about this sitesee Meranda's resumesee clips and work sampleskeep in touch

Archive for January, 2008

Starting a “personal” Web site: Just do it

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

I posted a discussion at the Get wired, get hired group at Wired Journalists in reference to today’s Ask the Recruiter question.

Basically, a 20-something reporter is building his new media arsenal and wants to create a “personal” professional Web site. He’s worried, however, about how this would be received by his bosses.

Joe Grimm’s advice in nutshell? Sometimes, it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission. But tread lightly.

I started Meranda Writes at the perfect time, I suppose. I was the editor of the student newspaper. There weren’t really any “bosses” to fret about. (Though I did get a lecture from the adviser about being careful not to talk about my sources. Duh.) But the truth is, I wanted my potential bosses to see the site to get a feel for who I was and what I was capable of doing. When I sent out resumes, under my contact information was the URL. When I e-mailed cover letters, I pointed editors to the site for more clips.

When I came to my current job, nobody told me of any policies regarding personal Web sites or blogs. I read the employee handbook and didn’t see anything even remotely pertinent. I spent the first week or so wondering how to bring it up to ease my conscience, even though I was 99 percent sure they had — at least someone? — come across it before hiring me. We soon had a newsroom ethics training session, but blogs didn’t come up. So I talked to the executive editor about it and discussed what’s cool and not cool to post. I don’t think she cared nearly as much as I did, but it was important to me that I have at least some quasi-go-ahead to continue. (In truth, I think my site was a part of the package deal they got when they hired me.)

I don’t know what would have happened if they’d stumbled on the site without warning. Nothing, I suppose. I would have been hiding in plain sight, a Google search away from “discovery.” Though I sometimes reference projects we’ve completed or stories I’m particularly proud of, it’s not like I blog about the latest office or town gossip. I don’t vent about my co-workers, bosses or beat. I like my job so I don’t really have much reason to do so.

I don’t know for certain, but from my site stats, I don’t believe my bosses or co-workers are active readers. They hear enough of me buzzing about Twitter and Facebook in real life they probably don’t want to read about it, too. My blog is actually the punchline to an on-going local staff joke. The imagined blog is much funnier than the one I actually keep. Either way, this site is not a secret. I have always been conscious of the fact that what I write is archived by Google and as available to my co-workers and sources as to anyone else.

I’ve actually fielded this question — “What was the boss’s reaction to your site?” — from at least a half-dozen other reporters who e-mailed me after stumbling on Meranda Writes. They all wanted to start their own sites but fear of reprisal held them back. Some of them did go on to create sites. Some never may.

My advice is the same as what Joe Grimm is handing out: proceed with caution, tell your bosses about it later. Personally? I wouldn’t want to work for an organization that didn’t see the value in having “wired” employees interested in extending their new media skills. Fortunately, I don’t.

Fire news spreads faster than ever

Friday, January 25th, 2008

The Monte Carlo Casino on the Las Vegas strip is on fire. For that news, the Las Vegas Sun has got you covered.

las vegas sun monte carlo fire
and an update
las vegas sun 2

Here in Indiana, thousands of miles away, I might have caught this news blip on tonight’s news. (Except I only watch when I’m at work, and I’m off today.) If I was a 24-hour-TV-news junkie, which I used to be and am still recovering from, I may have caught it on CNN. (But my TV’s in my living room down the hall collecting dust. No, really, it’s been about a month since I turned it on.)

I learned, instead, via Twitter. It was also the way I heard about the recent market turmoil and the death of Heath Ledger.

I know I’ve been writing a lot about Twitter of late. But that’s because it’s become increasingly part of my daily routine. Where once Facebook was a dominant force for keeping in touch and updated, these days I find myself updating and reading Twitter instead. (To be fair, my Twitter status is fed to Facebook.) And I find it far more useful and helpful for me.

On a related side note, I love the Las Vegas Sun’s approach to the story. They’re updating the blog with new info. But I like the approach on the front of the site. It’s bullet by bullet what you want to know. No B.S. no he said, she said. Just what is going on, what has already happened, who is affected, and where to get more information. Nice and concise.

ABJ’s got your Ohio politics news covered

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

The Akron Beacon Journal has launched a new blog/politics site to cover the 2008 campaign in the swing state that decided the ’04 election. But it’s not just presidents, it’s local issues and candidates and more.

ABJ new ohio politics site
(The big white space is an ad that’s blocked on my computer, not a flaw in their design.)

From their announcement story:

Today, Ohio.com will launch politics.ohio.com, a new site dedicated to getting the scoop on the issues that affect the average voter. It will scour other newspapers’ Web sites and provide links to stories to help voters make informed decisions on topics and candidates.

