Journalism is an Ideal Stepping Stone for Career

Charles Darwin said those most responsive to change would survive. In today’s changing workplace, individuals must change to be relevant and visible.

Pam Stallsmith of Virginia Press Women shared her journey from long-time newspaper reporter to communications consultant for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond during a workshop at the 2010 NFPW Conference.

“I went from a noisy newsroom to a quiet office,” Pam says. “The first thing I realized is that I can’t use a newsroom voice.”

The biggest change for her was that journalism is reactive with lots of short-term deadlines. But “corporate communications is strategic and proactive,” she says.

She’s also learning more technology and has worked on several multimedia projects. “Interactivity is everywhere,” she notes.

Pam exemplifies why journalism is an ideal stepping stone for a career in journalism, says Lynn Hazan, who founded Lynn Hazan & Associates, which provides recruiting services for clients.

Some of the skills journalists bring to the table and, therefore, are skills that journalists should highlight when transitioning into communications, are –

  • Interview skills
  • Ability to make and see connections
  • Writing – taking the complex and making it easily understood
  • Ability to talk to many types of people
  • Creativity
  • Inquisitiveness
  • Deadline oriented
  • Multitasking
  • Critical thinking.

Cynthia’s Communique Turns One

I can’t believe it!

I’ve been writing this blog for one year!!!

The idea behind it came from conversations with NFPW members. Many expressed doubts about the world of social media. Others said they simply didn’t have time. And some said they wanted to learn about different topics but didn’t get enough of it at conference.

So I started this blog to see what I could learn about blogging and to share what I learned. I also am exposed to lots of great information, either through work or my own research, and I thought, “Why not share it?”

When I first started writing, I wasn’t sure if anyone was reading it. I’m a huge fan of the movie “Field of Dreams,” but I did not believe that “If I write it, they will read it” was going to hold true.

Then my numbers started to go up, as well as my subscribers. People started commenting on the blog, on Facebook or on LinkedIn. And this year during the conference in Chicago, people complimented my efforts.

So thank you for that. Thank you for encouraging me and believing in me. I can now say I’ve written more than 100 blogs!

I’m done yet. I hope you will continue to comment and to suggest topics. Mostly, I hope you will keep reading.

Thanks for a great year!

NFPW Launches New Website

The new NFPW site is live!

Members told us what they wanted to see in the site. A small group analyzed the site and reviewed industry best practices. The result is a site with enhanced navigability, timely content and more photos and videos.

In the coming weeks and months you’ll hear directly from past presidents about what they enjoy most about NFPW. They shared their thoughts on-camera during the conference. You’ll also see video snippets from the conference. Those of you who couldn’t attend can enjoy it through the power of video.

Stories on the home page will change out monthly. We’re always looking for ideas – or even better – submissions. Our goal is to feature as many affiliates and members as possible throughout the year.

We’ve added a conference section to the site. This way you can relive the excitement of conference throughout the year. And as we begin to promote the upcoming conference you’ll know exactly where to find the information.

In the members’ only section, you’ll be able to update your data using your own User ID and password that you create. Of course, that also means you need to remember it.

We’ll continue to tweak it in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you about the site – love it… hate it… ideas….

Team Exercise Lifts Blinders

The other week my division participated in a day-long retreat designed to focus us on our corporate and divisional operating plans and the roles each of us will play individually and collectively.

One of the team building exercises we did was a real eye opener, which was surprising given that I was blindfolded for it!

Our session was facilitated by Jeff Smith of Titan Group, a human resources consulting firm. In short, three of us were blindfolded and the other team members had to help us complete a task, which required navigating a “field” that contained obstacles. To add to the challenge, we had a time limit.

The outcome of the exercise isn’t as important as the process, which forced us to consider how we brought everyone on the team along. To complicate it, the obstacles in the field moved, which frustrated some.

Photo by anvilon

For those of us who have leader positions in the organization, Jeff shared that our job is to move the obstacles out of the way so that our employees succeed. He also noted that most leaders are not usually thanked for when they move those obstacles; it’s simply part of doing the job.

Before beginning the exercise or task it’s important to outline the vision and then the steps needed to succeed. If you don’t know what the goal is, how will you know if you succeeded? When we were faced with the challenge, we immediately asked what the goal was. Was it speed? Accuracy? Quality? Knowing those answers helped us consider how to approach the assignment.

