January 8, 2018

This article originally appeared in Try This! — Tools for Journalism, our newsletter about digital tools. Want bite-sized news, tutorials and ideas about the best digital tools for journalism in your inbox every Monday? Sign up here.

Here’s a little secret. The header of this newsletter says it's about digital tools. The signup page says it’s about digital tools. It appears in the digital tools section of the Poynter website. I may have even pitched it to you as a newsletter about digital tools.

But that’s not the topic of this newsletter at all. This newsletter is about change. 

Learning new technologies, adapting to new workflows and even making grand organizational changes are all actually — brace for it — pretty easy. Oft-misinterpreted research from McKinsey shows that a majority of people “who commit to a change initiative will eventually succeed.”

But if most change results in some type of success, why does it seem so hard? And why does it feel like all of these changes the news industry (or whatever industry you’re in because journalism is far from the only industry in flux) are failing all around us?

I think fear is holding us back. Fear of being left behind. Fear of departing from the rosy past. Fear of being burned by change. 

“Sure, my workflow isn’t working, but I can’t afford the time to do something new.”

“Why do we have to do all of this stuff? We should just stick to writing the news.”

“That tool seems great but we tried something like it before and it didn’t do a thing for us.”

Sound familiar?

But a little familiarization with a new tool, technology, social network, workflow or even an idea makes it all a lot more palatable. That’s what this is all about. My hope is that Try This! makes you just a little bit more comfortable with the ongoing digital metamorphoses in our workplaces.

Because succeeding at change isn’t hard. You just have to try.

NEW TOOL, FOUR STEPS: Many organizations don’t publicly share contact information for all their employees. With a little know-how, Hunter.io unlocks that information.

  1. Visit Hunter.io and enter the company or organization’s URL
  2. Search through the list. The person you’re looking for may already be listed, possibly even with both an email address and phone number.
  3. If the person isn’t listed, pay attention to how others are. Most organizations have standard formatting for email addresses that you can use to figure out the one you’re looking for.
  4. Want proof? Click the sources button to see where the address has been listed. You can also save email addresses to your account or, if you’re lazy, email them directly from Hunter.io.

TOOL TIP: Let’s say that you email and call that source and don’t hear back. If you’re anything like me, odds are decent you’ll forget about it for three days and then have to hit them with a blitz of messages three hours before your deadline. There’s a tool for people like us. It’s called Gestimer and it sends handy little reminders right from your Mac’s toolbar. 

BONUS: I learned about Gestimer from Samantha Sunne’s wonderful Tools for Reporters newsletter. Sunne shares one new tool every week and talks through how reporters can make the most of it. Sign up here

TINKER, TAILOR, STATUS SPY: Russian-affiliated misinformation agents created fake user profiles and incredibly popular Facebook pages to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. I know that you already know that, but it just felt so cool to type. Find out if you interacted with any of that Russian propaganda with this tool from Facebook.

VIDEO STAR: Facebook also appears to be rolling out a redesign to its video uploading tool. We don’t seem to have access to it here yet, but improvements to its captioning and subtitling features are much-needed (and honestly kind of exciting).

GP-YES: The Google Maps app in your pocket is more than just a tool for getting directions. A handful of lesser-known features make it indispensable for reporters. Try sharing your real-time location with colleagues at large outdoor events or protests, scanning Street View to fact-check descriptions of addresses on the go, finding gas stations or other important stopping points or measuring exact distances between two locations.

LET’S GET META: TinyLetter is my favorite free newsletter tool. As long as you have fewer than 5,000 subscribers and don’t mind working within the constraints of its limited formatting options, I might even say it’s perfect. So I was heartbroken when Mailchimp, which purchased TinyLetter in 2011, said the free service would be folded into its own software late last year. Turns out my concerns were premature, as Mailchimp’s CEO recently announced in an email to subscribers that TinyLetter would be sticking around as-is through 2018. 

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Ren LaForme is the Managing Editor of Poynter.org. He was previously Poynter's digital tools reporter, chronicling tools and technology for journalists, and a producer for…
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