Tag Archives: Journalism

Response to "Twitter Trap"

A few weeks ago I made a visit to the New York Times newsroom. Walking past a cubicle, I was introduced to Bill Keller, the Editor-in-Chief. Upon learning I work at Twitter, he said back, “I’m actually writing a piece about Twitter right now.”

“Go easy on us,” I joked.

His piece,  The Twitter Trap, came out yesterday.

Here is my response, which I wrote personally and not on behalf of Twitter.

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Katie Couric’s Social Media Path

About a month ago, I connected Katie Couric and Brian Solis for a conversation about Katie’s push into new media which started in 2008. What ensued was a discussion about the challenges, the opportunities and the areas of exploration they both think about when it comes to the convergence of “new” and “old” media. What I like to call – present media.

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Today: World Press Freedom Day

Today is World Press Freedom Day, a day devoted to remind everyone about the freedom of expression – and remember those journalists who lost their lives or freedom by pursuing it.

But with it, it is also a chance to look at all the great things that are happening on different corners of the globe to make sure vulnerable voices are heard, stories are told, and lives are made better because of it. And what better place to look than one of my favorite countries, India.

Video Volunteers (VV), (winner of a Knight News Challenge), is an organization in India that trains journalists to produce video reports on social issues – inside the often unpublicized crevices of the country’s widespread poverty. From Rajastan to the Himalayas, VV is out capturing stories from the voices of villagers who face major obstacles in education, poverty and health care.

Perhaps the most impressive part of VV and their new project, IndiaUnheard. The journalists are made up of Indians from different castes, genders, and states.

While the demand for community produced content in the media increases, it’s great to see programs like this get off the ground. Thanks to Mahima Kaul of VV for the tip on this great project. Having been to India three times, I’m an advocate of this work. Keep it up.

Mobile Producer – Ideating a Job Description

Important Qualities

Originally uploaded by ericaamerica08

Today I applied for a job as a Mobile Producer at Allbritton Communications – the parent company of Politico that is about to launch a new news organization, one that will serve the Washington, D.C. metro area and work to shape the “future of local news.”

Not long after I applied, I received a note back from Steve Buttry, Director of Community Engagement at Allbritton. He wanted to know – what are my thoughts for the job description, his or her duties and the process of the producer? Luckily I think I have this one down – and I’m so glad he asked.

Job Description: Mobile Producer

• Must have ability to produce multi-platform stories
• Must be technology agnostic
• Must demonstrate editorial judgment
• Must have story instinct

The Mobile producer must demonstrate the ability to combine traditional values of journalism (integrity, fairness, balance, pursuit of truth and focus on the facts) with the social media code of conduct – transparency, collaboration, crowd sourcing and audience interaction, among others.

The Mobile producer must be in tune with the rapid changes in the media and adapt, every day, testing new newsgathering, production and story telling techniques. He or she must be able to (1) develop original content (2) aggregate that content and (3) provide deeper context to select stories in the format of research-based blog posts, long form videos, interviews, etc.

The Mobile producer must be aware that distribution of the story is just as important as the newsgathering process. Working with the social media producer and strategists, the Mobile producer will assist in listening to the target audience, seeding the stories in communities and be nimble enough to identify and react to the best distribution techniques. The Mobile producer must take seriously the responsibility of being an intelligent filter and creator of news to the residents of metro D.C.

The Mobile producer is fearless. He or she must always have gear in pockets and be ready to catch or chase a story.

The Mobile producer must care about providing information to the residents in the Washington, D.C. metro area, a city that is unique in that it has no vote in Congress, experiences high crime, low high school graduation rates, and is seat to the most powerful government in the world.

The Mobile producer, in an ideal world, is Erica Anderson!

What else should I add? Do you think I have what it takes?

Goodbye, K Street. Hello, Journalism.

This is my second to last day at Spectrum. I am leaving with a six-month nest egg, two job leads and one burning desire to stitch journalism up – from the inside.

A few of my trusted confidants, including my Dad and Helen Thomas, advised me throughout 2009 to stick with my day job and ride the recession out. Well, I took that advice, and as a result spent twelve months packing away knowledge and pennies, creating digital case studies for my portfolio and simultaneously starting the process of graduating my brand from “EricaAmerica Citizen Journalist” to “Erica Anderson, Network Producer/Reporter.

I have a driving instinct that now it’s time to put 100 percent into this ambition to help rebuild what I believe to be the most important industries to the health of our imperfect nation – journalism.

