Posted tagged ‘new media’

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.

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!

Community Media Lab role leads to talk in Milan

September 23, 2013

One of the more enjoyable aspects of my job as director of the Southeast Michigan Media Lab is that I get to travel to communities across Washtenaw, Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties to present information about the media lab and the resources we offer. I call it a media lab roadshow, and I have visited Saline, Chelsea and Dexter in the last few months presenting to chamber of commerce members and at senior centers.

On Sept. 13, I had the honor of returning to Milan, where I had served as editor of The Milan News-Leader from July 2006 to February 2013, while also serving as the managing editor of Heritage Media’s western Washtenaw County publications — seven in all, plus The View in Wayne County — and the website Heritage.com. I had to book it about five months out, but it was worth the wait. More than 30 people attended, and they seemed genuinely interested in the free services the lab has to offer through 21st Century Media, managed by Digital First Media, and partnering with The Milan News-Leader to contribute local news.

Since my intern returned to school last month, it was a little bit more of a challenge to shoot video of my presentation while presenting. I set up a Flip video camera at a table behind me and tried to judge from afar whether I was in the frame, and I was a little off. Still, I created a video of the talk and shared it on the media lab’s YouTube channel.

I also shot a Tout before the presentation started so I could use it as an example during my presentation of social media and new media tools that are available to report in real time.

I fed the Tout into my RebelMouse page, which I incorporated in my presentation and told business owners it was something they should all have, if they are active on social media.

In addition, I took a photo of the members getting their breakfast before my talk and included it in a Tweet before my presentation started, as another way of showcasing the greatness of social media.

There were three or four reporters in the audience, and Joyce Ervin, who is a freelance writer, shared with me this morning the article she wrote for Heritage.com and The Milan News-Leader. It’s only fitting that she shared with me the link to the piece online by posting it on my Facbook page, as part of my talk was about reaching your audience on the platform they feel comfortable with and are using. Joyce knows I am active on Facebook and would see her post there before picking up a print copy.

JoyceFBPost

I received some really nice feedback after the presentation and the real test of my success came just a few hours later after I shared the link to my PowerPoint with those who asked for it. Susan Sheeley, a former elementary school counselor who just started her own counseling practice, Connections Counseling and Consulting, booked an appointment to learn more about using social media to promote her business. She had started a Facebook page, and we added her professional photo and cover photo, as well as a description. I helped her start a Twitter account and linked her Facebook and Twitter. And I also showed her how to create a meme, so she could share inspirational sayings or give advice using a new media tool.

SusanFB

It was fun working with Susan, and getting her started with her first Tweet,

meme and Facebook post promoting her website. I also encouraged her to check out Tout and possibly set up a YouTube channel to dispense some advice, while getting people comfortable with her style and approach as a counselor.

I look forward to helping more people from Milan and beyond who are struggling with social media or new media, and just need a little boost or help to get them going. It’s a bonus when they are as appreciative as Susan in her tweet.

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.

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.

A Community Media Lab takes off with much promise

July 11, 2012


Earlier this year, Journal Register Company, parent company of Heritage Media, managed by Digital First Media, solicited proposals from staffers interested in starting a Community Media Lab. I jumped on it right away, with input from my staff, and put together a proposal with a modest $4,100 start-up budget and monthly operating expenses of $290. In May, Steve Buttry, our community engagement and social media director, announced our newsroom, which covers eight communities and is based in Saline, Mich., was one of 12 approved this year for funding.

While it was an honor to be one of the chosen ones, which means we will get new equipment and technology to make it easier, I had actually decided in March that opening a Community Media Lab would be my latest ideaLab project, and the lab unofficially opened in April at 215 W. Michigan Ave. at the SPARK-East building in Ypsilanti. SPARK is a business incubator that agreed to allow us to host our lab in the lobby of the building, where we’ve set up a blogging station and dedicated Mac, donated by the Eastern Michigan University student-run newspaper, The Eastern Echo, for video editing. There is also classroom space for presentations, with a projector and screen.

I have been guilty of not writing more about this endeavor on my ideaLabHeritage blog because I’ve been quite overwhelmed managing the Community Media Lab, while also managing eight weekly newspapers and the website Heritage.com. Not only did I launch a blog on WordPress to write about our work in the lab, but also a Twitter account and Facebook page. Updating those social media accounts regularly, with help from my staff, while also hosting workshops and helping people in the lab, has kept me busy.

