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01 Feb

The journalists’ (and my) struggle is real

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NOTE: Let’s get this cleared and out of the way. I am not a typical journalist. I don’t have a regular byline nor do I have a media company having to deal with angry voices that value perception more than reality. So, these thoughts are “easier” for me to express than others in our industry. I’ll also add, these are just my thoughts… often thinking, speaking or tweeting out loud as I try to grapple how I fit in the world around me.

BACKSTORY
This wasn’t a new internal debate I’ve been having. In fact, since the middle of the primaries, I’ve been asking myself – and any journalist who would let me bend their ear – the question about how I, or we, as a journalist am feeling about the the tone and coverage as the country began to select the next president.

I, as someone who aims to be an informed citizen, couldn’t tell what was real. I didn’t know what was fact or what was “fake news.”

And, to get this on the record, this concern wasn’t limited to one candidate. In the end, both the Democratic and Republican candidates had some significant flaws that should force any voting citizen a moment to pause.

But, let’s also be honest, one candidate said and behaved contrary to some fundamental beliefs I hold dear. I am unapologetically against racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia and anything that leads to discrimination of others.

I, like I believe many people have, have always thought about “what would I have done” if… if there were a robbery, would I be a hero? If I saw police brutality what would I do? And, the ultimate hypothetical scenario, if I were around the time of Hitler, would I do something to speak up and defend the Jews.

I am also a Catholic (although I do not agree with many of the church’s political stance) and this past Sunday’s set of readings really affected me as President Trump’s executive order banning the travel of Muslim immigrants was happening.

All this got me to tweet. Not saying it was a good or bad decision, but here they are with some context.

I keep my faith to myself. I hate preachy people. But I thought there was hypocrisy and discrimination with the Muslim Ban and these readings really called it out.

I then tweeted out quotes from the readings, which I will spare you. But here is Tweet 2, 3, 4 and 5 in the series.

This was the tweet that would spark a Poynter piece about this struggle.

This is the moment where I went off my planned topic and decided to be more open and share my struggle with our current reality.

There were lots of “likes,” retweets and replies, including this one from Joshua Johnson.

This led to an exchange with Katie Hawkins-Gaar of Poynter, who asked if she could use my tweets for a piece she’d write based on this struggle many of us seem to be facing.

That led to this:

I will admit, I was and still am nervous for sharing. I took a risk in exposing myself. So far I haven’t gotten in trouble.

But others aren’t so lucky.

Lewis Wallace wrote about his struggle in this new reality too. But he was then fired from his job at Marketplace.

Clearly I disagree with this move.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know this is something we need to discuss and examine. This is happening. This is a reality. This isn’t something we can simply ignore or kick out of our newsrooms. This is the time for journalism to embrace the diversity of perspectives from every side and find a way to factor them into our coverage, ethically and transparently.

This is part of the new journalism, and it’s going to get uncomfortable and messy.

I am ready. Are you?

Categories: Culture, Personal, Rant, Twitter Tags:
23 Jun

Virtual Reality is the future

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Well, I’ve not only seen it, but I have immersed myself into the future.

As I write this, I have just emerged from being inside (that’s the verb I will use) my newly acquired Oculus Rift for an hour. An entire hour.

The headset-caused wrinkles, an unfortunate side effect, are still fresh across my face.

I’ve been exploring augmented reality for more than five years, and virtual reality for two and I am in more awe now than ever before.

Yes there is hype around VR, but from what I just experienced — and have experienced before — there is a bright future ahead of us.

And if you’re in the content business — of any type — get ready for the next seismic disruption.

While I was “in” I played a VR platformer game called Lucky’s Tale, and instantly fell in love with the design and, more importantly, naturally fell into the user-interface and VR logic.

The game all around is, well, simply wonderful.

You will hear this time and time again with VR, but you have to experience it to really appreciate it.

After completing the first chapter of the game, I went back “home” (which is a gorgeously designed living room) and explored some other free experiences I had downloaded before.

I selected Dreamdeck, with is a collection of different short stories, experiences and scenes. I had done a couple before, but this time I was standing eye-to-eye with a dinosaur, was inside a fly/blood cell thingy, making faces at funhouse/tea party mirror, was in the middle of two robotic arms having a magical battle over a rubber ducky and, my favorite, observed a day in the life of a mini cartoon town (I tired to eat the plane).

Here’s the thing I want you to take note of: I used different verbs to describe the experiences. I did something, rather than watched something passively.

Lastly, I watched Oculus’ short film lost, a clear homage to Iron Giant. It was cute and who knew so much personality could come from the wagging of an iron tail.

Yeah, I’m in. I’m in deep.

