Denver NewsTrain: ‘A spa day for the brain’

Farideh Dada (Summer 2006), left, and NewsTrain co-director Linda Austin at Denver NewsTrain in Aurora, Colorado, in April

By Farideh Dada

Social media is your resume in progress; it is a presentation of yourself, so take a breath before posting something, Anthony Quintano, a social media strategist, told professional journalists and journalism students at an Associated Press Media Editor’s (APME) NewsTrain workshop last spring.

Quintano encouraged the participants to be bold but thoughtful as they create their social media persona, and to actively maintain their accounts.

“Put yourself out there. Create your brand, create your own voice,” said Quintano, who has overseen social strategy for NBC News, the “Today” show, Recode.net and Honolulu Civil Beat. “Social media is like Tamagotchi – if you don’t maintain it, it’ll die,” he added.

Quintano was one of six journalists who provided training to representatives of more than 32 news organizations at APME’s Denver NewsTrain workshop in Aurora, Colorado, in April. Dubbed “a spa day for the brain” by NewsTrain co-director Linda Austin, participants refreshed their digital skills as experts discussed how to use social media platforms in reporting and personal branding, mine data, shoot and edit video, tell stories using mobile devices and debunk fake news.

Quintano, who drove 16 hours over snow-covered mountains to speak at the event after a blizzard caused the cancellation of his flight from Las Vegas, also said that many social media platforms will change in their use and application in the next six months.

He discouraged journalists from maintaining separate personal and professional profiles. Instead, he favors a single profile because, he said, “You yourself (are) part of the brand you are making.”

Another speaker, veteran data journalist Burt Hubbard, taught participants how to use Excel spreadsheets for enterprise stories.

“Spreadsheets make your life so much easier and faster,” Hubbard said, adding that journalists who learn how to analyze data can start calling the shots, making their editors happy.

He cautioned, however, that stories still need to be told through the lens of human beings.

“Don’t make stories all about data,” said Hubbard, who has worked with The Denver Post and former Rocky Mountain News, as well as Rocky Mountain PBS and 9News, Denver’s NBC affiliate.

Keeping multimedia front and center

Christy Robinson, digital coordinator at public media station KERA in North Texas, who presented the workshop “Storytelling on mobile: Making smart choices,” referred to a Pew Research Center study published in July 2018 that showed that more U.S. adults said they often get news on a mobile device (58%) than those who often get news on a desktop or laptop (39%).

“Earn mobile users’ trust and loyalty,” Robinson urged the participants.

She also said that journalists should “not just tell, but show” by using timelines, maps, charts, graphics and 360-degree images in their website and social media posts.

AAron Ontiveroz, a visual journalist at The Denver Post, shared techniques for shooting video with smartphones more efficiently.

“If the appetite of your audience lies within video, provide them video,” he said.

Describing the advantages of posting raw videos by phone, Ontiveroz said, “Videos that are made by phone need limited editing and are not really that pretty (usually), but they are effective because they provide immediacy to a moment in time that cannot be duplicated.”

After introducing video applications including Adobe Premiere Clip and giving tips on storyboarding, Ontiveroz challenged the audience to pair off and create one-minute videos on the spot.

More advice: Networking and verification

Finding journalism jobs and internships was the focus of a session run by Doug Bell, an adjunct journalism instructor at Metropolitan State University of Denver and a former industry hiring manager for 35 years. Bell stressed the importance of a having a compelling resume. “Start with skills, not objective,” he said. “List things you know – everything.”

Adding a personal note in a resume can uplift it and increase the candidate’s chance of getting noticed by hiring managers. “Personal connection will play a huge role in your career,” Bell said.

He also said networking is essential in job hunting.

“Networking is a continual, tenacious, 24/7 campaign – to use every person, situation and waking moment to further your job search,” Bell said.

Kelly Jones, a Colorado-based journalist on Storyful’s news-intelligence team, taught participants how to set up a toolbox to verify user-generated content on deadline.

Jones said verifying the source, date and time, and location of stories and photos is needed to become comfortable enough to publish them.

“Most big stories have a misinformation element,” Jones said.

She introduced several verification tools, including RevEye reverse image search to verify a photo, along with whois.icann.org, First Draft, Stalkscan, WayBackMachine and botcheck.me, an extension for Chrome users.

Journalists need to be “verification ninjas to identify content and debunk hoaxes,” Jones said.

Denver NewsTrain, the 93rd journalism workshop sponsored by APME since 2003, was hosted by Colorado State University and held in conjunction with the Colorado Press Association Convention.

“From the beginning, NewsTrain has provided training for journalists in the skills they request in a setting close to home,” said NewsTrain’s Austin. “It has met a hunger for journalists to get better at their craft, made even more urgent these days by the need to develop digital skills.”

Farideh Dada (Summer 2006) is a journalism instructor at De Anza and San Jose City colleges in California.

Additional 2019 APME NewsTrain workshops will be held in Milwaukee on Sept. 27; Austin, Texas, on Oct. 18-19; and Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Oct. 25-26. The Freedom Forum Institute offers scholarships to CQS alumni who are working as journalists or teaching journalism full time and are interested in attending a workshop. The scholarship will cover up to $1,000 for travel expenses. Interested alums, who are asked to submit a piece about their workshop experience for the CQS website, should contact Karen Catone, kcatone@freedomforum.org.

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