Learning to Drive a Stick and Other Life Lessons:

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be just like my sister Anne. She’s that combination of classic and cool. I have often likened her to Princess Diana when describing her to people. That’s how I see her.  I have been asked to share our story but there are so many to share and this one with cancer is more than the sum of us. So if you will indulge me, let me just share a few things I have learned from my time with Anne:

(Note to Anne- please forgive story number one– I am doing this chronologically)

  • When I was a little girl and my parents traveled overseas she exposed me to my first high school party. I was so freaked out! I wouldn’t have had the courage to have a party at the house, not then and not in my teenage years. It was the kind of party you would see in movies, complete with broken furniture, drunken teenagers, soap-filled pool and mini-dramas. The party came and went and none were too worse for the wear except Anne.

Lesson Number One: When you are hiding the evidence, hide it all. She forgot the bag of empty beer cans in the trash on the side of the house. Sure way to get busted by mom and dad.

  • My sister got her first car when I was just in grade school. It was a yellow TR-7 my parents painted white. It had  fuzzy sheepskin seats (and I can still remember how they feel). I thought it was the coolest thing ever. She never hesitated to take me for a ride. Most teenagers don’t want their little sister tagging along. It made me feel important. When Anne came back from THE Ohio State to visit us at home in California for the first time I remember being really excited to see her. I was the only other girl at home with 3 brothers so having her back was always a good thing! She came around the corner into the family room wearing jeans, an Ohio State sweatshirt and these brown loafers–I know, sounds like a real fashion plate right? All I remember thinking was how collegiate she looked and how cool I thought that was. I was fixated on the shoes though. It wasn’t long before I was out scouting for the same pair with Anne and mom in tow.

Lesson Number Two: Always be kind to little kids, it makes an impression even in the smallest of tasks.

  • When I was 17 and learning to drive Anne had a white Honda Civic stick shift. She was 24 at the time and we were then living in Columbus, Ohio. She took me out one afternoon to teach me to drive her car. It will never translate well in this story but anytime I tried to shift from 1st to 2nd gear the car would begin to jerk back and forth, back and forth sending us flying forward and then flying back, forward then back. About the 3rd time this happened we couldn’t stop laughing. It was the kind of hard laughter in which you can’t speak and if you’re lucky you won’t pee. Well–laughter like that makes it hard for the 24 year-old to explain to the 17-year old how to get out of the rock and shake maneuver. Eventually we did, I learned to drive but I think I left the transmission all along Muirfield Drive.

Lesson Number Three: When life gets rocky, laugh hard and push though.

  • Anne didn’t always have the best of luck with her health. In fact in her twenties and thirties she had such severe endometriosis, there was uncertainty as to her ability to have a baby. I remember quite vividly walking with Anne through a parking garage as we were going to see our brother Billy’s newborn baby girl Emily. I jokingly asked Anne when she and Mike were going to get started. It was then I learned they had been trying and had been for a long time. I remember thinking how tough it must have been to go into that hospital- maybe it wasn’t- but that was my thought at the time. Anne didn’t flinch. She was loving and supportive as always.

Lesson Number Four: Celebrate the happiness of others and carry yourself with grace even in times of doubt. (I’m happy to say Anne and Mike now have three incredible children.)

  • As a young adult, I went through some tough years not really sure of who I was and where I was going. After a particularly rough period, my sister called me up and suggested I move up to Washington D.C. with her for awhile. You might be thinking…no big deal? Well, she was 6 months into her marriage and living in a one bedroom apartment…but I needed help and they didn’t hesitate. That time was pivotal in making me who I am today. For 6 months, I slept on their couch bed in their living room while they allowed me to find my way.

Lesson Number Five: Be generous. You never know when your act of kindness will save a life.

  • When I was 25, I was struggling with a career decision. I was working with family in the television business. It was a great experience but I wanted to do more. My sister was an Executive Producer working for the CBS News affiliate in Washington D.C.  I called her up and we talked about an opening at the NBC station in Columbus where I was living. She told me about the job and encouraged me to apply. It was that conversation with her that made me believe I could do it. When I interviewed, it turned out that the Executive Producer there had been mentored by Anne. When I identified myself as Anne’s sister, she said, “Well if you’re Anne’s sister, you get it—that’s all I need to know.” I remember thinking how cool it was that someone would say that and what a testament to my sister.  Since then, I have been lucky to have a very successful career in this demanding field. I now am an Executive Producer at the world’s news leader, CNN. I can say unequivocally: This would not have happened without my big sister.

Lesson Number Six: Share your life lessons when you can, don’t be afraid to give advice and always encourage the dreams of others. You never know when your act of wisdom will change a life.

  • In 2004, I went through a pretty devastating break-up, the kind where you are not sure how you are going to make it from one day to the next. I needed to do something.  I had never been to Paris but somehow knew it would be my favorite city in the world. I decided to save some money and plan a trip even if I was going alone. Because my sister is just a bit awesome she managed to talk her husband into letting her out of wife and mom duty for a week and come with me to Paris. It was a week filled with massive carb fests, plenty o’wine, strange men resembling Neil Diamond crossed with Mr. Bean (some stories are best kept in the vault), shopping, all-nighters and laughter. Lots of laughter.

Lesson Number Seven: Broken hearts can be survived and travel is better with a sister.

  • Cancer.

I had just finished spending the holidays with my sister and her children in my home in Atlanta. She had to leave early to go home to Milwaukee to watch the Rose Bowl in Wisconsin. (Her husband is an alum!). The next day she had a routine doctor’s appointment that included her mammogram.  I didn’t know all this until over a month later when she called me one night and was a bit more serious than she is in our normal conversations. She made a point of telling me she needed me to stop watching TV and really focus. So I did. She was calm and direct and she said, “I have some news and I’m just going to say it—I have breast cancer”.

Stage One. Triple Positive.

