Archive for the ‘Inspiring Work’ Category

A few words on David Carr

The journalism industry is going through a state of flux. As it goes through its state of flux, one man came forward with sharp insight and analysis that made the industry stop, listen, and take notice, whether you are beginning to enter the industry (like I am) or you are a veteran of the industry.

That man was the New York Times media columnist David Carr. Carr died Thursday at Roosevelt Hospital in New York.

I never met Carr in person, but I was an avid reader of Carr’s content, from my days as a student in university to even now. Carr’s writing was insightful, his knowledge of the industry was vast. Through his columns and pieces, and indeed his talks and lectures, he educated readers, scholars, students, executives and others about the industry and where it was going. I was always fascinated reading Carr’s content and knowing what he thought, from social media’s intersection in journalism to the traditional issues that face media outlets, from the decline in advertising to the issues of this week with NBC News anchor Brian Williams.

Carr was not just a writer. He was an educator, a one of a kind person in this industry, whose thoughts on the evolution of media are part of his legacy. Though he is no longer here, and there won’t be anyone like him again, his educational wit and insight on this industry will remain, something important for all people who love and respect journalism. Education from him can help this industry move forward.

My thoughts are with his family, friends and his colleagues at the Times.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is chairman and blogger at large of SPJ Digital, and community coordinator for SPJ. Veeneman also serves as Deputy Editor, Media Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Build your own website for free

More journalists these days are setting up their own websites where they can profile their work. It’s one of the best ways to grow your brand and display your resume online.

I’ve taken web design classes for four years, and I must admit sometimes I get lost in all the language: CSS, HTML, PHP, HTML5, Flash and the list goes on.  I’m fortunate, because as a freelance reporter I’ve had time to take classes.

But if you don’t have time to learn how to build your own website from scratch or can’t afford  to get one designed; here are a three free website builders  Each of these companies will also host your website for free if you don’t mind the long url  (example: ). 

I set up sample websites at Wix, WebStarts and Moonfruit.    It was very easy and fast.  I think the end results look very professional at all three sites.  Check out my Wix sample website.   Each free website builder offers:

  • Templates designs for your website
  • Text editors
  • Variety of font choices
  • Drag and drop tools for images
  • Video embed tools
  • Video tutorials to help you use the site

Each company offers a “premium” package,  if you want to buy more tools to use on your website.  In my opinion, what they each have to offer for free is good enough if you need the basics.   You also have the option of paying to get it hosted by the hosting company of your choice.  Now go out there and get yourself a website!

Rebecca Aguilar is an Emmy award winning freelance reporter in Dallas, TX. She is the vice chairman of the SPJ Digital Media Committee, and a board member with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. She has 30 years of experience: television news, online news and video producing.  She can be contacted at


Live weekly Twitter chat #SPJchat starts tonight

Want to chat live with prominent journalists and leaders in our industry?

SPJ has just the thing: #SPJchat.

SPJ is launching a new weekly live Twitter chat on hot topics in journalism. It’s called #SPJchat, and it’s slated to take place at 8 p.m. Eastern/7 p.m. Central each Thursday, starting tonight.

#SPJchat is being coordinated by Mike Reilley, the man behind SPJ’s Journalist Toolbox site and adviser to the SPJ chapter at DePaul University. (We’re also welcoming Mike as a member of the Digital Media Committee.)

If you’re totally new to live Twitter chats, Mike has posted a step-by-step primer at this link.

The first #SPJchat sounds like it’s going to be great. The topic will be “Online Storytelling and Best Practices,” and the guest are slated to be:
* Mark Briggs, author of Journalism 2.0
* Mark Luckie, Washington Post national innovations editor, author of The Digital Journalist’s Handbook and founder of the 10000words Blog
* Mandy Jenkins, social media producer at

And next week’s topic is slated to be “Copy Editing and Social Media.”

So follow @spjchat on Twitter for more updates, and we’ll see you at #SPJchat!

New report: Will SPJ remain relevant in the digital age?

