Ten Tweets of Wisdom

Steve Buttry, director of community engagement and social media at Digital First Media, spoke at the Keystone Press Awards.

By: Amy Stansbury

In a place like Gettysburg, it is difficult to escape the spectre of nostalgia. It hangs throughout the town, in its buildings, on its streets, and in its decor. For visitors, it becomes impossible not to stop and think about the historic events that transpired there.

For Steve Buttry, director of community engagement and social media at Digital First Media, the effect was similar.

In his keynote speech at the Keystone Press Awards Banquet, Buttry began by recalling Abraham’s Lincoln famed Gettysburg address, but that is where he broke with the past. Instead of delving into a long winded account of the history of journalism, Buttry channeled Lincoln’s skill in the art of brevety using modern day technology — twitter, the ultimate fan of the succinct sentence.

His first tweet of the night?

In transmitting this to the audience, Buttry reminded them, “that the things that make us proud of our profession can still make us proud of digital journalism.”

Throughout Buttry’s career he has seen many changes in technology that have changed the way news is produced, but that has not stopped the craft from living on. In his second tweet he wrote:

“The first paper that I ever had a biline in died in 1993,” admited Buttry. “I worked for the Kansas City News when that died in 1990. All of these papers died before the world wide web.”

An ever-changing world has not managed to kill journalism yet, and there is no reason that it should do so now, unless newsrooms refuse to adapt, explains Buttry. He tweeted on the subject:

One early pioneer of such experimentation and risk was Johannes Gutenberg, propogator of the printing press. In looking back on Gutenberg’s time, it is easy to think that he was responsible for killing the illuminated manuscript, or the bibles that prevailed before movable type. But, as Buttry pointed out, the illuminated manuscript was not the product. It was the word of God that was the real message. The same is true today.

“Our product is not the newspaper,” said Buttry. “It is the news.”

This brought Buttry to yet another tweet.

Of course, no speech delivered via twitter would be complete without a comment on the importance of this social media tool.

“If you are not on Twitter you are missing out,” said Buttry, who explained that Twitter is so useful because it allows journalists to connect with the people they serve.

“Stop worrying about the future of print newspapers,” said Buttry. “Concentrate on engaging the community.”


Unconference Teaches Journalists to Adapt to Change

Wendy Warren led an unconference about the changing nature of newsrooms

By: Amy Stansbury 

When Wendy Warren walked up to the podium she made one thing very clear to her audience.  She was not there to teach them anything.

Instead, they were going to teach her.

In this afternoon session of the Pennsylvania Press Conference, Warren, vice president and editor of Philly.com, led guests in an “unconference” about the transformation of newsrooms.

An unconference is essentially a guided discussion in which participants seek to create answers to their own problems, as opposed to simply being handed solutions.

“Our goal today is to gather concrete tips from fellow journalists on how to harness the power of positive change,” explained Warren to participants.

At a time when papers are merging, staff are downsizing and news is digitizing, journalists and editors must learn to take these alterations in stride.  With the unconference, Warren created a forum for journalists throughout the state to share both their successes and failures in dealing with change, so that their peers could learn from them.

“When the York Daily Record merged with the York Sunday News a few years ago, there was an oversight and we forgot to tell one of the employees to come to the new office.  She went to work and no one was there,” shared James E. McClure, editor of the York Daily Record.  “That was one of our crash and burn moments.”

York Daily Record staff discussed their own experiences in journalism at the unconference.

McClure’s story led to a discussion on the importance of communication within a newsroom.  At times it can be difficult to engage with everyone in the office, but it is key to running a paper efficiently and effectively.

The importance of communication especially struck a chord with Warren, who plans to bring what she learned at the unconference back to Philly.com.

“It’s a reminder of what we need to be doing,” said Warren.  “We have communication, but we don’t have scheduled communication.  If you don’t have that it doesn’t count.”

Not everyone found the unorthodox style of the unconference quite this useful.

“It was not my favorite style of conference,” admitted Mark Lawrence, news director of WKOK.  “I rather just have an expert speak to me.  I did hear about three key points, but I wonder if I could’ve heard six if a qualified teacher had spoken the entire time.”

While a more traditional lecture might be able to provide more information, Elizabeth Regan, reporter for The Express, believes that an unconference allows participants to retain more of that information.

“When people interact they pay attention more and they are able to get more ideas from different walks of life,” says Regan.

One of those ideas that resonated throughout the unconference was brought forth by Liz Allen, editor of the Erie Times News.  Years ago restructuring at the paper forced Allen to accept a pay decrease and a new position.  Naturally, she was not happy with the change, but after complaining about it she received some valuable advice.

