A story written for the Society of Professional Journalists’ Generation J committee and the Radio Television Digital News Association:
Aug 17 2011
By Lynn Walsh, RTDNA Blogger & SPJ Generation J Committee Head
Are you a multimedia journalist or a video journalist? Or are you a multimedia producer? Or maybe you consider yourself a digital journalist?
As the technology in the newsroom continues to change, the responsibilities of each person in the newsroom is also changing.
A reporter may now also be considered a photographer, an editor, a web producer, etc. More and more of us do more than just write stories or make the phone calls and do the research for the stories. We are also responsible for taking the pictures, shooting video, creating an online story and more, all while still reporting.
Aug 09 2011
By Lynn Walsh, RTDNA Blogger
As news consumption and delivery continues to change, your role in the newsroom probably continues to change too. Sometimes probably more quickly than you would like.
While you cannot always control what story you are covering on a particular day, you can work to help shape the topics and stories you become remembered and known for.
I think the best way to do this is to think about what you want to become an expert in. Think of it as the go-to person in your newsroom when someone needs a source, story idea or advice about a particular story.
You could be an expert in almost anything. Maybe it is a particular beat (city council, the local school board political races, etc.) or maybe it is a type of reporting (investigations, consumer, breaking news, etc.) You could also become an expert based on mastering certain skills (mobile reporting, creating multimedia and interactive web tools, public information requests, etc.)
Now available online: TrentTV webinar on getting military information, podcast on FollowTheMoney.org
Now available online: TrentTV webinar on getting military information, podcast on FollowTheMoney.org
Tuesday, Jan 25, 2011, 04:37PM CST
By Jennifer Peebles
Texas Watchdog is covering the InterWebs today — through video and audio — to bring you information about government transparency.
Earlier today we aired our latest episode of TrentTV, our free monthly webinar on using open government laws. Our topic today was getting information from the military.
TrentTV on military records from Texas Watchdog on Vimeo.
We’ve embedded the video on this page, and it’s also available on both Livestream.com and Vimeo.com. (Special thanks to Mark Greenblatt of KHOU-Channel 11 for passing along his advice on the topic.)
Among the points we made in our hour-long broadcast, we talked about how to use the federal Freedom of Information Act to seek records from the federal Defense Department and the challenges that can present. We talked about how to confirm someone’s military service or record as a war hero. We discussed military procurement and contracting; military courts and the access challenges they pose; trying to find out about wrecks, crashes and accidents; and records involving the National Guard, among other topics.
Tune in to TrentTV the fourth Tuesday of every month. We discuss open government in a format aimed at journalists, bloggers, citizen-journalists, non-journalists and just about everyone who wants to keep up with what government is doing.
And this afternoon, we aired our latest episode of Transparency Talk Radio, our weekly podcast/live Internet radio show on government transparency.
We had a great interview today with Edwin Bender, executive director of the National Institute on Money in State Politics, the people who put on the FollowTheMoney.org site that we reference quite a bit here at Texas Watchdog. He talked about campaign finance, transparency, data and all the cool features on their site.
Listen to internet radio with JenniferLPeebles on Blog Talk Radio
Check out our show blog at BlogTalkRadio.com for hyperlinks to all the sites referenced on today’s podcast episode.
You can listen to the podcast on your PC, either directly through your browser at BlogTalkRadio.com or via iTunes, or you can use iTunes to download the audio to your iPod.
While you’re at BlogTalkRadio.com, you can also listen to some of our previous episodes. We’ve done interviews with Laura Frank of Colorado’s INewsNetwork.org about open government and e-waste, Keith Elkins of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, and Kristin McMurray, senior editor of the FOIA-focused wiki Sunshine Review.
And if you haven’t already, please “like” our pages on Facebook for both TrentTV and Transparency Talk Radio to keep up with all the latest news about show times and topics — and feel free to use those links to send us your feedback, comments, questions and topic ideas.
What’s Your ‘News-Year’ Resolution?
Dec 28 2010
By Lynn Walsh, Texas Watchdog
Another year is coming to an end and for most people that means promises of new beginnings for a new year.
