New things, new job, new thoughts
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.
Sideways is up and up is over and over is down
It’s been kind of a hell of a year for me, good and bad. I tried my hand at teaching, I somehow got elected to the board of ONA, V3 became a big part of my life, helped one of my favorite business shows out for a bit, and moved around at KPCC.
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.
Many ways to make a portfolio
Made this list for my students, but found others asking for them, and I added a few…here y’all go.
Links from this week on setting up a site
domai/nr to search for open domains
Namecheap to buy domains
DreamHost to host your site
Wordpress.org to create your blog
Smashing Magazine to find a good theme
Other ways to create a portfolio site or blog
Seel.io is made by students
Leeflets is for websites, but that’s what a portfolio is, no?
Jux is photo-based
Blogs and other things
Silvrback does a bio page and a blog
Anchor is lightweight blogging
Dropplets is also blogging
Scriptogr.am is blogging with Markdown and Dropbox
Postagon is lightweight blogging
Postach.io lets you blog with Evernote
Pressmatica uses Markdown
Roon also uses Markdown
Ghost is more trouble to install, but looks amazing
Tiny Letter sends tiny newsletters
Notes to myself from #ONA13
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.
Stop being so apologetic about being ambitious
- 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.
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.