Q&A with Laurie Beth Harris of the American Press Institute

Laurie Beth Harris is editorial coordinator at the American Press Institute in Arlington, Virginia. Among her duties there is to write and edit the Need To Know email newsletter. In this interview, conducted by email, Harris discusses her role at API and how she puts together the newsletter.

Q. Describe your job. What is your typical day like?

A. As editorial coordinator, my job is to manage the editorial direction of API and our website. The biggest part of my job is curating and writing API’s morning newsletter Need to Know, so I’m also always staying up to date on what’s going on in the media industry. Working on Need to Know, it sometimes it feels like I get paid to read the Internet, which is the dream job for a lot of people.

The production of Need to Know frames the schedule of my workdays. I start my day by working from home to write Need to Know and send it out to subscribers, and I come into the office later in the morning. I spend the afternoon at the office keeping tabs on what people are talking about on Twitter and what stories are being published.

In between that, I’m working on the other projects, such as writing and editing posts for our Good Questions series, social media outreach and supporting the research API does, such as our fact-checking journalism project and in-depth reports.

Q. How do you go about putting together Need to Know?

A. I read a lot. We have some great RSS feeds of media blogs and news sources, as well a Twitter list of people in media and journalism. My go-to sources include Nieman Lab’s What We’re Reading feed and Mediagazer, which aggregates the day’s trending news stories.

I read a lot more articles than what ends up in NTK each day, and a big value of the newsletter is that we do the work for you and tell you what’s of importance so that you can get back to doing your job, hopefully armed with information that helps you do it better. Some of my favorite newsletters have been days where big, breaking news happened, such as the release of Columbia Journalism School’s review of the Rolling Stone article or Vox Media’s acquisition of Re/code, and I sorted through the noise to make sense of what was going on for our readers.

While I’m in the office during the day, I’m reading Twitter and scanning our RSS feeds in between meetings and other projects to get a feel for what news is happening and what people are talking about. I collect links by dropping them into a Google doc, sometimes with notes about the most interesting part of the story or something related that we’ve written about before.

In the evenings, I take a few minutes to sift through what I’ve collected, read through anything I didn’t get to and make a rough outline for what will go where in the newsletter. Need to Know is organized by each story’s utility to the reader, rather than by topic, which is a big part of what makes Need to Know unique and more useful to readers.

I wake up around 5:30 a.m. and immediately start writing that morning’s newsletter from home. I start my mornings by catching up on what news happened overnight that might need to go in the newsletter and revising my outline of the newsletter with those links. By 6:30 a.m., I’m writing the headlines and blurbs for the main stories in each section, working my way back around to the supplementary links in each section and finishing with writing Off the Top, our take on the big story of the day. Around 7:45 a.m., we’ve started editing the final version of the newsletter, and Need to Know shows up in subscribers’ inboxes by 8:30 a.m.

Q. Before coming to API, you were a copy editor at Southern Living magazine. How was that job similar to the one you have now, and what are some differences?

A. My job at API and at Southern Living are radically different in a lot of ways.

At Southern Living, I was “in the trenches” of the day-to-day production of a monthly magazine. At API, I’m more of an onlooker to the industry, recognizing what’s being done well in journalism and identifying ways we can do better. In some ways, working at API feels like being back in journalism school, because we have the time to think about new ways to do journalism better and watch what other people are doing in a way that can be hard to do when you’re caught up in production cycles.

The biggest similarity between my job at API and being a copy editor at Southern Living is that I’m still utilizing my editing skills, but I’m now using them to edit my own writing, not just someone else’s.

Q. You are a 2014 graduate of the journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill. What skills that you learned there are you using today, and what are some new ones you have picked up since graduation?

A. Like I said, working at API is a lot like being back in journalism school — we’re thinking about the lot of the same ideas my journalism classes were talking about when I was in school.

I’m most thankful for classes where we discussed the state of news industry and what we could do better, because those classes were what really prepared me for my job now, as well as giving me a lens through which to think about what a traditional news organization like Southern Living could do better. I’m also thankful for News Writing every morning as I write the newsletter — it taught me to write concisely, cleanly and pretty fast!

