Monthly Archives: February 2010

Migrating journalist

For a group that’s supposed to be up to speed on everything, a significant number of my journalist friends give me blank expressions when I talk about the explosion of content-producing jobs outside the newsroom.

Of course, I’m not pointing fingers. I can’t. Not that long ago, I was one of them.

After a recent layoff, I decided I needed to make a clean break with traditional journalism. The first thing I did was develop a job search plan that included a heavy dose of networking. Luckily, I’m one of those people who have never burned a bridge in my life. (If I were a German sapper in World War II, Patton would have been in Berlin before FDR even got to Yalta.)

I contacted as many former colleagues as I could, and one of them, who has been in the tech sector for nearly a decade, met me for breakfast at a hole in the wall in Milford, N.H. It was there – a few feet from a stool that had “Gore sat here” written on the leg in permanent marker – that he used two words that I’d never heard together before: content marketing.

He gave me a brief overview of how organizations are cutting back on traditional advertising models and outreach to traditional media to focus on creating compelling, meaningful content on their own Web sites and through social media. He explained that this marketing revolution has many different names – custom publishing, branded media, customer media, etc. – but that the common thread was the need for people who could develop and create useful information that strengthens the relationship between the content provider and the content producer, whether the provider was a business, a university, or a nonprofit.

Whoa, I thought, I can do that. Not only that, I can be excited about doing that.

When I later mentioned this to my newspaper friends – and even a friend of mine who’s a former journalism professor – they gave me a puzzled look. But the more I learned, the more I saw this is a great new career opportunity for someone with my skill set, and, just as importantly, my personality.

I’m learning that many of the things that drew me to journalism – the rush of deadline, the fun of trying new things and building a community, the joy of hanging out with smart, clever people and learning something new every day – aren’t exclusive to a newsroom. In fact, as newsrooms have been decimated by layoffs and attrition, those remaining smart, clever people are too damn busy bailing water to have much time left over to do the meaningful, fun things that drew them to the business in the first place. That’s not to say they aren’t trying, but the odds keep growing exponentially against them.

So, where does this leave me? I’m learning more every day and finding that many of the skills I though were unique to journalism – finding and telling interesting stories, organizing complex content into useful packages, engaging an audience – aren’t going anywhere; they’re just transitioning into another vehicle – one that I can’t wait to help drive.

Lesson in the snow

Everyone’s home from school today for a snow day.

After hearing the news before sunrise, we all tumbled back into bed for a few more hours sleep, so it was quite a shock to look outside at 8 a.m. and see no snow on the ground. None. A few flakes were falling, but not enough to stick.

For the previous two days, the forecast was for 4-8 inches starting in the early morning and going all day; the meteorologist held to that prediction on the morning news today.

Logically, the school superintendent in our town – and her counterparts in scores of other communities across Southern NH – made the right call when they canceled school. After all, if the worst part of the storm was due at noon, it would have been more disruptive to have an early dismissal, not to mention unsafe for the buses. Still … it somehow gave us something to gloat about throughout the morning.

Now, a little after noon, the snow is sticking and the roads are getting greasy. It seems like the right call was made, after all, although the real verdict still awaits the close of the school day, about 90 minute from when I write this.

With such a limited timeframe, the second-guessing about a snow day is a mere diversion, but for decisions that have a much deeper horizon (say, health care reform, or the “surge” in Iraq, or Android vs. iPhone), perceptions can bend outcomes.

The lesson I take from this? Making a data-driven decision that you feel certain of in your heart of hearts is great, but don’t let the conversation spin out of control while you wait to be proven right.

Papa’s got a brand new blog

Hello,

This site has been set up to showcase my writing and design portfolios, although I know I won’t be able to keep from blogging about media, politics, pop culture, fantasy baseball, New Hampshire and whatever else comes up.

Cheers