New domain, don’t complain!

Have you ever moved? It’s pretty stressful. You have to pack all your stuff,  carry around boxes AND you lose all your Facebook-Likes. At least, that’s the case when you move around between blogs. That’s what I did. But even though I – more or less – have to start all over again, I’m proudly presenting you my new domain: selfmadejournalist.me

The new blog looks pretty much like the old one. Right now, the only difference is the photography page. However, I’m gonna update it soon.

A new domain! Isn’t that exciting?

If you choose to continue following me (and I’d very much appreciate that), here’s how to get to my self-hosted blog:

Look in the mirror and repeat the words “selfmadejournalist.me” three times. After that, do the moonwalk and start all over again. If this doesn’t help to open the website, typing the words “selfmadejournalist.me” in your Browser might work out. In fact, it’s gonna help for sure because that’s my new URL. Isn’t that exciting?

If you fed your keyboard to an alligator, clicking on the link bellow will do it too. In fact, clicking on this link will not only lead you to my self-hosted blog; it will also make me fall in love with you. But, what am I talking about!? I love you already!

So, here’s the link: selfmadejournalist.me

If you don’t like the idea of being loved, you can klick on the photo below.

This seagull will lead you to my self-hosted blog.

This seagull will lead you to my self-hosted blog.

It’s your choice which way you choose to get to my new blog, as long as you choose ONE way. I’d be truly happy to see you there.

There won’t be much more traffic on this side. If you need a place to be alone, come here. But it’s even more fun to be alone, when you’re actually NOT alone. That’s why I suggest you to come and visit me here, here or there.

Why journalists suck at blogging… technically

OMG! A new blog post! That’s odd! I always held the belief that journalists suck at blogging.

But dear journos, before grabbing your pitchforks, lightning your torches and heading over to my house (for I just insulted you), hear me out!

There are mainly two reasons that got me thinking that you’re not good at blogging:

1. Journalists need deadlines

Journalists are used to perform under pressure. In fact, it’s the pressure that brings out the best of them. Just like diamonds. Diamonds are formed under high pressure. (That can’t be a coincidence, can it?) Also, journalists have editors to kick their butt whenever they’re running late for a story.

Now, who’s kicking a blogger’s butt?
Let me put it this way: A blogger’s butt is living a helluva life because nobody kicks it.

So how’s a journalist supposed to shine (or sparkle… like a diamond) on a blog if there’s no pressure? You see the problem?

Besides this, there’s the recurring question what to write about. Which leads to reason number two.

Going through the thinking process. Blogging ain't no piece of cake.

Sometimes I stay in this thinking pose for days. Blogging ain’t no piece of cake. No, my left hand is not missing. It’s hidden behind my laptop.

2. Hard news control the journalists’ agenda

For a journalist covering hard news stories, the natural flow of events determines what to write about. “Natural flow of events” means that incidents simply happen and it’s the journalists’ job to report them. One of their main tasks is to watch the beat they’re assigned to and report changes.

As a blogger, however, your posts don’t necessarily have to be newsworthy. You can choose whatever you want to write about. You can blog about dating a unicorn, about how to act in awkward situations or about the influence of catfish on the annual peanut butter consumption.

A post about the latter topic has yet to be written. And you know what? Nobody can prevent you from doing so. Yay for freedom of speech. People might think you crazy, judge you, or report you to the Global Unicorn Rescue – but isn’t that what being a blogger is all about?

While it feels pretty awesome to know that the subject matter is all up to you, this is also one of the major hardships that come with being a blogger. What if you run out of topics? What if you never find a unicorn to date?

Have I ever told you the story of me dating a unicorn, btw?

Unicorns like to play hard to get.

So that’s what triggered my thoughts about journalists not being good at blogging.

Turns out they’re doing great after all.

In fact, journalists are pretty talented when it comes to blogging because it is similar to their job routine. Every now and then, journos have to be very creative when searching for potential articles. Think of feature stories. They aren’t always newsworthy but make it into the newspaper – because they’re entertaining.

But at the end of the day, blogging still can be tough. Thus, humor columnist Ned Hickson shared his surviving strategies. Whether his tips are helpful or not, this dude’s hilarious. Plus, he’s still alive, so his surviving strategies must work in some way. Also, he’s slightly crazy and I feel that he might would consider making out with a unicorn.

… provided that he was the last man on Earth…

… and only for the sake of reproduction, of course.

But then again, who wouldn’t do that!?

