Connecting the media lab with nonprofits

Last week, Michelle Rogers, director of the Southeast Michigan Media Lab, presented "Digital Communication Tools" to the SouthEastern Michigan Computer Organization.

Last week, Michelle Rogers, director of the Southeast Michigan Media Lab, presented “Digital Communication Tools” to the SouthEastern Michigan Computer Organization.


Through my outreach as director of the Southeast Michigan Media Lab, I’ve had the pleasure of presenting and working with numerous nonprofits. In the last week, I’ve traveled to Oakland and Macomb counties encouraging nonprofits to use digital communication tools.

The SouthEastern Michigan Computer Organization invited me to present on Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Meetup and Eventful March 9 at the Mahany/Meininger Senior Community Center in Royal Oak. SEMCO talkIt was a little intimidating at first knowing I would be presenting to computer nerds, who are at a whole other level in their knowledge and understanding of technology. I feared they would look down on me and see my suggestions for social media tools to help take their nonprofit to the next level as elementary or pedestrian.

Boy, I was wrong.

For the most part, the group, ranging in age from about 55 to 75, was in awe of the knowledge I was imparting. They asked a lot of questions and really seemed quite fascinated with all the tools I presented on. They had so many questions that I ran over my two-hour time allowance, and had to push through Eventful pretty fast. In addition, I was running the PowerPoint from my GoogleDrive and livestreaming on UStream all off a personal hotspot that, as you can imagine, was running down my battery at breakneck speed.

As I wrapped up, many members asked if I’d be available to present to other nonprofits they are involved with, as well as return to SEMCO to drill down deeper on individual communication tools and teach a more hands-on workshop. I call that success.

Facebook Post

The following Friday, I paid a visit to the Macomb Literacy Partners at the invitation of Executive Director Ken Lampar. We had met a few weeks earlier at another presentation I had given to Macomb County nonprofits. Ken was looking for me to come in and meet with his assistant and himself so they could “pick my brain” about social media and digital media, and their current social media strategy.

It was a different experience than the earlier presentation to 40-plus people who had attended the SEMCO meeting. Working with them one-on-one in their office as an adviser felt rewarding. They looked to me as an expert and I enjoyed recommending tools and strategies after learning about their mission and main goals.

Among other things, we talked about adding a YouTube channel featuring the success stories of some of the people they are working with, the stories of volunteers and why they devote their spare time to Macomb Literacy Partners, as well as video updates from Ken and his staff, and tutorials. They also liked my suggestion of setting up Twitter lists to be better organized and facilitate more retweets and two-way conversations with their audience on the site. I also recommended the tool WeJoinIn for scheduling events and volunteers.

Their No. 1 priority, or task to accomplish, will be to launch a blog and write about their efforts at Macomb Literacy Partners, share success stories, recruit volunteers and announce special events. The blog will feature widgets or links to all of their other social media channels, and it will be linked to The Macomb Daily news site as part of a blogging partnership. In return, we will ask them to add our headline widget to their blog to help attract readers to our content, as well.

If you are involved with a nonprofit and you’re looking for a speaker to present on digital storytelling tools or social media, feel free to reach out to me via the comments section of this blog or tweet @CommunityMediaL.

We’re approaching the two-year anniversary of the Southeast Michigan Media Lab. Helping the community — including nonprofits, businesses, government and individuals — embrace social sharing and use digital tools to communicate a more engaging message is what we set out to do, and I love every opportunity that comes my way to do that.

SEMCO post

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Bloggers, surveys, Touts and media lab presentations — Oh, my!

Michelle Rogers (that's me), director of community engagement and editorial training for Digital First Media's Michigan Group, runs the Southeast Michigan Media Lab in Ypsilanti.

Michelle Rogers (that’s me), director of community engagement and editorial training for Digital First Media’s Michigan Group, runs the Southeast Michigan Media Lab in Ypsilanti.

Last week was a busy time at the Southeast Michigan Media Lab, and that’s what makes this job so much fun. When I make a number of commitments — sometimes more than I initially think I can deliver on — and then finish the week with everything completed and up to my standards, it feels so rewarding.

Among the highlights last week was presenting to Eastern Michigan University’s Public Relations Student Society of America chapter. I worked on my PowerPoint for the group Monday, cobbling together some slides I had used for a presentation to the Milan Area Chamber of Commerce with some other slides I shared with marketing students in Macomb County schools, as well as new slides appropriate for their needs.

