“"I said, ‘Hi,’ " Knight replied. Other than that single syllable, he insisted, he had not spoken with or touched another human being, until this night, for twenty-seven years.”—The Strange Tale of the North Pond Hermit
Hi Kim! Sorry if this is coming from nowhere, but I'm an aspiring journalist -- I found your blog through Twitter where I follow many journalists for learning and inspiration. What advice would you give to someone who is passionate about journalism, but who is also scared of the seemingly unstable nature of it? My ultimate goal is to become a journalist, but I am also living on my own and need to pay bills. Looking forward to hearing from you!
Learn to pitch. Really really well.
Chances are, no matter if you end up with a FT job or not, you’ll have to freelance. The key to freelancing (and really the key to being a good beat reporter) is pitching. The only way to really learn is to pitch, a lot. Pitch stories to people, to publishers, to your friends. Get good at selling people on the hook and angle. It’ll help you no matter where you go.
Besides that, you have to ride the wave of change. Things will never be stable in journalism. If it’s not a scandal, it’s the business. It’s if not business, it’s a new platform. Something will always be new and that is the best part of this job, if you don’t let it weigh you down. If you’re the kind of person who wants monotony and for things to be very structured, this isn’t the field for you. If you want to do cool, random, new things and learn every day, then you’ll succeed.
“Honestly, what we’re doing is hard to explain: We’re not a news site, but we’ll cover the news, often, and in provocative and playful ways. We’re not another longform publisher, but we’re going to be publishing a lot of longform. We’re not going to be Wikipedia-broad, but we’re not going to be niche either. We’ll jump in big on the stories and issues from across the globe we actually care about, and think you care about too, and we’ll skip the rest. We’re sort of a magazine for a generation who grew up not caring about magazines.”—
I also took a step back and tried to focus on completing a few things that work had always taken over. Like, creating a new #WJCHAT website, and finally submitting to the Amtrak Residency program.
Getting laid off teaches you lessons. This was time number three for me, and though I am an old hat at it, it still wasn’t easy.
I’ve learned that I love traditional newsrooms, even if they bite at me from time to time. I’ve certainly learned how to pitch myself and how to interview for a job. I’ve learned that California finally got it’s act together regarding unemployment. I’ve learned that when you are in need, people will hold you up.
So, thanks for all the e-mails, calls, offers to e-introduce me to someone, kind words said to a place I applied to, offers of a little bit of freelance cash, and most of all, kindness. My heart swells thinking of all the people who I thought I didn’t know so well, but spoke to me like we had been best friends forever. Horizontal loyalty, indeed.
I will admit there were many days of staying in bed and wallowing, wondering if I should give it all up. But those are over.
After the weeks of pondering, I’ve decided that I’m going to do some work with Beacon.
The reasons are many, but really, I want to try to fix some problems I’ve seen in journalism. Beacon has a wonderful team behind it, and the writing their community supports blows me away. I am going to be the Los Angeles front for them, because this has stories, and the writers to tell them. I’ve been waiting five long years for journalism to discover LA, and I’m done waiting for someone else to do it.
This place should be a powerhouse. It should be up there with NYC and DC with jobs, start-ups and journalism prowess. We have the history, the money, and the people to make it happen. The LA Times should be not the only great place to write, it should be one of hundreds.
This is why I haven’t left. And this is what I’m going to do. Hopefully, I am not wrong.
If you want to be part of it, you know how to find me. If you see the stories and the potential like I do, let’s make it happen.
I’ve been trying to figure out how to write this for a few days. Whether it’s a bulleted learning-type post or just a flat out public diary entry. I’ve vacillated between being very open about all this, to closed and calculated.
But the hell with it. Open up. Today is my last day at Thunderdome.
I’ve known that for two weeks now. And it’s been a hell of a two weeks. Everyone has been amazing. The support, job help, kind words and tweets have blown me away. I am pretty sure I haven’t even responded to them all, but I’m trying.
Today is a terrible, rotten, no-good day. In a way, spending three months at Thunderdome was a taste of the good life. I had just gotten into my rhythm when this all went down. My snapchats were perfect, to start with.
So, today, I am spending threatening to cry, as I have been for two weeks. It’s been up and down. On a day with a job interview, I think that it will all be OK and I’ll land well, as everyone says. Some days, I wake up, thinking about and missing the amazing people I work with.
It is hard to walk away, forced or not. I feel like a part of this, even after three months, and I feel like an fraud in everything else, thanks to Impostor Syndrome.
