Posts Tagged ‘ideas’


Lessons over coffee

Sitting down with a fellow journalist over a cup of coffee will benefit not just you, but your audience. (Photo: Pixabay)

At first, stepping through the side entrance located in a busy mall located in the Minneapolis Skyway, life appears to come to a screeching halt. In the middle of a Saturday morning, as a multitude of conferences, exhibitions and other events were taking place across the city, and the line of people stretched to near the door, there was still an element of life pausing.

It happened at a Starbucks in the City Center, during a pause in my sojourn to a journalism conference at a downtown hotel. I had seen the pausing element there before a few months earlier, on a weekday morning. It may have been before 9 on a Tuesday, but you wouldn’t have noticed that from many of those there.

It is this pausing element, in this Starbucks in the midst of a busy downtown, that has allowed this place to stand out in my mind, and is a symbolic reminder of one aspect of self-care – broadly not discussed very much in this industry – that needs to be practiced.

In journalism circa 2018, the daily news cycle takes the form of 4-5 stories breaking at the same time. News of layoffs are happening at just about the same time as a deadline prepares to breathe down one’s neck. For many journalists, be they early in their careers or have been working in the industry for decades, there have been many days where journalism circa 2018 can appear a bit much.

Yet, the focus remains on the work at hand. We bury ourselves in work, be it the freelancer whose work ethic is dependent on whether its feast or famine, the staff reporter competing against other outlets to break the very story that their community will be talking about the next day, or the editors ensuring every t is crossed and every i is dotted, making things work with all the tasks building up.

We bury ourselves in work and go about it, day in and day out. We bury ourselves in this work and don’t come up to the surface to breathe, for if we do, we fear that someone else will get that story, or that content demand may not be met, and that will come at a cost – the job.

The work may be getting done, but the way in which we do the work is doing more harm than good. We wonder what the point of all it is – if journalism was the right thing we were supposed to do for the rest of our lives.

The way we work in what is one of the most important professions in the world is harming not only ourselves, but also our audience, and it’s got to change.

One thing that can be done is simple – get a cup of coffee and sit down with a colleague, be it in your own organization or at another organization. Find out what they’re thinking, how they approach the changing landscape and their ideas on what it means to tell a story in the constant sea of noise.

Sitting down to have these conversations, be it at the Starbucks in the City Center, a coffee shop near the newsroom, or anywhere, is worth doing. A second pair of eyes to help consider what journalism means can change your outlook, reinvigorate your craft with new ideas, and ultimately, serve your audience better than you were before. It’s not only cathartic, but a necessity.

In the end, it is better for your audience, and yourself, to pause, to reflect, and to consider what it means to be a journalist in this digital age – and your industry colleagues can help you do that.

So take a few minutes out of your day to sit down with someone, cup of coffee in hand, and have a conversation. For those minutes, the news can wait.

Editor’s note: This piece was amended at 6:22pm CT for clarity.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist in Minneapolis and a member of SPJ’s Ethics and FOI Committees. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

What’s your idea?

The author and long time public radio broadcaster Garrison Keillor has a saying which accompanies the end of his Writer’s Almanac programs on Minnesota Public Radio: “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.”

We live in an age where journalism is evolving every second, and as it evolves, so does how we think about it – whether it comes to our own crafts, how we can support our newsroom and industry colleagues, or how we can improve our relationship with the public.

We enter this profession because we want to ensure our audiences are at their best. Along the way, we need to be at our best. The best way to do that is by working together, and embracing a collaborative spirit to help make the industry we love even stronger.

At its root is education – something that I am hoping to expand on as my SPJ colleagues gather in Southern California for the annual Excellence in Journalism conference, an opportunity to reflect and to look ahead as to what we can do to help enhance journalism.

But this education, I find, has more meaning when we work together. So I want to hear from you. What do you want to see from this blog in the next year? What would help you make a difference to your audience?

Another thing I wondered is what you want to see – would you like more reporting or guest essays? Is there a topic that isn’t touched on very much that you feel would help you?

