What I learned from working with the Frankford High School journalism club

I spent portions of a couple school years while at college helping get a newspaper underway at the Franklin Learning Center, a strong, diverse magnet school in the Spring Garden neighborhood of Philadelphia.

So, I was excited to take some time away from my freelancing work once a week to work with the journalism club at Frankford High School. It was a short walk, and I could just fill in the time lost at night.

I was suddenly the professional journalist half of a Prime Movers program that formerly had me as the student journalist.

I made it a half dozen Thursday after-school meetings, enough to meet the core group of seven or so students and help them launch a WordPress blog for their content, but some rather large, fairly unexpected changes have happened.

I bought a house in a neighborhood that made the trip a 15-minute El ride (and added some responsibility) and, as a larger conflict, I then accepted a full-time job.

So, now I’m reaching out to a host of colleagues to fill as many of the coming weeks with insightful professional journalists (if you’re in Philly and are interested, contact me). Still, though I’ve worked with high school journalism clubs before and only worked with the Pioneer Times of FHS for a couple months, I certainly learned a thing or too — in addition to, I hope, teaching some of those kids something.

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Teaching a social media teleconferencing course on basic blogging

As I wrote Tuesday, social media ain’t all bad.

Indeed, the over-heightened echo chamber of circular praise and obsessive coverage and conversation on those now familiar Web-based tools stem from their truly trans-formative power.

I’ve taken an interest in all of that. Enough so that, in addition to the conferences at which I’ve spoken, conversations I’ve had and now the full-time job I enjoy, from time to time I’ve been asked to walk others through the good of what social media can have.

A lot of times, the requests come from or are on behalf of small business owners who keep hearing that these damn Internet buzz companies are going to help them make more money. Often times, they don’t know how, don’t want to try or are too turned off by the schmaltz and self-styled gurus to even think it’s for them.

That’s good. I think that’s all lame, too. It’s an opportunity to speak like a real person and keep it all appropriately relative. Facebook and Twitter and blogging are not important, but they can be important for promoting something you love to do, which, in turn, is important.

So, I’m happy to announce that, next month I’ve been asked to lead a small teleconferencing course called ‘Basic Blogging for Business.’

Below, I share some of the details of this and a similar class I taught with the same group in the fall.

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Appearance on 900AM WURD Carole’s Technology Corner

With Stephanie L. Lowe during a commercial break of Carole I Smith's Technology Corner show on 900AM WURD, Dec. 30, 2009

After the unfortunate passing of the show’s host earlier this month, I may have been on one of the last episodes of Carole’s Technology Corner, a trend radio program broadcast weekly on 900AM WURD in Philadelphia.

On Dec. 30, 2009, I took the 15 minute walk from my home in Fishtown to the Penn Treaty Park complex near the Delaware River and into the station’s third floor studio, as another show closed before 7 p.m.

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Number of Views:17636

Social media isn’t evil

Social media has this stigma.

In the past six years, those brand-name behemoths of an industry that didn’t exist at this decade’s beginning have reached every corner of the developed world. When something, when anything reaches that level of prevalence, there’s going to be some backlash.

So, yes, a medium devoted to regular updates and structured around Web-based interactions is derided for self-reflectiveness and impersonality. But, of course, there is value to be gained, too.

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Number of Views:11177

A new job: Media director for nonprofit Back on My Feet

Back on My Feet founder Anne Mahlum and members of the organization in 2007.

I’ve decided to step away from self-employment.

I’ve spent the last year of my life freelancing, by some accounts, at perhaps the worst time to do so in my life and arguably the worst time in the history of journalism.

After a meeting of the most influential media leaders in the region made clear no drastic foundational investment would be made into niche news anytime soon, I knew I needed to secure my finances — as a new homeowner, especially — and take a more cautioned approach toward building News Inkubator, Technically Philly and NEast Philly.

A funny thing happened not a week or two after I made this decision. A friend made me aware of a job opportunity I actually wanted.

On Mon. Jan. 18, I walked into a Locust Street building in Center City Philadelphia and began defining what a media director should do for homeless advocacy nonprofit Back on My Feet.

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Number of Views:12867

Fishtown Spirit: A neighborhood photographer wants more neighborhood support

A portrait of romance as captured by Keith Angelitis.

