It was about a year that I was boarding my plane headed back to the West Coast, recharged and inspired by SXSW12.
By the time I landed, I had coded and launched this new project.
Man, what a difference a year makes.
Frustrated (and starting to get desperate) with finding partners to collaborate/experiment with, I figured I should put off the inevitable and teach myself code. I know I wouldn’t be the best coder — like I’m not the best audio storytelling or photographer — but I respected the craft and know its power.
I had been director of development for seattletimes.com where we designed and built cool shit, which was ahead of its time… and now feels… so… quaint.
In my quest for dev skills, I tried a variety of different non-journalism, code classes… from video to web-based tutorials. I, as ONA pre-conference and NAHJ conference coordinator, recruited friends and colleagues to craft custom journalism focused all-day coding workshops.
I even offered a (nearly free) all-day, intro to Python bootcamp at USC Annenberg thanks to the awesome PyLadies.
For the record, while this benefited the community as a whole, I was doing it for me. And none of it worked… for me.
Yes, it’s a loooooong name. My partner-in-crime Kim Bui openly hates it. I know.
But it comes from a series of projects I’ve hung around the domain journalismwith.me.
Anyway, the idea was a simple one and the reaction to it was overwhelming. I was clearly on to something… and I wasn’t the only one trying to solve this.
Cindy Royal of Texas State University was trying to build a curriculum, Dave Stanton (who was joining two other friends and myself in launching a cooperative consulting firm) had expressed interest and I’m sure others were trying to grapple with this issue.
But, again, what a difference a year makes.
As I wait for my plane to take me back to the City of Angels still recovering from SXSW13, the landscape for this has completely changed.
Second is For Journalism, the successfully-funded kickstarter from Stanton, which will create journalism-focused coding tutorials.
Outside giving money to For Journalism and being a cross-country supporter of Code with me, I had nothing to do with their launches.
Even if their project names sound familiar, as people have point out … to be fair, my loooong title clearly had all the right words required for any successful coding for journalism project aimed to empower the community.
For my little project that is reaching its year anniversary, I didn’t have the bandwidth to make tshirts to use crowd funding.
It was just me.
Actually, it’s not just me anymore.
It’s me and my amazing cohort of determined classmates-turned-friends that still meet every Monday at 3PM PT via Google+ Hangouts since April of last year.
We’ve abandoned Code Year and have been developing our own journalism-based, project-focused coding lessons. We’re teaching each other code and hoping to share what we learn with others.
I asked people to share their story behind their Twitter avatar. Why did they select that particular image and how does it affect your “brand” at all. This was in connection to tonight’s #wjchat on branding.
@talkJournalism or #tjwm hopes to be an entertaining and insightful look into the minds of some of the country’s leading journalism thinkers/doers. The informal ‘show’ is held through a Google+ Hangout and broadcasted out using UStream.
Here’s the first episode… you will notice it’s a work in progress… it did not pick up my audio for some reason.
There *will* be another episode. Trying to align the schedules of the next panel.
I’m not sure how I heard this, but the story –false or not – stuck in my head when I was beginning my journalism career.
The story allegedly goes that a young Herb Caen, who later became the legendary San Francisco Chronicle columnist, walked into a newsroom and asked for a job.
The clerk asked Caen if he knew how to type.
Caen said no… but was hired anyway.
Whether this actually happened or not, getting a journalism job these days is a bit more challenging. When I started, aspiring journalists needed to have one, big internship to get closer to landing your first job. Now, you need three or more… or, you start your own publication.
As a flood of new journalists graduate from J-School, I asked people to share their experiences in landing their first, paying journalism job and what advice they have to offer newbies getting into this great calling.
The crowdsourcing led to dozens and dozens of responses, the majority anonymous due to an early decision I made on the Google form. You can see the unedited results here and read a collection of first jobs and earlier tips here. I did my best to try to break down the diverse responses into digestible takeaways.
What are the top three skills you think journalists need to get a job now?
Traditional skills dominated the list. A strong foundation on the basics like writing, reporting, ethics, news judgement… and a few mentioned AP Style.
“Don’t think your social media expertise or wildly-popular Hipstamatic photos will get you anywhere; AP style, strong English as both a writer and editor, research and fact-checking skills, and news judgment will make you stand out (you’d be surprised how many people doze through reporting 101 and 202 in favor of their multimedia courses, or what-have-you),” said one participant.
But of course, a close second is having basic technical knowledge. Know the tech, but more importantly know how to use it to tell a good story.
