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.

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 Shop.com, 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 Meetup.com 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 Meetup.com 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 “about.me” 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.

Recruiting journalism interns in the digital age

Intern candidates will be asked to "Pick a tool. Any tool. Or two."

Intern candidates will be asked to “Pick a tool. Any tool. Or two.”


For the first time, in my role as director of the Southeast Michigan Media Lab and as director of community engagement and editorial training for 21st Century Media’s Michigan Group, I’ll be recruiting interns from Central Michigan University. I initiated contact with CMU after seeing a post on Facebook that MLive would be there recruiting interns, and thought 21st Century Media should be doing the same.

What I hope will make the experience different for students with our media group is that I will ask candidates to demonstrate their digital storytelling skills. I will still ask them the standard questions about their backgrounds, passion for journalism and career goals, but I’ll also ask them to produce content about Digital First Media, its CEO, media labs or other related news using digital storytelling tools. What I am interested in seeing is their choice of tools, whether they choose to write a blog post; use Storify or RebelMouse; create a video, audiocast or photo slideshow; or maybe make a timeline or NewHive expression.

I created a NewHive expression to share the challenge with the students. I also will come armed with copies of Digital First Media’s recruitment brochure, list of editor contacts at our publications across Michigan, and internship opportunities at Digital First Media’s Thunderdome office in New York City’s Financial District.

A promotional piece about our recruitment efforts on CMU's website.

A promotional piece about our recruitment efforts on CMU’s website.

Thunderdome is a nationally focused digital newsroom that works with more than 100 local newspapers, including The Denver Post, San Jose Mercury News, El Paso Times, New Haven Register and The Oakland Press.

I’ll be meeting Jim Wojcik, the internship coordinator at CMU’s Department of Journalism. He has lined up a few students interested in interviewing with 21st Century Media. They’ve been asked to send a link to their resume and clips using Pressfolios. I’ll give the students a short deadline for turning around their digital-first assignment, and then make recommendations to our editors based on the candidates’ skills and location preferences, and editors’ needs.

Digital First Media's Thunderdome is looking for interns.

Digital First Media’s Thunderdome is looking for interns.

Partnering with Macomb ISD to offer many benefits

This is a screenshot of a Tout video Maryanne MacLeod shot during my presentation.

This is a screenshot of a Tout video Maryanne MacLeod shot during my presentation.

As director of the Southeast Michigan Media Lab, I’ve had the pleasure of consulting with Maryanne MacLeod, director of the new Macomb Regional Community Media Lab at The Macomb Daily, Daily Tribune and Advisor & Source building in Macomb County, Mich. And, out of that relationship, we’ve had fun presenting free workshops to the public and brainstorming ideas of how to partner with community groups to build on our mission of bringing the audience inside the newsroom as news-sharing partners.

On Oct. 4, we both had the pleasure of hosting a meeting that included 14 Career Technology & Education directors from the Macomb Intermediate School District. In addition to their regular meeting, they came to learn about the Macomb media lab and what we can offer their students.

Maryanne shared information about the lab and its mission, in partnership with the Macomb Daily’s Kevin Martin, of working with CTE students. I presented on digital media and social media tools they could be using in partnership with us. Here’s a copy of my presentation, which is housed on my Scribd account.

Karen Johnston, career education specialist at the Macomb ISD, helped organize the meeting. The Macomb Daily has had a relationship with CTE students for years through the Making Connections banner, as pointed out my Maryanne in her blog post.

“As part of this hands-on CTE training at The Macomb Daily, students and/or instructors come into our offices to build a page with content creator, Kevin Martin, the Macomb Daily’s CTE frontman,” she writes. “Conversation between Karen and Kevin, fueled in large part by the launch of the Macomb Regional Community Media Lab Aug. 13, uncovered a mutual desire to upgrade the student experience by taking advantage of social media and community contribution educational opportunities now available at the lab.”

In my presentation, I highlighted such tools as RebelMouse, NewHive, Pinterest, Dipity, Capzles, ipadio, Tout, Animoto and encouraged the teachers to have the students create a blog, similar to a school newspaper only online, that they contribute to, and that we could repurpose in print. This mutually beneficial relationship will enhance our community coverage, while helping to grow their audience and give them real-world experience as journalists. The teachers and principals seemed most excited about the potential of RebelMouse, NewHive and ipadio, based on their questions. They had some concerns about moderation, and I encouraged them to develop their own work flows so they could abide by district policies.

I am excited about the potential of this partnership and I look forward to presenting in the future directly to the students. I’d also love to establish a similar relationship in Washtenaw, Wayne and Oakland counties with their ISDs or career consortium.

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.