Repatriation

First fireworks show in Houston, after my first American baseball game in four years. Credit: Scott McKenney

I live in Southern California now, which feels like I’m in a semi-permanent state of vacation. I have already consumed a green juice from a juicebot, taken the ubiquitous electric scooters of West LA for a ride, taken a Megaformer class (Pilates on steroids) and gotten an excellent tan. Next I need some Botox and I will be all settled in! (Just kidding about the Botox, I spoke to my Korean dermatologist about that — since Seoul is the plastic surgery capital of the world, natch — and he said do not start fillers too early because they won’t work when you need them later.)

We live in West LA so the beach is a ten minute walk from here. And you can just go, anytime. Because the girls are not in school yet, feeling sand between our toes and splashing around in the Pacific is something that we do almost every day.

I am very happy to have graham crackers back in my life, as I didn’t realize how much I missed them until they returned to me. I write this as I eat Salt & Straw ice cream from the Venice location, using honey lavender ice cream as a vector for graham crackers.

Five days after we landed in LA I left for Houston, where the Asian American Journalists Association gathered for its annual convention and I promptly caught the rare August cold. After I parked it for seven hours at a Lupe Tortilla the first night so that I could see various friends who came by and eat flour tortillas and queso for the entire duration, I lost my voice the first morning there and found myself hopelessly jet-lagged the entire time. But the reunions were rad! Not just AAJA pals but also my old Texas buddies, some of whom hosted a little happy hour for me on Thursday and we caught up and gossiped and talked politics just like the good ol’ days. On Friday my lawyer friend Brian arranged for me to see the Astros from his firm’s seats behind home plate and let me just say, those seats were adequate. The best part was the buffet before and during the game for season ticket holders, which consisted of meat, a side of meat and some more meat. Plus all-you-can-eat ice cream and candy! Fireworks every Friday meant I got an all American show after the Astros fell (again) to the Mariners.

Back in LA now.

Surf lessons, next.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

AAJA 2013: Baby in the Big Apple

Eva and Momma time in the hotel room.

Eva and Momma time in the hotel room.

Just back from a really fun and satisfying time in New York for this year’s Asian American Journalists Association annual convention. I’ve been part of AAJA since I was in 10th grade, thanks to a reporter for The Dallas Morning News who called to interview me about a student council project, I think. Whatever it was, I mentioned after the interview I wanted to be a journalist one day and she immediately encouraged me to join the organization. Since then, AAJA has been responsible for making connections that have shaped my life.

In 2002, AAJA hosted its national convention in Dallas, and that’s where I met Sudeep, who became my best friend and is responsible for introducing me to my husband Stiles. Stiles is not Asian-American by blood but often identifies with my peeps, so he joined AAJA in 2008 and has since been a much more involved member than me. He consistently reminds me to renew my membership, he has attended more AAJA conventions than I have in recent years, and he speaks on more AAJA panels than I do. He trumped me in New York, speaking on three panels to my one. I’m so proud of him!

This year, the programming really kicked things up a notch with fab workshops and thoughtful panelists. I loved seeing writer (and Twitter user) Jay Caspian Kang totally go anti-Twitter at a conference where social media networking was predictably de rigeur. Kang called Twitter a “circle jerk” and said he thinks less of people who tweet all day, saying it undermines your seriousness as a writer. That argument is for a whole different post — bottom line, exposure to unexpected points of view makes these confabs more interesting.

I regret not getting to spend more time with old friends, since that’s what is always so great about attending the annual AAJA confab. It feels like family. But I was a little time and resource constrained because of my actual family. The traveling baby, Eva, came with us (she’s a journalism convention pro now). She got to try some halal truck food, visit FAO Schwarz, have lunch with my old friend Tim, get overwhelmed by the lights and the tourists in Times Square, go shopping on Fifth Ave and take lots of her usual naps. She also enjoyed exploring the hotel room and goofing off, as you can see.

Tags: , , ,

AAJA 2010: Digital Reporting Tools and Techniques

3:56pm: Here we are at the Digital Reporting Tools and Techniques panel, helmed by the esteemed Olivia Ma of YouTube, Jennifer 8 Lee of the Knight News Challenge and David Sarno and Jon Healey of the LA Times.

3:57pm: We’re talking about free tools available in the cloud. Scribd is getting a lot of conversation right now – Lee, who used to be with the NYTimes, says Scribd is interested in partnering with news orgs so they’ll let you customize your Scribd browser. “Even though it’s being powered by Scribd, it’s your brand all the time.”

