Megan Taylor

front-end dev, volunteacher, news & data junkie, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant

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Comment Inspired: Job Descriptions

About a week ago this comment showed up here on my blog:

“I’d like to learn more about the process to publish at a professional epaper, about functions and tasks of reporter, sub-editor, IT technician, web master… Could you tell me about those? Tks”

I’ve spent the last week trying to define these different jobs, and I’m not satisfied with what I came up with. Every newspaper seems to function differently, especially as far as publishing online goes.

Anyone want to chip in some descriptions?

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Berlin is a shit-hot sexy city

Yes, there is a story behind the title.

On Friday I set out down Prenzlauer Allee toward Alexanderplatz to find a subject for my class project. I figured that if I walked all the way the the Brandenburg Gate and couldn’t find a subject somewhere along the way, I need to go back to school.

I’m not sure how Germans view newspapers and journalists, but it can’t be good. There was a guy in Alexanderplatz holding a sign and talking to people about the vegan lifestyle. He got all excited when he found out I was American, because his group gets all their statistics and facts from American vegan groups. After about 30 mins I tried to get him to be my subject, and he sorta freaked out. Time to move on.

My next attempt was down by St. Marienkirsch. A bunch of tough-looking punks were gathered around a black van with their dogs. I walked up and sorta hung around until someone spoke to me in English. Turns out the van is owned by a group that brings food to Berlin’s homeless. The woman in charge didn’t want to do an interview either.

I actually did have to walk all the way to the Gate. The horse-drawn carriage drivers didn’t speak enough English, the performance artists were, well, performing.

bad portraitsThen I saw a bright pink sign. It said “Bad Portraits.” Not even thinking about my project, I started talking to Neb, the man behind the sign. About an hour later, he agreed to let me come back the next day and take photos.

I met up with Michelle and Robyn later to do sunset shots of the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag.

Most of Saturday I spent shooting. Neb was a great subject; acted like I wasn’t there.
Neb Poulton

Yesterday I went to a huge flea market. It looked like 50 people had emptied their attics out onto tables. There was a guy selling only masking tape. Another table was filled with screwdrivers.

Hopefully today will be a shopping day. I still need to find a German army jacket. I finished my project and other work for the class this morning.

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UWIRE 100

Today UWIRE released their list of the top 100 student journalists in the country.

Mindy McAdams nominated me for the award and thanks to her and others’ recommendations, I got it!

It’s weird to be recognized in this fashion. I don’t think I’ve done anything particularly spectacular. Just what I thought would be good.

So forget all that thank you crap. Congrats to the other 99 winners, especially Greg Linch, Jenna Marina and Nick Zaccardi.

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Nextnewsroom: college media innovation

Facilitated by Kathleen Sullivan

How do we build in opportunities for trying new things?

How do student journalists balance work and classes?

How do we manage more (with only so much staff)? Where can you scale back, where can you do more?

Different deadline realities, diff sources for content, what can be delegated and what can’t?

Teamwork for stories instead of individual ownership?

The story doesn’t end when it goes to print. You can have all sorts of discussions online.

Build in-house wiki(s) to avoid starting over with new staff

Google 20% project time

Additional platforms = additional people, so ppl get territorial. How do you solve that problem?

Aside: Livestreaming is so cool!

Get interdisciplinary staff, not just j-students.

What can you make into a product (low-hanging fruit)?

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The Next Newsroom Conference

Yesterday was the first day of the Next Newsroom Conference, with keynote speakers and panels and all kinds of good discussion. Unfortunately, I missed the first couple of speakers, but Greg Linch totally has my back: check out his complete coverage of yesterday.