Attitude and work ethic is a quality that stands out.
“Everyone is doing more with less these days, you’ll be expected to work hard and fast and to do so with little hand-holding. You need to show a positive, enterprising, tenacious and competitive attitude.”
Another participant said: “Proving you’re willing to take on what nobody else wants to, and doing it well. (You don’t have to like it, but don’t complain.)”
These suggestions also stood out:
“Don’t just be a reporter or just a copy editor. Take some photos. Blog. Tweet. Blah, blah, blah. But, also, read the news. (It’s shocking how many young journalists I know can talk endlessly about the latest tools but aren’t caught up on what’s happening in the world.)”
“Bullshitting abilities (resume, website, etc — fake it ’til you make it)”
“You have no idea how much patience you’ll need for this job, it really is a skill that not a lot of people have.”
Without a doubt, responders overwhelmingly said it’s all about who you know when you are trying to land your first – and future – jobs.
“Know the right people – networking is huge. Go to job fairs and journalism conferences, make appointments to see editors or reporters anytime you go on vacation, ask friends to introduce you, and keep in touch when you meet someone,” said a participant. “I once met an LA Times editor sitting next to me at the theater, I got an internship after keeping in touch even after I was rejected once, I got another internship by sitting in the lobby from 9 am to 2 pm asking to see the editor.”
Here are some networking tips from one participant:
You have to pursue opportunities to talk to people who do the work you want to do.
-Reach out to them on Twitter, look at who follows them and whom they follow and educate yourself about the subjects they discuss with colleagues in their tweets.
-Attend their public lectures and presentations, comment on their blogs and attend conferences they attend.
-Participate in chats they participate in
-Read blogs that address topics in your desired niche.
I can’t echo this enough. From visiting newsrooms to cyberstalking people, do what you can – within reason – to meet people in real life and stand out from the pile of resumes. Use your network.
That said, this journalist had a different take on networking.
“Knowing people. ‘Networking’ is for shills. But seek out people whom you admire and they will think you are so smart for recognizing their brilliance that they’ll want to hire you or help you out. People in our industry are vain.”
Another theme was to apply widely and have a thick skin.
“To get a job, apply to lots of news outlets, not just your dream workplace. Start small and work your way up from there,” said a participant.
And, perhaps most importantly, once you get your foot in the door, you have to have the skills you keep that job.
Other great tips:
“Know the territory. Don’t go into a job interview without doing research on the town/state/station/newspaper. The more you know the better off you will be. Don’t be cocky, be genuine.”
“Recommendations from people who have been blown away by your portfolio — and can testify that you did it yourself.”
“A willingness to question and push traditional journalism practices while still being willing to work your way up and learn from veteran journalist.”
“Know also that being a journalist means you NEVER stop learning. You need to always know a little something about everything to be at the top of your game. Even the best journalists still take some kind of classes or seminars to build their skills constantly.”
“Editors and other journos can tell a sharp blade from a dull one, and keeping your edge keen is what will get you your start and keep you employed.”
Give a one-word tip to aspiring journos trying to land a gig.
It’s been more than a month since a 9.0 magnitude earthquake rocked Japan, triggering a massive tsunami, the combination of which have killed thousands. And while the country is slowing putting itself together, under the looming dangers of a potential nuclear disaster, there are many organizations — and individuals — coming together to help in any way they can.
For this week’s post, I chatted with Our Man in Abiko, an international man of mystery behind #Quakebook, a crowdsourced project to help those affected by the devastation.
NOTE: The Q&A was done through e-mail over a course of a couple of weeks.
First, for those who don’t know about it, can you describe what the #Quakebook is, how it came about and your role?
Quakebook is a twitter-sourced anthology of first-person accounts of the earthquake and immediate aftermath. It was conceived, written and ready to publish as a fully designed PDF book within a week. It has 89 contributions from “real” people as well as 4 from celebs solicited thru twitter – William Gibson, Yoko Ono, Barry Eisler and Jake Adelstein.
It is not a collection of tweets, but mostly one-page essays.
I thought of it in the shower Friday morning, March 18th thinking that wouldn’t it be great to do in words what mash-up videos can do on YouTube, especially @fatblueman’s Christmas in Japan video. Check it out, you’ll see what I mean. [The video: http://youtu.be/lmCrIZeob4w]
No-one has received a penny. We got Amazon to waive their fees so ALL revenue goes to the Red Cross. Pinch me, I’m dreaming.