New Years resolution stories pop-up in news coverage all of the time, but what about taking the time to make your own journalistic-resolutions to welcome in 2011?
Think of the impact committing to just a few changes in the way you report stories could do for your audience. Think of how much better the coverage could be with a few slight changes. Or maybe it is as simple as reviewing your own personal journalism ethics? Below are some ideas to get you thinking:
1. Say no to “press-release reporting.” Press releases come into newsroom mailboxes and in-boxes in hoards it seems. When on deadline it can be easy to pick one out of the pile and use it as your pitch for the day, but is easy what you want to be known for? I am not saying press releases are useless but with the increase use of technology your viewers have probably already heard the news of what is in the press release. Also, the internet has made it easy to share the news from the press release in other ways than taking up valuable minutes in a news cast. Use them for guidance sure, but don’t take the easy way out.
2. Create/Review your personal code of ethics. There are a variety of ethics codes for journalists out there and it is great to check those out, but I think you should also have your own. If you do not, take some time and create one. If you do, take some time to update it. Use the ethics codes that already exist to get some ideas and have a baseline for your own.
3. Vow to make phone calls daily. I have been told this time and time again from veteran journalists and when I actually do this, it really does pay off. (I have learned that two to three calls a day is pretty manageable.) Call people when you do not need them for the story you are working on right now, call them just to chat and ask how they are doing. Sometimes these phone calls can lead to blog posts, twitter updates, or future stories. I know this is one that I will be putting on my resolution list.
4. Learn a new skill. Whether it is HTML, taking better photographs or learning more about social media, learning something new makes you a better journalist, more valuable to your news organization and leads to better stories for your viewers. Think small or if you have the time think big, but learn something new.
5. Think like your viewers. Sometimes you get used to covering education or government and you start using the jargon that goes with it in all of your stories. Take a step-back and make sure the words you are writing, saying or tweeting would make sense to someone who does not follow your beat or your story on a daily or even weekly basis. When it comes to budget stories, make it easy to understand and relate to something your viewer would buy.
6. Use and develop multimedia reporting techniques. The internet is not going anywhere and it will continue to change. If you want to have a future in this industry, I truly believe you have to attempt to learn and understand multimedia reporting techniques and new technologies. There is a lot to take in and it is always changing, so start small if you have to, just remember: taking baby steps is better than standing still.
7. Give back to the industry. Join one of the many non-profit journalism organizations in your area or field. Whether it is just becoming a member and interacting with fellow journalists or taking a bigger role and sitting on a committee or becoming a mentor, it is important to get involved. Journalism is not dying and there are a lot of really great journalists out there. Get in touch with them, young or old, because sometimes the reporting world can feel a little lonely and with all of the writing and reporting that is going on across the country there is no reason to feel lonely!
You could get your whole news organization together to join in on the fun too! The more people you have involved the easier it will be to stick to the promises you made to yourself and your viewers. If you still need a push, think of how much better your coverage as an organization would be if you and every other reporter in the company agreed to do be better reporters by making a few changes!
10 Tips for Building Better Resumes
Exams are almost over, and now is the time to start working on developing your resume. The Society of Professional Journalists wants to help maximize and jump-start your career with these great tips for building better resumes:
Like some news stories, a resume seems to be something that is never perfect and that you are never done writing.
The good news is that a resume should be a “working document” that needs to be tweaked and changed from time to time. Here are 10 tips to help you create or improve your resume.
1. Use updated contact information. Will you be moving back home after graduation? Make sure all contact information will be current for at least six months after sending out a resume. Do not include a school address you will not be living at after graduation or a school e-mail address that may not be active six months after graduation. Also make sure all the contact information for your references is up-to-date and be sure to give all references a heads-up before adding them to your resume.
2. Experience means experience. Whether it was an internship or job, whether you got paid or you did not, if you gained experience that will help you in a future job, it should be included. This includes a website or podcast you do as a side project or the Pulliam/Kilgore FOI Internship.
