Posts tagged engagement
Posts tagged engagement
Like finding a “lucky charm,” I zeroed in on this lovely metaphor in the wonderful “News, Improved” (required reading for anyone interested in staying excited about their journalism job … and transforming their newsrooms).
The quote is from Dana Robbins, editor of the The Hamilton Spectator (Ontario, Canada), which has pulled off some creative “Revolutions” over the years:
Training is like pixie dust. It makes magic happen. [emphasis mine]
It took us 18 months to gear up for the launch of Revolution 1. Revolution 2 we did in less than three. A huge part of that was the function of the training, development and cultural work we did in between.
Any news organization that believes it can move forward without investing in the development of its staff is kidding itself. In fact, there has probably never been a time when it has been more absolutely crucial to grow the capacity of the people in our newsrooms. (p. 98)
How best to transform our newsroom from “a static, defensive organization to a nimble, constructive one?”
The authors of “News, Improved” summarize quite nicely:
Lead and communicate. Set goals and measure progress. Improve culture. Involve staff. Make the news more readable, useful, convenient, relevant. Train. Teach. Learn. Innovate. And then train some more. Repeat continuously. (p. 111)
This is why I added “engagement” to my “social media editor” job title. My mission is best summed up in the “About Me” section of this blog:
I want to help our newsroom innovate and engage with our communities, creating more imaginative and useful journalism. I’m convinced these missions go hand-in-hand: Creativity is spurred by social collisions and learning opportunities, real and digital. That means more and better sharing, coaching, training … and partying. If individual journalists are growing and having fun, the journalism should reflect that.
I never realized how I’ve *always* been an “engagement editor.” That’s me as a senior at George Mason University in 1999, marketing the student newspaper. Read on for details.
This week, I learned one of my favorite bands — Orbital — had reunited, released a new album (“Wonky” … listen here) and have announced UK and US tour dates. Yippee!
This electronica act has filled my playlists since college, powering me on the treadmill with a bunch of songs (especially “One Perfect Sunrise”), leading to a 50-pound weight loss in ‘09.
But I first fell in love with these brothers with one song: Halcyon + On + On. I was a freshman at George Mason University near Washington, D.C., when I first heard it in 1995. Nevermind that it was on the Mortal Kombat soundtrack.
This week’s Orbital album news (and my immediate YouTube and iTunes searches for their songs), must have shaken up my college memory neurons, because I started digging up dusty memento boxes.
Inside, I found a bunch of photos from my years editing GMU’s student newspaper, Broadside. There are so many memories to share — some touching, some hilarious, many embarrassing — but two are especially relevant to my work now.
1. During my early years as a junior editor/creator of the paper’s humor page called Etcetera, I was honored by two awards from the editor in chief (at the same time): Most Likely to Be Censored … and Most Likely to Make Deadline. If I remember correctly, some (fairly tame) jokes about the campus radio station got us in hot water. My dueling tendencies to be organized and detail-oriented — while also pushing the limit — haven’t changed much.
2. I never realized how I’ve *always* been an “engagement editor.” That’s me in the photo above with the likeness of Alan Merten, GMU’s longtime president who retired just this year. He started his term in 1996, during my freshman/sophomore year. One of the playful features I helped to create at Broadside was “Where’s Merten?” — a play on “Where’s Waldo.” Basically we would take a staff photo (most likely of something newsworthy that week, like when Chick-fil-A opened a restaurant on campus) — and photoshopped a little Merten head in the photo. It was a hit — I remember at least one faculty member requesting extra copies of the paper one week (but I don’t remember why). During Mason Week my senior year, the newspaper set up a table to advertise ourselves like we always had. Except I wanted it to be interactive. So we created a Merten mask and invited folks to pose with our Merten head. We took photos with a Polaroid and gave out the photos as take-away treats. It was marketing — it was one-on-one engagement — and more importantly, it was fun. *And* the whole project helped a 25,000+ campus of disconnected commuter students recognize the new president on the block. Public service, perhaps?
