Category Archives: social media

Food trucks, cancer, 20 years, skipping Sheetz … oh my!

This year marks the 20th year since my grandma died. In fact, it was this past Sunday. A lot has happened in that time, but my devotion to giving another grandma more time with her grandson — time that I didn’t have with my own — continues. And, of course, many other people.

And, in the 20 years since her death, many other friends and loved ones have been diagnosed with cancer, and some have died.

Your support helps to fund research (some of which is happening in Pittsburgh — I talked with two American Cancer Society funded researchers in June who did their work at the University of Pittsburgh) and programs offered to cancer patients and families.

mission_06So, how can you help?

You can make donation of $20 (or whatever you’d like to/are able to give) to fund American Cancer Society cancer research and programs. And I can talk your ear off about the invaluable programs and research.

Relay For Life is my chance to celebrate loved ones who have won and are winning their battle against cancer, remember those no longer with us and fight back against this disease that robs so many of so much.
mission_02More than just walking the track, I’m fundraising! Because of YOUR donations, more people:

  • Have the information and tools they need to help reduce their risk of getting cancer or find the disease early, when it’s easiest to treat
  • Have a place to turn for help 24/7
  • Benefit from the progress being made toward finding cancer’s causes and cures
  • Get access to lifesaving screenings and treatment

Please join me in fighting cancer and consider supporting my fundraising efforts by making a donation.

And what am I doing to help?

Truth be told, I’ve not been as successful this year at fundraising. So, I’ve decided to skip buying anything from Sheetz (unless if I need gas) this week and donating to my Relay For Life efforts the money I’d have spent otherwise.

And, if you know me or follow me on social media, you know I practically live at Sheetz.

So my goal is to not spend any money on food/drink items at Sheetz from July 18 through 8 a.m. July 23.

You’re probably like, “OK, but that’s maybe 10 bucks.” And you’d be wrong. There are days when I’m at Sheetz three or four times per day. Now, it’s not always for lunch, but it all adds up.

So I’ve decided I’m going to take my last seven Sheetz receipts, add them up and donate that money. If my math is correct, I’ll donate about $80.

What about the FOOD TRUCKS, though? YOU SAID THERE WOULD BE FOOD TRUCKS.

So this Saturday (July 23) — during the Relay For Life of Greater Cranberry Township — is a FOOD TRUCK DINNER PARTY. It’s from 5-8 p.m. at North Boundary Park in Cranberry. SEVEN of the Pittsburgh food trucks will be there! Some of the proceeds benefit the event!

Amission_01nd while you’re there … be sure to check out the American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Greater Cranberry Township events going on, too! Here’s a full schedule. There are a lot of events for kids, plus there are bands performing and all sorts of activities.

Can’t make the food truck dinner party or RFLCranberry? Or, can make it and still want to support research efforts and programs? Please consider a making a $15, $20 or whatever you’d like to offer donation. You can do so here.

Thank you so much for your support. Together, we will finish the fight!

hope

Remembering Edith Hughes…

Unlike many colleagues and friends, my stories of Edith Hughes don’t involve what seemed to be a haphazard interview session or a layout filled with red ink corrections.

My first run-in with Edith came one morning in 2007 in the Gateway Newspapers former office on Greentree Road. It was early that morning — just myself and Signal Item editor Bob Pastin were in. Edith quickly zipped through the office, pausing just enough to look at me — a new face. She rushed into Bob’s cubicle and asked, “Who is that?”

Bob replied, explaining I was the new (at the time) part-time reporter for the Signal Item and Sewickley Herald. She came back out of his cubicle, looked at me as I awkwardly smiled at her — unsure of what just took place, and then she left.

The first time I spoke to Edith was in Harrisburg for a Pennsylvania Newspaper Association weeklies conference. Her first statement: “Did you get breakfast?” No, I said. She then looked me up and down and asked how I was liking the Sewickley Herald. Before I could finish a sentence, she said, “Interesting attire, young man.” I had on khakis, a polo shirt and tennis shoes — my usual work attire.

She then said, “Maybe you’ll learn something here to take back to Sewickley.”