You’d think that being laid off twice before would have prepared me for this, but it didn’t. Honestly, getting laid off will rip your heart out every time. It can also be an amazing twist in the road, but it always hurts.
Bullet-pointed, three things I’m trying to remember.
Good bosses are there for you . I have this feeling Robyn, Jim and Steve will be there for me when I need it. So far, they’ve given me advice and left kind words behind them as they scoop through the journalism world, trying to get us all hired. In an interview yesterday, I was surprised to learn Jim had gotten there first and talked to the person about me without my knowing.
That’s not to mention Julie, who I was already friends with, and was just as an amazing boss as I had hoped. I’ve had a few bad bosses in my career, and these guys reminded me that a boss can be a mentor and a friend.
Thunderdome will live forever. I sometimes have a hard time with failure, mostly because it’s a key part of the sadness that can sometimes plague me. But it also excites me, once I get to the good part. We didn’t fail. We tried. And we learned. We’re all walking away with ideas and plans in our heads. I’m pretty sure we’ll be conspiring and drinking for the rest of our lives, in some fashion.
There are good things next. The question of what is next is pretty open. I’ve already had some amazing discussions with places I can’t believe even know my name. And I’ve talked to places about things that make my skin prickle with excitement with the sense of doing something new. I will be OK. You won’t catch me announcing anything soon. I’m going to take my time and think about what sort of shop I want to be at, and hopefully help lead.
Meanwhile, I’ve made minor attempts at getting somewhere with my fiction writing, something I’ve never really given up on.
tl;dr How am I doing? OK. Just OK. But I will be better. Mostly, I will miss all of the fine people I’m now lucky enough to call friends.
(Sorry that this is eerily similar to my post two weeks again. Again, writing as processing.)
I’m a writer, so I automatically have to process everything via writing. So, given the news, here goes.
I spent three months with Thunderdome. When I made the decision to go there and leave KPCC, I was so excited. It was a room full of some of my favorite people, and others that I wanted to work for for a long time.
And God, those people were amazing. Everyone believed I was competent. Everyone had faith in me. We all pushed each other to try new things, look at a story a different way, write about that idea. We laughed, and I never felt alone even though I was across the country.
I had no fear, no anxiety, nothing but excitement about work and I felt empowered.
We were working on some cool shit. I was working on some cool shit.
I’m, um, crying as I write this, because I’ve been laid off before, but I’ve never been laid off when I was in the middle of working on something I think I would be proud of for the rest of my career.
Do I regret taking the job now that I know it wasn’t for long? Not one bit.
So thanks to everyone there. I could list names but I would end up listing everyone. I would work with every one of you at Thunderdome (and at LANG, too for that matter) in a heartbeat. You are all welcome at my house in LA. We will get beers and Snapchat everyone else.
So hire these people. Hire me, for that matter. We are smart, young, and we want to make journalism better.
That’s it, for now. Thanks for reading my weepiness.
“To help users quickly find what they need, anchor text should stand out from the body content and accurately describe the page that it refers to.”—A good overview of how to link appropriately so people will click on the links in your article. Writing Hyperlinks: Salient, Descriptive, Start with Keyword
“The fact is that more women in the magazine means fewer men in the magazine, and that seems to be a tough thing for the men who run these magazines to accept and execute.”—VIDA count 2013: Magazine editors respond.
“I kept waiting for the lights to turn off, to signal the end of the day. But the lights did not shut off. I began to count the small holes carved in the walls. Tiny grooves made by inmates who’d chipped away at the cell as the cell chipped away at them.”—My Night in Solitary - NYTimes.com
“Unfortunately, the answer to the activist’s question of “why” is ignored in a clickbait competition where a picture is worth zero words. The only “wh-“ word that matters is “whoa”: Look at the fire, the water, the bullets, the blood. Look, but do not listen. Look inward, at the movie you watched that looked like Ukraine, at the painting you saw that looked like Ukraine. Look at Ukraine without seeing Ukraine.”—The Day We Pretended to Care About Ukraine - Sarah Kendzior - POLITICO Magazine
Last weekend, I helped out with an ONA dCamp of mobile. It’s been brewing for awhile, before I even got into mobile, but after a long conversation about products, mobile and product teams with folks like Damon Kiesow and Eric Ulken at ONA13, Damon, with the help of the amazing Miranda Mulligan, made a conversation into a reality.
[Sidebar: Part of my interest in this is the struggle for a traditionally “non-tech” person like myself to budge into product teams. I am not a strong coder, but I can work with people who code. Is that enough? Depends on who you talk to.]