As far what I’ve learned since graduation, networking is so important. As a new graduate, I felt like the media industry was huge, but it’s really not. Everyone knows each other. Maintaining those relationships with your professors, internship supervisors and classmates can lead to great opportunities.

Follow Laurie Beth Harris on Twitter, and subscribe to the Need To Know newsletter.


Q&A with Kevin Davis, editor of Bull City Rising

Kevin Davis is editor of Bull City Rising, a news blog that covers Durham, N.C., which is also known as the Bull City. Davis, a former writer and editor and technology columnist for The Harvard Crimson, works as a university administrator and lives in the Trinity Park neighborhood of Durham. In this interview, conducted by e-mail, Davis talks about writing and editing at the blog, and about the media landscape in the Triangle region of North Carolina.

Q. What is the job of editor like at Bull City Rising?

A. As with many “hyperlocal” sites and publications, I’m the owner (via Bull City New Media LLC), main writer and editor of other readers’ submission — plus interlocutor between two outsourced ad placement companies and sponsors, plus the first-line of troubleshooting if the site doesn’t work. And I have to remember to renew the PO Box once a year, too, and to get those LLC annual reports filed.

Tongue out of cheek, this is nothing new for folks at many community news  sites — or for any startup small business. In my case, BCR’s a quasi-hobby, quasi-commercial enterprise I pursue in my spare time outside of a full-time job as a university administrator. BCR takes up the mornings, evenings and many weekends.

Of late, I’ve been doing more editing of others, with three correspondents/freelancers on board or getting started; one covers general news, politics, neighborhood issues and other items of interest; a second is focused on entrepreneurship and startups, a big area of interest in Durham right now; and a third is just now starting and will focus on K-12 education.

On a typical morning, I’ll wake up and peruse the local papers and a Durham-centric RSS feed I’ve built over the years to look for stories worth aggregating into the “fishwrap,” a list of links to key news stories of the day. I’ll typically then write or finish editing one or two other stories that get set for scheduled/timed posting during the day. Evenings are for writing or, in some cases, attending public meetings to get the news for  the next day.

Apart from writing, much of my time is spent playing traffic-cop for local stories coming in from readers, PR professionals, municipal PIOs and the like. I would love to see a study comparing the number of former News & Observer and other pro-jo’s in full-time PR to the number of actual professional  journalists left in newsrooms; based on the well-crafted, attractive prose arriving in my inbox each day that isn’t in my newspaper, I’m afraid we’ve gotten the balance wrong, though few of our newly minted PR pros chose those careers voluntarily.

My biggest weakness is time, especially when demands in the real work or,  of late, with an aging parent have squeezed out what time usually goes to the site.

Q. How does story editing, caption writing and headline writing work at the blog?

A. Bloggers have the freedom to ignore the column inch; a post can run 300 words or 3,000 words depending on the inclination of the writer and the subject matter. I’ve found my readership will stick with longer, more analytical posts with significant original research, but that the temptation to be sloppy and over-wordy for stories that don’t deserve that treatment is too easy.

Certainly the quality of my site suffers from the lack of an independent, separate editor — particularly for my own stories, which unlike those of my freelancers and correspondents don’t get an independent set of reviewer eyes. And frankly, as with anyone else in the business of reporting events, news and views,  timetables and deadlines can lead to mistakes. If I’m pressed on time and run with a story without taking the time to double-check core assumptions, data and links, I’ll almost invariably screw something up.

There’s not an easy answer to that, though. Some of the latest research I’ve read on hyperlocal media throws shadows on the concept of the  university- or NFP-trained community newsroom, with dozens of volunteers providing reportage and a few professionals editing and culling in the middle. The challenge being reported in those startups is that all the journalism training in the world is great, but “citizen journalists” (a term I have issues with) in that model aren’t highly committed and tend to wander away or quit or burn out quickly. It takes a mix of passion, love for the subject matter and OCD to stick with a hyperlocal site, and that comes when you’re invested as the publisher too often.

Hyperlocal/citizen media or what have you shouldn’t replace professional, paid journalism. In communities where it does so only accidentally, and hopefully temporarily, we need to find a way to make those ventures sustainable, with enough extra eyes to provide that independent editing hand, for instance, or a true editorial-advertising firewall.

