It's all about the STORY!

Posts tagged ‘journalism’

Links to my former Patch.com weekly column

The weekly Patch.com column that I was assigned to was on “caregivers,” and the editor and I chose to use that term very broadly. Here are the articles I wrote for that column…

[This column was syndicated throughout several communities in Florida]

Roundup of recent published articles

Let’s start with politics…

Now for some other stuff – stuff about my hometown, St. Petersburg!

[Note: I do not control editing of my work – some are edited with a heavier hand than others. Some are unedited. It’s a mixed bag, but sometimes the editing can leave choppy copy, so I apologize for that.]

Melancholy in less than 500 words

(Photo credit: http://anxious-creative.blogspot.com/)

As a writer, I am concerned about words. They mean something to me. Also, I am concerned about stories. They mean something to me, too. 

I am concerned that contemporary culture may lack a love for words and written stories–that it is a love affair that is becoming more rare. Sometimes things that are rare are special, but in this case, I find it melancholy.

I am concerned that our culture is too distracted to have a love affair with words and stories any longer. They want one night stands and speed dating versus the relationship filled with deep attraction, love notes, commitment, harsh words, broken hearts and promises, redemption and the bliss of kindness, thoughtfulness and quirks that make these love affairs beautiful and worth living for.

More and more, 500 words or less is the formula for success in modern media, and I have no choice but to succumb to stay relevant. So, I promise to rise to the occasion and challenge myself to engage you in a deep love affair confined to brevity–to sweep you off your feet and enchant you into a friendship or more that hopefully will fill you until the next story, the next encounter, the next night in our favorite hotel above the busy street where words will take you onward to the next chapter in our relationship.

Maybe then you will be willing to take on more than 500 words. Maybe then you’ll long for the whole story not just the soundbite. If so, imagine this story (link below), of this life slashed into 500 words? What a tragedy that would be, indeed!

[Total: 270 words]

Not authored by me, though I wish it were: Shelagh Was Here: an ordinary magical life 

Daphne’s List of 7: Telling your company’s story

I have just spent hours researching the history of several Bay area nonprofits–learning about their stories. Specifically, their history.

Here are 7 tips on storytelling that would be helpful for all businesses, particularly nonprofits. These are 7 important points, what I have learned along the way as a professional writer for nonprofits and as a member of the media as I am currently…

  1. Make your audience “feel” your story. DO NOT give us facts and figures. We truly don’t care–we glaze over them, mostly. Tell us about the tears. Tell us about the victories. Tell us about the struggle. Tell us how your organization CHANGED things. Give me something to feel, to care about, to go out and tell my friends and family about. Here in Pinellas County PARC does a GREAT job of telling their story HERE.
  2. Get your FACTS straight and make sure your information is up-to-date. I will not mention the site, but it is one I know all too well–they have the date the company was founded, which is good, but then they also include how long the company has been operating. Not only is this information redundant, but the number of year operating is an evolving number that needs to be changed each year. If you insist on including it, you’d better be committed to updating it every single year. As it stands, you’ve been dormant for about 5 years. Okay, that’s just an example, but in a historical statement, STAY AWAY from figures that change. Also, if you include a blurb about where you are today, which is good–update that at least annually. Do it the same time you do your annual report–that’s a good reminder that all your company’s content should be reviewed, including your website
  3. Make sure your website looks good. Honestly, this is not an expensive or difficult thing to do. If you have a website, and you certainly should, make sure it’s attractive. Certainly, if it’s easy to navigate, lots of content, etc.–even better. But, first, make it visually pleasing. If your web page is hard to look at, no one will want to bother, and it reflects poorly on your company’s image.
  4. Less is more when it comes to text. WOW! So much verbose copy, laden with industry jargon–I’ve been working in the helping fields for over 20 friggin years, and if I wonder what you mean by what you’re trying to say, and I’m getting tired of reading wordy copy, I can’t begin to imagine what the public at large thinks when they see it. Tighten it up, and keep it simple. If that’s too hard for you pros in the field to do, get some clients and community members together to focus group your marketing copy for you. If you don’t believe me, listen to what they have to say…
  5. Include a link for media on your website. Please, think of us and throw us a little bone. Include your press releases there as a link. Include contact info. and brief bios of subject experts that we can contact for quotes and insight into issues–we are always looking for expert opinions. Make it easy for us to find. Give us your logo and other graphics that we have total permission to use as stock art for articles. And, tell us who your media contact is so that we can contact them directly. When a story is breaking, and we want to use your organization as an expert, we don’t have time to wait around or hunt to find “maybe” the right person. Get us linked to them straight away, and we’ll get you into print faster and more often as the experts in the field that you are.
  6. Be responsive to media. We matter. In a time when funding is tighter than ever, getting and keeping your company’s name in the community dialogue is critical when you are cultivating donors. If a development director has to spend too much time explaining to a potential donor what the organization is and why they care about it, it’s probably already too late to bother. Keeping your name in the media as noted experts in what you do is key to raising the value of your organization in the mind of your public. There’s no short cut. There are many creative ways to do this, and traditional media isn’t the only one… but it’s important to do in some fashion.
  7. Reach out to media. Don’t just send us a press release. Trust me, we often don’t “get” why your story is important. Talk to us. Get to know us. Take us to lunch (we really like that!). But, develop a relationship with us. And this is critical–don’t bother telling us why your story is important to you. Tell me why I, the media professional cares, and why it’s cool, interesting or important to the public. THAT’s the story. Don’t count on the fact that the media professional will be able to see why your story matters. Spoon feed THAT to them, because why your story matters IS the story.