Here’s the press release on the Digital Media Committee’s latest publication — it’s a report on how SPJ can stay relevant in the digital era. We encourage you to check it out!

‘Will SPJ remain relevant in the digital age?’

Media experts offer recommendations for SPJ to bridge divide between old and new media

Oct. 25, 2010

Full Strategic Report:

America’s oldest and largest journalism organization must reimagine its offerings to stay relevant in the digital age. The Society of Professional Journalists should become the journalism industry’s premier source of information on the latest technology, newsgathering approaches and business models. And SPJ should unite new media start-ups in a national network to foster communication and innovation.

Those are the top two of 10 recommendations in the SPJ’s Digital Media Committee’s new strategic report, “Will SPJ Remain Relevant in the Digital Age?” The independent committee, appointed by SPJ’s president, interviewed more than a dozen media experts to advise the 101-year-old, 8,200-member Society on how to stand out among more than 90 national journalism organizations.

The report’s interview subjects include: media analyst Ken Doctor; Joshua Benton, Nieman Journalism Lab; Josh Breitbart, New America Foundation; author Clay Shirky; Pulitzer Prize winners Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker, Philadelphia Daily News; former Seattle Times executive editor Mike Fancher; digital media pioneer Howard Owens, Washington Post National Innovations Editor Mark Luckie; Jay Rosen, New York University; Tom Rosenstiel, Pew Research Center; media analyst Alan Mutter; Rick Edmonds, Poynter Institute; and Mark Briggs, author of “Journalism2.0.”

“The Society of Professional Journalists needs to raise its profile on digital media issues,” said Daniel Axelrod, the SPJ DMC’s 2009-10 vice-chairman and the report’s lead author. “SPJ can better journalism and serve its members by publicizing what works in the digital age, creating a network for new media journalists and advocating for an open Internet.”

In the new report, the SPJ DMC recommends that the Society:

1. Bridge the divide between new and old media by aggregating and spotlighting high-quality journalism and facilitating communication among online start-ups and legacy media.

2. Create a vibrant network for new media start-ups to share ideas online and in person.

3. Become an advocate for expanding access to the Internet, news and information.

4. Teach reporters to use powerful emerging technologies.

5. Educate members and citizens in the basics of information-gathering and storytelling.

6. Engage the public in a dialogue about the purpose, value and standards of journalism.

7. Train new media start-ups in entrepreneurial journalism.

8. Teach journalists and their managers the theories behind new media technologies.

9. Ensure SPJ staff and leaders are hyper-literate in digital journalism trends and theories.

10. Poll members to learn and address journalists’ needs, and track the industry’s direction.

Besides the SPJ DMC’s work advising the Society, the committee published a two-part “Digital Media Handbook” filled with training tips on new media. Part I of the handbook is available at and users can access Part II at:

Blogging Basics: How To Get Started

I was working at a Dallas television station a few years ago when a manager sent out a memo to reporters telling us we had to start blogging. I had no idea what I was supposed to do. We didn’t get a book of rules or a “how to” book. We were just told, “start blogging.”

Now, three years later, I have two blogs and ideas for three more blogs.  On my Wise Latinas Linked blog, I write about members of my social networking group on Facebook and LinkedIn. On my Latino Communicators blog, I write about Hispanic “movers and shakers” in journalism and mass communications.

Whether you’re blogging as a requirement of your job or planning to have your own blog, there are several reasons why you should consider doing it.

Blogging is easy. It’s a way to start your journey in digital media. I also think it’s a great way to build on your journalism resume. Blogging is online work.

How To Start Your Blog

First, you need to find blogging software that is easy to use. There are several available. I use both and They’re free and have step-by-step instructions on how to set up your blog. Both offer templates that are ready-made pages for your blog layout.

Who Are the Readers You Want To Attract?

You need to know which readers you want to reach with your blog. Once you know your target audience it will be much easier to come up with content. The blogs I have now are targeting women and/or Hispanics.

If you work for a media company, of course, your readers will be those devoted to your newspaper, television station or online site or — simply put — your fans.