Look, I am in the journalism business and if we take a step further back, I am in the (non-fiction) storytelling business. And VR is the latest tool in my arsenal aimed at informing my community by any ethical means necessary.

My excursion into the virtual world was a (much needed) break from producing VR Journalism experiences with my USC Annenberg students: Jovrnalism.

We find ourselves in post-production right now and, while tiring, we’re having a blast experimenting and defining this new style of storytelling.

VR is the future.

Well, for now. I see have my eye on the bigger prize, AR.

22 Oct

You don’t need to be the NYTimes to do VR (posted on Medium)

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I wrote this piece reacting to the news that The New York Times and Google were partnering up to do a major VR push. Got a lot of social shared and recommendations via Medium.

nytimes-vr-google-cardboard

Yay! Here comes everybody!

It’s great to see the rush of people coming to explore the emerging tech of virtual reality. Yes, it appears the overly-hyped promise that under delivered for several decades has finally become a legitimate reality.

All thanks to a former journalism student turned billionaire and this smart lady.

I’ve been exploring different forms of VR dating back to my college days when I was fascinated by Apple QuickTime VT Studio, but I am no pioneer. I have been more into Augmented Reality (I still think it is the most promising future) since I became a professor at USC Annenberg some six years ago.

But after attending a local VR conference about a year ago, I knew this was going to be huge.

So, I created a course with the aim of exploring what the hell VR experiences could be in journalism.

Read more here: https://medium.com/@webjournalist/you-don-t-need-to-be-the-nytimes-to-do-vr-be4efb00ff74

21 Feb

NENPA: My #realtalk presentation to newsroom leaders

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I was invited to speak at the New England Newspaper Publishers Association in Boston to talk about industry challenges, pulling no punches. “We would be quite interested in your views on what most newspapers appear to be doing right or wrong, and the best path forward,” the invitation said.

I had been invited to speak at a different newspaper publishers association in the past.

It didn’t work out. (I got uninvited when I told them my topic.)

But NENPA was committed and even wrote a piece on what I was going to say in my talk.

This talk, for me, was years in the making… one that I imagined giving when I was in the newsroom and one I wanted to give if I have a newsroom leader asking for advice.

Here, for those interested, is my talk*:
[ Hour and 15 minutes ]



Direct link: http://youtu.be/Hc6ZwLKDLP4

* Sadly, the projector changed the color of the slides… it’s not perfect, but it’s the content that matters, right? Right??

For those not interested in watching the entire video, here’s an animated GIF of the nutgraph from my talk:

realtalk-with-news-leadership

29 Aug

Change the ratio! But I’m auditing myself first

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NOTE: A version of this post ran on PBS MediaShift on Oct. 10, 2014. Lessons Learned from a #GenderAudit on Twitter

If I follow you on Twitter, you may have noticed that I’ve have added you to a Twitter list: Male or Female.

There’s also a private list for People of Color*.

Before you freak out, let me explain what I am trying to do.

A few weeks back I heard a great segment on On The Media with Buzzfeed writer Katie Notopoulos, who created a holiday called Unfollow a Man Day. The piece originally aired on the tl;dr podcast.

Check it out:

This ‘holiday’ came from Notopoulos’ decision from realizing she was following a ton of dudes on Twitter, rather than other females.

She explains it here: Why I Created The #UnfollowAMan Movement

Anyway, that got me thinking… for about a year, I have consciously been trying to diversify who I follow on Twitter.

I never want to be caught in an echo chamber, and I have learned that I get a beneficial edge when I hear outside voices, instead of hearing the same people from within the journalism industry.

But while my diverse follow was a conscious act, I still don’t know if I have struck the right balance.

So, why not find out?

And that’s where these lists come it.

By going through the 960+ people I follow and doing an inventory, I can achieve a couple of things:

1- What is my actual ratio? If I am preaching diversity and parity, am I practicing it too? I don’t know, and that’s what I am looking to find out. This self-experiment really is an audit.

2- In the interview with Notopoulos, she said she realized that some stories that were seen as newsworthy coming from “Twitter buzz,” were only a buzz for men. Meaning, because she followed dudes, dudes’ topics dominated. For me, inversely, I want to see what topics are not buzzing in my stream… or who is it buzzing with.

There is such a thing as Black Twitter. Latino Twitter, non-English Twitter… but most users don’t know (or care) because they follow people and communities they know… or reflect their experiences.

Side note: I wrote this post at 11:30PM-ish, because some people were weirded out by being added to a list. And one person, I feel, began to project some assumptions on what I am trying to do… hence this quick post.