Guest Post: How To Behave When The World Is Watching

*Test, test – is this thing on!?* Hey there! Today’s blog post is a guest entry written by my friend Stefan. Stefan is fun. Stefan is classy. Also, he’s slightly insane. BUT nobody knows about it because Stefan presents himself online in a civilized manner – which is why he’s here today. Stefan’s gonna share his ultimate SM-survivor rules with us (SM standing for social media…). Enjoy!

On the Web, crazy Stefan doesn't look insane at all.

On the Web, crazy Stefan doesn’t look insane at all.

From here on I’ll assume that you, dear reader, know what social media is. This is a blog. And you’re reading it. On the Internet. Right now. So, I can fairly assume that you know exactly what social media is.

In the following paragraphs I want to explain to you how you can represent yourself on the Web correctly. In my explanations, I’ll use the worst case and work it up. So, if you don’t have any booze-driven, coked-up pictures on your Facebook-page, please don’t be offended by the next sentence.

First of all…

… delete all of the booze-driven, coked-up pictures of yourself from Facebook. This social network is – next to Twitter – the one most used. Literally a billion of human beings are registered. If somebody checks your personal page, you wanna look quite innocent regarding booze (or in general: party) related issues.

This one picture of you at your wine-tasting seminar in Versailles back in 2008 will probably not leave a bad impression, but the other one of you balancing 34 empty Jägermeister-bottles on your nose might.

Wine is classy. Facebook won't judge you.
Wine is classy. Facebook won’t judge you.

Clear up your history on Facebook. Did you write something inappropriate? Almost everybody does. Do you have spam on your page? Delete! Do you have dicks as friends? Check your personal settings and info. Your “friends” might have changed your information while you tasted that wine in Versailles.

Get two different e-mail accounts.

One of them for all professional and important mails, the other one for spam-related stuff. Choose your e-mail address wisely. Because “goathugger2013” looks really awesome on your resume. Resume – you know, the one important stack of paper your possible future employer will check to decide whether you look like an idiot or not. You won’t look like an idiot. Wanna know why? Your e-mail address is not “goathugger2013”.

Check your privacy-settings on your social media-pages.

Is any sensitive information about yourself leaking through? Regarding what to keep on your pages (especially Facebook): Take some photos which really describe you and your personality. Post them. Act nice towards other users. Check your grammar. If you use Twitter, the same rules apply.

Set up a good-looking homepage

There are some awesome companies out there helping you by providing an in-style webpage and taking care of all the server-stuff. Also, you can find some free alternatives out there. There are some things, you should keep in mind: Create a simple, clear homepage without the entire extravaganza.

Pages with moving backgrounds and gifs as gimmick were really awesome back in the day when everybody was new to the Internet and the connection was stable enough to ensure moving stuff on your page. We all lost interest in distracting stuff quite a long time ago. Thus, choose two good-looking colors and start creating. If you don’t quite know how to design a page, that’s fine. Ask some friends or hire a web designer.

Create an overall image of yourself.

Connect your social media accounts with your personal homepage. Be available for questions or queries every day, not all the time but at least once a day. Also, check your e-mails at least once a day.

While browsing other stuff, keep in mind to not like or share just anything you see. Another basic rule to be surfin’ by: Don’t mix up personal and professional accounts of any nature. Anthony Weiner accidentally sent a picture of his penis on Twitter. You are better than that!

How to get a Pinhole Camera

I got great news to share! News, sweet like strawberry-banana-smoothies; news which will make your day; news which will be especially of interest for all the photography-aficionados out there: Fellow blogger Greg Urbano is running a contest right now and is giving away a pinhole camera!

Now, how awesome is that!? Pretty darn awesome!

Photo Credit: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/create-your-own-pinhole-camera-john-evans/1016212157
This set allows you to create your own pinhole cam. Awesome opossum.

Now, what’s a pinhole camera!? I don’t know either!

But I took the effort to look it up for you guys. A pinhole camera is a camera which works without a lens. Basically, it’s a closed box with a tiny hole. If light shines through the hole, it projects an image on the opposite side of the box which results in a neat photograph. Read more about this magical, mystical and somewhat disturbing process here.

So, you wanna win a box with a tiny hole? Let’s do this!

To enter the contest, all you have to do is leave a comment here. Greg wants you guys to tell him what’s on your Christmas wish list this year. I’ve already done it. I told him that all that’s on my list is his camera. Hopefully, he gets the hint.

But even if I don’t win (maybe one of you guys does!?), the idea seed of owning a pinhole camera is already planted in my brain now. This means that I’m determined to get one of those; one way or another.

