As I prepare to mark my one-month anniversary as director of community engagement and editorial training for Journal Register Company’s Michigan Group, I find myself questioning if I am doing enough. I’ve always been a workhorse and I’ve worked on deadline for 21 years as a former reporter, assistant editor, editor and managing editor. So, it has taken some mental adjustment to acclimate myself to a role that is more akin to a entrepreneur as I blaze a new trail in a newly created position that includes serving as director of the Southeast Michigan Media Lab. The lab, which was launched last year as part of my ideaLab project, is a training center for blogging partners, community contributors, freelance writers, student journalists and members of the community interested in learning digital media skills.
I’ve spent the last month building relationships and making headway on every responsibility cited in my job description. This includes recruiting 100 blogging partners for all of our websites. Luckily, this isn’t entirely my responsibility, as the community engagement editors across our Michigan group will be recruiting from their coverage areas, as well. So far, I’ve had some success with this task, bringing on board six and I have nine others nearly ready for a total of 15. I’ve also joined the Oakland Press Bloggers and Macomb Daily/Daily Tribune Bloggers Collaborative on Facebook, and I’ve been sharing with them links to free digital tools, webinars and workshops at the media lab to help them be more successful. I also have scheduled appointments to meet with two blogging partners and the group Communities That Care to provide individual instruction at the lab.
I am also charged with setting up live chats across our footprint. The first chat I have in the works is on cancer awareness, prevention and treatment, and it will be held noon March 21. I’ve lined up a doctor, cancer resource nurse, representative from the American Cancer Society and cancer survivor. Also in the works is a chat with editors representing all of our publications and websites. The chats will run on our websites across Michigan, and will allow for a text conversation between experts and our readers. These chats are in additions to the live chats I hold in conjunction with the workshops at the media lab.
Also as part of the community engagement component of my position, I held a reader focus group for Heritage Media in Washtenaw County and I am working with Monica Drake, community engagement editor at The Oakland Press, to organize a reader focus group in Oakland County. This involves an online survey, PowerPoint presentation, and conversation with key communicators and stakeholders in our coverage area. At the Heritage focus group last month, I connected with school leaders in Saline and now plan to meet Friday with a group of handpicked students to gauge their interest in news-sharing and blogging partnerships, as well as their involvement in the media lab. I’ve also reached out to Chelsea schools and hope to meet soon with students there.
At the media lab, I’ve been busy lining up workshops and recruiting presenters. I have four events planned in March and April on marketing blogs, search engine optimization, Google Drive and video production. Presenters include local staff, an Eastern Michigan University professor and an Internet marketing expert. Events pages have been set up on the media lab’s Facebook page.
In addition, I’ve organized newsroom training on “Excel for Journalists” for all of our Michigan properties. Mark Ranzenberger, who works at The Morning Sun and teaches journalism at Central Michigan University, will provide the training, with three on-site options combined with livestreaming video and a live chat for those who can’t make it in person. I’ve also been in contact with Robin Luce-Hermann, counsel for the Michigan Press Association, to present on “New Rules for the Digital Media Age,” a workshop she delivered in 2012 at the MPA convention on legal issues relating to the Internet and journalists. Plans are also in the works to have chats at each of our newsrooms on journalists’ and editors’ use of social media to engage and communicate with our audience.
I’ve also been busy seeking training for myself, logging onto the webinars “Pinterest and Instagram for Journalists,” “Overview” and “Branding for Journalists” by the Reynolds Center and Poynter, and attending training at The Oakland Press on Omniture. And for good measure and to stay active in the field, I shot and produced video of the “We Love Dexter” video launch party and interviewed Capt. Keith Colburn of “Deadliest Catch” for a podcast, both of which were posted on Heritage.com.