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.

Intern Elise Waller starts at the Southeast Michigan Media Lab

Southeast Michigan Media Lab intern Elise Waller

Southeast Michigan Media Lab intern Elise Waller

Having an intern at the Southeast Michigan Media Lab has renewed my faith in the next generation of multimedia journalists and their work ethic. When I was running a newsroom, it seemed some reporters were burned out — and maybe rightfully so given the amount of work and responsibility handed to them — and lacked the same enthusiasm I had (although admittedly I may be overly amped) for using new digital and social media tools to complement our storytelling. At times, I had the impression they viewed these tools as more work, rather than embracing the tools as a way to bring more information to readers on platforms that readers may prefer, whether video, audio, photo slideshows, locator maps, polls, timelines or through social media.

But if Elise Waller’s work ethic and passion for digital media is indicative of what we will be seeing from J-school graduates in the coming years, the news industry is going to be on fire with innovation and experimentation driving journalism, and a work force game for trying anything that helps them become better news gatherers and storytellers.

Elise, a junior at Adrian College studying digital media and journalism, joined the media lab May 22 to help livestream and produce video of a workshop we were hosting on Google Drive taught by Eastern Michigan University professor Toni Stokes Jones. The next day, she came in and edited the video that she shot, started a blog, wrote her first post about the workshop and set up a phonecasting channel on I interviewed her for her first audiocast, which is featured on her blog through RSS feed. She also created a RebelMouse page. So, boom, in a matter of a few hours, she had completed all of her assignments for the week, as she is asked to produce three pieces each week to collect her internship stipend.

We had Friday off, as I was in Chicago, as well as Monday for the Memorial Day holiday, so Elise returned to work Tuesday. We met at the studio for WLBY 1290 Ann Arbor Talk Radio for an appearance on the Lucy Anne Lance Radio Show. Having experience in radio, serving as on-air talent at her college station, Elise was super excited to be back in the studio. Lucy Anne interviewed us both about the Southeast Michigan Media Lab and our efforts to bring the audience in the newsroom as news-sharing partners, as well as changes in the media landscape and asked our thoughts on changes to the industry as a whole. Elise added valuable insight about her generation’s use of social media and media consumption habits. What I found particularly interesting was that she said most people she knows who are her age get their news and information from Facebook and Twitter, not traditional media sources. Listen to the entire interview here on the Lucy Anne Lance Radio Show website.

Southeast Michigan Media Lab Director Michelle Rogers at Ann Arbor Radio.

Southeast Michigan Media Lab Director Michelle Rogers at Ann Arbor Radio.

When we returned from the studio a couple hours later, Elise, who said she was doing the internship more for the experience than the pay, was quick to edit a video that she shot of us while we were being interviewed, and uploaded it on the media lab’s YouTube channel. She also wrote a blog post about the experience, and set up her Tout account so she could begin Touting 15-second videos — something all multimedia journalists at 21st Century Media will start doing in the coming weeks.

On Wednesday, we met at The News-Herald, where we were scheduled to spend the day and make ourselves available to staff journalists interested in learning more about social media and digital media tools. We worked with nine reporters and editors, who also renewed my belief that people who work in the industry are willing to learn new tricks, throughout the day showcasing Tout, NewHive, RebelMouse, Twitter, ipadio, ScribbleLive and uStream, among other tools. During this time, Elise also edited five videos shot by freelance photographer/videographer Dave Chapman for the The News-Herald and shot this Vine video (so cute) on life of an intern. And, again, boom. She had completed two weeks of her internship in a matter of two days.

Elise has experience, from her studies at Adrian College, in radio and TV broadcasting. She has served as news anchor and on-air talent for the college’s news station, and has worked as editor of the college newspaper. All of these experiences and the skills she is learning while at college and during her internship will serve her well when she graduates and begins her career, whether in radio, television or digital media. I am looking forward to teaching her more digital media tools and introducing her to emerging social media channels. She will be honing her skills at festivals throughout Washtenaw County this summer as she produces video, photo slideshows, NewHive expressions and podcasts, and sharing her work on the media lab and Heritage Media’s distribution channels. Be sure to look for her and give her feedback on the work she produces as she practices her budding craft.

Adding visually-interesting elements, widgets and gadgets to blogs

Blogger Chris Watkins writes "Spiritual Voices."

Blogger Chris Watkins writes “Spiritual Voices.”

Some days at the lab I am lost in another world on my computer exploring new digital storytelling or social media tools — like Talkshoe on Monday and Tuesday — setting up live chats, recruiting workshop leaders and newsroom trainers and talking about events and interesting content on our social media channels. Other days, I actually have real human interaction — like yesterday and today.