I wrote this on one of our sticky notes. We can talk about the Internet of things, or wearable technology. But what all those things come down to, is that they know.
Some of the best apps, the ones I use every day, they know. It’s creepy, but what constitutes privacy is changing. Mynd, my calendar app, knows who I am meeting with next and shows me their LinkedIn profile. My alarm clock app, with a little input, has told me I sleep better when I drink tea and work out.
But news apps, news sites, they have never known. Not well, really. They might know what your friends have posted on Facebook from that site, but that’s hardly interesting.
What if you gave it access to your calendar and Facebook, and it told you Rob likes the Atlanta Braves and feeds you a few stories so you can make a tense meeting more relaxed? What if it told you the hotel you’re about to check into had break-ins last month that are still unsolved?
We can’t beat Facebook, but we can find spaces in the day
At least a couple teams tried to work on this. In our group the conversation went back and forth as to whether we — as news companies — really can compete with the timesucks of Facebook and Twitter, and the information gatherers like Flipboard.
But there are other moments in the day we can find. We can fill in the time where we’re waiting in line. The time when our readers wake up. The time when our readers are doing research. The time when they are looking up what is happening down the street. Is there a tree down?
We spend a lot of time focusing on the time of day we’re on mobile (early and evening) but the questions is what is our audience doing then? It’s not about time, it’s about activity. My hiking app has become indispensable when I’m out in the woods. Outside of the world of mobile, public radio is obsessed with drive time. Those moments, when people are trapped in the car and need something, anything to take their mind off it — driveway moments.
We need better building blocks
This is the least sexy thing. But it’s the most important. We can’t build anything for mobile unless we can actually program, write for, and control mobile. Most mobile websites are slight re-hashes of homepages. But when you’re on your phone, you’re most likely looking for something specific, or something that fills a need (interesting, funny, etc).
But to build something where the mobile display feel radically different, customized, we need to start somewhere better.
The building blocks can’t be
It’s got to be more like:
Our CMSs have to be ready for different displays. The preview needs to show not just desktop, but mobile. How can we have outstanding mobile products if our web producers and our mobile producers are just reproducing the same story, with the same basic elements? What’s the point of having two people if our systems won’t even let us produce different things?
If we crunch everything down to building blocks, then it’s easier to build on breaking news (goodbye, timestamps!!) and we can scale up easily to large scale projects without freaking out about mobile in the end.
In tweet form, other thoughts that crossed my mind over the weekend
We need to get more women interested in mobile, in the tech side. Female product managers in news? A rare sight.
Push alerts aren’t the answer, they’re the beginning. The more relevant they are (@Circa) they more people use them.
Constant reminder: We are not typical news consumers. We have to stop building for ourselves.
The struggle to get newsroom to think mobile is the same struggle as social. We’re pushing the object of change, not the idea of it.
Big data needs to be broken down into small, actionable data on my phone.
“Consumers today have “contextual” analysis coming out of their ears. What they’re getting less of is the hard information — “what’s happening” — around which context is built. There are fewer reporters from general-interest publications covering city halls and statehouses, fewer devoted to issues such as the environment and healthcare, fewer keeping an eye on state and federal regulators.”—Supply of news is dwindling amid the digital media transformation - latimes.com
“The only real thing 30 took from me was the sense of limitless time. I can reasonably expect 30 more years of good health. With luck, there will be 9,000 sunsets to get the great work done, before one starts fearing cancer and death.”—On Turning 30 | VICE Canada
“Women and members of minority groups, especially, are often raised with one set of values and expectations, and then suddenly need to excel in a new environment where the path to success is much different.”—How to Suppress the Apology Reflex - NYTimes.com
“Tough love and honesty are supposedly kryptonite to most women’s likability, but when I think of the people I like the most, they aren’t the most agreeable. They are honest with me, but not so blunt as to disregard my feelings altogether. They are challenging, but don’t argue for the sake of argument.The emotional labor of cultivating that sort of likability transcends gender. I acknowledge that my definition of likable is probably pretty different from, say, that of a middle-aged man working in corporate America. So I’m certainly not suggesting women strive for an abstract, catch-all ideal of likability. That doesn’t exist.”—How to Be Powerful, Likable, and Female: Learn From Jenna Lyons - The Cut
“The goitrogenic properties of kale become dramatically lessened when kale — or any other cruciferous vegetable — is cooked. (Other veggies in this category include: broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kohlrabi, mustard, rutabaga, turnips, bok choy and Chinese cabbage. Arugula, horseradish, radish, wasabi and watercress are also cruciferous vegetables.)”—
So…all those things I eat because they’re good for me could be bad? :/
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This is the “a bit of personal news” post. But I’ll try to make it worth your while.
