Posts Tagged ‘start-ups’

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


INTERVIEW: VJ Movement Founder Thomas Loudon

Click here to listen to the Thomas Loudon Interview

Listen to Jeff Achen’s interview with VJ Movement Founder Thomas Loudon. VJ Movement ( is an exciting new independent news organization based in Holland. The brainchild of Thomas Loudon and Arend Jan van den Beld, VJ Movement is a completely new model for sourcing, selecting, aggregating, distributing and presenting professional video journalism.

Temple U. prof talks entrepreneurial journalism

A Q&A with GEORGE MILLER, assistant journalism professor, Temple University School of Communications and Theater

George Miller teaches an entrepreneurial journalism class at Temple University, which he and Journalism Department Chairman Andrew Mendelson have parlayed into an all-day journalism event, “PhIJI: The Philadelphia Initiative for Journalistic Innovation” on Nov. 7.  Click here for the registration form. The daylong conference at Temple University’s Annenberg Hall is geared toward journalists or others interested in starting an online publication. 

More than two dozen speakers are scheduled to discuss monetizing content, social media, marketing, and search engine optimization, among other topics. Panelists include representatives from community newspapers, multi-media sites, niche magazines and non-traditional broadcast outlets.

The event occurs as Philadelphia Newspapers LLC, owner of Philadelphia’s two major newspapers The Philadelphia Daily News and the Philadelphia Inquirer, is in bankruptcy and falling revenue continues to erode traditional, or legacy, media’s scope.

Mr. Miller left the Daily News in 2005 through a company buy-out package after working there 11 years in the news, feature and photography departments. He started adjunct journalism teaching at Temple University in 2006, which led him to a full-time position in the department in 2007.

He has counted nearly 40 independent, entrepreneurial journalism outlets, online and print, in the Greater Philadelphia area.

Net Worked: First, explain why it’s “time to save journalism in the Greater Philadelphia region,” as the PhIJI web site states.
George Miller: To me, it’s not about “saving journalism,” it’s about recognizing opportunities. As traditional media gets into more and more financial trouble, and they try to streamline their staffing, there’s fewer and fewer people on the streets actually covering stuff. For all the people not covering stuff — there’s an opportunity out there to serve an under served niche or an under served community. To me, that’s opportunity for people to be able to get out there and create their own start-up outlets.

People want information, but if the only thing traditional media are going to write about in a certain community is somebody is shot or killed there, they (people in that community) will stop coming to you (traditional media) for information. There’s 1.45 million people in the Philadelphia area, and traditional media don’t have the ability to be in every neighborhood. It does a real disservice to those communities, but they are left in a position to where they have to react rather than be proactive. And people are now in a position to create outlets for their own communities, to serve their interests in music or sports, or whatever the case may be.

There are opportunities out there for ideas that are not being covered. It’s not just geographic regions: In Philadelphia, it’s easy to say the Philadelphia Inquirer doesn’t cover neighborhoods sufficiently, but there’s a world of possibilities in not just neighborhoods. There’s niches, and if people can recognize niches, they can recognize potential audiences. If people can tap into niches, they can create a sustainable community. There is a demand for information.

PhIJI appears to bring together two things: academia and journalism. How do you think academia has handled the changes in journalism?
I was one of the people who came up with the idea to do it. Two years ago, I brought in a guy (to class ) who runs a small community paper in West Philadelphia. He writes stories, he sells advertising, he distributes — he does everything. I thought, There’s probably a lot of people around Philadelphia doing similar things and this might be an opportunity for all these people to get together, to share resources. Me and Andy Mendelson have been talking about it ever since.
It’s a weird journalism world out there. There is a lot of negativity out there, ‘The local papers are in bankruptcy, and we are doing a big disservice…’. It’s really about empowering people to have a voice.

Are you seeing any barriers to online news and information start-ups?
I think the only real barrier is time. You can go out and start these things for free, You can create your own web site for free, but I think the difficulty is finding time to generate original content. You have to have original content. You can do everything for free, but your time has value, and you have bills to pay. The original content generation, well, that’s not easy. I’m seeing people are being receptive talking to web sites — being a web site thing isn’t really a problem anymore (regarding access and credibility). There are no financial barriers. Anybody can be a web publisher.

I think you can find a following. You don’t need a mass audience that a mainstream newspaper does, but you do need an audience. And it comes down to the quality of your work. If you do quality work, you can develop a reputation.

Who is interested in this type of endeavor, learning about start-ups?
I’m note sure if there is a common denominator. I’ve been teaching this entrepreneurial journalism class, and I’m studying start-ups around the Philadelphia area, and I don’t see a common pattern yet. I don’t just look at news sites, I look at magazines, community newspapers, multimedia web sites, across the board. A lot of people starting niche magazines have varied backgrounds. I don’t know what happened to all the journalists who used to work for the Philadelphia outlets, I don’t know where’ they went.