By the time she had called me, she had already been through quite a bit. The mammogram showed nothing but a very alert tech spotted something that just didn’t seem right. So Anne, being Anne, didn’t tell any of us until she knew the diagnosis. I can’t imagine how scary those days were and I know how scary the days that followed were. Two lumpectomies followed by an eventual mastectomy and now in chemo. My sister is half way through her chemo as I write. There have been a few road bumps but for the most part It is going well and doctors expect a full recovery. She is handling all of this in the way I have seen her handle her life- with grace, class, love and sometimes what I think may be most important: a sense of humor. I invite you to visit my sister’s caring bridge site. She tells her story there on days when she feels up to it. http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/annebrown

One more story about Anne before I go:

Anne is a beautiful woman with big brown eyes and light brown hair. She’s always had a very stylish cut. I would not describe my sister as vain at all but I do know that losing her hair was something that was bothering her. I can relate to that and I think most people can. So as that time was approaching I know Anne was worried, not only about her head but more about her kids and how scary that could be.  The morning she began to lose her hair, she called her closest friends over to the house. With her husband and three children and those friends by her side, they took turns cutting, then shaving her head. Anne had been planning this little gathering because she didn’t want to worry her children and thought if she turned it into something fun…they would be ok. They are. And the bonus? So was Anne.

Lesson Number Eight: When you’re feeling anxious, worry is getting you down, boobs are sagging and shit’s falling out on you—call up the ones you love, chill the beer and throw a party.

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Author Note: I was going through some old jump drives this week and came across this piece you just read. I wrote it a few years back. I’m happy to report that my sister is 7 years cancer free. True to her nature, Anne is now helping all of us as our mom takes on cancer. Given all of us do not fall far from the tree… there is no doubt mom will be equally victorious.

Life Saver: How your phone could save your child from drowning

gracieinwater
Gracen Green, Age 3

I don’t remember how old I was.

I know I was just tall enough that my hand was by my right ear as I held my mother’s. I remember all the neighbors gathered around on the sidewalk talking in groups. The firetruck and ambulance were very loud. There was chaos. I remember being scared. It was Mrs. Adams’ house. She was my mom’s friend and something was very wrong.  I remember seeing a stretcher rolling out from the gate to the ambulance. On it was a little boy being resuscitated. As it turned out, Mrs. Adam’s nephew was found at the bottom of the pool in the middle of a pool party.

That story, however, had a happy ending. He survived and went on to lead a very normal life.

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My brother Billy’s nephew was not so lucky. Just a toddler, he died after spending at least 7 minutes submerged in the backyard pool when another child forget to lock the pool gate.  He is not alone.

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It’s preventable tragedy like those above that led a group of dads to turn our obsession with technology into technology that can save lives. Yep, there’s an app for drowning now. More on that in a moment– but first if you think drowning is no longer a problem in this world — think again.

According to the CDC, 10 people die every day from unintentional drowning. Of those ten people dying every day, 1 in 5 are children 14 years-old and younger.  Future inventors, teachers and leaders of the world. Three hundred lives a month — lost to something completely preventable.

DROWNINGINFO

So back to that app.

My family just recently built a pool in our backyard. We are outside people, living in the south and a dip in the water can mean all the difference between hot summer misery and saving grace!  I am also the mother of a one and a half and three year-old that don’t know how to swim just yet. They love to be anywhere near the water like their mom. Mom is also a tech-geek. So when my mother mentioned she heard about a new app and bracelet for pool safety, I was intrigued.

I started to research and there are all kinds of products on the market but I wanted something that would be tied to my phone. The reason? As a journalist, my phone is never within 3 feet of my hands. (Yes, it’s a problem…maybe a slight addiction but that’s another story, another article).

In my research, I came across iSWIMBAND. I wanted to give it a try so I spent the $40 buying it online to test it out. Given that drowning is still such an issue and protecting our children is tantamount, I wanted to share my experience here for other moms and dads and caregivers. I have no ties to this company, am not being paid for this and the observations and thoughts are 100% my own.

The iSWIMBAND Story

Untitled Infographic

Sadly, the inspiration behind iSWIMBAND was born from tragedy. Three dads got together and created Aquatic Safety Concepts LLC after one of their children’s classmates drowned at a park. The 9 year-old was believed to be under water for 5 minutes. He survived but apparently will deal with neurological problems all of his life. Shockingly, this all happened despite lifeguards, camp counselors and even parents watching the water that day. 

The founding “fathers” spent 8 years collaborating with safety professionals and engineers creating safety systems for commercial facilities. Once we became a smartphone addicted world, the dads wisely adopted that technology for people like you and me.

What is iSWIMBAND?

iswimbandinbox

It’s a relatively simple device that connects through your phone via bluetooth. It’s a small package that comes with an instruction book, one monitor, a wristband, a larger band and a clip.

**Mommy Note #1: Don’t even try the headband if you have a normal child 5 or under. It will be on the ground before you know it.

Luckily there is a wrist and a clip option. For my 3 year-old, I called it *jewelry* and made a big deal about her new bracelet! (Laugh all you want- it worked!) I do think the clip was rather genius though for older swimmers who wear goggles or the ability to clip on a waistband, etc.

The technology is pretty simple. You set up an app on your phone, you create a profile for your child and you’re off.

**Mommy Note #2: I’m kind of an organizational freak. I like my apps a certain way and I don’t like clutter. If you have more than one little person in your world, good news: the app can monitor up to 8 of these devices.

One other cool thing about this device that is worth mentioning – it’s not just for the non-swimmer. So it’s not just a tool that sends out the alert the minute it gets wet — UNLESS YOU WANT IT TO. If your child can swim, you can program the device to alert you if there is an unusual lack of motion. I’m not going to break down all the ins and outs, you can read about them here. I am a visual person though so if you are like me, I included a little slideshow for you.

