anywhere. I was shocked when our company eliminated Mandy’s position. But I wasn’t at all surprised that she had three outstanding offers within a month from leading digital media organizations.
Mandy’s not only good at what she does, she’s generous at sharing what she learns. She has led workshops this month for the American Press Institute and NewsTrain (and I might be forgetting something) and will lead one next week for the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism at Ohio State University (and had to turn down a Society of Professional Journalists event that conflicted with Kiplinger). And she did a live chat with Poynter last month and next month, she will be teaching social media skills to journalists in Russia.
Her blog, Zombie Journalism, is one of the best places to learn what’s new in digital journalism and to get simple advice on using the new tools. I have frequently recommended her social media guidelines to live by.
Remembering Dave’s advice, I told Mandy early in our time working together that I’d rather have her beg forgiveness than ask permission. I wanted her to spread her wings and show us boldly what we should be doing with social media. So when she did something new with Crowdmap or Xtranormal, I learned when it was about to go live. I remember when Storify was first released, I was too busy to take a look at it, but made a mental note that I should probably learn about it sometime soon. Later that week, Mandy used it effectively to cover a breaking news story (and soon posted advice for other journalists on using Storify).
Mandy and I worked together closely enough that she had to see that I talk a better game than I play when it comes to social media. But she never exposed me as an old guy just trying to catch up. She helped me catch up. (I spent a while at her desk this week, learning about all the different tools she uses for social media analytics.)
I’m also not surprised that she’s leaving TBD with class and grace. This week she led workshops for WJLA colleagues who after Friday will no longer have her leadership and insight in social media. Today was her last day here. She will start work soon for the Huffington Post:
I did try to stay out of Mandy’s way, but I also tried to hang around close enough that I could learn from her. She stood out at TBD for much more than her office “chair”:
*I think Dave held another position by the time he gave me this advice, but I will always remember him as managing editor of the Des Moines Register during its glory days.