“I was told that I had three options,” said Allen.  “I could either look for a new job, mope around, or be the best new administrative editor they had every had.  That made me realize that I was in control of how I was going to go forward.”

These past struggles in the newsroom have taught journalists how to be resilient, a virtue that many still live by today.

“The revolution we are going through is tough,” admitted McClure.  “But it really is just another ripple.”

To hear more of the conversations from the unconference, consult the video clips below.


The Patriot-News discusses their leading coverage of the Sandusky scandal

By Hannah Sawyer

The PatriotNews knew an aggressive approach was needed if they were going to stay ahead of the national outlets on the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Mike Feeley, managing editor, highlighted his simple strategy at the Pennsylvania Press Conference in Gettysburg: “Break everything online as quickly as possible.”

“The first lesson we learned early and fast was that this was not a story in which online and newspaper were going to compete with each other,” he said. “Online and newspaper were going to complement each other.”

It worked. The Sandusky story created a national media firestorm, but it was the door-to-door approach of The Patriot-News’ reporting which made headlines in the  newspaper industry and won a Pulitzer prize.

Lead reporter Sara Ganim went from 50 Twitter followers before the story broke to 16,000 just days after. The work of Ganim and her team garnered numerous state and national awards and took top honors in two categories, General News Reporting and Enterprise Reporting, at the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors Awards.

According to Ganim, social media became an important tool for managing The Patriot-News’ reporting.

It was a tool for “getting information out,” Ganim said. But she cautioned that the basis for all their reports was still strong sourcing and research. “It was how we delivered the news, not how we took it in.”

And when national news outlets such as CBS were falsely reporting the death of Joe Paterno, Ganim said that she refused to Tweet the news because she couldn’t confirm it.

Representatives from The Patriot-News spoke to a packed room during a morning panel session.

The Patriot-News dedicated significant resources and man-power in order to maintain a high level of reporting during their continued coverage.

“It was non-stop,” Feeley said. “We worked seven days a week with no time off.”

The Pulitzer, Feeley said, is also a credit to the entire staff who filled in to cover beats, allowing Ganim to concentrate on finding new angles to the Sandusky charges and ensuing Penn State scandal.

Although The Patriot-News never landed any big interviews like Sandusky or Paterno, their local knowledge allowed them to capture intimate moments and portraits of the victims that the team felt gave a deeper meaning to their work.

“When I got there, I said, “wherever Paterno goes, I’m going to go,” Joe Hermitt, a photographer for The Patriot-News said.

And the night that Paterno was fired, Hermitt found himself outside of Joe Pa’s house standing in a crowd of Penn State students waiting for him to appear.

When he did, it was in pajama’s with his wife beside him.

“I’ve taken thousands of photos of Joe,” Hermitt said, “but the last one I ever took of him was that night on his front porch with his fist in the air chanting, “we are Penn State.”

It was, Hermitt said, “surreal.”

Mandy Jenkins: Reporting in an online world

By Hannah Sawyer

Online special projects editor at The Cincinnati Enquirer, social news editor for The Huffington Post, and most recently, digital projects manager for Digital First Media — Mandy Jenkins’ resume is not only a sign of the changing news market, but also a blueprint for how to navigate a career in digital media.

But her job descriptions have always been, admittedly, a bit vague.

Speaker Mandy Jenkins discusses ways to break into the world of online reporting using digital and social media.

So what, exactly, does Jenkins do?

“It mostly involves being online 24 hours a day,” Jenkins quipped during her speech at this year’s Pennsylvania Women’s Press Association luncheon, held during the Pennsylvania Society of Newspaper Editors annual conference.

In her current position current position at Digital First Media, DFM, her job description is two-fold.

She manages digital projects for DFM’s 200 affiliated papers, at some times working with just one publication on a project, and at others coordinating coverage across all of DFM’s outlets.

The other part of Jenkins job is instructional, working with those same journalists on site doing digital and social media training and helping them to learn to use tools which Jenkins feels are integral to the rebirth of the local news industry.

“With social media, anyone can reach a lot of people really easily,” Jenkins said. And for news outlets located in small communities, it offers a free platform to broaden their readership base.

But social media is more than just a platform for newspapers, Jenkins said. It has changed the definition of a journalist.

“There are all of these people we never would have thought of a journalists that are now involved in journalism,” Jenkins said of bloggers and other online media specialists.

During her speech, Jenkins pointed to several sites started by individuals, including westseattleblog.com and homicidewatch.org, which are examples of ultra-local news sources that have successfully been able to navigate the new digital media world.

Both sites are also start-ups run and written by women.

