Exploring the new role of developer advocate

In today’s career chat, we’ll talk with Chrys Wu, who has just been named The New York Times’ developer advocate.

Wu has worked in a variety of media and roles, pushing the envelope for digital journalism. Her work includes development, audience development and digital storyteller. From 3 to 4 p.m. ET, we will talk about how developers contribute to news reports, why they need an advocate and how advocates can benefit newsrooms.

Twitter users can ask questions ahead of time using the hashtag #poynterchats. You can revisit this page at any time to replay the chat after it has ended.


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What it takes to make hyperlocal journalism work

AOL’s decision to close or sell unprofitable Patch sites and lay off staffers has renewed attention to hyperlocal journalism in recent weeks.

Dr. Michelle Ferrier, associate dean for innovation, research/creative activity and graduate studies at Ohio University’s Scripps College of Communication, is tracking how the Patch changes have affected the hyperlocal news landscape. She has done research and writing on hyperlocal news throughout the years and has a lot of ideas about what it takes to make this type of journalism work.

She shared some of her ideas in a live chat, which you can replay here:


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How journalists can build powerful brands

Editor’s note: Unfortunately, this chat has been postponed. We are rescheduling it and will update this post once we’ve determined a new date.

In today’s career chat, we’ll talk with Dan Schawbel, author of the just-published, “Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success.” Schawbel is also author of “Me 2.0″ and founder of Millennial Branding, a Gen-Y research and management consulting firm.

From 3 to 4 p.m. ET, we will talk about what a career brand is — and is not — and how journalists can develop brands that make them unique in the marketplace. Strong journalistic brands do for people what they do companies; they lead to greater reach and opportunity.

Twitter users can ask questions ahead of time using the hashtag #poynterchats. You can revisit this page at any time to replay the chat after it has ended.


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How journalists can become more familiar with programming

In our latest career chat, we talked with Michelle Minkoff and Nathan Griffiths, two interactive producers from the Associated Press.

They talked about how all journalists can become more familiar with programming and play a bigger role in creating interactive content. The work can take a couple directions: One is to collaborate more with developers, (something Minkoff has written about before for; the other is to actually learn some programming skills. Minkoff and Griffiths will offer advice for people wanting to take either direction and will answer your questions.

You can replay the chat here:

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From the newsroom to the classroom: Why I left my job as a journalist to get a Ph.D

In less than a month, after a 14-year career as a full-time reporter and nearly three years as a journalism lecturer, I will be a student again.

I never planned on moving from the newsroom to the classroom. I fell in love with newspapers in high school, where I became an avid contributor to my student paper. Starting in college, I interned at The Miami Herald, The Chicago Tribune and The San Francisco Chronicle, then worked at The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle and The Deal.

I loved daily deadlines, became a print junkie (I still prefer buying newspapers and magazines to getting new digitally), and believed that journalism was a profession that let you make a difference in the world. In 2003 I went for my masters’ degree in journalism at Columbia, graduated and then immediately returned to the newsroom.

So why am I now about to start earning a doctorate, leaving behind work life for student life? Why take on what one friend who got a doctorate recalls as a “mental marathon?” Why walk away in the prime of my earning years for a course marked by clear risks but uncertain rewards?

Searching for new avenues

The decision to go for a doctorate wasn’t easy – I struggled with it for a couple of years, drawing up a list of pros and cons and interviewing those who had taken a similar journey.

Back when I first went into journalism at 20, there was an unspoken rule: once a journalist, always a journalist. Like many other young reporters, I vowed to never go to the “dark side” of public relations, much less consider some other career.

But then the arrival of Google, the explosion of social media and the lightning speed with which information arrived changed how we acquire, consumer and deliver news. The landscape of the newsroom morphed from meeting one deadline to many, leaving reporters like me sometimes feeling like an octopus on roller skates. With the changes came layoffs and casualties in the newsroom.

While my love of news and journalism never diminished, I came to accept that the traditional journalist was slowly going extinct. I looked for other avenues to continue my passion for writing and reporting, transferring my newsroom skills to projects such as shaping a journalism curriculum and serving as a project manager for journalism conferences and events. In 2011 I fell into teaching when I applied for an adjunct-lecturer position as a last-minute replacement at Shue Yan University, a private university with a stellar journalism program in Hong Kong. I enjoyed it so much that I continued over the next two years.