The point is it’s a device not just for drowning prevention but swim safety. I like that.  Here’s a look at the device in action courtesy of iSWIMBAND:

In the end, no device is going to take the place of a watchful, focused eye.  As moms and dads, we have to be ever-vigilant. Technology is just another tool in the parenting tool box and as hard as this job is– I’ll take it! There will always be critics when it comes to aesthetics (“iSwimband Looks Dorky”) or pricing or motivation and as with anything, the best Mommy Note is to do your research.

I know I always will because I have two very good reasons to.

Bonus: [View the story “The iSwimband Conversation” on Storify]

Notes: This article is a multimedia assignment for my Social Media & News class at the University of Florida. The article was researched by me online, in social media, and through experimentation with the iSwimband. I created the Infographics, the slideshow, and all photography was taken by me. The official iSwimband video is provided courtesy of the company from their media kit. I did have a video interview set up (complete with news crew) with the iSwimband COO who happens to live in Atlanta but he canceled the night before due to unexpected out of town travel. We were not able to reschedule in time to make this deadline. My target audience for this is anyone who swims or has children/family who swim. My focus for viral opportunities/shareability would be the strong mom-blogger contingent interested in safety for their children in these summer months. After some research I would use #PoolSafety #Pool #Drown and #iswimband in my social sharing because most information regarding this topic seems to be aggregated there.

The Awesome Visual-Storytelling-Sharing-Social App You Aren’t Using But Should

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Doing what I do for a living and working towards a Masters Degree in Social Media, I am often asked “What’s your favorite app or social platform?”  The typical ones roll off the tongue but in the top three or four, you’ll find Storehouse. I’m always a little stunned when people say, “Store-what?”

Storehouse is the most awesome social app you apparently aren’t using.

When you combine talent that comes from Facebook, Apple and The Daily, you are bound to come up with something not only beautiful but user-friendly. Storehouse doesn’t disappoint. It’s the brain child of co- founders Mark Kawano and Tim Donnelly.  They began their start-up in 2013 but didn’t launch the app (only on iOS devices) until January 2014.

I’m not a coder, a designer or a professional photographer so I can’t dive deep into any technical flaws or brilliance but I am a storyteller. With Snapchat, Instagram, Buzzfeed and the increasing presence of video and photos on Facebook, we are moving towards more visual communication at the speed of light. As a journalist, this pulls me to Storehouse.

Co-founder Mark Kawano told TechCrunchWe’re not targeting just photographers; we want to teach everyone that they can tell stories…We want Storehouse to be the really easy way to share and create stories. From photographers…to everyone, this is the shift in visual communication.”

As with all social platforms these days, Storehouse starts with a profile.

KellySHprofile

While I am a lover of Storehouse, I admit I tend to be more voyeur than participator and creator. It’s such a beautiful experience that I sometimes wonder if what I have to share is worthy. My contributions to date number three: Kelly’s Storehouse: @kfg5Horizons

The process really is quite simple. You import photos and videos. You position them. You choose a title. That’s where the must-dos end. You can choose to add text, captions or just let the pictures speak for themselves. Layouts vary but the best part is that you have options. You can clearly see Kawano’s inside knowledge of Apple as you manipulate your stories. For the end user, the layout options and beauty of the app are flawless.

In Storehouse, you follow and can be followed but note that all you do is public. You don’t have to be following someone to see all their work and anyone can follow you. You can search for people or use the almighty hashtag. Yes, Storehouse wisely aggregates topics using hashtags. Unlike Instagram, Storehouse is built for sharing. You can republish.

There aren’t many Community Rules in Storehouse outside the obvious copyright ones which makes it a space ripe for creativity.

If you need a little hand-holding, Storehouse has created communities to address what it calls “your moods.” It’s a collection of interests you can follow to publish and republish stories from like-minded souls. Take a look:

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Storehouse is not without its critics and the fact that it is not available on Android devices will hamper the start up from maximum reach. That said, I would expect nothing less from the mind of a former Apple designer.

A couple other highlights worth noting. When you publish, you immediately receive an email to the account you set up your profile with. In it is a web-responsive link to your story ready to be shared to all.

Tstorynotifyhe world of Storehouse isn’t just comprised of parenthood, travels and selfies (but you can find that too). It has a little bit of everything and for those who question whether journalism can move with the times, check out this offering from the landmark gay marriage ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Others have taken to Storehouse to share their most intimate moments but in a way that can’t be captured on Facebook or Instagram or even Tumblr. One could argue that albums allow similar aggregation but they don’t allow the user to tell a story. This is where Storehouse breaks from the pack. Take a look at One Last Year with My Father.  It’s visual communication at a profound level.

While Storehouse is web-responsive, I strongly encourage you to visit it on your phone or iPad. It was created for those devices and doesn’t disappoint. In fact, given the mass exodus to all-things mobile, it’s quite brilliant Kawano and Donnelly were so mobile focused. It makes sense given the world we live in. Have phone, have camera, will travel, will tell stories.

Author Note (August 2021): Storehouse shuttered in 2016. All employees migrated to Square. I removed all links. It’s a shame. It was beauty while it lasted.

All-Access Pass: It’s Not Just for the VIP Anymore

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Assignment Snapshot: Explain why people in the following roles should use social media – i.e. how would they benefit: Foreign news correspondent. Local beat editor. Photojournalist at TV News.

The All-Access Pass.

It’s kind of a right of passage when you become a journalist. Your photo is snapped. A number is assigned. A logo is embossed. You get your first badge. I remember my first badge with that beautiful, colorful NBC peacock. I felt like a bad-ass! (And don’t think I didn’t try to casually flash that sucker every time I could).

Then you grow up. You see a lot of things. You cover a lot of stories. The badge becomes a necessity, a lifeline, a key in and sometimes a one-way ticket to a swift exit.  There are several reasons a foreign correspondent, a beat editor and a photojournalist should use social media but the greatest of all is access. It’s not just access TO the user/reader/viewer but it’s also access FOR the user/reader/viewer.

