Through My Eyes

Timing was everything.

Posts Tagged ‘NY Times

Completely Present And Available

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As I write this, I’m sitting in my parents’ home in Rio Vista. They moved here 5 years ago. It’s a gated senior community sitting on a golf course located an hour and 15 minutes northeast of San Francisco. I’m not sure how likely there are other 28 year-olds living at home in this community.

I arrived at SFO last night after having spent a month and a half in Asia, road-tripping through the U.S., and helping my sister settle into her new studio in Los Feliz, CA. For the most part, I was able to put aside any feelings of anxiety towards what I would be looking forward to upon returning ‘home.’ Being a new graduate in a challenging and competitive economy can raise fear, or it can be a blessing in disguise. Having supportive and loving parents who have welcomed me back into their home is allowing me to take some time in my next job and apartment search.

It’s really easy to rush into things for the sake of necessity, or really, what we think is necessary. I remember my first job out of UCSB. I moved up to the Bay because many of my friends had found work there, and my parents were living there at the time. I stayed with my parents for three months while working as a contractor in Google Blogspot’s legal department. Because a lot of Google contractors were dissatisfied with the unstability of the positions at that time, we continued to look for jobs with more definitive, or foreseeable, futures. I finally went to an interview at a real estate marketing startup in Oakland and secured an account management position. I should have known several things – I wasn’t ready to make cold calls selling ad services to huge development projects in Asia, the startup founder was literally funding the company from his own pockets, and this was not the job for me.

When I left for a technology services sales startup, I was then able to move into my own studio in the Piedmont area, eventually transition into a San Francisco apartment, save enough money for annual travel, live a very comfortable lifestyle, and even put away for a rainy day. That rainy day turned into a grad program at the Academy of Art.

Now that I’ve spent almost all of my savings on tuition for the last 18 months, I’m starting over again. This time, I want to take my time. I’m not rushing into anything, I’m going to do everything in my power NOT to feel the need to settle on something just because I want to get back to SF or Oakland – I’m going to look for something that feels right and is right for my skill set and personality. And if I don’t find it, I’m going to create it. There’s something to be said about being young and just plain ballsy. The optimism, the idealism – I still feel it within me. Sure, I’m more mature now, so that I’m realistic….but I do still feel a fire that tells me to go for things. Just do it. Nike was onto something.

I read this op-ed in the New York Times last night before going to bed. It was about how we self-impose traps of being too ‘busy’ in our everyday lives. For the past few years, I know that I’ve answered invitations, emails, text messages with, “I can’t right now – crazy busy.” How many of these ‘crazy busy’ days were because I overbooked or committed to events/workshops/shows I really didn’t need to attend? Too many times. As I sit here and look out the window, the pace of life is slow. I can swim in the evening, read old books, watch all the movies I’ve been wanting to see, re-cut versions of videos I’ve been wanting to finish, sift through all the footage that’s been shot on my new camera and do something with it, and…I can take some time to find the job (and home) that is right for me.

During the eight days on the road, Wendy and I encountered watercolor sunsets, hippies selling cheese at farmer’s markets, men fly-fishing hours on end, bison holding up traffic, reminders of the Native American presence throughout this country, people piling all of their belongings in cars, crossing one coast for the other, eyes filled with hope…it reassured me that life isn’t about how you fill up each of your days, how many people you see, how ‘busy’ you were – it’s about how you feel at the end of the day. Are you happy? Are you proud?

I hope this patience lasts…ask me how I feel in a month or two.

Written by winniewongsf

July 3, 2012 at 9:19 am

The Bay Area News Project

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Explain to me again how this new editorial staff is going to bring innovation in delivering news to Bay Area residents.

Oh, it’s delivering web-only content?  Okay.  So are many other digital news organizations.  What makes the imminent Bay Area News Project so special?  How is it going to differentiate its products from what’s already being offered by existing news sources?

First of all, the Bay Area News Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, publicly supported news organization that includes a senior management team of Lisa Frazier (President/CEO), Jonathan Weber (Editor-in-Chief), and Brian Kelley (CTO).  Their mission is to: fill the gap in covering Bay Area civic and community news, stimulate innovation in journalism, and foster civic engagement, (all the while collaborating with UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and the NY Times).

