“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.
Did print beauty get lost in the scramble for digital?
Last night, The Boy got a lovely package. It was a couple of books from the Folks at For Print Only. Each year, they do awards from print design and print them in a lovely little book.
I went to their site to check out some of the projects that didn’t make it into the book — namely magazines and journals. As I clicked through the sparse 3 pages of magazines, I realized something. Not one paper news outlet that I subscribe to is this beautiful. The magazines highlighted used words like bespoke, and low-fi, words I would not use to describe anything I have on my coffee table.
Wired is one of my favorite print subscriptions. It is pretty and well-designed. It is nothing like these. They have foil print, custom typography, paper that is heavy, things that I do not even know the word for.
Many of the amazing page designers I know have jumped into online wholeheartedly.
I’m not saying that online is responsible for the death of print design. I am obviously a huge proponent of online. But I simply cannot remember the last time I looked at a print product and said “Wow,” unless it was from the maker/artisan/Etsy community. What does that say about beauty in what we do?
I find the artisan community an interesting contrast to what has happened in journalism. I’ve been on Etsy since….ever, and many presents of mine come from there. I enjoy the curated, small shop experience. Etsy has brought back crafts that were thought lost like papercutting.
That feeling is one of the reasons I used to read Good Magazine and others. It’s a feeling that is all but lost in today’s print journalism.
Printing has gotten more expensive than ever, and online is cheap to make. A web site is nearly free whereas a piece of paper and ink costs. But Etsy is small scale. You want to own it before it is too late not to own it. I used to collect magazines for that reason. It’s why my father had a whole shelf full of National Geographic — it was something to save, something to look back at later. Why do that now when you can just archive it on a web site?
When the web first came about, it was the complement to the traditional product. Let’s archive it online, we would say. Cheap. Easy.
As web becomes predominant, what if we flipped that? Why has print not become the complement to online?
The notion of the dead newspaper might stay a notion if we change our thinking about what print can do that it has never done before.
Tell me, what’s the last beautiful piece of print journalism that you’ve seen?
(Note: This is probably the most strongly written thing I’ve said in a while and I do not confess to being a designer, just a consumer of design. I do want to be wrong about this — show me.)
“You have to make stuff. The tools of journalism are in your hands and no one is going to give a damn about what is on your resume, they want to see what you have made with your own little fingies. Can you use Final Cut Pro? Have you created an Instagram that is about something besides a picture of your cat every time she rolls over? Is HTML 5 a foreign language to you? Is your social media presence dominated by a picture of your beer bong, or is it an RSS of interesting stuff that you add insight to? People who are doing hires will have great visibility into what you can actually do, what you care about and how you can express on any number of platforms.”—
“Likewise, when managing, don’t dictate every detail of how to complete a project. Remember, employees can’t grow and gain new skills if you’re telling them exactly what to do for every project they work on. They need a sense of autonomy to feel that they’re succeeding.”—The Employee-Motivation Checklist | Fast Company
I’ve followed UpWorthy for awhile (particularly after a friend said it was a viral startup that actually got news). I read Buzzfeed, too.
What strikes me about it, and this aligns with this Nieman article, is that it’s not about the easy viral story, it’s the viral story that matters to people. And the social bit here is that they plan social.
It’s not ”We wrote this story, now make it go viral via social media.” There is no false ploy to the audience for engagement to make something hopefully resonate with that audience. In an age of digital-first, I think Upworthy (and Buzzfeed) aims to be social-first.
I realize Upworthy is not writing stories. But they are taking stories, making photos, infographics, etc that make the story social without taking away the meaning of it.
I will argue until I am blue in the face that while it is fun to do Storifys about where the best taco in LA is (something I actually did), the opportunity has always been to figure out what about tacos resonates with your audience and write the story with that in mind.
This is the reverse of how many newsrooms operate. We do not produce meaningful content on social. We produce content, and then tack some strange engagement piece onto it to make it social. A thoughtful story about the history of cherry trees is D.C becomes “show us your cherry blossoms.”
Just because people enjoy posting photos of their cat on Instagram does not mean that we must make cat photos on Instagram into news. We should figure out what makes those cat photos do well and apply that lesson to things that matter.
Really, in a way, this is what makes Upworthy different than Buzzfeed. Now the question is, why can’t the rest of us do that?
“There has to be a certain scale at stations before you see creativity really begin to grow. Because there have to be enough people who aren’t completely tired out by just the general production of radio every day to come up with ideas. I think that’s some reason why WNYC — 200 or so people there, everybody is busy, but so many people have just a little time every day to think of a really great idea and do something on it.”—
“What’s the right balance between restraint and aggressive repeating and redistributing of other people’s reports? (Remember, retweets aren’t endorsements, usually! But they can spread falsehood at the speed of light.) I’m not sure.”—The ‘facts’ from Benghazi | Capital New York h/t @JulieWestfall
I may call a lot of people great and awesome, but these two….I met Laura at a fellowship last year. She wowed every single mentor and every single entrepreneur there with her spirit and her passion toward her project. I met Chris slightly later and he is no less awe-inspiring.
In an industry full of cut-backs and bankruptcies, it’s nice to have people with energy around.
2) Simple, amazing reporting.
I told someone yesterday about backing them on Kickstarter and they mentioned how impossible it seems that this crew gets so much information about each and every murder. But they do. Because they are not only amazing human beings, but they have a simple, fresh and unique way of reporting. Something I wish all reporters did.
3) Innovation on any level needs to be funded.
God Bless the Knight News Challenge, but some things don’t need $1 million. Some things need less. We need to find a way to fund medium-scale projects. I’m part of a newsroom that gets large foundations to help fund our journalism, but I’d like to be part of an ecosystem that funds all amazing journalism. $50? I can afford that.
* Saying “like” constantly makes you sound much less smart than she knows you are. * Don’t futz with copyright. * You have a choice with your notes. Keep them all, and use them as backup if you get subpoenaed. Or get rid of them every six months and rely on your unreliable memory.
But there was more.
I should tell you Barbara Mack was my college professor in media law. She also taught ethics, and really, you got a little of both regardless of which class you took.
She had a whipsmart sense of humor. She was tough, but students streamed into her classes at Iowa State — my alma mater — because she cared. She was one of the best teachers I’ve ever had because she was determined that we would leave college with a firm base in media law.
She was pretty amazing.
I woke up this morning to a stream of messages from my fellow alumni about her. We were a close class, those of us who wrote and learned and became journalists at the Iowa State Daily. We have been flown far and abroad, close and nearby.
But there are things we remember about our time in Ames. B Mack’s tough as hell classes. Working until far too late to get the paper out. Living in that tiny room, forgetting you had class because the news did, and for some of us still does, come first.
Her death was the second piece of sad news I received while catching up on the world.
And it’s a reminder to live life, to be happy with what you do and to pass on your love, knowledge and kindness to others because teaching is part of what we do as journalists and as humans.
B Mack, thank you. There is so much more I can’t find the words to say. (Who knew that would ever happen?)
“Resist the temptation to rely too much on a guru; hiring a guru will only take your organization so far. Many of the organizations who brought in “social media gurus” learned this lesson the hard way. A single individual cannot scale. However, if the organization is willing to put real teeth behind their mobile efforts, a single smart person can help form a center of excellence. Establishing a center of excellence that puts mobility at the core, and integrates it with other business initiatives, can get a business thinking about mobile more strategically.”—
“It was the first time I really expressed myself all the way, not trying to be a professional, not trying to please my parents." He adds "I had to let go of that fucking Asian guilt. The moment I let go of, ‘I should be a doctor,’ I truly soared.”—