But it won’t stop there. Political junkies also will find the details they crave such as links to Ohio government sites, including the governor’s office, the House and Senate and the Ohio Supreme Court. Voters will be able to find links to election sites at all of Ohio’s 88 counties, as well as the Ohio Secretary of State’s office and links to each presidential candidate’s official Web site.

Take a look: politics.ohio.com.

Following locals on Twitter

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

I just saw a tweet from a follower on Twitter worth sharing with you. Note, this guy is a member of my community. I do not know him, but he randomly found my twitter a week ago and started following me so I started following him to see if there’s anything interesting.

His comment tonight? (I’d link, but they’re protected.)

“interesting spin to twitter when you follow local people.”

My reply? Agreed.

One day, I happened into a coffee shop while reporting a story and ran into a person I’d never met but who I knew from Twitter.

In fact, I just watched another local person micro-blog a focus group that I helped set up for my paper. I didn’t know he was part of the group until I saw the first post and put 2+2 together.

It’s very weird to follow a focus group that I’ll get a full report on later from the eyes, or hands I suppose, of a participant. Here’s his wrap-up/summation of what came from the group of college kids:

focus group done. I would say college students want: 1. local, local, local 2. simple 3. wiki calendar of local events 4. to kill flash ads

I’m not surprised by that, and wish the summary I get would be so concise.

My question to you: Who at your organization is watching the tweets of your citizens? Who are your citizens following?

I think I may seek out a few more locals to follow because it’s definitely interesting.

QOTD: A single question can be more influential than a thousand statements

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

“A single question can be more influential than a thousand statements.”
— Bo Bennett

Are you wired? Do you want to be?

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

I’m not sure how many of my readers are not already part of the Wired Journalists group Ryan Sholin (et al) has launched. But if you’re not, you should be. Here’s his post introducing it on his blog.

Basically, the premise works off of Howard Owens’ challenge to non-wired journalists to, well, get wired. I blogged about it last month.

Here’s part of the group’s mission statement:

WiredJournalists.com was created with self-motivated, eager-to-learn reporters, editors, executives, students and faculty in mind.

Our goal is to help journalists who have few resources on hand other than their own desire to make a difference and help journalism grow into its new 21st Century role.

You don’t need the best equipment, the biggest budget or even management support to accomplish worthy goals. The only requirement is a willingness to learn and a mind open to new ways of thinking about journalism.

We are here to help each other learn basic skills and learn how new technology and new societal expectations for media are changing journalism.

This is something I can, and am, getting behind. It’s incredibly important that journalists — my superiors, my contemporaries and my future successors, those kids already coming up behind me — understand how this stuff works and how it can work to make them better at their job and at reaching their audience.

So join us.

Micro-blog political reporting gets NYT nod

Monday, January 21st, 2008

Did anyone else catch that Twitter went mainstream today? Kind of.

Though I’m still defending myself from the Twitter jabs my peers pour on — even the most tech-savvy of them doesn’t “get it” — The New York Times, thankfully, does.

The NYTs’ fourth most e-mailed technology story of the moment is this gem, Campaign Reporting in Under 140 Taps.

It’s a look at several political reporters micro-blogging the presidential campaigns through Twitter and the like. Nothing particularly enlightening, though a few comic anecdotes.

As Mr. Knox makes clear, news has always come in different sizes. Despite the new gadgetry, these journalists are actually rediscovering telegraphese — the clipped (ideally witty) style that flourished because of word limits imposed by an earlier technology, the telegraph. Today, it is the limits imposed by text-messaging.

“It’s a sign of just how impatient this generation is,” Ms. Cox said. “I don’t have to open up a computer, and it’s no more than 140 characters.” …

To Josh Tyrangiel, the managing editor of Time.com, “the business thinking is the same as almost all of my business thinking: Why not?” The more exposure to Time.com’s material, the better, and no one can afford to be choosy about the setting. So Ms. Cox also has a Flickr feed for her photographs from the campaign trail that Mr. Tyrangiel is happy to promote. Ultimately, he said, it is a hopeless fight.

“If you tell people how to consume their content, they will ignore you,” he said, a truism that experience had taught new-media executives. “Let people do what they want to do and try to be in their circle of choice.”

Why it matters though is, and I have no idea where this ran in print or if it did, this will get Twitter before a mass audience of people who may not even be as tech-savvy as my peers who tell me “Twitter just sounds like a dirty word” or joke when I ask if they read an interesting story about whether I saw it on Twitter.

I just laugh. Roll my eyes. Give them a plea to try it out. And then succumb to the inevitable “Dear blogger” jokes that aren’t far behind it. But they mean well, and one day they’ll get it, too. I’m not giving up on trying to win them over just yet.

BTW: You can follow me on Twitter here. My updates are protected, but I’ll add you. (Since it’s mostly personal observations, I want to know who’s reading.) They’re also fed to my Facebook status, where you can also add me by searching my name.