The presentation gave background information about the media lab, our free services and opportunities for public relations, marketing and journalism students, as well as a rundown of free digital tools they could use to hone their skills.

While it started out bumpy, as the bag containing my projector was missing a crucial cord to plug the projector into an electrical outlet and I had to run back to the office (luckily, I arrived early enough to have time to do this), it was a success in the end. When I asked students to raise their hands if they thought they would be visiting the media lab soon, everyone (I am pretty sure) raised their hands. In fact, a few approached me afterward and followed up through email with ideas for partnerships, including an Internet radio show on BlogTalk Radio and two blogs.

Also on Tuesday, I was on a three-hour webinar with Digital First Media colleagues across the United States listening to Thomas W. Rhoads of Bucks County Community College’s Center for Workforce Development present the Innovation and Creativity Program. We weren’t even through the entire program and I was already emailing Claire Gavel, DFM’s chief learning officer, suggesting everyone in our organization go through the training. While it’s cost prohibitive, as Claire explained, she said they would be presenting it again and she would allow me to invite specific individuals who I thought could benefit from it the most.

During the training, I felt inspired and invigorated as we, as a group, were encouraged to innovate and lead. I felt empowered and wanted others I work with to feel the same, in whatever they do. Among my takeaways was Rhoads’ assertion that we should all be open to learning and growing as that’s what inspires innovation. Collaboration is and always will be important. As Rhoads puts it, innovative organizations collaborate. And don’t be afraid of being judged or hurt because that will stifle your own creativity.

Accountability was another big theme, as well as consistency, authenticity and having standards/values. It’s important to empower people by asking for their ideas. People share more if they believe you trust their ideas, Rhoads said. Also, don’t be afraid to fail. If something doesn’t work, you learn from it. If it works, you can count it as a success and then look at how you can improve upon it — always grow and learn.

Making a difference, staying engaged, offering encouragement, trusting and courageousness inspire people, so I have renewed my commitment to all of those approaches as I move forward with my work at DFM’s Michigan Group.

The next day offered another fun-packed day with a webinar on trends in online journalism offered by the Online News Association, a one-on-one session with a blogging partner,

a conference call with my new boss and a workshop for the public on contributing guest columns and letters to the editor.

What’s cool about my one-on-ones with bloggers is that I always learn something new, too, while trying to help them troubleshoot a problem or implement something I had never thought of doing. When I met with Linda Tubbs of Professional Volunteer Corps, we were adding a tab on her blog and sub-pages under the tab. In doing so, we learned together, through trial and error, how to do it by designating a post as a “child” under a “parent” page. We also played around with embedding her WordPress blog on the group’s WordPress website without totally moving it. While we searched online for advice and found some HTML code that should have accomplished exactly what we wanted, it didn’t work. So, WordPress may have changed something since the post was written. I came up with an alternative of setting up a RebelMouse page, embedding it on the website and running her blog’s RSS feed automatically through the RebelMouse page, but she didn’t like it because of the RebelMouse branding. So, I’ll continue to work on solving that dilemma.

Also Wednesday, while waiting for a conference call that ended up being canceled,

A screen shot of or Best of the Blogs page on RebelMouse.

A screen shot of or Best of the Blogs page on RebelMouse.

I created a RebelMouse page curating the RSS feeds of 25 of our best blogs and shared it on all of our sites to give an extra boost to our blogging partners. I plan to change the featured bloggers quarterly, so everyone gets the extra exposure.

The workshop in the evening was a fun collaboration between me and reporter Andrew Kidd of The Oakland Press. Andrew had proposed about a month or so earlier that we travel around to our various newsrooms and teach our audience the basics of editorial writing. Andrew also serves as the opinion page editor of The Oakland Press, Macomb Daily and Daily Tribune, so he has been coming across a number of issues with unsigned letters, letters that lack focus and submissions containing sexist, racist and homophobic remarks. Using Google Presentations, we collaborated on a PowerPoint and spoke to our first group Wednesday at The News-Herald in Southgate and broadcast the session live using uStream. We had a small group of five, but we are hopeful we will have more interest this Wednesday from readers at The Oakland Press.

