Helping two new bloggers launch their dreams at the media lab

Amy's Next Chapter

Over the last two weeks, I’ve helped two people launch their blogs on two different blogging platforms. Beckie Crispino started a blog for her business, Cashbackclics, an affiliate of, on Blogger and Amy Alandt has started a blog on divorce and the next chapter in her life on WordPress.

Beckie Crispino

I first met Beckie when she came to the media lab through for a workshop on blogging. She learned a lot from Heritage Media Managing Editor Rick Kessler’s two-part series, and wanted to put into action much of what she had learned. We took Rick’s recommendation for a blogging platform and set her up on Blogger. We also set up a Twitter account

and Facebook page associated with the blog, and I am pretty sure she has either set up a Tout account, as well, or plans to soon.

Beckie’s blog has not been launched yet. First she wants to have a logo made and get all of her ducks in a row. In the meantime, she has been adapting to Twitter very well, tweeting and retweeting multiple times a day since we first set up the account Nov. 6.

Amy’s blog was freshly pressed today on WordPress. She also found the media lab through an had attended Rick’s blogging workshop, and my presentation on RebelMouse and NewHive. She works in sales and marketing, and wanted to become more familiar with the WordPress platform since the company she works for uses it and she’s now an administrator of the blog.

To gain practice before actually using her new-found knowledge on her employer’s blog, she set up a personal blog, called “Amy’s Next Chapter.” Today we set up her “” and she wrote her first post, “Welcome to my blog about divorce.” Initially, her first post was titled “Welcome!” but we changed it after I explained about search engine optimization and writing headlines for the web.

Amy is also interested in Tout and during our time together we created a Tout, so I could show her how easy it is to do. The short video was shared on my Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Amy doesn’t have a Twitter account yet and she prefers to share links to her blog posts on Facebook, rather than link the two. She is considering starting a Twitter account and Facebook page just for her blog.

I applaud both women for taking the steps to realize their dreams, and I look forward to working with both more in the future.

If you are a blogger or thinking about starting a blog, 21st Century Media‘s Michigan Group is recruiting blogging partners. Reach out to me by commenting on this blog and I can send you information.


Four workshops scheduled at the Southeast Michigan Media Lab

I’ve scheduled four workshops at the media lab, and thought I’d make a NewHive expression promoting it. As part of my workshop, I will be teaching people how to use the tool. A bonus is that I discovered in addition to YouTube, Vimeo and Syndicaster videos, I can embed Touts.

Below is the article I wrote and asked all of the editors in the 21st Century Media Michigan Group to share in print and online.

The Southeast Michigan Media Lab, 215 W. Michigan Ave., at SPARK-East in downtown Ypsilanti, will host four free workshops designed to teach writing and social media skills to area residents.

Rick Kessler, managing editor of Heritage Media and a blogger, will teach a two-part series on blogging from 4 to 6 p.m. Oct. 3 and 10. Have you wanted to start a blog, but weren’t sure where to begin? Or, maybe you al-ready have a blog but you’d like to know how to take it to the next level? Kessler can answer those questions and more during his two-part series, “Blogging 101.”

Part I will cover every-thing from how to start a blog to how to find content for your blog. Part II will show participants how to grow their audience and discover advance blogging techniques. Each seminar will have a question-and-answer session and an op-portunity for one-on-one instruction.

Kessler is the author of the Gr8LakesCamper blog, which “celebrates the world of RVing, camping and tra-vel destinations in the Great Lakes region.” He started the blog in June 2007 and since then has had more than 1,400 posts and 360,000 page views. Visit his blog at or email him at for more information.

Michelle Rogers, director of editorial training for 21st Century Media’s Michigan Group and director of the Southeast Michigan Media Lab, will present “Emerging social media tools and how to use them” from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 10. The workshop will introduce participants to RebelMouse for curating social media and web feeds into a personal page, and NewHive for creating crea-tive expressions, invita-tions, special pages with video embeds and photos.