Oh, my role? I’m cheerleader in chief, marshaller of the troops and getter arounder of problems. Don’t like titles!
Talk about the “real” people that contributed to the collection. Have you ever met them? What journalism skills did you apply in collecting their stories?
The real people started with whoever sent me email from around the world, supplemented by my neighbours, my wife and mother-in-law and also I got my wife to chase down eyewitness accounts from devastated areas through blogs.
The celebs we picked up along the way. The highly unscientific approach has somehow created a snapshot of many disparate elements of the disaster.
I kept in anything that was sent and was not a rant or shopping list. (There were only two like this).
What is your ideal goal you hope to achieve with this book?
I want it to raise oodles and noodles of cash for the Red Cross, but beyond that, I want it to serve as s valuable historical record to answer the question: what happened at 2:46 on March 11, much like John Hersey’s “Hiroshima” answers What happened on Aug. 6, 1945.
What has been the best part of this project?
The therapy of writing and sharing what we have written; seeing the whole project becoming stronger than its constituent parts.
What has surprised you about the process? What’s been the highlight?
How the weekend stops dead any progress with the traditional publishing industry, while the reverse is true of us amateurs. The highlight? Seeing a tweet from someone that they had downloaded the book, and cried. I then did the same and got teary eyed too.
What do you think about those reluctant to use crowdsourcing in storytelling, particularly in journalism. Any advice to them?
Trust people to deliver, and they will. If you get sidetracked by someone with their own agenda, or who doesn’t get the point of the project, don’t waste your time, find someone who does. Behave morally and you will quickly attract the right kind to whatever your project is, if it has merit.
Can you tell me what you did prior to this project? What were you doing in Japan? Talk about Our Man In Abiko.
I’m a British self-employed English language teacher, 40. I’m a former local newspaper journalist. My wife is Japanese and we’ve been here since 2007. Got two kids. My favourite colour is red.
Our Man in Abiko began as a satirical blog on Japanese politics, became a persona to keep me sane.
Since the earthquake, I realised Our Man was needed to perform Churchillian tasks of rallying the dispirited to overcome our woes.
What is the backstory with Our Man in Abiko? What’s your name and what brought you to Japan?
Not saying. It’s not my story that’s interesting, it’s Japan’s.
Clearly the book is the focus, but “Our Man In Abiko” is a man of mystery. People are naturally going to ask, “who is this guy?” What can you tell them?
He likes Earl Grey tea, playing with his kids and world domination, you know, the usual.
[After more prodding]
OK, well, the Our Man persona began just as a joke on my blog, I took on the mantle of a redundant British agent sent to monitor the wilds of Tokyo commuterville… But then with the earthquake, suddenly the time for fun was long gone, but I realised I had a fictional character who could do great things. I could not muster the troops and build a resistance movement to the earthquake, but maybe Our Man in Abiko could.
Well, Our Man, congratulations on the success with this project. How and where can people find it?
For many that graduated college years ago, the fear that embraced them as the graduation date approached is, if lucky, a distant memory. But, as you know, there is a new wave of journalists about to join our industry… so, I’ve collected stories from journalists when starting out. Through a Google form, Twitter, email and comments, here’s the collection.
Responses via email: Juana Summers
First gig after college: Missouri statehouse intern for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
First full-time job: Politics reporter for a now-defunct Kansas City website
Now: I cover campaigns and elections for POLITICO
Best advice: You can’t make a first-impression twice, so get it right the first time. Whenever you’re in a professional setting, be it a conference, meetup or internship, treat it as a job interview. You never know who you’ll meet along the road that will play a huge role in your career trajectory going forward.
Also, never stop learning and don’t be afraid of change or to look for jobs in unexpected places. We all dreamed that we’d graduate and land a plum reporting gig at the New York Times (or, well, I did), but that’s just not reality. There’s great meaningful work to be done in lots of newsrooms – large and small – and in fantastic startups nationwide.
Responses via comments: Khadijah M. Britton
My first paid gig was actually when I was 15, writing a column for a biotech company’s internal newsletter. It took me, oh, ten years to land another gig that sweet! My first GROWN-UP paying job was writing for Healthcare Investment Digests (now OneMedPlace.com), though I’m pretty sure I was mostly being paid to establish relationships with companies so we could get their data. I couldn’t say anything negative about the companies. Getting paid has really been a corporate-world reality for me; I’ve never been paid to write anything I feel proud of as a writer. That’s the hard, cold truth, kids! :p
Now working at my first “real” job, a part-time reporter and online coordinator for Heritage Media, which is a chain of weekly papers near Ann Arbor, Mich. Took me a while to find one, but was lucky in finding it: the lead came from a response of a tweet I sent out. You never know where jobs may pop up, even in economically-challenged Michigan.