Hundreds of journalists in the U.S. and around the world are blogging. Want to see if your blog will be unique? Just check out Blog Catalog’s list of journalist-bloggers. It’s a good site to surf for ideas.

Decide On Your Content

Some journalists write their own original content, but others find an interesting link, post it and add their two cents.  Linking to other sites is a good way to grow your readership.  I do both on my blogs.

If you’re one of those reporters required to blog for your company, your blog can just be an extension of your original story or the story of others who work with you.

Marian Wang is a reporter/blogger for She tends to expand on stories published by other reporters on their site.

A blog can also be an opinion piece.  Got an opinion on an issue? That makes for an interesting blog.

This will probably be a little easier for a freelancer to take on.  If you’re an employee of a media company, you may have to get your bosses’ permission to go down the avenue of opinion blogging.

Neil McCartney is a photojournalist in Johannesburg. He blogs about his daily experiences as a photojournalist and shares his photos.

You can also take a completely different direction and blog about something other than news stories and journalism. Do you enjoy golfing?  Why not blog about golf courses you’ve visited or, maybe, interesting golfers?

Do you like visiting different museums around the country? Why not blog about your experience and your take on different museums?

Look, we’re journalists and we love to write, and we all have different interests.  Blogging is an easy way to start building on your digital media experience.

Blogging should not feel like a job.  It should feel like another way to express yourself through your words.

Rebecca Aguilar is the vice chairman of the SPJ Digital Media Committee.  She is an Emmy Award-winning freelance reporter based in Dallas, TX. Rebecca also sits on the Board of Directors with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.  Contact her at

Keep learning with Scribd

As the 2009-2010 SPJs’ Digital Media Committee year comes to a close we are hard at work putting together Part II of The SPJ Digital Media Handbook. Many of our loyal readers have written in asking when the next section will be published. Our goal is to have Part II available before the SPJ 2010 Convention in Las Vegas.

As an homage to Scribd for housing our content and making it accessible to journalists around the globe, I thought I might recommend some other incredible resources that can be found for FREE on Scribd.

The Future Journalist, by Sree Sreenivasan and Vadim Lavrusik (posted by Scribd user api_user_5814_user82644)
Sree and Vadim explain why it’s critical that journalists learn to think digitally and why it’s important to have a strong grasp of how to use digital media tools BEFORE news breaks.

33 Sites Every Journalist Should Know, by Jeremy Caplan (posted by Scrib user silverboat, Jeremy)
Jeremy Caplan’s 3 part series handout has a great selection of sites that will help you distribute and publish your content.

Twitter, by Claire Wardle (posted by Scribd user cward1e, Dr. Claire Wardle)
Wardle takes you step by step on how to use Twitter, in case you don’t already know how. More importantly, she shows how journalists can use Twitter as a tool for reporting, in case you still need convincing (or know someone that does).

Google Guide making search even easier, by Nancy Blachman (posted by Scribd user rumisprite, Nancy A. Henry)
Learn how to perform a Patent Search, get Flight Tracking Information, set up Google Alerts…her document is so chock full of information on using the Google search engine that it’s exhausting. You’ll need to set aside a few hours to get through it all. Really.

Google Search tips for journalists, by David Paulson (posted by Scribd user Hastimal Shah)
A lighter alternative to the aforementioned document.  (Don’t forget that Google will be giving a presentation at the SPJ 2010 Convention – here was our recap of the Google 101 event in Chicago – Google 101 for Journalists: A Review)

Find any other must-reads for journalists on Scribd? Leave a link in the comment section below.

Hilary Fosdal is the associate new media editor at the Law Bulletin Publishing Company located in Chicago, Illinois. You can visit her site and follow her on Twitter @hilaryfosdal.

Hyperlocal Journalism: Inside the Patch

UPDATED (Sept. 13): A Patch recruiter will be attending

UPDATED (Sept. 8): Patch panel announced: Sherry Skalko, Holly Edgell, George Slefo

UPDATED (Sept. 3): Panel moderator announced: Fernando Diaz

WHAT: The Society of Professional Journalists’ Digital Media Committee is proud to present an evening of exploration into the much talked about topic of “hyperlocal journalism.”

