Journalists Gather In The Oregonian’s Basement (Where Revolutions Start)

by | Aug 1, 2009

Portland journalist Abraham Hyatt spent the last month organizing all the details that went into today’s Digital Journalism Camp, a free conference for journalists of all stripes. Given the state of newspapers and journalism in general, the price was certainly right.

One thing that wasn’t right was the no WiFi situation. Apparently, Sprint was going to provide WiFi but bailed at the last minute. There was one hot spot available but it was only good for eight connections. Some attendees plugged their machines to a physical port, some thanked their stars for a cell connection and others took notes the old fashioned way, by hand in a $1.29 notebook (can you imagine?).

Hyatt opened the day with remarks about re-imagining the work journalists do. He said journalists must find “nimble, pro-active and exciting ways of telling stories and describing the world we live in.”

The first panel of the day–on hyperlocal news sites–was led by business writer Michelle Rafter. She said if she had a million dollars she’d build and fund a hyperlocal news organization. Panelist Ken Aaron, Co-Founder of Neighborhood Notes, could relate. His site endeavors to break news on the neighborhood level in Portland. He described the transition Neighborhood Notes made from blog to news site and I was happy to hear they do, in fact, pay freelance writers for news stories assigned by the site’s editor(s). The rate is only $.10/word but it’s more than Huffington Post pays, or AdPulp for that matter.

During the morning’s second panel on SEO for journalists, I learned that I’m supposed to look at Google Trends for keywords and then place them in my titles, preferably surrounded by html header tags. I’m sure the experts are right, but that’s not how I roll. Writing creative headlines is a joy and not one I’m likely to give up any time soon.

I grabbed a free falafel for lunch and a bottle of water, courtesy of a conference sponsor. Over the lunch hour, I chatted with Steven Walling who writes for ReadWriteWeb and works for AboutUs. Alex Wilhelm, a.k.a @Alex, Co-Founder of Contenture told me about his new PayPal-like service for content producers (something I want to learn more about and perhaps put into play). Finally, Mike Rogoway, business writer for The Oregonian, entertained my questions about why was down the street in a separate building. He reminded me that while both The Oregonian and are owned by Advance, they are in fact two different companies. I know that, of course, but it’s something I can’t quite get my thick head around.

The one o’clock hour was Ginger Grant’s turn to entice the audience with the power of story and myth, in particular. By the way, this Grant is not a character on Gilligan’s Island. She’s a B.C.-based professor, speaker and consultant. Grant said when she looks at a company she doesn’t want to know job descriptions. Rather, she wants to know what people are good at and most passionate about. She said if we suck at something maybe we ought to stop doing it. Sounds logical.

Grant also suggested we each make a list with two columns. First, list “What You Love” and follow it with “What’s Not Working For You.” Then use what you love to fix what’s not working for you, she said. Interesting. With that math, I ought to be able to write my way out of financial instability. Hold it, I’ve done that (several times over). Yes, but it’s a challenge that never ends.