I write The Buttry Diary, named one of the 10 best blogs on the future of the news business by blogs.com. I contribute to the INMA Culture Change blog. I also blog at Hated Yankees (a baseball blog), 2 Roads Diverged (a travel blog with my wife, Mimi Johnson) and Gathering String (a blog promoting Mimi’s novel by that name). I contributed to Inside Thunderdome (no longer available online) and the TBD Community blog. Other blogs have been Training Tracks for the American Press Institute and No Train, No Gain and Leadership Tips and Writing Tips for API.
Digital First Media and Journal Register Co., May 2011-July 2014
I was Director of Community Engagement for the Journal Register Co., then Digital Transformation Editor for Digital First Media (a successor to JRC). I led efforts to change how our newsrooms and journalists thought and worked. I directed Project Unbolt, an effort to free our newsrooms from the culture and processes of print. I helped recruit new editors and helped our new editors learn how to lead a Digital First newsroom. I provided training in more than 80 DFM newsrooms. I coordinated the monthly and annual DFMies editorial excellence awards. I led community engagement efforts in 75 daily newsrooms (and many more weeklies), including development of local blog networks, our use of social media and community newsroom efforts that help our journalists engage in person with the community.
Most of my work for Digital First Media produced indirect results, with newsrooms independently using the skills and executing the priorities I was teaching and advocating. To see some of that work, check the Digital First journalists at work and community engagement categories on this blog or the index of Project Unbolt posts.
TBD, Arlington, VA, February 2010-May 2011
I was Director of Community Engagement for TBD, a Washington local news operation that launched Aug. 9, 2010. I supervised a community engagement team of six. We recruited and aggregated content from a network of more than 220 community blogs and news sites and led the TBD staff in use of social media. I negotiated partnership deals with vendors and other media companies. I contributed to the @TBD Community blog. In 2010, I was inducted into the Hall of Excellence of the Schieffer School of Journalism at Texas Christian University, my alma mater. Quill magazine named me one of 20 Journalists to Follow and the Poynter Institute named me one of 35 Influential People in Social Media.
Stories and projects produced by my team included the Discovery Channel hostage crisis, #wheretheyserved Veterans Day map, an inspection of escalators throughout the Washington Metro system, the Metro Grade weekly report card, a crowdsourced map of Metro problems, a restaurant blog and the Rally to Restore Sanity. My own contributions included a firsthand account of a nine-hour commute home, ratings of Washington journalists using Twitter and a bad-parking project.
Gazette Communications, Cedar Rapids, IA, 2008-2010
I came to Cedar Rapids as Editor of The Gazette and GazetteOnline (now TheGazette.com) June 10, 2008, two days before a historic disaster that flooded more than 5,000 Cedar Rapids homes and 1,000 businesses. With no power in our building for a month, we did not miss an edition and provided multi-platform coverage that has won awards for reporting, photography, design and headlines from the Society of Professional Journalists, Inland Press Association, National Press Photographers Association, American Copy Editors Society, Iowa Associated Press Managing Editors and Iowa Newspaper Association. Our double-truck wrap-around front page from June 13, 2008, is shown below. The Society of Business Editors and Writers, Ryerson Journalism Alumni Association, Mid-America Press Institute, Iowa High School Press Association, Northern Illinois Newspaper Association, Iowa Newspaper Association and American Copy Editors Society asked for presentations on our digital coverage of the disaster. As editor, I wrote a weekly column and occasional live chats and produced a multimedia story about the discovery of a home movie of a historic moment during World War II. I later became the C3 Coach, leading innovation efforts in pursuit of the Complete Community Connection, my vision for a new business model for media companies. I have been an industry leader in the use of digital techniques such as Twitter and liveblogging and led webinars on both those topics as part of the American Society of News Editors virtual convention. Editor & Publisher magazine named me its Editor of the Year in 2010.
