A productive month at the Southeast Michigan Media Lab

The month of April proved to be very busy for me as I worked with multimedia journalists, bloggers and readers as part of my new role as director of community engagement and editorial training for 21st Century Media, formerly Journal Register Company, in Michigan.

From a reader focus group at The Oakland Press that I helped coordinate with Community Engagement Editor Monica Drake and a workshop on legal issues for media in the digital age at The News-Herald in Southgate, to working one-on-one with bloggers and journalists, delivering presentations to community groups, and hosting live chats and workshops, there is usually something fun and interesting going on every day.

Two visits to The News-Herald netted a better understanding of how social media tools are used by journalists and legal issues they may grapple with working in digital media. The informal chat on social media was insightful for me because I learned that our reporters are embracing social media and using it to connect better and faster to our audience. I was particularly impressed with Dave Komer, an online editor at The News-Herald, who shared a story about reporter Jackie Harrison-Martin live tweeting from a crime scene and him pulling in her tweets for breaking news updates. I also liked how they connected their social media stream on Facbook with print readers by offering polls and sharing responses in print.

A week later, I returned to facilitate Michigan Press Association attorney Robin Luce-Herrmann’s chat on digital media legal issues. I livestreamed the presentation so reporters and editors across our chain could watch it live or a recording later, and I shared her PowerPoint on Scibd. What was challenging about it for me was figuring out how to make it all private. After consulting our ideaLab group, I discovered it was pretty easy to create a password-protected uStream channel and make the document private on Scribd.com.

Michigan Press Association attorney Robin Luce Herrmann talks to journalists on legal issues involving digital media.

Michigan Press Association attorney Robin Luce Herrmann talks to journalists on legal issues involving digital media.

Also that same day, I drove to The Oakland Press for one of two reader focus groups planned. The afternoon session saw people fill the room to capacity, but no one showed up for the evening meeting. Monica and I had created a survey using SurveyMonkey and I promoted it on The Oakland Press Facebook page and Twitter account. Nineteen people showed up in person. I found the results interesting, but, in the end, it was decided the sample wasn’t big enough to warrant any immediate action. It was still a worthwhile and educational experience to hear from the readers about their likes and dislikes concerning The Oakland Press. I was particularly pleased to hear them say they are willing to contribute to the news website and print publication by writing news releases, submitting photographs and sharing items for the calendar of events.

Readers, reporters and editors gathered for a reader focus group at The Oakland Press in April.

Readers, reporters and editors gathered for a reader focus group at The Oakland Press in April.

I made three trips to The Macomb Daily, all very worthwhile and leaving me feeling inspired by the efforts of others. The first visit was to talk about social media use in their newsroom, the second visit was to work one-on-one with Gordie Wilczynski and the third was to livestream and shoot a shorter video of the Macomb County All-Academic Banquet sponsored by the newspaper.

Community Engagement Editor Maryanne MacLeod and Online Editor Bruce MacLeod are both impressive and are doing a top-notch job of steering the newsroom’s efforts as they focus online and interact more with their audience through social media. Some staffers, however, confessed to me that when we were talking about social media and new media tools, it was like I was speaking another language. I then offered to return as often as they will have me to work individually or in groups with reporters to get them up to speed on social media and introduce emerging technology tools. Both Gordie and Gina Joseph impressed me by taking me up immediately.

I returned a few days later to work with Gordie on building his Twitter and Facebook followings, and Gina and I spoke about the social media tool NewHive and how she could use it to build and reach a wider audience. Gina has since created several NewHive expressions linked to her work at The Macomb Daily online, and yesterday I saw Gordie using Facebook to crowdsource a story. Both have impressed me with their enthusiasm and willingness to embrace social media.

When I wasn’t on the road traveling to newsrooms this past month, I was working with individuals at the media lab, recruiting bloggers, adding new bloggers to our news websites across Michigan, holding live chats, livestreaming workshops or presenting information about the media lab to groups and individuals. Some of the highlights include an informative live chat on Alzheimer’s disease and a chat on techniques on getting through grief at Mother’s Day. Both were hosted on ScribbleLive, with my Alzheimer’s chat seeing 1,353 page views and my grief chat garnering 807, but growing every day as people read the archived version.

ScribbleLive chats were also held in conjunction with workshops and featured livestreaming video. We held workshops on search engine optimization and creating video news stories. These were presented by Monica and Aftab Borka, a multimedia journalist and videographer at The Oakland Press, respectively.

Videographer Aftab Borka teaches a workshop at the media lab.

Videographer Aftab Borka teaches a workshop at the media lab.

In addition, I met with blogging partners Chris Watkins, Adrianna Lypeckyj, Douglas Gill, and community contributors Linda Tubbs and Lori Maranville. Lori wanted to learn how to use Google Voice to create a sound slideshow on her church’s anniversary and Linda wanted help putting together a feature article, to be published at Heritage.com, on her nonprofit group’s efforts, highlighting a few of the standouts.

Also adding to a mix of interesting goings-on at the media lab was a workshop by Chuck Newman and his company on preserving and recording history through new media tools, a presentation about the media lab to Communities That Care in Ypsilanti and an in-person pitch to Bernadette Quist, director of the Dexter Area Chamber of Commerce, on me delivering a presentation about the lab at a chamber breakfast in May.

Members of Communities That Care

Members of Communities That Care

In between, I set up an account on Meetup.com to publicize the media lab’s workshops, edited a video from one of our workshops and created a Southeast Michigan Media Lab channel on YouTube to share videos. In addition, I created two RebelMouse pages and several NewHive expressions.

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