Archive for August, 2012

Journalists often ask me how to build a following on Twitter. It’s really pretty simple:

  1. Tweet frequently.
  2. Have something interesting to say.
  3. Livetweet events and breaking news.
  4. Find and follow people who share your interests.
  5. Join the conversation.
  6. Give more than you ask for.
  7. Join tweetups and Twitter chats.
  8. Be yourself.

I was tempted to end this post right there, because this really is simple. But I’ll elaborate, with the acknowledgment that even with elaboration it’s all simple.

Let’s start by addressing the notion of “followers.” If you just think of the people reading your tweets as “followers,” that might be part of the problem. That feels and sounds like a one-way relationship (or two sets of one-way relationships, when combined with the people you follow. Twitter is most valuable as a conversation, so think of followers and the people you follow as your Twitter community or simply as your tweeps. And here’s how you grow your circle of tweeps: (more…)

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I was traveling and leading workshops this week for the anti-climactic final end of TBD. I didn’t have time to weigh in then, except on Twitter, after my former TBD colleague Jenny Rogers broke the news:

I don’t have a lot to add, but I’ve blogged a lot about TBD here, so I should note the denouement. TBD made our mark in part through effective aggregation of Washington local news, so I’ll note its passing with some aggregation on its brief history. It won’t be complete, but I invite you to add some more links in the comments. Where I aggregate content from TBD, I should note that I don’t know how long it will remain available. Archived content appears to be online, though the home page and some searches redirect to wjla.com.

Before we get to the actual demise, I have to share a link and screenshot from the coverage of our launch: I don’t believe any elaboration is needed here.

As for coverage of the actual death, it was pretty muted, perhaps appropriately for an operation whose life and death throes were perhaps overcovered. Here are the best accounts I saw of the final demise (normally that phrase would be redundant, but TBD’s demise was drawn-out enough that I consider it appropriate):

Erik Wemple’s No more TBD.com (Erik was TBD’s editor and now blogs about media for the Washington Post: (more…)

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Texas Christian University’s student media are shifting to a digital-first approach this fall, producing content first and primarily for digital platforms.

I visited TCU’s Schieffer School of Journalism in April, studying their student media operations and recommending sweeping changes. I’m back this week to lead a day of workshops for the students in the unified content team that will feed digital, broadcast and print media.

Links I will be recommending to the students for additional reading: (more…)

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Patrick Devlin

I have written on occasion here about how CaringBridge brought important news about my nephew Patrick Devlin when he was battling leukemia in 2009 and after he died. I mentioned in my eulogy for Patrick that he was working on his deathbed to finish his Eagle Scout project.

Well, this morning, CaringBridge brought the news that Patrick’s Eagle project is finished. It moistened my cheeks. I share it because many readers of this blog expressed appreciation that I shared Patrick’s story, even though it strayed from the usual topics of my blog.

Here’s a passage from John’s latest CaringBridge update, shared with his permission:

Last Saturday we finally fulfilled his Eagle Scout service project plan, and the story is an interesting one. His plan was to make portable dimming light fixtures available to families spending time in the hospital on Baird Five here in Burlington (the Pediatric in-patient ward). Long time readers will remember that one of the first things I did when Pat was admitted to the hospital was to go to Home Depot and buy a clip light and dimmer so we could set up nicer light and read when it was dark and Pat was sleeping without turning on the fluorescent overhead lights or sitting in the dark for hours. Well, he was planning this project with his Eagle mentor when he died. I picked it up and tried a couple of approaches to realize the idea, beginning with identifying the hospital’s requirements for lights in the rooms. These requirements limited what we could do, and ruled out the system our family had used. (more…)

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I am pleased to see more student media converting to a digital-first approach. While the digital future is clear for all media, the audience for student media is even more intensely digital focused.

Both to serve their current audiences and to prepare students for success in journalism, student media need a strong digital focus. I am leading two days of digital-first training for the Shorthorn, the student media news staff at the University of Texas-Arlington.

I blogged last spring about my advice that student media need to take a digital-first approach. The Shorthorn was already planning a digital-first conversion for this fall that includes changing from daily to weekly print publication. The University of Oregon and the University of Georgia have made similar changes in print frequency to emphasize their digital-first approach.

My alma mater, Texas Christian University, is continuing the Daily Skiff as a daily newspaper Tuesday through Friday, but it will create content first for digital platforms and is reorganizing student media to focus on digital content first. I will be leading a day of workshops for TCU’s student media Thursday.

Links I will be recommending to the students for additional reading:

How a Digital First approach guides a journalist’s work

Digital First Journalists: What we value

10 ways to think like a Digital First journalist

Leading a Digital First newsroom

How Digital First succeeds at making money

What does community engagement mean?

Engagement editors: an emerging, important job

What does an engagement editor do?

