Posted tagged ‘journalism’

Glenn Gilbert, ‘architect of the modern newsroom’ in Michigan, to retire after 45 years

December 23, 2013
Glenn Gilbert, executive editor of The Oakland Press in Pontiac, Mich., and group editor for 21st Century Media's Michigan Cluster, is retiring Jan. 3, 2014, after 45 years in journalism.  (Photo by Tim Thompson/Oakland Press)

Glenn Gilbert, executive editor of The Oakland Press in Pontiac, Mich., and group editor for 21st Century Media’s Michigan Cluster, is retiring Jan. 3, 2014, after 45 years in journalism. (Photo by Tim Thompson/Oakland Press)

Glenn Gilbert, known for transforming 21st Century Media’s Michigan newsrooms into data- and visually-driven 24/7 content producers that welcome community contributions and engage their audience through two-way conversations and outreach, is wrapping up a 45-year career in a field that has undergone major changes in news gathering and delivery.

“I believe Glenn Gilbert’s legacy will be guiding the newsroom at The Oakland Press, as well as the newsrooms throughout Michigan, through a difficult period of transition – both it was an instable time in the industry, as well as the economy,” said Stephen Frye, online editor at The Oakland Press, “and, also, journalism in general changing with the new digital tools available and the digital outlets.”

In the last seven years, Gilbert, 63, has reimagined newsroom positions – from old-school reporter and copy editor jobs to community engagement editors and multimedia journalists who interact with their audience and use a variety of storytelling methods to convey their journalism through videography, photography, audiocasts, data visualizations, and live-tweeting and blogging.

Just as importantly, he has opened the newsroom to the public, launched community liaison boards, established a blogger network and encouraged media labs to train the audience in covering secondary news and use of digital storytelling tools.

“He had the vision, I believe, to open up the newsroom to the public,” Frye said. “That was the strongest first act that opened people’s eyes in our newsroom when he said, ‘We have to invite the public in to participate.’

“This was in 2007 that he said that – that the readers are part of the storytelling. We rely on them to give us stories, to give us ideas, but also to share their stories, whether that be in blogs or submitted works – (and) for every reporter to work with members of the public.”

Glenn Gilbert is known as the "architect of the modern newsroom" for 21st Century Media's Michigan Group, which includes The Oakland Press, The Macomb Daily, Daily Tribune in Royal Oak, The Morning Sun in Mount Pleasant, The News-Herald Downriver and Heritage.com.

Glenn Gilbert is known as the “architect of the modern newsroom” for 21st Century Media’s Michigan Group, which includes The Oakland Press, The Macomb Daily, Daily Tribune in Royal Oak, The Morning Sun in Mount Pleasant, The News-Herald Downriver and Heritage.com.

Frye said reporters, at the time, were witnessing the rise of social networks – and joining the ranks of users – opening up another medium for public expression and storytelling beyond newspapers. It didn’t take long, he said, for Michigan editorial staff to embrace Gilbert’s philosophy of an open, more collaborative newsroom sharing news in real time.

“It was realizing we’re the professionals, but guide those who want to participate,” Frye said.

“It was very quickly that people in our newsroom realized that the readers were part of the future of storytelling.”

Julie Jacobson-Hines, local news editor at The Oakland Press, respects Gilbert for his efforts early on to embrace the change ushered in with the Fifth Estate’s rise, and work to transform 21st Century Media’s Michigan newsrooms.

“I think he has set us up for success in the digital world and social media. Obviously, that’s where the business is going,” Jacobson-Hines said.

“As a newsman, I think he wanted to give more power to the reporters and people in the community to be able to come up with stories rather than us dictating to people what we think the stories should be,” she said.

“He, one time, said he wanted to return the paper to the people, and that’s how it began in the United States. And this, I feel, is his legacy.”

Jeff Kuehn, regional sports editor for 21st Century Media’s Michigan cluster, has worked with Gilbert for seven years, since their days at The Macomb Daily. He has been impressed with Gilbert’s early push, as readers embraced online news sites and social media, to transform traditional newsrooms into 24/7 operations that use social media for crowdsourcing, engaging the public in conversations and sharing news as it breaks.

“He has changed the mindset, not only of us (at The Oakland Press), but he has gone to the weeklies and said, ‘You know, you no longer are a weekly. You should be thinking 24/7. You should be getting your copy up immediately,’” Kuehn said. “He has told dailies, ‘You are no longer a daily. You are a what’s-going-on-now operation.’

“And that has been embraced by some more than others, or I should say some have been quicker to the table than others.”

Transforming weekly and daily newspapers into 24/7 news operations online while maintaining excellence in print – as demonstrated with Local Media Association bestowing its Best Digital and Print Combination award to The Oakland Press in 2013 – is not an easy task, especially with shrinking newsroom budgets resulting from lost advertising revenue as more competition crops up for ad dollars and some businesses are slower to embrace online.

