Hardly Strictly takeaways

By now, you’ve surely forgotten the barrage of tweets and check-ins from 30 or so of us — the “Hardly, Strictly Young” David Cohn invited to the University of Missouri’s Reynolds Journalism Institute a couple weeks back for a round table Carnival of Journalism mission to gather alternative ideas about how to implement the Knight Commission’s recommendations.

We spent a full day in four rotating groups of around eight people, taking on one of the big Knight Commission questions at a time. Here are some mixed notes, with findings from various groups that still stick out in my mind, some key ideas tweeted, and associated other free associations.

The Four Questions

1. Town and Gown connections

Along with the standard j-school/local news organization mashups, we tried to dig a littler deeper into a goal of breaking down the barriers between a university and the community that surrounds it. One key bit of epigrammar: We need both Public Professorship and to learn from the Professorship of the Public.

At Matt Thompson’s lead, we even went so far as to imagine what a layer of 106 & Park-like hashtag trappings might look like when draped over a civic issue, as a tool to teach modern media literacy. Maybe even a local debate framed as an American Idol-style tournament of viewpoints, complete with SMS voting.

And then, there was Cody Brown’s media literacy in the classroom recommendation:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/CodyBrown/status/60382812557152256″%5D

2. Increase the number of news sources

This is one that was subject to a great deal of interpretation during the pre-conference Carnival of Journalism. At my table, we had the benefit of insight from #expertmode crowdsourcer Amanda Michel of Propublica, so we took the word “source” literally.

I walked away from the table with at least two excellent (you might even call them actionable) product development ideas:

  • Add a tip form to your 404 and/or empty search results pages. “Didn’t find what you were after? Tell us what we should be reporting on.”
  • Build yourself a source dashboard behind the scenes where you can connect a commenter or contributor to their Twitter and Facebook accounts (and blogs, etc.) even if they haven’t connected them to their public accounts, so that you get a holistic view of reliability, expertise, and behavior.

3. Expand local media initiatives to reflect the communities they represent

This was one I felt strongly about, as evidenced in part by my open Carnival letter to new Knight Foundation VP Michael Maness. I think our host might have remembered that, as I was denoted as one of two presenters on the topic for our table, along with Nieman Journalism Lab reporter Megan Garber.

I’ve posted the full notes from our group’s recommendations, but here are a few highlights of our three point plan to connect Knight journalism grant technology with community nonprofits and ethnic media organizations that are already providing community information needs, but could use a little push to expand their reach and build capacity:

  • Outreach: A recurring theme in recommendations on this topic: Find the existing community information providers that are already thriving, but need support for capacity building in order to expand their reach.
  • Pilot Grants: Having identified the key community information providers with a lot of upside, show up at their doorstep with small grants (preferably with quick turnaround times on approval, having already taken steps to establish criteria and identify potential grantees). The goal of these grants? Build their capacity, expand their reach.
  • Apply a generous layer of News Challenge technology: Given the community, the focus of each organization, and the pilot project, connect these new community information grantees with News Challenge (and other Knight journalism program) grantees. Apply KNC technology (and programmer/journalist resources) to the new grantee problems and challenges.

4. A local information hub for every community

The group I was in had a great deal of trouble finding a niche to work with here. The technology to make this available already exists, and in many communities, local news sources get this job in some form, too.

One successful model we weren’t alone in identifying? Local wikis, like Davis Wiki, and my personal favorite, RocWiki in Rochester, NY. The Davis Wiki team, matter of fact, is a Knight News Challenge winner, currently building out tools for building local wikis.

And my other favorite implementation idea, intended to bring Web access, literacy, and skills to areas where broadband coverage is still sparse, the Web-a-bago.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/moniguzman/status/60373160259891200″%5D

Hardly Strictly More to Read

Looking forward to ONA10

As I write this over breakfast, deep in the suburbs of our nation’s capital, ONA10 is already getting started, bleary-eyed workshop participants wandering the hotel halls in search of coffee, out-of-state attendees drifting through airports and trains and cabs and…

OK, I’m probably romanticizing this way out of proportion, but the honest truth is that I had a great time last year.

For me, last year, the theme of the conference was “swagger,” as in, “my posse has swagger.”

This year, I’m looking to focus more on paying attention during the sessions, learning something, and generally soaking up information from journalists with their boots firmly planted on the ground, putting ideas into action.

More on that in a moment.

I’ll be a bit more free to talk (and listen) without pretext or pretense this year. Last year I was in full startup mode, putting in marathon sessions of work at all the wrong hours as we raced to launch a new product, in between leading an unconference session and winning a real live award. When I did socialize, I have a bad feeling that much of what I said was steeped in the vocabulary of Pitching The Company. It was exhausting.

But I had a great time.

This year, here are the questions I’ll be asking everyone:

  • How’s your commenting platform? What’s working, or not, or missing from it? How could it improve?
  • Doing anything local with location yet? Building or buying?
  • Who is responsible for new product development in your news organization?
  • What’s the one thing users of your news site consistently ask for that you aren’t giving them yet?
  • What was your biggest success/failure of the year?

