Posted in Education, journalism, multimedia journalist, Social Media

NABJDigital Profiles Latoya Peterson, Owner And Editor Of Racialicious Blog

By Jeannine Hunter, News Producer, Washington Post

LaToya Peterson

NABJ Digital profiles freelance writer/blogger Latoya Peterson, the owner and editor of Racialicious , a collaborative blog about the intersection of race and pop culture.  This media junkie is a Poynter Institute Sensemaking Fellow and a Public Media Corps fellow. She has contributed to numerous publications and websites including: the Guardian; Clutch, an online magazine; as well as and Slate’s Double X. She has also contributed to books such as Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape () and Feminism FOR REAL: Deconstructing the academic industrial complex of feminism. She will also participate in the NABJ convention workshop “GOT GAME? A NEW DESIGN FOR INNOVATIVE JOURNALISM” on Saturday, Aug. 6 from 10:30 am to noon.

Peterson discussed the vision behind Racialicious and the challenges of maintaining and promoting it.

NABJDigital: Are you a Washingtonian or someone who relocated to this area and fell in love with it? 

LaToya Peterson: I grew up here.  My mom lived in Maryland and my Dad lived in D.C.  So I’m a local.  I don’t call myself a Washingtonian though – Washington is a different kind of place from D.C., and I learned that as I got older.

ND: What inspired the blog? How often is it updated and what are peak days/times when you and your colleague(s) encounter more traffic and news?

LP: Carmen Van Kerckhove (now Carmen Sognonvi) started this blog as Mixed Media Watch as a way to monitor representations of mixed race people and interracial couples in the media.  Her then-partner, Jen Chau, wanted to be more involved with her mixed race advocacy organization Swirl. Carmen had also wanted to bridge the gulf between larger conversations on race and mixed race issues, so she rolled them all into Racialicious.  I came on around the transition as a special correspondent and went from there.

I was attracted to the blog because it was a pan-racial take on events – it wasn’t just about black issues or Asian issues, but was welcoming to all.  As we’ve grown, it’s been a struggle to keep up as well and to learn about all the different communities we serve.  We’ve also been on a heavy learning curve since we have an international audience, and race issues change depending on how that society has constructed different groups.

We update daily, the goal is to do three posts a day, though that doesn’t always happen.  Heavy traffic days are mid-week, lightest on the weekend.  But our posts tend to have a long tail – so something we post Monday will still receive comments and debate on Friday.

ND: What sets Racialicious apart from other sites that addresses the complexities of all things racial (sexual/political and any other -ism warranting closer attention)?

LP: Three things – 1. We’re a multiracial space, which makes things infinitely more complicated.  Traditionally, race work has been silo-ed with most folks sticking to their own background group, and occasionally reaching out to white audiences.  Our goal is to get people talking to each other across racial, ethnic, and national boundaries.

2. We base everything in pop culture.  Most people (and most of us on staff) didn’t have the ability or luxury to spend a lot of time with critical race or oppression studies in school.  So pop culture becomes an easy way in to open up broader conversations.  I’m currently working on a piece about two shows – Single Ladies and Love Bites – to talk about the differences between how the shows present interracial relationships.  Love Bites, which is a show revolving around a handful of white characters, takes the colorblind approach, where race is never mentioned and is never an issue.  Single Ladies, which revolves around two black women and one white one (who dates black men) bring up race, but not in the heavy-handed way it’s often dealt with on other shows.  Pop culture helps people grasp onto these larger issues of theory in a way that makes sense to them.

3. We deal with structures.  We’re interested in the root cause of a lot of these problems and we want to discuss that with a wider audience that normally doesn’t get that kind of analysis from mainstream media sources.

ND: W hat are some challenges you face in gathering information and maintaining the blog?

LP: Time is the largest one.  Racialicious is a volunteer effort, so we are always out of time.  Information and such flows through to us at this point, far more than we can handle.  So our biggest challenges are increasing capacity and figuring out how some of us can transition into doing this full time.

ND: How does maintaining this effort differ from your other writing/journalism experience(s)?

