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Archive for October 4th, 2007

Letting the young’ns have our say

Thursday, October 4th, 2007

I read this post, Brain Drain, (via: Melissa Worden) and couldn’t resist throwing my own 2 cents into the conversation.

One of the passages in his post that really struck me was this: (emphasis mine)

He summed up the frustration of the twenty- and thirty-something professionals who grew up with a keyboard at their fingertips and an iPod, or at least a Walkman, plugged in their ears. They use modern media the way their generation does, not the way their fifty-something bosses wish they would.

But the young net natives, for the most part, rank too low in the organizations that employ them to be invited to the pivotal discussions determining the strategic initiatives that could help their employers sustain their franchises.

I have to admit, I have sat in on more than one conversation where people discussed an idea that there is no way in hell would float with my peers. How do I know? Because like those peers, *I* am attached to my iPod, digital camera and cell phone on a 24/7 basis. (OK except in the shower or bed, but within reach of both should the need to text a friend or hear my favorite song strike me.) *I* am more comfortable going without food than the Internet, because I know skipping a meal won’t kill me, missing up-to-the-date information seems like it might. *I* barely remember a time before Google was a verb and IM was an acceptable form of conversation even with my parents. *I* have never subscribed to a print newspaper or paid for cable news, and yet *I* am never the last to know, because I have breaking news and Google alerts, RSS feeds, Twitter and Facebook newsfeed, among other things, keeping me in the loop both with what’s happening across the globe and also among my closest buds.

But here’s the thing: *I* was invited to those conversations.

I remember earlier this year when my M.E. came up to me and said he had an “opportunity” for me. Two things to note about this: First, the way he phrased it sounded like “opportunity” meant “more work.” Second, I had only been here about four months, and you can’t really tell your boss no. Right?

Luckily, it did turn out to be a great opportunity. He invited me, yes, me, the girl who six months earlier hadn’t yet earned a college diploma, to be part of the new product development group. Not only did it expose me to people working in other departments in the building, people I would never have encountered in my reporting role, but it also exposed me to the types of new products and audiences we’re working to develop. And knowing we’re actually being proactive makes me feel better about this company.

But more important — and I knew within 10 minutes of attending my first meeting — was why I was tapped for that “opportunity.” It was precisely because of my age and because I was quite literally the freshest college graduate employed there. They WANTED that voice at the table. And though I by no means claim to represent an entire generation of professional individuals, I could at least attest to my own Gen-Y experiences.

So far we’ve gotten a few products off the ground, none I’ve worked closely on — except the high school micro-site which wasn’t through NPD — but some I’ve gotten to bounce feedback and ideas into. More are on their way. And more important, some things that sounded like a good idea but wouldn’t stand a chance were left on the cutting room floor after I reasoned with them.

That said, this isn’t a fairy tale I’m living. And for the successes I’ve watched, I’ve also seen and been disappointed. I’ve seen our own best intentions get in the way of what could be really cool. And no specifics, but I will say I’m still not happy that my own Web skills are so underutilized on a day-to-day basis. It’s probably my biggest complaint about the job I otherwise love.

I’ve often caught myself longing to do more online but for lack of time and resources, what can I do? I pitched the idea of an education blog after reading Mindy’s post about staff journalists blogging. I love the idea of getting more community conversation going with the parents and schools and to hit on some national stories I’ll never write about but would love to get people discussing as well as some of those fall-through-the-crack things that don’t really fit anywhere else. Albeit I didn’t press too hard, the response was basically that I have more than enough on my plate already, which to be fair is definitely true. But it begs the question, are the right things on the right plate?

Which goes back to the original point of the article. Is the best use of my talents at this point as a reporter covering school assemblies and school board meetings with a few in-depth enterprise packages thrown in each week? Or am I squandering — or allowing to be squandered — the best years of my life, when I really should be able to experiment, take chances and occasionally even screw up, just because I have to pay my dues to get to the point where I can do those things?

I don’t have an answer for this. I feel silly every time someone looks to me for my opinion about the future of an idea. Because all I have at this point is an opinion based solely on my own life’s media interactions and my, as yet, limited journalism experience. All I have are my gut instincts and observations.

I am fortunate to be at a place where the editors do respect my ideas, and where my M.E. tolerates an awful lot of me complaining about problems with RSS feeds or quirks I noticed on the Web site. But I sometimes feel like, especially in my current position, I’m really just along for the ride at this point. Catching the waves as they come and trying to figure out how it all works when nobody else knows to teach me. I get the impression that’s how everyone feels right now. And those same people looking for my opinions, are also watching the way I crest the waves for tips of their own. That’s both exciting and scary, which I guess are the two words that best sum up the state of this industry right now.

Only a college paper could get away with it…

Thursday, October 4th, 2007

And perhaps it’s best to get it out of our system while we’re young. Err, when I was? lol.

The business reporter this morning was nice enough to point out this gem of a refer on the front of the Purdue Exponent (the student paper):

Exponent's 'shitty' headline

In case you missed it, the headline on the front page of the exponent reads: “City has issued no tickets for shitty ordinance.” (I downloaded the PDF so you can see where it ran. Look in the lower right corner.) The headline inside and online is a bit more tame, as is the story itself.

We all had a great laugh at it. I texted one of the editors over there to ask if this was on purpose or if someone was getting yelled at today. The reply? The boss OK’d it, and they decided to have some fun with it. She ended with, “I love college.”

I texted back, I miss college. And I guess it’s not so bad as the whole “F Bush!” fiasco, which ironically the editor I texted and I had just talked about this past weekend. At least it was a play on words appropriate to the story subject, and hey, it is college. Do it while you can. Because you won’t get away with that in “the real world.”

I am reminded of an instance at the Stater where I probably reacted a little too harshly to the use of the word WTF in a headline. In hindsight (a year’s time and 350+ miles distance from it), maybe it, too, was just a fun way to get the point across. And I suspect that headline, like this refer today, probably got a few more students to want to know what was so important that it broke the “no cursing unless absolutely necessary to get to the essence of the story/character” rule. I know once I got over laughing, I read the story.

I guess if the college newspaper is meant to prepare the next generation of journalists, maybe getting these things out of their system is part of that training.

UPDATE: fixed the PDF link. oops.