Megan Taylor

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

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Rebooting Tomorrow’s News, Tomorrow’s Journalists

tntjThis month, TNTJ (a blog ring for young journalists around the world who debate a topic each month) is asking for help. Over the last few months, postings have dwindled, and it’s time to get people motivated again.

The problems that TNTJ faces are not unique. It is the problem we face every time we try to create a community. Look at all the Ning communities that have been created for journalists. How many are still active?

Last month’s topic was “Have you fallen out of love with blogging?” There were a couple of responses, most of which seemed to say “We like blogging, but Twitter is faster and easier.”

I totally sympathize, as my own blog has been neglected. But I don’t agree. Blogging is for long-form discussion, rather than the short bursts of lazy links we all get on Twitter. (Mind you, I’m not hating on Twitter, but it is hard to get ideas into 140 characters.)

Other topics have been:

  • What advice would you give to a student or recent graduate who has a summer/job internship?
  • Tips, knowledge and experience are essential — but how do you get them? Where do you look?
  • What are your summer (internship) plans? And, if you’re graduating, what are your job prospects?
  • What traditional skills are we ignoring, or letting slip? What’s the downside of new media?”

I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than 5 or 6 responses to a TNTJ question in a given month. Unfortunate, because I would love to get to know the other participants and hear what they are working on, learning and thinking. I haven’t responded every month myself, either because the topic was narrowed to students or I didn’t want to be repeating the same obvious answers.

I think that the topics have been lukewarm and mostly aimed at students. I don’t know how many students make up the TNTJ circle, but those narrow topics make it hard for graduates and out-of-work journalists like myself to contribute. Some of the topics have also been so narrow that the responses are kind of obvious and predictable.

TNTJ is also considering adding a podcast to the mix. Again, the success of this endeavor will rely entirely on the community. Will enough people be able to contribute? Will people have different opinions that will make these discussions interesting?

If the topic were interesting, I would listen. I would definitely participate in any discussion I thought I could contribute to.

What else can TNTJ do to stimulate discussion?

I think one of the major problems is the lack of mission. What is TNTJ trying to accomplish? Just gathering young journalists together isn’t enough of a mission statement. We need something to work toward.

What are we, as young journalists, trying to accomplish?

I believe that like most journalists at this time, (indeed, most people) we are trying to make places for ourselves in a changing world, while exerting what effort and influence we have to make that world better.

There are two major parts to this: seeing where we are, and seeing where we will go. That is what we should be discussing every month.

Some ideas for future topics:

* What new projects and experiments are you watching or working on?
* What technologies are emerging and how will they affect journalism?
* What are you learning?
* What are the elements of journalism that we should expand upon in order to do our jobs better?
* What business models might support journalism in the future?

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TNTJ May: You Don’t Have to Be a Journalist to be a Journalist

tntjThis is a response to May’s Tomorrow’s News, Tomorrow’s Journalists May topic:

This is a blog ring for young journalists around the world. Each month, we will debate a set topic by posting here and on our own blogs.

This month, the journalism job market will be flooded with new, eager journalists. It’s a nervous time for all. Many graduates from last year haven’t yet settled into journalism, and yet now they have to contend with a couple more thousand rivals.

Tips, knowledge and experience are essential — but how do you get them? Where do you look?

New graduates: What are your worries? Your questions? Your confusions? Put them to the other journalists in this ring — we may just have the perfect answer.

Other young journalists: You were here once. What did you do? How did you land that first important job? What got the ball rolling?

My Story

A year ago I started the adventure they call life after college. I had the rest of my life (a.k.a. the next 6 months) planned out with confidence: a two-week photography class in Berlin, Germany was to be followed by an internship at The Miami Herald.

Things went swimmingly, until I realized that the end date of my internship was nearing and somehow I didn’t have anything else lined up. Job applications and interviews had gone nowhere, and I had done with being picky.

One thing led to another, and a fellow JWJ (Journalist Without a Job) and I decided that New York City would be the perfect place for two multi-talented news addicts to find work. You can read about that adventure in “Sink, Florida, Sink.”

Here I am, nine months in New York. I’ve had two non-news internships, both terminated early due to the economic crisis. I started freelancing a few months ago, taking on any job I thought I could do: web design and development, video production, news writing.

Somehow, I’ve managed to keep my head above water.

Dave Lee recently wrote, in “J-students must stick around and clear up the mess

Just spend your day being a journalist. Get shifts, even if it’s one day a week. Apply for anything that’s remotely near to a newsroom. Work on the reception if you have to.
You need to make sure you’re in the industry when it’s back on the way up.

This is the motivation behind almost everything I’ve done since I moved to New York.

After cold-calling and e-mailing every publisher in the city failed to produce a bill-paying income, I took two unrelated internships and spent all my free time wriggling into every gap I could find.

I found the Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative through some searches on local news papers. I contacted the program leaders asking if I could help, in any way, shape or form. They asked me to help them with a website, which led to talking to students about online journalism, which led to freelancing for the Norwood News. Word is, I might also be asked to teach the newsroom some web skills.

PBS MediaShift blog host Mark Glaser asked me to write a series on innovative journalism projects. I can’t even count how many new contacts I made while researching and interviewing journalists all over the country. And while it hasn’t directly led to any new gigs yet, I follow every one of those people on Facebook and Twitter. They are a valuable addition to my network.

I’m barely keeping my toes immersed in the dwindling pool that is journalism. But I take every opportunity to mention to everyone I meet: I want to do journalism.

But you don’t really care about my story. You just want to know how to keep your own head up.

The Takeaway

Meet everyone you can. Go to every conference, search for every possible resource that could help you.

Read/watch these interviews, collected by David Cohn: Who I’ve Learned From – 107 Interviews.

Read these articles collected by Tracy Boyne: 85 Resources to Pass the Time During Your Next Furlough.

Do 18 Things For Journalism Students To Do With Their Summer.

Getting started is hard. How do you start pitching stories? How do you meet editors who can help you? How do you find out about opportunities?

Stay plugged in. Follow every journalist on Twitter and Facebook, pay attention to what they say. Follow the news, and just start e-mailing story ideas to editors. It’s hard, and it’s scary, but eventually it pays off.

Find a way to pay the bills, and then find a way to stay involved.

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TNTJ December: Online Branding

This month, the topic for Tomorrow’s News, Tomorrow’s Journalists is

How have you built your personal brand and marketed yourself online? Have your efforts been effective? If so, please give some examples.

I wrote Self-marketing for social caterpillars describing both my branding efforts and the benefits of online branding for those of us who never learned to “work the room.”

What are you doing to market yourself online or maintain your personal brand?

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TNTJ September: If you were the editor of your local paper, what would you do?

Here’s the first response this month:

TNTJ: Review of The Journal and Courier Web site | By Daniel Victor.

VERDICT: I give it a B-. If your priority is to quickly scan and access the news of the day, this site does it better than most out there.

What it lacks, though, is the kind of innovation that will push the newspaper’s brand forward. It has to better package its Web-only content and show why the site can become more than a place to stop for news.

I think it’s interesting that the question was interpreted as “critique the Web site.”

I work for my local paper and am moving soon, so unless someone else is willing to switch with me as Daniel and Meranda did, I’m staying out of this one.

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Tomorrow’s News, Tomorrow’s Journalists

I just joined the “Tomorrow’s News, Tomorrow’s Journalists” young journalist’s blog ring.

We’ll write about a different topic each month and address issues important to the under 30 crowd.

This month’s kickoff topic is: The biggest challenge facing a young journalist in today’s media is…

Check out my answer and others at Tomorrow’s News, Tomorrow’s Journalists.