My notes from Randy Covington’s speech:
Newsplex:
Its not about formats or technology but on stories
cover stories across media
stories are better because of audio, video, community interactivity
we live in a mutli-media world
people are using media in diff ways

TRAINING

newsrooms will be different: no more assembly line
Edipresse – cubicles and open space 2002-2003

New roles for full media newsroom

Newsflow editor: story
directs coverage across formats and delivery services
integrates multiple products under unified editorial brand
service to a broad range of news consumers
multiskilled journalist: content
able to work in diff formats and do diff things (video, text, graphics, audio, photos and interactivity)
NOT EVERYONE NEEDS TO BE THIS – BUT – bring in MORE multiskilled people who like to shape and control their own work
news resourcer: context
informatics journalist/editor
apply news judgement with understand of informational landscape
cybrarian, not news librarian
google is not good enough
story builder: experience
one editor handles story for all mediums
combines roles of print copy editor and broadcast producer
convergence organizational models:
Tampa Tribune

Nordjyske – denmark was dying, needed to reinvent, created an all-news cable channel on model of old cnn news, dont need lots of people
NOW – free papers, local papers, the news channel, 2 radio stations and a web site with 248 jous
editors for each medium refine the content
editorial depts serve all media
NOT one size fits all
started charging for tours, jous all over were willing to pay
super desk: groups for diff mediums in open space with editorial mtg place in the center

Daily Telegraph – london
24-hr digital multimedia newsroom
story components integrated from the start
three job titles: reporter, editor, producer
hub and spoke system for organization of newsroom

I’ll come back later and clean up the formatting on that. After Covington there was a panel discussion responding to questions posed by the audience through Twitter. So I stopped taking notes and made my commentary there instead. I’ll round that up into something cohesive later today as well. But you can check out the continuing conversation on Twitter.

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Mood swinging journalists

Shortly after AngryJournalist.com was introduced to all the gripe-y journos of the world, Joe Murphy brought us Happy Journalist.

Meranda Watling wrote about both sites, even going so far as to make a study of what makes journalists angry.

Angry Journalist was recommended to me as a way to vent my frustrations as well, but I find that random bitching is totally unsatisfying. I want to work myself into a proper rage, unleash it on someone, and then figure out how to work around it. Bitching on an anonymous Web site does not compare to a good rage.

Happy Journalists seems more productive to me. Once I’m done raging and have figured out a solution, that problem-solving high can only be augmented by sharing.

Of course, it’s much easier to complain than to solve a problem, so Angry Journalist currently has 1,922 posts, where Happy Journalist only has 74 “pieces of happiness”.

Come on people, stop clogging up my tubes with your bitching and start solving the problem!

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Ducks go quack, quack, cows go moo

I don’t remember the rest of the song. But that’s what was playing in my head while I read Steve Klein’s “Revenge of the ‘Web People.'” He’s writing about definitions and how “print people” and “Web people” need to be just “journalists.”

Klein argues against the concept that “Web people” are somehow inferior to “print people.”

Online journalists must have all the skills of print and broadcast journalists, as well as digital production skills. They need a far more diverse skill set than journalists who work in vertical disciplines. They must have horizontal skill sets that they then practice on an online platform.
So, any hint that an online journalist is less capable or less qualified than a print or broadcast journalist is just plain wrong and unfair. It really ruffles my feathers (do ducks have feathers?)!

I recently found out that my position at The Alligator was created after a series of editors tried to do away with the Web site completely (in the early to mid-1990s). It apparently diverted important resources from the “real paper.” Think where we’d be now if they had taken the Web seriously!

Back to my point. One of the things that pisses me off the most about the gulf between print and online is how one-sided it seems to be. I read the paper. In both mediums. I care about the paper. In both mediums. I can write and edit just as well as I can create a Google map, edit audio, or design a Web site. I just happen to work in the online department because of the linear structure of the newsroom.

Don’t pigeonhole me just because I can do some things you don’t understand. I enjoy all of the aspects of being a journalist – from finding and reporting a story to producing a Web package. Let me learn all that I can, I’ll bet you learn a few things too.

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Less talk, more work

There’s a new trend in online journalism these days: Stop talking, and do it.

Stop trying to convert, stop making lists, stop fighting the print bias with words. Start doing things that will make the difference.


David Cohn
wrote:

I think the time for evangelizing is over. At this point if you are in a mainstream news organization and you don’t see the need for change, the battle is lost and I’m not going to spend time trying to convince you to change the culture in your newsroom. I will simply shake your hand, wish you an honest good luck and move on…If you want to see real change – don’t tell news room editors what to do – DO IT YOURSELF.

