Posted in Uncategorized

Addressing The Digital Dependency That Is Impacting C-Suite Opportunities

By Meta J. Mereday, writer/editor and diversity, media and community development expert

There is a growing need to provide corporate etiquette to aspiring executives who may  well have the social media skills and the pop culture savvy to make a name for themselves, but like the corporate culture tools to make an impression that imprints well for a leadership position.

People of color and women have historically experienced discrimination and battled “old boy networks” to gain traction and positions in the board rooms of corporate America. The next wave of executives will need to battle a new entry in the battle to the board room – etiquette.

Playing the game in the business arena in today’s marketplace requires more than the high-speed typing on a Blackberry and having the “B” School credentials, but also understanding the dynamics of the work environment and the social graces that provide the “small and lasting” impressions for success. As a co-founder of national organizations and having served on numerous boards and task forces within the professional services arena, I know the importance of “the etiquette game” and I have counseled many aspiring executive and entrepreneur along the way.

I have watched how the ones who have “gotten it” in terms of understanding the nuances and subtleties of this process have progressed in their careers and/or business enterprises while others who believed that their credentials and gadgets were all that they needed to “make it” in fact, did not.  My mom always taught me that kindness will take you where money cannot.

Just like watching a child taking those first tentative steps or riding their bike without training wheels after you have given them all you think they need to know, watching your fledgling students either take wing and soar, or try too hard with too little and fall flat, can be nerve-wracking. Yet, we need more accomplished diverse professionals out there breaking through that digital dependency model to help our future leaders to fully grasp what being a leader entails.  They need to know that people most often need assurances, understanding and random acts of kindness that do not require a return.  You will be rewarded.

 From the steady and assured handshake to the eye contact and engaging conversation, these are the memorable pointers that get the attention and the call backs.  The post event correspondence and follow-up and even if a deal falls through, stay in touch and highlight a lesson learned.  My latest venture – The Founders Inclusion Group – is a model organization that was established to help bridge those gaps between aspiring executives and the leaders who are looking for the one with that “just noticeable difference” in their next C-suite hire. It is all about etiquette and not about equipment.


Posted in journalism

Communication: There Is An App For That…Or Is There?

By Meta J. Mereday, writer/editor and diversity, media and community development expert

Living in this high technology and increasing digitized existence makes me wonder a great deal about the future.  In a world that has become the “change your app to control your life” existence, I continue to ask myself are we really better off or not.
There are apps to give you directions, make dinner reservations, correct spelling errors and set up your wardrobe.  All we need now is the app to drive the car itself versus that persistent voice telling you how lost — and actually  how dependent — you are to technology versus instincts.
Some people are so attached to their phones and the multitude of applications, they can no longer write with a pen, count change in their heads or speak in full sentences — there are apps for all of that! Just the notion that the words in the English language, which is so many cases is abridged, altered and adulterated, just becomes further assaulted when you have highly educated human beings who now have to learn what letter combinations such BFF and IDK mean to communicate with the younger generation.
 By improving our way of life and accessibility to information, we have diminished our way of communicating with each other and utilizing the portions of the brain that were designed for creative process and human exchange. There are apps that pick art work, apps that design our homes, apps that explain apps.
Even the phrase “apps” is an abbreviation on the word “applications.”  A word that used to have other meanings, but has now become a part of the modern culture, short-cut mindset.
Unfortunately, there is no going back, but I am sure there is an “app” that will provide you with a time travel experience — or there will be.  It is bad enough that you can hardly get two words out of teenagers who will suffer from what I call  ATCNS – advanced texting crooked neck syndrome- before they reach 30 and will have major neck and back pains, if not a perpetual slump by 40 years old.
What are we really saying as we streamline the communication process and minimize the power of the written and spoken word?  In the media industry, many are bemoaning the fact that people are not reading, thus the demise of newspapers, magazines and the many jobs therein.
In the education field, the experts are embarrassed by the low reading and writing scores of our young people who represent the booming clientele for all things digital.  Reading the blurbs on the iPad or getting an abbreviated tweet has taken the place of knowledge based fact finding, reading comprehension and writing proficiency.
It is the modern day “cheat sheet” to awareness and understand. Do we not see the connection to the problem being the bridge to ignorance built by the digital era?  I am guessing that we do not see it because it takes too long to grasp the concept and we do not talk about these issues in depth anymore.
We have gotten away from the interpersonal exchange of information – for example, sitting at the knees or our elders. It is not just about lack of diversity and inclusion, which is still a problem, but the even bigger problem is our own digital diversion from social infrastructure and common bonds – conversation, communication and compassion. We don’t talk to each other, we don’t share our stories and we don’t involve ourselves in preserving our own history.
So, do we really think that next generation – “bought everything for to make them better because they got what you didn’t get group – is going to understand the underlying meaning of your actions without words?  Think again — but maybe there might be an app out there to help with that too.
Posted in Conferences & Conventions, journalism, Social Media