Gilbert, through his position as executive editor, has had to make painful cuts to editorial staff positions, while alleviating some of the hemorrhaging by creating efficiencies with a universal copy editing desk and centralized pagination center serving all of Michigan, with plans to bring in the Midwest sister publications.

“He has had to make some tough decisions because, of course in our business, we’ve had to have some cost-cutting measures, and he has gone into all of those very thoughtfully and thinking each thing through thoroughly,” Jacobson-Hines said. “He has never taken this lightly, but it’s just something that had to be done to keep the doors open of the properties we currently have. It took a lot of guts, I think.”

Despite cuts to editorial staff positions, Kuehn says the Michigan cluster has maintained its editorial integrity and reputation for solid journalism. The cluster continues to earn state and national awards for its journalism. In fact, Kuehn says the group, under Gilbert’s watch, has been a leader on many fronts across the chain, from use of Tout for short-form social-sharing-enabled video, to its macrolocal website Michigan PrepZone, named Top 10 Website distinction in 2013 by Associated Press Sports Editors, featuring high school sports coverage written by staff and community contributors.

“Under trying times, he has done a fabulous job,” Kuehn said. “The Oakland Press, I think … we’re a leader … in the company as far as what we do digitally and maintaining our print product.”

Keeping up with the media
While a student at the University of Michigan, Gilbert learned early on the importance of embracing change to keep up with innovation and efficiencies in industry. In particular, he recalls a conversation with one of his professors.

“I said to the professor … ‘How do you avoid getting stuck into what you’re doing so that you’re blind to what is new?’ And I’ll never forget his answer, although I didn’t understand it at the time … He said, ‘Keep up with the media.’”

But, as Gilbert’s career has been winding down while technology has been racing at a breakneck speed – and after a health scare this past summer – he began thinking more about retirement.

“As I grew older, that comment kept coming back at me – that you had to keep up. And, in my case, it has become increasingly difficult, frankly, and certainly is a contributing factor to the retirement,” he said.

Gilbert is proud of his social media presence since joining the Twitterverse in 2010. He had 4,552 followers and 17,161 tweets as of Dec. 21, according to Muck Rack. He took to Twitter quickly, he said, because he saw the value of it as a tool to steer audience to content.

“Twitter is simple yet difficult to comprehend, but I’ve tried to keep up with Twitter,” he said.

“And, so, it’s a matter of keeping up with the media and turning over the operation to those who know it better than I.”

The philosophy of “turning over the operation to those who know it,” or empowering your digital staff, was first shared by Digital First Media CEO John Paton, as Gilbert recalls.

“I think, honestly, the best decision I ever made was to follow John Paton’s advice. And he was somewhat criticized for the way he put it. He said that the guys with – I think he said, the guys with – the white hair aren’t going to get you where you need to go. Well, I have white hair.

“What he was saying was empower your digital leaders and then get out of their way. And I think that’s what I’ve tried to do. And I think that has brought us great accolades.”

The making of a newsman
Gilbert started his career in 1968 as a high school senior and worked steadily in the field through college before earning his degree, bypassing the traditional stint at the college newspaper. With 45 years in journalism, it’s no surprise that he has had to navigate change.

CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT A TIMELINE OF HIS CAREER ON DIPITY.

Gilbert’s first job was as in 1968 as a student columnist at News-Herald Newspapers in Southgate for $1 an hour. He was a reporter, and then an editor, at The News-Herald’s Flat Rock Guardian, through 1972, a big responsibility for a student maintaining a full course load and still developing his reporting chops.

After graduating from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1972, Gilbert was hired as a reporter by The Ann Arbor News. He also worked as an assistant city editor and editorial page editor before departing in spring 1983 with a master’s degree in social sciences under his belt from Eastern Michigan University.

Gilbert had a short stint at The Daily Herald in Arlington Heights, Ill., serving as assistant city editor of the privately held suburban daily from September 1991 to January 1992. He landed at The Beacon-News in Aurora, Ill., for the next eight years, working as city editor, and in February 1992, he took a job with The News-Herald in Willoughby, Ohio, as assistant managing editor. In the Buckeye State, Gilbert was recognized for his leadership abilities and was promoted to managing editor in 1994. Five years later, he was named executive editor.

The Journal Register Co.-owned publication, now part of 21st Century Media, managed by Digital First Media, allowed him more advancement opportunities across its chain, as he accepted a new position as executive editor of The Macomb Daily in Michigan spring 2006. Three months later, he arrived at his permanent home in Pontiac at sister publication The Oakland Press, where he was promoted to group editor of all 21st Century Media nameplates in the Great Lakes State and regional editor for the Midwest, including publications in Ohio and Minnesota.

A hankering for politics
While Gilbert’s long and storied career has been a dream realized for him, it’s not his only aspiration. Since he was in junior high, Gilbert has desired a career in politics. In fact, he decided on a career in journalism because, based on his research in the 1960s, it was where many politicians had their start, in addition to jobs as teachers or lawyers.