And Zac Echola, writing about Wired Journalists, wrote:

Something happened early this year in the media blogging world. We suddenly stopped talking about what we should be doing and started talking about what we are doing. We started talking about being the change we wish to see. It was at the same time a jarring change in tone and an exhilarating one.
Now is the time to be that catalyst for change in your news organization. No more talking about it. We’re doing it. And we want you to do it too.

Wired Journalists is a social networking site set up by Ryan Sholin, Howard Owens and Zac Echola after Owen’s post on getting wired.
In a very short amount of time, the site has gained over 300 members. It opens up discussions, not on why online journalism is important, but how to start doing it. Members are both newbies and established “wired” journalists.

I realized today that consciously or not, the “just do it” trend is affecting me, too. I spent a lot of time at The Independent Florida Alligator last semester trying to win over some very print-oriented editors. I spent a lot of time making lists of projects I wanted to start. Not that I didn’t get anything done; we made a lot of progress on getting our content management system working the way WE wanted it to work.

But this semester I’ve spent more time actually ticking projects off that list. I finally got the Gainesville Explorer project running. A multimedia stringer made a map of apartment complexes in Gainesville. Yea, that’s right, I have stringers. (I think we need to change this lingo, minion is a much cooler word.) I met with some of the business staff regarding the missing alumni page. I’ve gotten the editor and managing editor for print writing blog posts. All in just three weeks.

This is a hell of a lot more fun than fighting print bias and trying to get reporters to see the light.

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Things to learn at The Alligator

I’ve been working at The Independent Florida Alligator since the beginning of the summer. And I’ve learned a lot about the Web, news, multimedia, design, and programming.

Perhaps the most important area in which I’ve grown is how I deal with others on a day-to-day basis.

I have a pretty short fuse. I get frustrated easily, I have a big mouth, I love to complain. I curse at the computer regularly and will talk to anyone for hours about how much I despise our content management system. I spend way to much time in front of a computer, so I can be a little socially handicapped.

That’s no excuse. Coming from a manager, the people I work with don’t take all this as just blowing steam. It makes them more reluctant to work online. It keeps them from suggesting new projects because they don’t know how far we can push the limitations of the CMS.

So I’m learning, slowly, about diplomacy and silence and waiting until I’m alone to scream and tear my hair out. It’s really hard. But worth the effort. The less I kvetch, the more people wander past my desk and ask what I’m doing for such-and-such an article.

It’s important for online journalists to be visible and positive about what they do.

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An introduction to RSS

RSS has got to be one of my favorite reporting tools. Although my writing lately is limited to this blog and News Videographer, I still have to find something to write about and keep current in my field. That means communicating with a lot of people.

But I don’t have time to talk to all those people. Many of them have Web sites and blogs, and those who don’t get written about online by the former. It’s much easier and faster for all this information to be compiled in one place for my viewing pleasure.

RSS stands for Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication. It is most often characterized by the orange and white icon you may see on many Web sites. (See the icon at the top of the right column?) An RSS feed basically delivers new content from a chosen site to a feed reader of your choice.

A feed reader, also known as a news aggregator, can be compared to your e-mail inbox. Instead of e-mail addressed to you, it receives the updates you have subscribed to. Some readers let you interact and organize your subscriptions in many different ways.

So start receiving these handy-dandy updates, you first need a feed reader. My favorite is Google Reader, but other options are available such as Bloglines and NewsGator. You can also choose, like e-mail, to use a Web-based or desktop feed reader. You can peruse these options by simply doing a search for feed readers.

Having chosen your feed reader, start subscribing! In most cases, the orange and white RSS icon will appear somewhere on a Web site. Some browsers will also show the icon in the address bar if there is a feed for that site. Some sites do not have feeds.

I’ve subscribed to a slew of different sites, from news to blogs to entertainment and more. If your city government has a Web site, chances are it has some sort of feed (even Gainesville has one for municipal minutes). State and federal governments are more likely to provide more information. And don’t discount blogs! Even though you will have to double-check the information, blogs are an amazing resource, and with a little hunting you can find the good ones.

Now, all you have to do is remember to check the feed reader every day.

This post was also published at Wired Journalists.