I’m excited to announce that I’m joining the breaking news team at Digital First Media’s Thunderdome. I’m staying in LA, which means I need to clean out my home “office” and I’ll probably be a frequent visitor to various LANG newsrooms.
This means I’m leaving my post at KPCC, where I’ve been for over three years.
I’ve long been impressed by the brilliant collection of minds at DFM, and their work at building something new that seems difficult, which has become the theme to my career: build cool new shit with good people. It’s not an easy task to build something national, but that also works with all of the newspapers under DFM’s charge. A challenge, if you will. I like challenges.
I love KPCC’s newsroom, and many of the fine journalists working here. We have built something new in public media. Not quite radio. Not quite web. A little bit of everything. And I’m thrilled that the final feather in my cap is KPCC’s brand new iPad app, which is possibly the most beautiful thing I’ve ever worked on.
It would not be a post from me without some meandering thoughts, so here’s a few I want to share.
Building a product is hard. But amazing.
I was not sure I was up for being a product manager. But for sixish months, I helped my colleagues Sean Dillingham and Ben Hochberg take whiteboard scribblings and post-it user stories into something real. I learned a lot about running a beta test. And that users will tell you one thing sometimes, but do another. And that sometimes they’re telling the truth.
Ben and Sean were awesome to work with and the app we created is something I hope all of public media, or even media looks at with envy. A team of three built this. There is no excuse for saying you have to go with a template, or a white label. Building something different and small is better.
Public media has a lot to teach mainstream. And a lot to learn.
It is almost as if the time I spent in newspapers and startups were my adolescence and my time in public media was graduating.
The journalists in public media are something to behold. All of them. They love the work they do and the mission they serve. In public media the reader doesn’t just pay the bills, but has a face. I saw them at events, on tours in the building, in my email and my Twitter feed. The people we served were personalized and that made me work harder.
"The reader" should be a person in all newsrooms. We should all meet them and hang out with them and find out why they still buy the paper or click on our stories. They should scold us and praise us. Let’s all get cozy, because for me, that relationship pushed me to do things I will always be proud of.
But public media has flaws. Joaquin Alvarado can lay these out better for anyone who is interested. But one thing I really want to point out here: There is a huge brain drain in #pubmedia. Some of the best, youngest, most effective, but also pushy, people have left public media. Retention is a problem. There is no pipeline to the top for those who have not toiled for years. There is so much potential in the newsrooms of public media, I can only hope that potential is seen before it is too late.
This paragraph will be intensely personal: I suffered heavily from anxiety this past year. Makes sense, given everything. It’s all better of late, mostly in check, but I mention it because for all the jockeying and working hard and success, I often fail to take a step back and breathe. I am bad at taking care of myself, and bad at stopping what is bad for me (smoking when stressed) and starting what is good for me (meditating when stressed). It’s not an easy time, nor is this an easy business and I’m sure I’m not alone. But I’m thankful I’ve got friends (journalism-related and not) who constantly remind me that every day is a fresh start.
I can only hope for a 2014 that is just as exciting as this one has been, with new challenges and new shit to build.
I hesitate to call these lessons, because some of them aren’t even journalism related, but hey, maybe someone can gain insight from them.
Find new ways to serve ONA
It took me awhile standing at the table with all the buttons with years on them to remember how long I’ve gone to ONA. I think I found it when I wanted to get into web and figured there must be some form of organization out there that would help. I joined, and (I think) six years later I’ve been on small group think-out-louds, working sessions, spoken at the conference, helped plan the conference, joined the membership committee, help keep ONALA somewhat functional, and now volunteered.
I realize that even if I don’t get elected to the board, I can help folks out in so many way. I said it to a few people, but this organization has breathed life into what was once a dream for me and has found me a network of cross country friends and colleagues. The least I can do is donate some time.
Mobile / Product / Responsive / Platform intelligence
There was a blog post I wrote long ago about platform intelligence and all this jabber about product and platforms and mobile during sessions has me kind of jazzed for that area of journalism.
I’ve been extremely grateful to spend the last few month at KPCC working on product and it’s something I want to continue doing for a long time. It was mentioned in one of the mobile sessions, but the overlap between product, editorial and IT is getting bigger and bigger. We need editorial people who get it.