“I think I was in junior high when I wrote my first piece for the school newspaper … so that’s what got my taste for it (journalism),” Gilbert said.

“And I ran for student council president in junior high and I was elected.”

Gilbert signed up to work on the high school newspaper as a junior and ran for class president, and succeeded in both endeavors, again marrying both of his passions – journalism and politics.

Throughout his career, Gilbert has stayed actively involved and held close to his journalism roots while also keeping a close eye on politics and public policy.

“If you are covering a City Council meeting, you can experience the politics. You can vicariously,” he said.

“You put yourself in that position. You hear about the problems they solve and deal with, and later as an editorial writer and so forth you are dealing with public policy issues.”

Jacobson-Hines said Gilbert’s nose for news and reputation as a respected newsroom leader precede him.

“People think he is a good newsman,” she said. “In addition to everything else he has done, every week he writes a column about a current topic and it’s usually very well-researched. And he is extremely well-read, as far as he gets his news from a variety of sources.

“No one could second-guess his news judgment.”

The next chapter
With his official retirement day, set for Jan. 3, 2014, fast approaching, many of his colleagues are wondering what the future will hold. Will this visionary and change agent – the “architect of the modern newsroom” at 21st Century Media’s Michigan cluster – ride off into the sunset or will we see him reinvent himself and realize his childhood dream?

Gilbert said in addition to possibly maintaining his blog, “Between Extremes,” tweeting Oakland County news and continuing with his job teaching mass communication at Rochester College, where he has worked for four years, he may finally pursue the path he has been called to since his adolescence.

“That’s the one thing that I thought would be a possibility if I could run for say the state legislature,” he said. “My motive, frankly, would be to tell people the truth, which means … I don’t think I’d attract lobbyists’ support. That just makes it harder to win.”

The West Bloomfield resident – married to Linda, a part-time teacher, and a father of three adult children – isn’t interested in local politics. He said city council and planning commission positions are difficult when dealing with contentious neighborhood issues. He says, however, that he respects and admires those who are willing to take the heat.

One question remains, however. Will he run as a Republican or Democrat? Gilbert said he has always leaned Republican, but with the party’s opposition to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, he’s not quite sure anymore if he fully identifies with the right wing.

“I don’t know how to characterize myself …,” he says now.

Whatever Gilbert’s future may hold, Kuehn says his boss has at least one advantage. While some of his colleagues have been unceremoniously ushered out of the business, Gilbert has come to a decision on his own.

“He is very fortunate to go out on his own terms,” Kuehn said.

Adds Jeff Payne, editor of The Macomb Daily, “I think his combination of experience, wisdom, insight and tenacity are going to be missed. And whoever is put into that role – You know, I would trust in the people making that decision that they will find someone who is well qualified and will do a great job, but that person is not going to be Glenn.”

Editor’s Note: The writer of this story, Michelle Rogers, is director of community engagement and editorial training for 21st Century Media’s Michigan Group, and Glenn Gilbert is her direct supervisor.

PARTING THOUGHTS
Best Decision: Followed Digital First Media CEO John Paton’s advice to empower the staff’s digital leaders, and then get out of their way.

Worst Decision: Fought the management at The Ann Arbor News, when he was employed there. He said it cost him from a career perspective. As a manager, he has tried to represent the employees’ views to upper management.

Best Gamble: Hiring Aftab Borka, a broadcaster, to assist The Oakland Press with an online video-based news show, called “News at Noon,” that grew into a short-lived partnership with Detroit TV station WADL and now a partnership with public access television. “It was an unconventional hire and I think it has worked out,” he said.

Advice for Staff: Ask yourself where you want to be five years from now and keep that question in the forefront.

Accolades: Best Digital and Print Combination, Local Media Association, The Oakland Press, 2013; Oakland Press named one of 10 newspapers in the country that “do it right” by Editor & Publisher, 2010: Second place, General Excellence, Associated Press, News-Herald, Ohio, 2006; Best of Ohio, Cleveland Press Club, The News-Herald, Ohio, 2005; Distinguished Community Service Award, Lakeland Community College, The News-Herald, Ohio, 2004; Society of Professional Journalists, General Excellence, News-Herald, Ohio, 1999.

Working on a data journalism team reignites spark for reporting

December 17, 2013

Multimedia journalist Charlie Crumm created this map using ThingLink.

Multimedia journalist Charlie Crumm created this map using ThingLink.


In October, I was invited by Charlie Crumm, political reporter at The Oakland Press, to join 21st Century Media’s Michigan Data Journalism Team. He had launched the team earlier in the year and was working with a small group of journalists from across our cluster, but had lost a couple as they moved on in their careers. Initially, I was a little hesitant, as numbers aren’t my strong point. In fact, I had to take algebra twice in college because I failed it the first time and needed it to graduate.