In the last several months, we have hosted five workshops, all led by professionals in the communities we serve and promoted using events pages on Facebook, as well as briefs in print. Freelance writer/copy editor Sarah Rigg led our first workshop May 23 with “What is AP style and why should I care about it;” Char Luttrell, who works in public relations at Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan, led “Working with the news media” May 31; Leslie McGraw, a local blogger, presented “Integrating social media into your professional development” June 8; Renee Collins, a journalism professor at Adrian College, led “Column and narrative writing” June 11; and Kristin Judge, a former county commissioner who speaks on Internet safety issues, moderated “Online Safety” June 27. We used CoverItLive to solicit audience feedback on their presentations and most were shared using the Heritage Community Media Lab channel on UStream for live video and then archived. Their presentations, whether Word documents or PowerPoints, were shared with our online audience using an embed code generated through Scribd.com.

We’ve had between two and 10 people attend in person and an online audience of a couple dozen. My goal is to increase participation and engagement.

Upcoming workshops will feature Eastern Michigan University professor Michael McVey, who will teach participants how to edit audio using the free download Audacity July 18; EMU professor Toni S. Jones will present “Creating docs in Goole Docs” Aug. 3; Arborwiki editor Edward Vielmetti will lead a workshop on creating a city wiki Aug. 16; and Carol Schlagheck, a journalism professor at EMU, will present “Citizen Journalists and FOIA” Aug. 30.

The Educational Media and Technology Department at EMU, as well as Schlagheck and her colleagues and Kevin Devine, adviser to The Eastern Echo, have thrown their support behind the Community Media Lab. They’ve all offered to lead workshops and help spread the word about our efforts.

My staff has also supported the effort. We have a journalist or editor at the Community Media Lab between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, with everyone on the news staff working three- to seven-hour shifts. While they are there, they either work with individuals who stop by for help in setting up a social media account, edit a video or learn how to write a press release, for example, or they explore new digital storytelling tools or work on their own content for our newspapers and website. Each is asked to post to the Community Media Lab blog after a shift. Some of our efforts have included helping students in Ypsilanti set up blogs, working with nonprofits to establish a presence on social media and helping a local business owner write a press release about an accomplishment. We’re also available to listen to story ideas from local residents or take suggestions on how we can do a better job covering the news in the community.

While I think we’ve accomplished a lot in the last few months, I feel there is so much work left to do. Beyond hosting workshops, training community contributors and offering our services to the public in general, my Community Media Lab proposal called for recruiting student contributors, community bloggers, photographers, podcasters and videographers. I’d like to establish social media teams, interactive media teams and BlogTalk Radio hosts and share the content on our website. My goal is to enrich our community content online and in print by bringing the outside in the newsroom, so to speak.

I’d love to see more community contributions. While I was a reporter and later editor of The Chelsea Standard and The Dexter Leader, from 1992 to 2006, I enjoyed a close relationship with community members who were actively involved in the newspapers. Teachers sent photographs of students with information about school activities, local service clubs and churches submitted press releases about their upcoming events and community dinners, and readers wrote letters to the editor and guest columns sharing their voices with their neighbors.

I think back to before my time as a journalist and editor, when community newspapers would publish a paragraph on who in town had spotted the first robin of spring or which neighbor was visiting family out of state, and I’d like to see our audience share more of themselves like earlier generations did. Understanding our society has changed and is much more tech savvy, I imagine instead of the first robin of spring, we could view a video of a school classroom’s visit to the Detroit Zoo. Instead of reading about someone’s trip to visit family out of town, we could read a blog about a local resident working in a Third World country as part of the Peace Corps. Someone who attended the Memorial Day or Fourth of July parade could upload all of their photos from the parade into Flickr and generate a photo slideshow, or produce a video to share with our readers by just sending us the embed code.

There are so many possibilities for our readers to get involved and contribute, and I am excited to offer the Community Media Lab as a training facility for those who want to contribute, but may not know how or need to learn new skills.

And while sharing your passions with us — whether it’s photography, video, podcasting, creating digital cartoons or writing — may not be your thing, we’re still interested in helping you in the Community Media Lab. It’s a learning environment and we are there to teach and assist you. Heck, maybe you can teach us something or we can explore a new digital tool together. We can all learn something in the Community Media Lab. Stop by and see us or check out one of our workshops online. If you have any ideas of how we can help the community further, whether it’s bringing in specific speakers or sponsoring a photography club, we want to hear from you. Email communitymedialab@heritage.com.