FOREIGN NEWS CORRESPONDENT

NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent is Richard Engel. I don’t know him personally but have interacted with him over the years in coverage and find him to be very sharp. His political views are worn on his sleeve at times and he is deemed controversial by many for his public comments on ISIS, Syria and the Middle East in general. He is very active on Twitter and truly worth a follow.

Foreign correspondents broaden perspective for their users by giving them access to places they can’t go. They both expose and enlighten. In the slide show below, you will see a small collection of Richard taking you to places (Everest) you may never see. Additionally, it’s an opportunity for the correspondent to get intimate and if necessary, defend their reporting. You may recall that Richard Engel was kidnapped in 2012 in Syria. In one of his tweets, he talks about that and adds the additional context of linking to his story:

While I can argue a case for social media and the foreign correspondent, I would much rather let the foreign correspondent do it himself! Below is a lengthy but fascinating segment on MSNBC with Richard Engel.  In it he discusses what I believe is perhaps the greatest reason that foreign correspondents should use social media: they can affect change.  He talks about the power of social media in the face of violent regimes among other things. It only strengthens the point that the foreign correspondent is able to give us access we’ve never had before.

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/32545640

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

LOCAL BEAT EDITOR

We don’t really use beats in my current newsroom In fact, the beat is a bit of an outdated concept in most TV newsrooms I have been in. I was curious to see if the word “beat” would even come up in a basic google search with a semantic tie to a journalist. This is the result:

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As you can see, it pulls from the concept of the police officer’s area of surveillance. There are reporters who naturally gravitate to certain areas they live in but the days of the crime beat, city hall beat and county beat seem to be behind us. The one beat that lives? The Political Beat.

The benefits for a local beat editor include all those mentioned above for the foreign correspondent but I would also add that for this person specifically, it’s a great resource.  A local beat editor can narrow their focus, create lists of key influencers in their beat, follow and engage with local organizations and develop relationships. Social media give a local beat editor a multi-directional channel to talk with their users as well.  This really applies to all but for local–it can become intimate because most of the time you are working where you live.

PHOTOJOURNALIST AT TV NEWS

When I first got into TV (and I do mean TV) I was working for my father on a magazine style show. It wasn’t journalism. It was infotainment. I learned by spending hours upon hours hanging out with the photographers/shooters. They were incredible. They could see things I never saw. They could look at a vast landscape or a person’s face in an ugly room and find the most beautiful shot possible. I became a sponge. I learned how to shoot, frame, iris up, iris down, rack focus and so on. I learned that a story isn’t much of a story without pictures. (is it any surprise the social media that performs the best is visual?) So I took this knowledge with me when I entered a newsroom, ever-vigilant that a good picture or a good piece of video will always add impact.

For everything I said above, photojournalists should be on social media. They typically are motivated by the visuals not just the facts. They see things others don’t see. They capture the moments that sometimes don’t require any words. They are promoters and advocates of journalism and take GREAT pride in what they do.  I’m lucky in that I work with a lot of people who just *get* social media. Fortunately, some of them are photojournalists. I’ve captured two tweets below from Jim Zorn on Twitter and Erin Coker. Erin is just starting to develop her tweet chops but Jim speaks the language well and 99.9% of the time includes a photo.

One thing that hasn’t entered our newsroom yet but I believe should and will: Periscope. There is no one more primed to use that then the photojournalist. When they are on the scene they can live stream using their expert eye bringing people access to what matters. The other aspect of Periscope I like specifically for the photojournalist (and the foreign correspondent) is the ability to interact live in real-time with the viewer as things are happening. Viewers/users can ask questions and perhaps even steer coverage. It’s a whole different level of engagement.

EVERYONE

If you work in a newsroom, you are in the business of information dissemination. In this new media world we occupy, we all have the opportunity to tell stories any way we want. I’m a believer that everyone who works in this environment should be on social media: Producers, managers, photographers, digital staff, on-air talent and so on. Each person plays a role in the craft of storytelling and we all have something to offer the social discussion. We are the all-access pass only this one doesn’t require a velvet rope and a clipboard.

Ali Velshi: “Hairless Prophet of Doom” Turned Social Media Evangelist

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Ali Velshi & I in the CNN Newsroom

Assignment Snapshot: Find a reporter who is enhancing their journalism through their use of social media. Explain why. Write a 500 word feature, including screen grabs of their social media activity. You may wish to conduct an original interview with your subject.

Ali Velshi doesn’t sleep.

No one will ever convince me otherwise. He’s the most curious person I’ve ever met. A REQUIREMENT for a journo. He has a brain that doesn’t stop working which made our professional marriage at CNN a successful one. When we fought, it could clear a room. When we innovated, it was something special. I’ve never wanted to strangle someone so much that I would walk through fire for.

We both live, breathe, eat and sleep what we do. It’s less about balance and more about passion because I can tell you, Ali is as equally devoted to his friends and family. If you are a friend of Ali’s you’re a friend for life. If you’re not a friend…well….

So why do I mention all this?  Because everything I just said about Ali is embodied in his social presence. I know a lot of great journalists who use social in different ways:  Ed Henry, Anderson Cooper, Adam Harding, Wolf Blitzer, Jack Gray. Evolving into the kind of reporter/correspondent that social media demands wasn’t work for Ali Velshi though — it was instinct. It just happened.

He’s always been that way-born in Kenya, raised in Toronto, got a degree in religion but then became the Hairless Prophet of Doom. Now you can find Ali on Al Jazeera America or in a book store or on Linked In  (His latest offering: State of Media: TV Journalism Is Sick. Here’s How To Cure It) or pretty much anywhere his consumer is.

