Three ways to learn about your community in bed

By Nathaniel Miller

You’re an early-career journalist hired to cover a community new to you.

You’ve picked up a couple tricks from school, internships and entry-level jobs. You know it’s a good idea to begin building a detailed source list. Initiate contact as soon as possible; log a phone number here, schedule a meeting there.

The best jobs provide lead time to read current events and interact with people in your new community. Other times, you’ve got to learn along the way, and in many cases, you’ll need to learn in your off-hours.

This is where pajama bottom journalism comes in – methods to learn about your community, with your laptop, from the comforts of your bed. Or at your Ikea desk. Or at the table you found on Craigslist. I know you wear pajamas sitting in front of them.

(1) Embrace RSS:

Really Simple Syndication, RSS, is a smart way to bring the news to you and saves you the time it takes to visit every homepage for every outlet. Start with a list of all of the news organizations you know and add to your media diet as you go. Bookmark the home pages and subscribe to the feeds.

Organization and management is key. Create a method that works for you. Be content in not reading everything you see. Scanning is important.

I use the built-in RSS reader in Safari and organize feeds into folders by category:

My goals are simple: know what our staff and partners are producing to best to link related content and listen to what others have contributed to the news agenda.

(2) Connect with local journalists:

Whether you view other local journalists as competitors or partners, you can’t discount the value reading, watching and listening to the work of others.

There are more than 500 journalists working in the editorial departments of newspapers, magazines, radio stations, television stations, wire services, online outlets and niche publications in the greater Sacramento region. There may be more or less in your region. In any case, a lot of good work is done by those outside your organization.

  • Search for staff lists and bookmark them. Here’s one staff list.
  • Search Twitter for them and follow them. Here’s one social networking lead.
  • Join local media association groups. Here’s one group.
  • Create Twitter lists to manage the noise. Here we are. Here they are.

The goals, again, are simple: listening and connecting. Manage your news flow and build bridges for communication.

(3) Research local ties:

“Local kid makes good” is a pretty good story. Your audience wants to know about people from the area.

  • Keep a list of famous people in a spreadsheet. Anyone born or raised in your area has a local following. Sometimes Wikipedia has done the work for you, like these lists of writers, sports figures and entertainers with roots in Sacramento or of alumni from this university and this university. If you’re feeling collaborative, make your lists public by editing the Wikipedia page. (Disclosure: I used to edit the above sports figures page when I was in college.)
  • Set up Google Alerts for people that interest you. Know when the hometown athlete is arrested or if the traveling musician returns home to try out new material. Alerts for the local universities and community colleges also surface interesting content.
  • Create Twitter lists for these hometown connections, and separate them into groups as you see fit.

Reporters who’ve been at the company for two decades may have developed an excellent source network that informs them of news about locals. You’re not there yet, but you’ll make up a lot of time by setting up these news streams.

(Bonus) Know what locals “Google”:

Google Insights for Search was my favorite takeaway from the 2010 SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference. The tool allows you see what people search on Google, and you can narrow the query to a metropolitan area during set time frames. A simple search will show you the 10 top search terms and 10 rising searches.

Granted, the top search term column is generally useless besides finding out that people may not know how to type “.com.” Facebook, Yahoo, YouTube, Craigslist and Google regularly dominate the searched terms in the Sacramento region.

The second column, appearing on the right side of the page, is what will grab you. Google displays the terms gaining significant growth. “Breakout” terms are being searched more than 500 percent the normal rate.

It provides great support to the national topics you want to localize. Yes, Sacramento does care that much about Miley Cyrus.

Nathaniel Miller is an online content developer at The Sacramento Bee. He studied government-journalism at California State University, Sacramento, and can be found ranting about journalism on Twitter at @journalistnate.

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  • Great post! Apparently, the Orlando area also cares about Ms. Cyrus, and her bong!

  • Nathaniel Miller

    Thanks Jennifer.

  • Gloria Browne-Marshall

    Andrew Seaman: I have questions about the airing of graphic videos. My I ask my questions offline? Thank you.

  • Hedger

    But at what point can the writer assume the audience is educated about the topic being discussed?

    You would not need to start a story on McDonald’s with the history of the hamburger.

    And at this stage people like Sarkeesian have been an unnecessarily large figure of the gaming community. A feature about gaming conversations aimed at gamers should not need to set itself up as an explainer for non gamers.

    It’s unfair to judge a piece about gaming insiders for gaming insiders around the knowledge of non insiders. The judges knew who she was, and it was obvious the piece was a counter point to the arguments made, that should have been enough.

    It’s obvious the judges made their decisions of new media based on old media strategy. I feel this is a mistake.

  • william

    And you have deleted my comment, thus proving my point about how you should not be trusted. Bravo.