4:04pm: Comic Sans should be banned from Powerpoint. WORD!

4:06pm: Use Listorious to found a connected network of people who are interested in or write about a specific topic. If you follow these groups, it’s another kind of heat map about what communities say about certain topics, says Soren.

4:07pm: When a keyword is meaningful to you or relatively unique, you can use Twitter alerts (which sort of works like Google News Alerts) to get updates on “Particularly useful for discrete events you are covering for a limited time period. You wouldn’t want to follow “music”, but maybe you would follow “MGMT”.”

4:09pm: And the Powerpoint crashes just before the YouTube maven begins talking about her tools. She goes on anyway, introducing YouTube Direct, and YouTube Moderator, which “are meant to help news organizations engage with their audiences.” Trivia: YouTube staff doesn’t use the term ‘citizen journalism’ and prefers ‘citizen reporter,’ since “journalists” are professionals or have specific training/experience. “Citizen Reporters” can document, provide real value in terms of showing what’s happening, even if they can’t put it in a broader context. Example: Kayaking in the Street during Nashville Flooding

4:14pm: YouTube’s been partnering with various news organizations to help them engage their communities and get the community involved. PBS’  ‘Video Your Vote”, CNN’s YouTube Presidential Debate. YouTube Direct is partnering with ABC7 in the Bay Area, inviting audience to upload video of stories happening in their communities. They’re starting to see momentum in getting the community to show their stories and getting them told. Editors and producers get a moderation panel to review the submissions and approve it for their own page.

4:16pm: YouTube Moderator is a product that lets news orgs crowdsource, host video of newsmakers, and then let audiences rank questions or the responses up or down. (This is totally new to me, I have no idea how it works yet but I want to find out.)

4:19pm: Now the panelists are talking about how awesome the ProPublica data crowdsourcing has been. I second that. “Every journalist should have a peopledex, that you can consult, so if you start building it now, you can recall it for many different purposes,” said Sarno.

4:21pm: Jennifer 8 Lee’s turn to talk. Her “five tools to remember” for digital future: Ushahidi, Kickstarter, Tableau, DocumentCloud, and DavisWiki, which is the most successful local wiki in the country, if not the world. One out of every seven people in Davis, California uses DavisWiki. You can find lost pets, do I need a roomate. (DAVIS WIKI IS A PERFECT EXAMPLE OF THE FUTURE OF CONTEXT. See earlier post.)

4:24pm: “Communities, when given the right tools and the right platforms, can inform themselves,” said Lee. Knight’s given the Davis people a tool called “localwiki”, to help other communities get this platform and start using it.

Ushahidi: A crowd-sourced mapping platform that came out of Kenya, where people were reporting their rapes and other violence. Got a lot of publicity in Haiti, in which needs for water or medical help were getting mapped on Ushahidi. Free, open-source. WashPo used it for #snowmaggedon last year.

4:27pm: Ascendancy of raw material as a form of real journalism. WikiLeaks, for example. The threat to journalism is not big brother, but little brother. The threat is that the individuals that surround us can report really well. So use tools like Document Cloud, to give people access.

4:28pm: You could do a six month investigation about use of force in schools, or you can show them a 30 second video of a teacher beating a kid in a school. If a picture’s worth a thousand words, a video’s worth 10,000 words.

4:30pm: The reporting process is becoming public. Instead of hoarding information and dropping a massive investigation, we now report it out one part at a time, let people weigh in and help inform or shape the next chapter, then report the next part. It’s a journey. (I love the quest narrative.)

4:32pm: “Governments are all excited about opening up their data, or putting data sets online, but raw data is actually really ugly,” said Lee. Where it becomes valuable is when it’s visualized. When you can play with it or see it in various ways, that’s where it becomes interesting.

4:36pm: “Ask your audiences more for their participation. The more news orgs value that, more of the audience will feel ownership,” said Ma. Use computers to build a human network. The more you use your human/social network, the more likely your sources are likely to come to you.

4:43pm: Lee, to a questioner- Are you asking, what are the other problems that need to be solved, in the suckiness of the current news organization? One of the things we’re really interested in at Knight right now is how publishers can effectively use Facebook. The other thing we’re interested in in is mobile.

OK that’s all for this panel. I hope I didn’t miss anything huge.

