April 12, 2008

Is it time for Rent a Journalist, a travelling backpack journalist?

Laugh at the idea of renting a journalist, but then remember this: Layoffs, buyouts, the flu, a riot, a generation that wants satisfaction now.

Most people think of backpack journalists being someone equipped with enough tools and skills to report a a story in multiple mediums.

Perhaps we should expand the definition to include those willing and able to come to your station/newspaper/web site to fill in for the ill or vacationing, supplement thinned staffs when a crisis, disaster or a big "xxx turns 100" special assignments hit your community.

This is not your typical free-lance job with its defined, one time assignment.

This would be the place to hire temps who move in to supplement what needs to be done now because it is now.


Perhaps retirees or stay-at-home parents who want occassional work.

Perhaps those who like travel, disasters, the challenge of something new everyday.

A company like this might appeal to the generation of "I want it now" that we have raised. It would appeal to the journalist who would prefer to direct his or her career story by story.

Maybe it is expanded to include Rent an Expert, the former journalist who could train your new cops or courts reporter; the designer who could show your team how to efficiently use the software.

Perhaps a way to capture the expertise leaving our newsrooms.

Perhaps a way to re gain the type of knowledge newspapermen once spread from newsroom to newsroom when those type of Johnny Appleseeds were allowed into non-sanitized newsrooms.

April 11, 2008

Invisible people are everywhere

Being invisible is becoming a daily habit.

The first jarring notice came as I sat with a group of professionals, waiting for a lecture to start.

My inability to name the company I worked for quickly pushed the invisible cloak on me for two women.

The comment later of "I didn't realize you were retired" only underscored the values placed on the workplace.

The invisible cloak came out a few days later. But fortunately it hid me only from some people.

The people at the table could see me and offered advice for the first few months of a major lifestyle change of leaving an employer after 29 years. Perhaps it was because 6 of 8 had done the same.

The invisible cloak was produced by the caterer, who remembered me only when I identified my former employer. Then, the pre-ordered, non-allergic lunch appeared.

I know - get over it. Some folks only know you when you can help them.

How many interesting people do we ignore because we put them into our boxes?

Ironically, I can remember telling folks I wanted the invisible cloak mentioned in the Harry Potter books as I was sure it would allow me to escape the building where I worked without a half-dozen stops on the way in or on the way out.


April 8, 2008

Reporting techniques: Story behind the story becomes the story

The Detroit News tells the story of how it tracked the person behind a signature on a floating piece of paper at the former Detroit train station.

You can read the words, but the blend of photographs and voice is much more interesting.

Many who put together presentations on the web use only the voices of the folks they intereview. I like how the writer frames the story, using the voices of those interviewed to highlight when necessary.

The show also was a good way to pull in photographs from the Detroit News archives.

Michigan Central Depot once was a star. Not now, as another grand piece of history is on the list to be demolished.