Tag Archives: talia whyte

NABJDigital Profiles Kelly Virella of Dominion New York

By Talia Whyte, founder and principal of Global Wire Associates and freelance journalist

Kelly Virella

There is a growing number of journalists who are leaving traditional media outlets to create and run their own online news sites.  Kelly Virella is one of those enterprising journalists.  She left her job as the deputy editor of City Limits magazine and website last year to start the news organization, Dominion of New York.  I spoke to her recently about life as a journalist turned entrepreneur.

NABJ Digital: What is Dominion of New York and why did you start it up?

Kelly Virella: Dominion of New York is the online magazine of black intellectual swagger. We report about innovative thinkers, artists and leaders. We investigate complex issues and we blog about current events relevant to the global black diaspora from a progressive-to-radical political perspective. We take our name from the hip-hop refrain, “We run New York,” which symbolizes the aspirations of the hip-hop generation for freedom and power. I started DoNY because I knew a lot of people who wanted a black publication that was more cerebral and stimulated critical thinking. I aim to create one that is commercially viable by giving it beautiful and accessible graphics and editorial.

NABJ Digital: In addition to your contributors, how many people help you run it, or is it all you?

Virella: About 40 people have contributed to the site thus far and another 30 are working on projects in the pipeline. My business partner, veteran ad sales executive Darryl Dye, is our sales leader. My social media consultant is Demetria Irwin, the former managing editor of MadameNoire.com. Also helping me is my husband and co-investor Michael Starkey.

NABJ Digital: How does your website stand out from other sites geared towards African-Americans?

Virella: We’re nerdier. LOL! Our mission is to nourish the life of the mind of people who love black culture. So we’re more cerebral and bookish than your average, with a lot of posts devoted to books, ideas and thinkers.  We also publish a lot of long, thoughtful, literary pieces that other sites wouldn’t touch.

NABJ Digital: Why do you think more black journalists should pursue entrepreneurial ventures?

Virella: I believe that every black family should aim to generate an entrepreneur because we need businesses to create jobs and economic growth that will help us assume leadership and control in our own environments. Journalists who do this can help elevate the global conversation about race and promote change.

NABJ Digital: Have you ever run a business of this nature before?  What skills are required to pursue such a venture?

Virella: Before starting DoNY I worked for almost 2 years as the number two editor for a small New York City magazine and website called City Limits. That helped me learn some of the ropes of editing and understand the business model of websites. But I’m definitely a first time business-owner and that’s an entirely different beast. You have to be patient, teachable, have foresight, vision and perseverance, and be able to use your power as CEO effectively. You also have to be willing to work at least 12 hours per day. It’s not rocket science. It just requires a lot of work.

NABJ Digital: What is the hardest part about running your website?

Virella: Finding experienced freelance contributors who know how to write good pitches is the hardest part.

NABJ Digital: What is your business model?

Virella: Our first revenue streams will be ad sales and event sponsorships.

NABJ Digital: How has the website been received by others so far?

Virella: Very well. Last month — our fifth month online — we had 55,000 unique visitors in 155 countries and territories.

NABJ Digital: What are the long term goals for Dominion of New York?

Virella: I want us to expand the brand into ancillary products like anthologies of our top articles. But more importantly, I’d like to see DoNY become a major voice in the black diaspora.

#Occupy Mobile Journalism

By Talia Whyte, founder and director of Global Wire Associates and freelance journalist

For the last few weeks, the Occupy Wall Street movement has taken over the headlines worldwide and put the future of the global economy up for discussion.  Based on the quickness this movement has grown in such a short amount of time, there are clearly strong feelings out there among the general population about the current financial system.

As a freelance journalist I not only find this to be a monumental moment in recent history, but it is also a great opportunity to practice mobile journalism.  As technology and digital tools to capture information on the go becomes more common, many reporters are spending more time on the ground, filing stories online and interacting with followers on their social networks.

I live in Boston where the Occupy movement has both fascinated and angered local residents and politicians.  I have visited the Occupy Boston site located in the city’s financial district multiple times just so I can better understand what the group’s complaints, demands and recommendations are for improving the system.

Anyone who follows me online knows that Twitter has become my BFF in the last couple of years.  I have been using the social network on my Blackberry to tell the stories of the “Occupiers,” as well as tweeting out pictures of the activities in their tent city.  My followers have been re-tweeting my posts and I have been getting feedback from others all over the world.  The feedback has been good for me because I have gotten many ideas for future stories.

