Posts Tagged ‘Jill Geisler’

This post starts a series for new top editors in Digital First Media newsrooms. Some of the advice might be good for veteran editors, too, and for editors in other companies. 

Listening should be one of an editor’s most important skills and priorities.

Editors needed to be good listeners when I started in the news business more than 40 years ago, when we were still melting lead to set type. Listening was essential when I first became editor of the Minot Daily News in 1992, when the digital revolution for newsrooms was just around the next bend. And it was even more important when I became editor of the Cedar Rapids Gazette in 2008, as social media was causing a second (or third; I think I’m losing track) digital revolution for newsrooms. It still remains one of an editor’s most important jobs, but we have some great listening tools that weren’t available before.

A good editor listens to the staff and to the community. You don’t necessarily follow all the advice you hear or act on all the complaints you hear (or bask in the praise), but you need to hear what the community and the staff are saying. You need to know what your staff thinks about your leadership and your decisions. You need to know what the community thinks of your content. You need to know what your staff is proud of and embarrassed of and concerned about. You need to know what your community is laughing at and angry about.

You don’t just need to know what the community is saying about you and your news products, though. You need to know what people are saying about the news and community affairs. Has a story that’s hot in the coffee shops and Facebook discussions escaped your staff’s notice because it doesn’t fit in your beat structure (or because someone is not covering a beat well)? Is your community confused about an issue you are reporting or should be reporting? Has the community grown tired of an issue? You should know. (more…)

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A Poynter column by Jill Geisler and a blog post by a George Mason University journalism student reminded me of a blog post I wrote more than seven years ago.

I strongly recommend reading Jill’s Don’t wait to thank someone great, in which she tells how Andy Potos and Jim Naughton shaped her career and why she is glad she expressed her gratitude before last August, when Naughton died and Potos suffered a brain injury.

I looked for some key quotes to use from Jill’s piece, but decided just to encourage you to read it. The best lines come near the end and they’ll have more power if you read them in context.

Then a blog post about a new webcast, Late Night Patriot, gave me some unexpected credit. I spoke almost a year ago to Steve Klein’s classes at George Mason and something I said helped prod Jake McLernon to work on his webcast idea. In a blog post by another Mason student, Ryan Weisser, Jake, also known as “Jolly J,” credited me:

“Buttry telling us that if you have an idea, you’ve got to work with it, just motivated me to start something new,” said McLernon, a senior majoring in communication from Herndon, Va.

I was pleased that I was able to give Jake a push. We don’t always hear from the people we are able to help with advice, motivation or instruction. I thanked Jake in a tweet and he responded.

Jill’s post and the exchange with Jolly J brought to mind a blog post I wrote when I was writing a blog about newsroom training for the American Press Institute. Since those posts are no longer available at API’s site, I’ve been trying to rebuild the Training Tracks archive. So here’s my post, originally published July 15, 2005, about thanking mentors:

Many years ago, I spent some time covering agriculture. I remember quite a few farmers getting eloquent and a bit emotional talking about the satisfaction they felt in watching the seeds they planted in the spring grow into a mature crop.

Trainers, writing coaches, editors and other newsroom mentors sometimes don’t get that kind of satisfaction. Some of the seeds we plant blossom elsewhere. Or we move on before they do. Or we didn’t even notice where they took root. We may never see or learn what became of our advice or example. Life gets busy for us and the people we help and they or we forget to stay in touch. (more…)

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This is a longer version of my Monday column in The Gazette:

People approach change in a fascinating variety of ways.

Some of us spend much of our lives trying to change the world. Some eagerly adopt the newest tools, techniques and toys. Some change reluctantly but resolutely because they know they have to. Some lie low when change is afoot, hoping if they are silent change will bypass them. Some loudly defy or even mock change without so much as bothering to understand it.

I find myself at varying times in the first three categories. Occasionally my heart wants to lie low and avoid the change, but my head recognizes that as folly and always wins that argument. I think and hope I avoid blustery defiance because it looks and sounds so silly.

In my life of watching change and reactions to it, I can’t recall a trend that has flipped the loud defiance switch as often as Twitter.

I blame this partly on the name. It’s a silly name that has spawned an endless string of silly related names – tweeps (the people who follow you), tweets (your updates), retweeting (passing along another person’s tweet) and so on.

Jill Geisler of  the Poynter Institute, thinks journalists would have responded more readily “if Twitter had been born with some heftier moniker – you know, like ‘teletype’ or ‘wireservice,’ and tweets were called ‘toplines.’”

I like the name and I like the discomfort it gives people. That’s because I love watching human nature at work and Twitter brings out some fascinating wrinkles of behavior. When I write about Twitter on this blog, I frequently receive comments from people saying my staff should stop “wasting time” on Twitter and do some real reporting.

My father (probably parroting one of his parents) used to tell me that it was better to sit there looking stupid than to open my mouth and remove all doubt. You could take that advice wrong and think you should never speak up. But Dad was not a quiet man himself and encouraged me to speak up when I had something to say. But his point was that when you don’t know what you’re talking about, be quiet and learn, rather than saying something stupid.

Those people who say Twitter is a waste of time haven’t bothered to learn how quickly you can use it or how it can save you time.

A Canadian journalist, Corey Larocque of the Niagara Falls Review, wrote dismissively last week about Twitter, calling it the “flavour of the month.” (You can tell which side of the Falls he writes on by how he spells flavor.)

I’ll give Larocque credit. He did some secondary research on Twitter before he wrote. He found me online and cited some of the reasons I say journalists will find Twitter useful. (Because he dropped my name, a Google news alert called the column to my attention.)

But Larocque didn’t actually gain any valid firsthand experience with Twitter. He went further than some Twitter critics do, creating a profile (though he didn’t even identify himself as a journalist or post a photo of himself) and tweeting a couple times (noting in the first that the novelty had already worn off). That’s it – two tweets and he followed 11 people. Time to open his keyboard and remove all doubt.

The Center for Media Research last week sent out a “research brief” with the headline “Twitter Just A Blip So Far.” The brief went on to cite a Harris Poll saying that “only” 5 percent of Americans are using Twitter. The brief could just as easily have noted that 15 million Americans use Twitter – more than double the combined print circulation of the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times combined.

Here’s how fast Twitter can bring you the news (from a Rafe Needleman blog that I linked to from Twitter, of course): In the Twitter offices in San Francisco on March 30, engineers noticed the word “earthquake” trending up in tweets. Seconds later their building started to shake. The earthquake was 60 miles away in Morgan Hill and Twitter spread the news faster than the tremor itself could travel.

I don’t care how silly the name is. I want a chance to have the news — and spread the news — that fast.

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