Thursday was another rewarding day as my help was totally embraced by staff at The Oakland Press when I put in my fourth day of office hours. Three earlier times, offered around the holidays, were not as fruitful — probably because of the holidays, shorter deadlines and smaller resources with staff on vacation. I was thrilled to walk in this time and have four people immediately set up times to meet with me. It really made my day, especially after the 2 1/2-hour commute in horrid driving conditions. From creating Valentine’s Day surveys in Google Forms with Lara Mossa Stump and setting up labs in Kathy Blake’s gmail to brainstorming Tout ideas and reviewing RebelMouse setup with Aftab Borka to experimenting with TweetPic with Carol Hopkins, helping my colleagues learn new tools

and overcome technology-related stumbling blocks really brings me great joy and a sense of accomplishment.

Friday was more social media postings and monitoring, the announcement and start to a social media revamp for our Michigan cluster, and a conference call with editorial trainers across our organization about a new Learning Management System we had been trained on a couple weeks ago called Desire2Learn. I am really excited about the potential of this new tool, and I will devote an entire blog post to it in the coming days. Basically, it will facilitate our training, allow us to work more efficiently and through collaboration, and run our own internal learning institute as reporters and sales representatives continue to learn, grow and evolve in this changing environment we work in.

Over the weekend, I wrapped up some loose ends I hadn’t attended to during the week, including starting a survey through SurveyMonkey for The News-Herald’s annual “And the winner is …” contest for the Academy Awards. Since it had been longer than six months since I used SurveyMonkey, I wanted to get in there before showing reporter Andrea Blum how to set up the survey for her audience. As soon as I started, I remembered how intuitive and easy to use the application is for laymen. Later today, I’ll walk Andrea through the process, as well as her boss, Managing Editor Rick Kessler, who will be developing a Reader Focus Group survey.

And, finally, the icing on the cake today came in an email from my new boss, Don Wyatt, vice president of news for DFM’s Michigan Group, who dubbed my suggested name for a new drop-down tab on our website for in-depth data-driven stories as the winner. After coming up with a long list of suggestions, Email from Don Wyatt narrowing it down to a top 5, asking our readers to vote and/or give suggestions, and then deciding none fit the bill, I suggested DataWorks over the weekend and he liked it. Feeling as if your time is well spent, and your ideas and help are valued, really makes for the most awesome feeling at work. In fact, it makes it feel as if work is play, and that is what I strive for in life.

Digital First Media’s ideaLab coming to an end

The Southeast Michigan Media Lab, part of my ideaLab project, will continue, although the ideaLab is coming to a close.

The Southeast Michigan Media Lab, part of my ideaLab project, will continue, although the ideaLab is coming to a close.

It’s hard — and not so hard — to believe. After 3 1/2 years, Digital First Media’s ideaLab is coming to an end.

I was shocked when I was named to the inaugural group in July 2010, surprised when it continued past what I thought would be a year-long stint and forever grateful how my time spent experimenting with digital media tools has helped me grow as a journalist, editor, mentor and trainer.

The news came in the form of a phone call Dec. 13 from Mark Lewis, communications/operations editor for DFM’s Thunderdome in New York. He wanted me to know the project was ending. He also solicited my feedback about the experience and announced a new project could replace ideaLab in the coming months. I wasn’t completely shocked at the news because my boss, Glenn Gilbert, group editor of 21st Century Media’s Michigan cluster, had warned me that it might be happening, and I knew many of the labbers had taken on new roles in the company or left for other endeavors.

I was so honored to be part of the ideaLab. When I first learned in a blog post by company CEO John Paton that I was part of the exclusive group of 18 representing editorial, advertising, finance, circulation, production, IT and Classifieds, it came as a total shock because I had not applied. My name came up as top brass deliberated over the makeup of the team. When I read the post announcing who was picked, it blew my mind, as noted in the “about” page of the ideaLabHeritage blog I created to share information about my project and its progress.

The ideaLab met for the first and last time in late August 2010 for a daylong summit at company headquarters in Pennsylvania. Members received advice and tips from a newly minted advisory board and we hashed out our individual project ideas and goals. At that time, while I was telling the group my interests, we determined my goal would be to “incentive co-workers to learn new technologies and understand the value of digital; train co-workers to utilize new tools by showcasing the strength and potential of each offering.” We were each given a smartphone, iPad and netbook, a stipend of $500 per month and encouraged to spend 10 hours of our 40-hour work week on our projects, and communicated through conference calls, email and a Facebook group.

