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15 Nov

An inside look at Unity Programming

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While it sooner than you think, the deadline to propose a UNITY 12 workshop is this Friday, November 18. All proposals are welcomed, but to help solicit strong submissions co-program chairs Paul Cheung and Robert Hernandez interviewed themselves to create a collaborative Q&A blog post.

Q: How is this Unity programming different from previous years?
RH: Well, for me, we’ve reached a point in journalism that feels like we’ve risen from the ashes and are hungry to push journalism forward. I think the programming needs to reflect that by being progressive and diverse in every respect.

What it will be: Our sessions will include a lot of hands-on skills training; some crowdsourced best practices; some controversial panels that make us uncomfortable; some discussions that lead to practical take aways.

What it won’t be: Routine discussions about the lack of diversity. Routine PowerPoint slideshows where the presenter talks and the audience only listens. Complaining and harping that the “good ol’ days” are behind us.

This is an exciting time for journalism and this conference will not only reflect that, but prepare you for it. I will admit, Paul and I were disappointed with the past programming. That’s why we signed up. UNITY 2012 is for me and all the like-minded journalists that want to advance journalism in this exciting digital age – together.

Q: Talk about your experiences running AAJA’s and NAHJ’s conferences. What do you hope to bring over to the UNITY 12 convention?
PC: It’s important to be think demos and not memos. Instead of speakers telling us how great their project are, we want them to show us HOW it was done. At the AAJA conventions, we look for experts from within and outside of our industry. In UNITY 12, you can expert us to raise the bar in presenters.

RH: For the last six years or so I’ve been running the New Media track for the NAHJ conference… if you’ve attended, you’ve seen how we’ve doubled hands-on sessions and really have pushed to prepare our attendees with some great skills – from intro to advanced. I’m proud to be on the Online News Association board, where I know they were “inspired” by my NAHJ workshops and brought those types of sessions to its conference. I organized and was proud of the pre-conference workshops offered at ONA11. Paul and I will bring these types of workshops front and center to the conference. That said, we want thought-provoking sessions as well, not just skills and tech… but these thought-provoking topics need to be framed and presented in a more engaging way. And, because we are UNITY, we want every panel to reflect diversity as much as possible. Side note: There will be the Geek Out session.

Q: What advice do you give someone who wants to submit a panel/workshop/session for UNITY 12?
PC:

  • Be specific on a problem or a question you want the workshop to answer and not to be too general.
  • More speakers does not equal better panels.
  • Keep the tracks we have in mind.

RH: I agree with Paul. Also, like the modern news consumer, no one wants to be dictated to so make sure you factor in true engagement with the audience. Don’t re-hash old debates, but bring the topic and discussion forward. Offer practical take aways. Be passionate about the topic. Remember, this may be the only training a journalist gets in a year… make your session well worth it!

Q: Can you elaborate on the tracks (Current News/Hot topics, Multimedia, New Media, Platforms, Professional developments and Personal developments)? For example What’s the difference between new media and multimedia?

RH: Well, let’s try to answer the second half of the question first. We look at Multimedia as cross-platform storytelling. Something every journalist — regardless of whether they mainly work on print, broadcast, pixels, etc — needs to be able to do.

  • Examples: Photography for non-photographer, Producing an Audio Slideshow or How to shoot video with your pocket camera

New Media, for me, is about technology and how it advances our journalism. Its applying the latest technology to our daily jobs.

  • Examples: Real-Time Reporting through Social Media, how to use free webtools to do datavisualizations, the latest hardware and software or apps that help you simplify your life.

PC: Platforms, for me, is about development and topics that is specific to the platform.
Examples: How to you transport your skills from print to broadcast, the art of one person anchor / TV producer

The other tracks I feel are somewhat self-explanatory. While these are somewhat ‘traditional’ tracks to help organize our conference, we expect and will be looking forward to those progressive sessions that truly advance the discussions and lessons.

  • For professional developments: A session on how to write a business proposal or the reality of start-up business
  • For personal developments: A Rachel Ray like demo on how to eat healthy on deadline or financial planning
  • For current news: Ten innovative ways of reporting 2012 US Elections or the London Olympics.

Q: This a lot of work for just the two of you? Who is helping you organize and shape this conference?
We are not alone in this. The programming committee is comprised of a diverse group of journalists from AAJA, NAHJ, NAJA and NLGJA.

  • AAJA: Ted Kim and Victoria Lim
  • NAHJ: Elizabeth Aguilera and Hiram Enriquez
  • NAJA: Tom Arviso and Rhonda LeValdo
  • NLGJA: Sarah Blazucki and Barbara Dozetos

If you have specific questions, concerns suggestions… please join us for a Google+ Hangout Wednesday, Nov. 16 at 3:30PM PT / 6:30PM ET. Go here: http://bit.ly/unity12-hangout

To submit your proposal go to: http://bit.ly/unity12-proposals // The deadline for submissions is Friday, November 18, 2011

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