Winning Greg Urbano’s contest would be one way, ordering it here would be another. And there’s still the possibility that I can find one under the Christmas tree tomorrow (very unlikely, though, since I only found out about the existence of pinhole cameras a couple of days ago).

Anyway. Make sure to participate in the contest. Free stuff is awesome – especially when the “free stuff” has a hole in it which magically produces photographs.

Good luck for the contest! Stay clean! Merry Christmas!

Photo Credits: Barnes & Noble Homepage

A Journalist’s Most Wanted

What does it take to become an upright journalist? I’d go for objectivity, curiosity and accuracy. Along with these values comes a certain equipment that might be helpful.  Hereby, I’m proudly presenting my personal list of indispensible tools for journalists.

Earpieces

I’ve already mentioned them in my last post: earpieces. They can get you into a bunch of awkward situations, yet they’re handy tools when it comes to phone interviews.

Available:
You can get them at virtually any electro shop. Prize: $15

Cheap alternative: Tape your cellphone to your ear.

Available:
You sure you wanna do that? Okay. Go ahead and buy your tape at the next stationary shop. Prize: $5

That's all you need.
Safe good money by taping your cellphone to your ear.

Professional Reporter’s Notebook & Pen

When taking notes, you have to be fast. No pages flip faster than the ones of a Professional Reporter’s Notebook. I love them. They make me feel… professional.

As far as pens are concerned: I prefer using my “Kleine Zeitung-” pen. If you’re working for a newspaper, use pens with your newspaper’s logo. It’s all about integrity. Also, it helps other reporters to identify you as one of them and opens you the possibility to do some networking.

Available:
Professional Reporter’s Notebooks are available at regular stationery shops. Prize: $2
Ask your editor for pens, carrying your newspaper’s logo.

Camera

Some reporters use their phones to capture photos. Cellphones are pretty handy when you become the witness of unexpected breaking news. (Would you laugh if I tell you that this was a pun? “Handy” is the German word for “cellphone.” Ha, ha.)

For feature stories, however, I’d suggest you use a “real” camera. While a simple digital camera usually serves its purpose, I decided to buy one of the more expensive ones: a Nikon D3100. I love it. I treat it like my firstborn. Interested in the quality of Nikon-photos? Check out my photo-samples.

One note about the “green button:” While professional photographers often frown when seeing people using the “automatic”-function, I think there’s no shame in doing so. Especially when you’re investigating a story, you have to focus on various matters all at once. Taking notes AND photos at the same time is a true challenge. So, instead of running the risk of ruining the shot, I sometimes use one of the pre-settings. Don’t judge!

Available:
You can order the Nikon D3100 online. 
Prize: $550

AP Stylebook

Style-Tips offered by the APS are always fashionable
Style-Tips offered by the APS are always fashionable. (-;

You can’t play the game unless you know the rules. If you don’t know the rules by heart (hardly anybody really does), make sure to always carry a copy of the Associated Press Stylebook with you.

Ever wondered if the word “mortgage-backed security” is supposed to be hyphenated? Yeah, I had sleepless nights over that one too.  Here’s where the AP Stylebook comes in. It’s gonna tell you: YES! Note the hyphen, connecting “mortgage” and “backed.”

Besides offering information about spelling and punctuation, the AP Stylebook includes basic principles about media law, news values and other neat stuff journalists should know.

Fun fact: Remember the photo I posted last week? (The one showing me doing a story in my bed.) The AP Stylebook was a great help – I used it as a tripod for my camera.

Available:
You can order it online here
Prize: $20

I could continue this list forever. Other lifesaving items for journalists would be:

  • Files (help you to keep your notes in order)
  • Coffee (a legal drug that keeps you awake)
  • Fellow journalists (to exchange tipps, tricks and advice with)

So, the next time you head out to discover newsworthy events, don’t forget your equipment. Also, leave your pajamas at home. Oh, we’ve already had that last week.

You’re a freelance journo? How awkward’s that!?

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Lucy Morgan, whom I had the chance to meet at the UWF, compared journalism to Public Relations, saying that being a reporter is way more fun than the latter one: “You get to meet extremely interesting people and go to very interesting places. Oh and you might get shot if you’re really good.”

Also, congregating with interesting people and guns is not even the best thing. (What? It can get more fun than that!?) The most awesome fact about being a freelance journalist is that you can work at home. In your bed. Wearing nothing but your pajamas…. Technically. Nobody really does that, of course.

However, merely knowing that I COULD work in my pajamas gives me tremendous satisfaction. But hold on! Before you head out in your pajamas, ready to write an article about the latest city council meeting, keep in mind that the pajama-bonus only applies to phone-interviews you do at home.

