I participated in an SPJ region 2 conference panel in Norfolk, Va. this past Saturday. The topic: how a few recent graduates got their first jobs in journalism. Tweets from the session appear below, enjoy!
A few minutes ago — a few hours after news of Steve Jobs’s death became public — I tweeted the following:
Steve Jobs’ greatest legacy is not the products he created, but what they enabled and who they inspired.
Soon after that, I thought of a lesson for journalism: we shouldn’t focus so much on what we do as much as what we enable, who we impact and what comes from all that. » Read the rest of this entry «
On the evening of Nov. 18, I attended An Army of One or a Nation of Millions? Web Design Process and Practice with Happy Cog, presented by the Art Directors Club of Metropolitan Washington and hosted at the building of my soon-to-be employer, The Washington Post.
(Disclosure: I attended as a guest of the Post; I am not — yet? — an ADCMW member.)
I’ve included my chronological livetweets from the #adcmwhappycog event (P.S. not my idea for a hashtag), plus some tweets with photos by @AnneLikesRed. Chris Cashdollar (@ccashdollar) and Kevin Hoffman (@kevinmhoffman) gave the presentation, which I will embed or link here after it’s posted online.
Read their great insights and comment below with your thoughts:
greglinch: #happycog is different from other shops bc everyone works on a project. Also, everyone works in more than just their speciality.
greglinch: The official hashtag for the @happycog event is #adcmwhappycog. They’ll be discussing their processes and more.
greglinch: .@happycog processes generally include: project definition, IA, viz design (design systems for ease in future), programming #adcmwhappycog
greglinch: Process values at @happycog: collaborative, iterative and flexible. #adcmwhappycog
AnneLikesRed: http://twitpic.com/380xjq #adcmwhappycog
greglinch: All of the things I’ve mentioned in the past few tweets is more of a framework then part of a rigid process. #adcmwhappycog
greglinch: For each project, @happycog asks: What is the design challenge at hand & what is the culture of the org they’re working with? #adcmwhappycog
greglinch: What the @happycog process could be like. RT @AnneLikesRed: http://twitpic.com/380xjq #adcmwhappycog
greglinch: .@happycog will sometimes disconnect and completely focus on the work — sometimes working on paper to start. #adcmwhappycog
greglinch: Sample sketches from Build-a-Bear project, which never launched but, bc of that, they learned a lot #adcmwhappycog http://yfrog.com/28jgmfj
greglinch: At wireframe stage, they focused on the upsell and the call to action — the two fundamental reqs. #adcmwhappycog http://yfrog.com/mn3wqj
greglinch: Another view of #adcmwhappycog event. RT @robleto: Happy Cog speaking at ADCMW @ Washington Post http://instagr.am/p/Srh1/
greglinch: “Fast results have a cost.” Also, they have no-meeting zones to focus on work — and those are disconnected from email, etc. #adcmwhappycog
greglinch: Where are all the #ONADC tweets, peeps? Share the love! Read about @happycog event with: #adcmwhappycog
greglinch: Project definition/IA when working with clients: Early, open discussion with focused meetings #adcmwhappycog
greglinch: Wireframes at @happycog focus on hierarchy + persistence, *not* visual design #adcmwhappycog
greglinch: When you’ve worked with a wireframe for weeks and need to scrap it, it can be hard to get out the thinking of that wireframe. #adcmwhappycog
greglinch: “Rules need to be understood to be broken” #adcmwhappycog
greglinch: At @happycog, they’re great at generating ideas — they need to improve at removing ideas. #adcmwhappycog
greglinch: Photo of @HappyCog commenting system that’s character-limited and can be tweeted. #adcmwhappycog http://yfrog.com/0le4ifj
greglinch: They put ideas on the @HappyCog blog that are incomplete so people can weigh in and build on them. #adcmwhappycog
greglinch: .@HappyCog is mostly waterfall, with only a bit of agile, for their process. #adcmwhappycog
greglinch: “Use deliverables for discussion” — @HappyCog. #adcmwhappycog
greglinch: Mental Models is a book about “aligning design with human behavior” they recommend http://j.mp/bPBZIK #adcmwhappycog
greglinch: Use “existing research and design team as guinea pigs” for project. For Philly tourism site, asked what they’d do on weekend. #adcmwhappycog
AnneLikesRed: http://twitpic.com/381br2 #adcmwhappycog
greglinch: “Balance classification with context” — make sure info is where it needs be, not just like indexes in a library card catalog #adcmwhappycog
greglinch: Roughy 80 people attending #adcmwhappycog event.