The workshop will be hands-on, so participants are asked to bring a laptop, their ideas and content to build their own NewHive expression with photos, text, video and links.

Attendees should decide in advance which Twitter handles and hashtags they want to feed into their Re-belMouse pages, along with RSS feeds, and consider whether they want to in-clude their Pinterest, Insta-gram, Tout, YouTube and Flickr posts.

Monica Drake, community engagement editor for The Oakland Press, will present on citizen journalism from 1 to 3 p.m. Nov. 12. She will empower participants to become contributors to their local news media, teaching them the basics of journalism, photography and video, as well as other tools designed to help doc-ument and share community news. For more information, email

To sign up for any of the free workshops, visit the Southeast Michigan Media’s Lab’s Facebook events page or profile. will no-tify participants of future workshops.

News-Herald Blogger Fair keeps media lab staff busy

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The Southeast Michigan Media Lab helped staff at The News-Herald in Southgate and Press & Guide in Dearborn with a Blogger Fair July 17 at their offices in Southgate, Mich. The event attracted 20 people either currently blogging or interested in it.

The idea behind the event was to share information about how the writers could become blogging partners with 21st Century Media and its news affiliates across Michigan, including The News-Herald, covering Downriver, and Press & Guide.

Information also was shared about the Southeast Michigan Media Lab, a free resource offered by the company to help bloggers, community contributors, students, senior citizens and established journalists. As many readers know, the media lab offers free workshops on social media and new media tools, as well as one-on-one instruction, from setting up blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and YouTube channels to teaching people how to use Pinterest, LinkedIn, Dipity, Tout, SurveyMonkey, Storify, ipadio and other tools.

Media lab intern Elise Waller produced a video from the event and News-Herald Video Coordinator Dave Herndon shot photos. Media Lab Director Michelle Rogers (me) led the event with an introduction to the media lab and the short-form video tool Tout, and was followed by Heritage Media Online Editor Joe Gray, who presented basic blogging tips and information on social media, and Rick Kessler, who presented a session on understanding search engine optimization and how to monetize a blog. I followed with a more advanced session on adding visuals and interactive elements in a blog, recommending a variety of free tools.

Everyone who attended seemed very enthusiastic. I followed up with the participants the next day, providing links to the PowerPoints, our blogging partnership guidelines and encouraging them to stop by the lab to see me for help.

Our goal is to add 100 new blogging partners to our news sites by year’s end, and I am really hoping to get some great contributors from the Blogger Fair. I am very interested in working with Al Poe, who has been writing reviews of restaurants in the Downriver area for years and posting them on Yelp and Urban Spoon. And I’ve already added Gordon Thorsby, who writes about customer service and his experiences at various businesses across the state of Michigan.

If you were unable to attend our event, but interested in finding out more information on how to become a blogging partner, please reach out with a comment on this blog. Here is my PowerPoint with information about the lab and our blogging partnership guidelines, as well as a presentation on SEO.

News-Herald and Press & Guide Blogger Fair Presentation by Community Media Lab

Blogger Fair 2013: Incorporating visuals and interactive elements in your blog by Community Media Lab

Understanding Search Engine Optimization by Community Media Lab

Teaching new and experienced bloggers at Blogger Fair 2013

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The Southeast Michigan Media Lab hosted its first Blogger Fair May 9, attracting 31 people either interested in starting a blog or currently posting to an established blog. The event drew writers from across Southeast Michigan, from Metamora, Sterling Heights and Birmingham to Flat Rock, Dearborn, Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, where the lab is located.

The fair featured an overview about the media lab, its free workshops and instruction, as well as its mission to recruit 100 new blogging partners for parent company 21st Century Media’s Michigan group of news websites managed by Digital First Media. In the last three months, with blogger fairs held at sister publications and through the efforts of editors and staff, 43 new blogging partners have been added. The program has been such a success that the webmaster of had to figure out a way to accommodate all the new RSS feeds because they were overloading the website, with a total of 89 partners. Blog categories were added under each tab, rather than all under the “Life” section. The Oakland Press has the highest number of blogging partners with 126, followed by The Macomb Daily with 85.