Wu (front row center, with blue purse) with students on a class trip to Bloomberg

Those years of searching and experimenting were when the seeds of pursuing a doctorate were planted. In Hong Kong – and much of Asia – a doctorate remains coveted, respected, and a necessity for promotion from lecturer to professor. With encouragement from my boss, last fall I enrolled in a part-time doctorate program at a local university in Hong Kong. A class on theory and the opportunity to examine news from a different angle whetted my appetite for more. I wanted to immerse myself fully in the program, and started counting the years. It would take me six or seven years to complete a doctorate as a part-time student. But what if I took the plunge and pursued my degree full-time?

Last fall I took a small group of students from Shue Yan to observe and cover the 2012 U.S. presidential elections in Washington, D.C. I arranged meetings for the students with various media outlets and university journalism programs, and connected with journalism departments to explore ways our schools might work together. One of those schools was the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism. I was impressed with the people I met there, and noted that a number of faculty members had left behind careers as professional journalists to become educators. I was encouraged to look into Maryland’s doctorate program and soon had the gut sense – intuition, if you will — that this was the place and now was the time.

I took the leap and applied. When I was accepted I was happy – but I wrestled with the idea of leaving behind an excellent job and colleagues. They encouraged me to take on the challenge, though: with my doctorate I might return someday and be able to contribute even more to Shue Yan. It was a win-win situation, in other words.

Plenty of company

While this is a big change, I’m far from alone. Over the past five years I’ve seen an uptick in journalists jumping on the newsroom-to-classroom bandwagon. Facebook has become a landscape of updated statuses: from reporter to lecturer, adjunct professor and professor. It’s true that many of the newsroom-to-classroom crew are award-winning journalists in their sunset years, but some are younger journalists making the move in their prime, or seeking a second career.

For the first time this year, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) is sponsoring a Graduate Expo for journalists at its annual conference with 22 colleges and universities participating. Paula Poindexter, AEJMC’s incoming president, said the group hopes to target the growing number of journalists interested in graduate programs.

Via email, Poindexter predicts that “more journalists will think about getting a Ph.D., which will lead to more journalists pursuing a Ph.D. degree. These doctoral students who are former journalists will become role models for those who’ve been thinking about getting a doctorate but weren’t sure how to proceed.”

My conversations with friends in academia convinced me that I don’t need a doctorate to teach. But those same friends noted that to be a professor at a big-name journalism school without one, it would really help if you “wrote a book or won an award.” And at many universities outside of the U.S. a doctorate is a basic requirement for teaching. Overall, a doctorate opens doors to more teaching opportunities, and offers the hope of more freedom to think, write and produce — as well as a chance to get on the tenure track.

Kathleen McElroy was senior editor at The New York Times before seeking her doctorate at the University of Texas at Austin in 2011. She’s also a friend of mine, who’s served as a sounding board for me in reaching my decision. She shed some light on what inspired her own move: “I became more interested in researching why and how journalism works — theory, essentially — rather than just practicing journalism. And I really enjoyed working with The Times’ web producers — young, bright, eager. They inspired me to want to teach.”

That resonated with me – as did something Poindexter said.

“The reasons for leaving industry to pursue a Ph.D. vary widely,” she said. “While some journalists have viewed the academy as an oasis with new opportunities, especially after the downsizing of newsrooms, others have wanted to have an impact on the restructuring of journalism education and training of future journalists.”

I won’t be in the newsroom, but my doctorate program is the perfect way to keep up with the industry, and observe it through a critical lens. I’m excited about finding new and creative ways to teach and examine journalism during these changing times, and I continue to be inspired by those who share the same background and have followed the same path.

“Getting a doctorate is harder than I thought — reading, writing papers, reading, and more reading — but more rewarding than I could ever imagine,” McElroy told me.

Hearing that, and reflecting on my journey so far, I found myself smiling – and thinking that I can’t wait to go back to school.

Amy Wu is starting at the University of Maryland in the fall. Read more

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Women working in office.

In many college newsrooms, women hold top leadership roles

The story is that men control the media, with surveys of professional newsrooms continuing to paint a bleak picture for women and minorities — especially those who aspire to hold leadership positions.

But in college newsrooms, the story is different, as I found in discussions with representatives from 11 schools — Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Oregon, Harvard, Iowa State, Tampa, Maryland and Wisconsin-Madison. At those schools and others, women increasingly lead — and the gap may be widening in their favor.