So if you read my blog at all…you know I’m a fan of lists. In keeping with tradition, here are 6 perfect examples of how Ali Velshi is the quintessential Twitter Journalist-Evangelist:

1. When you are a journalist, the price of admission is breaking news. Ali is always on top of breaking news and capitalizes on reach by using the #BREAKING hashtag that aggregates such content:

https://twitter.com/AliVelshi/status/606803177774714880

2. If breaking news is the price of admission, engagement is the rent to stay. Ali always engages…even when someone disagrees. (Now as his former executive producer, I’m not gonna lie, there were a few gray hairs on this gal’s head because of some of his heated engagement!)

https://twitter.com/AliVelshi/status/607389015130664960

3. Share. The more you share the work of others, the more people will see you. The more people that see you, the more your work is read. The more your work is read, the more contacts AND support you have. The more contacts and support you have, the greater your chance of becoming an influencer.

https://twitter.com/AliVelshi/status/606115203529474049

4. Ali has embraced the concept of tagging and hash-tagging. The journalist in the social media age must embrace context, virality and the embracing of others. Anyone searching #Crime or #Chicago will see Ali’s tweet. He also tags the Chicago Police Department both calling attention to his work and reaching their audience.

https://twitter.com/AliVelshi/status/606115114555703298

5. The new journalist is also a self-promoter in an effort to become an Influencer. We just have to be. There is a lot of noise out there so putting yourself in front of people often and in interesting ways will continue to expose your stories. Ali could teach a masterclass in promotion. Here are two examples of promoting his television and his journalism. As you can see, he published his journalism straight to Linked In.

https://twitter.com/AliVelshi/status/608780836423479298

6. We have to have fun both when we tell our stories and all the spaces in between. My friend Ali personifies fun.

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CLOSING THOUGHTS

This week’s work examined the social media journalism of Alex Thomson. Whether he is covering a family reunion during tragedy or pushing vines of an Ebola-ridden country, his work is an extraordinary use of social media in storytelling. There are many ways in which this medium transformed the modern-day journalist.

Ali Velshi uses his social platforms as a way to extend his reach and engage and dialogue with his audience. He uses it for ideas and instant feedback and to take the temperature of those he serves. I know it has enhanced what he does. I have sat in editorial meetings with him when he brings the viewer voice straight to our table. I have watched from control rooms as he dialogues with the audience in real time. Ali isn’t just a working social journalist, he’s a social evangelist.

We had a little technical difficulty but the conversation picks up just a little after where we left off…

Special thanks to my dear friend and former colleague Ali Velshi for taking the time to talk with me. If you aren’t following him, you should. It’s never a dull moment with the hairless prophet of doom.

I’m All About the Cause…But First, Let Me Take a Selfie

Pic: Kevin Dooley (via Flickr/CC by 2.0)
Pic: Kevin Dooley (via Flickr/CC by 2.0)

Assignment Snapshot: This post is an assignment for Social Media & News course for my Masters Degree program at the University of Florida. Below you will see the most shared media websites on Facebook and Twitter in January 2015 according to Newswhip. I am tasked with looking at relevant social media accounts and answering the following questions:  What accounts for the successes in shares? Are there similarities in the ways posts are created? What are the key differences? What can you learn from the market leaders which you will put into practice?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. We like to watch. As a human race, we are curious, visual-oriented creatures stimulated by images, video or anything that taps into our inner voyeur.

Another thing we like?  *Me*  We like anything that tells me something about me. Engages me. Showcases me. If you think that is just a millennial thing…think again. We’re all narcissists which is why social media works!

Despite our narcissism, Forbes tells us there is still a whole generation of us that wants to do good.  Let me act. Let me engage. Let me fight. Let me be a change agent.  Analyzing the social posts for the top two two sites in this data only reinforces all the above.

 FACEBOOK

PlayBuzz has mastered the art of appealing to YOU! Just take a look at a handful of posts from this week:

As you can see the common thread is YOU. Not only do these posts tap your inner ego, they call you to action. The language is conversational, social, informal…and there’s eye candy to boot. PlayBuzz is pure fluff and I say that with no judgment. We all need a little mindless distraction and their numbers show, we aren’t alone. When it comes to what they do, they seem to only strike one note. Clearly that one note is a tune many want to hear though!

Huffington Post strikes a deeper chord but still manages to embody the three key things I mention above. Here’s a snap shot of some recent posts:

Police misconduct continues to rattle the United States from coast to coast. It resonates with many and Huff Po taps into that “Let me do something, let me be a change agent” aspect of social media that is so pervasive. Their language is a strong call to action and flat out states an opinion, “This is unacceptable.”

The “Lose Yourself” post is just a great example of viral video. In 3 hours, nearly 3500 shared this ASL interpreter bringing Eminem to a whole new level. (Who knew that was possible?)

Finally, you can’t go wrong with baby animals can you?  All three of these posts are different topics, different visuals and possess different tones. They all appeal to emotion though. They all seek to engage and connect with YOU.

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TWITTER

BBC’s Twitter page is what I would call a parent tweet account. They essentially use it to Retweet the best of all BBC properties. Even in that, they manage to speak the right language and strike the right note. Take a look:

In this slide show, I captured the account’s first two tweets. Right off the bat, BBC didn’t miss a beat by capitalizing on conversational, every day tone: “Hello. Is this on? Brilliant. 1.4K shares worth of brilliant. Then they explain their accounts mission with Tweet #2. It would have been so easy to do that with Tweet #1. They didn’t. Stroke of genius.

The retweet of the BBC Radio scrabble piece continues to capture the vernacular and tone of the modern day tweeter. It presents a softer, funnier side of BBC letting its hair down. I mean come on! – When do you expect to hear the BBC saying ‘Fo shizzle!”  Stroke of genius part two.

Finally, the appeal to YOU and the use of video in the third tweet is yet another simple way to engage.