As we worked to complete the task, we were supported with cheers and applause as we reached milestones, and, again, Jeff noted the need to support the small steps.

We dove right into the assignment but upon review we learned that it was okay to experiment and practice before we committed to our approach. That would have provided us with an opportunity to tweak our plan and, most likely, succeed sooner once we committed.

I always find these exercises intriguing because they provide me with a different perspective on reoccurring situations. Once again my blindfold had been removed and I had a clearer vision of how to successfully support my team.  If you’re a leader, what do you do to support your team?

ChicagoNow Part of Evolving Media Landscape

Is finding a source through Facebook unethical?

Tracy Schmidt, editorial director of ChicagoNow, doesn’t think so. Previously she was a reporter for Time Magazine, reporting on Facebook. She also covered the Virginia Tech shootings. Through Facebook she found a student who had been in one of the classrooms, and she got her interview.

“Some of the other reporters thought I was unethical,” she said. “I see Facebook as a telephone directory.”

Today she is part of ChicagoNow, a network of more than 300 local blogs. She developed its concept and managed its launch in August 2009.

She joined the Tribune in 2008 as a reporter at Triblocal, a reverse-published, hyper-local newspaper group. “We take the best online content and fact check it and then we put it in a paper and include it in the Tribune,” she explained.

Chicago Now bloggers post more than 100 entries to the site each day about local topics, Tracy said. Then Chicagoans begin commenting. “The result is a lively, authentic conversation about all things Chicago,” according to the ChicagoNow website.

Tracy sees many similarities between bloggers and journalists. “They do some of the same work,” she said. “Journalists are amazing investigators. Bloggers supplement those by commenting on the stories.”

She noted that ChicagoNow does not censor its bloggers and doesn’t worry about problems with the blogs. “Other people are going to comment and correct them,” she said. “The community really self polices on ChicagoNow.”

RedEye Proves Young People Will Read Newspapers

Who says young people won’t read newspapers?

Tran Ha, associate managing editor for RedEye, Chicago’s free daily newspaper and website, says RedEye was launched eight years ago to appeal to Chicagoans in their ‘20s and ‘30s who weren’t reading the paper.

“The graphics were bold,” she noted, and copy, while brief, was informative. “We have a good array of copy,” she said during a keynote session of the 2010 NFPW Conference in Chicago.

The website says its mission is “to provide our target readers with a daily buffet of news, trends, pop culture, sports entertainment and social buzz – served with a side of sass when appropriate.”

It’s a tall order to fill especially when RedEye readers also are picking up other publications. “People approach their news habit as an ala carte sort of thing,” Ha said. Despite that, RedEye distributes 250,000 papers daily Monday through Friday along commuter lines and all over the city. A free weekend edition is available through home delivery.

The RedEye staff of 30 does a lot of everything. “Innovation is built into our DNA,” Ha said. “It’s about not being afraid to try new things and to fail sometimes.”

The formula appears to be working.

Reinvention of the Chicago Tribune

The time for hand wringing is over. The time for reinvention is now. Jane Hirt, managing editor of the Chicago Tribune, declared during a keynote session at the 2010 NFPW Conference.

Jane noted that the pace at the 163-year-old Tribune is breakneck because “technology will always change.”

Jane Hirt discusses the reinvention of the Tribune.

“We think of it as disruptive innovation,” she said.

To be innovative, the newspaper seized on what it did best, she said, which is watchdog reporting. “We resolved to make watchdog a daily defining category,” she said.

It’s a key part of planning the paper each day and such reporting is labeled clearly in the newspaper.  Topics range from toxic chemicals in the air, drinking water and deadly flaws in car seats to highly connected students who get into the University of Illinois despite poor grades to officials with pensions of $250,000 or more.

“We reset the news agenda every morning, “ Jane said.

In hindsight, Jane said the watchdog approach was a no-brainer because both reporters and readers love it and from a business perspective it makes the Tribune unique.

The paper also has gone to a hyperlocal coverage meaning a reporter is assigned to each town in 30 suburbs who reports on a breaking news basis online. The paper has been doing this for about a month. Reporters also are trained in search engine optimization and using Facebook and Twitter. They are up-to-date on Google trends and topics.

The Tribune also made a cultural shift, Jane said, when it began listening to its readers and users. “For many years newspapers didn’t do that,” she said.

Today’s media company, Jane said, “must have a responsive, diversified and profitable portfolio of print and digital.”