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A few years ago I started following a company called Storyful on Twitter. I don’t even remember the reason I followed them. Perhaps people were talking about them and I was investigating.

In the time since then, the company established it as a force to find, verify and (when needed) acquire user-generated content on the social web for news agencies. They are a social media news agency. It’s also grown to the point when NewsCorp acquired the company while retaining its independence.

And on Monday, I’ll be joining the Storyful Open Newsroom staff in New York for my new adventures. I couldn’t be more excited because I know this is the right place for me.

To say the last few months since learning I was being laid off from NJ.com were difficult is an understatement. I have kept my chin up with hope for the future that I’d land on my feet even at the worst of times. Being laid off stinks, but in 15+ years of journalism I’ve never been laid off while working in newsrooms that have suffered cuts. I consider myself considerably lucky for that. And I kept spinning negatives into positives. Unemployment would mean I’d get a break from the stress of working in news.

During those months I’ve talked to a lot of people. I’ve talked to my contacts about jobs. I talked to perspective employers (about me, about them, about the future). I talked to my friends and family for support. Everyone had a lot of different things to say to me, including how I should face my job hunt.

I always promised myself that I wanted to find the¬†right job not just any job (something some people couldn’t quite understand). I took myself out of the running for one job for this very reason. I could have landed the job, but it wasn’t the right place for me.

Then I started talking to the folks at Storyful in what felt like a whirlwind. Every conversation felt like that — a conversation. It wasn’t an interrogation and I didn’t feel like I needed to do the “please hire me” dance. We talked about the current state of social journalism but also the future and where we all feel it’s headed.

I’ve always admired the work they do at Storyful, especially as someone who has had more than one conversation interrogating colleagues¬†about verification and permissions for user-generated content (just because it’s social media doesn’t mean you stop being a journalist). Talking to everyone just made me feel more excited about the work they’re already doing. There’s so much passion and vision for the future.

The intersection of social media and journalism interests me, and the open newsroom sits there. Newsrooms across the world are trying to figure this out, but Storyful has already figured it out and continues to be a leader. I can’t wait to be a part of that and to face the challenges moving into the future.

Thank you to everyone who has been there in the last few months, providing leads and support. The power of the journalism community is robust, and I’m thankful I know so many good people.

In support of local news

Last spring I attended a conference on social media, and one of the speakers on a panel declared local news to be dead. One of the panelists responded by saying it was a local newspaper (The Record) that uncovered Gov. Chris Christie’s administration being tied to the closure of lanes on the George Washington Bridge a year ago (commonly referred to as Bridgegate).

The original speaker poo-pooed the story because it was New Jersey, an extension of New York. It doesn’t count.

It seems to have become common practice to dump all over local news. Case in point was an article from earlier this summer that was critical of “hyperlocal” because of its failures though it still has supporters. Part of the story was Jim Brady’s new project in Philadelphia, where he has gone since the closure of Project Thunderdome from Digital First Media. Among the things it picks on are TBD in Washington, which isn’t a fair point since TBD was never hyperlocal nor was it given a chance to succeed.

The article also picks on Patch, which is a fair criticism, but also mentions Backfence. Not familiar with Backfence? It’s because it shutdown in 2007 and it was a project focused on citizen journalism, the buzzword for hyperlocal before hyperlocal. I know about Backfence because it was included in my graduate school thesis in 2006 on citizen journalism. It was an early project, which means there were things to learn here. Just like there are lessons to learn from Patch.

But that fails to highlight how there are many local news websites that are doing just fine. I worked at one in Connecticut, and one of the oldest is in my backyard here in New Jersey. There also are franchises of local news websites in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. Look beyond the tri-state area and you’re going to find a lot of local news websites across the country thriving.

Local news is struggling in some ways, no doubt. A recent PEW study outlined the shifting in how many people are covering the statehouse. We still hear about layoffs across the country, including at local news outlets. Some local outlets have trouble shifting from traditional distribution methods (ie printed product), but it isn’t always because they are resistant to change. Often they do not have the resources.

But we should be concerned about local news rather than declaring it dead. It’s an important instrument for you to learn what’s happening in your neighborhood. But it’s also these local news outlets that will stay with a story when the national media is gone.

I’ve seen someone say “what happens when the national media leaves Ferguson?” several times on one of my social media streams. It’s not just friends but also others who work in journalism. What happens is the local media will continue to cover the story, just like the local media always does when the national media leaves.