  • Owen Good

    Maybe I can polish it this way. As I viewed them, the Kunkel Awards were meant to identify, praise and encourage good journalism in a rather immature sector of it. Eg. This story, which conforms to journalistic norms, is a better story than this one, which is full of purple, self-indulgent prose, even if it’s about a topic of greater societal interest or importance. To me, that would be a greater corrective effect. Your judges have had zero problem calling out the deficiencies _of those they honor_. Brad Glasgow was beaten up in his citation for burying the lede and burdening the story with a recap. Kotaku was called out for making submissions outside of the awards period.

    So, how about the judges turn that judgment on those who submitted work _for praise_ and tell them why _it is worthy of none, actually._ I believe that would have more of a corrective effect.

    And while I don’t doubt the judges’ professionalism or rectitude, I also don’t expect them to be following the ongoing belligerence between the liberal mainstream games media and their antagonists in GamerGate. That might inform why a 91-word post from Jezebel, which isn’t even a games publication but for sure is part of the media group GamerGate despises most, was submitted. One would figure its brevity might trip a flag that this isn’t a serious candidate for anything, even disparagement.

    We can have an honest argument about whether or not Jezebel, whose proclivity to manufacture outrage and whose tendentious sociopolitical observations are very well known, deserves to have “It Should Be No Woman’s Sky” treated as a serious argument in order to deny them an “it’s just satire” defense in wasting their readership’s time and attention. But that’s not the kind of argument or judgment I expect out of a series of awards meant to inspire and encourage better journalism.

  • Michael Koretzky

    The judges praised where they could, but when faced with flawed finalists, they were honest. However, I’m the one who decided to write the blog posts about those that didn’t win, then link to those that did. My successor may not agree. She can do it differently.

    Once again, I’ll say that the judges have done an excellent job avoiding the hyper-partisanship in the gaming scene. They can only judge what’s submitted, so if you think that’s a big problem, the solution is easy: Submit some good stuff next year, your own or someone else’s.

  • Andrew Whatever

    I think you know the answer here. “Awards” that arose as part of Gamergate nonsense trash a bunch of articles they perceive as the worst of feminism. Shocking. The sad part is that the SPJ is going along with this nonsense. One dude anyway.

  • Andrew Whatever

    Because it’s not too difficult to figure out, especially as someone who actually reads their real articles sometimes. But if you’re just a mad anti-feminist Gamergate type sure, it’s tough to figure out. Or maybe still obvious but some willful ignorance helps push the agenda.

  • Andrew Whatever

    Oddly enough the partisan vision you want is so predictable I can even guess which side you’re on!

  • Andrew Whatever

    Can you point me to the list of professional journalists doing the judging? Agenda seems pretty clear here, curious about the diversity of judges.

  • Michael Koretzky

    If you google me and decide I’m a “mad anti-feminist Gamergate type,” I guess I can’t argue with you. But if you haven’t, I won’t argue with you.

  • Michael Koretzky

    We revealed one judge here…

    …and one is the new director of these awards…

    …while the third is a business editor and avid gamer who met his wife in a Zelda forum.

  • Andrew Whatever

    “He sourced it with mods from a pro-GamerGate subreddit, although to be clear, he didn’t take sides in the GamerGate controversy.” AH HA HA HA HA HA HA HA. Ok I get it now. And the third judge is some mystery judge I guess, not difficult to guess why. Do you guys have any plans to really legitimize this thing beyond Gamergate nonsense? Is that even possible at this point?

  • Andrew Whatever

    I’m referring to the people who submit these kind of articles to a video game journalism award. You spent a lot of time talking to Gamergaters, surely you picked up some idea of how they operate by this point. Tip: You’re going to have a lot of trouble getting anyone to take these awards seriously if you can’t extract yourself from their nonsense, and giving them a platform to continue to trash feminists they perceive are ruining gaming isn’t going to help. Constructive criticism: Jezebel isn’t really related to game journalism anyway, the fact that they’re here at all shows a huge lacking in how you are running this. Perhaps it will change for the better with the new management though.

  • Andrew Whatever

    EXACTLY. That Jezebel thing wouldn’t even be seriously considered if it wasn’t part of this ongoing Gamergate nonsense. These awards will never be taken seriously if they can’t extract themselves from Gamergate nonsense. I don’t even know how that would be possible without completely revamping both the nomination and judging processes, instead of blindly defending the status quo aka awards that rose in the midst of Gamergate nonsense that are heavily influenced by Gamergaters.

  • Michael Koretzky

    I have no more details to offer. So if you’ve read about our process and our updates and still feel we’re not legitimate, I suppose the Kunkels aren’t for you.

  • amyshulk

    I always did learn the most from others’ mistakes


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