I generally cover issues concerning Boston’s communities of color, so I was quick to notice the lack of people of color in this movement. I put this observation up to my Twitter and Facebook followers, as well as my email correspondents, and had quite a discussion about how the role of race plays in this debate.

Luckily in the last month, there have been two major rallies involving mostly people of color taking on economic issues that directly impact their communities.  National housing justice organization Right to the City made noise in Boston last month, when 2,000 activists rallied in front of a Bank of America, protesting its alleged predatory lending practices towards vulnerable customers.  Twenty-four people were arrested during the protest for trespassing on the bank’s premises.  This was a great opportunity to use my Flip camera to interview both victims of foreclosure, as well as those who were arrested during the protests.

I did the interviews because I wanted to put real faces on this pressing issue.  Again, I received inspiring feedback online from professional journalists and activists alike that sparked further discussion about the issue at hand.

The other rally I attended with my trusted Flip camera just last week was the first gathering of Occupy the Hood Boston – the first such gathering in the country to address issues directly affecting communities of color.  I captured on video tear-jerking footage of a woman who lost her nephew last summer to gang violence.

I also used Twitter to report on the many speeches given by community leaders on a wide range of issues, including police brutality, education and black unemployment.

One thing I learned so far from doing mobile journalism is the importance of keeping it simple.  There has been much discussion in recent years about what a backpack journalist is supposed to use for equipment.  Many technological advances have made it possible for journalists to do more with less.  All I use for my field reporting, especially in an ever-changing protest situation, is a Blackberry and a Flip camera.

Also, my mobile journalism in the last few weeks has helped expand my personal brand.  I have more people looking out for my work online, including more editors contacting me about doing freelance assignments using my digital skills.  Being open to using many platforms for storytelling really does help further your career.

New Media/Socia Media/Multimedia: Where Is The Diversity?

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

I was scrolling through my Google Reader earlier this month when I read this Dec. 8 post on Steve Buttry’s informative blog on multimedia.  He was writing about News Foo, an invitation-only event that was (as Steve wrote) a “stimulating and thoughtful interaction with creative and innovative journalists, entrepreneurs, digital thinkers and technology pioneers.”  The event was held at the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.  When I read Buttry’s post, my first question was “I wonder how many journalists of color were in attendance?”  You can see the list of attendees here.

I sent out some Tweets to people I would guess should have been invited.  A handful were, but chose not to attend for whatever reason.  But then this post from Retha Hill, director of the new media innovation lab at ASU – who did attend News Foo – offered more information.  And Hill asked the bigger question – why are new media conferences lacking in minorities?  That, in turn, led to a spirited live Twitter chat yesterday hosted by PBS Media Shift, which featured Doug Mitchell, chairman of NABJ’s Media Institute, among other things.  You can follow the chat at the #mediadiversity hash tag.  My big takeaway was one side saying “we don’t know where you new media journalists of color are” on one side and “here we are, but you ignore us” on the other.

Here at NABJDigital, we have worked hard to spotlight and champion journalists of color who we think are doing some interesting things on the new/social/multimedia side of the business.  Below are the ones we’ve done since starting this blog in October 2009.  If you know of others, PLEASE – let us know.!

NABJDigital Offers Preview of Annual New Media Women Entrepreneurs Conference

By Talia Whyte, founder and director of Global Wire Associates and freelance journalist

As journalists are trying to find new directions into reinventing their careers, many of them are considering going out and becoming their own bosses.  Over the last year, NABJ and other organizations have been exploring ways journalists can use their communication skills for entrepreneurship.  J-Lab will be hosting its annual New Media Women Entrepreneurs Conference Nov. 8 in Washington, D.C.

Photo courtesy of Talia Whyte

I have been self-employed for over 10 years not only as a freelance journalist, but also as founding principal of my own new media consulting firm, Global Wire Associates.  I attended last year’s conference with the hope of meeting other women on the cutting edge of media and innovation, and I found that and more!

It was great to meet both professional and citizen journalists who have turned their interests and skills into thought-provoking niche blogs.  I met women who were blogging about everything from military family life in Oregon to the Latina experience in Chicago. The big question that came up frequently was how to make these blogs profitable, as most of the bloggers were doing their work voluntarily or receiving small amounts of ad money or nonprofit donations.  Unfortunately, there were no clear answers, but I am sure as niche blogs become more popular over time, there will be more pressure to discuss and find a sustainable business model at this year’s gathering.

