To Tweet or Not to Tweet…

At book club the other week we started with a lively discussion about Facebook. Do we friend co-workers? What about younger relatives (think teens!)? Do you include a photo? What if a friend posts something you don’t like?

The one commonality was that each of us was using Facebook to varying degrees. And, for the most part, we enjoyed it for connecting with friends, although we all preferred sitting outside on a gorgeous fall day talking face to face.

But there are those who are rebelling against Facebook and other social means of communicating. And no, they aren’t in their 70s or 80s. Ian Shapira in The Washington Post wrote about 20-somethings who were simply saying no to joining Facebook. He called such people “networking refuseniks.”

So why do you participate — or not — on Facebook and other social media sites? Is it worth your time?

We’re considering using social media sites to reach out more often to our members and potential members in National Federation of Press Women. I’m curious to know if it will be worth our time and effort.

Let me know. (Of course, my Facebook page is closed to friends, but you can find me on LinkedIn and through this blog.)

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How Is Your Professional Health?

For three days I and other senior managers at my organization discussed creating a dashboard to measure the health of our organization. The new board for NFPW is doing the same. We’re considering what a healthy number is in terms of membership. We’ve set measurements with respect to the Web. We’ve discussed financials.

It started me thinking. What about our own professional health? Shouldn’t each of us have a dashboard for ourselves? How often do we attend a networking event? How often do we read an article or book that broadens our horizons? How often do we take on tasks that don’t benefit us beneficially and eat up our time?

I decided to spend some time this weekend creating my professional health dashboard. It was eye opening. One thing on it is this blog — I’m growing my skill set. I also discovered some areas that needed work.

Once I identified what I needed to manage, I identified ways to measure. I’ll track my progress and expect to see results within six months to a year.

What are you doing for your professional health?

Longtime Reporter Dies

I’m at that age where I’m starting to read the obituaries. Today, I was deeply saddened to read the obituary for Bill Wasson, who reported for the Richmond Times-Dispatch for nearly 40 years. He died this week after a lengthy illness.

Bill was one of the stereotypical reporters — always a cigarette in his hand, always a curmudgeonly attitude, always lurking.

I came to know Bill when I served as spokesperson for the Richmond Police Department. He could drive me crazy with his questions and his need to know right now “because I’ve got a deadline.”  Some of those who worked with him would go out of their way to avoid him knowing that there would be no end in sight until Bill nailed his story.

And that’s why he’ll be missed. He was thorough. He wanted the facts. He wanted accuracy. He was going to meet his deadline, and he wouldn’t take no for an answer.

I learned quickly to anticipate his questions and find out the answers before he even showed up at a crime scene. He learned that if I didn’t come over to him right away I was still collecting my facts. 

When you spend hours at a scene waiting for information, you fill the time with conversation. Bill and I chatted about a variety of subjects. It’s hard to be friends with a reporter when you’re a spokesperson and a constant source of information, but Bill and I came as close as you could to that line.

Bill made a difference in the lives of many with his reporting so thank you Bill for living up to journalism’s ideals.

Library of Virginia Announces Winners

Adriana Trigiani hosted last night’s 12th annual Literary Awards at the Library of Virginia. As always she was engaging and humorous, connecting everyone. It’s always great fun to see her. She’s  a wonderful author who gives back so much to the book world. By the end of the evening, everyone would be conversing via Facebook. And only she could get by with calling Roger Mudd “eye candy.”

He was the winner of the People’s Choice Award in nonfiction for his “The Place to Be: Washington, CBS, and the Glory Days of Television News.” The fiction winner was Martin Clark’s “The Legal Limit.”

The gala event was great fun and many Virginia Press Women members attended, including Nancy Beasley, who was a nominee in 2006 for “Izzy’s Fire.” I hope to see Julie Campbell, who is writing a book about the horse in Virginia as a future nominee. Her book is slated to publish this spring.

VPW member Emyl Jenkins, whose latest book is “The Big Steal,” presented the fiction award to Domnica Radulescu for “Train to Trieste,” which tells the story of a young woman’s quest for freedom and shelter in Soviet-dominated Russia during the late 1970s.” Domnica is a professor at Washington & Lee, where Julie also works. The world of authors is small.

Other winners included Annette Gordon-Reed who won the nonfiction prize for “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family.” Lisa Russ Spaar won the poetry prize for “Satin Cash.” The Weinstein Poetry Prize went to Eleanor Ross Taylor and Charles Wright. The Whitney and Scott Cardozo Award for Children’s Literature was awarded to Doreen Rappaport for “Abe’s Honest Words: The Life of Abraham Lincoln.”

Other VPW members attending included Mary Martin, George and Frances Crutchfield, Sharon Baldacci

Literary Awards

Julie Campbell, Cynthia Price, Adriana Trigiani, Nancy Beasley attend the Library of Virginia Literary Awards.

 and Jann Malone, who also served as a judge.

The Literary Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to John Grisham. He writes a novel a year and all of them have become international best sellers. There are currently more than 235 million of his books in print worldwide, which have been translated into 29 languages. His first book, however, he sold from the trunk of his car going to libraries statewide.