I’d love to know what you think. You can tweet me @alex_veeneman or email me through my web site.

We can strengthen journalism, but we can’t do it alone. We must do it together and echo Keillor’s philosophy, because when we’re at our best, the people who matter most – your audience, will be too.

I look forward to hearing your feedback.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist who writes for publications in the US and the UK. He also serves on SPJ’s Ethics Committee. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

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

The Twin Cities’ spirit

Garrison Keillor’s quote, “Be well, do good work and keep in touch,” provides a lesson for journalists. (Photo: Trishhhh/Flickr)

It’s a somewhat overcast afternoon as I look out of the window in the small office of my apartment in Minneapolis, where I’m ending my first full week as a Minnesotan. In the distance is the city skyline, a view that echoes the apartment in Seattle where the fictitious psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane lived.

A week or so ago, I made the over 400 mile move from Chicago to the Twin Cities for greener pastures. I was operating on caffeine and adrenaline, and I still am a week later.

Yet, as I write this, I recall the quote from the famous broadcaster and writer Garrison Keillor, which he uses for his Writer’s Almanac broadcasts on Minnesota Public Radio: “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.”

I had been to Minneapolis twice before in the past few years, and then I didn’t really appreciate the impact of Keillor’s philosophy. In the almost two weeks since I became a Minnesotan, I’ve come to value it and more.

We live in an age where the web has expanded everything that we do, where journalism and storytelling is being enhanced in the realms of Twitter, Facebook and the web. While there have been positive benefits, there also remain questions, especially for those looking to have a successful career in journalism and media.

While we ask ourselves about our role, and how we can truly make a difference, we can take inspiration from those around us. That inspiration can come from reporters trying to make sense of events for the web, print or broadcast, in order to allow us to learn from crafts and the role stories can have.

Inspiration can also come outside of conventional journalism, including from the effervescent spirit of DJs and personalities at MPR’s The Current, who are always eager to share with you something you’ve never heard before.

In St. Paul, on the top floor of MPR’s headquarters, there is a view outside to the east overlooking the state Capitol building – a majestic, poignant reminder of the role journalists have to hold power to account, to promote the exchange of ideas and civil discourse, and to, as SPJ’s Code of Ethics puts it – seek truth and report it. It also is a photographic recollection of the reminder from Fred Rogers that life is for service.

While there are questions that remain to be answered, I simultaneously know that there are people in the Twin Cities, be it at MPR, my colleagues at SPJ’s Minnesota chapter, and elsewhere, whose work and ideas are paramount to helping us understand ourselves. Indeed, the value of the work they do in helping their friends, family, neighbors and the place they call home be at their best is something they don’t take for granted.

They instill in us the desire to learn, day in and day out. I hope, along the way, that I can learn from them.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist who writes for publications in the US and the UK. He also serves on SPJ’s Ethics Committee. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

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

Why it is truly #SPJ4All

My photo for #SPJ4All.

My photo for #SPJ4All.

Last May, I picked up the telephone at my desk and dialed into New Albany, Indiana. Situated on the Indiana-Kentucky border, it was the town that was home to an idea that is at the core of SPJ’s beliefs, principles and ideas.

The idea took root last year when Indiana lawmakers were considering legislation which would have been branded as discriminatory to gay and lesbian couples. Membership Committee chair Robyn Davis Sekula then came up with the idea to do #SPJ4All, a social media campaign that emphasizes SPJ (which itself is based in Indianapolis) is welcome and accepting of all of its members, irrespective of their gender, race, nationality or sexual orientation.

With the help of SPJ colleagues nationally, it developed into an event. After it launched, it got immediate reaction, not just through this blog, but also across social media. When I spoke to her about it last year, Sekula said she wanted to start a conversation.

“We cover news better when we have a wider variety of perspective to bring to the events,” Sekula said.

