ONA wrapup: been a long time comin’

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ETA: I also basked in some Washington and Lee awesomeness at this conference (me, Professor Artwick, my ONA roomie/fellow W&L alum Nicole.

This year, ONA set before me a banquet of food for thought (and for doing too).

Keynote with Lisa Stone, the started out bright and early–we missed some of it because we ran to get breakfast at the Starbucks down the street (of course, there would be a huge line at the one inside the hotel lobby), but the one thing I took away from that was how to be a better blogger: write what you know/like, become an expert in it and share it with other people. You’re there to build community (which makes sense, because if no one’s reading it then what’s the point?).

Then I went to a session on livestreaming video (very timely to know after my recent stint at a TV station) by Joe Ruiz. Main lesson: there are SO many ways to stream live video, as easy as from your mobile phone. Check out Qik, Kyte, Livestream.com, and Ustream.tv. This is something definitely worth picking up on. Case in point–Joe shared a time when his station was covering a fire at an apartment complex. They sent the reporter and the photog out there. Photog got the HD, high quality video, and the reporter also got video with his iPhone. The high quality video went on the 5pm newscast, and the iPhone video went on their site at 3pm when the story broke (a good 2 hours before other stations in his market got video of the news event up).

And where the hell are all the other TV people? There were like 3 people from TV, but you all have news online also. Online news isn’t just for print-based outlets! You need to know these things too.

Then I went to a session on SEO, or search engine optimization. Since all our content is online, SEO is something everyone has to think about. At this session, the main things I learned were SEO basics–changing up your news pages show up higher in search engine rankings:

  • include keywords in the article titles
  • full first and last names (or last name)
  • stay away from abbreviations and alternate spellings
  • include proper names
  • include locations
  • if the story has video, stick “WATCH” in the headline

Oh, and the guy who invented Google News was also there. 🙂

Next, I went to a session on design and data visualization, which are two things I love to see done well by news sites. At this panel, one of the designers from Facebook spoke about invoking emotions through graphics, namely joy. My favorite part of the panel was when someone from Adaptive Path, a user experience firm that worked on the redesign for CNN.com and NPR.org., took the floor. My roommate Nicole tweeted that she noticed that a majority of the journalists in the room ceased typing on their MacBooks to simply listen to this guy speak. I agree.

He spoke about how news consumption patterns vary. Some people want to know the news. Others want to apply it. Still others want to share the news and others consume news because they have an emotional attachment to it.

This is where news sites come in–they need to make sure they’re serving the different avenues people consume news. Not “this is the news, this is how we’re presenting it and here’s why you should care,” but “oh, you love politics? there’s an app for that!” Another thing that stood out to me was that the homepage gets all the attention, but really, every page is the homepage. People will access your stories not just through the homepage, but through search engines, links, Twitter, etc. so every page needs to be created with the same care as the homepage. Our headlines should also tempt people to want to read the story, not tease them and make them wonder what the story is actually about.

But what really got me was that news sites should be more than a publication, but an application for users to explore and make sense of their world. Interactivity only works when someone actually learns something new!

The last session I went to was one on more cool new tools for journalists, and my favorite one was Swivel, where you can make your own interactive graphics (data visualization at it easiest) without being a Flash developer. SO FREAKING COOL! Ahhh, I wish I had a news outlet to use this on.

The awards banquet that night was interesting also. Congratulations to all the winners, but really, all the nominees were spectacular. Apparently, Nicole and I sat at the Norwegian table (though we were there first) with Norwegians, who proceeded to talk to us about the weird stuff they’ve encountered in their travels in America (such as pentecostal church services) and talk in Norwegian amongst themselves about God knows what. Then there’s me, who foolishly brought up how much I loved studying abroad in Copenhagen and that I could say random words in Danish while forgetting the healthy rivalry between the two countries (Norway is a former colony of Denmark). One was incredibly handsome, but what do you expect from the same part of Europe that gave you Alexander Skarsgård?

Overall, this year’s ONA was groundbreaking. It was better the second time around also (last year, when I went I learned so much). Going there made me wish I took the job at KATU so I could share and apply what I learned on their site (and make it kick the asses of the other TV news sites in the market). But I’m confident I’ll be able to use all this knowledge soon–the right one always works out.

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We gon’ run this town

It is finished! I had a good last night at my internship. It was anti-climactic and calm, almost like the internship knew that it had run it’s course.

I just got home and I am so exhausted, but because I love lists (not exhaustive because it’s 1 a.m. and I’m sleepy), here we go.

Things I will not miss:

  • the hours (working nightside meant I never saw anyone except the cool kids that work nightside too but even that gets boring after a while)
  • listening to scanners on the assignment desk (serious business and I have great respect for assignment editors now)
  • being the youngest person there and being made fun of for it (“I was at my third station when you were 12 years old.”)
  • people forgetting my name
  • the work (it was fun for a while but got a little routine)
  • awkwardness (um, yeah a lot of that)
  • Ignite training (though it made me more comfortable on camera)
  • getting ignored
  • the site’s CMS (it literally had problems everyday)
  • making obscure pop culture references that no one else gets because they’re too old
  • *** But by far the worst: when one of the sat truck operators literally STEPPED ON ME

Things I will miss:

  • the best people who are clearly on the web desk
  • eavesdropping
  • going out in the field on shoots
  • being in the newsroom and just observing the dynamic between everyone (this is serious sitcom fodder, along with all the crazy stuff I overheard)
  • the rush of working on breaking news
  • the many types of characters I encountered
  • having an excuse to dress cute and professional
  • getting paid (yay, Oregon’s minimum wage is $8.40, better than the national average of $7.25 and Georgia’s $5.15?? Is this even legal still?)
  • anchors who are cool
  • saying that I work for a TV station
  • getting sweet experience (I can safely say I was a legit web producer for 3 months)
  • the feeling you get when you know you beat every other station to the breaking news
  • learning new stuff everyday
  • feeling like I am actually contributing

But whatever the lists may say, I know I walked away from the internship standing tall. I got what I wanted. I got experience, got to contribute significantly, got paid, got a great reference and I’m ready for whatever is next. But at this point, I’m not sure exactly what’s next. What I do know is that I want to move back to DC and get a job there. But if not DC yet, then I want to be someplace other than Portland. As much as I love the city and will always have a special place for it since I grew up here, I’m ready for something different.

I’m cruising to San Fran for ONA in October, and I’m believing for something there. Because why wouldn’t you want to hire me? I can write. I know how to use Twitter (seriously, how do people not know how to retweet) and other new media. I’m hard-working, a fast learner, energetic, creative, have a crazy tireless work ethic and I was a web producer for 3 months. I don’t require that high of a salary (within reason and something liveable) and I don’t have a family to provide for. I’m mobile and can go anywhere and as far as relocating goes, I don’t have a boyfriend whose own plans I have to consider.

A good thing has ended, but I’m taking this like my boy Sinatra:  “the best is yet to come.”