My first clip for the Fishtown Spirit ran in last Thursday’s issue, and my second ran yesterday.

Keith Angelitis just started a fire in the front room of his Frankford Avenue studio. He has a jacket on and a ball cap pulled over his ruffled brown hair. Big front windows welcome the sunlight that pours in and fills his 15-foot ceilings.

He is relaxing in a wooden chair, a prominent member of an otherwise sparsely furnished room, warmed by an old wood-burning stove. In the corner is an over-sized closet that Angelitis built during the beginning of his continuous renovation of 2452 Frankford Ave. Read more here.

Below the scoop on why I got involved with the Spirit.

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Number of Views:11112

Ten things a journalist should never do

Poynter curated a list of 100 things a journalist should never do.

As these things tend to do, it became a rambling collections of do’s and don’ts, but it was interesting nonetheless. Ten stuck with me as among the most important.

  1. Strive for context rather than information. Information is plentiful, context is scarce. (@rsm4lsu)
  2. Journalists should be skeptical, not cynical. (@jmestepa)
  3. Always make your last question “Is there anything else I should have asked?” (@jamessaft)
  4. A journalist should never be a friendly dog when reporting and then go snake at the keyboard. ABC. Always Be Congruent. (@carr2n)
  5. Always be willing to let any answer — including one on deadline — completely change the story’s direction.
  6. Journalists should be available. Let people know how to e-mail you, call, IM, DM or otherwise get in touch.
  7. Journalists should be active community members. If you aren’t of the people, you aren’t by the people or for the people.
  8. Journalists should be comfortable with silence during interviews. You’ll hear & learn more if you’re not talking.
  9. Journalists should never plead ignorance about the business of news, who pays, how & why. It’s not purist, it’s irresponsible.
  10. “Look for stories people might miss, even standing next to you. Be curious about seemingly ordinary lives.” http://ow.ly/IS94
Number of Views:12226

Old journalist to young: Pitied, blamed or accused

old_time_journalist

I find I get mostly two responses from established reporters when they’re forced to respond to me and my generation of journalists. It’s something I’ve touched on after events before.

The first comes teary-eyed.

Some seem to offer despondent pity and sympathy for me, for the times and power and success I missed out on, for the dark, post-journalistic-apocalyptic world I’ve entered — a sentiment that often reaches a fever pitch when we discuss my attempt to freelance full-time while starting out.

The second comes with a first full of anger.

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Number of Views:16104

I love strikethrough text

I love what should be the new world of corrections.

Bow to the all-mighty strikethrough text. If someone calls you out on an error, fix it and fix it fast, but keep the mistake in with the cross out, so you don’t hide the mistake.

This shows transparency, a story’s growth and, really, keeps you, the reporter, more motivated to get it right the first time.

Print journalists take seriously the notion that what goes on the page stays on the page, but often hid behind a correction running later, smaller and being ignored. The Web combines the best — we stand by what we publish because we won’t erase a mistake.

I love the use of letting your readers kno when a story is ‘Updated’ and listing those changes at top or the bottom of the story for all your readers to see.

Transparency cannot be lost, and, like attribution, it doesn’t have to be.

Number of Views:6653

Future of News panel for Sunday Breakfast Club @ Union League

The historic, 145-year-old Union League of Philadelphia located on the Avenue of the Arts.

A tidy and frail little old man asked me to direct him to the coat rack. To walk him around the corner from the long and elegant main corridor of the nearly 150-year-old Union League of Philadelphia was my first deed.

If nothing else, it made for interesting conversation when I made it to the elaborate second-floor President’s Ballroom, featuring thirty foot ceilings, a spectacular chandelier and portraits of dour looking old white men. For an half-hour or so after 5:30 p.m., I handled a rum and coke and ambled about the pre-event cocktail reception of the Sunday Breakfast Club, a not-quite cloak-and-dagger, invitation-only private society for organization executives.

Perhaps nearly 200 members and guests of the seven decades young group patronized the open bar, chatted and nibbled appetizers. I did the same, more than a handful of times being approached by some degree of interest in the 20-something with a broken brown belt with black shoes.

No ma’am, I’m not lost. I’m on the panel to which you’re here to pay audience.

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Number of Views:65764