Headline writing is much more fun in blogs than in my collegiate newspaper days. The temptation for overwrought headlines is always there, though for  sites like mine that send headlines to Twitter, that service’s 140-character limit — less room for bit.ly links to the story, less room for “RT @bullcity” messages you  hope others will prepend — make for tighter text. On the other hand, the ability to write excerpts from posts that appear in RSS feeds and via Facebook gives the opportunity for a little  more flexibility and creativity, especially in trying to encourage deeper reading.

Q. You’re on Twitter and Facebook. How important is social media to what you do?

A. Ironically, I use Twitter and Facebook intensively more because readers seem to expect it and because different readers come in through different channels — regular visitors, RSS subscribers, Twitter, Facebook, search and links. Personally, despite being on the cusp between GenX and the millennials, I don’t feel like a digital-native when it comes to social media, but I am astounded at the power of those platforms to magnify and augment a story’s reach.

Not that I consider them to be a replacement for longer-form work, of course. And I do think we sometimes conflate their use as a source for vox-populi reactions to stories and raw information with the informed lens that journalistic writing should bring to a story. For me, I find them to be very important as a broadcast tool, but less useful as a sourcing tool.

In  fact, as a hyperlocalist, one challenge is that social media tends to connect people in lots of different organizing mechanisms, but place isn’t always one of them. Neighborhood e-mail listservs and message boards are still much better story sources than Facebook.

Q. The Triangle has a lot of media options — print, online and  broadcast. Where do Bull City Rising and similar blogs fit into that? And what changes do you anticipate?

At present, I see BCR as an outlet for stories that print outlets don’t cover or don’t see first. Print journalists are fewer in number, and I tend to suspect that spreading the same corpus of work over fewer reporters is deepening the bias toward press-release and public meeting-driven stories over enterprise journalism. There are exceptions, like the N&O’s fine investigative  work, but I tend to find that newspapers don’t seem to be able to sell more analytical, entrepreneurial work to their readers or  their publishers.

Not  that my site’s work always, or even often, reaches that mark, though I think there’s been times it has. But it’s a similar dynamic to that in place at the Indy: By being able to target certain key stories or areas of coverage for deeper work while  taking an aggregator strategy to commodity news, my ultimate goal over time is to help deepen the discourse on issues that really matter for Durham’s future.

Take crime news. I don’t publish stories on who’s been shot or horrible, yet easily sensationalized, events like a father’s murder of his child in rural northern Durham County a couple of weeks ago. Those stories are well-covered by print and broadcast, sometimes to the exclusion of other stories.

But I do want to look at issues of root-cause of crime, such as some of the papers coming out of Duke’s Urban Economics course each year, or at the lens of multi-year crime trends. At the end of the day, the latter kinds of stories help citizens be more informed about what we as a community need to be doing to improve public safety or to understand the reality of Durham crime versus regional stereotypes.

I think new media entrants like BCR will play a larger role in community newsgathering as traditional media channels face deeper economic pressures. That’s not to say BCR in its current, blog-esque, editorial voice-forward design would necessarily absorb a larger role per se — or, heaven forbid, that we see part-time citizen writers trying to supplant professional, paid journalism. Instead, I think websites can provide a much more sustainable model and channel for supporting full-time, paid newsgathering “without fear or favor,” as the saying goes, than can modes that have high fixed overhead costs.

Among hyperlocals, the entry of Patch into markets is quite interesting, especially since most sites like mine are immature in their advertising take currently. Patch is focused on the sub-75k population cities and is reported to bring in at least as many ad sales staff in a market as they do journalists. It’s a smart strategy: become a local hero to small communities by providing a dedicated journalist to your town, while building a regional sales staff that can (in my guess) eventually let you swoop into the major metro cores with a prebuilt metro market engine that can sell ads and hire local journalists.

But as the question has gone with university and non-profit citizen journalist efforts: Is the passion there for this to work?

The headline verbs that we hate

Some words exist primarily in the world of newspaper headlines. I was thinking about this problem this week as students in my editing classes have begun writing headlines.

Many of the students are writing compelling headlines that communicate the news and lure readers into a story. A few of them are writing headlines that sound like headlines they may have read in their hometown newspapers — and not in a good way.

