Saturday, April 22, 2017

AK Press Club - What Do Media Folks Talk About At Their Conferences?

It's getting late, but I have some pictures and notes about the panels I went to today.

I'll just do them in chronological order.  I already posted about Matt Pearl's discussion on how to put together a video story.

Then came Matt number two - Matt Eich, a photographer who shared his photos that have been put into book form.  His projects are ambitious.  He finds interesting people and gets permission to hang out with them over a long period of time taking pictures.  You can see the albums on his website at the links below, including a better version of the picture on the right (it's in Carry Me Ohio).


It's Matt's head in the lower right of the photo, sticking up out of his computer.  I had a little trouble balancing the brightness of the screen so you can see the photo and the darkness of the room so you can get a sense of that too.

I had some trouble understanding Matt over the sound system so I missed a lot of the explanations of the photos, but this is serious photography and commitment.

Then I went looking for the Hearken Meet-up, but ended up in another session in the old TV studio on campus that had a video connection called "Smart, effective and ethical audience interaction."  The program says "Join presenters from the West Region of the Associated Press for best practices to apply your journalistic ethics in the world of social media."  While I was there the discussion was focused on how to find stories and contact people using Facebook.

But I really wanted to hear the Hearken meet-up talk.  It said it was about a way for radio folks to connect better with their audience.
It turns out to be an online system for getting suggestions from listeners for story ideas and there's a way for all the listeners to vote on the suggestions.  The idea is to engage the audience more.  It also costs stations and this was a sales pitch.  But it was an interesting discussion of one attempt to connect more to listeners.  Below is Steve Heimel talking with Hearken's Ellen Mayer on the right.

After lunch I listened to Jenna Johnson with moderator Liz Ruskin.  Johnson is a reporter for the Washington Post and followed the Trump campaign.  I've got lots of notes from that discussion, but given I'm trying to get all these in before I go to bed, I'll just offer a few things I found interesting.
Johnson said that she was curious about some of the off-the-beaten-campaign-path cities that Trump was speaking at so she used census data to come up with profiles of the places.  They were all well under the average US income, education, and employment levels.

Jenna Johnson and Liz Ruskin
At one point in the campaign, reporters had to get tickets and wait in line like everyone else.  No one from the campaign came around - as they did with other campaigns - and gathered voter data or offered water (it was hot) or even apologies for the inconveniences.  But she said the Trump supporters didn't seem to mind.  And she came to value these situations where she could get a more visceral sense of the people there and could slowly reveal herself and get interviews.

Johnson said that one good thing about the campaign was that you need it would end on a certain date.  But then Trump was elected and she ended up in the White House press.  Some asked if things gotten less hectic.  In the video below she answers:

Someone asked if Trump voters had  simmered down a bit.
Johnson said they had.  Once Trump won, they won.  Before that, they were angry at media.  Once election over it was cool.  They don’t have to fight you any more.  They had their victory.

There was lots more, but time to move on.

NPR reporter Kirk Siegler's topic was "making news stories pop.'  I liked Siegler's laid back style, which goes along with his rural beat.  There was nothing slick about him.  He came across as genuine.  Some of the points he made about getting good stories included:

  • A strong character, and the example stories he played did all have strong characters

Kirk Siegler

  • Tension - competing values or loyalties
  • Knowing the point of your story
  • Take your listener on a journey - he gave an example of walking from one end of a wildfire zone to the other, stopping along the way to make comments on talk to someone
  • Immediately after the interview, jot down notes - "what is the most important thing she said?" What are some of the interesting takeaways you want to remember?  Write it down right away.
  • Find a local guide.  A fixer.  When you're going to a place you don't know for a short time, you should contact someone who can then lead you to others.  Do this before you get there.

[UPDATE June 27, 2017: The Alaska Press Club has put Kirk's talk up on Soundcloud. You can now hear it all.
You can hear several other talks from the conference here.]

OK, that's a very abbreviated view of what I took in today.  These conferences always give me things to think about, new ways to do things, a checklist for how I do things, and sometimes confirmation that I'm doing things right.  

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