LP: I started digitally, so to me digital writing is a lot more free than other types.  I’m not worrying about word counts or page limits, I don’t have an editor, I don’t have to worry about timeliness or arguing why something is relevant – we write what we like and what interests us.  I love the collective that we built – our commenter base is whip smart and informed and just as snarky as we are.

I like the people who helped make this happen – Carmen, Wendi, Arturo, Thea, Fatemeh, Nadra, Jessica and Andrea all came into this project knowing it was this weird kind of collaborative experiment, and yet stayed around anyway.  That’s what I love it about it.  Other writing is fun too.  It just never feels like home the way Racialicious does.

Posted in journalism, multimedia journalist, Social Media

NABJDigital Profiles Markette Smith, Co-founder, DC on Heels Blog

By Jeannine Hunter, News Producer, Washington Post

Markette Smith is co-founder and half of a dynamic duo exploring the nation’s capital with enthusiasm and style – in stilettos, no less. Combining a background in interactive journalism and interest in lifestyle and entertainment, she helped develop television segments then a blog, which has been featured in the local television market, one of the nation’s most competitive. But remaining inside the Beltway isn’t the only place she and her colleague want to reach.  Smith discussed the vision behind DC on Heels and the challenges of maintaining and promoting it with NABJDigital. She will moderate a panel at next month’s NABJ convention, Blogging And Beyond, on Friday, Aug. 5, from 2:15 to 3:45 in Room 115A.

NABJDigital: Are you a Washingtonian or someone who relocated to this area and fell in love with it?

Markette Smith: I am originally from Los Angeles, Calif., and I moved to Washington after finishing undergrad. I really like the diversity of the city, so I decided to stay for grad school and I’ve been here ever since. I do miss my hometown and Southern California, and I hope to return one day.

ND: How old is the blog? Gauging from your entertainment program’s Web site it appears that the blog started after you began providing segments on DCTV.

MS: We started the blog in July of 2009 – almost two years ago! It started as just video because the co-founder, Vanessa Camozzi and I both really wanted to do entertainment news, but we were stuck in Washington — the epicenter of politics. We were both pursuing TV careers, but with the economy and tight job market, there were no viable job offers coming in from L.A. or New York, so we decided to collaborate and produce a show for cable access and stay in DC.

The first few shows were only 10 minutes in length and were well received by our audience. We won the 2010 Viewer’s Choice Award for Short Form programming, voted on by more than 14,000 members and viewers of DCTV. I was ecstatic. WAMU-FM’s Kojo Nnamdi presented us with the award. That was when I felt like we were onto something good.

ND: What inspired it?

MS: The blog came about out of us wanting to partner with a local TV station to distribute our show. We had a meeting with the executives at The CW (DC 50) in Washington and they said they would only put us on air if we blogged. So we started blogging. The blog was an instant hit. We would cover local music and entertainment events and acted as entertainment correspondents for The CW and they would air promos on the station promoting online videos to viewers.

About a year into our partnership with The CW, we went out on our own — we started designing our own blog Web site (which is the one that exists now) and we started going after sponsorship. As fate would have it, less than two weeks after our split from The CW, we were invited to be weekly guests on the feature news program “TBD News: Trends” with Morris Jones [until the show’s cancellation this past winter]. Around this time we also secured a partnership deal with the Los Angeles-based accessory and footwear company, for which Kim Kardashian is a spokesperson [information posted on its Web site indicates Kardashian established the company and is its chief fashion stylist]. This proved to me that we could make it on our own and get compensated for what we were doing — I felt validated and motivated to keep working harder.  We had built up quite a following. We had paying sponsors and several partnerships with business who agreed to donate their services or goods in exchange for us placing their logo on our site.

ND: What are goals or future projects for the blog?

MS: We are hoping to expand our blog into a multimedia TV program that will be like no other in terms of the seamless convergence of television and Web content – a lofty goal I know.

ND: Tell us more about its name and the significance.