With $5 million in seed funding from the Hellman Family fund, it launched in the fall of 2009, but does not expect to publish online content until late spring of this year.  It will be an online and mobile source of news, and you can expect to see original content printed and distributed on the NYT’s Friday and Sunday Bay Area sections.  It will also be in partnership with other media outlets and distribute content strategically.

Weber noted the four key principles that support the project’s operational business model –

1) Public-interest focused (promising to deliver high-quality coverage of civic and community news ranging from public policy and education to arts and science)

2) Multi-channel and community-centered (broad distribution through various channels to encourage active engagement with diverse audiences, develop community networks, encourage new voices, and create compelling interactive content)

3) Sustainability driven (diverse revenue streams through member donations, sponsorships, earned income, and philanthropic investment)

4) Collaborative and inventive (strategic partnerships to produce, disseminate, and test news cost-effectively, while fostering an entrepreneurial culture and serving as a lab for experimenting with new tools and business ideas to support journalism)

Last night at the World Affairs Council, the newly appointed editor of  the Bay Area News Project, Jonathan Weber, spoke of his vision for the online news site.  To give you some background, Weber worked as a technology and business editor at LA Times, as well as founded former dot-com news magazine The Industry Standard before leaving to Montana to help establish New West and teach at University of Montana’s J-School.  Something Weber said that resonated with me was, “In order to break something big, you must go somewhere where quality journalism is lacking.”  It’s not to say that a journalist must go to a completely desolate region to face the least amount of competition, but come on – think about it – in a day and age when anyone can be a journalist (well, a citizen journalist), you (simply put) need to be one step ahead of your neighbor.  Although that’s nothing new, I feel it is critical now more than ever.

While Weber did his best to keep mum about certain details, such as the type of articles (or better yet, “holy shit” stories) he plans to publish, the pay scale for staff journalists and freelancers, and other trade secrets, he divulged a bit of information about the individuals and partnerships endorsing the project, the organization’s objectives, and the project’s current hiring status (he’s looking to hire 15 reporters at the moment).   He also made it a point to emphasize that Warren Hellman has very little, if any, influence on the current hiring process, and the two did not even meet until a few weeks ago.  He acknowledged the need to reassure his audience of journalists, as well as members of the public, that the Hellman clan will not use this organization as a vehicle to push a personal agenda.

What I didn’t get out of his presentation, though, was a definitive answer to the most important question we were asking:  What makes this project so different from any other online newspaper?  Yes, he talked about product-izing the news (which makes you wonder – how do you do that being a non-profit?), innovation in website management, the coverage of roughly 9 counties (between Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa), an organic approach to developing staff (reporters will ideally wear all different hats), data-mining as a primary tool, and evaluating how the public will use the information distributed.  However, weren’t some of these the original goals of several Bay Area newspapers (Hello? The Chronicle,  SF Weekly, The Examiner, etc.)?  Over time, it seems that too many news organizations lose sight of their civic duties, and bureaucracy becomes an oppressor and not just a corporate nuisance.

Also, I’m sure that most of the local veteran journalists who attended last night were not pleased to hear of plans to grant somewhat of an advantage to students from Cal’s J-School throughout the hiring process.   An interesting question raised by a member of the audience was how the BANP planned to compensate staff journalists and freelancers.  Would the writers now be subjected to popular pay-per-click campaigns, or would they be salaried?  Weber replied that full-time writers would be compensated by salary and freelancers would receive a flat fee.  You could almost feel the wave of relief that washed over the audience.  It was a dead giveaway that indicated how negatively the economic downturn affected this industry and how much more cutthroat it has become.

The BANP will be assigned a different name when it is born this spring, and its editorial staff plans to provide internship opportunities, as well as instruction (workshops, classes, etc.) to Cal’s J-School students.  The J-School faculty will, in turn, contribute ideas for future topics and features and assist the organization in developing R&D centers across various departments throughout campus.  View it as a future think tank for journalists and news media professionals.  At least, that’s what it sounds like they are attempting to create.  In a nutshell, the BANP is planning to re-invent the metro newspaper.  I bid it good luck and an especially sympathetic audience.

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