Today, the SPJ is running the campaign once more, showing that we are truly welcoming and accepting. I recall the conversation for this post, as I believe these ideas make not just SPJ a better organization, but makes the industry stronger, and those who work in the industry better at what they do.

I have been an SPJ member for a little over two years. I joined shortly after my graduation from university, as I tried to figure out the next steps in my career. Since that time, I have been the beneficiary of hearing some wonderful ideas, ideas that are ubiquitous to the future of not just SPJ, but also this industry. I continue to benefit from these ideas not just through contributing to this network of blogs, but through my work as Community Coordinator and other initiatives I take part in for SPJ, as well as through my professional work.

Journalism is changing, and what continues to make this industry stronger and resilient are these ideas that come from a wide variety of people. In order for us to be a stronger industry, all ideas should be heard. You may not necessarily agree with an idea, but its worth hearing, for it may be the one that allows journalism to continue to be at its best.

What I like about SPJ is that all ideas can be heard without fear or vigorous disdain. No one will write you off, and no one will belittle you. Instead, you say your idea in a welcoming environment, and an open, lively conversation ensues, whether its on an issue of governance, an idea for an event, a resolution for the Excellence in Journalism conference, or indeed, journalism itself. It is conducted for all of our benefit.

We are stronger together when we collaborate and exchange ideas together. We are stronger together because we are making journalism better together. We are stronger together when we make your SPJ better together.

That is why we are truly #SPJ4All, and frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing 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 unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

#SPJ4All: More than a hashtag

spjselfie

My selfie for #spj4all. (Photo by the author.)

A year ago this week, an email appeared in my inbox confirming my membership with the SPJ. I had just graduated from university, and I was trying to figure out the next steps. The journalism industry was changing, and I knew there was still more to do. But little did I know what would come since that email arrived, and how my thinking would change when I became a member.

Today, the SPJ is doing a social media campaign called #SPJ4All, a measure to promote diversity within our membership, not just within the United States, but internationally. As my SPJ colleague Robyn Davis Sekula notes over on the Membership blog, the SPJ wants to encourage diversity and acceptance, and no matter who you are and what your background is, “if you’re a journalist, you’re welcome here, and always will be.”

The SPJ has more than 100 international members, and has a vast membership network within the US.

Sekula got the idea from the recent legislation in Indiana, which some suggested could be discriminatory against gay and lesbian couples, and in a telephone interview with me, said she wanted to send the right message. SPJ is headquartered in Indianapolis.

“It was important for us to send the message very clearly, that we are open, affirming and welcoming of all journalists,” Sekula said. “I don’t want people to confuse the state with the organization.”

Sekula hopes the initiative will be the start of a conversation not just within the SPJ but in the wider industry. “We cover news better when we have a wider variety of perspective to bring to the events,” Sekula said, noting that people in the newsroom can learn from other colleagues about social media from those who have experience using its various platforms, and others can learn about approaching subjects that can be controversial from those with experience covering them.

The same is true when it comes to the future of the journalism industry. As it continues to change, and as more digital innovations come to support it, the core of its future starts with ideas. I believe in the ability to educate, and the ability for ideas to be at the core of education on the future of journalism, a view that has shaped my work for not just this blog, but elsewhere.

These ideas can come from anyone, no matter what race, gender, sexual orientation or nationality, and with as many ideas as possible from a variety of backgrounds, the industry will continue to thrive, especially in the digital age.

A diverse industry results in a better informed industry, and a better informed industry will serve those who work in it and strive to work in it well. We must champion it for the benefit of not just us as individuals, but for our industry colleagues near and far.

#SPJ4All reminds us of that, and Sekula is hopeful it can continue.

“I want this to be the start of something,” Sekula said. “How it will take shape, I’m not sure. I feel certain if nothing else it has engaged people in a positive way.”

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is a contributing blogger for Net Worked, and serves as Community Coordinator for SPJ. Veeneman also is Deputy Editor, Media Editor and a writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. Veeneman also blogs on social media for the web site ChicagoNowYou can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s unless otherwise indicated, 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.

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