On Tuesday, Roger Beukema, one of our blogging partners based in Oakland County, stopped by the media lab in the morning to learn how to spruce up his blog and use social media more effectively. In between stories about his family, his career as a cop and his connection over the last 30 years to The Oakland Press, we made some headway. It was a purely enjoyable experience for me and didn’t even seem like 2 1/2 hours as I got lost in his stories, along with the fun of learning new digital storytelling tools.

I talked to Roger about adding hyperlinks to content he references in his “Outdoor Notes” posts, sharing YouTube videos related to what he’s writing about, adding more photographs and maybe a podcast after he buys that smartphone he’s been wanting to get for a while. I also shared with him my PowerPoint, “Contributing Community Content: Visually interesting ways to help your content stand out and engage your audience.” The presentation is an introduction to a variety of digital storytelling tools that he could learn about at the Southeast Michigan Media Lab and then incorporate into his blog posts.

Blogger Roger Beukema writes "Outdoor Notes."

Blogger Roger Beukema writes “Outdoor Notes.”

On Wednesday, Chris Watkins, who writes the “Spiritual Voices” column for Heritage Media-West, came in for a morning appointment. A few months ago, she decided to convert her print column to a blog to reach a wider audience and become more interactive. Chris and I had a great time, too, chatting about her past jobs, her personal life and life experiences, in addition to technology and what we could do to enhance her blog.

Chris uses the Blogger platform. We logged on and I helped her add a number of widgets to her blog to make it more interactive. Now followers can connect with her on social media, her most read entries will be highlighted, her blog archives are displayed and she is hosting the Heritage Media “Life” section headlines to help drive traffic back to the Heritage Media news website. I also suggested she shoot some photos to either add images to her blog design or add a photo slideshow. In addition, like I did for Roger, I suggested Chris aggregate content and add her commentary to it, as well as YouTube videos.

I also took a look at Chris’ Twitter account @OnBendedKnees. When I saw she only had six followers and she was following six, we had a chat about how social media can help drive traffic. I showed her how to shorten her blog post urls using Bitly and then tweet them out. I also explained the “connect” and search functions on Twitter, and encouraged her to retweet, reply to tweets, and start interacting with people on Twitter. While we were at it, we followed all of the Heritage Media publications in Washtenaw County, where her column appears in print and her blog is shared on the website, assuring her that editors and reporters would help her out with some retweets and mentions.

While my meetings with both bloggers were fun and I enjoyed helping them, what I look forward to most is our next meeting — after they’ve mastered the basic skills and we can advance to the more fun stuff. For a list of my favorite digital storytelling tools, visit my NewHive expression.

Experimenting with NewHive to create ‘expressions’

I listened in during a training session about community engagement and digital media tools that was being livestreamed March 26 in West Chester, Pa., by The Daily Local News. I learned so much during that afternoon session, and one of my favorite tools I discovered was NewHive.

Since learning about the social media tool, I’ve created two “expressions.” These start as blank canvasses and you can upload text, video, headlines, photos and add links. My first expression was a promotion for the Southeast Michigan Media Lab, with two YouTube videos embedded and numerous photos, as well as a link to our Facebook page. The other is list of my favorite digital media tools and links to all of my social media channels.

Check them out and let me know if NewHive is a tool that you would consider using and it what ways. I see a lot of potential, from a place to highlight a reporting series to special feature pages, to use by nonprofits and businesses to highlight their work, special events and recognize employees or volunteers.

Using live chats and livestreaming video for community engagement

ScribbleLive statistics from my cancer chat held March 21.

ScribbleLive statistics from my cancer chat held March 21.

Have you used ScribbleLive or uStream to hold live chats with your audience as they view your event online? Whether you’re an independent blogger or journalist working for a news website, these tools are great to incorporate into your skillset so you can provide better community engagement and practice interactive journalism.

I have been using uStream and CoverItLive for nearly a year to share our workshops at the Southeast Michigan Media Lab, formerly the Community Media Lab, with our online audience, and recently switched from CoverItLive to ScribbleLive. I held my first ScribbleLive chat, broadcast at news websites affiliated with our chain across the United States, March 21, and again March 28. Having these two chats — one on cancer and the other on marketing blogs — under my belt has helped me build not only on my skills, but my confidence, as well.

The cancer chat was a little intimidating because it was my first and I knew I’d have a national audience. I recruited experts for the chat from the American Cancer Society, Southgate Surgery Center and the University of Michigan cancer AnswerLine. Although none had participated before, they were excited for the opportunity.

I started by setting up the event in ScribbleLive and adding them as guest writers. They were sent invites through ScribbleLive a couple of days in advance so they could register, upload avatars and become familiar with the platform. In the meantime, I researched the topic and came up with questions in advance to facilitate the chat and fill in when the talk was running slow. I also created shortened links in Bitly to facts and information I was citing so I would have analytics later to view. ScribbleLive also shares data.