There were other women at the conference who were not necessarily looking to start a news site, but rather to learn about how to use new media for advancing their non-tech business ventures, like Carol Spinney, a Toronto-based food writer who is in the process of starting up a public relations firm for celebrity chefs.  At the time she said she was building her own website and “taking baby steps” with Twitter and Facebook.

Then there were also attendees who were only there to test the waters and see if entrepreneurship was for them.  I think it’s good for those on the fence to attend conferences like these to see whether or not they have the skills set to go out on their own.

I realized many years ago that I had the skills to be enterprising, and the information I gained at the conference was useful.  Since last year’s conference, I have not only stayed in touch with many of the women I networked with, but we are working on projects together.  Because of one relationship I developed, I was able to get funding and resources for a series of basic Internet trainings for Nigerian immigrants in Boston my team did this year (picture above) and I am in the beginning process of planning a similar training for low wage foreign workers in Malaysia sometime next year.

I am glad that I went to the conference, and I hope many of you will consider going to see if you have what it takes to be a new media entrepreneur!

 

Branding is the New Journalism in 2010

By Talia Whyte, founder and director of Global Wire Associates, freelance journalist and 2009 Environmental Justice Fellow at the Institute for Justice and Journalism, University of Southern California

John Thompson, founder and publisher of Journalism.co.uk came up with a top ten list of what journalists need to be doing in 2010 to stay competitive in the ever-changing news media landscape.

A topic on the list that sparked my attention was what Thompson said about branding. As more journalists consider the next steps in their careers, online marketing is becoming a major component to success.

…You need to build yourself an online persona, one that earns you a reputation of trustworthiness and one that allows you to build fruitful relationships with your readers and contacts. You can no longer necessarily rely on having a good reputation by proxy of association with your employer’s brand. And your reputation is no longer fleeting, as good as your last big story – there is an entire archive of your content building online that anyone can potentially access. Obvious ways to do this: Twitter, Facebook, personal blogging, but you can also build a reputation by sharing what you are reading online using social bookmarking sites like Publish2 and delicious.

This reminds me of a quote someone emailed me about recently: “Internet users aren’t destination focused–stop trying to drive people to your site and start driving them to your content.”

This is so true! Whether it is a potential new employer or gaining a fan base, in recent years, I have found out quickly that having a strong online presence can really make or break your career today.

The days of the paper resume are numbered. Not only is it essential to have sleek but functional website for employers to find examples of my work, but I have found that it is equally important to have my content located on other digital real estate.

For the last two years, I have been building up my online persona with an inventory of content on Twitter, Facebook and my many blogs, YouTube and Vodpod accounts, and it has really helped me stand out to potential employers who would not have found me online otherwise. Maintaining accounts on professional social networks like LinkedIn and MediaBistro have also been useful.  Online branding has helped me enhance the different ways I can tell stories on topics I care about to different audiences with articles, photos and podcasts.

Most importantly, I have also connected with many great people online by sharing information with each other, which has helped enhanced both my professional work and relationships.

Talia Whyte Interviews Writer/Editor Kai Wright

By Talia Whyte, founder and director of Global Wire Associates, freelance journalist and 2009 Environmental Justice Fellow at the Institute for Justice and Journalism, University of Southern California

I originally caught up with Kai Wright, senior writer at TheRoot.com, for another video interview I did with him about his appearance at a World AIDS Day event in Boston.  I thought it would be a great opportunity to talk to him about his online endeavors as well.  

Many of the things he mentioned in our interview are right on point.  For the last 10 years, I have worked as a freelance print journalist, and now I have found that I have to reinvent myself in the digital world.

I was an early adapter to online journalism; I have been blogging for over six years, and Twitter has recently become my new best friend. This summer I started writing for the new African American-centered online news site TheGrio.com.  But I never thought in a million years I would have to shoot and edit video for work, but for the last year I have been doing it with little chagrin.

I am still in the “trial and error” process, but I am having fun with my self training, mostly from watching other online videos and playing with my video editing system. My digital efforts have paid off so far.  In addition to vlogging (a form of blogging using primarily video) for WGBH, the PBS affiliate in Boston, I was also hired recently to do short video interviews with authors at my local black bookstore, Jamaicaway Books & Gifts.  So, yes, I guess you can say I am an entrepreneurial journalist taking advantage of the new online frontier.