3. Awards and honors are more than statues. It is important to include examples of when your work was recognized. Most of the time this includes awards like the SPJ Mark of Excellence Awards, but do not forget other honors like scholarships or a training/conference you were selected to attend.
4. Chronological order may not always be the best. Just because it is the most recent position does not mean it should always go first. Lead with what will show a potential employer why you are the most qualified for the job you are applying for. If your last position was as a copy editor, but you are applying for a reporter position and have four years of reporting experience, lead with the reporting experience.
5. Don’t hide the lead. Potential employers know what interns do so leave the boring details for the end or completely off. Were you put in charge of all the news interns at a station? Did something you wrote get published? Did you win an award while working for the publication? Say you are an award-winning journalist, say you were in charge. Always lead with what sets you apart from other candidates. Leave the transcribing details for the very end or off the page.
6. Make sure skills are skills. A section dedicated to the skills you have can be valuable if utilized correctly. Lead with what sets you apart. Do you know HTML? Flash? Make sure those skills are at the top and leave Microsoft Word and Windows toward the end of the list.
7. Cater your resume. It is a great idea to have a basic resume ready at all times. But, when applying for jobs, you should not be sending the same resume to two difference places. If you are applying for an online position you will want to showcase your online experience; if you are applying for a producing position, showcase your producing experience, etc.
8. Don’t get lost in titles. Whether it is an award or a publication you worked for, if it is not easily recognizable, come up with an alternative way of saying it on first reference. Names of publications and news stations may ring-a-bell in that particular city, but across the country or the world they will probably not mean much. Use call letters instead of station names. Describe the scholarship as a journalism scholarship from your school then follow with the title.
9. Presentation is everything. First, your resume should always be one page. I know we all have done a lot, but at this point in your career it needs to be only one page. Second, make sure the font is legible and not too small. A few other things: make sure the paper you are using is not distracting, do not be afraid to use boxes to separate some accomplishments and do not be afraid to bold or italicize key words.
10. List and use social media. If you use Twitter professionally, make sure you include your username prominently on the resume. On a paper resume I would leave off Facebook and LinkedIn URLs because they are too long – but ALWAYS include them electronically and mention you are on them. Send people to your personal website or blog and make sure it is updated. If your accounts are not professional, do not link to them and it is probably a good idea to clean them up before applying for jobs.
Lynn Walsh is an investigative video journalist with Texas Watchdog and chairwoman of the SPJ Generation J Committee.
Generation J Toolbox
Polish your paper and online portfolios
By Lynn Walsh
It’s the end of yet another year, and as the holiday season begins to consume our lives and singers of the past attempt to entertain (or haunt) us with holiday music downloads, “best of” and “worst of” lists are taking over the radio, television and Internet.
From Top 40 song countdown lists to the “Best of (fill in the blank) in 2010” on VH1, everyone and everything is getting ranked, including journalists and news stories. As award season in the journalism world is in high gear, now is the time to make sure you land on the top of lists and not near the bottom.
Whether you are applying for a fellowship, a graduate program or a prestigious award, make sure you, your work and your online identity are polished and ready to be dissected under the microscope of judges and admission counselors.
Thanks to the Internet, information is more readily available now than ever before. A quick Internet search can turn up various types of information about a person in mere minutes. And because most fellowships, awards or job applications will involve more than a written component, it is important to make sure you are putting your best lead and montage forward online, on paper and in person.
● Search yourself. Don’t worry about what a co-worker would say (they most likely do it themselves). I was once told you want the first page of search results to either be links you “own” or control or nothing related to you at all.
● Update all social media profiles. Take a day and go through the steps to make your profile 100 percent complete on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Actually use the “find connections on Twitter/Facebook” tools. Get recommended on LinkedIn. These profiles, if used correctly, can serve as a longer, more-detailed resume.
● Create or increase your personal Web page. Whether it is a blog on Blogspot, a website or a Tumblr page, create it and use it. How can you apply for an online media position, fellowship or award if you don’t have a Web presence?
● Make sure what is online is what you want your professional contacts, future and past, to know about you. If a friend’s post on your Facebook page makes you uneasy, delete it! Real friends will understand.
