The Struggle of ‘Digital First’

Al

Earlier this week, roughly 400 employees at The Huntsville Times, The Birmingham News, Mobile’s Press-Register and their umbrella website, al.com, were told they no longer had their current job after Sept. 30. Also included in this round of layoffs was The Mississippi Press and its website, gulflive.com. Another 200 or so were laid off at the New Orleans Times-Picayune and its website, nola.com. [Disclosure: I was an employee of al.com during two stints in 2006-2008 and 2010-2011].

Here’s a look from Poynter on what lies ahead for al.com.

I saw this coming, but not with the degree of carnage involved. What I predicted was the more common consolidation of copy editing, page design and printing. This has been done already at several news operations throughout the country.

I also understand al.com’s vision of a truly statewide website — one that covers the entire state, and not just the three major cities of its partner newspapers. I was also highly involved in the first wave of community engagement at al.com — truly engaging with users, cleaning up the muck of comments, and connecting journalists with the public. This I still believe in wholeheartedly.

I didn’t predict that Birmingham Magazine, acquired by The Birmingham News last year, would get caught up in this, or that former coworkers of mine with superb digital skills at al.com would be affected. I didn’t predict 400 gone. I didn’t predict that employees would be put into 1 of 3 categories. And I didn’t predict that it would hurt so much.

I miss everyone in Alabama dearly, and I’m thinking of you.

But, this struggle of “Digital First” is not a new one, or unique to my old comrades. It’s something that I’ve worked on and struggled with for the past 6 years of my career. For this amount of time, I have been working with broadcast and print journalists, showing them the light and the way of “Digital First.”

There has been a lot of kicking and screaming; a lot of bruised egos; a lot of realignment of duties; and of course, a lot of layoffs. But there’s also been innovation and success; “lightbulbs” brightening in journalists’ minds; and a lot of lessons learned.

The struggle for traditional print media will continue in the coming months and years. This is the wake-up call that a lot of journalists will have to face, or already have faced — that the print medium will eventually cease to exist, and going forward, digital and multimedia are the future.

-K

I can make you a celebrity overnight: SPJ, See Jane Tweet, and Ignite Birmingham

Somehow, over the past month or so, I’ve become in demand. A hot commodity. Coveted for my great knowledge, humor, charisma and panache.

Well, not really. But I have started dipping my toe into public speaking, and educating others on my two big passions: 1) social media and online community engagement, and 2) Walt Disney World!

SPJ Region 3 Conference

First up, I spoke at the Society of Professional Journalists Region 3 conference here in Birmingham on April 1st. They wrote a great recap of my talk on social media and online user interaction in a newsroom setting.

I had no idea I was being videotaped, but alas! I was. It’s a little dark, but you can view my talk, split up into 5 videos, here. I really enjoyed speaking to a “class” of mostly college students. I had conversations afterwards with student journalists from the University of Alabama, Florida A&M, and University of Central Florida. Great group!

See Jane Tweet

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Next up, my Alabama Social Media Association cohort and new gold-shoed pal Erin Shaw Street are presenting together for a new organization here in Birmingham called See Jane Write, a networking group for female writers, bloggers and journalists. We’re presenting a program on Thursday, April 28 called See Jane Tweet, where we will present an overview on social media and using Twitter as a way to connect with other writers.

I recently did an interview with Javacia Harris Bowser, the founder of See Jane Write, about my work with al.com and the Alabama Social Media Association ahead of See Jane Tweet. We’ve also gotten coverage from RSS Birmingham and Magic City Manifesto leading up to the event, and Erin recently put out a call for questions ahead of our presentation.So if you plan on attending, tell us what it is you want to learn!

Ignite Birmingham 5

Thursday, May 5 is Ignite Birmingham 5, and for the first time, I’m presenting! My 5-minute talk is titled “Magic City: Magic Kingdom — Birmingham’s ties to the wide world of Disney World fandom, and why you should visit WDW as an adult.” See the full list of speakers here. (It’s a fabulous lineup!)

I’m very excited to introduce attendees to some local “Disney celebs,” and convince folks that they need to start planning a Disney World vacation, with or without the kids. At the end of my speech, I’m going to tease to a special event here in Birmingham for Disney fans — and for those curious to learn more about Disney World –on Saturday, May, 21. Arrr, ye mateys! Mark ye calendars! It will be a magical good time!

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To say I’m thrilled to be taking part in these events, along with serving as executive director of the Alabama Social Media Association, is an understatement. I’ve already met some amazing people here in the past few months, and have turned social media connections into real-life connections. I’m excited for more to come.