… specifically, that the armed “militia” “patriot” “freedom fighters” who are holding an armed insurgency at a federal wildlife facility are terrorists and hypocrites. Their grievances are rooted in what they consider the unfair treatment of Steven Hammond, 46 and his father, 73-year-old Dwight Hammond, who both served time for arson but were recently ordered to… [Read more…]
How people of color are using social media — especially Twitter — to cover the stories the mainstream media are either getting wrong or just ignoring was covered in the Online News Association’s “Black Twitter and Beyond” panel on Sept. 24 in Los Angeles. AllDigitocracy Founder Tracie Powell moderated an Online News Association panel with:
- Co-moderator Dexter Thomas Jr. – Reporter, Los Angeles Times;
- Tanzila Ahmed – Co-Host, The #GoodMuslimBadMuslim Podcast;
- Meredith Clark – Assistant Professor, Mayborn School of Journalism – University of North Texas; and
- Sharis Delgadillo – Co-host of Latino Rebels Radio, LatinoRebels.com
Powell led a spirited discussion on how Latino, Muslim and other underreported communities have learned lessons from Black Twitter on how to better engage, report and respond to the needs of people they cover. Below is the Livestream video from the panel.
By CLAYTON GUTZMORE
Sure, you watch “Empire.” If ratings for the hit Fox Network show about a record company and the dysfunctional family that runs it are any indication, everyone does.
And if the antics of the Lyon family kept you on the edge of your seat this season, chances are you that you’ve gotten on Twitter and asked a group of your “closest” friends “Where did they come up with that?” more than once.
At a Talk Back with the writers of “Empire” at the American Black Film Festival, a room filled with aspiring television writers got a chance to learn what goes on in the writers room of the popular show.
Writers Janeika James, JaSheika James, Joshua Allen and Eric Haywood shared the group’s process, how social media has helped the show’s success and how the group settles creative disputes.
The writers credited social media as a big part of the show’s success. They try to remain as engaged with the show’s audience as possible, so while they may work on the West coast, they live Tweet with the show’s East coast audience.
The tweets that the writers get demonstrate that connection.
“I got a tweet that said I’m gay and that “Empire” mirrored the relationship I have with my father” Allen said.
The downside for the team being so active on social media is that they are also bombarded with story suggestions. Haywood’s Twitter handle, @Empirewriters, is filled with fans’ suggestions for Cookie and Lucious, the show’s two main characters.
“It’s a tightrope,” Haywood said. “We want to respect the audience’s opinion, but not be led by it.”
Being able to negotiate that tightrope is important because the writing process for “Empire” is fairly intensive, the writers say.
“It takes a lot to make an episode,” Haywood said. “People want us to have 22 to 24 episodes.”
“Lee Daniels looks for the audacity of the moment when we are writing scenes,” said Janeika James.
Because a record company is at the center of the story of “Empire,” music plays as big a part in the show’s scripts, Haywood said. When the scenes are written, they’re then sent to director/showrunner Lee Daniels, who then edits, makes suggestions, and sends the script back to the writers.
Once the updated scenes are ready, they contact the show’s musical director Timbaland, and he gives the writers a choice of three to four songs that the writers then listen to in order to determine which one fits, Haywood said.
Because there is a group of diverse voices in the writer’s room at “Empire,” conflicts sometimes arise between the writers over scenes, Allen said. But just like in other aspects of life, you have to pick your battles when you’re a writer on a successful series.
“You’re invested in a scene emotionally if you’re ready to die for it,” Allen said. But, adds Hayman, “We don’t want our writers to get to a point to not care about the show when they fight for scenes they wrote.”
The talk back ended with a small preview of what viewers can expect to see next season, aptly themed as “warring kingdoms.” While season one was about who inherited Empire Records, season two will focus on taking sides.
Season two of “Empire” premieres September 23rd.
Fresh off the Los Angeles Times hiring S. Mitra Kalita as its new managing editor for editorial strategy, the newspaper today announced four new hires, including that of Dexter Thomas, who will cover #BlackTwitter. In a statement, the Times said “this will no longer be a team that only tweets or posts to Facebook. Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are simply one component of our strategy to build readership. Our new colleagues will work across the newsroom to guide experimental storytelling, story selection, distribution and partnerships, and conversations with and among Times readers.”
