Through My Eyes

Timing was everything.

Forbes’ Leading Lady

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 A reporter from Forbes Video Network,  Kym McNicholas, came to speak in my  Writing for Media class this past  Tuesday. She’s a former student and  mentee of my instructor, Peter Shaplen,  and reports mainly on the convergence  of extreme lifestyles and business  personalities, having produced a  particular online series called Personal  Best. In this series, McNicholas profiles  up-and-coming, as well as established  entrepreneurs and executives whom are  not only acclimated to living extremely  rewarding, adventurous lives, but also  apply those lessons they learn on the  track, in mid-air, and under deep waters into their board room meetings. In short, she has a dream job – traveling to exotic islands and treacherous mountains, meeting successful and inspiring leaders, participating in extreme sports alongside these dare devils…

While I have always been attracted to the underdog story, there is something very tempting about having the opportunity to shadow these luminaries, even if just for a day’s assignment. Hell, if I was being paid to race a car, kite board on snow-capped mountains, or spend a week on an island getting to know a bunch of high-profile strangers and then report on it – sign me up.

Besides sharing her many adventures, McNicholas spoke of –

  • changes in the media landscape – something many of us hear, read, and talk about.
  • the importance of maintaining a current blog – how you must find your niche and personal passions and integrate them into your posts – so that you are facilitating valuable conversation, eliciting constructive feedback, and building community.
  • engaging your audience. Not just attracting followers, but sustaining their attention and providing them with information they are not finding elsewhere.
  • knowing which medium to use in terms of distributing a story. Something could be effective and persuading in writing, but even better as a graphic. Or it could be the decision to publish a video interview versus a transcribed Q & A. Know how your story can be best told and where it will reach the most audiences.

If you held an interview, and the visual was just not at the level of quality you are proud of, convert it into an mp3 file and allow your audience to just listen to the audio. Not all is lost.

As a journalist, there is a fine line between telling a story and telling a story with an opinion or bias. You are discouraged from taking sides. Kym addressed this by asking us to consider writing “back stories.”  These are the mental (and written notes) you compile about an encounter, conversation, visit, or any content that was not included in the main story, but gems people might find interesting or relevant. It’s sort of a behind-the-scenes perspective or a director’s cut. Most of all – if you’re going to make an argument, make sure that you support your stance with facts and strong evidence. People can be so critical and will analyze every word, incorrect statement, even grammar and spelling mistakes.

Another point that resonated with me was – select your mentors carefully. These are people whose advice and feedback you will internalize and affect the way you work, think, and behave. Just because someone has served as your mentor for a considerable amount of time doesn’t mean they will always belong on that list. Make it an exclusive list, and make them earn their spot.

It’s obvious that I really enjoyed Kym’s visit on Tuesday and look forward to applying these tips to my work in the future, whether it be academically or out in the field. Hope you got something out of it too.

Written by winniewongsf

April 15, 2011 at 2:03 pm

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