What came of my project initially was a partnership with Eastern Michigan University professor Michael McVey and the Saline Area Historical Society to create a virtual historic walking tour of downtown Saline, with audiocasts sharing each building’s history, digital map, and photos from the past, as well as today. I learned how to use Audacity for editing audio, although Michael did the bulk of the work, and I partnered with one of my reporters, David Veselenak, for the mapping component. I also crowdsourced photos from the historical society and used a freelance photographer to get modern-day shots. Given the opportunity to tackle this project three years later, I would do it very differently, using different tools and presenting it as a cohesive package using ThingLink.

After the historic walking tour podcast was completed, my ideaLab project evolved into an effort to document, through audiocasts, historic moments and milestones that local residents experienced. As part of the effort, I visited Brecon Village retirement community in Saline to interview older residents about their lives. I tried to get staff and the community involved, as well, but that proved difficult to do with limited resources and scheduling conflicts. I used the tool ipadio.com to gather and share the phonecasts, which were embedded on our website under a drop-down menu under the news tab our web department created especially for us. I later added audiocasts on other topics to the channel.

In February 2012, as the ideaLab grew in number, with the acquisition of Media News Group, and as a request for proposals to develop community media labs came forth from Digital First Media, my project morphed into the Southeast Michigan Media Lab, the muse behind this blog. My proposal was among 12 approved in 2012, and the only one in Michigan to receive funding. For me, it was the perfect opportunity to dedicate my ideaLab time toward an even greater good, teaching the public digital storytelling and social media tools to grow our network of community contributors and blogging partners.

With the newly invigorated ideaLab came a virtual space for us to work called BaseCamp. Here we created to-do lists, sought advice from one another and shared the progress of our projects. In February 2013, my ideaLab project had morphed into my job, along with other responsibilities, and my home became SPARk-East, a business incubator in Ypsilanti where our media lab was — and continues to be — based.

I’ve had much success with the media lab, where I’ve hosted dozens of workshops, led by local media professionals, educators, social media gurus and myself. We have a loyal following of nearly 100 “labbers” on Meetup.com. I would estimate I’ve worked with several hundred people either individually in person or virtually through email exchanges, Facebook, Twitter and live chats, as well as workshops. Next month, in my last blog post about my ideaLab project, which I will post on my ideaLabHeritage blog, I’ll provide more concrete numbers, analysis and reflection.

Earlier today, while working at The Oakland Press, where I am now offering regular office hours to teach our journalists new digital storytelling skills, I created a NewHive expression featuring some of the tools I’ve learned over the last three years or so. While my ideaLab project is ending, my job continues to be “to learn new technologies and understand the value of digital; train co-workers to utilize new tools by showcasing the strength and potential of each offering” — and for that I am extremely grateful to the company for investing in me and my potential to help our newsrooms grow the skills of our digital journalists.
Digital storytelling tools

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 gr8lakescamper.blogspot.com or email him at rkess-ler@heritage.com 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 moni-ca.drake@oakpress.com.

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

Teaching Tout, Twitter and Pinterest at the media lab

The last few weeks at the media lab have had me on the road traveling to newsrooms in Oakland and Wayne counties, and working with individuals at the media lab in Ypsilanti, located in Washtenaw County, teaching Tout, Twitter and Pinterest.

Since Digital First Media entered a partnership with Tout and we started using it in newsrooms across our footprint, from the East Coast to the West Coast, there has been a big push to get everyone trained — journalists, freelancers and the public. In the last week, I’ve trained Michigan sports reporters, Heritage Media-West reporters and Oakland County residents on Tout using three different presentations tailored to their specific needs.

I really enjoyed putting together the presentation for sports because it motivated me to look at what reporters were producing on Tout, checking into their successes (with top views coming from Detroit Lions reporter Paula Pasche and Detroit Tigers reporter Matt Mowery) and looking at what they could be doing better, such as writing better descriptions that are more Twitter friendly with mentions and hashtags, and narrating their videos, instead of just shooting action. I also suggested how their audience could get involved, creating their own Touts and feeding their videos into a widget on our sites.

I had similar advice for the news staff in Washtenaw County, but geared their presentation more toward breaking news and coverage of community events, and motivating their readers to get involved by shooting their own Touts and sharing them by using an established hashtag for breaking news, and individual hashtags specific for each community event.

We have found that more views come through widgets embedded in articles on our websites, rather than plays through Tout.com or the Tout app. It makes sense since you have a built-in audience already interested in the news, sports or feature story, and looking for complementary coverage. So, I walked the reporters through the process of building a widget, which takes less than a minute. It’s very simple and there really is no excuse not to do it. It’s definitely more efficient. It also delivers a better presentation with a video player, and provides more thorough coverage, bringing in video from a variety of sources using a hashtag.