AnneLikesRed: So true! http://twitpic.com/381fal #adcmwhappycog
greglinch: “The actual dynamic of group decision making” — You need convergent and divergent thinking #adcmwhappycog http://yfrog.com/jau2rzj
greglinch: Core Values: full participation, mutual understanding, inclusive solutions, shared responsibility #adcmwhappycog http://yfrog.com/9fvddnj
greglinch: “Pathways to Action Model” — process design, vision space, problem space, solution space, make it real #adcmwhappycog
greglinch: Collaborative Design Process: creative concepts, client review, single concept iteration #adcmwhappycog http://yfrog.com/17izxqj
greglinch: Techniques they use w/ clients to learn more include a scale for balancing site’s feeling & MadLibs #adcmwhappycog http://yfrog.com/c95s9bj
greglinch: “Being dogmatic is for the birds” — find the unique process needs for each project. #adcmwhappycog
greglinch: During Q&A: “People who tell you CMSes are separate from design is lying to you” — it does impact design decisions #adcmwhappycog
greglinch: Quite a coincidence that an attendee mentioned Edward de Bono + his book — I just discovered him on Tues http://j.mp/bCF2Pe #adcmwhappycog
greglinch: .@happycog looks for models — such as from other industries — that can solve specific interaction problems. #adcmwhappycog
greglinch: And that’s a wrap! Hope you all enjoyed the #adcmwhappycog tweets. My fingers (and iPhone) get the rest of the night off.
Books: Finished Cognitive Surplus by Clay Shirky, started Program or be Programmed by Douglas Rushkoff
Goodreads is a social network for readers that Lauren Rabaino introduced me to in June. One of the cool features they offer is a way to embed the review you write about a book, so I’ve added that below for Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus, which is the first book I’ve tracked my progress with using Goodreads (and read in its entirety on the iPad):
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The deft way Shirky connects and articulates different concepts (even when they’re mostly very familiar), plus the examples he deconstructs and conclusions he offers, make this a highly insightful read.
I really want to re-read Here Comes Everybody at some point soon.
Adding to that review, I’d again emphasize: although the concepts Shirky discusses may not be new to you, the way he frames everything and connects ideas is wonderful. I would recommend that anyone working in journalism read this book.
For a taste of the book, read the Wired piece Cognitive Surplus: The Great Spare-Time Revolution and watch a related TED talk, How cognitive surplus will change the world:
Regarding Rushkoff’s premise, there are some interesting comments on this BoingBoing post.
I’m aiming to read Program or Be Programmed pretty quickly and then move on to Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson, which I’ve written about previously in the context of innovation.
What are some interesting books you’ve read lately? Please share in the comments!
Last week I was interviewed via email by Alesa Commedore, a journalism student at the Univeresity of South Florida, for a Q&A on Aspiring Journalists. With her permission, I’m republishing my answers for posterity. The answers, which read like a journo-biography of sorts, are the same as the original interview — with a few additional links.
Why did you decide to study journalism? What made it appeal to you?
GL: My experience on the high school newspaper for three years set me on a path to study journalism in college. Also, a conference for journalism scholarship winners in DC cemented my decision to do so, providing a broader view of what’s like to work in news. At the time, my interest in writing and current events provided much of the foundation for my interest in journalism, but I later realized my motivations included the collaborative nature of the work, ability to constantly learn and try new things.
How was your university experience? Do you think your university/professors have prepared you for the realities of the industry?
GL: I attended the University of Miami, where I received a double major in journalism and political science with a minor in Spanish. My experience was extremely positive because I took advantage of all the university had to offer. Specifically, I worked on The Miami Hurricane staff for three years and served in an advisory role as a senior, enrolled in more journalism classes than were required and even took several visual journalism classes outside my major. I also made connections with professional journalists and other student editors in South Florida. Overall, my schooling provided a very important foundation that was supplemented and further built upon by other opportunities I pursued.
Today you hear many stories of newspapers going under and journalists losing their jobs. What was it like to be a journalism student during such an uncertain period of time in the industry? How did that make you feel?
GL: Following the professional news business closely in college, experiencing it first-hand at internships and hearing stories at conferences provided a realistic view of the state of news organizations. I knew the reality and sometimes felt dismayed that so many news organizations were struggling and people were losing their jobs, but I was never dissuaded or discouraged from pursuing journalism after I graduated. Instead, I saw infinite opportunities and focused on the positive aspects of how digital technologies could improve how journalism is practiced. Journalism might have previously been an “industry” when the barrier to producing news products was high, but I don’t believe there is such a thing anymore. Anyone can practice journalism and publish, broadcast and engage online. You don’t need to work at a legacy news organization do that.
How have you prepared for the field as a journalism student (internships, getting clips, etc)?
GL: As I mentioned in the second answer, I pursued a number of different avenues to learn more and better prepare myself as a journalist. My resume offers a comprehensive list and a top 10 list of tips I wrote has more in-depth thoughts on this. The most important things for me included:
- Co-founding CoPress, a college media tech startup, with other student editors as a senior.
