Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Supported, uncovered, volunteered, stayed... what I should have done

I'm only beginning to get comfortable with mixing online with real life, and my associates laugh at me when I confess I'm trying to keep my professional life separate from my online commentary, because, let's face it, no one wants to be Danah Boyd'ed. Shudder. So, we do what we can to protect our fragile egos, which sometimes means we fail to attach our real names to our e-trail.


A recent post from a co-worker captured my professional name in reference to this blog. So, I'm working on exposing myself and testing it in small venues.

A comment left on Oregon Media Central in reference to my post regarding the We Make The Media event essentially said, huh? "Maybe I needed to be there." Ouch. The event was organized to build a new 'community journalism enterprise' for the Portland metropolitan region. My bad for hitting that send key before corralling clearer and more salient thoughts.

Of course, I realize, it's bound to happen: every blog post is not perfect and someone will create entertainment at  my expense—whether they know me or not. (Note to self: Get over it).

That was not the intention of the Twitter Corner—to create entertainment—as they reacted to the key-note speaker and organizers of the November 2009 WMTM event and texted gut reactions (and not all negative). Nor, was it the intention of the organizers to ignore ideas and feedback from the corner, but, well, we are what we are and we don't always hear everyone's voice as they enter the conversation, and it was with dismay that Abraham Hyatt noted on the #wmtm Twitter stream many voices... exiting.

After the event I arrived home drained and not able to shake off the experience. I'd met well-spoken, thought provoking people and in trying to capture what had distressed and overwhelmed me, that not all the voices were heard, I scrambled my thoughts together and blasted out a post. Then I went twitter-hunting for someone of like mind and connected with Alexander Craghead right after he posted his thoughts on Civics 21.

There is a vast gap in our ages, (I'm estimating), but our #wmtm experience felt oddly similar and our experience of the event began to echo throughout the community. This disenfranchised storm grew and gathered in the Twitter #wmtm stream and pointed fingers at 'old white dudes' who cut off the comments of most of the women, and the younger people in attendance of either gender.

Welcome to the newsroom.

Right about now, you could assume those pale-stale-males do NOT want to have a conversation with me. In reality, that's not true. From what we've experienced in the public-arena-aftermath, those white dudes who were criticized have tip-toed into the fray, some (at least one) have dove in and literally broadcast, blogged and tweeted about what went right and self reflected on what went wrong.

What management has taught me, or to be precise my current director: people who can self-reflect and own their errors are people you can build a team with. I would like to be counted among those self-reflectors, so, here's my confession, borne out of my desire to get what's bugging me (about me) out of the way, so we can work on the real task at hand, crafting our future:

  • I should have gravitated to the arena I am not familiar with instead of falling back on what I know. I attended the revenue generation break-out session, but what did I learn that I didn't already know? Had I chosen unfamiliar ground it would have situated me as a listener-learner, and not a 'you need my expertise' persona which I fear I may have projected.

  • I should have supported (interrupted) the male facilitator of our group and directed him toward better practices. Number one: introduce everyone. That should have been required before launching any discussion. We were only asked who we were if we commented. Our group included a gentleman from the music industry, an arena which has faced almost identical concerns of 'content' ownership and distribution issues. (Brilliant post on the music industry woes: Dear Musicians, Please Be Brilliant or Get Out of The Way, by Dave Allen). What could we have learned from his reflection had we uncovered his voice sooner?

    In addition, I'm left to berate myself on the voices we may have neglected to encourage because they were too timid to speak. Introductions would have given value to everyone's voice.

  • I should have discovered on the front end who thinks differently. Mid-way through our discourse we discovered there were those who believed we should not sell any ads to support the emerging journalism enterprise. One of the guys proposed a subscription based concept, and also noted he had crafted several successful Facebook ad campaigns. Now, I'm forced to wonder, 'why did he think that? What does he know/think that I have not considered?'

    Had we introduced ourselves and given a one sentence hope for our outcome we could have flushed out opposing concepts on the front end and been able to explore alternative paradigms immediately, instead of finding half-way through we were not of the same mind. A missed opportunity for all of us to crystallize our thoughts and seek deeper understanding.

  • I should have volunteered to take our discussion points back to the main group. Our facilitator did a 6o second summary of ... I'm still trying to figure that out. I photographed our flip chart and will capture our notes and reproduce them on the blog. But clearly, he was ill prepared to represent our discussion and scurried through his task as if we were running out of time, or as if he wasn't comfortable speaking in front of a crowd.

    We would have been better served had we taken five minutes to summarize our discussion, vote on what we felt the most valuable thoughts, and ask who would be willing to represent it to the group. I seldom skirt the limelight, but ran out of the room with the rest of the crew and left it in our facilitator's and scribe's hands to figure out the next step. (Note to self: boo, bad girl!)

  • I should have stayed to the bitter end and headed to the bar with the rest of the 'hell raisers.' Some of the best ideas come over a beer. Therefore, I owe you all one. How about a pitcher after the next event? Heck, this blog should host the after-party.
Let's talk. Let's listen to each other and seek mutual benefit, and I promise we will craft a very interesting, if not engaging and profitable future.

We Make The Media Follow-ups: 

Fast Company: Automated AOL News: Heralding the Future of Online News Writing?
FTC Workshop: How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age?
Mediactive: Journalism's slow, sad suicide
News Inkubator: What is News Inkubator?
TechCrunch Comment: What Robert Scoble Would Pay for News via Twitter
The Faster Times: A New Type of Newspaper for a New Type of World
The Nation: How to Save Journalism
Vancouver Observer: The Death of Journalism