Posted tagged ‘Michelle Rogers’

Success of media lab found in community engagement

March 17, 2014

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A couple of my colleagues have questioned why we are using precious resources to run the Southeast Michigan Media Lab, my ideaLab project that morphed into a full-time job along with the addition of new responsibilities. But others, particularly those who understand the value of community engagement, totally get it.

I think the numbers from the last six months — keeping in mind the media lab doesn’t have a full-time staff and only has my attention part of the time — speak for themselves.

Media lab stats
I launched the Southeast Michigan Media Lab exactly two years ago under the name Community Media Lab after winning funding from the corporate offices of our parent company, at the time Journal Register Company, now Digital First Media. My proposal was the only one, out of about four in Michigan, to get the coveted funds. Last summer, I had the pleasure of helping Maryanne MacLeod at sister publication The Macomb Daily launch a second media lab, the Macomb Regional Community Media Lab, adding to DFM media labs across the United States.

The Southeast Michigan Media Lab, housed in Ypsilanti, strives to bring the audience inside the newsroom as content-sharing partners, as does the Macomb media lab. But there has been some discussion as of late about the words “inside the newsroom” since the media lab in Ypsilanti is housed at SPARK-East, a business incubator, not a newsroom.

I interpret “bringing the audience inside the newsroom” as having an editor or journalist working with individuals and establishing partnerships, and embracing their contributions just as they would from a member of the newsroom. For example, I work with individuals interested in writing news, sharing photographs or media galleries, producing video and audiocasts, and work with them to get that content ready for publication. All of our news sites link to our blogging partners, and I work with bloggers to improve their sites.

In addition, at the Southeast Michigan Media Lab, we — in partnership with professors at Eastern Michigan University and professionals in the community — hold free workshops in digital media and social media for the public. Some of our outreach also includes working with journalism, marketing and public relations students, as well as members of the senior community interested in learning more about digital communication.

We chose Ypsilanti for the Southeast Michigan Media Lab for a number of reasons, which I outlined in my original proposal, and I still believe those reasons are valid. Beyond what was mentioned in my proposal, The Saline Reporter building, where our Washtenaw County newsroom is located, doesn’t have adequate space and it would have been too costly to remodel to include the media lab. Moreover, the lab, based on its central location, attracts people from as far away as Oakland and Macomb counties, as well as Wayne County’s Downriver community and western Washtenaw County.

But back to the numbers.

We’ve had a total of 527 visitors to the Southeast Michigan Media Lab and Macomb Regional Community Media Lab (at our brick-and-mortar locations) in the last six months, since we started tracking. I think it’s safe to assume one could double that to get a year’s picture.

We’ve hosted 35 workshops for the community in the last six months, which is an average of nearly six per month. In fact, on Meetup.com, where we draw some of our audience, we have a combined 155 “labbers” — 119 associated with the Southeast Michigan Media Lab — who have voluntarily asked to be notified via the service every time we schedule a workshop. That says something.

We’ve had 2,117 views of our two blogs (CommunityMediaLab and Macomb Regional Media Lab) that chronicle our media lab activities. Admittedly, both Maryanne and I could do a better job of producing more content for these blogs and keeping them fresher, which will attract more readers. If we did, we could easily triple that number.

The Southeast Michigan Media Lab has had 25,864 views of its PowerPoint presentations uploaded and shared with the public, and our workshop attendees — virtual and those who come in person — on Scribd over the last two years.

On the Southeast Michigan Media Lab’s YouTube channel, where we house videos from our workshops and blogger events, we’ve had 1,053 views since its inception a year ago. In all, viewers have watched 3,671 minutes of our videos. I could do a better job with this, as well, promoting the channel and directing audience there.

Combined, we have 524 likes on Facebook and 1,683 followers on Twitter , which is more audience than six of our branded new sites’ Twitter accounts. We’ve also tweeted a combined 5,424 times — 4,818 of the tweets coming from the Southeast Michigan Media Lab Twitter account, which was established two years ago. In comparison, a reporter at one of our dailies, who admittedly doesn’t tweet much but is working on it, has 211 lifetime tweets.

The Southeast Michigan Media Lab also has a Tout account and shares original video, as well as those from across Digital First Media. Since August, that account has shared 1,094 Touts and has 294 followers. The account also ranks 18 out of 30 at The Oakland Press for views, as the account is linked to the Oakland Press group on Tout. So, we capture more views — and share more content — than some of the reporters who are supposed to be incorporating Tout into their daily coverage.