American Press Institute, Reston, VA, 2005-2008, with continuing affiliation
I was a leader in the Newspaper Next innovation project, teaching the principles and tools of innovation in 11 seminars for newspaper companies, 37 conferences, two regional workshops, the Bureau of Justice Statistics and more than a dozen API seminars in 33 states, four Canadian provinces, Mexico, Japan, Germany and Ecuador. I researched and wrote Be the Answer: Using interactive databases to provide answers and generate revenue, a Newspaper Next report, and led a workshop on interactive databases. I received two grants for separate series of ethics seminars, Our Readers Are Watching (2005-2008), and Upholding and Updating Ethical Standards (2008-present). I presented ethics seminars for more than two dozen newsrooms, associations and universities. I delivered training programs in leadership, project management, writing, copy editing and multimedia storytelling and coordinated other programs for more than 100 clients. I was the moderator for nine 2006-8 API seminars and have been a discussion leader for five API seminars since I left. I wrote the eTuner quarterly critique for Freedom Newspapers. I coordinated annual evaluations for 40-plus newspapers and contest judging for three organizations. I led sessions on “Transforming for Innovation” for the fall 2007 Learning Newsroom workshops.
Omaha World-Herald, Omaha, Neb., 2000-2005
I spent five years as the World-Herald’s National Correspondent and Writing Coach. I covered sexual abuse by Catholic priests and Boys Town staff, failures of Nebraska’s child welfare system, bullying in schools, resettlement of Lost Boys of Sudan, forced marriages of under-age girls in Omaha Sudanese community, domestic violence, the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Center for Afghanistan Studies, illegal immigration and the 9/11 attack, aftermath and anniversary. I directed newsroom training programs, led writing workshops and coached individual reporters. I oversaw the “Reality Checks” audit of World-Herald content and studied and reported on diversity issues for the executive editor. Few of my best stories remain online, except my 1997 story about the rescue of twin girls who nearly froze to death.
Des Moines Register, Des Moines, Iowa, 1998-2000
I spent two years as Religion Editor/Writing Coach at the Des Moines Register. I covered issues and events including Pope John Paul II’s 1999 visit to St. Louis, marketing of churches, divisions within Catholicism, conflicts over homosexuality and a 2000 mission trip to Venezuela. I led writing workshops for newsroom and coached individual reporters.
Omaha World-Herald, 1993-1998
This was the first of my two five-year hitches at the Omaha World-Herald. I was a Staff Writer, covering such issues as the environment, agriculture, rape, school desegregation, domestic violence, the Lawrence Phillips domestic violence case, flooding, sexual abuse by a priest, murders, racial disparities and health insurance.
Minot Daily News, Minot, N.D., 1991-1992
As Editor of the Minot Daily News, I supervised the news staff of 24. I oversaw our conversion from evening to morning publication. I wrote a weekly column, chaired the editorial board and wrote editorials and occasional enterprise stories. I led the staff to its best performance ever in the North Dakota Newspaper Association excellence awards.
I held multiple jobs during six-plus years in Kansas City: Agri-Business Writer, Assistant Managing Editor/National and Mid-America, National/Mid-America Editor, Assistant National/Mid-America Editor. I supervised a national and regional news staff of 24 writers and editors, including bureaus in Washington, Topeka, Jefferson City, St. Louis, Springfield, St. Joseph, Lawrence and Wichita. I directed coverage of 1988 presidential election. I directed the 1990 merger of the Star and Times national and regional staffs. As a reporter, I covered agriculture and agri-business.
Des Moines Register, 1977-1985
I held several positions in my first hitch at the Register: Staff Writer, Launch Editor for Hometown regional section, Deputy Metro/Iowa Editor, Chief Assistant City Editor, Assistant City Editor, Copy Editor. I supervised coverage of the 1984 Iowa caucuses. I supervised a reporting staff of more than 30 during merger of Register and Tribune staffs. I started the metro/Iowa copy desk.
Evening Sentinel, Shenandoah, Iowa, 1971-72, 1975, 1976-77
I started my career at the Sentinel when I was a senior in high school. I returned for an internship and upon graduation from college. In my various hitches there, I served as Managing Editor, Editorial Page Editor, Staff Writer, Intern, Sports Editor and Sports Writer.
I am a 1972 graduate of Shenandoah High School in Shenandoah, Iowa.
I attended Texas Christian University on a National Merit Scholarship, graduating in 1976 with a double major in history and journalism. In 2010, I was inducted into the Hall of Excellence of TCU’s Schieffer School of Journalism.
I took courses in website design, publication design and creative writing in the 1990s at Creighton University.
My professional education has included 11 National Writers Workshops, three Nieman Narrative conferences, seven newsroom trainers conferences, two Religion Newswriters Association conferences, Poynter’s Big Ideas seminar, the American Press Institute’s Train the Trainers seminar and seminars or conferences of the American Society for Training and Development, Investigative Reporters and Editors and Freedom Forum.