These “headline-ese” headlines use verbs that no normal person would utter in conversation, and they are often overused. It’s hard to imagine readers understanding or being attracted by these verbs. Confusion is a more likely reaction.

I started thinking about the headline verbs that I find particularly annoying. I also asked friends on Facebook and my Twitter followers. Here’s our list of those verbs that bug us:

  • Mull
  • Eye
  • Ax
  • Irk
  • Ink (as in “to sign”)
  • Rap (as in “to criticize”)
  • Bilk
  • Vie
  • Slate (as in “to schedule”)
  • Tout
  • Toot
  • Laud
  • Finger
  • Fete
  • Tap (as in “to select” or “to appoint”)
  • Pelt
  • Probe
  • Offer (on restaurant reviews)
  • Shine (about Scouts or students)
  • Nab
  • Opines
  • Quiz
  • Limn
  • Any HuffPo verbs: Eviscerate, destroy, hammer, maul, disembowel, go nuclear, skull#$*@

Thanks to @underoak, @laurenhough, @wisekaren, @lukemorris, @montyhobbs on Twitter and a host of others on Facebook for their contributions.

Q&A with Stephanie Yera, communications associate at the NYT

Stephanie Yera is a communications associate at The New York Times Company. Yera is a 2009 graduate of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UNC-Chapel Hill. She previously worked as an intern and corporate communications assistant at Dow Jones and Company. In this interview, conducted by e-mail, Yera talks about her job duties and journalism education.

Q. Describe your job. What does a communications associate do at The New York Times Company?

A. Every day begins by reading The Times in print and online to see what stories are on deck and which ones are “most viewed” and “most e-mailed” online. Pinning down our most popular news stories determines what newspaper content I’m going to actively pitch to TV and radio producers in an effort to secure interviews for our reporters to discuss their stories on air.

Even without pitching, we get numerous invitations daily from producers for our reporters to appear on their programs, so coordinating interviews is my primary responsibility.

It’s important to be familiar with the paper, its reporters and their beats, because if one reporter on a particular story is unavailable for interviews, I need to try to find another reporter to jump in. If I know The Times is working on an investigative piece or is preparing to break a big story, part of my job is to do advance outreach to producers to reserve air time for reporter interviews and make sure The Times gets credit for the news scoop.

My job also includes copy editing all external communications, writing company press releases and posting to the company’s Twitter feed. In the fall, I’ll be posting to Twitter live from TimesTalks events, part of an ongoing series of celebrity guests interviewed by Times reporters, which I’m especially excited about doing.

Q. You were a student in the news-editorial sequence at UNC-Chapel Hill. How did the skills you learned there help you in your job? What wasn’t taught that should have been?

A. Coming into The Times already knowing how a newsroom works and what kinds of stories make for high interest really helped me find my footing quickly. Because I’m speaking with producers and reporters constantly, I hear industry jargon all the time, and I’m able to keep up despite not having previously worked in a newsroom thanks to my time in the j-school.

The skills I learned in news editing helped me carve out a bigger role for myself in the office because I’m now trusted to copy edit and review corporate communications before they leave our department and to take such precautions as proofreading my Tweet before posting. Volunteering to edit internal communications is how I eventually got to do more writing.

I’m still not a master of the press release, but what helps me write one is the inverted pyramid, the concept I learned my first day in the j-school and which is now second nature when it comes to writing most corporate communications.

News reporting really pushed me outside of my comfort zone, but it was a necessary challenge that taught me a lot about taking initiative, networking and being confident in my writing. Networking isn’t something I’m naturally inclined to do, but putting myself out there as a journalist and getting interviews from sources gave me the nudge I needed to be more comfortable with it and, eventually, come to enjoy it.

I would like to see a j-school class devoted entirely to digital journalism that included lessons in basic HTML, Web design, blogging with video and audio, putting your resume online and attracting people to your Web site, Twitter feed, Facebook, etc. Something I wish had been more ingrained in me is the important habit of keeping up with the latest media industry news. Being up to speed on the gadgets, apps, tech startups and media journalists of the moment is critical if you want to stand out and be ahead of the curve of new media.