What she didn’t know is that it wasn’t the guest speakers from The Patriot-News or any other newspaper that I’d learn from that day. It was Edith who would teach me more than I ever thought I could know.

You see, Edith had a way with more than just journalism. She had a way with life. In her eyes, good manners, proper attire and fine detail meant everything. You didn’t cut corners. You gave more than your best. And you did all of that out of respect for yourself, your talent and your colleagues.

I got to know her more through stories from colleagues and from her random visits to the Sewickley Herald office. She played a major role in the Herald’s annual honors dinner, recognizing the great community-minded individuals of the year. Place cards were handwritten, not typed. The menu offered nothing but the best food. And the entire evening was as perfect as perfect could be. Why? Because she’d settle for nothing less.

At one of the honors dinners, she looked at me and said, “You clean up well. I almost didn’t recognize you.”

In January of this year, I returned from a nearly two-week-long vacation. I had a missed call and e-mail from Edith. Odd, I thought. Out of the more than 20 voice mails and 200 e-mails, Edith’s were the first messages I responded to.

Days later, I heard from her. She wanted to talk to me in person. I was nervous, to say the least. She couldn’t fire me, she didn’t have that authority anymore. Right? But what did I do to be getting a visit exclusively from Edith?

I dressed a tad nicer than my average wardrobe (no tie, though), and awaited her visit. Snowflakes were flying. Edith called and said she’d be late. Finally, Edith arrived and whisked me away into the conference room where she shut the door.

“I need you to talk at the weeklies seminar about everything you do with technology,” she said. “It’s in April.”

This was early January — many months and inches of snow away from April.

“Yeah, I’ll do it,” I nervously said, scribbling down the words “April” and “PNA.”

“Yes, you’ll do it,” Edith said, either repeating what I said, but probably correcting my language.

She expected an outline by mid-February. I e-mailed her an outline by the end of that week in January.

The morning of the conference, Edith — oddly enough — was late. As it turned out, the massive rain and flooding from the previous day and night knocked the power out at her hotel. I stayed elsewhere in the Harrisburg area, which was unheard of in Edith’s mind because I did not get breakfast options at my hotel (though, she was impressed that I got a better room rate than she!).

Right before my turn to present, I completely re-did my entire presentation because the previous speakers took most of what I was going to say. Introducing me to the crowd, Edith explained what a dedicated and passionate reporter I was, and what I had done to help make the Sewickley Herald a newsier paper. I can remember standing there thinking, “Holy crap, Edith is saying this about me?”

Afterward, Edith told me I was the best presenter (even though I went over by 15 minutes). “That was some talk you gave” she said. “Even I was surprised. You knocked their socks off.”  She paused and said, “You’re already booked for next year.” I didn’t get a chance to agree because she grabbed a mint and walked away.

I wasn’t hired by her or even worked under her, but I still felt I needed her approval as a journalist. And I’m pretty sure I got it that day.

She didn’t make the Herald’s honors dinner this year because she was traveling. But I did sit next to her in May at the Keystone Press Awards, where she, again, spoke highly of my presentation a month earlier. At the Keystone Press Awards dinner, we talked about my presentation for next April and how she thought the awards dinner chicken was too dry and the speakers were mostly boring.

She, no doubt, has made a lasting impact on my career — and more importantly, my life. Thanks to Edith, I hold myself in higher regard and respect the decisions I make and the stories I cover, knowing that my name is on whatever story I’m writing at the moment, so it better be the best it can be.

“Reporters are a dime a dozen,” she once told me. That phrase has stuck with me, allowing me to remember what my job is and to carry it out with dignity and respect.

Edith made me realize just how important grammar and proper communication skills are, and to be poignant, sharp and decisive.

My world is a better place thanks to Edith.

Google+ doesn’t have me saying buh-bye to Facebook

Move over Facebook, the Internet is getting crowded with places for people to share stuff.

The recent addition of Google+ (pronounced: Google plus), has caused a big stir among social networking usage.

I’ve read blog posts from folks claiming they’re ditching Facebook, to others who refuse to sign up for Google’s version of a social network.