Although I don’t think the other media outlets promoted it as well as they could have, I tried my best, using all of our Michigan publications’ Facebook pages and Twitter accounts affiliated with our mastheads in Washtenaw County that I had access to as a former editor. So, it’s no surprise that most of our audience came from Washtenaw County.

In all, we had 41 concurrent watchers, 1,551 total uniques, 2,186 page views, 16 unique users who posted comments, 24 published comments and 101 total posts for our cancer chat. To view the chat, click on our article page at, where it was posted.

I also organized and moderated the chat for the Southeast Michigan Media Lab’s workshop “Marketing blogs so people can find, read them,” the following week March 28. I upped my skill level by incorporating livestreaming video with this chat, embedding our uStream channel, which has had 465 views since inception, in ScribbleLive. For this, I had help from Paul Kampe at The Oakland Press, who has been my ScribbleLive mentor. In the past, I uploaded three embeds — chat, video and PowerPoint — in an article page with a headline.

To prepare for the marketing chat, I asked the presenter to send me his PowerPoint in advance. I uploaded that to to share with our audience, but also so I could prepare questions and information blocks. This chat had 149 uniques, 200 page views, 48 posts, 13 comments and five unique users posting comments. It wasn’t as many as the cancer chat, but the subject was pretty narrow, so it was expected. In comparison, The Oakland Press hosts a chat on the Detroit Lions. On March 28, that chat had 3,455 page views, 3,046 uniques, 16 unique users posting, 34 published comments and 37 posts.

I expected both of my chats to get a wider audience than they did, especially the cancer chat because of its broad interest, but I think as I do more and as I get more cooperation from each newsroom in promoting them, future live chats will fare better. I am still pleased, though, with the outcome. These are awesome community engagement tools that I anticipate will grow in popularity as our audience becomes more familiar and comfortable with the platform as they’re exposed to it more.

Just as I have been working steadily over the last month to recruit bloggers — partnering with 20 in the last month — I’ve been working equally as hard at lining up live chats, asking editors across Michigan and our audience for their suggestions. Some future chats in the works include a talk on Alzheimer’s disease, suicide prevention and tax filing headaches and deadlines this season.

If you have any ideas for live chats or workshops at the media lab, or want to learn how to use these tools, please contact me through Twitter, @digitalJRN.

A new crew of blogging partners

April Davis shows off a flier she created to promote her business while setting up her new blog.

April Davis shows off a flier she created to promote her business while setting up her new blog.

One of our more measurable successes in the Southeast Michigan Media Lab has been our efforts to recruit blogging partners. Since mid-February, we’ve added eight blogs, shared five existing blogs across all of our Michigan websites and we have seven other bloggers we’re working with and should have their blogs linked soon. That could translate into 20 blogs in the last month or so.

Not only is it exciting to link to these new writers and share their insights on everything from travel, international cuisine and world travel to gardening, spirituality and farm life, but it’s fun working with them and offering them advice on how to improve their blogs. I’ve provided critiques on four blogs, and met with several bloggers in person to either get them started, talk about Google AdSense or share digital media tools that can make their blogs more visually interesting and interactive. We’ve also discussed how to grow their audience by using social media.

I’ve also joined two blogger groups on Facebook connected with The Oakland Press and Macomb Daily, and I share tips with them, information on workshops at the Southeast Michigan Media Lab and engage in conversations about their work.

Some of our newest blogs are A Spiritual Voice by Chris Watkins, Talking Taylor Schools by Karl Ziomek, Speck of Sanity by Elizabeth Cusulas, Science for Everyone by Nate Jessee, Transform Yoga and Massage by Carrie Hura, The International Food Diaries by Laura Clark and Travelers Dream Blog by Laura Clark.

Blogs originally only linked to The Morning Sun but now shared on all of our Michigan websites include Lilac Wold and Stuff, Our Transplant Journey and Live Fitness Inspired. I thought all these would be of interest to readers across Michigan. I will be looking at all of our websites and determining which other existing blogs could be shared across our footprint here. I also shared this blog on all of our websites, and added our digital transformation editor’s blog, The Buttry Diary.

In the works are Garden Guy by Paul Rodman, Simply Delightful Sweets by April Davis and The Nourishing Farm by Heather McDougall. They have created their blogs, but have a few more bells and whistles to add.

Blogs in the conceptual stage include a teen mom blog, a crafts blog, a blog from the Parent-Teacher Organization in Milan schools and a blog by Daniel Lloyd with a yet-to-be-determined focus.

If you haven’t checked out these blogs yet, I encourage you to do so and post comments. Bloggers are thirsty for feedback and want to communicate with their audience. They want to know someone is actually reading their posts and that they’re making a difference in other people’s lives, whether it’s providing helpful information or just putting a smile on someone’s face.