And here’s what I won’t be paying any attention to at all:

  • Pundits
  • Academic conversations about convergence
  • If you so much as breathe some sort of 2004-era “bloggers vs. journalists” framing, this conversation is over.
  • Competition
  • Awards

Oh, and I don’t really look like my avatar. I lost that hat a couple winters ago.

So, I’ll be the guy with the goofy grin on my face, excited about everything.

See you there.

Five Keys to Authenticity

A few days ago at the annual APSE convention, I led two sessions on Networked Journalism.  On the way down to Pittsburgh from Rochester in the car, I tried to work out an idea I’ve been playing with for a while.


Not authority, or reliability, or popularity, but a more difficult to quantify metric that I think is crucial for news organizations trying to engage their community in the social media world.

Here’s a few links I referenced in the discussion as I flipped back and forth between Keynote and Firefox. I’d post my slides, but as usual, my use of slideware rarely tells the whole story.

Later in this post, I’ll include the mp3 I recorded of me talking through the presentation in the car (if you can deal with my hoarse/coughing voice and a couple tollbooths on the Thruway, you might find it interesting, albeit rambling).  That certainly tells the whole story, and a few others as I change lanes and wander off on tangents.

So that’s the backstory.

Five Keys to Authenticity

  1. Be Human
  2. Be Honest
  3. Be Aware
  4. Be Everywhere
  5. Show Your Work

Simple, right?  OK, more details…

1. Be Human

Look, if you’re going to jump into Twitter and Facebook and whatever comes next, in an effort to report or to engage with the community on your beat, or just to have a conversation, you need a name.  And a voice.  Preferably your own.  @nytimes isn’t human, but @pogue certainly is.  @chicagotribune isn’t human, but @coloneltribune absolutely is, which is a bit of a twist since he’s a somewhat fictional character with more than one Tribune employee behind his avatar.  @ricksanchezcnn might be the most human journalist on Twitter.  Using your own name, image, and voice is step one to engaging with the online community on your beat or in your town.  Because if you’re not human, you’re just another robot.

2. Be Honest

It’s easy to treat social media channels like a comment thread or a letter to the editor or an e-mail inbox if you’re not careful.  And if you’re not careful, you might find yourself as defensive and unwilling to admit to a mistake, or a conflict of interest, or an oversight as you might in those other spaces.  Try that on Twitter and you’ll be eaten alive.  Own up to your errors, correct them in public, and disclose whatever needs disclosing without a whole lot of preamble.

3. Be Aware

If you’re the last one to know that your community is profoundly interested in a particular issue, you’ll look like a latecomer when you ask them what they think.  “Be Aware” means this: Listen.  Listen to what’s happening in your online community.  Do it using tools like Google Reader and Tweetdeck, or set up an online nerve center for your department or news organization.  Try using iGoogle, Netvibes, or even FriendFeed to build a one-stop bookmark where everyone in your newsroom can take a quick look at what’s hot in the local blogosphere and social media channels once or twice a day.  If you want to be an active node in your local network, it’s critical that you know what’s important — right now — in the community.

4. Be Everywhere

Once you’re listening for mentions of issues, beats, towns, and people you cover, it becomes infinitely easier to jump into those conversations.  Every time your name, a story you wrote, or your beat comes up in conversation online, you should have the option to drop in and answer questions, ask new ones, follow up, or high-five a member of your community.  Being ubiquitous is a huge part of succeeding in social media.  When every reader is themselves a producer of content and a manager of their own network of friends, followers, and fans, you need to show up like Beetlejuice when they say your name three times.

5. Show Your Work

In print, it’s your job to attribute quotes and information to your sources and provide readers with resources to find out more about the story.

On the Web, and especially in the short-form statusphere, links are the essential means and currency of sourcing your reporting, adding context, and providing your community with a curated stream of complementary content.

If your newsroom’s content management system allows you to add links directly into the text of your own story, you’re in luck.  Go for it.  If not, or if you want to integrate your stream of links into section pages, topic pages, blog sidebars, your Google Reader, Twitter, and Delicious accounts to bring your readers the best of the Web on any social media platform where you engage with them, the collaborative journalism tools at Publish2 have you covered.  [Full disclosure: I work for Publish2.]

Thanks to everyone who came to the sessions at APSE, asked great questions, and shared their successes and failures with the rest of the room.

As promised, here’s the audio of me talking to myself in the car fleshing out the presentation:


Further reading

Some of the items in this list might look familiar if you spotted my social media guidelines post a few weeks back.  It’s short and sweet, if you’re interested.

If you still need background for newsroom conversations about why you should link to your sources and resources, here’s something I wrote as a guest post at BeatBlogging.org recently on that topic.

Most of what you’ll find on the Web re: authenticity in social media comes from a marketing/PR point of view, but even so, there’s a lot of solid thought on social media for businesses that applies to your news organization.  Try Jeremiah Oywang’s February 2008 post on what it means to be authentic, transparent, and human, for starters.