Breakout sessions followed the media lab presentation, with News-Herald Online Editor Joe Gray leading the session “Blogger Basics and Social Media;” Monica Drake, community engagement editor at The Oakland Press, led “Understanding Search Engine Optimization, Analytics and How to Monetize Your Blog;” and I led “Incorporating Visuals and Interactive Elements in Your Blog.” The 3-to-5 group saw the largest turnout, and the 5-to-7 group also featured some writers from the earlier group who wanted to join a second breakout group. Copies of my presentation were handed out to participants, and an electronic version can be found on Scribd.

In addition, freelance photojournalist Mark Bialek of Ann Arbor Nights took portrait photographs of the participants who wanted new photos for their blog and/or social media channels.

We have received positive feedback about the event via our page on and through email. Additional blogger recruitment fairs are in the works at The News-Herald and The Oakland Press. Voice Newspapers, The Macomb Daily and Daily Tribune in Royal Oak held similar successful events earlier this year.

Below is a video from the event. If you are interested in becoming a blogging partner, call 734-719-0192. Also, you’re welcome to stop by the lab for help with your blog or to attend our free workshops. On June 20, the topic is “Blogging for Nonprofits.” “Using Social Media to Engage Your Audience” will be presented July 25. Visit our Meetup page for times and sign up to be notified of future events.

Helping bloggers pursue their passions

AdriannaBlogWhen Adrianna Lypecky entered through the doors of the Southeast Michigan Media Lab in Ypsilanti yesterday, it was like a ray of sunshine peeking through the heavy Michigan clouds we’ve become accustomed to this winter. She was bubbly and excited to be there, and grateful for the help. A travel blogger linked at The News-Herald and Press & Guide websites, she was relatively new to the Blogger platform and was looking for design help.

And that’s where Monica Drake, community engagement editor at The Oakland Press, came in handy.

I had been in e-mail contact with Adrianna. She was looking for some feedback on her blog, and I gave it to her. I wrote:

Add hyperlinks to places you reference — beaches, hotels, restaurants, landmarks, etc.
Add locator map embeds
Include photo galleries or photo slideshows
Incorporate YouTube videos of these destinations
Ask readers questions such as have they been there or ask them about their favorite destinations. Start a conversation. Get some comments.
Encourage readers to share your posts on social media. You should be sharing them on all of your social media channels, as well. Feel free to post a link on all of our channels.
Include an “About Me” page so readers can relate to you as a person. Give your background and explain what qualifies you as an expert in travel.
Suggestions on changes: Eliminate all the white space around photos and text, and stay with one color of type/text. It looks a little crazy.
I like the recipes from the different locales. Great idea. I also like that you blog more regularly than some, but keep in mind our goal is three per week.
You may want to look into the different templates Blogger offers and find one that better suits your goals.
You can call me if you want to talk more.
But sometimes when people ask for help, they don’t really want it. They want to hear you say great things about whatever they’ve produced. But Adrianna was different, and her sincerity was apparent in her reply.
Thanks ever so much for all your suggestions. I really appreciate it. Is there any chance that I could meet you at your office in Ypsilanti and go over the details in person? It would be much better to meet one on one rather than talking via the phone.
Please let me know if this is at all possible. 
I really want to make my blog much more dynamite and entertaining. With your assistance I think I can make major improvements which will give me more enthusiasm to be creative and inventive. I do need some pointers on how to use software so that the blog is more eye catching.
I thank you for your assistance and hope that sometime in the near future I can meet with you so that you can help me make my blog reader friendly.

So, of course, I welcomed Adrianna to the media lab and introduced her to Monica, who knows Blogger like the back of her hand. In the next two hours, Monica helped transform Adrianna’s blog into a visually-appealing site, with a custom header that featured a photo reel of Adrianna’s travels and the name of her blog at the top, a new background photo, a new template and layout, incorporated some of Adrianna’s videos, made her “about me” box more prominent, and she linked Adrianna’s Twitter and Facebook feed to the blog.