But I decided I needed to challenge myself and take risks. After all, data journalism is the current trend and will only become bigger as we learn better techniques for managing data, understanding data, visualizing data and telling stories with data.

So, on Oct. 17, the reinvented Michigan Data Journalism Team — with returning members Charlie Crumm and Norb Franz of The Macomb Daily and new members Nichole Seguin of The Chelsea Standard, Randi Shaffer of The Morning Sun, Erica McClain of The News-Herald, Kevin Martin of The Macomb Daily and myself, representing the Southeast Michigan Media Lab — met from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at The Oakland Press in Pontiac to develop some story ideas and talk about our objectives.

Charlie presented a PowerPoint, which I livestramed, and we each talked about our backgrounds, strengths and our level of comfort with numbers. The lunch was catered, thanks to our executive editor, Glenn Gilbert, and his assistant, Vicki Arsenault, who are both very supportive of our endeavors.

By the time we were done, I was excited about the prospects. Looking back I realize, three days later, I took ownership and totally bought in by creating a working document in Google Drive that would serve as our road map. Each of us entered on the document our own story ideas, and began signing up to tackle the various tasks: writing the main story, producing or curating photographs, creating a graphic/map/visualization, editing and uploading. We also set deadlines, publication dates and included a space on the document for project notes.

With the holidays nearing, we decided to go slow in the month of December with three lighter-fare topics. And on Dec. 1, we published our first piece: 14 New Year’s Eve party spots in Michigan. I volunteered to write the story and crowdsource the nominations. To that end, I created a poll using Google Forms, which I shared on all of our social media sites across Michigan. I also created a word cloud and photo collage, with photos from those venues, using the tool PicMonkey. Nichole created an incredible interactive map using ThingLink, and the rest of the team edited it. Check it out on The Oakland Press website.

Our second project was a look at unemployment rates by county across Michigan.

Kevin Martin's graphic for our unemployment story.

Kevin Martin’s graphic for our unemployment story.

This was Charlie’s baby. He wrote the story and created a map highlighting the data by county using ThingLink. I am so proud of him, as he learned this tool on his own and did an incredible job. Kevin, a graphics guru, created an amazing and clean-looking graphic visualizing the data for print and online. It made for a great team effort between the two of them. Check it out on The Oakland Press site.

The third project was on holiday light displays across Michigan. Again, I crowdsourced nominations in local neighborhoods from our audience, with three coming in from Mount Pleasant, Milan and Chesterfield Township, and wrote a story. Charlie wrote the main piece on the history of holiday light displays.

Kevin Martin, a graphic artist at The Macomb Daily, visualized numbers for our piece on the history of holiday light displays.

Kevin Martin, a graphic artist at The Macomb Daily, visualized numbers for our piece on the history of holiday light displays.

Nichole used the photos I had crowdsourced to create a photo slideshow in Media Gallery and Kevin made another amazing graphic visualizing the data from Charlie’s story. Nichole also wrote a sidebar on holiday light-inspired events in Washtenaw County. Norb and Charlie edited the various components. Check it out on Heritage.com.

Our fourth piece runs this week. It’s on the Top 10 Christmas Movies as crowdsourced from our audience. Again, I created a questionnaire using Google Forms. I then handed the results over to Amanda Lee, a sports reporter at The Macomb Daily with a blog and passion for movies. She did a great job writing the piece. I edited it and used her summaries to create a timeline in Dipity. The timeline also incorporates movie trailers and other clips I curated from youTube, as well as links to Wikipedia entries on each movie. (update: Click here to view it on The Oakland Press website.)

In 2014, we plan to delve deeper into the data and work on some harder-hitting topics, including soaring property values in Michigan, land trusts, gas prices, weather trends, nonprofits, farm subsidies, real estate transactions, the cost of insurance, university enrollment, municipal tax rates, assisted living facilities, public employee compensation packages, tax breaks for businesses, traffic tickets, and more.

As we take on these bigger projects, we realize we will be managing tons of documents, from spreadsheets to responses to requests under the Freedom of Information Act, to public emails and public records. So, in talking to Tom Meagher, who heads Digital First Media’s Thunderdome Data Journalism Team, we’ve learned working as a group in DocumentCloud will help keep us organized. Tom, who was a guest on one of our group conference calls, led a webinar especially for us Dec. 13 on DocumentCloud and Charlie helped set up our accounts as the tool is only for journalists and an editor must sign off on it.

The tool is among a list I compiled on our Google document to help us in our reporting. Other tools listed include ManyEyes, Infogr.am, Visual.ly, Google Media Tools, GeoChat, OpenStreetMap, Zeega, ZooBurst, Overview Project, MindMeld, BatchGeoo, Tableau, Dipity, TimeToast, TimelineJS, and more. I’ve learned about many of these tools through my colleagues in ideaLab and Thunderdome.