MS: The name “DC on Heels” represents our experience of covering entertainment and lifestyle events in Washington. We are almost always in stilettos or some sort of wedge heels when covering events, so the name just seemed like a natural fit.  We also feel like the name is very representative of who were are — two girls on the loose in Washington, D.C. — who are looking for fun things to do and interesting people to talk to, in one of the most diverse cities in the country — our nation’s capital.

ND: Sites dedicated to entertainment, restaurants, etc. abound. What do you think sets DC on Heels apart from the rest?

MS: There are thousands of entertainment and foodie blogs out there, but what I think what sets us apart is that we are multicultural and truly multimedia — not only do I write articles, but many times I am the one who is taking photos at events, shooting the video, Tweeting, Facebooking and blogging live for “DC on Heels” from venues.

Vanessa does this as well so I guess you can say we really put the “multi” in multimedia blogs. Vanessa and I are multicultural not only in our ethnic backgrounds, but also in the events we cover. This past year, I covered Shamrock Fest, but I also covered NABJ’s Hall of Fame awardshosted by NBC’s Tamron Hall  and the National Italian American Foundation’s annual gala hosted by Giuliana Rancic of E! News.

I know that my audience can appreciate diversity and that I don’t have to segment my coverage of events. I also think that our video interviews allow our personalities to shine through to our audience. When people think of “DC on Heels,” they can’t help but think of “Markette and Vanessa” as a result. So I think our blog also stands out because it is attached to real people and real personalities.

ND: How long have you and Vanessa Camozzi worked together? Who does what in terms of coming up with ideas, shooting video, uploading content to the blog and producing video segments, etc.

MS: We met in 2007 in grad school at American University while we were both pursuing master’s degrees in Interactive Journalism. But we didn’t actually start working together until the summer of 2009 when we both answered Craigslist ads to co-host a talk show in Reston, Va. The show was short-lived, but we liked the idea of working together, so that’s when we decided to approach DCTV. I started out doing most of the shooting and video editing because I had the equipment and Vanessa didn’t know how to edit.

However, Vanessa is very good at spotting potential opportunities and she was the one who suggested we partner with The CW. When we partnered with the station, they were able to take a lot of the pressure off because they provided camera people and the editing services. As far as the blog, we each upload our own articles, photos and related content. Both of us also contribute to our social media efforts by posting to Facebook, tweeting and going after potential social media and business partnerships.

ND: What are some challenges you face in gathering information and producing segments for television and on the Web?

MS: Professionally, I’m a multimedia journalist, so the blogging and Web stuff came easy for me. I have worked as Web producer, editor and broadcaster before “DC on Heels,” so covering people and events, and producing the Web site and social media campaigns was not new. The hardest part has always been finding financing to fuel this project. When I am looking for a photographer, Web developer, graphic designer, intern, etc., it always comes down to who and what can I afford. It’s hard to find good people who are willing to work for little to nothing.

That’s why this year, Vanessa and I started to aggressively pursue sponsors and business partnerships. I want to be able to afford to work with the best in the business, and I know that means putting in the time and concentrating on the business model a bit more, while also trying to maintain a content-rich Web site. For TV, the hardest part is getting your foot in the door. … Sooner or later I hope to find the right TV executive who believes in our multimedia dream as much as Vanessa and I do, and I know that he or she is out there.

ND: How does maintaining this project differ from your other experience(s) in journalism?

MS: Maintaining this project has been an excellent exercise in management and entrepreneurship. In previous journalism positions I have held, I was always a part of a Web initiative led by someone at the company who either didn’t really get the Web or were threatened by young, talented journalists with big ideas so a lot of my job entailed just managing up. I was managing personalities and trying to build trust just as much as I was producing content. With “DC on Heels,” Vanessa and I are in charge, and we “get it.” I believe that we really get how to talk to audiences online in an entertaining, engaging and informative way. I also understand that things have to move quickly — content from events has to be posted online fast, if not immediately. I also know that change is necessary to evolve and as a team we are also very quick to adapt whereas in some large media companies (not all) it can take years to absorb something new and then act in order to take a course of action.

