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Going (digital) Native — Four Easy Steps To Help Journalist Survive and Thrive in Web 2.0

Just got back from Mags University, a magazine and internet publishing conference in Toronto where I offered a roomful of magazine journalists a "Digital Survivor’s Guide".
I had to throw my presentation together in something of a hurry as I was a last minute replacement
for Mark Briggs, a Tacoma, Washington sport journalist turned web evangelist who’d been scheduled to give the talk — from Tacoma via streaming video or something — but in the end couldn’t make it.
I borrowed some from the talk Star web editor Marissa Nelson and I gave at Wordstock 2007, adding in some of the stuff I’ve figured out by teaching this for a year and tacking on some prescriptive steps at the end to help turn your average print journalist into a swashbuckling web savvy hero. Or something. You can see the presentation – and imagine all my stories and jokes – below:

The group was a little younger and a fair bit more web savvy than I’d been led to believe — I was expecting a room full of beginners, pretty much; people who can use email and Google and do their banking and book trips and maybe even read a web comic or two.
Instead, about half the room is on Facebook, a quarter of them had heard of Twitter, a third of them read blogs etc. That’s a higher "web literacy" level than I’ve been finding among the students who stream through WebU and certainly a higher web awareness than average out in the wild — all of which is good news for the magazine industry.
It also made my job easier because I could push them further up that learning curve in the short time we had together.
I wanted to drill two things into their heads:

1) An understanding of how the web is changing our business model, without waiting for anybody’s permission, and
2) The need to learn to think (and act) like a digital native, not a print journalist whose tacked on video or blogging onto their resume. (There’s a reason Whales grew fins and flukes when they moved back into the sea…)

In order to get them kickstarted on this I recommended  a months worth of homework, 4 week-long exercises that I, uhmm, guaranteed them would give them a deeper, richer understanding of how the web works. They may not be able to pass as a digital native, but at least they’ll be clutching a green card in their hands….
Here’s those exercises:

1) Set up RSS: Create a Google Account and sign up for Google Reader. Subscribe to Five Feeds – Idea Factory, Seth Godin, Matthew Ingram, plus 2 of your choice. Read for 15 mins a day every day.
2) Create a Blog: Go to or and create a blog focusing on something you’re passionate or deeply knowledgeable about. Post at least once a day for a week, including photos and links to related sites. Find related blogs and comment on THEIR posts.
3) Twitter. Daily: Open a Twitter Account. Post at least 3x daily. Find at least 3 people to follow.
4) Make a movie: Find a cell phone that takes video, or a home mini-dv camcorder. Make a 60 second movie – interview a fellow staffer, show off your car, do a rant – and figure out how to edit it using iMovie (on the Mac) or MovieMaker (on Windows). Upload it to youTube.

By the way, if you don’t know Mark Briggs, he’s written a really useful training manual for newsroom types: Journalism 2.0: How to survive and thrive in the digital age. I recommend it  — especially if you’re either new to this game and want to quickly get up to speed, or if you’re involved in journalism education. His writing is uncluttered yet not devoid of personality, and the information and advice betrays a mind very alive to the possibilities the web offers us. You can find his journalism blog here.

Oh. And I told the seminar participants that I’d post links to all the websites I’d mentioned during my talk, so here they are in, more or less, the order I received them in.


People Formerly Known As The Audience:



Read Smart/Roll Your Own Web
Google Reader

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