What’s exciting, beyond the privilege of working on the Michigan Data Journalism Team, is that returning to my journalism roots has really inspired me. I had forgotten how much I love to talk with people, dig up information and write. And, of course, see my hard work published online and in print.

What makes all my extra work worth it, as I also juggle media lab responsibilities, and my work as a newsroom trainer and director of community engagement, is the response from our readers. Two of my sources on the holiday lights story contacted me through Facebook and email to express their gratitude for the coverage. That’s what makes the extra time spent and brain strain working in data journalism, when you’re not a “numbers person,” worthwhile.

And so the journey continues in this ever-evolving field, as I dance down the path of experimentation, innovation and taking risks while learning a better way to tell and visualize stories that are relevant to our readers. Wish me luck!

Twitter, Tout and Bloggers add to fun of media lab job

August 7, 2013
Twitter training at The Macomb Daily, Daily Tribune and Advisor Source, part of 21st Century Media.

Twitter training at The Macomb Daily, Daily Tribune and Advisor Source, part of 21st Century Media.

Nearly every day, I am appreciative of having the job I do and all the fun it brings. I don’t think of it as work because I really do love every aspect of it (except maybe still having to put together the Heritage commentary page for print. Are you still reading print?!).

In particular, this last week or so has been a blast as I traveled to The Morning Sun in Mount Pleasant to train the newsroom on short-form video using Tout, The Macomb Daily, Daily Tribune and Advisor & Source yesterday to give a refresher on Twitter to staff journos, and I am looking forward to tomorrow, when I will teach Tout to staff at The Oakland Press. And, in between, I’ve been working one-on-one with our community bloggers, which is always lots of fun exploring their work and figuring out ways to help their blog reach more readers and provide richer content.

At The Morning Sun, which brought me to Mount Pleasant for the first time Aug. 1, I enjoyed meeting and interacting with the staff, who are all hardworking and dedicated. I was very impressed with their accomplishments and excited that they were embracing Tout. Our company, 21st Century Media, which is managed by Digital First Media, has a partnership with Tout and all of our newsrooms across the United States have embraced the tool for short-form video. My role is to help provide training and encouragement, and recruit our audience to use it as news-sharing partners in Michigan.

What I love about Tout is that it’s easy to share on social media, via text and email or through an embed, and you can reply — all in real time. So let’s say you are at a festival, sporting event or community gathering, either as a journalist or citizen, you could use the Tout app on your smartphone to record what you see and share it via Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools. Mention your local media company via Twitter handle and they could reTout it and share it with their audience. People can reply their own Touts sharing their observations or comments. I love the community engagement potential.

To get our communities more involved with Tout and sharing community news, I will be traveling to newsrooms across Michigan to provide free training on Tout to the public. My first session is scheduled 6 p.m. Aug. 15 at The News-Herald in Southgate. Check out my Meetup.com profile to find out about other training opportunities.

The Twitter training at The Macomb Daily was also a good time because I love using Twitter and I think it offers enormous benefits as a tool for journalists to connect with their audience, interact, crowdsource, share and find breaking news, and build community. I held two sessions — one in the morning and another in the afternoon — and met with blogging partners in between. During the presentation, I asked the reporters to tweet highlights, take photos and share them on Twitter, either via Twitter or Instagram-to-Twitter, and shoot Touts and share them via Twitter.

A few did, but not many, so that was a little disappointing. Every time I attend a journalism conference or workshop, most participants do this via a hashtag, adding their insights and information, which I think is valuable — and it’s fun.

This morning, to reinforce the presentation, I Tweeted at everyone — those who attended and those who did not — asking them to share one of their successes using Twitter or one thing they learned that was helpful.

Out of about 20 Tweets sent about four hours ago, I’ve had seven replies. A little discouraging.

Maybe I will follow up with an email: “Have you checked Twitter today!” I had asked them to be on Twitter at least once a day and told them between 1 and 3 p.m. were the best times to Tweet, according to research by Bit.ly.

A couple of days ago, I shared on Facebook a photo of an email that now hangs on my cubicle wall at the media lab. It’s from my boss and says, in part, “You are far exceeding my expectations …” That note, coupled with the rewarding feeling I have helping my co-workers and our news-sharing partners learn new tools to reach their audience on the platform of their choosing, makes me spring out of bed every weekday morning (some weekends, too), excited about what the day will bring.

Photo by Jody McVeigh of individual Twitter help with Norb Franz, Joe Ballor and me, Michelle Rogers (right).

Photo by Jody McVeigh of individual Twitter help with Norb Franz, Joe Ballor and me, Michelle Rogers (right).

Steve Buttry visits for community engagement workshops

July 22, 2013

Engagement Workshops

Steve Buttry, digital transformation editor for Digital First Media, which manages parent company 21st Century Media, paid a visit July 9 to the new Macomb Regional Community Media Lab, where community engagement editors from across the company’s Michigan and Ohio properties met to deliver a series of workshops.