To give you an idea of the topics that will be discussed, here are a few questions that the panelists will be asked:

  • How do you make money selling local news?
  • What is a day in the life of a Patch reporter like? What about the editor(s)?
  • What content on Patch sites is being consumed the most?
  • What, if any, multimedia skill sets is Patch looking for when they hire reporters?

The end of the evening will be Q&A with questions from the audience. Questions via Twitter and e-mail are encouraged for those individuals who cannot attend in person. Send your questions to or use the hashtag #spjpatch

SPJ + Patch



Sherry Skalko – Editorial Director, Midwest Region for Patch
Holly Edgell – Regional Editor, St Louis for Patch
George Slefo – Local Editor, Skokie for Patch

Fernando Diaz, managing editor of Hoy Chicago, will be our panel moderator.

WHERE: Illinois Technology Association
200 South Wacker Drive
15th floor
Chicago, IL 60606

WHEN: Friday, September 24th from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

LIMITED SPACE: The Illinois Technology Association has generously donated the space for our event. However, seating is limited and registration closes two days before the event. Tickets are FREE! Please bring your ticket with a valid form of ID in order to be admitted into the building.

Get your tickets now –

WHO SHOULD ATTEND: Journalist, citizen journalists, hackers, programmers, professors

What is PATCH? (in their own words):

“We’re a community-specific news and information platform dedicated to providing comprehensive and trusted local coverage for individual towns and communities.” Read more…

What Makes A Good Video Story

Bonnie GonzalezIn television news you quickly learn what makes a good video story and what should be information put in a script for the news anchors to read.

Video stories have become a vital part of online and newspaper multimedia reports, but not every story should be turned into a video report.  I thought I’d ask three television news videographers to help us in our quest to figure out what makes a good video story and when should it only remain a story in print.

Chuck Denton is a multiple Emmy Award-winning news videographer based near Los Angeles.   He has 23 years of experience and has been a long time freelancer for CBS, FOX, NBC, and ESPN. He’s also won awards for his video editing.Chuck Denton

Bonnie Gonzalez works as a one-man-band for an Austin television station.  She’s been a reporter/videographer for more than five years, and admits doing it all has taught her to be creative and resourceful.

Jim Kent is another news videographer with a long resume.  Jim has 10 Emmys and has been awarded Region 10 Photographer of the Year by the National Press Photographers Association.  Jim has more than 20 years experience and has freelanced for Fox and ABC.  He owns his own company in Phoenix called ArtGecko Productions.   

What do you look for in a good video story?

Chuck:  Are there “visual” elements to help tell the story? Covering a city council or school board meeting can be a snoozer to watch unless you can use video to help illustrate the issue. Sometimes local news covers a crime and has no crime scene video from the night before. It can be a challenge. Are the interviews dynamic?  Are they compelling enough to keep folks interested in tuning in?

Jim KentBonnie:  Is there action and lots of nat sound or natural sound?  That’s the sound you hear within a story that really pulls you in and makes you feel like you’re there. For example, say I was doing a story on fishing. I’d want to pick up the sounds of splashes, the reel, a fisherman’s laughs or groans, and place a lot of emphasis on those sounds in the story. Watch a story with a lot of nat sound versus one without, and you can really tell a difference.

When do you know it’s just a good print story and not really a good video story?

Chuck:  It’s a good print story when there’s no real video to use or shoot to tell the story. Meetings come to mind!

Jim: TV is a visual medium, that’s a given.  I believe  a great still shot and a well written print story can’t be beat when the story is complicated and complex, and can’t be told in a minute and half in video.

How important is it to have good characters?

Chuck: Having good characters is always a plus, but boring interviews can be offset by compelling video and by keeping the sound bites short.

Bonnie: If you have an interesting character, viewers are going to pay attention. Journalists tend to look towards people who are energetic, emotional, etc.