Hurricane Sandy was a national story and still gets some national press two years later, but it’s the local press that writes the stories about the storms effects constantly. My colleagues are sharing the stories of people who are still struggling two years after the storm. Remember the story about the Sandy Hook gunman that grabbed national headlines? It originated in the Hartford Courant, aka the local press. Bridgegate grabbed national attention, but it’s the New Jersey and New York outlets that are on top of every movement. In 2009, a group of Millburn High School students came under fire for a hazing incident that grabbed national headlines. When the national press was gone, it was the local news outlets (including myself) that followed the story, including what happened the following first day of school.

Plus those stories that evoke dramatic emotion from you? Most often they are covered by a local news outlet first before a national news outlet (or even your local news) picks it up.

The thing about today’s world of media is that you can check in on news anywhere in this country (or the world too) at any time. With a click of your mouse, you can check to see what is happening in the St. Louis area (where Ferguson is located) or what’s happening where you grew up (I don’t do this because my mother tells me more news from home than I could consume online).

But without local news, you wouldn’t be able to check in on those stories or what’s happening in your hometown. We wouldn’t have stories like the Courant’s profile of the Sandy Hook gunman. Those stories take time, local sources and local knowledge. It’s your local press that’s going to deliver on that for you.

I’m not going to tell you to go buy your local newspaper because I don’t buy the local newspaper either. But I do check my local news online. If you want to know what’s happening, check out your local news site.

What are you reading?

I’ve been reading a lot in the last few months. I would say I’m averaging 1.5 books per week, which may be lowballing it. There are weekends I read a whole book. Reading has been a bit of a stress reducer for me in the months since I learned I was being laid off along with some ongoing personal things happening with my family.

I have found, though, that I am running out of suggestions of books to read and having a hard time really finding something I want to read next (though I have three books I will be taking with me on vacation next week). I figure a lot of people run into the same problem and thought opening up a discussion here would benefit not only me but others. If this works out well, we’ll make this a regular feature here.

Yesterday I finished “The Orphan Train” by Christina Baker Kline, who I didn’t realize until I read her bio after I finished the book lives in Montclair, N.J. That’s right near me and is a hotbed for a lot of writers. I ate up this book because I wanted to know what would happen next. There are moments when you will be aghast at what happens to the main character. Even when she finds happiness, heartbreak follows.

I just started “Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes, and I am too early in the book to really have an opinion about it. But I already like the characters.

I also have “The Goldfinch” hanging over my head. I started this months ago and have struggled getting through it, unlike some people who have told me they couldn’t put the book down. I found in some sections I couldn’t put down the book, but the book is probably several hundred pages too long. I am two-thirds or three-quarters of the way through with the book and got so bored I set it aside to read other things. I haven’t come back to it yet, though I should.

What are you reading or planning to read? Post about it in the comments.

The Newseum tweeted the blow infographic about the First Amendment and how well Americans know it.

I always find it interesting how people respond to the First Amendment because it’s not always correct.

I can tell when someone doesn’t know what they’re writing about. The story is full of jargon and words people wouldn’t use in every day language. It could be a complicated environmental story or something about an upgrade in technology and my eyes start to glaze over because often there are phrases I won’t understand unless I’m an expert in the field.

Maybe the reporter didn’t ask enough questions to know what they were writing about. I fell into that trap more than once as a young reporter, especially when I had to write about Connecticut’s old affordable housing law. I had someone tell me to stop faking it and ask enough questions so I understood what I was writing about.

There’s another trap, though, and that’s writing too much about a certain topic. If you spend all your time covering cops and fires, you know their lingo. If you cover politics, there’s jargon only lawmakers and politicians use. You spend enough time around any of them and don’t check yourself, the lingo can end up in your stories.

Of course there also are the people who want to make themselves look smart by using all the jargon.

But as a reader it’s frustrating because this isn’t how they talk. I get frustrated because I want to take a red pen and change the words to something my mother would use.

And that’s the key here in breaking the habit of writing inside baseball (we have our own jargon in journalism too) and start writing how most people speak: How would you tell Mom this story?

I had a college professor who often talked about telling Mom the story. We want to write the stories we’d sit down and tell our moms about at the kitchen table. But we also want to write the stories in the same way of how we’d tell our mothers those stories.