But, let me be clear… just like Twitter, this is for me. I use Twitter for a tool that benefits my knowledge. And now I am using Twitter lists to benefit me as well. I am dying to know the results of this self-imposed audit and see if I can spot any patterns. I am coming in with NO ASSUMPTIONS, open to whatever results may come.

And, for the record, I don’t care if this is scientific or not. This is me grouping subjective follows along gender lines and see if anything emerges. I’m a hackademic, not an academic.

Now, after reading this post, I want to invite/challenge you to do the same thing. Find out if your stream is skewed by following one community more than another… hell, find out if you have a bias. Let me know if you try this thing… and, of course, feel free to share your thoughts on what I am doing. I’m trying to be open and transparent… and I am coming with good intentions.

UPDATE: At 12:21AM, I renamed my lists to be Gender Audit Proj: Female and Gender Audit Proj: Male, to be clearer on what I am doing.

NOTE: I started this “self-experiment” late this evening on a whim… and my brain is turning into mush as I add *everyone* to a list… so I assume I have made some errors. If you spot one, please let me know… thank you!

* The People of Color list is currently set to private, because there is a chance I add or leave out someone accidently and I don’t mean to offend.

// UPDATE & ADDITION (5/14/15)
A student recently told me about TWEE-Q, which analyzes which gender you retweet more. If you think about, having a balanced gender feed is a great step, but how you engage with the feed is an important metric.

What’s the point of following a balance if you only engage with one side?

So, I ran my Twitter name through the web app and got this result:
Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 10.49.04 AM

“@webjournalist retweeted 48% men and 52% women.” I am proud of this result!

// OTHER AUDITS
Feel free to tweet me your audit results as well!

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

03 Apr

My keynote for JACC 2014

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Tonight I gave one of the most important talks I have ever given in my life.

In 1996, while a student at Pierce Community College, I attended my first journalism conference: Journalism Association of Community Colleges (JACC).

Now, nearly 20 years later, I returned to be its keynote speaker.

This was an intense, historical talk for me… and I knew I wanted to document it. So, while the audio isn’t perfect, I did a screen capture of my talk.

NOTE: The first 30 minutes is my talk, the second 30 minutes is the Q&A.

Thank you to JACC for inviting to speak.

And thank you to everyone who has changed my life. I mention many of you.

I did not do this alone.

The video (unedited):

Some of the pics from the event:

A ‘helfie’ as the students walked into the room for the keynote.

I apologized and warned the attendees that I would probably break down from the feels.

Great photo as I talked about my life where ‘stuff happened.’.

Someone sketched a cartoon of me during my talk.

I took a (forced) selfie with my first journalism professor Rob O’Neil. This man changed my life.

28 Feb

Launched! [blank] is the future of journalism

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blank-is-the-future-of-journalism-animated

[Blank] is the future of journalism is bar game for jaded journalists, created by Kim Bui, David Cohn, Maite Fernandez, Robert Hernandez and Matt Thompson at a DC bar in January 2014.

The premise is that you have two minutes to become a pundit and seriously preach/defend/sell the randomized concept, or [blank], to your jaded friends.

Go play and send us feedback: http://blankisthefutureofjournalism.com/

10 Jan

MUST SEE: Video of Brad Frost’s ‘Death to Bullshit’ talk

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Brad Frost (“web designer, speaker, writer, consultant, musician, and artist in beautiful Pittsburgh, PA”) gave an amazing talk I shared last year, but I just realized I never posted it here for me to remember and refer to. (If you haven’t noticed, this blog is for me… a collection of reminders, inspiration, random thoughts and occasional rants.)

So, see this. It’s AWESOME. So f*cking good.

2013/4 Brad Frost from CreativeMornings/PGH on Vimeo.

Paper is bullshit.
Jargon is bullshit.
Sensationalism is bullshit.
Opportunism is bullshit.
QR Codes are bullshit.
Disruptions are bullshit.
Cruft is bullshit.
Spam is bullshit.
Anti-patterns are bullshit.
Advertising is bullshit.

The talk was part of a series put on by CreativeMornings/Pittsburgh. See more of their videos here: https://vimeo.com/cmpittsburgh/videos.

CreativeMornings talks are happening in many cities, including international. Go to one near you: http://creativemornings.com/

28 Mar

A plea: Why you should not leave journalism

This isn’t a post defending why I love journalism. Nor is it one condemning those that have left it.

This post is a plea.

This morning I saw a tweet that led me to this sad reality:

A new study finds that, in 42% of companies, low performers actually report being more engaged – more motivated and more likely to enjoy working at their organization, for example – than middle and high performers do.”

That line made me reflect on my life… and the lives of the peers I truly respect. We’re all frustrated and “unhappy.” Well, according to some people.

Why?