Jim:  What do we all remember about our favorite stories? Is it the well written copy or is it that great opening or closing shot? Most likely it was that fantastic character that led us through the story. People relate to people, not reporters, besides we all know reporters aren’t people, right? Just kidding.Chuck Denton on assignment.

How important is it to have good sound bites and action?

Chuck: Great sound bites can portray emotion and incredible context of the situation/story you are trying to tell; a grieving family member, a witness to a crime, a victim of a scam, someone well-known who may say something outrageous or out of character. How many times have stories been made for television, because we have terrific home or surveillance video?

Bonnie: If there’s no action how interesting of a story is it going to be? I once did a story on the housing market. My video was only different shots of houses and my interviews.  Not too exciting is it? Maybe I could’ve connected with a realtor and got video of a person showing a house otherwise it was a better print story.

Bonnie Gonzalez on assignment.Jim: I never stop shooting until I know I have great sound to tell the story. It’s that important.

Here are some examples of their work:

Chuck’s stories on CBS Evening News “Going with the Grain” and “Fallen Hero’s Story Inspires.”  You can contact Chuck at

Bonnie’s story on News8 Austin “Prehistoric Mammoths Debut in Waco” and “Junior Chefs Shine in Temple Culinary Class.”  Bonnie can be contacted at

Jim was one of the videographers on ABC’s 20/20 report “Revenge Against A Religious Sect.”  Jim can be contacted at


Rebecca Aguilar is an Emmy Award winning freelance multimedia reporter in Dallas. She produces videos, digital slide-shows along with her reports. She can be reached at


Behold, the tablet (circa 1994)

Steve Jobs may have unveiled the highly anticipated Apple tablet yesterday, dubiously named the iPad (how many jokes did you see on Twitter and Facebook after the morning release?), but true tech/geek/news nerds know the idea is not exactly 21st century.

Let’s take a stroll down memory lane. To 1994. When Knight Ridder’s Information Design Lab — notice they avoided calling it the News Design Lab — was experimenting with digital ways to present the news. Something tells me the R&D people over at Apple examined a few of these as they brainstormed an iPrototype.

File under #dontsaynewspapersdidnttry

Tablet Newspaper (1994)

SPJ Digital Media Committee member Jessica Durkin is the founder and editor of, a directory of online, independent news start-ups. Jessica is a former daily newspaper reporter based in Scranton, PA.

New News event in Seattle

I am in Seattle today attending Day 1 of the Journalism That Matters event: “Re-Imagining News & Community in the Pacific Northwest,” which runs from today through Sunday.

Twitter hashtag: #jtmpnw, and I’m @jessdrkn.

This “un-conference” intends to explore new relationships between journalism and communities. This event is unlike traditional events or conferences with line-ups of experts telling attendess what they are doing — this is about attendees talking to each other.

I am hosting a table for my website on hyperlocal and community news start-ups,, and for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, of which I’m a director.

Seattle and the Northwest has become a hotbed of community/hyperlocal startup activity.  Some participants at this event are:

  • Seattle City Club
  • The B-Town Blog (from Burien)
  • The Salish Sea Network
  • The Tyee
  • West Seattle Blog
  • Xconomy
  • YES! Magazine

Other event attendees setting up their tables alonside me in the commons area are:

  • Asian American Journalists Association
  • Cascadia Times
  • Common Language Project
  • Countywide Community Forums
  • Department of Commnications, University of Washington
  • Instivate
  • Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in Democracy
  • KUOW Public Insight Network
  • LocalHealthGuide/Seattle
  • Master of Communication in Digital Media, U of W
  • Media Island International
  • Natural Oregon
  • News 21
  • Pedro De Valdivia — an artist who uses trash or discarded items for his Modern-Ecoism work
  • Reclaim the Media
  • Seattle Times
  • Sustainable Seattle
  • Washington Coalition for Open Government
  • Washington News Council

Jessica Durkin is the founder of, a site that tracks independent community, local and regional news start-ups. She is interested in entrepreneurial journalism and the new paradigm. She is the mid-atlantic director (Region 3) of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.


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