- Working for The Miami Hurricane, at least a little in almost every role on the editorial side. Leading the effort to move our site from College Publisher to WordPress represents one of the highlights of my time as editor. Without that — and doing it so publicly — I likely would have not been involved with CoPress
- Attending local, regional and national events and conferences because of my involvement with The Hurricane and the student SPJ chapter.
Living my life as a college editor and journalism student publicly online, whether it was through blogging or engaging with others on Twitter.
- When I went to conferences, I would liveblog, tweet and sometimes stream sessions. By doing so, I was providing value to people who couldn’t attend and their sharing of my live coverage increased my presence and reputation. My primary reason for doing this: because I would want others to do the same for events I couldn’t attend — and was inspired by others who did the same in varying degrees.
- Freelancing before I started college and interning each summer during college. Also, seeing each experience as much more than just an opportunity to get clips, but primarily to learn and improve as a journalist. Keeping in touch with people at those internships was also valuable.
- Taking additional journalism classes, plus several visual journalism classes
- Talking with older students about good classes and professors.
- Getting to better know professors beyond merely taking their classes, including getting to know professors before I even took a class with them.
- It’s implicit to almost all these items, but in one word: networking.
How do you think technology will affect the future of journalism? What do you think are the pros and cons? Are there any cons?
GL: Technology has been a big part of my experience working in journalism, beginning in high school and in everything I’ve done since then. But that’s not unique. Technology has always been a significant part of journalism, but now it’s digital instead of analog and distributed instead of only owned by media companies. I see technology as something that journalists should not only use, but also create and shape. We should be disruptors, not disrupted by new technologies and the resulting changes in business models. That doesn’t mean every journalists needs to become a programmer or engineer, but they should all possess a fundamental understanding of the role of technology in society, how it works and how they best use it to better do their jobs. If they don’t have the skills to create technology, they should have the skills to effectively work with those who do.
Despite my love of technology, I’m no utopian and — as with everything — think there are certainly cons to technology. It’s hard to paint technology pros and cons broadly, but I would say that the biggest pro is the ability to help us do things humans can’t do — or can’t do as well — and the biggest con is the relative ease of which technology can be misused and abused. In response, I think we need to identify and address the cons, not ignore or avoid them.
How has technology affected you as a journalism student?
GL: Personally, I’ve always been interested in technology. That interest increased significantly as a teenager and even more so in the past few years. I’ve gone from a journalist interested in technology during high school to someone working at the intersection of journalism and technology at Publish2. Looking back at my high school newspaper experience, I see how I served as the de facto IT person. Yes, I fixed paper jams, operated the scanner, downloaded photos from the digital camera, conducted an InDesign workshop for the staff and things like that. But I also created the first email account for The Circuit [view my first version; their current site] — no one else ever thought to — and built its first website in Dreamweaver — design view, the thought of which makes me cringe today.
How did your preparation and experience help with your job search?
GL: Everything I did to improve as a journalist helped me so that I didn’t even need to do a job search after graduating. I applied for a Publish2 job contest online in January 2009, while still in college and before I began a formal search. My work, experience and other qualifications stood for any prospective employer to see. To get the Publish2 job, I:
- Submitted a short text answer (republished here) and audio slideshow in response to the question “Why are you the future of journalism?”
- Had my entry voted up to the top 10 (I held the top spot for a while and finished with a close second rating of my entry).
- From those 10, Publish2 conducted a first round of interviews before a second and final round (both of mine were Skype voice calls).
How have you incorporated the web (social media, personal websites) to market yourself for the industry?
GL: I defer to David Cohn: “It is NOT personal branding – it’s just living your life online.” The point is you shouldn’t market yourself for the sake of marketing yourself — what you do and how you lead your life in public should be all “marketing” you need. That includes connecting with people online and in-person (the latter can’t be emphasized enough), experimenting with new tools and platforms, attending events and conferences, volunteering and adding value (such as with the live coverage) whenever you can.
What are your ultimate hopes/dreams for your career in this industry?
GL: I try to avoid specific plans and focus on more general goals. To quote my friend Michelle Minkoff, my ideal job hasn’t been created yet. Personally, I know that I want to continue working at the intersection of journalism and technology, pushing forward in what I do and how I do it.
What advice can you give to journalism students who are preparing to enter this career?
GL: Most of the advice I’d give is included included in the list of tips. Some other points:
- A degree is not a ticket to a job.
- When you graduate, you should be fully prepared to get a job or make your own.
- Look for opportunities outside the traditional realm. Be receptive to new and different opportunities.
- Find people and materials that challenge your assumptions, inspire you and better inform your perspective. Search beyond the journalism world for answers and insights.
An open mind, ability adapt, drive to continuously learn on your own and deep passion are some of the most important and fundamental traits to be successful in whatever you do. Take all those traits, go forward and do awesome work.