Archive for the ‘Job stuff’ Category

Yo Ladies

March 29, 2010

Thanks for the feature, Kim!

So, back when Kim Daniels and I were both at Belo, she at corporate, overseeing blog products and more, me at the TV station, we were both frustrated by fighting inertia to move news delivery into Web 2.0. Now we’re both getting to do all online products, me at The Texas Tribune and she over at Yo Ladies, a female-centric web source she started not-too-long ago.

Kim actually remembered me (probably cause I was calling her all the time to make little fixes to my CSS on my old blog, Political Junkie), and did a quick interview for her Yo Ladies feature this week.

I love how she promotes it with a shout out to NASCAR. Word!


The Great Morgan Smith Photo Caper

February 24, 2010

A funny thing happened at work yesterday. Our intrepid young staffer Morgan decided to change her Tribune bio photo to something a little different, something a little more grown-up. A little more “adult”, if you will. Problem is, the photo looked both more adult… and too adult. (Cue all the sexy secretary, naughty librarian comments here.)

The Trib photographers started asking me about it at something like six am, and asked for copies to download it. Colleague Ben’s long-lost-friends started crawling out of the woodwork asking if she was available. We brainstormed a few ideas to put Morgan’s photo on promotional t-shirts, under the slogan “You know my URL”. Oh, the ideas kept a-comin’.

Less than 24 hours after she put up the photo, she took it down, citing “workplace harassment”. As one of her secretary photo devotees protested, “She can’t help being attractive! What! What is she going to do, change her face?”

The photo in question, and the not-so-controversial photo, melded together:

Nothing but love, Morgan.

Behind the Lens

February 18, 2010

Originally uploaded by thetexastribune

Spent birthday morning at a TribLive event. It was the third in our conversation series that features various political or policy movers and shakers in Texas. Because my job is now far more multi-faceted than before, I run the production end of TribLive instead of doing the interviewing.

After the events are over, we process them and put them up as full 40 minute videos and put them on our site, later we’ll put them on iTunes as podcasts.

It’s actually a fun change of pace, since I didn’t sit behind the camera before in TV, but love to shoot photos and video when I get the chance. Our intern, Caleb, caught a pic of me gesturing to Justin, who was on the second camera, to check with Todd, who was at the sound booth, on our levels.

Which brings me to the team. I said it yesterday at the fourth annual Hu-Moritz-Castro three-way birthday party and all say it again. Without the work of our all-around multimedia ninjas Todd and Justin, the Tribune’s multi-platform presence would be a shell of what it is. Many thanks, boys. Pleasure to haul around equipment, troubleshoot uploads and wildly gesture during TribLive events with you.

Emerging from the Hole

November 4, 2009

I’m not a parent, but I feel like a team of us at The Texas Tribune just birthed a baby. We launched early Tuesday morning, and to follow the metaphor, we know the hard work is just beginning.

Together, we worked 12 to 18 hour days for something like two and a half weeks straight. The developers were given 90 wireframes of designs and features to code, and only three to four weeks to code it. We didn’t outsource the work to Bangalore, and we are a site run on all custom systems – from our content management system, down to the widget all staffers have on their laptops in order to link stories to “TribWire”.

By the wee small hours of launch, my eyes looked like roadmaps, it was Tuesday but I thought it was Thursday, my emotional bandwith ran so low that I would start crying spontaneously, and all of us survived on food being brought in to us so we wouldn’t have to leave the building in order to eat.

I realized how removed from the world I became when someone told me there was a Michael Jackson documentary coming out, and I’d never heard of it before.

The site is now live, and the incredible response we collectively received from the national press and tech geeks and smarmy lobbyists and people who don’t even like politics has been enough to induce tears — this time, the happy kind. This is the hardest I’ve ever worked, but the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done. We mean it when we say this has purpose.

Those of us who graduated from the Missouri School of Journalism know Walter Williams’ creed well. It begins like this:

“I believe that the public journal is a public trust; that all connected with it are, to the full measure of responsibility, trustees for the public; that acceptance of lesser service than the public service is a betrayal of this trust.”