I had the pleasure of livestreaming the event using the Southeast Michigan Media Lab‘s uStream channel, and moderating a live chat on ScribbleLive, while also presenting three of the 14 workshops. I was a little nervous about whether everything would run smoothly as I was on vacation the week prior to the event and had short notice on what I would be presenting. But because I provided Steve with a list of what I felt comfortable talking about, and had some slides from old PowerPoints I had delivered on the subject, I didn’t spend too much time putting together the presentations and was able to still enjoy my vacation with not a lot of prep work for the event.

The lab was packed with presenters, as well as some handpicked staff and editorial staffers from The Macomb Daily and Advisor & Source who were curious about particular subjects and wanted to watch in person, rather than online. Everyone used the hashtag #DFMengage throughout the afternoon to Tweet highlights, share photos and video. Some of our followers on social media chimed in with their own comments using the same hashtag, with all the posts appearing in our live chat blog.

Paul Kampe of The Oakland Press introduces himself at the community engagement workshops organized by Steve Buttry.

Paul Kampe of The Oakland Press introduces himself at the community engagement workshops organized by Steve Buttry.

Steve kicked off the afternoon with introductions, and it was great to meet in person many people who I was familiar with only by name or social media handle.

I led the first workshop on ScribbleLive, followed by fellow media lab director Maryanne MacLeod, community engagement editor for The Macomb Daily, speaking on her successes with community engagement using Facebook and, in particular, archival photographs that go viral. Lisa Yanick Jonaitis, community engagement editor at The Morning Sun in Mount Pleasant, spoke next about engaging your audience through contests, followed by Cheryl Sadler, community engagement editor at The News-Herald in Ohio, who walked us through her successes with Pinterest.

Later in the afternoon, I spoke about a new short-form video tool we are using across DFM called Tout and Karen Workman, former community engagement editor at The Oakland Press who now works on breaking news at DFM’s Thunderdome, gave a presentation about using Google Voice for crowdsourcing and community engagement. Steve followed with a chat on using video to engage your audience.

Laura Tressler Kessel, managing editor of The News-Herald in Ohio, gave examples of engaging the community as contributors and using their content, as well as a community weight loss effort. Steve followed with a talk on the social conversation and how to engage your audience online through social media.

Cheryl Sadler (left), community engagement editor at The News-Herald, in Ohio was among the presenters July 9.

Cheryl Sadler (left), community engagement editor at The News-Herald, in Ohio was among the presenters July 9.

Cheryl returned later in the afternoon with a presentation on the photo engagement tool Olapic, which encourages reader-submitted content. Karen was up next with an overview on Thunderdome, soliciting ideas from the editors on how the national news-gathering group could better serve staff at the local level.

At 5 p.m. I threw a bunch of tools at the editors as I spoke about Google Forms, NewHive, RebelMouse, SurveyMonkey and Dipity for crowdsourcing and community engagement. Before Steve’s wrap-up was Jeff Kuehn, regional sports editor for the Michigan cluster, and Cheryl, who spoke on the sports department’s efforts to solicit user-generated content, use of social media and community engagement efforts. Steve concluded the program with an example of community engagement using GeoFeedia to capture what the crowd was saying about the anniversary of the Battle at Gettysburg story.

Jeff Kuehn speaks about sports engagement at the July 9 workshops at the Macomb Regional Community Media Lab.

Jeff Kuehn speaks about sports engagement at the July 9 workshops at the Macomb Regional Community Media Lab.

After the workshops, Steve asked everyone to think about a tool or idea they could apply to their job today. It will be interesting to see what everyone came up with as the weeks progress, and as we add a new tool to our tool belt over the course of several months based on what we learned from one another.

I decided to delve deeper into Pinterest, based on Cheryl’s presentation, and I’ve been working with the Professional Volunteer Corps in Ann Arbor. I helped the group start a Pinterest page and one of their volunteers will be meeting with me regularly to post photos from their volunteer activities, follow other interests, repin items and start engaging individuals on the social media tool while building an audience, and, hopefully, attracting more people to the group. For example, they recently visited Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids and I am sure their photos of the beautiful flowers will attract some followers, and repins.

If you attended our workshops, post here which tool you decided to embrace and how you are using it. I’d love to hear from you.

Special thank you to Jan Wick for ordering our lunch and making sure we had everything we needed, Steve Buttry for flying in and sharing his expertise, and everyone who attended and participated in this great learning experience. I look forward to another series next year. So, that means continue exploring new tools, experimenting with new ideas and engaging your communities in conversations as we work toward elevating our journalism.

New social media tool NewHive my latest obsession

April 14, 2013
My NewHive expression on my favorite digital tools.

My NewHive expression on my favorite digital tools.


As part of my role as a member of Digital First Media’s ideaLab, I am encouraged to experiment with new digital tools. My latest obsession is NewHive, which is still in beta and is by invite-only.