I guess to add to my initial Twitter comments, not everyone has to end up at a big-city metro to “make it” or “to grow.” I have learned a lot in my five years at the Yakima Herald-Republic and there’s still plenty of things to learn. Likewise you may have the skills to start out at a big-city metro. Or perhaps you thrive best by going from job to job. It depends on what works for you not on some formula or “right way.”
And in addition, newbies should go outside of the newsroom for professional development. I’ve learned so much from my involvement with organizations like AAJA and SPJ and through online venues such as #wjchat (an online journalism Twitter chat). With all that’s out there, I think one would be hard pressed to not grow wherever they’re at.
At age 16, I started as a sports stringer for The Frontiersman in Wasilla, Alaska, covering high school sports in the Matanuska Valley, while also playing some of those sports (including basketball, against you-know-who, who tells the world she was an aspiring sports reporter. While some people in Wasilla were supposedly dreaming of it, some of us were already doing it).
Some years later, out of J-school, I came back to The Frontiersman, under new management. At the time I was very disappointed in the assignments I was getting, because I got stuck with the Beauty Pageant beat for every podunk town and hamlet in the Valley (including you-know-who as a flute-playing competitor).
I couldn’t take the coming darkness of winter and the isolation of Alaska, after so many years in the light, so I took off for parts South, where I happened to land photojournalism jobs at various publications and newspapers in Northwest Arkansas. I often found myself shooting events with state notables, including the genial governor and his very ambitious and activist wife…
In the end, I had to leave there too, because Reagan deregulated media ownership rules and venerable newspapers all around me were merging or shutting down, laying off my colleagues by the thousands.
Center-spread double-truck photo essays and feature stories, my stock in trade, disappeared overnight with the cookie-cutter layouts and short stories of the USAToday template-driven approach to newspapering. I saw my best work being reduced from the size of dinner plates in the Daily Fishwrap to the size of postage stamps.
Plus, nothing would ever happen in podunk Alaska or Arkansas. Why would anyone want to stay there? ;-)
With no real emphasis on social media in my undergrad study I lucked into a part-time Social Media Strategist job with a journalism foundation. It took about 2 1/2 months to land something after my graduation in May 2010, but since then it’s evolved into a full-time position with more of an emphasis on multimedia production for some of the publications under our umbrella. If you would have asked me a year ago I could have never of guessed I’d be in such a position, but as the industry changes so must the industried.
First gig after college: Intern at the St. Petersburg Times
First full-time job: Reporter/News Technologist at the St. Petersburg Times
Now: I work on servers, blogs and help build interactive apps for a chain of papers at The New York Times Regional Media Group.
Best advice: They won’t hire you if you have the same skills as everyone else. I differentiated myself by attempting to learn more about building online projects. That doesn’t mean “Hey I can shoot video and record audio.” Everyone has those skills. Not everyone knows how to set up a server, do SQL queries or code for a production environment. If you can prove to your bosses that you have skills that set you apart from the influx of cheap labor, they may employ you. You could also do what I did: Get another job offer halfway through your internship, which pushed the St. Pete Times to hire me.
Everyone can be taught to be a reporter. Everyone can be taught to be a better writer. But not everyone can be taught how to build truly web-oriented projects. Only you can teach yourself that, with some help from the journalism community, of course. And don’t be shy about thinking your skills are worth value. Basic economics: If you have skills that not many have, and people are looking for those skills, your value goes up. So, make your value go up.
Job info: in the tweets above.
My best advice: Say yes more than you say no: say yes when a reporter offers to take you out to lunch, say yes when the editor-who-isn’t-your-editor asks you to pick up an extra assignment, say yes to working the holiday shift during an internship, say yes to applying to jobs you never expected to get, say yes to a shift on the copy desk or a night cops shift, say yes to working with photographers or videographers.
Say no to working without being paid a liveable wage.
Responses via Google form:
I asked colleagues to talk about their first journalism jobs to help recent graduates as they begin their careers in the journalism. Here is a collection
Metro reporter, the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch. I covered education, but also sometimes cops and courts. I also covered a public execution at this job.