Tags: , , ,

AAJA 2010: Present/Future of Online News

“This is the most exciting time ever, to be in journalism. More people are consuming more content in more ways than ever.” -Mike Allen

This morning’s conversation featured Manav Tanneeru, wearer of many hats at CNN.com, Dave Morgan, Executive Editor of Yahoo! North America, Mike Allen of Politico and John Bracken, Director of New Media at Knight Foundation (Knight is one of Tribune’s generous benefactors, and we love Knight. Shoutout.)

Create Content with Value, Cause It’s Competitive Out There

The success of Politico (which started with 30 employees and is now nearing 200), is based on the premise, “What if we did a paper with only interesting stories?” The changing habits of consuming news (less loyalty to the major papers, brands) has been a benefit.

“Traffic is one of the attributes we consider, we don’t even tell our reporters our traffic because we dont want them to value that above our audience. We’re not there to serve a mass audience,” said Allen. “Think about ‘if i didnt write this story, or made this video, would I read it?” It’s amazing how many things in our news orgs dont meet that test. Before you invest time producing something, would someone email this, blog about it, would i book segment based on this? If you’re hitting a couple of those, you’re breaking through and creating value for your audience.”

Yahoo’s thinking about original content as well.  It’s aiming to change the content they provide. “Yahoo is traditionally a good aggregator, but if all we’re doing is distributing great partner content, then we’ll be replaced,” said Morgan. The company’s web strategy is moving more toward reporting for the audience and not just hosting the audience. A lot of people can do commodity information – score of the game, who won the election – what do you add to that? What is the unique content you provide.

“Everyone can do their job on a laptop, which means anyone else can too. If we can’t do it shorter and sooner, someone else will and should. That’s the great part about the way people consume news now, it’s almost completely a meritocracy. it used to be if you were the Miami Herald, LA Times, you had a guaranteed audience. We don’t have guaranteed time with the audience anymore,” said Allen.

It’s Not All About the Pageviews
Remarkable ideas are remarked on, remarkable content moves up. It’s wrong for traditional companies to think, how can I move up in search rankings instead of, what can i do to make irresistible content?

When we get too obsessed with what people want to know, are we shortchanging them on what they NEED to know? There’s little interest in non-US news in the US, but the world’s more connected than ever. Will there still be outlets to provide the important stuff that the audience isn’t naturally hungry for?

SEO Today

“In the foundation world, we get grant applications that say, our web traffic is this, this number of Twitter followers, etc… What are web metrics that matter? What does that really mean?”

If you’re a reporter you should not be thinking about SEO first, but still, everyone in the newsroom should have general understanding of core principles that allow something to be elevated. CNN chooses slugs very carefully, Daily beast used tags in URLs, etc.

Future Considerations

If you’re starting something, you’re a lot better off to start in niche because you have a more obvious revenue stream. You have a specific audience to target, i.e. Politico’s focus is on serving Washington insiders.

The two major considerations of Politico as they head into the future:

1.) Sideways traffic, and how to maximize it. (Audiences don’t go to homepages as much as specific story pages, much of the readership consumes content without typing in politico.com)

2.) Fewer people with desktops/laptops – how to move to mobile.

Generally, part of our task is to think about the holes being created at the same time all this exciting change is happening. “When there’s a news gap, it’s very significant. The newspaper has been the closest thing we have had to a community forum, and when that goes away, what replaces it?
Is the frame we have for local news still appropriate for the digital age? How do we carry it over to the web, when people are going to their own places for news?” said Bracken.

Local news is an area most ripe for innovation.. using tools already available is empowering. But news experiments won’t fill all holes. If Brooklyn was reported with just blogs and Twitter, there would be huge gaps in its portrayal. How do we dig deeper?

“If youve arrived at a winning model, enjoy it because it’s already changed.” -Yahoo!’s Dave Morgan

Tags: , , , , , , ,

California

Why does this guy have a star on the walk of fame, and other burning questions, coming up this week.

I’ve returned to California for the first time in a long time for the national Asian American Journalists Association convention. We Asians (and Stiles) will be convening here through Saturday, getting some quality training in and talking about the future of news, which is one of my all-time favorite topics besides chili cheese dogs, Mad Men and Harry Whittington. Come back for some #newsfuture posts and assorted photos. I’ve unintentionally engaged in a Twitter war to tweet the shizz out of this conference, so my blog will be an extension of the 140 character updates.

My fellow Texans also happen to be in California this week. Lawmakers are partying an hour south in San Diego, for a lawmaker convention (far fewer Asians, but rife with opportunity for drunk driving arrests!)

Tags: , , , , ,