Another appeal to help send high schoolers to NYC

Last week I blogged about high school journalists at my alma mater who won an award eight days ago and now have only a week to raise enough funds to get to New York City in time to accept it. Tonight, I’ve set up a site to take PayPal donations so that you can help them out with just a few clicks.

It’s not mandatory that they take this trip, but as students from the small, agrarian town of Porterville, California, this is a huge and rare opportunity for them to see the world. When I attended a similar conference/awards ceremony in high school, it ultimately changed my life and set me on a path of journalism that I still continue down today.

And furthermore, they deserve to go. They’ve worked hard. They produce a daily website with in-depth articles, videospodcastsuser generated content, and a fully-functional Spanish edition for the heavily hispanic demographic.

Daniel Bachhuber has already stepped in to offer a tour of CUNY Journalism School (Thanks, DB!). If you can help us send these kids, I assure you each of them will walk away with a new perspective and at least a few will have their lives changed forever. Think about it.

I’ll be speaking at ACP Hollywood in March

This year I’ll be speaking and co-hosting workshops for the Associated Collegiate Press National College Journalism Convention in Los Angeles March 3-6, at the Renaissance Hollywood hotel:

  • “Workshop: Hollywood Experience” at 10 a.m. to Noon Thursday, March 3, in the Whitley Heights room. This is the first part of a hands-on multimedia workshop
  • “Think Digital First” at 10:15-11:20 a.m. Friday, March 4, in the Los Feliz room. This is a session on how to restructure your newsroom editorial workflow toward a digital-first strategy.
  • “The Hollywood Experience Part 2″ at 1:10-4:30 p.m. Friday, March 4, in the ACP Suite. This is the second part of a hands-on multimedia workshop.
  • “Build Your Personal Brand” at 9-10:05 a.m. Sunday, March 6, in the Hollywood Ballroom.

If you have any words of wisdom, tips, links, etc. that you think I should include in any of my presentations, feel free to pass them on and I’ll include them and credit you. I’ll post the materials to my blog after they’re prepped.

Help a bunch of bright-eyed high school journalists get to NYC

UPDATE: You can now donate to The Grizzly Gazette at gazettetonyc.info.

I grew up in a modest town. Porterville, California. Population roughly 40,000. Mostly farmers. It’s a place that smells of cow manure. It’s the “armpit” of California, being the worst, poorest, most-polluted little valley in the golden state.

So when something better than oranges comes out of Porterville, it deserves to be recognized (because it doesn’t happen often).

And that’s exactly what happened this week: The online newspaper at Granite Hills High School (my alma mater) placed as gold crown finalists in the Columbia Scholastic Press Association awards for their online news site, The Grizzly Gazette. This is a national honor and a huge accomplishment.

Now their advisor, Evan Hackett, is looking for a way to send a handful of students to New York City to accept the award and asked me to chaperone. One problem: The school doesn’t have the resources or funding to pull that kind of money together last-minute (the awards ceremony is at the end of March).

We ask of you this: If you know of any organization that is willing to sponsor a few kids flying and staying in NYC for three days, please pass this on to them. These kids deserve to get out and see the world — to see how big their accomplishments are, and to know that after they graduate, there’s so much to move on to.

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So, what is “news,” anyway?

In writing about this month’s Carnival of Journalism topic (increasing sources of news), I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what exactly “news” is and what a “source of news” therefore is. I still don’t have a solid answer. (But maybe I shouldn’t waste my time dwelling over such questions in the first place).

News used to be defined by the act of publication. Information became news once it was published somewhere. Now we have tons of information and “publishing” can be as simple as hitting a “share” button on Facebook. News is being published in spurts every second, everywhere. Much like that old mantra that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” such is the case for news; it’s in the eye of the consumers and creators.

On the oversaturation of news sources

In any natural marketplace, competition is a healthy component. In business, competition forces companies to rethink their strategies, be better at what they do. In education, competition is what makes high school students work harder to do better to get into colleges of their choice. Competition is a driving motivator for many of the things we do in our personal in professional lives.

But there’s a fine line between healthy competition and oversaturation of a marketplace.

The news industry is in an interesting spot. There is a wealth of information being shared because publishing is easier than ever. Audiences for news are bigger than they’ve ever been because so many people have access to information. Yet there are huge gaps in coverage of issues that matter.

The Carnival of Journalism question this month is “What steps can be taken to increase the number of news sources?” The question assumes that we should be increasing the number of news sources.  But this doesn’t get to the heart of solving what the problems are in the news industry.

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Grizzly Gazette is a CSPA Online Crown Awards 2011 Finalist

Aside

CSPA Online Crown Awards 2011 Finalists. Congratulations to the Grizzly Gazette — the online-only high school newspaper at Granite Hills High School — for placing as a crown finalist in the 2011 Columbia Scholastic Press Association Online Crowd Awards. I’m proud to see my Title 1 high school listed amongst affluent high schools like Palo Alto High School and Berkeley High School. Keep  rockin’, my small-town pride and joy. Thank you for carrying on the legacy years after I’m gone.

Spot.us 3.0: Redesign is out in the wild

Last month I promised that the Spot.us redesign would rock your world. Feeling rocked yet? We soft launched the new design and have been QA testing this week. Now we’re proud to announce it to the world.

As always, the redesign is a continual work in progress.  We have chugged away at it for a full month, but know there’s still much to be done.

Mine and David Cohn's sketches for the contributors page after our first meeting in early January at the SF Public Press offices.

You’ll notice the header and footer have been significantly cleaned up. We ditched the old, typewriter keys logo for a simpler, cleaner one. The big buttons from the header are replaced with clear, bold text links.

The pitch pages — at the heart of our redesign– are much more usable now. Instead of having trailing sidebars cluttered with links and widgets and sharing options, you have only the important stuff: Donors, amount raised, and buttons for funding or earning credits. The progress bar, unlike the old dinky one, is strong, prominent and awesome. There are tabs at the top right of every pitch that let you navigate through details, discussion, updates and other elements related to each pitch. Continue reading

If Zucks hadn’t created it, someone of my generation would have made Facebook

I’m convinced that the web wants to be a social space. If Mark Zuckerburg hadn’t invented Facebook or Tom Whats-his-name hadn’t invented Myspace, someone would have created them anyway and a very similar product would have resulted because that is the natural progression of the web.

Remember Geocities? I do. I started one in middle school (don’t do the math on my age there) and maintained it through the beginning of high school when I discovered Myspace. But before social networks existed, my personal Geocities site contained the following elements:

A screenshot of the cached version of my geocities website.

  1. About me – with a “profile picture”
  2. A list of my friends and information about how I know them and why I love them
  3. A list of my family and information about individual members
  4. External links to other sites I liked, including links to my friends’ websites with all their similar info
  5. Photo albums
  6. Guestbook

Without knowing it, I was creating the basis for what I wanted out of the web: A space to share information and photos with my friends and family. When Myspace came about, I quickly ditched that site, then when Facebook came out, I quickly ditched Myspace.

While I didn’t have the skillset to build the next Facebook or even an understanding that what I was building with amateur Geocities drag n’ drop is something that other people would want and use, at least I was on to something: The web as a social space.