Simplifying and breaking through the jargon doesn’t mean we can’t do something special with our stories. We can still write clever ledes. Just don’t write over your readers’ heads and write things in plain terms they will understand.

Also remember this: If you can’t explain the story to your mom, you don’t know the story.

One of my most embarrassing (in a good way) moments in journalism was because I asked a simple question in late November 2001. “Are there any plans to honor the 60th anniversary of Pearl Harbor?”

“Oh, my, I forgot. I’ll let you know,” my VFW contact told me. It wasn’t a surprise since we were still in a new world following the Sept. 11 attacks. People’s minds were elsewhere.

A day or two later he called me back that they were planning a ceremony on one of Westport’s beaches, and it was at that ceremony that I felt a little embarrassed.

My contact was talking to the crowd that was gathered there and specifically thanked me for making the whole thing possible. If I hadn’t called him and asked, they wouldn’t have done anything to honor the anniversary.

Today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day (I covered the 60th anniversary memorial in Westport too), and it made me think of all of the veterans I’ve met throughout my career, especially those that fought in World War II. They never glamorized war, but they felt it was important to tell their stories. They were stories that would inspire you — the things they sacrificed to go fight to defend our rights and the lives they led once the war was over.

And I felt it was important to tell their stories too. These are men and women who are my generation’s grandparents, which means we’re coming to a time when they won’t be here to tell their stories any more. All that will remain are our memories of them, not their voices to tell us their memories.

That’s how journalism is a living history. We’re here to amplify these stories, remind people of what happened and teach the younger generations our history. This is where we came from and how today’s world was formed. And today’s technology allows us to be able to create things — like video recollections of veterans — that will live forever.

We really should do more of these kind of projects to help us all to remember and to learn. It’s often said journalism is the first rough draft of history, but it’s really more than a first rough draft. It is our history, our living history, as we tell these people’s stories.

Update: The Wire did a review of how we’re remembering D-Day through veteran stories and how the media in 1944 covered the events.

“The name of the site is WestportNow, not WestportLater.”

That’s something my boss at that time would say to me several times. It was 2005 and I had made the switch from newspaper reporter to web-only reporter, and Gordon Joseloff often would tell me the strength of working on the web was we could be immediate. It was what we all call “real-time news” today.

Gordon was tough. He was old-school and wanted everything a specific way, whether it was having a story up quickly about something that happened in town or making sure my copy was clean (and we often had grammar debates). But he also was respectful, and that made me want to do my best. It’s why I showed up to cover meetings after my night classes for grad school or made sure a story was filed almost immediately after a vote.

A lot has been made about “tough” editors in the days since Jill Abramson was dismissed from the New York Times. People are recalling the editors who made them do ridiculous things, saying those editors made them better at their job. But there’s also a theme to most of those editors: They were bullies and jerks to the reporters.

Then Dean Baquet, who replaced Abramson as the Times editor, basically said we should stop worshiping the nasty editors. It’s something others and I have been thinking.

I’ve had editors who people would describe as “tough.” One of my first editors would edit my copy by hand and pass it back to me and tell me to put in the corrections. A friend, who had been a copy editor, reviewed these things many times and said this boss was being ridiculous with 75 percent of her editing. Plus that editor never did anything to build you back up after she tore you down.

Another editor, who some would say is tough, would make me do ridiculous things. In my first weeks on the job she was unhappy with how the police department allegedly held back a story (they had not). But who was the one who had to make the call to the chief? I felt like the loud conversation (I don’t want to call it a fight) resulted in setting back my relationship with the police for a few weeks. She also tried to deny me the right to eat a meal after I had been on the run for 3/4 of the day. Her boss stepped in and told her she couldn’t deny people lunch. Her treatment almost made me leave journalism.

I look back at those editors, who seemed to do things just to toy with people, not as the ones who shaped me to become the journalist I am. It would be people like Gordon, who was a mentor before I even worked for him. I also had editors I’d ask questions about a story because they always treated me fairly, even if they were tough. And that always made me want to work harder. It got to the point where one such editor would let me leave before he edited my copy. “Your stuff is always good. You can leave.”

And those editors are the example I follow when I’ve been in the editor role. I don’t want to alienate people; I want to make them better. People will call me tough, but I also hope they will say I’m not a jerk about it. I think most would because they’d write me recommendations and some are still friends. It’s proof you can strive for a high standard and not be a jerk on the way to the top.

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