I wrote 5-7 stories a week about a rural part of Kansas City. It paid about 25,000 a year. After a year, they gave us a “raise” to 28K. No one stayed there past 1.5 years, even though it was a 2-year fellowship. I got a great backbone, but I almost burned out. Plus, I ate way tooo much spaghetti.
Working for a five day a week newspaper, The Angleton Times, with a circulation of 5,000. I made $200 a week in 1987. I worked as a bartender at night to make enough to pay the rent, for groceries and car repair bills. I did everything from taking photos to laying out the paper. I gained so many skills and I made so many mistakes at that small paper. But I tell aspiring journalists to start small and make your big mistakes in small places. If you make big mistakes in big places, it’s a lot more painful.
Page designer – straight out of college. Worked there for two years. No copy editing or headline writing. That was done by a different department. That has all changed and designers now edit copy/write headlines, proof pages, etc. And sometimes a lot more than that, too. We used to also have specialties, like sports or features. It’s a one-size-fits-all now.
I produced podcasts for The New Yorker.
Entry level online producer at the Hartford Courant. (Assistant Online Producer)
I started working at the paper I’m at now as a news assistant. It was a lot of grunt work but I made it very clear to the editors I wanted to be a writer. Two days after I started I was given an assignment and now I’m an education reporter.
State copydesk, taking the adjectives out of school lunch menus (“fresh green salad” = “salad”).
My first professional, paid journalism job after graduating college was a 5-month contract position doing research for a well-known business trade magazine. I got the position because of a professor that I did an assistantship with in graduate school who happened to be a former executive editor at another publication for the company. She knew they were looking for someone and she recommended me. That job led directly to a full-time position within the same company at another business trade mag that was the no. 1 publication worldwide covering that business trade.
Capital News 9 in Albany. One man band station. (I think they now are called Your News Now).
I talked my way into a job as an assignment editor at the Telemundo station in Miami.
I was taken on as a contractor doing web production for DenverPost.com while a junior in college. After graduation, I was hired full time. It has actually been my only paid work as a journalist, though I have done several paid and unpaid internships and some freelance work.
Town hall and health reporter for the Beaufort Gazette in Beaufort, South Carolina (circ. 12,000).
Contributor to the now folded Georgia Guardian writing pieces on urban affairs and revitalization efforts.
My first “real” newspaper job was copy editing and designing pages at the Sun Herald in Biloxi, Mississippi. After three months, I became a producer/developer/designer/fixer-of-things for the paper’s website.
Reporter copy editor at Lexington Herald-Leader. John Carroll era.
General assignment/night cops reporter for 12K-circulation local newspaper
Staff writer for Midwest Real Estate News, a trade magazine in Chicago. Also, I never had an internship, for what it’s worth. Went straight into the job market in 2004. Was unemployed for 7 months before landing my first gig, though.
Copy editing and design at a smallish newspaper.
Staff reporter covering education/courts/cops/features and monthly columnist (outdoor adventure themed) at the Jackson Hole News&Guide in Jackson, Wyoming.
I started out as a casual reporter on a weekly community newspaper. I mostly wrote arts & lifestyle pieces. I landed the paid gig after completing an internship at the publication.
Writing for the technology section of a major newspaper
newspaper reporter at a small daily
I was an editor with the weekly community sections published by The Dallas Morning News. It was kind of life being in a small town paper, having to do everything for my sections — write, edit, blog, tweet, photograph, proof, content development, etc.
Freelance stories for a regional biz newsweekly.
copy editor at a small daily paper
Just got it! I’m the mobile/search/social producer for azcentral.com. I work 6a-3p M-F, managing the Facebook and Twitter accounts and helping our journalists with personal branding and social media education.
It was while I was in school. Clerk job at local paper.
editorial assistant for data and research at The Chronicle of Philanthropy
Job at The St. Ignace News. General assignment reporter.
I was a reporter at the Employment & Training Reporter, a weekly newsletter published by BNA in Washington, D.C. ETR covered employment and training programs for disadvantaged, chronically unemployed and laid-off workers.
copy editing on the Universal Desk at the Dallas Morning News
Well, it’s happening right now. I work for Sun Newspapers (@sunnewspapers) – a chain of 11 weekly community newspapers around Cleveland. I scored this gig (in my hometown, no less) five months out of college (Ohio University).
The job I have now. Associate producer for MassLive.com.
Neighborhood reporter, St. Petersburg Times
Reporter/Photojournalist at a 150th market TV station in North Carolina.