My keynote address at the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association community engagement workshop

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I had the opportunity Nov. 13 to geek out with other community managers and socially savvy reporters when the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association invited me to keynote their Sharon Johnson Memorial Workshop on community engagement.

My speech focused on what I refer to as “maximizing the message and minimizing the messenger” — basically, putting news and information ahead of an organization’s brand.

The work I do at Billy Penn revolves around engaging different communities according to their preferences, and making sure the first thing we do is inform them. So often — because it’s so easy for content to get lost online — news organizations make it a point to remind their audiences who’s informing them. Only News 1 spoke with this councilman about this issue! Our reporter Jane Schmo attended a major education meeting and has all the details for you! Where’s the information in those sentences? Why have we forgotten that our job as news professionals is to inform people?

I kept my speech to about 15 minutes so everyone at the workshop could have a full half-hour to ask questions of me and others, and to share their experiences with community engagement. There were about 25 people in attendance, and I think this is one of the most productive conversations about industry issues that I’ve been a part of in these workshop settings. It doesn’t matter if you work at a small startup like I do, at a legacy newspaper covering state politics, or for a smaller publication covering local issues — everyone has community engagement tales to tell and scars to show. Continue reading

Billy Penn’s Election Night shared newsroom

I took this photo as newsroom participants watched Pa. Gov.-elect Tom Wolf's speech.

I took this photo as newsroom participants watched Pa. Gov.-elect Tom Wolf’s speech.

Nov. 4, 2014 was easily the most fun and most productive I’ve ever felt on Election Night, and there are two clear reasons for that:

1. I’m working at Billy Penn, a very lean news startup. There’s no room to be unprepared, and all-hands-on-deck basically means looking across a table to communicate with all my colleagues. Having a plan and sticking to it was pretty easy.

2. We hosted a shared newsroom that night. And though it ended up being a historically short midterm gubernatorial election, we had a great time. Continue reading

And now for something completely different: Working at Billy Penn

My new workspace in the Billy Penn offices

My new workspace in the Billy Penn offices

I now work for Billy Penn. The Philly news site, not the person.

It was a tough decision to leave NewsWorks after four years (and they didn’t make it easy to say goodbye), but as the title of this post suggests, I’m ready for a new challenge.

The bootstrapped site (formerly known as Brother.ly) is the work of Jim Brady and Chris Krewson, and I’m thrilled to be working with people who really understand news from a consumer’s perspective. We’re operating under the tagline, “a mobile news platform for a better Philly.” Continue reading

Finding a new home for NEast Philly’s content

d1c762a0-9de0-4563-8b69-db1bb21253c2_400x400When I made the decision in late 2013 to close NEast Philly, offers poured in to keep the site running. Many community groups, politicians, universities, bloggers and local newsies offered to either fund the site, host pieces of the archives or keep the site alive with some kind of fresh content.

I found it surprisingly easy to envision all of these possibilities. After five years of closely managing the site and being extremely careful about affiliations, once I made the decision to close up shop, letting go wasn’t as hard as I imagined. But I knew I wanted to find the right fit for the archives — a place where I could be proud to send people looking for the content, where it would all be in one place, and where related content already exists.

That transition is now complete. Continue reading

How to explain your social media job

social iconsI was recently invited to speak to students in a social media innovations class at Temple University.

I’ve been doing social media professionally for about five years, but I still haven’t found the best way to explain to people what it is I really do and how I do it. It became clear to me during this class why that is.

Though I work closely with the marketing and membership departments at WHYY, most of the social media work I do is concentrated in the newsroom. And the social media I use with my journalism students is also news-based. It wasn’t until I found myself talking directly with students whose career paths are more business-oriented and product-based that I fully realized why it’s so hard to explain social media positions.

“You pretty much can’t teach anything these days without incorporating social media.”

Bingo. That was on one of the (rather boring-looking) slides I brought with me to the class. Everyone uses social media, and because there’s no one clear purpose for it, there’s no quick explanation for how to use it. Continue reading

Why I closed my Philly-based hyperlocal news site

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Two months ago, I wrote my last post for NEastPhilly.com, the hyperlocal news site I started in 2008 to cover Northeast Philly — a large part of the city that, to date, gets little media attention.
For a large part of the last five years, I lived and breathed NEast Philly. I wanted to leave a little bit of time between that and posting my thoughts here.
Here’s some of what I learned over the last half-decade, and what went into my decision to shut down. Continue reading

What my multimedia journalism students will learn this semester

Our classroom at Temple University's Center City Campus

Our classroom at Temple University’s Center City Campus

The Spring 2014 semester at Temple University starts today (we’re delayed a week because of snow and ice), and as of 5:30 p.m., I’ll be back in the classroom with junior and senior journalism undergrads. We’ve got 15 weeks to explore multimedia storytelling. Here’s some of what we’ll do: Continue reading