I left out my recent efforts to defeat my greatest weakness: Design.
Forget about when I started building Web sites (age 11), my relationship with design didn’t start until I got into online journalism.
And I learned that I couldn’t design my way out of a keg. ::shudder::
For a while I thought I could get away without being able to design visual elements. I could shoot photos and video, I could program in Flash and code a site from a .pdf. After all, there’s a reason for having designers, right?
I was wrong. I learned that sometimes, there just isn’t enough designer to go around, and you have to be able to make your own decisions. Things move faster and more smoothly if I don’t have to go ask the designer about an element.
Also, there are design elements to everything else I do online, from customizing a Twitter page to visualizing data. I was going to have to learn.
But how do you learn design?
I didn’t take a class, or sign up for a workshop. I just started reading design blogs. Following designers on Twitter. Paying attention to what I liked about certain Web sites and what made them ugly.
And I’ve made progress. I’m not good at details, but I can spec an overall design that doesn’t make people wish for blindness. I’d say I’ve reached paper bag status (as in can design my way out of), but anything more is beyond me.
I want to get better, because I hate not being able to do things. And because Web deisgn is important. I know I’ll never be a designer, but it would be nice to have a touch of the craft.
So if you’ve got resources, blogs, Web sites, or people that I should be paying attention to, please let me know in the comments.
Edit: I decided to add in a list of what I’m reading.
Even though I graduated from college in May, I have trouble with the concept of not being in school. You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but I love school, and I miss all the things that come with it: being a part of a community, constantly learning new things, the surety of having something to work toward for the next few years.
Obviously, these are all part of living in the real world as well, but they seem harder and less tangible. I’ve lived in the Bronx for three months now, and I still only know the building super and the guy at the convenience store down the street. I’m so busy trying to make rent that I’m not learning the way I was in school. Sure, I learn new things on the job, but it’s very different. As for goals to work toward, instead of aiming for a degree I know I can get, I’m working toward a career in an industry that’s too busy trying to land on its feet to notice my efforts.
There’s no despair in this. Just readjustment. And resolutions.
I don’t need to be in school or have my dream job to learn new things or to be a journalist. I just have to carve out the time to do what needs doing.
So here’s a list of things I want to learn or do, regardless of jobs.
Write. I recently signed up at BrightHub, a science and technology site. I’d like to write at least one article a week. In addition, I want to try some pitching for publications. I think that my deficiency in published writing (due to a proficiency in multimedia and programming) has been detrimental to my career goals.
Produce multimedia and web development projects. I want to keep my skills fresh, even if I’m not using them in day-to-day work. So each month I’ll come up some sort of project to work on, be it video, photography, data analysis…just something to keep me from getting rusty.
Find a way to participate in my new community. I’ve been poking around community boards for the Bronx, and have also found some interesting groups in Manhattan. I want to get involved. There are also a few online communities that I’m a part of that I’d like to be more involved in.
I think these are good ways to be a journalist without the benefits of working for a publication. I’m still busting my butt to get a job in news, but until then, this is a good simulation.
What else can I do to be a journalist without the framework? What tips or advice can you give me for fulfilling these resolutions?
I submitted this for my entry to Publish2’s â€œI Am the Future of Journalismâ€ Contest:
I have the will and the adaptability to be the future of journalism.
It’s not that I know how to write stories, use a video camera and write code.
Those are secondary qualities.
I am passionate about news. Passionate enough to learn new skills, to experiment with technology, to challenge myself to tell stories in multiple dimensions.
The power of news is change. It’s a cliche, but knowledge really is power, and journalists are the disseminators of information.
In journalism school they say “Show, don’t tell.” Somewhat ironically, print stories are limited in this capacity. Radio and television are better at showing.
But the mediums are merging. The buzzword is “convergence,” but what it means is that the media is catching up with technology.
A story is no longer a block of text. It is more than the sum of it’s parts; it includes video, links, databases, infographics and audio. A story is an experience. And when forced to acknowledge wrongness on such a level, how can people but work to change it?
Journalism makes an idealist out of me.
I’ve worked in a cramped college newsroom and a spacious metro daily. But the job was the same: What is the best way to make this information meaningful?
To that end, I’ve used Flash, Twitter, maps, video, podcasts. I’m learning more programming languages, exploring social media and experimenting with the possibilities introduced by the Internet.
Abraham Maslow, a psychologist in the early 20th century, said “He that is good with a hammer tends to think everything is a nail.” The more tools we have, the better our stories become, because there isn’t just one way to do it.
I’m going to need a ginormous toolbox.
I don’t dream of working in a smoke-filled newsroom, surrounded by press hats and old coffee. I dream of the day when the world is my newsroom. I’ll work from the streets or my living room, and the physical state of the newsroom will be a server.
Newspapers and other media outlets use wire photos to add art to text stories. But have you noticed how small these photos usually are? Even online, where the spatial limitations of a print product don’t apply, old media outlets persist in shrinking pictures.
As newspapers struggle to figure out how to tell their stories online, many make the mistake of transfering print rules to the web. This results in the small photos and low-quality videos that frustrate so many users.
The Big Picture has created a way to display powerful images in a user-friendly manner.
The MediaShift Innovation Spotlight will run every other week. Please let me know of any innovative projects you are working on or have seen lately. It doesn’t have to be from a major newspaper; it just has to be an innovative blend of journalism and technology. Please e-mail me at mtaylor[at]megantaylor[dot]org to submit a Spotlight recommendation.
Since I’ve decided to shed the SOJO identity, I decided to write the post I should have written 2+ years ago when I started blogging.
This is my blog, so I’ll write about whatever I want. Most times, that will mean something of interest in the realms of journalism, the media, or the Internet. But I reserve the right to deviate from those topics at will. Alternate topics could include my cats, life in New York City and movies/music my roommate exposes me to.
I will, however, promise to discuss all these topics in a reasonably intelligent manner.
I will not post negatively about any of my employers. I will not post content that has been declared “confidential” by any of my employers. I might remove content that my employers ask me to take down, on a case by case basis.
My views as written here do not reflect those of my employers. On the other hand, they are free to agree with me.
I’m a big fan of open commenting. But no spam filter is perfect, so I’ll remove any comment that I perceive as spam.
I’d prefer you not attack any of my employers in the comments, though you may feel free to ridicule me to your heart’s content. I’m a tough broad.
If you commented with something interesting or useful, I’ll probably respond. If I don’t, either your comment was silly or I just didn’t have anything to say. Take it as you will.
My personal contact information is plastered all over this site, so please feel free to e-mail me with anything you don’t think is appropriate for comments, including job offers.
I use the handle “selfmadepsyche” across most of the social media sites I frequent. (Twitter, Delicious, YouTube, Flickr…)
My comments on some of these sites will usually be less formal than on my blog. Feel free to contact me on any of these sites.
Mix two parts “my blog is having an identity crisis” to one part mild distaste for rules and you get an approximation of why this was written with so much snark. Add a dash of salt, and take it with the good humor with which it was meant.
I love this space, and I’m still trying to figure out how it should change as I go through changes in my own life. I want to share the things I experience and learn with people who are interested in similar topics. I want to grow as a writer, as a journalist and as a person. I’m hoping you’ll all help me with that.