With numbers — which demonstrate the outreach — like that in just the last six months, during harsh winter conditions that sometimes lead people to hibernate, who could deny the value of our media labs? Not only is the work we are doing building stronger relationships between Digital First Media and the communities we cover, but it’s bringing more content to our sites and providing our audience a forum to share their voice and outlet to learn new skills.

Michelle Rogers, director of the Southeast Michigan Media Lab (the writer of this blog), teaches a workshop on emerging social media tools.

Michelle Rogers, director of the Southeast Michigan Media Lab (the writer of this blog), teaches a workshop on emerging social media tools.

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!

Community engagement sometimes means getting out of the office

November 21, 2013
Macomb Intermediate School District students work on their Global Trade Mission proposals.

Macomb Intermediate School District students work on their Global Trade Mission proposals.

As part of my relatively new position as director of community engagement and editorial training for 21st Century Media’s Michigan Group, and in my role as director of the Southeast Michigan Media Lab, I occasionally get the opportunity to leave our media labs and newsrooms, and immerse myself in the community. Yesterday was one of those days.

Karen Johnston, career education specialist at the Macomb Intermediate School District, called me last month about volunteering as a business coach at their annual Global Trade Mission. I had met Karen a few weeks earlier through the new Macomb Regional Community Media Lab, which I helped launch with media lab Director Maryanne MacLeod, who also serves as community engagement editor at The Macomb Daily. Karen was enthusiastic about furthering the MISD’s partnership with The Macomb Daily through the media lab, where we offer to train the public in new media and social media as we seek to develop more news-sharing partnerships.

The Global Trade Mission provides an opportunity for students to participate in a simulated trade mission. “GTM is an outstanding model of business, government, and education working together to address 21st century student skills,” according to the Macomb Intermediate School District website. “With collaboration from business, education and government, and working in cross-district teams of four, students are presented with a real-world case study on how to best market and sell a Macomb County company’s product, service, or technology overseas based on the opportunities, challenges and unique characteristics of doing business in a particular country. Student teams create a unique business export plan, and present their findings to a panel of business executives who will evaluate them on content, quality, originality and feasibility of their business proposals.”

Among the companies that industry and cultural experts represented were Ford, Department of Homeland Security Investigations, DTE Energy and U.S. Department of Commerce. I represented 21st Century Media, while Macomb Community College, Henry Ford Macomb Hospitals, Identity Graphic Design, Sensi Change and General Motors sent volunteers, as well.

I came in on the second day of the three-day project, and offered help to students in social media, public relations, marketing and PowerPoint. MISD-1 Students were working in small groups associated with a global region, such as Europe, Africa/the Middle East, Asia, North America and Latin America. Coaches were encouraged to approach each group, ask the students about their products and companies, and offer advice and assistance. For instance, I helped a group bringing purified water to the Middle East by brainstorming names for their company. They liked my suggestion of Puri-fection, a play on the words promoting their purified water as perfection.

I helped another group create its company logo. While I didn’t have experience with the graphics program they were using — and neither did they — we were able to use PowerPoint to create something that met their vision.

A third group asked for my suggestions in marketing their product. We chatted about the product, and I recommended a website, a drop-down menu featuring a blog or section for product news and updates, Facebook page, Twitter account and YouTube channel to host their product demonstration videos. I also suggested becoming an expert on their subject and share their blog posts on LinkedIn with peer business groups and with their connections.

A highlight of the afternoon was a video presentation by Don Ritzenhein, professor of communication and vice president for academic personnel at Eastern Michigan University.

While he has attended in person in the past, his busy schedule prevented it this year, so he created a dynamic video presentation on using PowerPoint.

Donald Ritzenhein, assistant vice president of academic personnel and contract administration at Eastern Michigan University, taught students how to create a polished PowerPoint

Donald Ritzenhein, assistant vice president of academic personnel and contract administration at Eastern Michigan University, taught students how to create a polished PowerPoint

I found it particularly interesting because I create PowerPoints for teaching new digital storytelling tools and social media tools for staff and our media lab workshops, and I’ve never been formally trained on PowerPoint. I learned about a lot I was doing wrong, such as adding to much text to my slides. He also provided helpful tips on using infographics, choosing color schemes and presenting in front of an audience.

Today is the big day for the students. They will present at 6:45 p.m. at the MISD to various “investors.” Certificates will be awarded by teachers and coaches, and an awards presentation and closing remarks will take place 8 p.m. in Global Hall.