● Update your resume. You do not want to be scrambling the night before an application deadline to fix the header and footer on your resume. Take a night or a Sunday afternoon and get it in order; making it a regular habit helps.
● Make sure your references are recent and make sure they are aware they are your references. Need new ones? Join professional groups and organizations to develop new relationships.
● Write a cover letter. Every cover letter should not be the same, and sometimes writing one when you really don’t need it can produce better results.
● Practice answering the usual questions. Practice makes perfect, right? So why not take time to answer typical application questions about yourself once in a while?
● Keep updated business cards on hand at all times. You never know who you are going to run into.
● Know your elevator speech. What are your strengths? What sets you apart from other journalists? What does your job description really mean? Know the answers to these questions and be able to share with someone in plain English in about 15 seconds.
● Use new technologies to sell yourself. Consider using QR codes that link to your website, your best work, a video or contact information. Bookmark videos or pages of your best work on your smart phone (if you have one) so they can be quickly accessible. Download mobile apps that allow for you to instantly share contact information. Of course, make sure your contact information is up to date!
If you are having a hard time, bring in outside help. I’m not talking about a consultant, and it does not have to be someone in the business. Get an outside perspective; have a parent or non-journalism friend take a look. Sometimes an “outsider” can provide insight or a new perspective on how to highlight your strengths.
Updating resumes and social media profiles can be overwhelming and tedious, so try to space it out and do it regularly. Set aside time once a month or so to focus on putting your best foot forward online, in person and on paper.
Lynn Walsh is chairwoman of the SPJ Generation J Committee; she works as an investigative video journalist for Texas Watchdog in Houston. Contact her on Twitter @LWalsh or at Lynn.K.Walsh@gmail.com.
Resumes: Is There a Right Way?
Oct 25 2010
By Lynn Walsh, Texas Watchdog
A few weeks ago I was critiquing resumes at the Society of Professional Journalists 2010 conference. While there I critiqued resume after resume and along the way noticed some common mistakes being made. Here they are:
1. Multiple Pages. As a journalist trying to get that first job or if you have only been in the industry a few years this should be a no-brainer. While all of the campus jobs or volunteer organizations are great and should be included, they should not make your resume two pages. One way to show all of the information is by listing all of your positions that may not fit on one page online. Try your LinkedIn profile, a longer version on your website, etc.
2. Don’t bury the lead. Just like a news story, do not wait until the last sentence or bullet point to share the most significant accomplishment you have made in your career so far. Whether it is the order of the jobs you have had or the description you write to go along with one; lead with what is going to get you the job!
3. Chronological order may not always be the best. You were a copy editor at your last job, but you really want to be a reporter. You are applying for a reporting position and have four years of experience as a reporter. The copy editing position is your most recent job the reporting job was a year ago. Which comes first? Most people put jobs, positions, etc. in chronological order, I am not sure that is always best. Lead with what will show the news director or editor that you are most qualified for the job you are applying for. Now, there are times where this may not be the best idea–especially if it has been a long time since you have had the position, but if all of the jobs and positions are fairly recent, I think leading with experience is best.
4. Mailing address. My first question is: how often do you get mail? My second question is: who sends you mail? In the digital age an address may not even be needed, especially if you are sending a cover letter (which will have your address if properly addressed). I also do not think there is any harm in having a mailing address on your resume, just make sure it is up to date and will be for a few months after you send the resume out to prospective employers.
5. Skills. If utilized correctly a skill section can be helpful. The key I believe is placement on the page and what you are listing. If you are applying for a journalism job and are not proficient in Microsoft Office any any of the individual programs you may have a bigger problem on your hands. Lead with what sets you apart from others in your field. Do you know HTML? Flash? Lead with those programs and leave MS Word and Excel for the end of the list.
6. List and use social media accounts. If you have a twitter account you use for journalistic purposes INCLUDE it on your resume and prominently. Do you have a website? It should be one of the first links a potential employer sees. I would leave Facebook and LinkedIn accounts off (due to their lengthy url’s) if the potential employer is viewing it on paper. If you are sending it electronically be sure to include it on the resume, linked to the words “Facebook” and “LinkedIn,” in your e-mail signature or in linked boxes or logos.