Ever since the day I graduated from college and started working in journalism, I’ve observed the slow whittling away of the public service part of what we do in order to meet the high stakes demands of turning a profit. Our founder, John Thornton, who started the Tribune as his personal form of philanthropy, decided that you can’t serve both God and mammon. That journalism plus business equals business, and in starting and being a non-profit-by-choice we can throw every dollar we raise straight back into the product and our mission – journalism that matters.

This whole experience has been nothing short of a series of small miracles. In my personal life, had this not come along, who knows what Stiles and I would have had to sacrifice in order to be in the same city. In my professional life, had the Tribune’s Evan Smith and Ross Ramsey not called, I may have wandered out of this craft that I love. On many, many fronts,  I am so grateful. We’re exhausted but exhilarated.

More than 1,000 people crowded an Austin bar last night to celebrate our coming out. I cried (again) when I saw my friends who I’ve missed seeing so much. Thank you a million, gazillion times for supporting this financially, intellectually and in spirit.

Finally, I think y’all know that part of the reason I love my new job so much is because I get to mess around a little and exercise creative freedom as much as there’s time in the day. Our site developers are so awesomely geeky that I used my little pocket Canon to catch some moments in the early morning hours before launch. Here’s to the boys.

The Hole

October 28, 2009

Decided to title this post “The Hole” since it is both the multimedia room where I stow myself away and the vortex in the time-space continuum many of us at The Texas Tribune have disappeared into as we make our final push toward next Tuesday’s launch. Whoa. Next Tuesday is November 3rd. Conceptually, it’s tough to wrap my exhausted and excited mind around.

It’s a significant date because it’s launch day… the unveiling of the first iteration of what will be many versions of The Texas Tribune.  The goal is a rich, satisfying site full of context – which our founder will explain much, much better on day one.

I’ve never worked on a campaign. But a lot of commenters on our Facebook site have made that comparison. I guess we’re working for a cause (public service, the reason why we wanted to be journos in the first place) and toward a certain drop dead date (the aforementioned November 3rd), but perhaps the most apt similarities are the frenetic pace, sleeplessness of staff and piling up of food containers everywhere.  I took a picture of a typical end-of-a-working-weekend trash pile yesterday, but decided it was too gross to put up, even in this personal blog space.

I haven’t seen or talked to many of my closest friends in the past few weeks. So I’m really sorry, and I miss you. Also, a huge thank you to the friends who have already supported or are planning to support The Tribune in one way or another. This is a non-profit organization dependent on support from ‘viewers like you’, so it means a lot. Until we can come up for air, I’ll make better use of this cyberhole to communicate. Much, much more to come.


October 9, 2009

Converting to Snow Leopard operating system created a mountain of problems for me and all the video/audio programs we rely on. Various device driver downloads solved most of my camera compatibility issues, but now my hub for my podcasting mics is unable to be read as an “aggregate device”, because Snow Leopard won’t make that a choice.

This is a situation our technology grand pubah calls “confrustion”, the unfortunate hybrid of confusion and frustration. You can see it on our faces, below. I’m guessing since we’re a startup trying to build a new public media brand, being confrusted will become the norm for the next few weeks.


My Office

September 21, 2009

My first project for my new job, The Texas Tribune, was never assigned. The startup ethos in the newsroom is such that we’re free to go down the roads of interest to us, explore, and even fall on our faces should that happen. In this case — my teammates and bosses were great sports in just ‘going with it’, despite having little idea what I was doing.

Anyway, I thought it would be perfect, conceptually, to ‘introduce’ our team members by putting them in scenes straight out of NBC’s ‘The Office’ opening sequence. Thanks to some outdoor shooting help from my photog friend Justin (who almost got a ticket for riding on my back bumper while shooting an Austin City Limits sign off the side of a tollway), it actually turned out as I imagined it in my head.