While some of our interactions as community engagement editors involve reaching out to our audience on social media, using such tools as polls and surveys, and running contests and stimulating conversations behind a computer, the job also involves getting out of the office and interacting live and in person. The Macomb Intermediate School District afforded me that opportunity and in the coming weeks I have been invited by the new mayor of Milan, Michael Armitage, to train city officials and staff on social media, writing news releases and public relations. Both of these opportunities have inspired me to reach out even more to schools, chambers of commerce, business groups and nonprofits to lend my expertise through this position. After all, what’s more engaging than face-to-face interaction?

Promoting RebelMouse for curated news streams

November 10, 2013

RebelMouse is a content creation, aggregation and publishing platform.

RebelMouse is a content creation, aggregation and publishing platform.


Six months ago, I started a RebelMoue page for the Southeast Michigan Media Lab and wrote about the tool. The lab, as regular readers of this blog know, is my ideaLab project as a member of Digital First Media. While I had experience with the content creation, aggregation and publishing platform, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I realized its true potential for curating news and conversations unfolding on social media.

In May, I set up the media lab’s RebelMouse page as a way to curate, in real time, news stories from Heritage.com, its Pinterest boards and Flickr, as well as the media lab’s posts on social media, and embedded it in my blog so my blog would always be fresh. Months later, on a conference call with our Michigan editors I learned about a special section called Made in Michigan to be produced in October, and thought we could create a RebelMouse microsite and use it for community engagement. I thought we should start a hashtag campaign encouraging our audience to post #madeinmichigan or #michiganmade Tweets showing off or promoting their favorite Michiganmade products and feeding them into the microsite. To make the site more engaging, I decided to bring in Pure Michigan’s tweets and its videos from YouTube, as well as its Pinterest boards and Facebook RSS feed.

As I reflected later, I thought while I used the RebelMouse microsite as a community engagement tool, which was cool and fun, it wasn’t helping to drive page views to our websites. Lesson learned.

When Demarius Reed, a football player at Eastern Michigan University, was shot and killed Oct. 18, Rick Kessler, managing editor of Heritage Media, asked if I would monitor Twitter and look for story leads. It was at that time that I thought about using RebelMouse again, but this time as a hub for all news about Reed’s death and the community’s reaction. Between Oct. 18 and Nov. 10, that page has had 43,400 impressions, an impressive number, as it has featured news stories, Tout videos and tweets about the police investigation, memorial service, campus safety meetings, and voices of those mourning Reed’s loss.

I set up the site to collect all tweets with the trending hashtags #DemariusReed, #DR2, #RIPDReed, and Reed’s Twitter handle @D_Reed2. This brought in news stories and video from news organizations and reporters using the hashtag, as well as tweets, Instagram pics and YouTube videos from his family, friends and fans. In fact, one fan created an original song and posted it on SoundCloud, tweeting it with the hashtag. So that, too, was featured on the RebelMouse page. Occasionally, I would check the “drafts” folder, where tweets without photos would land, and approved some to appear on the page. I also searched out news, such as a letter from EMU President Susan Martin to alumni, and I took a screenshot of Reed’s last tweets, and manually added them on the page using the blogging function.

At Digital First Media, we are encouraged to use one-third professionally produced content from our staff, one-third user-generated content and one-third aggregated content from other media, and RebelMouse is the perfect tool to achieve this formula.

Unfortunately, when I shared the embed code for the page, the local editor did not use it. So, all the page views went directly to RebelMouse, a missed opportunity for us that greatly disappointed me. But it was another lesson, just as the Michiganmade RebelMouse page was a month earlier, and a challenge to overcome.

So, what I decided to do was offer to teach editors and reporters the value of RebelMouse and explain that embedding the page in an article page on our sites, and then promoting it on our social media channels, will bring traffic to our news sites. On our next editors call, I talked about the success of the Demarius Reed RebelMouse page, the magical mix of our content, aggregated content and UGC, and offered to teach editors and reporters how to set up microsites on RebelMouse and embed them on article pages to capture page views.

So far, The Oakland Press has taken me up on the training. On Thursday, I traveled to Pontiac and shared a PowerPoint I created about the power of RebelMouse as a curation site that can aggregate news and serve as a hub of information for breaking news, celebrity news, trending topics, topic-specific content, such as the Detroit Tigers or Lions, or even serve as a stand-alone news curation site for communities we don’t cover with our resources, such as Monroe, Mich., but are covered by other news organizations, and have an active community of bloggers and people using social media.