Another sampling of freelance articles

I have two primary publications where my work can be found regularly, beginning with SaintPetersBlog, which is a first-rate St. Petersburg-based blog that covers government and politics in the city and county and even federal levels with a huge emphasis on state. Primarily, I lend a hand with city and county coverage. You’ll see quite a few articles that I’ve had published on SaintPetersBlog also placed here on my personal blog. Sometimes I post previews, insights, updates or unedited drafts here for a different view–mine. Here’s a sample of my most recent work:

  • An interview with Pinellas County Sheriff’s candidate Scott Swope — I was surprised to learn about what a strong candidate Swope was during this interview. Unfortunately, the buzz is true: he’s not getting the media coverage he deserves. Hopefully, this article helps some. Tampa Bay Times, it’s your turn!
  • An Interview with Pinellas County Commissioner Kenneth Welch — I’m biased. As far as politicians go, Ken is certainly one of my favorites. I’d have a hard time finding a politico that is more accessible to his constituents, more likely to roll up his sleeves and work for causes and issues he believes in, and more outspoken to raise issues important to the community he represents. Thanks, Ken.
  • A conversation with County Commissioner Neil Brickfield — Funny story. I had been doing so many interviews on candidates for Pinellas County School Board, even knowing full-well that Brickfield was a county commissioner, I had it in my head that he was running for school board when I called him. Genuinely puzzled about why a commissioner would want to run for school board, he answered by nearly choking on the water he was sipping, assuring me that he was not. Commissioner is his spot of choice–of which I was greatly relieved, personally pleased with the work he does there…
  • Profile of Pinellas County School Board Candidate Jim Jackson –What a great conversation! Talking to this guy for the first time was like talking to a long-lost friend, who is really smart with solid priorites and solutions for our youth and education.
  • A conversation with Pinellas County School Board candidate Rene Flowers –I spent the evening with Rene Flowers that turned out to be profound beyond words. I joined her to hear school children, young girls, read essays about black on black crime. I heard these youths talk about loved ones and family members killed and incarcerated as though it were a normal occurrence for families. Some found it hard to identify that black on black crime actually affected them much even as tears streamed down their faces. What was more profound was the incredible talent these children displayed–in their writing and in their speaking. I am still blown away. Oh, and Flowers was remarkable as well, but she was certainly upstaged that evening. She was meant to be.

The other place that my work appears regularly is on the iLovetheBurg blog. What was intended to be a brief 3-week gig has turned into a summer job, at least. I’m happy to be working with these guys who have a great passion for St. Pete and keep their fingers on the pulse of the cool things that keep the town beating. A previous post has a few of these story links–here are a couple more…

  • Proving solar can be affordable –Farias Marketing Group is committed to leading St. Pete into a genuine position as a “Green City.” Here’s just one example fo the work they are doing. NOTE: Some of the copyediting was a little rough, making a few choppy sentences and transitions, but the story is still there.
  • Snapshots: Mark Sforzini of the St. Petersburg Opera –LOVED THIS! Okay, I have to. I’m a former professional classical singer, and this opera company here in St. Pete is magical. What they can do with a small budget and a small but beautiful space (The Palladium) is extraordinary.
  • BONUS: Mark Sforzini –Here is the link to the unedited copy of the article above along with the transcript of the full interview

Lessons from a freelancer–balance & support

What have I learned so far as a fulltime freelancer? Balance is everything. Balancing time, projects, priorities, personal and professional life, etc. In the end, balance has been the lesson, and I’m getting better at it.

It’s easy to spend your waking hours on business development strategies, branding, pitching for projects, networking–oh and then actually doing the projects. And, in the very beginning, I think you almost have to do this. Afterall, it’s survival here–you have to get work in the door and work lined up and people wanting to work with you to keep paying your bills and to feel safe in knowing that you can keep paying your bills. But, once that’s achieved, you need to know when to tap the breaks a bit and slow down to a comfortable cruise versus the high-speed chase.

You also need to balance time networking, marketing, pitching and branding with “doing” the work and knowing how much work you can take on, what resource you have if you end up with more on your plate than you can handle.

On the one hand, it’s my job to drum up business and keep getting projects in the door. Afterall, I’m a freelancer, so without new projects, I’m without cashflow. On the other hand, I am an army of one, so making sure I balance out projects and deadlines is critical while I’m always keeping an eye out for new ones. <–This all may seem obvious, but there’s a point here…

In an age where more and more freelancers and entrepreneurs are budding up, a real skill, once you’re certain you have something valuable to offer and others know it too, is planning for success. Many more businesses fail because success came, and they weren’t prepared for it, than people might think. It’s not always that the clients don’t come and the contracts fall through, etc. Often times it’s overcommitment leading to missed deadlines, broken promises and failed deliverables that shuts down an operation.