Q. You were an intern for the American Copy Editors Society. How did that experience help you in the job you have now?

A. As an intern, I was responsible for setting up interviews with copy editing professionals to discuss their jobs and editing expertise and for interviewing and following up with them without an intermediary, which were experiences that directly relate to what I do now.

For some people, picking up the phone and calling someone they’ve never met is easy, but for me, it took some getting used to, especially because I was nervous I hadn’t prepared the right questions to get enough meat for the stories I’d be writing for the ACES newsletter. Every time, though, I ended up having more than enough to write about, and I hesitated less and less before picking up the phone and conducting my next interview.

The majority of my day is now spent negotiating interviews, cold calling and e-mailing producers and “meeting” reporters on a call or via BlackBerry.

Having ACES on my resume also earned me some credibility with my colleagues when I first started at The Times. They let me have a go at copy editing internal memos and departmental e-mails when I started volunteering myself for the task. After a couple of months, I was asked to assist the company’s speechwriter in editing executive speeches and to copy edit press releases, and now I help write them, as well.

Q. Many college students would love to land an internship or first job like yours. What recommendations do you have for them?

A. Big opportunities can come from unexpected places, so tell people about your ambitions and get to know classmates and professors in and outside of the j-school. The interview for my public relations summer internship with The Wall Street Journal came through a professor in UNC’s peace, war and defense department — an unlikely source who knew I was looking for an opportunity in media. Without that internship, I wouldn’t have met the person who would hire me a year later to work at The Times.

Getting to know your professors can not only lead to job recommendations, but can also be a gateway to important introductions and meaningful support systems. Maintaining relationships with Carolina alumni is also an important step in preserving resources of encouragement and possible job connections. I only really took advantage of University Career Services in my senior year, and that’s something I should have done much sooner. Through UCS, you can find jobs posted by alumni or by organizations where alumni are already employed and find employers looking for Carolina grads.

Skills that will serve you in digital journalism should be kept sharp and up to date, but not at the expense of traditional know-how. I once got a job without an interview because I was the only candidate to not include a spelling or grammar error with my application.

If you haven’t yet had luck in securing a paid job in journalism, seek out volunteer or freelance opportunities to keep you in the game. Even if they don’t pay, they’ll add important value to your resume.

Q&A with Joy Victory, editorial czar at WordPress

Joy Victory is “editorial czar” at WordPress. She previously worked as an editor at About.com, and prior to that she worked at ABCNEWS.com, and several newspapers, including the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and The Journal-News in White Plains, N.Y. In this interview, conducted by e-mail, Victory talks about her job, social media and journalism education.

Q. Describe your job. What does an “editorial czar” do on a typical day?

A. My job is half editorial and half project management — but it’s a weird, evolving style of editorial work that has to keep pace with the rapidly changing Internet environment. (Although I have a journalism degree and the word “editor” appears in my job title, I long ago stopped thinking of myself as a journalist.) Each morning I update the WordPress homepage with the best “Freshly Pressed” selections. I then start working with my team, which focuses on the new user experience, as well as some other big projects for WordPress.

For example, we recently launched http://learn.wordpress.com. If you look at that site, you’ll see it’s not at all journalism, but a how-to tutorial that we’ve tried to spiff up and make more exciting than your average tutorial. Good writing and good editing are still required, of course, but it’s its own genre of publishing.

I think it’s important to note that Automattic (yes, with two “t’s”), the company that owns WordPress.com, is entirely distributed — everyone works at home. I haven’t worked in an office since 2007. So we do all this creation entirely over the Internet, which I still find amazing. Even “phone” discussions take place over iChat or Skype.

Q. You mentioned on Twitter recently that you work closely with developers. What is that like?

A. It means that I have input from the beginning, which is so important. I see the process unfold and can give input at any time. But it’s definitely a learning process for me: Developers are really smart cookies and speak their own unique jargon that can be mystifying. They’re almost always men, too, so long gone are the days when I worked at About.com with approximately 15 female editors and a few male editors.

But I’m often in awe of what they do. The developers involved with WordPress have helped enable millions of people to publish. Journalists are largely ignorant of the complicated work that it requires to create a site and then to keep it running smoothly. You need to know who is behind the curtain and at least be vaguely aware of what they do. Better yet, work with them directly to create new products.