The New York Times proves you can be a top-notch news organization and still get your social on:

The “here’s what you need to know” concept to start your day is not a new one. You see it online, on TV and hear it on the radio. So what makes this tweet effective? I think it’s the photo. The Freedom Tower’s One World Observatory opened to the public today. The picture is slightly point of view and it’s a place that everyone has some connection to, even if you haven’t set foot in New York.

I grabbed the multi-tasking tweet because in and of itself, it’s nothing special. There is no visual. It doesn’t speak to YOU perse. I can’t help but read it though and in 40 minutes it received 44 retweets. Without directly using “you” in the language, the question appeals to the text and driver in all of us. It appeals to the professional in us that executes conference calls we do during the morning commute. I also think that it drives to a little core fear. I’m a mom. The last thing I want is some company saying it’s safe to multitask behind the wheel. Yep, New York Times– you got me. I’m clicking.

Finally, you had me at “a whole lot of crazy.”  Then you kept me for good with that UNREAL notebook picture. You spoke to me in a language I can hear and gave me something different to look at.

So what can be learned?

It’s really simple. Talk with your audience, not at them. Ask them to do something either for themselves or for another. If you can find that sweet spot that is all about me with a cause then you have struck gold. Make your people feel something. Give them something to dance to (Eminem), smile at (baby puppies) or get angry at (police misconduct). In other words: Move Me.

Oh…and include something for the eyes: an infographic, pretty art, a video or when all else fails… a selfie.

7 INSIGHTS TO SURVIVAL: My Apple Watch, The Me Channel & a Time of Death

By Kelly Frank

At the risk of sounding old, I took typing in high school. Yes, typing on an actual typewriter. There were computers but I went to an underfunded religious school so typing class was taught on this thing we call a typewriter.

I also remember walking in to my first television newsroom and seeing a teleprompter with a coiled roll of paper and a giant print press under it. We didn’t use it but the fact that it sat in a key position in the newsroom told me its days didn’t precede me by much.

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Yep, that’s me. Courtesy of a really cool Google cam at ONA 2014 in Chicago

I also remember creating my Twitter account at CNN in 2008.

I’m fortunate enough to be in a prime spot in my career with a balance of just enough appreciation of where we came from and just enough understanding of where we are going. I’ve heard many colleagues refer to social media as the great disrupter in the newsroom. While that may be true, it still doesn’t change what my chief responsibility as journalist is. Tell you a story.

So about that great disruption? Here are 7 insights for survival:

  1. Digital First Mobile First won’t just be a suggestion, it will be reality         Digital first is a very popular expression in television newsrooms these days but very few are truly thinking and doing this way. In order to survive, television newsrooms must not only become digital first by year’s end, they have to think mobile. Consider this from Pew Research Center: 64% of American adults own a smartphone, up from 35% in 2011.  Of those, 68% use their phone at least NewsButtonoccasionally to follow along with breaking news events, with 33% saying that they do this frequently. 67% use their phone to share pictures, videos, or commentary about events happening in their community, with 35% doing so frequently. 56% use their phone at least occasionally to learn about community events or activities, with 18% doing this “frequently.  Any questions?
  2. It’s not a news network, it’s a brand and not all will survive

I have a pretty obnoxious title: Sr. Managing Editor: Broadcast, Digital & Social. My job didn’t exist 6 months ago. It was proposed by me in collaboration with my employer Meredith Corporation, specifically the Atlanta CBS affiliate. They were looking for a traditional Managing Editor. The problem with that is local newsrooms need to take a page from the marketer’s notebook. We are in the business of content distribution. We must evolve beyond the broadcast box into multiple platforms and speak the native languages. Get on board or prepare to sink. I work in a market where the advertising dollar available to television stations is decent but completely hoarded by one dominant station. There are four TV stations in this media market. In 5 years, there will only be two…and this story will play out across markets nationwide. The key to those left standing? Become a brand, not just a place that does TV News.

  1. Forget Engagement Try Marriage

See point 2. Read again. This goes hand in hand. It’s not just a pretty ring and a promise. To become a successful brand, you have to understand that being a slave to Nielsen overnight ratings is a thing of the past. Gone are the days when we told you what was going on and you passively listened. Yet we still program like this is the case. We have to be where the people are. In sickness and in health. For rich or for poor, ‘til the next evolution do we part.  I know when I woke up today, I was on Facebook on my phone before my feet hit the floor. I’m not alone.

  1. Read Tell Show me a story

Video. Video. Video. Sites that haven’t will soon redesign to become all video, all the time. Take a look at your Facebook or Twitter feed.  How far before you see a video? Instagram? Tumblr? Even Snapchat is completely built around a shared visual experience. We shoot video, we share video, we stream live video. Let’s face it people: We like to watch! Where there is demand, there will be a supply and the good news for the bean counters — it’s where the money is.

  1. Me
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You think it’s all about me now? Just wait. It’s only going to be more about me. Why? Because I don’t need you. I already tailor my social feeds to the sources I want and I’m not born of the generation that only knows digital. I watch my toddler with my iPad and then watch her interact with the rest of the world. She gets pretty miffed when the PBS logo at the bottom of the television screen doesn’t respond to her touch. My point? We are looking at a generation coming up that gets what they want, when they want and how they want it. (Thank you Steve Jobs). Learn how to program the “me” channel now.

REST IN PEACE

As we move forward at the speed of tweet, it is time to acknowledge the pending time of death on two journalism institutions.

  1. Walter who?
Cronkite

I’m a Tom Brokaw kid. If you don’t know who that is, I don’t want to hear it. At one point, he signaled bed time and I would run and hide. Then he became a voice of comfort and authority in a changing and sometimes scary world. Why the world may still need the Tom Brokaws is another article altogether but the bottom line is…the anchor as we know it will soon be dead.