“I think it [digital media] has leveled the playing field, not just for women, but also for young journalists and non-traditional journalists,” Jenkins said.

Her advice to writers, especially women, looking to make a name for themselves in the digital market? Jump in and be flexible.

“Speak up,” Jenkins advised her audience. “Don’t quit.”

Facebook pictures not the only thing to worry about: The digital age and its effects on information

From right, Nancy March, Marta Gouger, Jason Potkin and Even Brandt discuss the effects of the digital age on journalism.

By Kaitlynn Maloney

Nancy March, editor of The Mercury in Pottstown, said that the immediate dissemination of information that Twitter, Facebook and newspaper websites demand has dramatically changed her newsroom.

“Seven days a week sounds like a vacation compared to the 24/7 that we’re used to now,” March said.

March, who led the “Doing It All” panel discussion at the Pennsylvania Press Conference, said that she truly realized the significance of digital media two days before arriving at the conference and speaking about the importance of balancing both digital and print news forms.

“I was at a panel with [Gov. Tom Corbett] in Norristown and some Philly [Digital First Media] editors. I came with a notebook and pen with questions that readers wanted to see addressed,” March said.  “Well, I looked to the right of me and there was a guy checking updates on his iPad and a guy to the right of me live tweeting from his laptop. I felt like we were missing out because we weren’t live tweeting.”

March said that these situations inspire debates about discovering a balance between updated technology and traditional news reporting methods.

“There is a lot of pressure to put things out on many platforms but there is also a great opportunity to get things from those platforms like blogs, Facebook, Twitter,” March said.

By temporarily dividing the responsibilities of digital coverage and print, March said that her staff later came together to publish a more effective story.

“You don’t have to do everything,” March said.  “At the end of the day our online editor took the best of everyone’s tweets and sent them to our readers. It’s my job to get a good interview, it’s not my job to live tweet.  I had the best engagement and concentration because I was concentrating on asking questions and responding.

“You can have tweets and video but you need one individual to have the ability to listen well and capture everything as a good reporter.”

Marta Gouger, a fellow panelist and managing online editor for the Pocono Record, said that Facebook has been useful for immediate communication with readers.

She cited the Aug. 23 earthquake that shook the region.

“I was getting ready to close for the day when I received an email from a reader that said, ‘What was that? Did you hear it? It sounded like a sonic boom?’ I hadn’t heard anything but another editor contacted me and told me that he felt it in his home.  So we made a post to Facebook asking readers if they had heard anything.

“Within minutes we had 30 responses and in an hour we had 190 comments.  I’ve never seen anything like it. We really can interact with people pretty quickly and it’s great for stories.”

Jason Potkin, another panelist and photojournalist for the York Daily Record,  said he’s gone from taking a couple of photos using film and getting a small amount of response to having a conversation using the new tools at his disposal.

“In the past year I’ve made more connections to the community than in the past 20 years,” he said.

But Potkin said the demand for immediacy often threatens quality, specifically in photography.

“I can’t think like that,” Potkin said, “I can’t lessen my quality for speed. People say, ‘I was there, here’s a photo,’ and I say, ‘No I was there, here’s a great photo but you have to wait five seconds.”

Potkin said that he wants “people to know that they don’t have to settle for less.”

“I understand that you want something fast but I can get you something better,” Potkin said.  “We’ll find a balance.  Just don’t abandon quality for speed. I refuse to give up on the belief that what I do has value and worth as every reporter should.”

March suggests posting a lesser quality photo online immediately so that readers know you’re at the scene, then taking the time to acquire better photos and post them later.

Evan Brandt, a fellow panelist and reporter for The Mercury in Pottstown, agreed.

“It’s the difference between what’s going on and what happened.  Go to a car crash, take a quick picture, put it up and say, ‘This is what’s going on, we’ll figure things out and then let you know what happened,” Brandt said.

Potkin said he understood but remained hesitant.

“I understand the quick clip, I’m not blind to it,” Potkin said.  “I just know that you should expect more from us [photographers],” he said.

As for young journalists entering this realm of ever changing digital journalism, March said that effectiveness as a reporter is based “less on the amount of followers you have on Twitter and more on your willingness to explore and embrace tools of storytelling.”

“You can’t be a modern journalist without Facebook and Twitter accounts,” she said. “[But when she’s] hiring reporters, I’m still hiring you as a story teller.”

Sara Ganim: Pulitzer Prize winner and inspiration to young journalists

Sara Ganim (right) participates in a panel discussion with fellow staff members during the Pennsylvania Press Conference.