And for those of you who read this blog regularly: Guess where Merten earned his master’s degree in computer science? You guessed it: Stanford University.
I was really energized by Joy Mayer, Director of Community Outreach for the Columbia Missourian (and professor at Missouri School of Journalism). Her enthusiasm for serving readers is contagious. Here are my top take-aways from her June 28 Poynter/NewsU webinar.
1. Listen, don’t just talk. Turn content into conversations — and go find where people are already talking about the story you are writing. Join that conversation and share. Use social media not just to promote your content, but to eavesdrop. (I found this especially relevant in our Pinterest discussion yesterday. If we paid attention to what folks are repinning like crazy on Pinterest — how might that change our coverage? )
2. What do you read to stay informed? Why not share that with your readers on your blog and through your social channels?
3. Issue specific invites. Don’t just ask: What do you think? Try to craft a specific, thought-provoking question to advance the conversation. Instead of making general requests for reader photos, get specific about the photos you want. Inspired by this advice, we asked readers to submit photos of stars (in murals? street signs, etc.) to help celebrate July 4. We could have easily just asked, “Send photos from your July 4 celebrations,” which is a little too broad. Because of the power outages, we scrapped this project. But we will definitely trot this star idea back out in the future. Christmas, perhaps?
4. Try to identify the audience for your stories. Who, specifically, would find this useful? Not just “all of Southwest Virginia.” But maybe Roanoke taxpayers. Or Southwest Virginia parents.
How might this influence your storytelling choices? Some examples:
Handouts: When covering stories where many folks might show up to public meetings (and are captive audience), why not create a fact sheet to distribute, to help keep the debate fact-based? Low cost, high engagement. Missourian also did this with “How to talk to you children about 9/11,” targeting parents with handouts at libraries, daycare centers, etc.
Surveys: When covering an election with many issues at stake, why not create an online survey for readers, to see what most care about?
5. To measure engagement success, look at the ratios. For example, of the total people who viewed your blog post, how many commented? Or filled out a survey? For crowdsourced photo galleries, how many were submitted, versus staff-created?
Finally found the helmet I wanted for my Breaking News to the Maximus: Mobile Gladiator Workshop. Can’t decide if I’ll keep it at my desk for inspiration … or if I’ll start a pass-along award in our newsroom. Should it be for kick-ass mobile reporting? Or excellent breaking news reporting? Or inspiring leadership in breaking news? Hmmmm.
I’ve found some inspiration as I continue to mull a career in adjunct teaching … now I’ll be following Joy Mayer, who is teaching participatory journalism while also working for a newspaper as the director of community outreach.
From her blog:
“My regular job is as an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism, where I teach a number of topics including Participatory Journalism, Multimedia Planning and Design, and News Design. I’m also an editor at the Columbia Missourian, the community newspaper run by faculty and staffed by our awesome students. My focus at the newspaper is community outreach and engagement.”
Michele McLellan of the Knight Digital Media Center (and co-author of “News, Improved”) has really inspired me through the years … this March 2012 battle cry, especially: Training: A change agent for news organizations.
I stumbled onto it just as I returned freshly energized from SXSW, with big plans to engage the newsroom with more training. Her post helped seal the deal. I hope you find it just as inspiring (and she shares 10 tips for creating a goals-focused newsroom learning program).
Here’s one of my favorite excerpts:
“In ‘News, Improved,’ Tim Porter and I wrote: ‘The news industry trains people as badly as a fast-food diet nourishes them. Training is episodic rather than continuous. Random, rather than strategic. Long on talk. Short on measurable impact. Not exactly the kind of well-balanced learning diet” required to build and maintain an adaptive organization. By strategic training, we mean programs that are developed based on specific organizational goals that are clearly and consistently articulated by the leadership and understood by the staff.’ “
Now I have another book to add to the must-read list!