Libraries were an underlying theme throughout the evening. Most everyone shared their experiences of when they received their first library card. Grisham, whose family moved frequently, considered a town small time if you were only allowed to check out two books at a time. A good library would allow five.

Books, of course, were the focus, but what of their future? Grisham asked what would happen if the Kindle gained in popularity. Would holding a book, cracking it open and turning the pages go the way of the Internet? It was a weighty question and one that no one in this crowd truly wanted to contemplate.

After all, is there anything greater than opening the cover of a new book eagerly anticipating the discoveries within the pages? It’s magical and that’s what makes the Library of Virginia’s Literary Awards magical.

The Past Is the Future

Each year at the NFPW conference I hear stories from our distinguished members about their early experiences in journalism. Years later as they share the stories, we can laugh and marvel at what they experienced.

Most of us believe that we’ve come so far from those days. But as with all history it’s good to not forget. And several recent studies point out that women still aren’t equal to their male counterparts.

The American Association of University Women reported in a study a few years ago that women right out of college make only 80 percent as much as their male peers. It’s also one of the reasons the National Council for Research on Women has begun promoting mentors and peer support for younger women.

And here’s where NFPW can come in. How simple would it be to partner one of our experienced members with a first-timer at the next national conference? That’s one of Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas’ ideas for the conference next year. The two can meet in Chicago “Face to Face” and then continue the mentoring via phone, email, text, Twitter or whatever the newest way to communicate will be.

We also don’t want to lose the lessons and stories of those who blazed the trails for us. Over the next few months, I plan to interview former NFPW presidents about their experiences and lessons learned. Our membership is rich with experience; we need to capture it and learn and grow from it.

NFPW also provides newer, less experienced members with outstanding leadership and learning opportunities. Assisting with a conference or serving on the state affiliate board or the NFPW board provides opportunities that often enhance leadership opportunities in the career sector. I learned my event planning skills by coordinating several conferences for Virginia Press Women and eventually co-chairing the 2007 NFPW conference in Richmond. When I began my career, I would not have known the first thing to do.

I first heard about social media years ago at an NFPW conference. I remember sitting in the room (I don’t even recall what state we were in) and being completely overwhelmed. I wasn’t alone. But I realized that was the future,and I needed to understand it. Today I’m on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and have my own blog.

Without NFPW I would be behind the curve.

So let’s learn and grow,taking the wisdom of those who have gone before us. And let’s help our younger, newer members so that they, too, can continue to blaze the trail for the next generation.

“Delete All” Is Not an Option

I’m fighting my emails and they’re winning. Some days I aspire to simply hit the “delete all” key and – problem solved! At least until an action that was required comes due.

It’s a real problem for me – and frankly, I hope for others as I don’t want to think I’m the only one who can’t control these pesky little entries. The other day I was so excited because I started the day around 450 and when I left I was at 247 – progress… And it’s not a case of reading and deleting, almost everyone required an action that took from 1 minute to 20 or more.

So why do I have so many? Part of it is that my job requires travel and when you average 100+ emails a day, a one-week trip puts you at 1,000 plus. I try to keep up through the BlackBerry but that doesn’t always work.

One thing that would help is clearly identified subject lines; I would then at least know the urgency of the item. Chris Brogan also recently commented on emails and he noted that subject lines matter. Here are a few of his suggestions for subject lines –

  • DECISION NEEDED: Picking the corporate logo today
  • SCHEDULING: Check Tuesday, Wednesday, or Friday
  • PROMOTION HELP: Looking for some blog and Twitter love

He says that we should make every email definitive. If you’re planning a meeting, put out three or four days and dates. For the most part, emails should exist to inform, move ideas around, and then stop,” Chris wrote in a recent post.

I had a designer who urged me to send him copy and in the subject line list what the copy was and whether art was included. It made it easier for him when he was laying out the publication – he could identify the email he needed quickly. He trained me well.

Perhaps he could train everyone who is sending me emails before I hit the “delete all” key.

The Power of the Ask

“Just ask.” That’s my new motto.

A few years ago when Pam Stallsmith and I were co-chairing the 2007 NFPW conference, we knew we needed to raise funds. I’m not really good about asking for money, but if you don’t ask, you definitely won’t get anything. And so taking Pam’s advice to “just ask,” I began my calls.

And then, I asked.

And most everyone gave.

As I was preparing to become president, I needed to find members to serve on the appointed board. Pam reminded me, “Just ask.”

Our members want to be asked. More importantly they understand the power of making NFPW stronger.

I called Teresa Ford in Colorado and asked if she would design our newsletter. I had been impressed by the design of the NFPW conference program in Colorado, which she had designed. I gave her time to think about it.

When I called back she said she was busy but would do it because she, too, is involved with volunteer groups and it’s hard to get people to volunteer. She didn’t want to be the one who didn’t.

I asked Linda Koehler to edit the newsletter. Texas was only her second conference but we had spoken last year — we connected because she is from my home state of Pennsylvania. She said yes.

Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas offered several excellent suggestions during our general meeting on membership. So… I asked her to join the board spearheading membership. She was a tough sell because she wanted to be sure we (or should I say I) was going to do what I said I would do as president. But I asked, and she said yes.

And so I’ll continue to ask.

I hope you’ll answer.