Thomas, a doctoral candidate in East Asian studies at Cornell University, will work closely with the newsroom and #EmergingUS to find communities online, including Black Medium, Latino Tumblr and Line in Japan. In his role, he will both create stories with, and pull stories from, those worlds.
Originally from San Bernardino, Thomas has taught media studies and Japanese and is writing a book about Japanese hip-hop. He began working in digital media at UC-Riverside as a student director of programming at KUCR-FM (88.3), independently producing podcasts, music and news programs. He writes regularly on social justice, Internet and youth culture, and video games.
In an interview with AllDigitocracy.org, Thomas said that although he was an early adopter of Twitter, he didn’t use it much in the beginning. “I thought it was like a non-private version of AOL instant messaging. I didn’t start really using it until I started living in Japan,” he said.
He heard about the LA Times job through contacts made while freelancing on social justice for publications including Al Jazeera and the Guardian. In an interesting twist, Thomas said he feels that Black Twitter was spoken into existence by a non-black person, then came into existence. “Black Twitter didn’t exist until someone decided it was something that could be studied,” he observed. “But that doesn’t mean that what Black Twitter is talking about isn’t important, but it was influential even before we called it Black Twitter.”
How does a PhD candidate who studies Japanese hip-hop and questions whether Black Twitter exists get this job? “It’s a background that makes sense because it’s a mix of different things, just like Black Twitter is a mix of different things,” Thomas said. “Not everyone who follows Black Twitter is black. Just like in the past, a lot of activism happening today has people who have covered these same issues and served as a bridge between larger media outlets and the activists, and many of them have been Asian-American. It’s important to explore the fragments of those who are telling the stories. I’m interested in what blacks, Asians and Latinos are doing offline with this.”
The #BlackTwitter beat will be less about the stories that will be covered, said Thomas. “I want to work with people to tell their own stories, not make things like listcicles on the top 10 things people think about Beyonce’s hair,” he said. “You also see people take tweets on a subject and build an article out of it, and sometimes that’s helpful. But I’m more interested in working with people to tell their stories, using my access to resources that others don’t have.”
Thomas will also look at outlets including Black Tumblr and Latino Tumblr. “With Twitter, you can search for a hashtag and within five minutes, you’ll have hundreds of tweets, and boom — you have a story,” he said. “But when you look at Black Tumblr and Latino Tumblr, they are more interesting and harder to poach things from. I won’t get things 100 percent right, but I’ll work with people and help them tell their stories.”
Other Times hires include:
- Michelle Maltais, deputy director for audience engagement. She will help develop strategies that strengthen The Times’ connection to community and conversation. She’ll also help train staff around the newsroom on new tools and techniques, and resuscitate efforts around its coverage of parenting. She’s been with the Times since 1996;
- Annie Yu, hired as a producer. She will help define the voice of the L.A. Times and infuse shareability into its journalism through creative storytelling and packaging. She comes from ProPublica, in New York City, where she worked as an audience engagement fellow and has also worked for the Arizona Republic and the Orange County Register; and
- Lisa Biagiotti will join the team on July 13 in a role straddling video and social. She will work closely with our photo, video, social, RealTime and Metro desks to help make multimedia offerings newsy, creative and shareable. She has been an independent journalist and filmmaker, serving as the director-producer of “deepsouth” (2014), an award-winning documentary about poverty, HIV and LGBTQ issues in the rural American South. She has produced work for the New Yorker, the Atlantic, the Times, PBS and NPR, among other media platforms.
CNN anchor Don Lemon has once again stepped into a social media controversy when he held up a Confederate flag and a sign with the word “Nigger” on it during a live broadcast last night and asked if viewers were offended by it.
But some are questioning if the controversial anchor may have gone too far to make his point.
Lemon’s move was part of a larger conversation on whether South Carolina should stop flying the Confederate flag on the grounds of the state capitol in the wake of a tragic shooting at an African-American church that left nine dead. Gov. Nikki Haley (R) has called for the removal of the flag, long seen as offensive to African-Americans.