What’s next?

Get started.  Sign up for Twitter, use Twitter Search and Google Reader, among other tools, to find and follow the online community on your beat.

Participate, listen, and engage with the community every chance you get.  You’ll get as much out of it as you put into it, so find the workflow that works for you, and get started today.

Upcoming proof of my physical existence: Boston and Pittsburgh

I’ll be showing up in person in at least two different places outside the lush springtime confines of Western New York over the next few weeks, believe it or not.

The rough details

Next week, I’ll be in Cambridge, Ma. at MIT for the Future of News and Civic Media Conference, including the announcements of the 2009 Knight News Challenge winners.

What I’m psyched for: Hanging out in Barcamp-esque sessions with the brilliant squadron of past and present Knight grantees, with the added salt of supergenius MIT grad students and their professors.  Oh, and I’m planning to pressure at least a couple people into designing mockups or developing prototypes — on the spot, in the hall, or back at the hotel — for some cool idea that starts out as a conversation in a session.  So, beware, if you speak the words “wouldn’t it be cool if…”

Later in June, I’ll be unleashed on the APSE conference in Pittsburgh for an afternoon, where I’ll lead two sessions on networked journalism.  I still like that term, because it gets straight to the point: Use (social) networks as a reporting tool.  I’ll talk about Twitter, share my recommended social media guidelines for reporters, and touch on some tools for collaboration, like Ning, and beatblogging.

What I’m psyched for: Hanging out with sports writers, finding ways to take cheap shots at the Red Sox, showing off how simple it is to get started with lightweight tools to engage your community in conversation.


My new gig at Publish2 has kept me extremely busy, and it’s likely that many of you reading this have heard from me about it lately, usually trying to get your newsroom involved in one way or another with the set of tools Publish2 has to offer.  But, I still do get a lot of questions about what we do.  So here’s my entry-level explanation:

  1. We build tools to help journalists bring the best of the Web to their community.
  2. We build tools to help journalists and their readers collaborate on reporting the news.
  3. We build tools to help journalists collaborate with each other, inside their newsroom, across news organizations, even across media companies.

Double meanwhile…

Those of you who have been keeping score (hi Dad!) know that my Knight News Challenge grant for ReportingOn hits the one-year mark — and its end — at the end of June.  The Lion Burger crew has been building all sorts of tasty goodness into what I still like to call Phase 2, and I’m planning to flip the switch on a few things as the clock strikes July 1.

What you can expect: A brand new focus on questions and answers, a new design, some cool UI features, a lot of transparency about the process of building this iteration of the network, and the full KNC-funded codebase as a ripe Django project, open-sourced for anyone and everyone to try out for themselves.

How to find me

Yes, there’s a lot going on, not to mention the awesome stuff the two-year-old does these days, but I’m still pretty easy to find.

  • I’m @ryansholin on Twitter.
  • I’m always on IM as ryansholin on Google, AIM, and sometimes even Skype if you’re lucky.
  • Questions about Publish2? Hit me at ryan@publish2.com and I’ve got answers.

BarCamp NewsInnovation update: Regional in January, NYC in April

Jason Kristufek is proposing the details for a set of regional BarCamps to get “smart, cool, tech-savvy media industry folks together in an environment that doesn’t acknowledge rules or boundaries to help solve problems and create best practices.”

This grew out of reaction to the recent closed-door API newspaper executive meeting, where, as best as anyone who wasn’t in the room can tell, nothing was achieved.

So, Jason and a group of people, all of whom work on the front lines of the changing newspaper business rather than the corner office, are planning to start gathering some alternate troops.

That would be you.  Are you in?  Check out the list of proposed regional meetups and post your feedback now.  See you there.

[UPDATE: Of course, you’ll want to bang on the wiki.]

Let’s go BARcamp on the API CEO meetup

Know what Foo Camp is?  Know what BarCamp is?

OK, now that we have that out of the way, Jason Kristufek is calling for a “summit” of future-of-news hotshots/thinkers as a counterpoint to the recent American Press Institute mostly-executives meeting of the minds.

Sounds like a BarCamp to me.  Like Jason, I’m not entirely sure we can wait six months until the API 50 meet again. [UPDATE: One CEO says the plan is to meet again much sooner than that.]

Here’s what I think should happen at this sort of gathering:

  1. Talk about what’s working in your organization, whether it’s a tool, a story form, or a way of getting reporters, editors, or ad salespeople to use new tools and story forms.
  2. Talk about what’s missing in your organization, what you need help with, what you wish were easier.
  3. Break into birds-of-a-feather groups based on those first two data points, where the haves help the have-nots.
  4. Ideally, build prototypes to show off back home.  If what you need is a niche social network, you should walk away from this meeting with something to show off in a meeting when you get back to your newsroom. (Whether it’s a live, branded Ning site or a Drupal install on your laptop.)
  5. No panels, no keynotes, maybe some short, Pecha Kucha presentations to get through points 1. and 2.

But that’s just me; what do you think we could do if 50 of us got together for two days?