NewHive allows you to create “expressions,” which start off as blank canvasses until you add headlines, subheads, text, video, audio, photographs and other graphic elements. You can change font, use color, use shapes and draw shapes. In the end, you can make the page look like a piece of art, a newspaper page, invitation or any kind of creative expression you can imagine.

So far, I have three expressions. My first one was about the Southeast Michigan Media Lab. It features photos and video of the lab to give people an idea of what the lab has to offer.

My second expression was about me, how to connect with me on social media and my favorite digital tools. I like to share this with people who are just as excited about visual storytelling as I am.

My latest expression is an invitation to The Oakland Press reader focus group on Wednesday. I thought it would be great to share the invite on Twitter, Facebook and via email through a link.

The only drawback I’ve found, so far, is that it doesn’t appear we can embed it in an article page using our online publishing system. I have a request in now seeking help, as the embed appears to show up before it’s published on the page, but an error message appears after it’s published using TownNews. Despite this setback, what’s great about NewHive is that it can be shared using numerous social media tools. So, while we won’t get the online traffic, anything we link to. including article pages, will.

NewHive is an up-and-coming creative social media tool that I hope catches on. I especially like it to showcase creativity in photography and video. I think it’s also a great tool for journalists to use to showcase their work. Let me know what you think.

ideaLab goal morphs into job at Journal Register Company Michigan Group

February 19, 2013

MichelleAtBloggingStation

My cubicle at the Southeast Michigan Media Lab.


My cubicle at the Southeast Michigan Media Lab.

When I was named to the Journal Register Company’s ideaLab in summer 2010, I had no idea that the goal I chose would morph into a full-time job, but it has and I am really excited about the fun in store for me.

As managing editor of Heritage Media-West, my ideaLab goal was to “incentive coworkers to learn new technologies and understand the value of digital. Train coworkers to utilize new tools by showcasing the strength and potential of each offering.”

My new job title is director of community engagement and editorial training for Journal Register Company’s Michigan Group. And among my responsibilities is to head up training efforts in video, developing partnerships, pertinent online tools and SEO for all of Michigan.

This is in addition to leading the community engagement team across the state, running the Community Media Lab, which has been renamed the Southeast Michigan Media Lab, as well as directing blogger recruitment and training across the state, working with editors to recruit citizen journalists, developing a regular live chat schedule for all of our websites, and monitoring and training staff in social media usage.

Had this position, which is newly created, been available 2 1/2 years ago, I wouldn’t have even been considered for it. It’s only through my ideaLab training, networking, collaboration and individual efforts have I become versed in everything that is now expected of me in my new role.

In fact, I was so green to the digital world in the summer of 2010 that I didn’t even know how iTunes worked and what an app was for a smartphone. But still upper management saw that I had an enthusiasm, curiosity and passion for moving journalism forward in a digital world. And through regular conference calls with our leader, Jon Cooper, and his team, members of the ideaLab were encouraged to play, experiment and make use of digital tools — from Storify, Dipity and uStream to CoverItLive, GeoCommons and Many Eyes — in our storytelling. We were equipped with a Netbook, smartphone and iPad, and given 10 hours a week to do our own thing. This led to many discoveries for me and a passion for visual storytelling.

Last April, my ideaLab project — which had focused on podcasting and the phonecasting application ipadio.com and culminating with a virtual walking tour of Saline historic sites — changed direction as I launched the Community Media Lab in Ypsilanti, Mich. A month or so later, I put forth a proposal and my lab was among a dozen across the United States approved for funding by Digital First Media, the company that manages JRC and Media News Group, as part of an effort to open media labs throughout our footprint.

I initially set up the lab so that my staff of reporters would work four-hour shifts and I would put in a full day every week, working one-on-one with members of the community interested in becoming community contributors, blogging partners, or simply wanted to become more familiar with social media, digital photography, or wanted to create video or podcasts.

In the last 10 months, we have helped senior citizens and businesses set up Facebook pages, chambers of commerce, nonprofits and political organizations establish a presence on Twitter, and helped create a YouTube account for a local business to showcases its product demonstration videos. We have taught individuals associated with nonprofits and businesses how to write news releases using AP Style, and helped students and local writers set up blogs so they could partner with us at Heritage.com.

We also have hosted a slew of workshops on marketing, social media, editing audio, citizen journalism, the Freedom of Information Act, news writing, photography, video, column writing, Google Drive for collaboration and online safety, and these workshops have been livestreamed via video with a simultaneous live chat with our audience. Workshop leaders have included myself and staff from across our company, as well as professors from Eastern Michigan University, and marketing, public relations and social media experts.

In my new role, we are expanding the lab and hoping to attract participants from across Southeast Michigan. The goal is to provide a learning-based environment, as well as a vehicle for the community to document and chronicle the important events that will shape their history, using our newspapers and websites, if they choose. The lab is a community service and no one is charged for our help or for entrance to a workshop. It’s also open to anyone, with no obligation to contribute to our publications. Someone could walk in and sit down at our blogging station, check email and work on a personal photo slideshow or video, with or without our help, if he or she wanted.