This new wave of shifting our focus to other social networking sites reminds me of our country’s suburban sprawl movement. There was a time when folks worked, lived, played in one city. They rarely left because it offered everything they needed. But as transportation expanded, so too did the need for people to move up and out.

One by one, they built homes in areas once filled with trees and farms. Stores, workplaces and schools were added so these folks wouldn’t need to leave the confines of their suburbs — away from the dirt and grime of city living.

Changes in social networking, in some way, mimic that of our suburban expansion. Facebook was, at one time, generally the only option available. It has offered an expansive array of tools, and keeps the largest number of folks always connected.

While its population isn’t currently threatened by Google+, there have been many folks looking to ditch the all-inclusive Facebook for its slimmed down, sleeker nemesis.

Similar to why I question how somebody could live hours away from civilization, I wonder what is leading some folks to do an about face on Facebook?

Part of being social is connecting with a mass audience. You can’t do that on Google+.

Several friends of mine who are early adopters of Google+ seem ready to deactivate their Facebook accounts for a land of few connections.

Some claim it is because Google+ offers none of the add-ons of Facebook — games and a barrage of applications. Google+ is so new that it isn’t being forced to redefine itself and create an online world to appease millions of users. Yet.

In the early days of Facebook, you could update what you were doing and add photos. As user numbers grew, so, too, did the options available. It’s part of Facebook’s effort to keep people coming back.

Facebook has been very smart at adding to its network unlike its former competitor MySpace.

For Google+ to thrive and survive, it must meet the requirements of its users. I’m sure there will be a time in the not so distant future when Google is forced to look at what has made Facebook continue its domination and repeat that.

Already, some question if the name (Google+) will work. Its few social add-ons (hanging out, circles, etc) seem to be weak and cumbersome in design and user friendliness. And similar to Facebook, Google+ will drop much of its limited profile security later this summer.

Folks who claim they’re ready to jump off Facebook are doing themselves a disservice and are not looking at the broader picture. Facebook has proved it has staying power. It will survive and continue to thrive. Why would anybody who calls themselves a social media enthusiast not want to remain with a brand that has paved the way for others and changed so much of how we live?

Google+ has a chance, but like its predecessors, will go through a lot of pain. Can it survive? Who knows? We’ve seen Google fail miserably before (hello, Google Wave).

Why journalists should build personal brands, and why those who disagree also are correct

Get ready for a tailspin of a ride regarding the personal “branding” of journalists.

The Internet — more specifically, Facebook — has been abuzz with reporters and television folks, freelancers, photographers and bloggers all creating their own Facebook pages after the social media-focused company created its Facebook + Journalists network.

It wasn’t until Facebook began connecting reporters across the globe that I realized branding is important on a personal level. We have no idea where our industry is headed, and for those of us employed by news companies, we never know what tomorrow brings. So we work and do our job and hope that we’re able to come in the next morning and pick up where we left off the night before.

This past week, for instance, we saw Gannett announce layoffs of some 700 employees companywide and implement mandatory 15-day furloughs for executives whose salary figures are above a certain number. We see newspapers closing, television newsrooms shrinking and more bloggers willing to work for free to produce work even a middle school journalism enthusiast would do a better job covering.

But it’s all part of an industry in a never-ending fluctuation.

So what’s a journalist to do? Market themselves.

We learn at a very young age to market ourself in a way that makes us stand out among the crowd. Resumes and cover letters are supposed to make hiring managers and editors stop in their tracks as a potential job seeker highlights his previous experience.

It’s not about embellishing, but rather, about the ability to showcase your skills in a manner that proves you’re capable of the challenges that could be ahead.

So when I created my Facebook + Journalist page, I took into consideration not just my reporting ability, but other media-focused things I’m interested in. I also considered my human interest side.

The outcome is a brand that showcases my reporting skills, writing abilities, volunteer work and a softer side that includes my passion for a certain long-running television series and my love of all things Pittsburgh.

The page isn’t branded as “Bobby Cherry — Trib Total Media,” but rather as “Bobby Cherry, a reporter with many skills and interests.” That’s not to say readers haven’t “liked” the page. A few have, and I want more to as well. I want them to be able to interact with me and get to know me in a capacity that doesn’t say, “Yo man, let’s go drink,” but instead says, “I’m your local reporter. Tell me what’s happening.”