I Just Called/Texted/Blogged/Tweeted To Say…WHAT??!! Missing The Human Connection

By Meta J. Mereday, writer/editor and diversity, media and community development expert

I used to enjoy attending conventions, especially the National Association of Black Journalists Convention & Career Fair because it really was a family reunion of journalists, freelancers, media professionals, journalism educators, media entrepreneurs, marketing and public relations professionals, students, community advocates and celebrities who all came together to get to know each other, talk about what happened during the year and learn more about the industry and how we can help each other.

I walked great distances between sessions and events at the recent convention in Philadelphia and watched the young professionals and the seasoned members all wearing their name badges and heading here and there — but wait, what was I missing?   The eye contact and general association with a smile that we were all a part of the same group, the same struggle was missing for me.

The digital age of smartphones and tweeting are fast replacing the art of human contact and live one to one.   I am all for technology, but let us not forget our precious human resource that is NABJ’s  hallmark.  There were iconic journalists, media legends, inspired media-preneurs and living historians within our midst, but many of the members – both young and old – were so busy clicking away with the growing “crick” in their necks, that they missed out.

In some instances, I walked up to some members and drew their attention away from their tweeting marathon just to say hello and find out about them. I was intrigued when I talked to first timers who shared that they often feel intimidated walking up to members, especially if they see them with lots of ribbons on their name badge or with a group of people.

I remarked that many of the seasoned professionals love to speak with the emerging journalists, but often feel that they are standoffish.  I always find it amusing that unless you have on a suit and coiffed hair, you are not considered much of a resource or someone worth talking to unless you get introduced.  In either case, holding a bag in one hand and with your head down looking at the screen from the phone in your other hand, does not make for great human connections.

It is as if the digital age is increasing speed and access to information, but decreasing courtesies and the all important small talk that provides the best leads and long term friendships. So many of us come to the convention with the notion to “see more folks who look like us” so that we can be motivated when they go back to the shops where we are flying solo and fully engaged in state of the art technology to stay relevant and employed.

But I always felt that NABJ was the oasis to just be and to “relax, relate, release.” Yes, it is a working convention for training and jobs. It is also a recharge spot to see old friends and to make new ones.  We don’t have to be uptight and high wired all the time.

Unfortunately, the digital age does not seem to make it better for us when we do come together, because we are too busy tweeting to someone else who is not there and missing out on connecting with those who are.  And each year, we lose more members.  Although I have lost many friends and colleagues that I was fortunate enough to meet at NABJ conventions, I still enjoyed just being around for the most part to laugh, to hug, to cry, to reminisce and, on occasion, to share a little wisdom with someone and gain a little from someone else.  I am still resistant to the “tweeting” and “liking” fad that has swept our industry because I still like to write, to call and to just “reach out and touch.”  That is just me.

Posted in Entrepreneur, Innovation, journalism

Finding Your Entrepreneurial Inspiration

By Benét J. Wilson, DJTF co-chair, Online Managing Editor-Business Aviation, Aviation Week Group

I am a journalist who has never been interested in following the entrepreneur path.  I just don’t have the desire or the mindset to do it.  But I know plenty of journalists who are thinking of or actually following their entrepreneurial dreams as a way to stay in the game as newsrooms continue with job cuts.  And I feel the Digital Journalism Task Force has a responsibility to help those follow those dreams.