I was pleasantly surprised by the turnout for Tout training for readers of The Oakland Press. We had about eight people sign up via our Facebook events page and Meetup, but twice as many actually attended as a news article online and in print enticed even more people to check it out.

Monica Drake, community engagement editor at The Oakland Press, helped me with both presentations.

I think we make a good team. We had a PowerPoint that encouraged readers to start using Tout and Monica took it a step further by actually setting up the hashtag for them to use that will feed directly into the Tout widget on The Oakland Press home page. It was inspiring to see that many of the participants had either downloaded the Tout app before coming or did so shortly after they arrived. Many asked questions and were genuinely interested in contributing community news through short-form video. The fact that Tout provides video in real time and can be easily shared on social media makes it very useful.

While I feel very comfortable teaching Tout, I struggle a little bit more with Pinterest, but I am becoming more versed the more I use it. I’ve been working regularly with two women from the Professional Volunteer Corps in Ann Arbor, who are interested in creating a Pinterest page to share photos from the group’s volunteer activities. Before they asked for my help, I had started a Pinterest page of my own, but I wasn’t very active. Now, after exploring on my own so I could help them, and then actually setting up their page, adding boards and creating pins, and then showing them how to repin, I’ve become more comfortable with it. There is much more for me to learn about it and teach them, and I am enjoying the experience. Check out their boards here and let me know if you have some suggestions for them. They will be returning Friday for more help.

Linda Tubbs of the Professional Volunteers Corps works on her Pinterest page.

Linda Tubbs of the Professional Volunteers Corps works on her Pinterest page.

At The News-Herald in Southgate, I’ve paid two visits in recent weeks to work with newly hired reporter Anne Runkle. Anne had worked in the industry during the late 1980s and through the mid-1990s, and needs some catching up to do with digital media. So, we started with Tout and Twitter training.

I’d eventually love to see her graduate to creating timelines, audiocasts, locator map embeds, polls and data visualizations. But we’re starting with building an audience on Twitter, crowdsourcing and creating video to complement her storytelling.

I am curious, if you are a journalist, which social media tools do you use and why? Please leave a comment and answer my poll.

Making yourself marketable in journalism today

The Southeast Michigan Community Media Lab is located at 215 W. Michigan Ave. in Ypsilanti at SPARK-East. It's a free resource for journalists, students and the public.

The Southeast Michigan Community Media Lab is located at 215 W. Michigan Ave. in Ypsilanti at SPARK-East. It’s a free resource for journalists, students and the public.

A reporter I had hired to cover sports and write news a few years ago — but who then left for another media company — contacted me last week and wanted to meet. I knew he had been laid off from the company he had left for, but he had rebounded and was hired by a daily near his home. I assumed he wanted to visit me at the Southeast Michigan Media Lab to learn some new skills he could apply in his relatively new position.

I was surprised, however, when he told me that after just a few months he had been laid off from the second company. I shouldn’t have been too surprised, though, given the state of the industry and after going through our parent company’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy (twice). Since emerging from bankruptcy, the company I work for has been working hard to change the culture of our newsrooms, encouraging reporters to embrace digital media and the tools that can generate content to complement their storytelling while helping to share it with a wider audience. But not all companies have been as successful, including, I suspect, the two that had let go of this reporter, as he told me that neither was using social media and digital media tools to the extent we and other leading media companies were.

As we talked, I saw that he wasn’t there to learn as much as he was there to network. He was checking in to let me know he was back on the market and wanted to know if I knew of any job openings in the industry. So, I pointed him toward the Facebook group DFMjournalismcareers and took a look at his resume. The first thing I told him was to ditch the traditional printed resume and copies of his clips, and set up an account at Pressfolio, as it’s made especially for journalists. It’s a nicely designed site that’s easy to navigate. It aggregates all of your clips and you can view it by “section,” such as breaking news, sports, features, and include page design, video and other work. There’s an “about” section and a “skills” section similar to LinkedIn, as well. Its “featured” selection reminds me of the same functionality that I use on Meetup.com to highlight an upcoming workshop.

I also advised the reporter to immediately dump the old flip phone in favor of a smartphone. Every journalist, I told him, has to have a smartphone. In today’s world, it’s more essential than a reporter’s notebook and pen, as it will connect you in real time with your readers, and — bonus — you can take notes with it, and record audio and video.