So stay tuned for what’s next; who I target and who I meet with, how I used social media to land opportunities and what the outcome will be.

One thing is for sure, now, more than ever, it is time to step into the fray and make the future happen.

The End…of an Erica?

Sarah Burris, a very active youth blogger based in Kansas, took my post ‘The Truth, I Need It,” to a new level last night. I received a Tweet that read, “Sarah Burris has responded to your post with…“The End of an Erica.” At first, my stomach dropped. The title seemed dire. Then, upon reading it, I realized this.  I, we, are not alone.

And with that, the support for “The Truth” started to pour in. From @EvanSummers, a young political activist wrote:  “That seriously is one of the most direct and scathing insight on the state of the industry that I’ve read in a long time. Well done.”

From a web producer and social media guru working inside mainstream media, I got a simple, “F*ck Yeah.”

From a DePaul University (and a Suma Cum Laude in the Journalism school), Molly Horan, I saw that she linked to me and urged her Facebook followers:  “YOU NEED TO READ IT.”

But perhaps the best conversation came late last night, from a talented freelancer in Washington, who G chatted me to say she valued the piece. We agreed the conversation was one we “need to have” but that, with the recent loss of Walter Cronkite, we are both reminded that for them, there was at least a path. For us, we are searching for a way forward without much support from those before us.

It reminded me of this. Something Helen told me right before I went to the RNC last August. “This is the most difficult time I have ever seen for a young person to enter the business.”

All I could do was let silence fill the room, and then I asked, “How can that be? Even compared to what you went through?”

“Yes. Even more.”

It is true. We have our challenges ahead of us, but as I told my friend over G Chat, the greater the challenge, the greater the opportunity and reward. So let’s do this and fix this problem together.

The Truth. I need it.

It pains me, but  I have taken a serious hiatus from blogging. Why? It’s hard to say. My day job has drained me. The fate of journalism scares me. And it feels impossible, without giving up absolutely everything, including a personal life, to seek original content in my spare time, not just spin what’s already been spun. I think you all, the people who visit my blog, deserve some original stories. Not more spin.

Since MTV ended, I have had a ton of offers to write/produce for free. I get it. I’m young in my career. I should be willing to work for free or little cost. But seriously? It degrades what I’m trying to do: prove that real journalism, real information, can’t be found solely at the keypad on my computer.Sure, I can build sources, I can research, read other perspectives. But I can’t go out there, attend a hearing, get reactions at a rally…get a soundbite that actually informs the direction of a national dialogue or changes the perspective of a student, a voter, a President.

While working full time for free, hustling for stories and uploading all the time to iReport, HuffingtonPost and TrueSlant  sounds great, I am a pragmatist. And I’m not about to jump ship, leave my day job, without knowing who is steering us to a better place. To a journalism that doesn’t deny the possibility the Internet brings. To a journalism that admits many jobs will be lost but many more created.  To a journalism that wants to embrace web 2.0 to inform the public to make better decisions. Why, with all that is at stake, are we not there yet?

One of the first times I interviewed Helen Thomas, I told her I considered her the first “blogger” in the White House. I don’t think she was expecting the words that had come out of my mouth. As background, this was back in 2007, when BPhoto Credit: Jason Novakush was still in control, and the word “blog” was a sure shot to get my mouth washed out with soap in the wrong company. But Helen listened, and then she asked, “what do you mean?”

I went on.

“In a way, you are. You aren’t trying to kid anyone. You are going for the facts, but you are also going for reactions – and you are putting yourself in the question. Your peers are totally shocked. They don’t know what to do with it,” and thought to myself, “except ignore you.”

A while later, I was at a happy hour with a bunch of people who worked at ABC, NBC, CNN, etc. A senior White House producer from one of these major networks asked me about Helen. I answered by asking her why people in the Press Corp didn’t follow up on Helen’s questions, the ones that were so OBVIOUS, like, Mr. President, are you certain Iraq has WMD? Why do intelligence reports contradict? Do we torture? You know, the basics.

The Producer’s answer? “She makes us all uncomfortable.”

Uncomfortable? What a waste of a press pass. Someone who seeks the truth makes the Press Corp “uncomfortable.”

Why does this matter?