Lemon’s latest faux pas is just the latest example of the CNN news anchor’s tendency to exercise questionable news judgement. AllDigitocracy wrote about Lemon’s issues in the piece “Year End Review: Journalism Ethics Took Major Hits in 2014.” Previous controversies included his questionable coverage of Ferguson and asking guests if Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 could have been swallowed up by a black hole.
As expected, the Twitterverse weighed in on both sides.
Sometimes we mean well, but don’t always do well, especially when it comes to talking about media and diversity. That’s exactly what happened with writer Ester Bloom today when she penned a piece about comedian Jessica Williams’ decision not to pursue the host gig to replace her current boss, Jon Stewart, on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show.
The 25-year-old Williams tweeted earlier this week that she didn’t believe she was ready for the job; to which Bloom took to thebillfold.com calling Williams a “high profile victim of impostor syndrome.” Bloom also wrote that she feels Williams is expressing some kind of “fake humility,” and then weirdly urged The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates to lead an intervention “lean-in” style.
Williams, rightfully, took offense.
No offense, but Lean the Fuck away from me for the next couple of days. I need a minute.
— Jessica R. Williams (@msjwilly) February 17, 2015
I am a black woman and I am a feminist and I am so many things. I am truly honored that people love my work. But I am not yours. — Jessica R. Williams (@msjwilly) February 17, 2015
To be sure, Williams is still building her career and has every right to make her own decisions about life and career, after all, they are hers to decide. Such honesty should be applauded, not dismissed, not even by well-meaning white folks who insist she take on diversity’s cause for diversity’s sake. Besides, I thought the whole “Lean-In” movement, especially as it relates to women of color, had already been discredited anyway. Just like Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Ms. Bloom failed to take into consideration women of color and our unique challenges when it comes to the workplace. One of those challenges involves having our voices heard. Williams used her voice, and Bloom immediately, though perhaps unintentionally, shut it down. This is a constant fight for women of color. Being silenced — even by well-meaning white folks — is crippling. As Williams explained when she told Bloom how hurtful her Billfold’s article is.
And then Tessa Berenson of Time Magazine piled on for good measure:
No, I didn’t. “@tcberenson: Jessica Williams fires back at fans who want her to replace Jon Stewart – “I am not yours” via TIME
— Jessica R. Williams (@msjwilly) February 18, 2015
Of course, Black Twitter rallied to Williams’ defense. Bloom says she ‘heard’ Williams (I’m not so sure she did) and didn’t intend to be insulting (I’m sure she didn’t), but how can something like this be avoided in the future? Bloom’s bio says she’s a writer of fiction and the editor of thebillfold.com, not a journalist, but if she’s going to write about issues regarding race and gender, it might be helpful for her to remember a few rules that journalists follow:
- ASK don’t assume a subject’s motivations for the actions they take. Question. Seek truth. Bloom obviously got Williams’ attention on Twitter, that was the perfect time to ask the questions she didn’t ask beforehand. She could have used Williams’ answers to flesh out a much better story.
- ACKNOWLEDGE your own possible biases and ensure that the people you’re writing about have a voice in your coverage, especially those who don’t normally have a voice. And if you don’t know what your biases are, test yourself. Ask whether you’re characterizing an individual unfairly. Challenge your assumptions about people. In this case, a woman of color. Most important, think before you hit send.
- Explain your choices and admit when you got it wrong. In this case Bloom apologized for being “insensitive,” but she didn’t really explain where she went wrong in the addendum to her piece. I’m also not sure she knows. Bloom gives comedian (and Williams’ colleague) Wyatt Cenac props for helpfully pointing out the hypocrisy in her own words, but does she truly understand how she attempted to silence and invalidate Williams the same way so many others have done to women of color. As my friend Tiff J. says, there’s encouragement and then there’s the kind of privileged, condescending “lean-in” bull that many people of color abhor.
— Wyatt Cenac (@wyattcenac) February 17, 2015
Tracie Powell is founder of AllDigitocracy.org.
By RAISA HABERSHAM
Sean Gardner could be called the king of social media. Gardner was crowned No. 1 social media influencer by Forbes Magazine in 2013 after his foray onto more than 2800 Twitter lists (he has more than 760,000 followers) and more than 500 LinkedIn connections.