We are in a different world now than 10, 20, 30 years ago. While I can’t speak first-hand about what reporting was like before cable TV and the Internet, I am led to believe that, at the bottom of it all, journalism hasn’t changed over time. The way in which news is consumed has changed, though.

So when I read things that question why journalists are branding themselves, I can’t help but wonder how those folks think people will receive the news in 20 years.

Take, for instance, Gene Weingarten’s column in Thursday’s Washington Post, whose column was written to a graduate student asking how he has branded himself over the length of his career. He replied by saying that branding is ruining journalism.

These are financially troubled times for our profession, Leslie — times that test our character — and it is disheartening to learn that journalism schools are responding to this challenge by urging their students to market themselves like Cheez Doodles. — Gene Weingarten

While I wish Mr. Weingarten would have spoken more about how branding is ruining journalism (I’d enjoy hearing more about his thoughts), I did agree with his comments on how newspaper companies think user-generated content is necessary.

Newspapers that used to allocate their resources to deposing dictators and ferreting out corruption are now using them to publish snapshots of their readers’ cats. This trend is called “user generated content,” or UGC. (Yes, in the new lexicon, “readers” have somehow become “users,” as though, in an effort to habituate people to our product, we’re lacing it with crack. Which we are, sort of. Pandering, and getting pandered to, can be addictive, and it is bad for you.) …

Newspapers used to give readers what we thought they needed. Now, in desperation, we give readers what we think they want. And what we seem to think they want is happy, glitzy, ditzy stuff, which is why in recent years newspapers across the country have been replacing sections named, say, “Viewpoint” with online Web destinations named, say, “Wheee!” featuring multiplatform, user-interactive content-sharing with clickable portals to “Lolcats.” — Gene Weingarten

He’s right. News companies have focused more on poking the reader for their thoughts and less on making the reader the audience. The readers do everything except sit in the newsroom with us. Every story seems to end by saying, “What do you think about the sky being blue? We want to hear from you!”

There’s nothing wrong with asking readers for feedback. In many ways, newspapers ALWAYS have relied on reader content — news tips, submitted photos, letters to the editor, community briefs, school accolades. But we’re at a point where we seem to want user content more than our own, unique content.

So I understand why Mr. Weingarten seems frustrated.

But I don’t understand his correlation between a personal brand and implementing more reader content.

Whether in a formal or informal way, newspapers always have branded themselves as the town’s focal point for news, views and information. So it comes as no surprise that now, as newspapers struggle to survive financially and struggle to compete with other venues, reporters are creating personal brands.

I want people to read my content. I want them to see what’s happening in their town. Journalism always has been about marketing one’s self. If we write a story and tell nobody about it, then what the hell was the purpose of writing it?

We’ve got to make a name for ourself, and for our newspaper. If a reader enjoys what I’m writing, they’re (hopefully) more likely to see what other stories and work our newspaper features.

Where I struggle to support a reporter’s personal branding is when the individual wants to share information and photos of their cat or their grocery cart filled with food. I’ve found many reporter Facebook pages that are filled with more content showcasing the individual at charity events or outside of the news world, rather than content relating to news.

While readers might be interested in seeing photos of our animals, I question the professionalism of such information. If you’re writing a column about a trip to a dog park and you add a photo of your pup, that’s one thing. But when you’ve uploaded a photo of your dog sleeping with a caption that says, “Rover is tired,” I really have to question it.

It’s about giving the reader what they don’t know they need.

And in today’s world where a century old newspaper is competing with a blog created yesterday, we — the reporters of the world — need to prove to people why our work, backed by intelligent editors who are passionate about journalism, can offer better content than a fly-by-night blogger.

So if that means branding my work and letting potential readers get to know me on a level beyond my byline, I’m OK with it.

Pick up the phone (a novel concept)

‎”Social media” is a misnomer. The quantity of those we know has increased, but the quality of what we know about these folks is lacking. How social are we if we’re consistently quickly flipping through photos and status updates about our friends’ lives?

Read more in my column this week in TwoDay Magazine.