Office Space

September 1, 2009

“You see, what we’re actually trying to do here is, we’re trying to get a feel for how people spend their day at work… so, if you would, would you walk us through a typical day, for you?”
—‘Bob Slydell’ in Office Space, by Mike Judge

Day one in the offices of Texas Tribune. Highlights included finalizing the camera equipment for my multimedia adventure, not getting mauled by any birds that like to fly inside Whole Foods at lunch, and the morning trip to OfficeMax for our notebook rations!

Entering OfficeMax for the big supply summit

Entering OfficeMax for the big supply summit

I’ve never worked at a brand new operation before, so I guess I always took for granted the trash cans and desks that were already in place before I started. Today, we actually bought stuff like that, which gave the day a certain student council feel to it. (Anyone who went to high school with me knows I love me some student council. We took  Plano vs PESH week very seriously.)

Launch isn’t happening until November, but I know fellow reporters are eager to get past these first days and start getting to the nitty gritty.  I’m just glad Lumbergh isn’t going to make me come in on Saturday.

Adventures with The Robot, Continued

August 15, 2009

My photographer pal Little Lost Robot, his wife and his baby came into Austin today to hang out and explore ye old city. A few years ago, Robot and I worked together in South Carolina as a reporter-photographer team, cruising around the city looking for news and angrily screaming things out the car window like WE’RE YOUR FRIEND FOUR! (Our call letters were W-Y-F-F).

The first day Robot and I worked together, he stood on the opposite side of an intersection from me and matter-of-factly said there was a dead cat next to him. Just when I was convinced he was joking, he picked up the cat body, clearly in deep stages of rigor mortis, and held onto it by its tail just to freak me out further.

We’ve since both wound up in Texas (he’s in Houston), so the shenanigans can continue. But being reunited reminded me of the wackiest (and perhaps awesomest) dude we met in our reporting adventures: RIPPIN’ RICHIE. Rippin’ Richie is a neo-conservative social-libertarian break dancing fool. He would take on PETA and other liberal groups by going to their rallies and challenging protesters with break dance-off’s. His method of political persuasion was so interesting we HAD TO do a story about him. I still have it on tape somewhere, but it’s not available anymore on the WYFF website. Robot put it this way, three years ago:

He lives here in Greenville, sells “how to pop-n-lock” DVDs online, and occasionally breakdances out his political views in front of PETA activists and anti-war protestors.

Today I learned Rippin Richie has since started an 80’s cover band that became one of the hippest acts in Greenville. I believe it is called RetroVertigo. Leave it to Rippin Richie to continue reinventing himself. He’s one of the smoothest dancers around.

In fact, there’s video proof. Here’s the three of us jamming out in front of a tank. (Since I have no moves, I simply mimed.)

The 2006 Breakdance Summit with Robot and Rippin' Richie

The 2006 Breakdance Summit with Robot and Rippin' Richie


August 1, 2009

Being at work yesterday sans-the internets felt as if I’d gotten a pair of male anatomical features cut off. (Not that I would really know, but it was an apt hyperbole.) We’re still in the midst of an ongoing company-wide internet meltdown. Started at 2am Friday morning and it continues, affecting The Dallas Morning News and something like twenty television stations in markets across the country. Awesome.

The incident makes me feel relieved to be headed to an organization that’s not so… corporate. My current company is dominant in the media world (and I’m proud of that), but also a behemoth whose many technologies and systems are inextricably linked. In this modern news age, when organizations need to be nimble to change with a smarter, more engaged and choosier audience, the behemoth structure gives individual stations very little control over what their web sites look like, which features can be offered (or not offered), where ads can be placed, etc. And it goes without saying that when something goes wrong, it affects everyone.

Internet or not, I’m sad to be leaving in two weeks. But after a trying and distracting day (I embarrassingly stood someone up at Starbucks), it was reassuring to find a post on Media Bullseye featuring my thoughts on Texas Tribune and going ‘beyond broadcast’. Mainly, it was nice to think about moving forward.