Vol. 47, No. 2 February 2010 .pdf version
Steve Carp: USBWA's willing to address your needs
Joe Mitch: USBWA lends hand to NABC
Rose, Steward win Most Courageous honors
David Jones: It's time to embrace change
Nicole Vargas: Last call for nominations for Rising Star
Winn dominates best-writing contest
USBWA Best Writing Contest results

It's time to embrace this wonderful, historical era of change

By DAVID JONES / Harrisburg Patriot-News
USBWA Board Member

We are in the very midst of the most exciting and profound transformation that our industry has ever seen. So many doors have been opened to those who have something to say and the expertise to say it.

And all some of us can do is carp about blogging or Tweeting or the phasing out of the traditional printed media guide.

I'm not certain whether to laugh or shake my head. I think I'll laugh and shake my head. I am old enough to have covered my first major college football and basketball games exactly a quarter-century ago.

So, I can't be labeled a snot-nosed kid. And I am sometimes amazed at the foot-dragging I see from those my age around me.

Really, I don't want to sound preachy and condescending on this topic, but I guess I will anyway. I'm elevating my volume and slowing my delivery with this next message:

Embrace technology! It is your friend!

It can allow you to reach more readers and do your job more efficiently.

And it can bring you closer to the people who buy your product.

That would be you.

Even if you're a beat reporter, not a columnist, you can no longer get by with being unseen and unheard. You are now your most compelling product.

None of us has enough time.

But here are a few things I think all of us should take time to do at this point, to further our industry and further ourselves.

Learn video and use it. Get a personal video camera for your laptop. I f your paper won't swing for a tripod and portable cam for post-game reports, buy it yourself or learn to patch the one you have to your computer and upload files. If you have a TV show who'd like to have you on, do it.

Nothing is more powerful than the recognition your readers gain from not just reading your voice but hearing it, all the while seeing your facial inflections and hand gestures.

That's what makes you you.

When people see it, they gain a connection to you.

Television consultants have known this for decades. And don't worry about what you look like. Worry about what you want to say.

Hygiene is always a good idea. But you don't need to be Ron Burgundy. If you're schlumpy, be your schlumpy self. Just have something to say, prepare it and say it quickly and succinctly.

The rest, people don't really care about.

Where some lacquerhead Ken doll TV anchor is obsessing about his hair or his cadence, you can come off as "colorful," a regular guy. Because you will be. Viewers like that.

Get to know your blogger as an ally and love what he or she does.

Only you know if you see your blogger as some sort of rival and/or pain in the butt.

Maybe that's an extension of a lack of respect for the craft. But it is a craft, a really useful one when done well.

Look, when I see headlines on national news web pages that say stuff like "The Year's Hot Celebritweets," I laugh, too.

Superficial nonsense.

But that's not about the technology, only that specific dopey employment of it.

Maybe you've been assigned to also be the blogger or maybe you could take some initiative and make yourself one.

If so, just realize Tweets and/or Facebook posts can be the quickest way to get real hard breaking news to your constituents and build your cred.

Why would you not use these tools now that they're available?

Remember when we had a hot story and had to watch the 5:30 and 6 p.m. local news and hope that TV hadn't gotten wind of it, too?

How funny does that seem now?

Explore links that your readers might think are fun and informative, be they other blogs or just quirky sites. These sites are not competition. They are relatives, branches of your community tree. Remember, every time you reference another site that's interesting and funny, readers will come back to you as a source, just as they would if you told them about a great, little known club or a fun niche restaurant. It doesn't drain your hit total, it builds it.

To some of you, this stuff is old news and I apologize for stating the obvious. But to others, I think we're letting the irritants of this age a few nasty, snarky comments on the ends of our columns; the superficiality of some fringe types who use the new tools; the initial inconvenience of learning new tech obscure what is a wondrous time to be in this business.

Sort it all out on your own.

But dive in.

The water's only getting deeper.

The sooner you begin swimming, the stronger you'll be for the long haul.

David Jones is columnist for The Harrisburg Patriot- News and a regular contributor to Comcast SportsNet's csnphilly.com.

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