Define “entrepreneurial journalism.”
I would define it as someone who is not working for a traditional outlet. Being an entrepreneur means you are the one taking all the chances, and if you go out there and you are the one who’s putting your reputation on the line, you are an entrepreneur.

Anyone who who works at a traditional outlet needs to be entrepreneurial to keep your job. In class, we start by talking about working in a traditional newsroom. Not all the students want to start an outlet. We talk about if you want to work at a traditional outlet, you need to get your ass in gear. We also talk about web sites, multi-media sites. We talk about monetization.

I’m seeing really good ideas from students. When I taught the class last year, most were interested in community journalism. This year, kids seem to be more interested in ideas other than hard news. One student is creating a site featuring 8-bit music. It’s a sub-culture that exists. And there aren’t a lot of outlets for it. We’re still in our developmental stages.

What are some essential components to start publishing online?
I think anybody who is going to have that thought should be an aggressive person to begin with, and you need to have fortitude. Basic writing skills, basic reporting skills, and understanding of what news is. A digital camera, because the web is a visual medium. An Internet connection, a digi-cam, and you are good to go. I think the real issue is establishing ethics and understanding what it means to be a journalist.

Who are you expecting to attend PhIJI?
I hope anybody comes. I’ve organized 29 speakers to come and participate. We don’t have answers to anything, and what we are trying to do is bring together a bunch of people and share ideas and best practices. We’re doing BlobLive at the end, where we get in front of mic, offer feedback, really a brainstorming session. We are just going to kick around ideas.

I’m very enthusiastic about this because it’s a way for people to get involved in journalism and a way for people to get involved with a community, and a way to champion communities.

Digital Media Committee member Jessica Durkin conducted this interview for Net Worked. Jessica, founder of, is a former daily newspaper reporter in Scranton, PA. She plans to attend the PhIJI event in November. Jessica is also the Region 3 director for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

Kicking it Old School, Pt. 2

Earlier I wrote about content being king, no matter the medium (i.e., journalism c. 1700s or journalism 3.0), see “Kicking it Old School.” I since ran into another timeless idea for business and journalism. 

I’m on this digital media committee, I founded an online news start-up directory,, and most of us journos are scrambling to learn the latest digital system that will help us compete in the journalistic workforce.

But this blog entry is about one mainstay in American commerce: the business card.

I am huge advocate of entrepreneurial journalism, and just as reporters are having to adapt and re-adjust their thinking to today’s digital necessities, they may be forgetting to distinguish themselves through business cards as they venture into freelance territory. 

According to the 2009 Layoff Tracker Report, a survey released earlier this month by Unity, Journalists of Color, Inc., an alliance of ethnic minority journalism groups, since Sept. 15, 2008 (the Lehman Brother’s collapse), the journalism industry lost jobs at almost three times the rate of jobs lost in the general economy each month. 

The group states: UNITY’S 2009 Layoff Tracker Report shows an average 22% increase in journalism jobs lost each month from September 2008 through August 2009. In contrast, the economy shed jobs at an average page of plus 8% each month during the same period. 

Since Sept. 15 of last year, the news industry lost 35,885 jobs; and if you go back nine months, to Jan. 1, 2008, when Unity began tracking the industry downsizing, the job loss count rises to 46,599, according to the report. 

And 201 media outlets have closed, also since January 2008. 

The figures were compiled through company self-reporting and through group research. 

That climate of staggering media job losses means that’s a lot of unemployed journalists who are going the freelancing route, or who are not attached to an established outlet. That doesn’t mean you can’t advertise your own service. 

What got me thinking about the necessity of a business card was I attended a journalism networking mixer in Washington, D.C., this month, at the National Press Club. I was laid off from my newspaper job in March, and I am trying to forge a digital freelance writer gig for myself. 

Announcing it is one thing; offering this information in a more permanent medium, on a card, is another. I went to this mixer without cards and was caught unawares — people, other journalists, working journalists, wanted my information and I had to scribble it on notepads, on the back of borrowed cards. 

Business cards can be easily ordered on the Internet and they are inexpensive. One reporter who has started his own community news site covering a section of Los Angeles at, recommended, which offers 250 business cards starting at $5.99. Do an Internet search to shop around; there are several other companies offering competitive pricing and services. 

I tested Vistaprint and you can play around with the designs online. Their software allows you to pick a design, or go the custom route, and input your information to see how it will look before you purchase it. 

No matter what your skill set is or what service you want to offer, put it on a business card and have it ready to hand to anyone who asks about what you do. 

Digital Media Committee member Jessica Durkin is going to get business cards this month. She’s LinkedIn, Facebooked, Twittered , has two e-mail accounts and two phone numbers. It’s time to put it on paper. Jessica, who is based in Scranton, PA, is also the Region 3 Director for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.


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