I will be publicizing our efforts on all of our social media accounts, including The Oakland Press, The Macomb Daily, The Morning Sun, Heritage Media, Advisor Source and The Voice newspapers. Our workshops have attracted up to a dozen people at times and a small online audience, but I would like to double or even triple that number as the year progresses.

My hope is to encourage members of each community we cover to get involved in sharing the news, much like they do on social media. I also have a goal of recruiting 100 blogging partners across Michigan.

When I first started as a reporter in 1992 in Dexter, Mich., educators, parents, local business owners, church leaders and volunteers with nonprofits wrote news releases and shared photographs with The Dexter Leader about every facet of the community. This supplemented my local reporting of city government, the schools and police news, as I was the lone reporter for the newspaper. Dexter had an actively engaged community who took pride in their town and wanted to share news about it. We see this today in the communities we cover, but more so on Facebook and Twitter because of the immediacy and convenience factors. My goal is to re-establish these relationships and develop more news-sharing partnerships. Anyone can start a blog, Twitter account or launch a Facebook page, but they won’t have the same reach — online and in print — that we do in our communities.

So, why not take advantage of that? I think the key is letting people know that we want them to think of us when they hear of breaking news or a touching story in their neighborhood or school. We invite you to share your own story or guest column; take a photograph while cleaning up debris after a spring storm; share video of the winning shot in the varsity basketball game; create a Storify compilation of local chatter on Twitter about the mayor’s State of the City address; create a timeline of the community’s 150 years; create a map pinpointing all of the community’s landmarks; or hold a live chat on an issue impacting your community.

Contact me and I’ll walk you through the process, help you learn a digital tool to achieve your goal and connect you with the local editor who will share your contribution. Let’s work together and build community. Message me on Twitter.

Giving back to the Heritage Community Media Lab in Ypsilanti

December 16, 2012

As we end 2012 and I reflect on the successes of my ideaLab project, the Heritage Community Media Lab, what I am most proud of is the relationship we’ve had with a few regulars to our lab and their efforts to give back to us for helping them learn new media skills.

Michelle Rogers, managing editor of Heritage Media West, leads a workshop at the Community Media Lab.

Michelle Rogers, managing editor of Heritage Media West, leads a workshop at the Community Media Lab.

Chris Wechner, director of marketing for The Ultimate Analyst, had this video created and posted on YouTube by someone on his team as a way of giving back to the lab. The video is an amazing promotional tool. Chris has come in for workshops on writing news releases and contributing content in visually interesting ways, and has received individual, one-on-one instruction from several Heritage Media-West staff members working shifts at the Community Media Lab.

I have found Chris to be a strong supporter of the lab who wants to give back just as much as he takes. He has helped promote our workshops with a couple of blog posts. Here’s one post on his partner’s blog, ActiveRain. Chris also wrote a post after attending my workshop on his Michigan Marketer blog.

Bob Cummings, a community blogging partner with Heritage.com, who writes the blog “A Look at Spirituality and Health,” is also a frequent visitor to the Community Media Lab who gives back regularly. Bob has written very supportive email messages about our efforts, and expresses his gratitude for the help he receives when he visits, as well as the value of our workshops.

Joe Baublis, who is an active commenter on our coverage at Heritage.com who has also written guest columns and letters to the editor, attended my workshop, “Contributing Community Content in Visually Interesting Ways,” and created this amazing video posted on YouTube.

I love that all three gentleman have so much enthusiasm for the Community Media Lab that they want to give back and support our efforts. It’s rare to find that, and to have three people with the motivation to do so is incredible to me. And I am so grateful.

While their efforts have been extraordinary to me, the time workshop volunteers have donated to the Community Media Lab has impressed me, as well. Sarah Rigg, a freelance journalist and editor, has taught two workshops and just signed on to teach a third; Eastern Michigan University professors Michael McVey, Carol Schlagheck and Toni S. Jones; Eastern Echo adviser Kevin Devine; social media maven Leslie McGraw; Oakland Press photographer and videographer Doug Bauman; Oakland Press Community Engagement Editor Monica Drake; Arborwiki Editor Edward Vielmetti; Adrian College journalism professor Renee Collins; public relations professional Char Luttrell; and Ypsilanti Courier Editor Krista Gjestland have all led workshops at the lab since our launch earlier this spring. Topics have ranged from editing audio in Audacity, writing news releases, AP Style and Google Docs to Citizen Journalists and FOIA, column and narrative writing, blogging and photography.

We have several workshops set for January and February, and our friend Chris Wechner is teaching a couple. Sign up on our Facebook events page, and come check out the Community Media Lab in Ypsilanti.

A discussion takes place at the Community Media Lab workshop, “Contributing Community Content in Visually Interesting Ways,” Dec. 12, 2012.