Interview with Brazil’s Juliana Bozan on Women in Tech Entrepreneurship

By Talia Whyte, founder and director of Global Wire Associates, freelance journalist and 2009 Environmental Justice Fellow at the Institute for Justice and Journalism, University of Southern California

The first New Media Women Entrepreneurs Summit occurred Nov 9 with dozens of enterprising women – and a few men – thinking about the business side of the new cyber frontier. Following the summit, I talked to Brazilian blogger and future tech entrepreneur Juliana Bozan about creating Internet start-ups with a focus on social justice. Bozan came to the Summit to find inspiration.

Talia Whyte: Why is it important for more women to get involved in technology and entrepreneurship?

Juliana Bozan: I think it is really important for women to get online today because they are so many business opportunities. Women, especially in the developing world, are blogging and tweeting about issues that affect us. Just look at the Iranian protests last summer and the continuing human rights problems against women in the Middle East; many of the bloggers are women. Journalism outlets like CNN and BBC are using information on our blogs for free, and we see no profit. But now is the time to step our game, and figure out a way to create business opportunities for our words, video and audio.

TW: Tell me about your blogging experience.

JB: I used to write for a now defunct group blog for women in Brazil a couple of years back about “Brave Women,” where we would talk about problems women in the favelas like domestic violence, prostitution and single motherhood. It was great because everyone liked it and we have a lot of unique hits on the site, including from European journalism outlets. However, some of these journalism outlets reposted some of our blog posts, which was fine at first, but eventually we got tired of them taking our stuff without giving credit to our blog, the bloggers or even asking our permission to repost or paying us for reposting. We felt like we were being used, you know, like a new kind of colonialism. Since Western outlets are cutting back on having journalists in the developing world, they now seek out bloggers in countries they want to get information about. Unfortunately, it is very commonplace these days for Western journalism outlets take information from bloggers in the developing world and not give credit where credit is due.

TW: What are you hoping to take away from this Summit?

JB: I have met a couple of interesting people here who I would like to follow up within the next few days about getting help on writing a business plan. I want to look into starting an online newsletter or blog about Brazilian women social justice activists, but this time I want to look at having a better strategy for monetizing my site, so my writers will get payment and credit for their work. I would even consider having more formalized partnerships with journalism outlets.

TW: What advice do you have for other women tech entrepreneurs?

JB: Be strong, be confident and be smart about what you are doing. Don’t let others take advantage of you or tell you that you can’t do your own website. When you do that, you have failed before you’ve even gotten started.

Observations from the New Media Women Entrepreneur Summit

By Talia Whyte, founder and director of Global Wire Associates, freelance journalist and 2009 Environmental Justice Fellow at the Institute for Justice and Journalism, University of Southern California

Online movers and shakers made a splash last week at the first annual New Media Women Entrepreneur Summit in Washington D.C., where ideas for digital innovations with a woman’s touch were highlighted.  Both professional and citizen journalists showed off their latest projects, including Teresa Puente, former Chicago Tribune reporter and founder of Latina Voices.  Puente said she started the site to address the dearth of Latina perspectives in the mainstream media in Chicago.  Since launching last year, the wildly successful site has produced over 80 articles and has plans on recruiting more writers and having a more national focus in the near future.

While most the sites featured at the summit were commercially operated, there has been growing interest in nonprofit journalism.  Melissa Bailey, managing editor of the New Haven Independent, a news site launched in 2005 which is “produced in conjunction with the Online Journalism Project, a not-for-profit effort to promote professional-quality “stand-alone” and “hyperlocal” news sites on the Internet.”  With a staff of four, the website has succeeded in being seen as competitive with other local media outlets.  It also receives financial support from groups such as the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut and Yale-New Haven Hospital.  When asked if the site’s reporting is heavily determined by the large number of health related sponsors, Bailey said that while many stories on the site deal with health, this is because the readership has a strong interest in this topic.

Engaging readers in not only what they read, but also being content producers was an overarching topic of the day.  Maureen Mann, founder of the daily news site ForumHome, said that community engagement is central to the site.  ForumHome is an all-volunteer operation run by community residents, which started out of a need to cover issues concerning rural New Hampshire but given little attention by the Concord Monitor and Union Leader. Because half of the population has Internet access, they a print editions for special events, such as for information regarding local elections or school board meetings. The site has become the go-to place for news and information, receiving over 3.5 million unique hits in 4 years, thanks largely to its “citizen newsroom.”

“People are realizing that if they want to read the news in our community, they have to report the news themselves,” Mann said.

However, the elephant in the room is with all this content being done for free by nontraditional journalists, what does the future hold for traditional journalists who are losing their jobs due to the changing newsroom?  No one had a clear answer for this, but this will surely continue to be up for discussion more now that traditional news outlets reinvent themselves.