Until I got my iPhone in 2010, I had no idea what I was missing. Using free apps, I can capture audio for an immediate post on my phonecasting channel at ipadio.com and share videos in real time using Tout and my social media channels to distribute breaking news from the scene. Live tweeting an event, court proceedings and government meetings has become standard practice, just like sharing updates, links and crowdsourcing on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. We use Instagram and Pinterest to share photos, and there’s ScribbleLive to update a live blog and uStream to livestream video from a remote location.

Let’s not forget Google Maps to ensure we don’t get lost while driving to the scene of a breaking news story or interview, and the weather app to report on a weather event or check whether you should bring your umbrella. There are a lot more, and I encourage people reading this post to share their favorite apps in the comments section.

At the end of our conversation, I had hoped I got through to this reporter. To be marketable in the field of journalism today you have to be social media and tech savvy. You must master the social media and digital media tools that will aid in your reporting and set you apart from the pack of other laid-off journalists looking for work. Having those skills also will make you competitive with the journalism school graduates who have embraced many of these tools while growing up and those skills have become second nature to them.

This journalist has the reporting chops and source-building skills necessary to succeed. Those are always at the top of any publisher or editor’s list when filling open positions. But if you haven’t figured out how to share video, photos, text or audio from the scene of a breaking news story or crowdsource information using social media, you’re sunk.

Practice makes perfect, I reminded the reporter, so get out there and start playing with some of these tools. Take control of your destiny and grow in this ever-evolving field so that you can continue to do what you love.

Before we parted ways, I handed him a flier listing all of our free workshops he can take advantage of at the media lab to learn some of these skills, and I encouraged him to return for individual instruction, also free. The next workshop is “Using social media to engage your audience,” and it will be taught by Eastern Michigan University professor Gina Luttrell.

Now, let’s see if he shows up.

I am crossing my fingers — and toes.

Tout Training for 21st Century Media journalists, editors

The Southeast Michigan Media Lab is on Tout. Follow us!

The Southeast Michigan Media Lab is on Tout. Follow us!

Tomorrow I will be holding a live chat and livestreaming video of training on the video platform Tout for our newsrooms. I am pretty excited about the potential this new tool has, from visual storytelling to community engagement, and I plan to promote its use at the Southeast Michigan Media Lab.

The video platform allows you to provide real-time video updates, known as Touts, and community contributors, bloggers and news consumers can do this alongside multimedia journalists at Digital First Media, which includes The Oakland Press, The Macomb Daily, Daily Tribune in Royal Oak, The Morning Sun, Heritage Media, The News-Herald in Southgate and other news websites across Michigan, as well as scores of others across the United States. Local reporters will be producing videos, up to 45 seconds long, and sharing them on our websites, embedded in articles and on our social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter. Touts also can be shared through email, texts and links.

Viewers can follow individual journalists and news organizations on Tout.com or through a free application on their smartphone, or watch those videos on our websites. Touters can choose to download the application on their iPhone or Android or create a Tout using a webcam on their computer.

Advantages of being a Touter include the ability to share videos and reply with a video, whether it’s to comment on a video’s content, respond to a question posed by a reporter or add companion content. For us, this interactive element is appealing as we strive to connect with our audience on different levels. Our journalists are now using it to share breaking news, weather and traffic reports, teasers to upcoming coverage, share clips from interviews, video of local events, and to engage their communities in real-time conversations, as well as look for news leads.

I like what John Paton, CEO of Digital First Media, told MercuryNews.com May 1: “Tout’s real-time video reporting platform gives Digital First Media the ability to show, not just tell, our audience what is happening in real-time. Our audiences want immediate news and information, and our partnership with an emerging technology provider like Tout is an example of our commitment to provide just that.”

So, if you’re not on Tout yet, I encourage you to sign up, follow our journalists and branded accounts, retout us, mention us and reply to our Touts, and we will do the same for you if you catch our interest. Be sure to mention us (@heritagenews, @macombdaily, @theoaklandpress, @newsheraldMI, etc.) so it comes to our attention faster. You can follow the media lab on Tout by clicking here. I also encourage our bloggers to add their Tout stream to their blogs, like I’ve done on mine (see photo below). This will make your blog more interactive and give your audience another platform to consume your content. You can also feed it int your RebelMouse page, as I have for the media lab.

Happy Touting!

Link Tout to your blog so your audience can easily access your videos.

Link Tout to your blog so your audience can easily access your videos.