If something doesn’t work, we throw it out. If something does work, we do more of it. We do make mistakes, but we just try to learn from them and keep going. I understand that the Web is the “Wild Wild West” of journalism and in this entrepreneurial venture, unlike a corporate gig, I am allowed to be an explorer and take risks without the fear of losing my job. It’s a nice feeling and I hope that it continues.

Smith noted that a few memorable occasions while maintaining the blog have included: Being contacted by producers of “Good Morning America” and HBO Sports who were looking to use our video footage of our past event coverage of the “Real Housewives of D.C.” and the Salahis [socialites accused of crashing a White House state dinner] in their broadcasts. This past April, several of our blog posts about the royal wedding received worldwide attention.  Since then, we have partnered with a few local experts who contribute to our site as guest bloggers, but it is still mainly Vanessa and I rolling up our sleeves and doing the bulk of the work. I blog Tuesdays and Fridays. Vanessa blogs Mondays and Wednesdays and sometimes we blog on weekends for special events. Most recently, we have been working on getting back to our roots and we are currently producing a TV pilot about food, fashion and fun for a national women’s audience.

Posted in Equipment, journalism, multimedia journalist, News, Social Media

NABJDigital Profiles The Washington Post’s Hamil Harris

By Jeannine Hunter, News Producer, Washington Post

Hamil Harris

Long before sunrise Easter morning, Washington Post reporter Hamil Harris was hard at work. His Twitter followers received updates about the atmosphere inside the historic Shiloh Baptist Church in D.C. where President Obama and his family worshipped. Harris tweeted and took pictures before and after the worship service the Obamas attended, filed an update for one of the newspaper’s blogs and contributed to the paper’s Easter coverage. Later, he created and uploaded a video clip.

These actions are steps many writers deploy nowadays as part of their newsgathering and storytelling, and the award-winning journalist took time to discuss incorporating them into his work. Harris, author of “Career Diary of a Newspaper Reporter: Gardner ‘s Guide Series,” covers individuals and issues in communities around the greater Washington , D.C. , area as well as religion and race relations.

NABJDigital: I attended a sunrise service so I was awake early Sunday morning and noticed your tweets before 6 a.m. Is this common for you on big news days?

Hamil Harris: I have never missed reporting and writing about President Obama going to church since he was elected. I guess it is like a self-appointed beat. It all started on the eve of the inauguration when the President attended 19th Baptist Church. I knew that the church would be packed, because our people just can’t keep secrets.

The key is getting there early because the fire marshal will stop people from going in at a certain point. Usually the President goes to church at least twice a year, the Sunday before MLK Day and Easter. In January, he worshipped at the Metropolitan AME Church and last Easter he worshipped at Allen AME in Southeast [both in Washington , D.C. ]. In both cases, I got to the church before 7 a.m. because some people arrive as early as 4 a.m.

ND: How long have you worked at the Post?

HH: I have been working for the Washington Post since January of 1992. My first big story was the inauguration of President Bill Clinton. I was part of a group of reporters who reported that day. My anecdote about a man in wheelchair who came to the inauguration, Marshall Hull, was the top of the story [that appeared on the front page].

ND: What devices do you regularly carry with you, i.e., a Flip Cam, a digital camera, BlackBerry, etc.?

HH: I normally travel with a Cannon G-12, a flip camera, an iPhone and a Blackberry. I also carry a digital tape recorder and in my car I have a larger camera and a laptop. I often feel like somebody in Special Forces. You have to be prepared for any scenario. On Easter Sunday, I had a G-12, a Flip [camera] and the two cells. The photo pool was not allowed in the church. In fact, only once has the White House allowed photographers to witness the President at church and that was at Vermont Avenue Baptist Church in January 2010.

ND: How has incorporating video into your newsgathering change how you interact with interviewees?

HH: It can be complicated. You have to have strong relations with people. God has blessed me to have good contacts. You have to prepare people for video. Sometimes people will talk but they don’t want to be on camera. I always try to use the camera as a tool but I don’t let the camera control me. I am still the storyteller. The camera is just the seasoning of the story.

