Yesterday, I attended the New Media Women Entrepreneurs Summit in Washington, DC. Made possible by the McCormick Foundation, the event was a day-long gathering of female news creators. Check out the #nmwe Twitter hashtag for live updates from the event.
I met a number of young women from a variety of backgrounds: journalists (from both old and new media), bloggers, creative writers, new media consultants, and television producers. Below are some highlights from my day:
Energy and enthusiasm from Lisa Williams, founder of Placeblogger: Lisa encouraged women in new media and tech to “show up” and take initiative in a male-dominated industry. She thinks too many women wait to be asked.
I loved Lisa’s insistence that “your personality matters” when it comes to your website and/or online presence. She invites new media entrepreneurs to be obsessive, different, and willing to connect with customer and readers. The personalized approach makes a difference, especially when online readers expect anonymity.
Poise, insight, and passion from Courtney Lowery, assistant editor at NewWest.net: While Lisa believes that “your personality matters”, Courtney reminds us that our websites/online businesses shouldn’t be our only personalities.When you separate your ego from your business, you allow for innovation and change.
What does she think would be the ideal online start-up situation? Create an online business then become part of the creation myth. One day, the people that work for your website won’t even recognize you, but your business will still be thriving.
Tapping into community with Susie Prender (NewCastleNOW.org): According to Susie, every town and community is filled with content; it’s up to people who care to tap into the sources and share them. If the editors of a local news website can’t cover everything, then the people must contribute as well.
Despite popular belief, editors are not omniscient. If readers want to read the news, they have to help report it by submitting photos, tipping off the editors, writing op-ed pieces, and/or contributing as citizen journalists.
A lot of “old media journalists” seem bitter: After a morning full of discussions about citizen journalism and grassroots news, some old-school journalists in the audience began to whine. One audience member said, “I’m an old media dinosaur, and I have a ton of reporting experience. Why aren’t the new media outlets interested in my expertise? Why train citizen journalists when you have thousands of jobless reporters eager to write?”.
The rest of the audience reacted strongly to her comment. One woman suggested that the old media dinosaurs weren’t taking the initiative and updating their skill sets, that they weren’t open to embracing new media. Another audience member said that the old media journalists were heroes who didn’t have time to innovate because they were out in the field reporting news. Ouch.
The evolution of journalism = a shift in objectivity: One overarching theme at NMWE was that citizen journalism encourages a new kind of objectivity. In the old kind of objectivity, a reporter would make sure that he/she reported an opinion from each side. In the new objectivity, a whole chorus of voices weighs in on important matters.
Journalism is no longer an elitist pursuit but a duty to achieve a greater understanding within a localized community. The desire to report the news springs from a desire to find the truth, especially on the local level, where everyone’s livelihood is intertwined.