Gardner shared a few of his secrets on his social media success in a webinar hosted last Thursday by The National Association of Black Journalists’ Digital Task Force, AllDigitocracy.org and The Diverse Social Media Editors and Digital Journalists.
Here are a few tips he gave during the broadcast, but if you want more insider information, Gardner’s book, “The Road to Social Media Success,” is available for download on Kindle.
1. Don’t be afraid to build a following
Gardner said numbers matter and your reach depends on what you’re doing through social media. He urges reaching out to people outside your field. Some followers may become too familiar with your brand and become bored. Extending your reach allows you to rebrand while gaining a new following. Also, don’t let follower counts interfere with connecting. You never know who that person may know, so reaching out won’t hurt.
2. “Cross posting” helps
Though there are some who prefer certain social media platforms (Gardner prefers LinkedIn and Twitter), Gardner says “cross posting,” or link sharing, allows you to reach multiple platforms in a day without compromising your preferred interests. He added the best time to post for international reach is 2 a.m. EST, since the eastern United States will soon rise, and much of the overseas market will be waking up, in the middle of, or just ending their day.
3. Be a “go-giver”
Generosity is also a part of your success, Gardner said. If someone is sharing your posts, liking your statuses or retweeting your tweets, don’t be afraid to return the favor. It could build your social media reach as well. You don’t have to like and retweet everything, he said, but do make sure what you share benefits the source and your followers. You can risk losing a few followers over retweets (or even tweets) that don’t benefit them.
4. Dare to be different
Gardner said he didn’t get to his success by always playing by the rules. One thing he did to separate himself from the pack was rewrite his LinkedIn summary to include key accomplishments and goals, leading users to contact him for social media advice. He saw similar results after inserting “Keynote Speaker” into his Twitter bio. Gardner said sometimes the typical “best advice” isn’t always for your brand or business, so don’t hesitate to pave a path that works for you.
By Crystal Garner
The desire to build something that no one could ever take away from her is what fueled Rene Syler, former anchor of “The Early Show” on CBS, after her termination in 2006. What Syler wanted to create was a brand, and using the tools of digital media, she did just that and more.
She is now the author of “Good Enough Mother,” a book and supporting blog targeted at “imperfectly perfect” mothers, host of “Sweet Retreats,” a family travel show on the Live Well Network, and co-host of “Exhale”, a provocative talk show in its second season on Magic Johnson’s cable network, Aspire.
What am I going to do now?
A few weeks after losing her job at CBS, Syler underwent a preventative double mastectomy, a journey that was documented on “The Oprah Winfrey Show”. “What am I going to do now?” she asked herself. “I had no job and my body was taking on a different shape.”
After telling her agent of 25 years that she did not want to do television anymore, he asked a similar question, “What am I going to do with you?”
Syler knew she would have to save herself.
“I had been relying on them to get me jobs,” she said. “I could either sit here and wait for the phone to ring or I could make it ring.”
Going digital to build a ‘bonafide brand’
Syler wrote “Good Enough Mother: The Perfectly Imperfect Book of Parenting” and secured the website’s domain in 2005 while still employed at CBS. The following year, she was fired. In 2007, her book was officially published.
“The only skills I had was the ability to write and TV,” she said. “It started with a book.”
Harnessing the power of digital media, Syler began to build what she now calls a “bonafide brand.”
“Your brand needs to be in sync with yourself,” she said. “Good Enough Mother,” the blog, was born.
“I started on Facebook, then moved to Twitter. The more I did it the more I understood its power,” Syler said in regards to her overwhelming introduction to social media.
“After almost 10 years, I have built a bonafide brand,” she said. “People need to think of blogs as living breathing business cards.”
“Good Enough Mother” has partnered with both General Motors and Disney and Syler attributes her recent television success to her digital presence.
Looking back, she said “Good Enough Mother” became much more than a book. It became a movement based on what a lot of women are experiencing.
Not for the faint of heart
Crystal Garner is a computer science and broadcast journalism student at The University of Southern Mississippi. She is also an intern for the National Association of Black Journalists Digital Journalism Task Force.
This piece originally appeared on the NABJ Digital Blog.