Last week’s layoffs by Gannett and Media General brought up the entrepreneurial discussion once again.  My good friend — and partner in crime — Doug Mitchell is about to start year two of the New U: News Entrepreneurs Working Through UNITY competitive program.  Thanks to a grant from the Ford Foundation, New U helps journalists of color who want to become entrepreneurs by having them    participate in a national “boot camp”.  It offers training and one-on-one mentoring and a competition for start-up funding to assist news entrepreneurs in realizing their ideas.

This year’s National Association of Black Journalists’ annual convention and career fair includes four workshops — including year two of Sheila Brooks’ day long “Creating Wealth in an Innovation Economy” session — on entrepreneurship at this year’s convention.  And NABJ has the first Ray Taliaferro NABJ Entrepreneurial Spirit Award winner.

But beyond the convention, what is our organization’s commitment to helping members fulfill their entrepreneurial dreams?  I’m inspired by the efforts of members including NABJ Secretary Roland Martin, Mike Green, co-founder of the Black Innovation and Competitiveness Initiative, Meta Mereday, Editor in Chief of Savoy Magazine, Retha Hill, Executive Director of the Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab at Arizona State University, Dr. Sybril Bennett, Associate Professor of the New Century Journalism Program at Belmont University, and Doug Mitchell, co-chair of NABJ’s Media Institute, co-director of the New U program and an adjunct professor instructor at the City College of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism. among others.

I thank Dr. Syb for sending me a great example of bible scripture Isaiah 11:6: The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.

NABJ historian Wayne Sutton writes at Black Web 2.0 about the entrepreneurial dreams of two 11-year-olds — Marci Lawson and Ben Brown — who pitched their ideas at the recent Triangle Startup Weekend in Durham, N.C.  Clips of their presentations are below.  They can be an inspiration to us all!

Posted in Education, journalism, Social Media

Has The Digital Era Dumbed Down The Art Of Expression And Good English?

By Meta J. Mereday, writer/editor and diversity, media and community development expert


Meta J. Mereday

You are probably asking “why is she writing about dumbing down during the great age of digital explosion when information exchange and global interaction has launched revolutions of social as well as technological change?”


However, I am still asking because of the impact on young people who have become more comfortable in the short hand exchanges of texts and instant messaging.  We need a new code book to decipher the IDK, BFF, LOL and other symbols that have changed the face of communication and removed the previously acceptable communication terms – “Hello”, “How are you?” and, heaven forbid, courtesies such as, “Thank you” and “You are welcome.”

What have we done to the next generation who will have more physically debilitating ailments such as hunched shoulders and arthritic fingers because of the constant stooping and texting that they do throughout the day in the shorthand that drives English teachers crazy?  The battle to get students today, who find it easier to use shorthand and short cuts, to learn is not helping the United States to maintain its global supremacy.  Other lesser developed countries still emphasize the first key to success – learning English.

We may marvel that while our own children are failing their native language, we  implore those coming to our shores to learn “our language.”  We fail to practice what we preach and continue to shower our children with the state-of-the-art tools that keep them in step with their friends, but not in sync with the future. Technology does have its place, but conversation and grammar should also be in the forefront.  It is crucial to our domestic security and business infrastructure.

Charles J. Sykes highlighted much of these concerns in his book, Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why America’s Children Feel Good About Themselves but Can’t Read, Write or Add. He cited findings from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in its 1990 report that only one in six nine-year-olds read well enough to “search for information, interrelate ideas and make generalizations.”  Sykes goes on to discuss the implications as it affects the countries economic picture. He states that:  American businesses are spending upwards of $30 billion on workers’ training and lose an estimated $25 to $30 billion a year as result of their workers’ weak reading and writing skills. Also, according to a survey by the National Association of Manufacturers, nearly a third of American businesses said the learning skills of their workers are so low that they are unable to reorganize work responsibilities.

Without a command of the language and how to translate the information with understanding, we become dependent on others to speak for us. Our ancestors, who liked the college degrees and the journalistic chops, understood the importance of the spoken and written word in its basic elements. We are doing a disservice to the next generation by accepting the current trends in minimizing the written word and excusing bad behavior that supports lack of dialogue and discussion.

I am a part of the “spell it out-speak it out” generation because I owe it to those who laid down their lives so that I could have command of the English language. This enable me to write a coherent sentence, conduct an intelligent conversation and make decisions based upon my own knowledge and evaluation.