In addition to Adrianna, Paul Rodman, a regular gardening columnist at The News-Herald in Southgate, came in after I approached him about turning his print column into an interactive blog. He, too, was excited about the prospect of going digital. Paul understood the value of digital, which will enable him to add hyperlinks and embeds of documents, photos, videos and information he is referencing. His newspaper column is called DigIt and he’s thinking about calling the blog DigIt Digital.

Paul’s visit was short. We talked about the various blogging platforms available and decided on Blogger. He then set up an account and decided he wanted to go home to digest all of the information before getting started. The plan is for him to start posting his weekly column, as well as a photo, video, aggregated content or a tip from him twice during the week.

One of the perks of working in the media lab is helping others pursue their passions, and discover how much fun it’s to express their creativity on a digital platform, where they can add all kinds of bells and whistles, interact with their audience in real time, and reach a wider audience from all over the world that they couldn’t have reached in print.

Helping a business set up a YouTube account

Technology can be intimidating to some people, even if they made their living from technology 15 or so years ago, like Donna Lavin. That’s why the Community Media Lab in Ypsilanti, Mich., is an invaluable resource, whether you’re very familiar with technology and the Internet, somewhat familiar or a total novice.

For Lavin, who owns the Lavin Lift Strap company with her husband, and other business owners, being out of touch with the latest technology tools is no longer a problem if you’re willing to take an hour or so out of your day to come visit us. And the best part is that it’s free. We have a reporter or editor at the lab, 215 W. Michigan Ave., between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday available and at your disposal.

At the Heritage Community Media Lab Aug. 24, Lavin popped in to see us and we helped her set up a YouTube account to showcase her company’s demonstration videos. It was probably something Lavin could have done by herself, but having someone next to her, guiding her and letting her know she was on the right track and helping her come up with tags, provided a sense of security and gave her confidence.

We also talked to Lavin about the next step — setting up a Twitter account to help build an audience and engage that audience by sharing links and information about her product and related topics, as well as retweeting, answering questions and commenting.

Also at the Community Media Lab, we helped freelancer Leslie McGraw map out her multimedia plan to continue a series on the achievement gap in Ann Arbor Public Schools and we spoke to a local resident interested in getting more news published about what’s happening in the local court system. We encouraged him to set up a blog and promote his work using social media, and we may partner with him on it.

If you haven’t had a chance to visit the Community Media Lab yet, we hope you will make time soon. Whether you work in public relations, volunteer as a media liaison for a community group or nonprofit, you’re interested in blogging or sharpening your social media skills, or you’re just uncomfortable using technology and want to get up to speed, we’re here to help you. We’ve helped people set up personal and professional Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, blogs, and edit video. We’ve also hosted a variety of workshops, on everything from writing a press release to editing audio for podcasts to using the Freedom of Information Act to navigating a wiki. Click here to check out what free workshops we have planned for September and October.

We also plan on presenting on our Community Media Lab at local senior centers, chambers of commerce and classrooms. To make arrangements for us to visit, email

AP Style for elections

With the Primary Elections over, we have about 30 seconds to breathe before we start gearing up for the big guy: General Elections on Nov.6.

I’ve been trying to organize what needs to be covered as elections and proposals are posted on Washtenaw County’s website to try to make coverage go as smoothly as possible.

I did, however, stumble upon a nice link for the journos, election geeks and bloggers out there: A compilation of AP Style rules for elections. For those of you who don’t know, AP Style is what most newspapers are written in. It’s why sometimes you feel like journalists write slightly strange. Like e-mails (Why the hyphen?) or Web (Capitalized? Still?). It is the set of spelling and grammar rules that most journalists follow near religiously.

Either way I found the compilation of guidelines is exceptionally helpful because it not only has general election rules, but it also has rules that specifically pertain to the 2012 elections.

So, bookmark it. Save it for November. And remember to register to vote before Oct.9.