As important as the niche, bulldog blogs have become inside the Beltway, mainstream press is still mainstream press. People from Indiana to Idaho are still busy, focused on raising families or farms, paying bills or the doctor. They don’t have time to do their homework. So they turn to comfortable brands, like network and cable news. The same places that proved in the run up the Iraq war, that they were comfortable reporting what they were told, and uncomfortable looking for more.Note from Helen Thomas, to Erica Anderson

But we all know what asking tough questions in recent years has brought Helen. Animosity from her peers. A cold shoulder from a President. A status as a “has been.” Between you and me, she does care that people attack her work. But she also tells me this, “You don’t go into this business to be popular.”

Perhaps that is what we are all afraid of. Not being liked. Or even better, not being rich. Honestly? I’m past it. This democracy is in need of truth. It is in need of a financially vibrant system of press. One that can be trusted, competitive, and open for debate. And above all else, run by people who get the fact that the Internet and technology will make journalism better off. More informed. More conscious. More like Helen.

The Need for Watchdogs in Washington

The need for Watchdogs in Washington is more important than ever.

I recently had a conversation with a progressive news organization. They intrigued me by explaining how they are expanding their political coverage online. But employees, for the time, are to be based in New York City. Don’t get me wrong, I am currently wearing a tee with those exact letters strewn across it. But leave Washington at this moment in history? It would feel so wrong.

dc_wards_smallIt is a natural concern for all of us, as newspapers collapse and resources constrict, that American journalism is about to suffer. In an article in The New Republic called “Goodbye to the Age of Newspapers (Hello to an Era or Corruption),” Paul Starr wrote:  

“One danger of reduced news coverage is to the integrity of government…” He went on, “…corruption is more likely to flourish when those in power have less reason to fear exposure.”

Does anyone else think it is ironic, and completely illogical – that at a moment when the news media is finding it financially impossible to do their job, the government has more power and influence than ever before? Continue reading

What Are the Facts, Anyway?

In recent news, KeithOlbermann and Chris Matthews have been pulled from the anchor chairs for MSNBC’s election coverage.  This comes shortly after the National Review’s cover story, “Barack Obama’s Pet Peacock,” and the RNC chant “NBC! NBC!” when Sarah Palin mentioned “media bias” in her VP acceptance speech. 

Sarah Palin Speech Highlights
(3:01 for the exchange)


More than the cover story and the chant – I think the Olbermann/Matthews demotion brings to light a major challenge in modern journalism.

First, let me just say this. Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann and  Bill O’Reilly are all the same to me. They pass personal opinions as fact. They reject the entrance of opposing views. And they act as if their answers are the only answers.  From my perspective – it goes against what I was taught in J school: maintain allegiance to citizens and the larger public interest above all else. Is it really in the public interest to introduce bias into any form of journalism?

When I think of the big picture – I think that this feeds our nation’s appetite for convenience and grants viewers a way to feel like a responsible citizen. But on the flip side – it allows citizens to be complacent in how they reach their opinions.

Network Opinion diminishes – not just NBC – but a common interest in a credible journalism practice. Seasoned journalists and industry leaders have pointed to blogs for hurting the health of the fourth estate — when it might be the exact opposite. While blogs open the conversation to people who have been shut out – cable news answered with talking heads -whose bias, vested interests are not always transparent.

In all fairness, I do not blame traditional media’s attempt to fill the opinion space. I see it as being provoked by unprecedented competition after the onset of the internet and their uninspiring response to 9/11. But the way I see it? New media and old face a challenge the industry has never before seen: how to provide citizens with accurate and reliable information in a seemingly polarized world – without telling them how to do it.

Bob Dole Interview | Republican National Convention 2008

It was September 2008 | Bob Dole was in the Excel Center, on his way to visit the North Carolina delegation on behalf of his wife, Senator Elizabeth Dole. I caught him right before he walked into the floor pit.  I was alone, a credentialed journalist, with three cameras, an ID, and a pen in my pocket. I was on a mission to find some kind of story, and when I bumped into the Kansas Senator and Presidential candidate, I did. | More after the jump

Here are the basic nuts and bolts of the Live Streaming video process: After I hit “Broadcast”, the clip live went auNokia N95 to Flixwagon, a video sharing network that made it instantly available to anyone.

Instant connectvity. 60 seconds after I ended the clip, my phone buzzed twice. First a huge congrats from my Executive Producer who had watched it live, and my Dad, who called and admitted to having tears in his eyes. “You just interviewed my hero,” he said.

More Videos from the Republican National Convention 2008.