As part of the workshop, I created an Obamacare RebelMouse mircosite, curating news, video, Pinterest boards and tweets on the subject. The demonstration showed how easy it is to set up a microsite and how fast it can be to add the feeds. I suggested each reporter do the same and shared possible topics, such as Twitter being sold on the New York Stock Exchange that day for the first time and the Olympics. For kicks, and as part of a workshop on RebelMouse for the community, I created a RebelMouse microsite curating news, information, blog posts and social media posts about the reality TV franchise “The Real Housewives.”

Since creating the Obamacare site three days ago, there have been 8,351 impressions. And this time, learning a lesson from missed opportunities, the embed was used on three of our Michigan news sites, our group editor’s blog, and Oakland Press political reporter Charlie Crumm linked to the site, adding a tab to his RebelMouse page using RebelNav.

What’s great about RebelMouse is that once you enter the hashtags, and Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, Flickr, LinkedIn, YouTube, Tumblr, and RSS feeds, it’s all automated. You don’t have to do anything, unless you want to take the initiative. And I have on the Obamacare microsite, adding articles posted by our sister publications that haven’t been tweeted out using the hashtags (#AffordableHealthCareAct, #Obamacare and #AHCA) we have told RebelMouse to aggregate. It’s so easy to add news articles, videos and other content, even your own, by using the blogging function on RebelMouse. You can paste the URL of a news story or YouTube video directly in a box on the page and it will post after clicking on a button. You can add photos and other elements, too, if you wish to provide richer content.

Check out my PowerPoint and create your own news curation site or social front page using RebelMouse. On a professional level, it’s fun for me to master another digital tool that adds value to our news sites and provides a hub for information on specific news topics, making it easier for readers to find and read a variety of sources. I love it!

Creating reader engagement contests on MichiganRewards.com

October 8, 2013
Graphic artist Kevin Martin created this.

Graphic artist Kevin Martin created this graphic.

One area of my job that I need to work on more is community engagement, specifically creating contests that excite people, engage them with our news sites and social media channels, and inspire them to invite their friends to join in the fun.

And through a new reader rewards platform called Michigan Rewards that we recently launched, I have an opportunity to create contests that engage, and drive audience to print and online. I posted our first two contests Friday.

My selfie with Michiganmade Jiffy Mix.

My selfie with Michiganmade Jiffy Mix.

One is our #Michiganmade Selfie Photo Contest. It’s designed to encourage audience participation in our Made in Michigan coverage, a special section highlighting products made in Michigan. I’ve also created a RebelMouse page to complement the section, bringing in all #Michiganmade and #MadeInMichigan hashtags on Twitter, @PureMichigan tweets and Pure Michigan YouTube videos.

I’ve had fun promoting the photo contest, creating my own selfie with a box of Jiffy Mix, Pinterest board, and promoting it on all of our Twitter and Facebook channels with a beautiful graphic created by The Macomb Daily’s Kevin Martin.

This graphic was created in PicMonkey and shared on our social media channels.

This graphic was created in PicMonkey and shared on our social media channels.

The other contest is just in time for Halloween. We’re encouraging you to dress up your pets in Halloween costumes and shoot a video, upload it to MichiganRewards.com, and ask family and friends to vote. I’ve promoted it with a meme, a collage that I created in PicMonkey and a gif, my second ever.

My bunny Ari stars in the meme I created to promote the video contest.

My bunny Ari stars in the meme I created to promote the video contest.

I’ve also created Touts promoting both contests. In the Tout below that I embedded from Twitter, I humiliated my cat, Samson, by dressing him up as a sports reporter with a baseball cap, notebook and pencil. As you can imagine, he wasn’t too excited about it.

We’re awarding $100 for first place, $75 for second and $50 for third. So far, we have four entries in the #Michiganmade Selfie Photo Contest and none yet in the Best Costume-Clad Pet Video Contest.

I am excited to dip my toe in the engagement waters, so to speak, with these two contests and look forward to offering more. I’ve also set up a Word of the Day, featuring the name of a Michigan landmark in print and encouraging readers to enter the word(s) online at MichiganRewards to earn points toward prizes.

Look for more to come as I get to know the true potential of this new platform. And please share your ideas with me.

Check out my #Michiganmade board on Pinterest

Check out my #Michiganmade board on Pinterest

Digital First Media opens second media lab in Michigan

August 16, 2013
This photo is courtesy of The Macomb Daily. Unfortunately, I don't remember who took it, possibly David Dalton. But that's me talking with Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel at the Macomb Regional Community Media Lab launch party Tuesday.