I was speaking to Jason Tuohey about this for a minute and I said something I’ve been thinking about mobile that I should write down before I forget it. For those of us who are not the NYT, WaPo or other national brands, we have to have a responsive site so people can find out news first when they search. Apps (like the one I was lucky enough to work on briefly) are made for experiences. Only places with national names get to do a dump of content for an app and get away with it. The rest of us will never get any users if we pretend that anyone wants an app that makes our content look nicer. You’ve got to provide people with a thing, an experience, that they’ll link to your brand and come back for.
Prove that you are worth it. If you want something, and no one else gets it, write a memo, do the work, do it on the side. Prove it to folks that you are worth investing in. If they still don’t listen, then….
Not everyone is going to have your back. Some folks watch out for their jobs, some watch out for their careers. You want the person who sees your ambition as a way to not only support you, but support them and improve their lives. I’m butchering this, but that’s more or less it.
It’s easier to create your own box, than to fill someone else’s.
Managing is not about org charts, hierarchy, meetings or emails. It’s about the people, the team you have with you. If you’re a manager, you have to be about the people, not the cogs. If you are aspiring, find what you are good at, and have a headline and subheads for every job. Put all your energy into that.
Look at the big picture, and stop having rules.
I was all about “pageviews are bullshit” until I listened to @BrianAbelsontalk about looking at data stacks as opposed to discrete metrics.
He compared promotion (tweets and homepage love) to pageviews, plugged them in with some variables, and got interesting results.
Must remember to think analytically about making rules and maxims for things. So easy to be wrong.
Finish that damned novella, already
Had a long talk with @markstencel about his post-NPR life, my life and his book. Excited for him and I need to get mine out the door.
Sad I missed @GregLinch's unconference about what you love other than journalism, but I'm so happy I have a support system within journalism, but also outside. I joke a lot about saving journalism, but part of me really wants to do it. To do that well, I need to take time off, hand someone my cell phone on the weekends (shoutout to @pickhoffwhite on that), and make sure this industry doesn’t burn me out before I can accomplish that.
I’m sure there is more, but that is what needed to be downloaded from my head.
“If an app desperately needs re-engagement, there’s a perverse incentive to flood the notification channel, but if those alerts (and the app itself) aren’t truly relevant to the mobile user, well, the clock starts ticking before either the company doesn’t exist or the user shortcuts it all and deletes the app from the phone altogether.”—The Precise Art Of Mobile Push Notifications | TechCrunch
“I don’t understand how anybody who works, at let’s say Business Insider, can go to work in the morning and be proud, because you just kind of go, ‘You write headlines that are designed to con people into clicking things,’” said Carr, who has publicly criticized the Web site numerous times. “Yeah, it works, but are you proud of what you do? What I’m trying to do is be able to sleep at night and pay everybody’s salaries.”—America’s next top media mogul? | SmartPlanet
Just last summer, Mark Zuckerberg was hammered with questions about mobile monetization — which was zero — and he promised to improve Facebook’s crappy mobile app. Then the company’s IPO fell flat. Fast forward to this summer, and Facebook’s new mobile numbers should make your head spin:
It’s been a pretty long, yet pretty rewarding week.
In the middle of it, I had a long talk with a friend that resonated with a topic that keeps coming up.
Without sounding self-helpy: We have to get rid of all the negativity in newsrooms.
Why? It’s killing us. And not in a “death to journalism’ way, but more in a “burning everyone out” way.
In more precise terms…
It’s hard to get ahead if you’re a complainer
I can’t think of a single manager I know that says “Man, I really want to hire that sour puss over there.”
You want to hire someone who is capable, but also energizing. It’s the reason we go to conferences. You want someone who, just by working near them, you get inspired by.
I never will tout a co-worker, boss, or anyone who makes me feel worse about myself, who stabs me in the back, who plays politics more than teamwork.
I could list dozens of people who I work near that make me better at my job. I could also list dozens who are so grumpy that they make me want to go back to bed. That leads me to…
Creativity demands positive action
Even when we fail, it’s not a failure. It’s that whole failing up Silicon Valley thing.
We can’t build the best journalism ever if we all hate our lives and each other. We can if we look at what we could have done better and say, “This was good, but man, next time it’ll be awesome because instead we’ll do…”
We’ll drive ourselves, and our readers out of this business
I am not even sure why I have to explain this. Ever worked in a newsroom around layoff time? Yeah, you don’t do the best work. Or work at all, really.
It’s a shame to me that someone has to preach positive thinking. I know we’re a cantankerous, skeptical bunch, but at heart, we’re also writers, artists, creatives and people who want to tell a story.