Frank Rich wrote a compelling piece for New York Magazine last month on what he dubbed an “inane institution”. In A Dumb job he writes, “No doubt some Americans of a certain age may still turn their lonely eyes to a patriarchal television anchor during a national disaster, but many more will be checking their phones.” By the time my 3 year-old is 10, the anchor will be nothing but a memory. Personality and emotional resonance replaces authority. People want and crave deeper relationship in an over-connected world and the person sitting on high, delivering information we already know is unnecessary and perhaps even insulting.

  1. The death of appointment news aka the evening TV newscast
crushedTV

I’m calling it. By 2025, the network evening newscast will go the way of the typewriter, the evening edition and that paper-filled teleprompter from my first newsroom: to a museum.

It can be summed up by something I heard just this evening while watching the NBA playoffs. LeBron James sealed the win on Game 3 for the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Atlanta Hawks. It was in overtime and the game was a battle. He fell to the floor as the buzzer blew. He stayed there on all fours. Exhausted. Emotionally spent. It was a sight to see. The old-school commentator said, “This will be a photo that will be all over the place in tomorrow morning’s news. I laughed and thought, “tomorrow morning? Try 5 minutes!” If there is no demand, there will be no supply. In short, there will be no demand for an evening newscast once a certain generation is gone. That time is coming. Coming fast.

NOW A WORD FROM OUR SPONSORS

From the oldest book to the classic rock song, we know there is a time for everything under the heavens.  A time for the typewriter. A time for the newspaper. A time for the network newscast. That time will soon pass. While social media may in fact be the great disrupter, I would offer it is only in method.

At the end of the day, a good story is a good story. From hieroglyphics in caves to ink on paper to the printing press to radio to television, we are born to tell our stories. We all need our *once upon a time* to make us feel something.

I still have a typewriter. I also wear an Apple Watch and can tweet at the speed of light (ok, slight exaggeration). My point? It’s a journalist’s responsibility to appreciate where we’ve come from, to know where we are going, and to understand that in the end, it’s about the story. We just have to continue figuring out how to tell show it.

Engagement 101: Lists, Pics & Sex

Assignment Snapshot: Use social media to source a news article or piece of social media news content that engages you. Why does it engage you? How has the story been told? Consider the written journalism and any multi-media content. Do you recognize story telling techniques as discussed in our lecture?

HuffPoCapture

When in doubt…just turn to sex.

Much of my research and reading for my job is serious. It’s not the “if it bleeds it leads” mentality but sometimes it can be. It’s also politics and corruption and national disaster and train wrecks and police-shootings -and that was just this week. I follow many news organizations on my social platforms from the pinnacle New York Times to what some consider low-brow Buzzfeed, Upworthy and Vice. I do it to be on top of vast amounts of information for work but I also do it for fun. So that brings us to this week’s assignment:

13 reasons every woman should masturbate regularly

In my down time, I tend to gravitate to the lighter side of the info-spectrum. I like edge. I like different. I like things that teach me something I didn’t know-and let’s be real, I like sex! Who doesn’t? So when I was trolling Twitter I came across this little Huff Po nugget and stopped and stayed awhile.

Why Did It Engage Me

This is pretty simple. It’s a straightforward title on a (sadly) taboo topic with a black and white photo that could have come right out of my mother’s 1963 yearbook (minus the book titled: “Masturbate”). Clearly I was not alone based on the 139 favorites and the 109 retweets after only being on Twitter for an hour.

I also read… a lot.

It’s part of my job so when I am not on the clock, I like spoon-fed nuggets. In other words, don’t make me work for it. When I see this social post, I know at first glance, I am going to have a nice, tightly packaged list of 13 reasons I need a little more “me time.”

How It’s Told

Lists are easy. Lists are familiar. We make them to organize and order chaos. They find their way into everything from classrooms to newscasts. (Have you ever seen a morning show that gives you “the five things you need to know before you go out the door?”).  In my Social Media & News class we read Jeff Hodson’s 12 Tips For Producing Strong News Stories. The story here captures several of the tips Jeff recommends: It’s interesting and has some color and good quotes (“…a little menage a moi”…C’mon!). It’s clearly structured and organized and in the end it ACTUALLY has expert information. You probably know masturbation feels good but did you know it’s because of dopamine and oxytocin?  Did you know masturbation is an actual sleep aid? What about the fact that it’s good for your health?

Is this really news…journalism?

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There is no real inverted pyramid here. Huffington Post isn’t fighting for justice (although an argument could be made for feminism!). This isn’t going to clinch a peabody, lead a newscast or change laws. In today’s world though, much of what I call “social news” is about an experience. It makes us feel. It makes us laugh. It makes us smarter. It makes us want to share.  A constant conversation in my newsroom is the ever-changing face and the ever-moving lines that define news, journalism and what we do every day. That’s a conversation to keep on having. The one for this week though, is about how to engage. Huffington Post did the ol’ “when in doubt, sex sells.” It did. I clicked…and I now have 13 reasons to engage more often.

KickStarter: The Good, The Bad…and The Paul

 KickStarter

In this week’s edition of “Masters Degree Studies with Kelly” we take a look at crowdsourcing. Our assignment was to take a look at KickStarter. Anything we liked? Anything we want to fund? Blog about it. As always…my purpose here is purely academic…

So there is a running joke in my home. Inevitably every month or so, some gadget will show up at our doorstep that will make a S’more without fire or turn any object into a robot or flush the toilet by winking. (Ok that last one may be a slight exaggeration)

The joke is…”Put down the KickStarter and Step Away from the Computer.”

My amazing spouse is brilliant and very successful professionally and personally. She is also a huge optimist, idealist AND a believer that you actually CAN flush the toilet by winking. Sometimes this is not bank account-friendly. She introduced me to KickStarter a year ago so when it came up in class this week, I was familiar with the site. My time on it was limited until now.