7. Do not hide awards. You wrote, produced and/or reported a great story and were recognized for it – make sure that is clearly visible on your resume. Do not hide it in a size eight font under five other bullets of the position description. Lead with it or use a terms like “award-wining producer” or “nationally-recognized investigative journalist.” You could also try making a separate category for awards or setting them apart in a box or to the side.
8. Do not lead with unrecognizable titles, confusing organizations, etc. Names of news stations can be very complex and unrecognizable to someone who has never lived or worked where you have. While the station may be number one in Lincoln, Nebraska a news director on the east coast may have no idea what the call letters or catchy show name mean. Hand your resume to someone who does not know the news industry or someone that is from out of town–if they ask you what the organization or station is, change the name. Don’t use “Dayton’s News Source,” use the call letters or the station affiliation (at least on first reference.)
A few things to always do:
1. Cater your resume for the specific position. It is fine to have one generic resume, but you should never send the generic resume to a potential employer. Each resume should be specific to the job you are applying for: change the skills, rearrange the order of positions, etc.
2. Research who is going to receive your resume, where did they used to work, what seems to be their news style, etc. If a news director is more conservative, be more conservative on your resume and format. If they like to try new news styles and push the limits you may be OK to be a little non-traditional.
3. Always sell your skills and your experience. So what if it was just an internship; if you gained experience make sure that point is clear. You may have made copies of rundowns once a day-but what else did you do? Lead with what you learned and skills you became better using.
In my opinion there is not an absolute “right” way to write a resume and the way you format a resume is not going to be liked by every potential employer, but there are certain things to keep in mind while preparing one, along with certain preparation that should be done beforehand. Make sure it is clear, concise, easy to read and do not lead with your education. Beyond that be positive and sell your skills, experience and yourself. And remember, as journalist we do a lot of writing, this is your future employers first look at your writing abilities, make sure it is editor friendly! (Hitting spell check wouldn’t hurt either…)
John Roberts, 2010 presenter:
John Roberts, 2010 presenter:
John Roberts, 2010 presenter:
NPR’s Social Media Outreach Helps Gain Younger Audiences
By Lynn Walsh, Texas Watchdog
NPR is not just for members of the older generation results from recent National Public Radio social media surveys show.
According to the NPR surveys, the median age of an NPR radio listener is 50, Facebook fan is 40 and Twitter follower 35. NPR received more than 50,000 survey responses from their Facebook fans and Twitter followers and learned:
-55 percent of NPR Twitter fans follow between 2-5 NPR Twitter accounts
-About 75 percent of NPR Twitter followers and Facebook Fans interact with NPR content on a daily basis
-NPR Twitter followers and Facebook Fans interact with NPR using the radio, podcasts, mobile apps and the Internet
-More than 3 million of NPR’s Twitter followers drive less than a fifth of the amount of referral traffic than the 1.25 million Facebook fans
The statistics go on and on and offer an amazing insight into how a news organization that is known for its popularity among the older generation is not just using social media but is capitalizing on it and seeing results with younger generations.
As reports show, news consumption is on the rise and these surveys prove that younger generations are consuming news just in different ways. According to a recent article featured on the social media and technology website, Mashable, NPR is not the only news organization seeing an audience shift in news consumption:
“Here’s a stat just for news sites: The average Facebook user who “likes” content on a news website is 34 — that’s about two decades younger than the average newspaper subscriber. We’ve known for some time that the future of journalism and social media are, at this point, inextricably linked; this stat provides a little hard evidence for that conclusion.”
Looking at surveys by NPR and as a follower of many news outlet’s social media accounts I think it is important to point out a few key finding in the NPR surveys.