“I’ve had some females in the newsroom I would put in a bar fight with a guy any day,” said Laura Widmer, general manager at the Iowa State Daily, who previously worked as director of student publications at Northwest Missouri State University for 29 years. “But the difference in leadership with the females I’ve had the pleasure of working with is that they tend to take a more interactive, more nurturing approach. Managing from the heart as opposed to from the desk, and they realize that leadership comes from their personality and knowing the personality of the your staff.”

Widmer, who also previously has served as president and New York convention director for the College Media Association, said in a phone interview that yearbook editors have skewed female since she began working in the 1980s, and in the next decade “we started seeing more females moving up the ladder and taking those roles” at newspapers. (While there are more women pursuing and earning college degrees than men, I found no reliable statistics on female leaders in university newsrooms. College Media Association executives also weren’t aware of research in this area.)

Exploring gender breakdowns

I decided to explore the gender breakdowns in college newsrooms after seeing the number of women editors explode in the last year at Ohio State University, where I teach and serve as student media director. We typically have about 16 paid editors on staff at The Lantern. Last spring, 11 were women. In the fall, there will be 14 female editors. At Buckeye TV, women hold three of the five paid positions, including that of station manager. The four men at the paper and the TV station hold the four sports positions.

Our experience isn’t unique. Sports sections are one of the few areas where men still dominate — and when women have taken the reins in sports, some readers have reacted badly, levying online attacks and making personal threats.

Dan Reimold, an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Tampa and adviser to The Minaret student newspaper, said in an email that his “best-educated guess as a college-news nerd is that there are more female editors-in-chief of student papers nationwide than men, something I would not have posited even a few years ago.”

The rise in female student enrollment within journalism schools and programs has played a part in the gains for women, Reimold said, as has college media expanding its scope with more candid stories, features, and special editions focused on sex, relationships, and LGBTQ issues.

Reimold said that while researching a book, “I came across countless young women who joined their student newspapers mainly to produce such content — and at times moved up the ranks from there.”

“Overall, we are seeing more women not being afraid to step into leadership positions,” Widmer said, adding that there were two-thirds female editors at the Journalism Leadership and Management Conference at Iowa State in June. (Sources for stories are a bleaker gender-equality picture. This story from Poynter has more on that.)

Jim Rodenbush, who came to The Daily Collegian at Penn State University as news adviser in January 2011 from Webster University in St. Louis, said in a phone interview that he’s had six straight female editors-in-chief, including the last five at PSU.

A glass ceiling shattered

“There’s always talk of a glass ceiling [in journalism], but this is a great example of a place where that doesn’t exist,” Brittany Horn, editor-in-chief of The Daily Collegian at Penn State, said in a phone interview.

This summer, 15 students were accepted into The Daily Collegian’s staff-writer candidacy program. Ten were women. And Horn said she has interned at three different newspapers in Pennsylvania — the Lancaster Sunday News, Harrisburg Patriot-News and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. All had women as either editor-in-chief or second in command.

“Journalism gets a negative rap,” Horn said, adding that “I think it’s neat to watch the leadership changes. … Women in power, I’m all for it.”

More women are seeking sports reporting positions, which are ultra-competitive at Penn State, and in the past two years, out of nine crime reporters, two were men.

“Truly, most of our competitive reporting positions are also held by females,” Horn wrote in an email. “This shift could explain why we’re seeing so many female editors. I also think that a lot of women refuse to not be taken seriously anymore, especially in higher level beats, which gives a great jumping off point for leadership positions.”

Rebecca Robbins, managing editor at The Harvard Crimson, said that organization’s “Superboard” of editorial and business leaders has been pretty evenly split between the genders for the last two years.

But The Crimson’s News Board, which includes the editors and reporters, has been “overwhelmingly female, something that’s definitely been noticed at the organization,” she wrote in an email. “I’m not sure how to explain it, but we’re happy that the News Board’s glass ceiling has long since been shattered.”

Abby Becker, editor-in-chief of The Daily Cardinal at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the 31 editor positions were about evenly split last spring, but will include 23 women in fall. That is the most women since Spring 2011 when it was 19 females and 12 males.

“We actually talk about it in the office,” Becker said in a phone interview. She studies the history of journalism, and is aware that women weren’t allowed to write or report for decades — “something I love to do.”

Still, it’s not always easy or fair.

“There are still signs it’s not completely an equal work place,” Katie Burke, summer editor-in-chief at The Michigan Daily, said in a phone interview.

Burke mentioned this story from Politico about New York Times editor Jill Abramson, which included anonymous sources slamming her management style. “What I took from that was women are not expected to have a hard, authoritative style,” Burke said.