Because we are passionate.

Because we are not satisfied.

Because we know what it could be, which is so much more than what it currently is.

And we’re fighting for it. It’s a struggle… but we do it.

In many of my peers’ careers, including mine, you look around the organization and are in shock.

In shock because while we bust our collective asses in our struggle, others – these “low performers” – have moved up along side us.

They have failed up.

Don’t tell me you can’t immediately think of at least one name in your newsroom right now.

They’ve been there forever. Before you got there and started trying to change things… and quite honestly, they’ll be there after you leave. These people mean well… but they don’t fight for their beliefs like we do.

We – and I am not saying this is healthy – break down in tears from the frustration of our struggle. We question our own value, despite our incredible track records of change and success. We question our life and doubt all the sacrifices we’ve made along the way… even though we’d do it all over again.

But, which is understandable, we burn out. And we leave. Leave the heartbreak. (Or, which happens too, we leave the company for a better one. But we will inevitably be unsatisfied again.)

In all this… we also leave behind those satisfied “low performers” … and that’s how they move up.

Back to my plea.

I know it sucks. I know it is so crippling at times. I know you question the direction of your life. I know you think you are crazy (you must be, right, because no one is freaking out as much as you are). I know all this.

But I also know you are not alone. That you are not crazy. And that we are better off with you fighting for your beliefs.

We are better off with you in journalism – or in what ever industry you are frustratingly passionate about.

Take a break. Make a change. But don’t give up… and don’t you dare get falsely satisfied.

Stay hungry. I know it hurts sometimes, but stay hungry.

When you have doubts, look to your passionate peers. Remember Horizontal Loyalty. Re-read the Holstee Manifesto. And, occasionally, watch videos like this or this.

But stay. And make the difference.

PS: Please read this back to me if/when you see me doubting/questioning myself. Please.

11 Feb

The Pope, the Invisible Gorilla and journalism

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This post is brought to you by today’s Morning Edition.

Two stories from today’s show, for me, are made relevant to journalism after running it through my journalistic filter.

Those who know me (or have read past rants) know that newsroom leadership, across the country and regardless of medium or market size, has frustrated me.

The news story about radiologists that invoked the ‘invisible gorilla’ reminded me about this struggle. Years ago, while I was at The Seattle Times, editors were brought into a retreat called Newspaper Next, I believe. (The site no longer exists, but thanks to the way back machine, you can still see it).

This was a retreat that had started popping up in newsrooms across the country, dealing with one central question: How do we pivot and use our existing resources to generate revenue for the newspaper.

Great topic.

During the presentation they played a video that has stuck with me for years since the talk, and which was played this morning on NPR (KPCC is my local NPR station).

I didn’t recall the name, but now know it is called the ‘invisible gorilla.’

While mine was slightly different, here is the video. Play it and follow the instructions.

The logo from theinvisiblegorilla.com is a gorilla reading a newspaper. A newspaper!

So, did you notice the gorilla? Or those other changes? Isn’t that amazing? According to the story and video, 50 percent of people who see this video are so focused on the task at hand that they miss the not-so-invisible gorilla that walks into the frame.

The take away from the video during that newspaper retreat was “are we so focused on newspapers that we are missing the gorilla?” And in newspaper speak, the gorilla meant digital.

A high up editor at the time, after watching the video, said how eye opening the exercise was… me, being a bit of a loud mouth, responded by saying “I’ve been that guy in the gorilla suit. Not only waving my hands, but also jumping up and down.”

Most digital journalists have had this experience.

It’s the culture difference between traditional and, well, digital leadership and competence that is such a challenge. Many of us have dealt with this in a variety of ways.

Which leads me to the second story: The Pope.

In his resignation, Pope Benedict XVI said “I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”

In today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith … I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me,” said the Pope.

I hear that, then tweet this:

If the Pope can realize he’s not fit to lead in these modern times, why can’t some newsroom leaders? #thingsithinkabout
@webjournalist
Robert Hernandez

And then I write this post.

Look, there have been so many changes in newsrooms and its leadership. We are the better for it. But there is still much more to go. And it’s on us to push it forward.

We will have moments when newsroom leaders retire, take buyouts, etc. … and their incredibly valuable newsroom knowledge will be greatly missed… but we have to remember that we are moving — slowly — toward the goal of a modern, well, newsroom.

This is not about age. No. It’s about understanding culture… in this case digital/Web culture.

And these are the things I think about. And occasionally ramble on in a post.

Please feel free to tell me what you think.

For those interested, here is a Poynter piece from 2008 about Newspaper Next 2.0: http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/business-news/the-biz-blog/87155/newspaper-next-2-0-way-outside-the-box/

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