I’ve not fallen victim to either fate, yet, and I remain cautious, making sure to say “no” and to make certain that I never have more than three projects on my plate at once and no more than three more in the pipeline to maintain a successful balance. And that’s just my personal guideline–I know myself. Others may be able to handle more or less, but it’s important to know what that number is, or risk biting it and facing failure.

Also, as I mentioned earlier, keep other resources on hand–other freelancers or partners outside of you that you can send projects to or work with in case you need the extra set of hands, eyes and brains. Not only do you need to have backup plans for when your deadlines become too much, but also it’s important to plan for being human–illnesses, personal and family crises, etc. Develop a professional support system/back-up plan for emergencies.

Truthfully, though I try to plan and maintain a healthy network of colleagues for mutual support, I still make mistakes, and not everything runs as smoothly as I like, and outcomes aren’t always the slam-dunk I  anticipated. Mostly, though, I’m finding increased success in this crazy freelancing journey–for me and my clients. And that’s awesome. Here’s to progress!

You cannot succeed if you don’t take a risk,

and without failure, you’re not likely to learn much or get any better.

New Media vs. Traditional Media — new take on “the medium is the message”

While sitting on the sidelines of today’s Suncoast Tiger Bay Club meeting, listening to local panelists discuss “Traditional Media vs. New Media,” it became crystal clear that Marshall McLuhan’s prophetic phrase, “The medium is the message” first published in 1964 had become a reality far beyond anything McLuhan could have possibly imagined.

The panelists for today’s Suncoast Tiger Bay meeting included Eric Deggans of the Tampa Bay Times, Jeff Houck of the TBO.com, Mitch Perry of Creative Loafing, Noah Pransky of WTSP 10 News, John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times and Peter Schorsch of Saint PetersBlog.

Our experienced panelists discussed issue such as predicting whether newspapers will still be politically relevant in ten years, with most of the panel agreeing that yes, though it might look different. Schorsch was a striking voice of dissent on this issues, stating flatly, “absolutely not.” Schorsch pointed out that newspapers are not economically sound and that the on-line publications The Huffington Post and Politico were Pulitzer Prize winners this year.

Largo Mayor Pat Gerard asked the panel a pertinent question in the wake of local newspaper layoffs and marked circulation decline, “Will the decline of local newspapers lead to the decline of keeping an eye on local politicians? […] How do we know who to trust?”

Deggans responds, “Trust yourself.” He continues saying that while “there is downsizing in newsrooms, you have the tools to determine how valid, how real and how important a story is.” Deggans explains that this isn’t determined entirely by the source.

St. Petersburg City Councilmember Karl Nurse posed the question as to whether media is making people more educated or more opinionated. Schorsch stated firmly, “More educated” He said, “There has been a 400 percent increase in talking about politics since 9/11,” where Schorsch credits social media as a significant reason why. Schorsch also contends that through the use of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, the volume of national dialogue about all issues has increased. Yet, Pransky was less enthusiastic stating that he believes overall people are more opinionated based on blog postings yet more educated from traditional media.

Willi Rudowski of the Poynter Institute asked, “What is the benefit of speed over accuracy for democracy?” Deggans first spouted off saying, “None.” Then, he follows-up with a more complete answer, “Imapct.” When you are first, he explains, it gets you noticed, and being noticed affects your bottom line, and that’s important if you want to stay in the game.

Yet, I suspect that Deggans meant what he said the first time, “None.”

Romano expanded on this saying that while this is true, he believes that “speed is often destroying good journalism. Good journalism is comprehensive, nuanced and thorough.”

Schrosch had more to add to this, however, and this point was my biggest take-away from this panel discussion where “The medium is the message” became the true topic of conversation. And I’m not saying that because Schorsch pays me, which he does, but because I believe it to be true. I’ve seen it in action.

Schorsch replied to the question of the benefit of speed over accuracy for democracy citing Twitter feeds to help organize protesters in Tunisia and other similar stories to help gather, organize and inform the public via social media tools. “It’s about getting people organized versus the ‘right people’ organized.”

At this point someone interjected, “The news is different from social media.”

But is it?

Schorsch said that the power of new media isn’t just to inform. “You can use it to overthrow a totalitarianism regime. I want to be able to help overthrow a totalitarianism regime.”

And here, the medium surely is the message.

What does that mean? “The medium is the message” refers to the reality that not only does the content the medium carries affect society, but the medium itself plays a significant role in the story and in shaping society.

Media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are as much a part of the story as the stories they tell just as much as the newspaper, television show or cable news station is. Moreover, whether we are discussing traditional media or new media, the storyteller his- or herself also is the message.

Via Daphne Taylor Street. You may reach Daphne at dts.streetmedia@gmail.com.

Published first on Saint PetersBlog: http://saintpetersblog.com/2012/05/at-tiger-bay-panel-traditional-journalists-and-new-media-debate-if-the-medium-is-in-fact-the-message/

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