The Good

How can you not love the KickStarter concept? It’s a site for dreamers. It’s a site all about ideas. It seeks to tap the innovator in all of us. When it comes to KickStarter, I am more of a voyeur than a doer. I will happily read and potentially fund but I don’t think it is something I would do. I don’t really have any projects I want to fund but I absolutely see the merit in having this platform. It’s packaged nicely with famous quotes to inspire and it is very easy to navigate. If you haven’t been, here’s a small glimpse:

Surprisingly, I knew some of the projects, I just didn’t know they originated with KickStarter. Check out what happened in 2013 alone:

One thing I really like about KickStarter, you can tailor your search to projects local to you. I’m a big believer in trying to do what you can to boost your own community so I spent some time cruising projects local to Atlanta. There were all kinds of campaigns from music to fashion to weddings to science. Which leads me to the first of my three favorite finds this visit. It’s called the Sirens Project. It’s a campaign to fund drones to fly into tornadoes to further research and ideally, save lives. Take a look:

Pretty cool stuff.

Rounding out my three favorites, we turn to food and fashion. While I may have a ridiculous amount of handbags and purses in my closet, I am also a big fan of pockets. When you are going to a concert, an amusement park, a festival, a bar or just anywhere with kids, it’s nice to be able shove things in your pocket and not have to carry a ton of bags. I don’t want to always wear jeans to do this. Sometimes you want to still look hot and be able to hold stuff. To that end, there’s Pockett Boutique. Leah Williams promises to give you fashion with function:

Pockett Boutique
Pockett Boutique

Finally…despite my love of fashion, a girl’s gotta eat!

And this gal…likes her barbecue. More than just barbecue, I like the taste of charcoal-cooked, open flame food. It doesn’t have to be meat, it can be veggies too. There is just something about that taste that says “summer” and “Buckeye football tailgating” to me.  Enter Hexx. It promises to give you the charcoal, open-fire taste to all you cook AND you can take it anywhere.

Now I don’t have one but I may just back this and test it out. (If I do, look for a blog review soon!) In fact, I don’t have intimate knowledge of any of these products. I like the idea of them though. I like the optimism of predicting tornadoes to save lives. I like the function of having what I need at my hip. And I certainly like a good open-flame meal.

The Bad

ksabuser

As with most things, with good there is some not so good.  I don’t want to call out too many people here though. That’s not the purpose of this blog or in sync with who I am. After all, even what I will call “bad ideas” were inspired by something. Even if it’s greed, narcissism or just for giggles and grins, someone took the time and effort to start a campaign and put it out there.

Now That Said… I Give You The Paul

I came across this little ditty when researching for this post: The 10 Most Hilariously Awful Kickstarter Projects of All Time.

This one by far is my favorite. It’s so bad, it’s good. Thank you internet. Thank you.

Oh and in case you were wondering…I have managed to keep Paul from arriving on our doorstep.

I Masterminded a David Letterman Kidnapping Plot… (According to Google)

googlename

I remember the day back in 2005 quite vividly. I was working for the NBC affiliate in Phoenix as an Executive Producer. I walked in as I normally do every day and went straight to my desk.  When I arrived, I saw it covered in AP wire copy. Yes! Clearly something important was upon us if my desk sit covered in printed wire copy.

I soon started to read about how I masterminded a plot to kidnap David Letterman’s son and nanny. I was under arrest and in big trouble. Right there in black and white: “Kelly Frank planned to hold the boy and his nanny for a $5 million ransom”.

My colleagues were highly amused but if you Google Kelly Frank today–that is what you will find. That…and apparently I am one hell of a professional team mascot! So much so—I teach other mascots how to shake, shimmy and do their silly string thing without getting canned.

davidletterman
mascot

Now clearly I am not a criminal or a professional mascot (although the latter would be pretty cool!) All kidding aside though, being aware of who you “are” out in the digital landscape is crucial. It doesn’t take much for an employer, prospective employer, friend, boyfriend, wife or colleague to find out what you left in your online wake. Luckily I am very tuned in to this. I knew what I would find when I googled myself because I do it often. I also set Google alerts to my name. I work in a high-profile field where your reputation isn’t just about you–it’s about the network you represent. I take that very seriously.

Now that I am married, I use Kelly Frank Green and I am happy to say…no celebrity stalking or mascot twerking to speak of. Googling Kelly Frank Green yielded exactly what I thought: my social media library. Here’s a brief slide show:

Aside from my social media footprint, there is the expected search services and directories to find “Kelly Frank Green”. I also looked through the search results that came up under News, Shopping, Video and Images. Video revealed my vine account and a “day in the life” video shoot at CNN. It was for an event for my alma mater:

searchnamevideo

The Images search results were a mix of pictures I took, posted or pinned along with some that have nothing to do with me:

searchnameimages

Googling my email address produced similar results. The findings only extended about three-quarters of the page whereas my name went into a second page of results. This surprised me a little in that I use this Gmail account for many things. Clearly it is very public if I have it on this blog and it is associated with all my social media.

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I also looked at the News, Images, Shopping and Videos for these findings as well. No news on News is good news! There was nothing under Shopping or Videos. The Images results were similar to those under my name. Interestingly enough, classmate Angela Cook came up “below the fold as you can see below. We are friends on Google+ and that seems to bump up her ranking! (Oh Google…you do like yourself!)

Googling yourself is a good practice to keep every month or so. It doesn’t matter what you do for a living, reputation management is something we should all take seriously.  So stalk yourself now and then. Check profiles from the “public” point of view. Check in on what various groups see or what lists you are on. It’s important…you never know when you will find you are a twerking, silly string-slinging mascot or worse…a celebrity-stalking convicted felon.

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Kelly Allen Frank ~ Convicted Felon

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The experience above is chronicled for my Web Research Methods class for the University of Florida Masters Degree program specializing in Social Media. As always…this exercise is purely academic.