If it’s not already obvious, part of the reason I left traditional media is that I was really frustrated at how my fellow journalists almost seemed to despise the Internet, while I’m basically in love with it. Now, at Automattic, I finally feel like I’m working for a nimble, smart, fun company that also loves the Internet.

Q. WordPress recently added a Twitter button that lets readers easily Tweet blog posts that they like. What do you see as the relationship between blogging and social media?

A. We’ve discussed this a lot internally and even brainstormed a few analogies. People predicted blogging services would die with the rise of Facebook. But that hasn’t happened because they’re not similar services. WordPress.com is Web publishing, not social networking. What is created on WordPress is shared via social networking.

There’s definitely a movement afoot to make it more of a blended process or at least a more seamless process. But at the end of the day, WordPress is about full-on publishing and content management. As an example, check out what runs on WordPress: http://wordpress.org/showcase/wsj-magazine/. You can’t do that sort of production via social networking.

Q. You have a degree in journalism from New Mexico State University. What in your education helped you in your job, and what should journalism schools being doing to help students prepare for jobs like yours?

A. My degree helped me in that it was very internship-oriented. My internships really taught me so much and made me a good copy editor, which is a skill that comes in handy in many ways.

I also worked at the student newspaper, where I learned to paginate, which is basically an irrelevant skill to me now, but helped me understand some fairly complicated software programs and become comfortable computing all day. Reporting always came easy for me, but definitely taking classes about reporting and writing help sharpen your skills. I endorse taking creative writing/fiction classes to stretch your brain as well.

I have a sense that many professors are struggling to teach the current job skills. NMSU was always good about bringing in talented adjunct professors who maybe didn’t have a master’s degree but were actually out there working on a day-to-day basis. So, in this day and age, j-schools need to make sure they’re bringing in people like me to teach students.

Of course, you still need to know the basics of good writing, reporting, editing and production, but go after internships that are Internet-based. And keep a very professional Web presence — everything you say or do online can be tracked down. Maintain a blog, if not a full website.

Read technology news to see where the trends are going. I don’t really think a j-student needs to know programing language, but it doesn’t hurt to take a few computing classes to get a sense of how things work. Get to know computer engineering students, especially those interested in online publishing.

UPDATE: In late 2010, Victory took a job as a senior editor at About.com.

Guest post: 10 tips on getting a job in journalism

Jessica Stringer recently graduated from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UNC-Chapel Hill. While at UNC, she worked as an assistant city editor for The Daily Tar Heel and the editorial director for Rival magazine. She has also blogged at Her Campus. Despite her dedication to the Tar Heel basketball team, Stringer has returned home to the Washington, D.C., area to job hunt and begin her career in journalism.

A few Saturdays ago, I woke up early, took the Metro and attended the National Press Club’s 2nd Annual Journalism Boot Camp. The theme of the day was “surviving and thriving in a changing industry.” After sitting through panels and small classes, I walked away inspired and armed with plenty of insight. Here are the 10 most important things I learned at the conference:

1. Have an online presence.

The first group of panelists suggested that employers are using Google to find out more about potential employees and their social media skills. They are checking not only if you use Twitter, but also who you follow and what kinds of topics you are posting about. Recently, in an interview with someone at NPR, my friend was asked “Are you on Facebook and Twitter?” before she was even questioned about her reporting skills.

2. Buy and own your own domain.

Everyone at the conference emphasized just how important it was to have your own website. Call it “johnsmith.com” or “jsmith-journalist.com” but make sure it has your name in the address. Even if you don’t use the domain right away, register for your namesake before some reality star or a teenage hacker with a similar name does.

3. Use that domain to build a portfolio.

Once you’ve got a domain, you should start simple and use it to show off your work. Don’t try to put every single piece you’ve ever written or designed on the site — this is the place for your best work. Mark Young, the former website editor for Media General’s Washington Bureau, recommended WordPress and Weebly for building a portfolio.

4. Need to learn new software or a skill fast? Try Lynda.

I think I was the only person in the room who did not nod my head in agreement when one of the panelists mentioned Lynda. I had to slyly search for “Lynda” on my BlackBerry under the table and discovered it is a website with online tutorials for learning software. I was impressed that I could learn Flash, Dreamweaver and Final Cut Pro all without leaving my room.