But Burke said when it comes to eventually getting a journalism job, it’s not her gender that concerns her — it’s the availability of jobs.

Men as the minority

So what’s it like for the men who run the new female-dominated newsrooms? At the University of Oregon’s Emerald Media Group, there is a slight female edge among editors and reporters. But editor-in-chief Sam Stites said in a phone interview the gender breakdown makes no difference in his leadership style.

“No one here I really need to coddle — everyone is a team player, everyone is willing to improve,” he said, adding that when he has needed to be harder on someone, “for the most part, most of the females take that criticism better.”

Tony Wagner, editor-in-chief of The Minnesota Daily, said there are more women at the reporting level, but the editor ranks are pretty evenly split, with the last six editor-in-chief slots going to three men and three women.

“At the end of the day, I’m just looking at the stories and the papers we put out,” he said in a phone interview, and not the gender of the bylines on those stories.

At the University of Maryland, Mike King will start his fourth year at The Diamondback in the fall, his first serving as editor-in-chief. Of the 18 editor positions, the majority have been women during his time there — including the three top editors before him. There are also noticeably more women in his journalism classes, he said in a phone interview.

“On a college campus and at a student newspaper, people are more willing and able to break the mold,” King said, adding that gender disparity is “not really a topic of discussion…and in my opinion, that’s for the best. It’s 2013, the people who do the best should get the best positions.”

Sports ‘fraternity’ can be ugly for women

Despite women’s gains as editors and reporters, sports shows signs of remaining a male bastion.

“In my 30 years advising, I have not had one female sports editor,” Widmer said.

At The Daily Collegian, staffers for the campus, news, and arts sections tend to be women, but Penn State sports coverage is still mostly produced by men.

“We joke that it’s the fraternity at the paper,” Horn said.

But it’s not always a laughing matter. Whether at Penn State or elsewhere, numerous editors I spoke to said when women have covered major sports, they’ve heard about it from readers through online comments, email and social media — sometimes in threatening ways.

Kristen East, editor-in-chief at The Daily Iowan, said in a phone interview that the paper had a female sports editor last year who was “not treated nicely.” While she said many anonymous comments and calls focused on a single column, some of the people who emailed and commented on stories “just didn’t like the fact that a woman was running the section.”

“That was kind of hard to see,” East said. “I don’t think it should matter either way.”

But this too may be changing. At Harvard, Robbins said sports has had male leadership for several years, but added that a strong group of female freshmen sportswriters are “very likely to change that.” Read more


How to boost your narrative journalism skills, experience

In today’s career chat, we talked with Joe Donnelly, executive editor of Mission and State — a site that aims to deliver “powerful, deeply reported, richly experienced narratives” from Santa Barbara, Calif. The site features investigative and explanatory journalism delivered on multimedia platforms.

During the chat, Donnelly talked about how narratives are told now, how journalists can grow their narrative skills, and where they can get published. Donnelly is the founding publisher and co-editor of the longform journal Slake: Los Angeles and was the deputy editor of LA Weekly.

You can replay the chat here:

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What journalists need to know about changes in investigative reporting

Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist John Sullivan has a unique hybrid position that is pushing the conventions of how reporting gets done. Recently, he was jointly hired by Investigative Reporting Workshop, American University and The Washington Post.

That alliance allows him to bring investigative reporting training to the classroom and bring university resources to the Post.

During this week’s career chat, Sullivan talked about inventive new strategies that sustain investigative reporting and offer tips for those who are already doing investigative reporting and those who want to do more of it.

You can replay the chat here:

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How photojournalists can improve their job security

The Chicago Sun-Times’ decision to lay off its entire photo staff raises important questions about how photographers can keep themselves in high demand. During this week’s career chat, we talked with Jeff Knox, senior director of photography at the Chicago-area Daily Herald and president of the Associated Press Photo Managers.

Knox talked about how photojournalists can fireproof their career — by creating new opportunities for themselves, developing new skills and increasing their ability to adapt to changes.

You can replay the chat here:

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How journalists can turn a passion into a startup news site

During this week’s career chat, we talked with science and health reporter Jane Stevens, who turned her passion into a news startup, ACEs Too High. (ACE stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences.)

The site — which focuses on how childhood trauma affects people and the science and policy surrounding that issue — has attracted foundation support and has a companion social network for professionals. We chatted with Stevens about sizing the potential for a website, launching it, seeking support and retaining independence.

You can replay the chat here:

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