Pajama-rama? That's not how we do it (-;

Pajama-rama? If I WANTED to, I COULD!

In order to not become a social outcast when working at home, read Sarah Lindblom’s thoughts on the issue: Frazzled or Fruitful? Is working from home damaging your health and productivity?

But despite these guidlines and the awesomeness that comes with being a freelancer, this profession bears some downsides. In fact, as a journo you’re very likely to find yourself in awkward situations at times. For instance there’s….

… the awkward moment when you head out with nothing but your pajamas on, unaware that the pajama-bonus applies to phone-interviews only.

Okay, we’ve already had that one. There’s virtually no excuse for doing research in your pajamas. Just don’t do it.

But even if you follow the correct dresscode, there’s still…

…the awkward moment when you’re too slow in taking notes.

Some people write slowly. Other people talk fast. When a slow writer interviews a fast talker, it rarely results in a happy ending. More often than not, such an encounter ends up in notes looking like Suisse cheese: They’re full of gaps and unanswered questions. (Note to my Suisse friends: Take that as an allegory. I’m not implying that Suisse cheese is full of unanswered questions.)

As a matter of fact, I’m a slow writer. As if that ain’t enough, my handwriting is illegible. For those of you who are struggling with the same issue: You should either learn shorthand, or go and get an earpiece.

I did the latter one. I purchased an earpiece which, however, inevitably leads to…

… the awkward moment when people don’t realize you’re on the phone because you’re using an earpiece.

I love my earpiece. I couldn’t possibly work without it. It gives me freedom; the freedom of speech (…) and note taking at the same time.

It was one of the first items I bought after starting off as a freelancer. You don’t have to hold your phone when using them. Thus, you can use both of your hands to type your notes on your computer. Now how awesome’s that!?

But there’s one thing you should know about earpieces… How should I put that… They’re INSIDIOUS!!! I strongly hold that there’s a tiny demon living in every earpiece out there. This demon makes the earpiece invisible as soon as you start using it. Well… It’s either that, or people simply oversee it when looking at you.

One way or another, when using an earpiece to take a call, you’re very likely to earn somewhat surprised/shocked/confused glances by your fellow colleagues. They’ll see you and think that you’re talking to yourself – all because that sneaky earpiece is sitting in your ear, enjoying itself being invisible.

So, you have to leave your pajamas at home, decipher your notes and people might think you crazy. To me, being a journalist seems like a darn good way to make a living.

Couldn’t afford billboard ads. Took index cards.

Have you ever talked to a wall? I haven’t. Why? Because there’s no point in doing so. Walls are introvert, apathetic and sometimes even indifferent. Let’s be honest: Walls simply don’t give a darn about what people say.

That’s the reason why I set up this blog. I want to attract an audience which cares; an audience which interacts with me; an audience which listens (or reads) what I’m saying (or writing).

So, today I started a small marketing campaign: I scribbled catchphrases on index cards and spread them all over the campus. When using the word “catchphrases”, I mean messages such as the following:

Wow, a free index card! Too bad somebody already scribbled their blog-address on it...

“Wow, a free index card! Too bad somebody already scribbled their blog-address on it…”

What’s that got to do with journalism? Well, in virtually every job, you have to sell your skills and promote what you’re doing. I’m a communications major, which means that my study program doesn’t only include journalism, but also PR and marketing. Thus, I thought I might as well give it a shot and test my advertising-skills.

Read this if you’re here because you found one of my cards:

Congratulations! You’re the owner of one of the index cards I spread on campus. So what’s next?

In fact, this little card opens you a huge range of possibilities. You can:

  • leave it at some public place (just like I did)
  • hand it down to a buddy (as a sign for everlasting friendship)
  • fold it (origami are pretty!)
  • do a bunch of other stuff with it

Read this if you’re here because you’re interested in my blog (without having found a card):

I appreciate your interest. You’re beautiful! You’re my favorite. In fact, I LOVE you!

No seriously, keep it up! You’re the reason why I started blogging after all. (-:

Read this if you’re here because you want free tacos:

Okay, that’s awkward. I don’t have free tacos to give away; never had. Why would I!? Sorry…! But since you’re already here, why don’t you stay? I might not be able to offer you free food, but I can give you unconditional affection.

Anyway, now it’s YOUR turn, guys! What do you think about my guerilla marketing technique? Let me know; either by leaving a comment, messaging me on Facebook or by writing me an e-mail. Oh and you can also tell me in “real life”. I’ll be sticking around in Pensacola till Dec. 17.