5. Blog!

You should start a blog now even if you only use it in the short term. Panelists said blogs were a great way for employers to hear your distinct voice, so remember to include a link to your blogs on your website. Give yourself a project or narrow focus like summer movies, your eBay finds or your preparation for your first marathon, and it will be easier to stay motivated.

6. The platform is less important than the work you do.

Beth Frerking, assistant managing editor at Politico, said good writing stands out above all else. It is OK if you write on your own personal blog or for a community newspaper and not The New York Times. Despite the changes in the industry, the values of reporting have not changed, and both deep reporting and thoughtful analysis are important.

7. Practice your freelancing skills.

Andrea Stone, senior Washington correspondent at AOL, predicts that many people are going to have to turn to freelancing to sustain their careers. Stone says that AOL is also looking for writers who have access or have extensive Rolodexes of sources. Stay in touch with your sources if possible and learn how to pitch to different publications.

8. Watch the ones who are doing local journalism well.

What publications will be around in the next decade? The Bay Citizen, Honolulu Civil Beat, Oakland Local and Windy Citizen were just a few examples of local journalism that the panelists thought were doing great work. Andrea Stone at AOL also promoted Patch, an AOL-owned hyper-local platform, that is hiring local editors. I’m partial to The Carrboro Commons, a news site run by Jock Lauterer and his Community Journalism class at UNC-Chapel Hill (along with help from Andy Bechtel’s Advanced Editing course).

9. Mobile news is the future.

During the last decade, newspapers and magazines acquired separate online staffs that use search engine optimization for headlines and were no longer limited in story length. With the growing number of iPhones and BlackBerrys, the future is mobile news. Applications that allow users to receive personalized news are becoming more popular as an increasing number of people rely on their phones.

10. Be positive.

The conference ended on a positive note for the future of journalism. Ultimately, there will always be a need for good writing and well-edited stories. Do whatever it takes to get (and keep) your foot in the door. Network, eat lunch with colleagues and mentors (even if you are not actively job searching) and increase traffic on your blog.

If you have a trip to D.C. planned for this summer, take a look at the National Press Club’s calendar, because there’s probably a worthwhile event planned. I had a great time mixing with seasoned journalists and listening to their career advice.

Now I just have to decide whether it is worth it for an aspiring journalist like me to be become a member of the NPC. I’d appreciate any advice left below in the comments.

A week without Facebook

I started teaching at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2005, and on the first day of class that fall, I asked the students about their favorite news sources. Several mentioned The New York Times (online, not in print), ESPN and The Daily Tar Heel.

One told me emphatically: “Facebook.” I responded that I had read about Facebook, but I wasn’t on it yet. The student’s response: “Mr. Bechtel, you have to be on Facebook!”

Of course, I am now, along with more than 400 million other users. And yes, it is one of my news sources. I use Facebook not only to keep up with what my friends are doing, but also to see what they are sharing there, especially news stories that they have seen that I have overlooked.

I recently took a Facebook hiatus. Annoyed by news about Facebook’s slippery policy on privacy and by the hacking of my account by spammers, I decided to take a break. I’d had enough.

Being away from Facebook was more difficult than I expected. I missed my friends, both old and new. I missed knowing what they were talking about. I admit that I cheated on my pledge once, to look up an e-mail address for a former student to let her know about a job opportunity.

During my week away, I realized that leaving Facebook would not improve my privacy online. Let’s face it: There is no privacy online.

For example, the content of my Gmail account is regularly mined so Google can offer advertising related to what my friends and I are talking about:

  • Discussion of a recent canoe trip led to ads for kayaks.
  • A friend and I had a jokey exchange about Grecian Formula, and now Gmail wants to sell me hair dye.

That’s because Google is a company interested in making money. And Facebook is not a public good; it’s a business.

I’m back on Facebook and will keep using Gmail. I like Twitter too. They’re all convenient and free.

I’ll also do what I can on Facebook (and elsewhere online) to guard my privacy. I urge you to do the same — stay connected, but stay cautious.