ND: How have creating video clips, filing content for Washington Post’s blogs and using other social tools impacted you professionally? I’ve noticed that you use different techniques to cover a variety of stories such as fires that swept through the D.C. region earlier this year or your recent feature on female boxers.  Watch video of Ladies Night at Sugar Ray Leonard Boxing Center in Landover, Md.

HH: My cell phone camera has become my best tool. It can put me on the scene immediately. I love to tweet photographs and to place them on Facebook. This is helpful during a big story. But you still want to save the good stuff for the paper. So many times I am miles away from the newsroom or the bureau. But because of the smart phones I can roll.

Posted in Social Media, Technology

Group, Website Shine Light On Digital Professionals

By Jeannine Hunter, News Producer, Washington Post

Jessica Faye Carter

Jessica Faye Carter is the founder and chief executive officer of Heta Corporation, a professional services firm that advises corporations and small businesses on social technologies and cultural and gender diversity. She is a frequent speaker on these issues and the author of Double Outsiders: How Women of Color Can Succeed in Corporate America, an award-winning practical guide for professional multicultural women.

The former corporate lawyer has a J.D. and an M.B.A. from Duke University and a B.A. from Spelman College. In 2010, she established a new organization and website, Black Social Media Professionals. During an engaging conversation, Carter explained why she developed BSMP and the importance of branding, marketing and staying on top of innovations.

Jessica Faye Carter, left, speaks during a session at the Social Media Brasil 2010, the country’s largest social media conference

“The goal of Black Social Media Professionals is to provide resources for Black professionals and entrepreneurs in the social media industry, and to make social media resources and information available to non-profit and community organizations,” Carter said.

The growing site features a blog, a directory of professionals, and an area showcasing members’ sites and projects. Sections for social media resources/tools and job listings will be added soon.

She wanted to create a way to spotlight what people of African descent are doing with social technologies because there is “so much cool stuff people are working on.” She recently started to add videos to the BSMP YouTube channel, which features members offering tips and sharing their own stories about how they got started in social media.

BSMP is also a space where individuals with similar interests can learn about one another and engage online or “in real life” as they attend events such as the recent Austin, Texas-based South by Southwest, one of the world’s largest media conferences. “In the future,” said Carter, “we hope to offer informal get-togethers in the context of the larger technology conferences.”

Providing a place where prospective employers and conference organizers, etc., can diversify their pool of job candidates and speakers is a knock-off benefit of the site. “It’s important for conferences to be aware that there are Black professionals using social technologies in business, education, politics, journalism, and philanthropy,” Carter said, adding that some of them are top-flight professionals who reinvented themselves via social media tools.

Retooling one’s skills and branding are essential as careers, industries, and activities become increasingly shaped by evolving technologies and tools.

“Many people don’t realize that social technologies are changing everything from the way we do business to how we interact with our local government officials,” Carter said. “We’ve moved beyond socializing online to managing important parts of our lives with technology. That’s part of the reason that it’s really important to understand and leverage social tools and not get left behind.”

In the last decade, “the proportion of Internet users who are black or Latino has nearly doubled – from 11 percent to 21 percent,” wrote Aaron Smith, senior research specialist for the Pew Internet and American Life Project, last fall about trends in technology among people of color. “At the same time, African Americans remain somewhat less likely than whites to go online.”

“Similarly, African Americans have made up substantial ground in the last year when it comes to home broadband adoption. However, even with these gains they continue to trail whites in broadband use at home,” wrote Smith, who also noted that blacks are also less likely to own a desktop computer yet are on par in laptop ownership (as are Latinos) and more likely, as are Latinos, to use mobile devices (report here).

This fall, Carter hopes BSMP will have a volunteer day where members could help non-profits and community groups develop or refine their online identities. Members would be able to use their talents to help others demystify the Internet and get online, an especially valuable service in communities where people may be unconnected to the Internet, lack the appropriate tools to get online, or are generally unfamiliar with the benefits social media affords.