This photo is courtesy of The Macomb Daily. Unfortunately, I don’t remember who took it, possibly David Dalton. But that’s me talking with Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel at the Macomb Regional Community Media Lab launch party Tuesday.

I had the honor Tuesday of helping Maryanne MacLeod, community engagement editor at The Macomb Daily; Jeff Payne, editor of The Voice Newspapers; and Jody McVeigh, editor of Advisor & Source, launch Macomb County’s first community media lab with an open house at The Macomb Daily, 19176 Hall Road, in Clinton Township.

The event attracted more than 135 people, including Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel and Clinton Township Supervisor Bob Cannon. Both joined 21st Century Media Michigan Group Publisher Jim O’Rourke and Group Editor Glenn Gilbert at the ribbon cutting. I put together a video for the media lab’s YouTube channel featuring all four speaking about the media lab and its aim to bring the audience inside the newsroom as news-sharing partners.

Maryanne had more than 61 people sign up for workshops at the media lab. My intern, Adrian College student Elise Waller, manned a table promoting the workshops and took names of people interested in attending. Time slots for one-on-one instruction with Maryanne were also booked. What’s great is Maryanne’s help and the workshops are free to the public.

MediaLabParty2

I thought Maryanne and her team did an excellent job of putting together the community event. It was much better than when I launched our first media lab in Ypsilanti April of 2012. Maryanne, Jeff, Jody, Elise and I all brainstormed ideas for the launch party, as well as the lab, earlier this summer and it was great to see it all come together. I really loved a video they created that played on a loop during the party. This is something I did with the launch of the Southeast Michigan Media Lab, and I suggested Maryanne consider doing the same. On it, staff members talk about the expertise they can share with people who come to the media lab for instruction.

One of the more interesting draws to the party — and which will continue to attract people to the media lab — was a rotating art exhibit. For the launch party, the Black and White show, a collection of artwork donated by three Macomb County-based art organizations affiliated with the Anton Art Center, was on display.

Another big draw was a workshop, held during the party, for anyone interested in contributing community sports coverage to 21st Century Media publications in Michigan. 21st Century Media is managed by Digital First Media. George Pohly, Macomb Daily sports editor, led the workshop, which attracted about a dozen people.

Maryanne also created a hashtag (#MediaLabLaunch) for staff and the public to use during the event to share Tweets, Instagram photos and Touts, which is short-form video DFM reporters are using and encouraging the public to use.

The party also featured community partners and bloggers, who were sharing information and hawking their wares.

At the end of the evening, guests were given a chocolate bar with a wrapper noting the occasion, another great idea by Maryanne and her team. It was a nice memento and, as my intern noted in her Instagram photo, you can’t go wrong with chocolate.

MediaLabCandy

While the party marked the official opening of the media lab, Maryanne has been helping bloggers for quite a while as part of her role with the company, but now she has a dedicated space to do it. The new space, which is set up like a classroom, will allow her and the three publications to expand their community outreach and build partnerships. A regular schedule of workshops will be offered on social media and digital media, as well as community-driven workshops. The next workshop is 1 to 3 p.m. Sept. 12 on news writing and alternative ways of sharing news, such as video, photo slideshows and audiocasts.

Elise and I set up the media lab’s Facebook page and Meetup.com profile, where workshops are listed, as well as its YouTube channel, blog, Twitter and Instagram accounts, RebelMouse page and uStream channel. These are all basic digital tools, in my opinion, needed for a media lab, as well as any new venture.

During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Maryanne noted my help and referred to me as her mentor. Her words touched my heart. I had just viewed my role as helper and I was honored when she called me a mentor. I also got a kick out of reporter Jameson Cook noting my presence at the party in his news story. It’s not often that a former editor and reporter becomes part of the story, but I did, and it was fun to see my name in print, outside of a byline.

MacombMention

I know the Macomb Regional Community Media Lab will be a success, and it was badly needed. I had a few people drive the 126-mile round-trip from Macomb County to the Southeast Michigan Media Lab in Ypsilanti, which I operate, for workshops and instruction. It’s nice that they now have support in their own community, and I am glad that I played a small role in that.

Next up, hopefully, is Mount Pleasant. I would love to work with the team there to launch a media lab affiliated with The Morning Sun. Let’s see what the next year — or several months — brings.

Guests check in and enter a raffle at The Macomb Daily office Tuesday for the launch of the Macomb Regional Community Media Lab.

Guests check in and enter a raffle at The Macomb Daily office Tuesday for the launch of the Macomb Regional Community Media Lab.

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).