1. NPR actively uses multiple social media accounts to interact with viewers. NPR has Twitter accounts based on subject matter (@NPRpolitics) and specific to shows (@NPRamericanlife.) The accounts not only exist but are active accounts in which they each interact with followers. According to the survey this is paying off:
“Following more NPR accounts equals a richer experience. We asked Twitter users to rate a series of statements on the 1-5 scale. Heavy users of NPR Twitter accounts (following 10+ accounts) were more likely to click through links posted Twitter than more casual followers of NPR Twitter accounts (1-5 accounts): 4.2 vs. 3.9 on a 1-5 scale respectively.”
2. NPR Twitter and Facebook followers are news-centric. According to the survey, this applies to consumption of news by NPR and other news organizations. Social media followers are reading, viewing and listening to news using multiple platforms and multiple news organizations. Social media is a great tool to get news headlines out to the public, NPR said.
3. NPR Twitter and Facebook followers get most or all of their news online. Social media users prefer getting their news from online organizations. The debate over the future of print publications will continue and there may not be a known solution or answer anytime soon. One thing we do know is that online news consumption is a favorite among many.
NPR has capitalized and managed to effectively reach a younger audience through the use of social media. The use of multiple social media accounts, a variety of mobile apps, and the ease of free online access to podcasts has helped the news organization remain a major player in the ever-changing world of news while at the same time introducing a new, younger audience to what they have to offer.
The use of social media and new technologies by NPR is just one example of a news organization thinking out of the box and pushing forward during the challenging time news organizations are facing. NPR seems to be embracing the challenges and changes news organizations across the world are facing, are you?
Will Twitter Become a News Organization?
Sep 20 2010
By Lynn Walsh, Texas Watchdog
At a time when more Americans are spending time consuming news, Twitter, arguably the most popular social media site, has announced changes to the way information is viewed, shared and consumed on its site.
Soon, video can be viewed directly on the site; this includes clips, short movies and even live video. These changes, combined with the many examples of news breaking first on Twitter, raise the question: Will Twitter become a news outlet?
From the captured Japanese journalist who used Twitter to announce to the world that he was alive to the recent shootings at Discovery Channel, Twitter continues to break news to the world. MTV has hired a TJ (Twitter Jockey). Could Twitter journalists be next?
It is debatable whether Twitter will be a lasting site or if something new will take hold and dominate the social media world. What I do not think is debatable is whether or not social media and crowd sourcing is going to last. It will!
How will this change the way we, as journalists report the news? How will this change the future responsibilities we will have in a newsroom? What does this mean for how we break stories?
I do not have all the answers and I am not sure there is just one correct answer to any of those questions, but I do think there is a way that we, as journalists, can embrace the changes and adapt to whatever new technology brings our way.
Embrace it and use social media sites to your advantage. Social media is making interview subject, the general public and information more accessible. When people and information are more accessible, our stories can be better, more informative and make more of an impact. If you cannot find a phone number for someone, no worries – search Facebook, “tweet” them or connect with them on LinkedIn. Yes-this means you now have to maintain a presence on these sites, but why wouldn’t you? The benefits far outweigh the amount of time it takes to establish that presence.
Crowd source and do it often! Journalists are no longer privy to certain information about press conferences, major announcements from political candidates or celebrities or natural disaster updates like they used to be. So what if FEMA announces an update about a natural disaster before your station does? That is their job and the information is getting out there. Now, step up and forward the story: use social media to find people who are stranded, help spread details about locations of safe areas and dangerous areas, etc. Use crowd sourcing and information found online from viewers to help you do just that.
Be Flexible. As technology changes and as people consume news differently, our job as journalists is going to change. Expect it and enjoy it. Trying out new technologies is fun. Be the first to live tweet from a local city council meeting. Be the first to live stream from your phone while conducting an interview. Be the first to engage your audience online with question and answer sessions, etc. The first time your big interview is viewed may not be on the nightly newscast, be prepared for it and, most importantly, think of creative ways to keep the story relevant once it does air on television.
Will Twitter become a news organization? I am not sure it will, but what I do know is that we should embrace it. We should become Twitter journalists because we want to. There are people who want to see the news as it happens not hours later on television. There are people who want to help us as journalists, embrace them, use their information and thank them. It is Twitter and other social media sites that make it very easy. Maybe thank them too!