I’ve long known that any manager’s success rests with the team working for you. Again, I am fortunate to have a great engagement team.
Mandy Jenkins starts work today as digital projects editor for Digital First Media. In addition, I will be working with Martin G. Reynolds, Ivan Lajara and Dan Petty as regional engagement editors. Each of these journalists brings outstanding experience and skills to the engagement team, and I am excited about working with them.
I was amazed repeatedly by Mandy’s performance at TBD, where we were colleagues. After joining the Journal Register Co. in May, I learned swiftly how widely respected Ivan is throughout the company. Martin and Dan were among the first journalists I met in September after MediaNews became part of Digital First Media, and I quickly came to see what outstanding journalists they are.
The loose organization of the team reflects how Digital First focuses more on working effectively than on silos or organization charts. The regional engagement editors will split their time 50-50 between their regional duties and local duties (for which they will still report to local editors). Mandy will be part of the engagement team, but the digital projects she undertakes will not be limited to engagement. (All four of these editors have skills and experience that go beyond their specific engagement duties, so I anticipate we’ll use them all in many ways to elevate our journalism.)
I am pleased to be working a third time with Mandy. In addition to our TBD experience, we team-taught a class in social media and reporting last summer for Georgetown University’s Master of Professional Studies in Journalism program. In her work at the Cincinnati Enquirer, TBD and HuffPost Politics and on her Zombie Journalism blog, Mandy has established herself as one of the best journalists at social media strategy and execution. Her reputation has grown internationally with training programs in Russia and Egypt.
Mandy’s work will take her into our newsrooms, where she will play a key role in training by leading workshops.
Mandy grew up in Ohio and, sadly, remains a Cincinnati Reds fan. She moved to Washington to join TBD and will remain based there in her work for Digital First. Her first appearance in this blog was in 2009, when I cited her advice in my first webinar on Twitter. When she joined TBD, I noted that she told me about a social tool I had never heard of even before we sat down for her job interview. The worst thing about team-teaching with her was the sedentary shame I felt each time we’d leave after class, her on her bike and me heading to the subway.
After TBD eliminated the jobs of my staff, I eagerly and honestly told potential employers that Mandy was one of the half-dozen or so best hires I’ve made in 40 years in the news business (covering several dozen hires, more than I can count or recall). I hope to work with her longer this time, and I expect to to be two of the best hires I’ve made.
Martin has lived in the San Francisco Bay area his whole life, growing up in Berkeley and working his way up at the Oakland Tribune from Chips Quinn Scholar intern in 1995 to Editor-in-Chief from 2007 to 2011. He was one of the lead editors on the award-winning Chauncey Bailey Project, which investigated the assassination of Bailey, a former editor of the Oakland Post and Tribune reporter.
I first met Martin at the Associated Press Media Editors conference in Denver this September, just a week after Digital First’s deal to manage MediaNews was named. We discussed a plan already announced to consolidate operations of several newsrooms in the Bay Area, including plans to drop the name of the Tribune. Martin’s commitment to community was evident in the passion with which he spoke of the Tribune, a community institution built to national prominence by former editor and owner Robert Maynard. I was delighted a few weeks later, when those plans were changed, the Tribune’s name was saved and Martin was named Senior Editor for Community Engagement for the Bay Area News Group.
Martin has a strong record of engagement, from live chats to community happy hours to the Oakland Voices project (a partnership with the Maynard Institute) to leading our plans for a community newsroom in downtown Oakland. I saw more of his passion for community when I visited Oakland in Denver and he showed me around town.
Next time I visit Oakland, I hope I can time it so I can see and hear him perform with Bop City, the “hip hop/neo funk” group for which he is a professional lyricist.
Ivan, a native of Peru who moved to the Hudson Valley in 1996, is Life Editor of the Daily Freeman in Kingston, N.Y. He has so many ideas that it’s simultaneously energizing and exhausting to talk to him or follow him on Twitter or read his award-winning blog. I can’t remember when I first started following him on Twitter, but he could probably tell me how I could find that out. I knew of him well before joining JRC, and he was one of the staffers I most wanted to meet. When a family emergency this summer pushed back my visit to Kingston by a month, I was almost more upset at pushing back my opportunity to meet Ivan than I was by the emergency.
Ivan excelled under pressure when Hurricane Irene (I almost wrote Hurricane Ivan, but he probably has more energy) caused flooding in the Catskills and Hudson Valley. He developed a recovery resource database and worked out an impromptu partnership with Watershed Post, a regional blog, to provide nonstop coverage of the flooding.
As a member of JRC’s ideaLab, he already is a leader in our company’s engagement efforts. He regularly helps his colleagues do things such as use our partnership with See Click Fix. He hosts the weekly #DFMchat (formerly #JRCchat) where Digital First staffers and others who join in discuss engagement and digital journalism issues. He has led live-tweeting, livestreaming, live-chatting and other digital initiatives at the Freeman:
Dan‘s another person I knew on Twitter well before we met in person. As with the other regional engagement editors, his new role expands and formalizes work he was already doing. In addition to leading social media efforts for the Denver Post, Dan was already traveling to other MediaNews newsrooms to teach social media.
Interestingly, Dan’s first journalism job was at a Journal Register weekly, the Pennington Post, which covers the part of New Jersey where Dan grew up. After an internship at the Denver Post, Dan was hired as social media editor.
I’ve been impressed with his use of Twitter and Facebook and with the wide use of social tools by the Post staff on a range of stories. By coincidence, I blogged about a 2008 Denver plane crash (that’s a long time ago in social media years) in which the Post (and all other media covering the story) failed to use Twitter to connect with a survivor who would have been a great interview. Dan became Social Media Editor in 2009, and now the Post would be all over such a story (and is all over local stories every day).
I’ve been impressed with the smart questions he asks as we explore use of other social tools. He’s already helped other Digital First colleagues by suggesting engaging ways to share content on Facebook. His first mention in this blog was when I reported the great teamwork by Post colleagues in a mountain lion photo gallery that went viral. He’s an outstanding photographer who shoots for the Post as well as shooting weddings and engagement photos.
Dan ran track and cross country in college at the University of Richmond (I also ran cross country, but let’s just say I’m pretty sure he was better). He still runs (I don’t) and writes occasionally for Running Times.
These are top-flight journalists who truly understand community engagement. And they are fun people to work with. We have a great team taking shape. I love the different backgrounds and skills that each of these colleagues brings to engagement efforts at Digital First.