By Kaitlynn Maloney

Within days Sara Ganim’s Twitter followers jumped from 50 to 16,000.   Named one of Newsweek’s 150 Fearless Women, Ganim won a 2012 Pulitzer Prize for her coverage of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case for The Patriot-News in Harrisburg. During a panel discussion at the Pennsylvania Press Conference Ganim, 24, said that she was appreciative of her role as an inspiration to young journalists.

Ganim jokingly reminisced, “I was a young journalist working for a 25,000 circulation paper, for five dollars an hour,” she said, “I’m happy to help people in those positions realize that what they are doing is important.”

As a former crime reporter for Penn State’s Daily Collegian, Ganim said that the methods of crime reporting are not very different from other types of reporting when it comes to dealing with people.

“It’s about knocking on doors, talking to people, getting the information and moving forward,” Ganim said.  “It’s about people, not crimes.  No crime is ever the same because the people are different.  It’s about writing stories, not technique,” she said.

As one of the youngest individuals to win a Pulitzer Prize, Ganim said the experience was “a little nerve racking.”

“There were great people in our category,” she said, “I was pretty convinced that I wasn’t going to get it.  It was overwhelming.”

But her aspiration does not end with the Pulitzer. Her ultimate career goal? “To get through the day,” she said laughingly.  More seriously, she adds that she  wants to continue to write stories that “benefit people.”

As for fellow aspiring young journalists, Ganim said her advice to young journalists is, “Start early.”

“Write often. Just start doing. Remember it’s not just a nine to five 9-TO-5 job and you’re not going to make money doing it,” Ganim said.  “But find something your passionate about and write about it because it’s worth doing.”

Audrey Snyder: Unmatched work ethic and a passion for sports

Audrey poses after winning the 2012 Ralph Flamminio Memorial Scholarship.

By Kaitlynn Maloney

A humble but unequivocal Audrey Snyder described her work ethic as “tireless.” This work ethic is what made Snyder the 2012 recipient of the Ralph Flamminio Memorial Scholarship during the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors News Excellence Awards and Ralph Flamminio Memorial Scholarship dinner.

While taking 24 credits as a senior at Penn State University this year, Snyder still managed to provide sports articles for The Pittsburgh Tribune Review, USA Today and MLB.com.

“There were times when I would be fielding phone calls for interviews during classes,” Snyder said.  “It got to the point where my professors were asking, ‘What are you doing?’  I would just say, ‘I’m sorry, but I have to take this call,’” she said.

According to The Associated Press Managing Editors’ website, former Allentown Morning Call and Coatesville Record editor, Ralph Flamminio, was “known for building a spirit of cooperation,” and believed that he could “strengthen the network of newspapers and enrich its content by making stories more relevant to readers,” (http://www.apme.com/news/37779/General-News-2012-Ralph-Flamminio-Memorial-Scholarship.htm).

Audrey Snyder did just that when she traveled to South Africa in search of a story that she said, “fell through, bottomed up.”  Instead, Snyder took on a new story that was more relevant to her interests.

“I ended up in what I later found out was one of the most unsafe townships in South Africa,” Snyder said, “I wrote a story about how the NBA is trying to get involved in South Africa,” she said.

While there, Snyder said that she conversed with a man, her age, who helped her establish her standards for the journalistic craft.

“He said to me, ‘Don’t forget us when you write your story,’” Snyder said.  “That’s why you should want to do this,” she said, “For the people.”  Snyder then jokingly added that the Cape Town beaches weren’t bad either.

Having worked for widely recognized media sources, Snyder said that her work experience has been “critical.”

“I pretty much started at the top,” Snyder said, “Which is scary.  Everything has been deadline, deadline, deadline,” she said.

One story that Snyder considers a once in a lifetime opportunity is her coverage of the Penn State Jerry Sandusky trials.

“I will probably never cover a story like that again,” Snyder said.  “And to be able to report it for a national news source is critical,” Snyder said.

Though her journalistic effectualness is undeniable, it wasn’t until high school that Snyder realized she wanted to be a sports writer.

“I was always consumed by sports,” Snyder said.  “I was the kid who always knew more about sports than most of the guys.  But I never thought of it as a career.  Then one day in tenth or eleventh grade I thought, ‘why can’t I do this for a living?’” she said.

Snyder than attended broadcasting camps throughout high school and enrolled in Penn State’s sports journalism program, a program that she will work in collaboration with in addition to the Unites States Olympic committee this July. Along with five other students, Snyder will be traveling to London to report daily on the Olympics.

Though her resume contains pages of accomplishments that surpass that of the average college graduate, Synder’s goals for her career as a sports writer remain simple.

“I just want to write about sports and be happy doing it,” Snyder said.  “Whether its features or whatever it is I have to do, I want to write about sports and I want to write about people,” she said.