Finding and developing story ideas

We won’t spend a lot of time in these workshops talking about job-hunting, but because these journalists will soon be seeking jobs, I also am sharing some links on branding and job-hunting:

Use digital tools to showcase your career and your work

Confessions (strategies) of a branded journalist (or a journalist with a reputation, if you prefer)

Tips for finding your next job in digital journalism

Job-hunting advice for journalists selling skills in the digital market

Here are slides for today’s and yesterday’s workshops for the Shorthorn:

Here are links I used during the workshops as various examples (I might forget to include a few links, so I invite students to remind me of any you don’t see here that you’d like to check out). I will be adding to these links later, but I wanted to get them posted before today’s workshops:

The Virginia Tech massacre liveblog from the Collegiate Times

Jay Westcott’s time-lapse photo project on a Cowboys-Redskins game and Jay’s How-I-did-it explainer

Visual.ly and Dataviz

Maryjo Webster’s Making maps with Google Fusion tables


Parkersburg tornado map

Last Chance interactive project on Louisiana’s vanishing coastline

Ivan Lajara’s How to make a slideshow with Pinterest with Storify

Celebration outside the White House








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My #twutorial posts have been too long, so I’m going to share a short list today to help journalists use Twitter more effectively. I’ll provide some answers to a question I often hear from journalists: Who should I follow (yeah, I know it should be whom, but that’s how they ask)?

  1. Use Twitter’s “who to follow” feature (yeah, that should be whom, too) to search for officials and agencies on your beat and other regular sources and follow them.
  2. When you interview people, ask them for their usernames and their organizations’ usernames, find them in the Twitter app on your phone and follow them right there as you’re talking to them. (more…)

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Filling one of Thunderdome’s conference rooms for a Thursday meeting (clockwise): Robyn Tomlin, back to camera, Mark Lewis, Julie Westfall, Karen Workman, Chris March, Jim Brady, Mandy Jenkins, Angi Carter, Ryan Teague Beckwith and my empty cupcake wrapper.

Thunderdome is happening, Baby!

I was in our Thunderdome newsroom this week, and we filled a conference room with journalists and creative energy. Our new curation team was working on a long-term project and some daily work. New politics channel manager Ryan Teague Beckwith was brainstorming convention and campaign coverage with the curation team. Thunderdome Editor Robyn Tomlin was interviewing job candidates. We ate too much cheesecake, cupcakes and gourmet chocolates. Digital First Editor-in-Chief Jim Brady and I told funny stories about embarrassing things we’d done. This is feeling like a newsroom. (more…)

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Two years ago, I was working with Jim Brady, right, Mandy Jenkins, left, and Julie Westfall to launch TBD. Now we’re still trying to change the news business at Digital First Media. We’re together this week at the Thunderdome newsroom.

Two years ago today, an incredibly talented crew of journalists launched TBD. We had a lot of hype and a lot of fun, even if it didn’t last long. TBD now exists in URL only, its concept abandoned, its talent scattered, its name linked to history’s most famed sinking ship. But I have yet to talk to a colleague who doesn’t remember the experience fondly.

I blogged on the first anniversary of our launch last year about some lessons from the TBD. I’m not going to observe the anniversary every year, but I think two years after the launch it’s worth noting where the #TBDiaspora ended up and how we’re doing. The day Jim Brady left TBD in early November 2010, less than three months after launch, he said he hoped we’d “get the band back together” someday. Well, we have a quartet of the old band playing for Digital First Media: Jim, Mandy Jenkins, Julie Westfall and me. I’ve updated us plenty, but I wanted to check in with the rest of my colleagues. (more…)

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Iqbal Tamimi

I have never met Iqbal Tamimi, but she inspired me when I connected with her seven years ago.

We connected digitally then and I was amazed and delighted to get an update on her last week.

My first blog, from 2004 to 2008, was Training Tracks, published first on No Train, No Gain and later at the American Press Institute‘s website. It didn’t draw nearly the traffic or the comments that I get on this blog, but one comment stands out.

Iqbal commented on one of my posts (alas, the original post, with the comments, is not available online any more, but I wrote a subsequent post that recounted our exchange in the comments and subsequent emails). Here are some passages about Iqbal from the second blog post: (more…)

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A frequent question I hear from journalists interested in learning Twitter overlaps with an excuse I hear from those resisting Twitter:

“No one cares what I have to say,” goes the excuse. “What should I tweet?” goes the question.

My answer: Tweet about what you’re working on. And if no one cares about what you’re working on, find better stories or find another line of work.

I continue my #twutorial series with some advice for journalists on how and what to tweet: (more…)

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Thirty-eight years ago today, August 3, 1974, Mimi Johnson vowed to spend the rest of her life with me. The reasons still mystify me. Perhaps you can help by answering the following poll.

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Creativity is contagious. One of the best ways to make a good idea better is to share it with other creative people.

Digital First’s new Social Media Wire is the child of two groups of creative people: the original Journal Register Co. ideaLab and the community engagement staff at TBD. The Social Media Wire is testing now on the site of the New Haven Register and eventually will roll out across Digital First Media’s news sites across the country.

Mandy Jenkins, our Digital Projects Editor, writes about the Social Media Wire on her Zombie Journalism blog. Mandy is leading the way on the project and played a key role in development of the idea at TBD.

As we were planning the TBD launch, scheduled for Aug. 9, 2010, I suggested that we tell the story of the day in Washington through the content people were creating about the day: Gather all the local tweets, Facebook updates, news stories, YouTube videos, photos and so forth that we could find and show them in chronological order, as quickly after they happened as we could. I thought if we promoted it well, it would be something people would come back to again and again throughout the day and would establish us as something different from traditional news sources.

I saw it as a one-day project of intensive work by the community engagement team. Fortunately, my team had better ideas. The team was Mandy, Jeff Sonderman, Daniel Victor, Lisa Rowan and Nathasha Lim. I don’t remember who had what ideas, but it’s fair to credit the whole group with the idea. Because once I outlined the idea, the discussion took off, with everyone contributing, and they just left my original idea in the dust. (more…)

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