What a snowstorm taught me about journalism

This semester I’m working on the Community Outreach Team at the Columbia Missourian. Our goal is to make the news gather process more open and make it easier for readers to participate in the process.

Community Outreach Google+ Hangout

We had a team hangout (on Google+ that is) on Thursday after the snow hit so nobody had to go out in the bad weather. You could call it super dorky, but I call it super cool.

A lot of the work we get to do is experimental. Here’s the short list of what we do.

  • Try out new tools to better report and tell stories
  • Use social media both to communicate and to listen
  • Look at site analytics to see what content is resonating with people
  • Brainstorm new ways that the Missourian can expand its reach and that we can bring the community into the newsroom (both literally and figuratively).

I’m only a few weeks into the process, so I’m still learning the scope of what we do. But last week was definitely my favorite yet—working in a breaking news situation to cover a snowstorm. On Wednesday, the day before the storm hit, the team was busy planning ways to cover the snow. Community Outreach director Joy Mayer has been talking about RebelMouse, an embeddable page that aggregates posts from social media. The page is customizable to include posts with certain hashtags, updates from select accounts or by manually entering posts the moderator selects. This page included posts from Missourian staff members and other photos or tips posted by social media accounts using the hashtag CoMoSnow. Continue reading

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Five takeaways from touring Seattle media

My roommate Katie and I at the Seattle Times with a historical artifact called a newspaper.

My roommate Katie and I at the Seattle Times with a historical artifact called a newspaper.

I recently traveled to Seattle with my Changing Media Business Class. We toured several media groups and met with journalists there. Here’s what we were up to:

Tom Fucoloro spoke to us a Seattle coffeeshop about maintaining two hyperlocal blogs

Tom Fucoloro spoke to us a Seattle coffeeshop about maintaining two hyperlocal blogs.

We toured a variety of organizations that have vastly different audiences and purposes, but there were a lot of reoccurring themes. Here are some of the insights most striking to me.

1. Partnerships between news organizations is imperative. The message is clear. Journalism organizations must work together to survive. Both the Seattle Times and the SeattlePI.com have content sharing agreements with local tv news stations. If done right, this is a win for everyone to reach the greatest audience possible by doing what they do best. Continue reading

Who wants to be a journalist? Not these guys.

I have a close-knit group of friends that I made at the beginning of freshman year living in Mark Twain. We all came to Mizzou for the J-School, and have all continued in our respective sequences. You could say we are all advocates for Missouri Journalism.

With that in mind, here’s some excerpts of a recent conversation we had on Facebook.

Friend 1: Just a thought I wanted to share: I realized AGAIN that I have no idea what I really wanna do in life. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that it has nothing to do with Journalism … OY VEY! Now what should I do?

Friend 2: join the club.

1: I am thinking in majoring in conversation and schmoozing. What school has that major?

2: Communication. And, honestly, Advertising.

1: So should I just stick it out with this whole J-School thing?

3: I wouldn’t worry. A journalism degree is a good, well-rounded degree that can set you up for a variety of jobs. Knowing how to write and communicate well will never put you at a disadvantage. I’d stick with your degree program, since you are already so far and have done so much work. A degree from this school in this major will not hurt you. You’ll be able to do just fine.

4: Sorry, some of us were doing journalism today and didn’t have a chance to see this til now…my response-welcome to the club, biotch

3: So wait…am I the only one who actually does want to do journalism for the rest of my life?

5: I plan on doing lots of hard-hitting journalism. Like my child’s school’s PTA newsletter, the church bulletin and uploading videos of my kids and dog to my mommy blog.

3: Thanks for the support, friends.

I’m not surprised that my friends and I are experiencing a bout of second thoughts about their career paths, but at the same time it makes me wonder why so many j-schoolers decide so early on that they don’t want to be journalists.

In my group of eight friends, two of them are strat comm majors and they never had any intention to be  All the rest of us are currently working for one or more of the various real-world media outlets through the J-School. But only a few of us are committed to long careers dedicated to journalism. (Me? Right now I’m still fence straddling).

The J-School tells prospective students that within three years of graduation, 90 percent of J-School alums end up in journalism, PR or advertising related jobs. I don’t doubt the accuracy of this statement. But I think it could be misleading. Through anecdotal experience, I would be willing to bet that far more than half of that 90 percent are in PR or communications type jobs. I’d be curious to know how many graduates consider themselves to be journalists.

And I have no doubt that my career path will eventually lead me to a more PR-related job. The pay is typically higher, the hours are more ideal and the workload might cause me to have fewer gray hairs. Heck, my career might even start out int he PR world.

But Friend 3 is right. A journalism degree is a well-rounded degree and communication skills are essential anywhere in the world. But I can’t help but wonder where I’m bound.

I love going to journalism school. I love being a student of journalism. But do I love being a journalist and actually doing journalism?

That’s still to be determined.