Bang for your buck: how to help your newsroom get the most out of SRCCON (or any journalism event)
Session facilitator(s): Emma Carew Grovum, Dave Stanton
Day & Time: Friday, 10-11:15am
EMMA: Hi, I’m Emma Carew Grovum. I’m a news career newsroom consultant in New York. And I wrote the SRCCON after party toolkit. So this is a live demo of it so you can go to srccon.org/share if you want to go through the exercises, there’s a series of mix-and-match tools like how to write a memo for your boss or how to prepare to go to a conference and so we wanted to talk a little bit today about, you know, what different types of different newsroom personas need out of going to newsroom conferences and how to make it actually actionable when you bring it back and bring all the wonderful learning here back to your newsrooms and make changes. So that’s the basic premise. This is Dave.
DAVE: I’m Dave Stanton and I used to be a professor at University of Pennsylvania, I used to work on eye-tracking pointers. And I currently I work at salesforce as a trainer teaching people how to use the custom sort of map-building features and one of my main responsibilities is hosting workshops and running trainings for partners so I want to make sure they come prepared, they know what they’re getting out of it so they don’t come and say, that was a waste of a day, I don’t want to do this. And how they can justify this to their boss because traveling for events is not untrivial.
EMMA: Welcome! Either join another table or sit together. So the toolkit kind of breaks down into a few personas — so there’s three main personas we want to walk through and those are personally practice. So you came to learn for yourself, for your own skill-building, for your own management training, your own career focus, you’re a team leader or manager. So you’re here on behalf of your team and you want to bring something back to a workflow, or tool, or a skill set. Or you’re a newsroom leader or executive. And you want to observe things on behalf of your entire organization. And the other possibility is you’re an freelancer, you you’re by yourself. Maybe you’re an only-lonely. You’re the only coder or product developer in your newsroom and you’re here to learn from people like you. So our first discussion is: what are the challenges of coming to a journalism event. So how do you decide what events to attend. How do you make a case for attending and getting funding. And how do you make the most of your time at each event? So if you want to take about ten minutes at each of your tables, we can share out.
DAVE: And if you need an icebreaker for that, what’s the best thing have you attended in the last ten years and why was it so good?
[ Group Work ]
So we’ll wrap down in about a minute.
All right. So we’re going to come back and wind down whatever thought you’re on. Let’s do a quick shareout. Table in the front: tell us what you talked about in terms of your personas and the challenges for attending an event as that persona. Or whatever you talked about.
AUDIENCE: So we were talking a little bit about the privilege of going to these. Some of us have worked in smaller newsrooms where you either had to send yourself because your organization wouldn’t support you going. At times I think I had to take vacation time to go to O&A because it was not a funded trip, or at least a few of us were saying that we’re in positions where it’s almost a guarantee to go to these opportunities which is a really dramatic shift.
AUDIENCE: And I work for a local non-profit newsroom in Pittsburgh and I’ve had to get a scholarship every year to come, but now, next year if I didn’t get a scholarship, they would see the importance especially if I come back with memos and stuff and show them and prove that it’s been beneficial, they might send me still without getting one of those.
EMMA: When you applied for the scholarship this year, what was the kind of response that you got?
AUDIENCE: From my newsroom? I was basically just like, I got a scholarship. It’s going to cover everything. And it’s this great conference. Can I go? And they were like, yeah.
EMMA: Any other questions that you guys wanted to share out from your discussion?
DAVE: He other tables, quick random-raisy, so I can do quick marks. Pick one of these personas that you most identify with: are you an individual contributor, a manager of some sort, an exec, or a solo freelancer? So who’s a self, or individual contributor? Manager? Executive, leader? Two. Solo/freelancer? One. Cool. Thank you.
EMMA: Thank you.
DAVE: It’s helpful to put a lens on stuff.
EMMA: Anything else from the first table? Nope? Okay. We’ll go to the table in the back.
AUDIENCE: We talked about all where we’re coming from and our different roles and we all agreed we love coming to SRCCON and it’s one of the only conferences that we routinely go to. And I work at a state university teaching journalism and I had to make a pretty hard case for coming here because they are always like, why do you want to come back to the same conference over and over? What are you learning there? Are you learning new skills? And compared to other conferences, that’s not really the point of SRCCON: to come back and say, “I have learned a new coding language” or whatever. And even what I have said about SRCCON. They like me to be presenting a thing. Well, even leading a thing here isn’t really called “presenting,” it’s all “facilitating.” Or maybe you can be an officer. Well, they don’t really have officers. It’s kind of against the spirit of the thing and it’s taken more persuasion on my part than I expected just so sort of get my bosses on board with the whole framework of SRCCON and explaining it. So I’m actually in the process of writing a Post for Source because that’s something that my organization values: I teach. And I have found that’s one of the more valuable things that I didn’t expect going into it. But I come coming back because I learn how to manage people and teach them, and motivate them, which I think is true for a lot of managers.
EMMA: Anything else from your guys’ table that you wanted to share out?
DAVE: Presenting is an interesting topic of, well, what is the underpining value that our organization’s value is it kind of marketing/branding? Is it for recruitment? Well, other places they’re hesitant to send out people too soon because they get post-work for their organization. So that might be another point to unpack at some point. ≈
EMMA: Table over here. What did you guys talk about?
AUDIENCE: I guess that’s us, huh? Well, we discussed a couple of things. We were kind of an interesting group is that we have a few solo people here, a few people who are at the other end of the spectrum:: management. We were just comparing conferences. Some of us we have been to a few conferences, and for some of us, this is our first. And with our different backgrounds, what do we bring back and how. So we were just kind of sharing those. And I think the other thing is that we were noting that SRCCON is very different because it’s kind of therapeutic in a way. I mean, it’s kind of nice to discover you’re not the only neurotic person. And, you know, has been mentioned before, that’s not necessarily what you experience at other conferences where it’s sit, learn, network! Look around! All that stuff. This is a lot more esoteric.
EMMA: Yeah. So I want to walk through — I’m just going to bring up since it’s on the screen, the “get organized.” These are three ways to collect your thoughts for effective sharing. We don’t have to do this right now, we can just show it. So there’s no right way to organize your thoughts. Where you took notes on your laptop, or on your notebook, or live-tweeting. But the thing is to take your notes and pick out three themes that were valuable to you.
AUDIENCE: Excuse me, is this online?
EMMA: It’s all online. It’s srccon.org/share.
DAVE: I’ll scribble that down there, as well.
EMMA: The other thing that you can do is start with a list of questions. So I started with a list of questions here: what’s the best thing you went to. What thing did you learn that was most surprising. What questions do you still have, who were interesting people that you met? So this is kind of a framework to help you organize your ideas. I sat, like, on the train ride home or the plane ride home. But you can do it probably any time. And the third one is if you attended the event with colleagues, try collaborating in a Google doc where you kind of shared the questions that you had, the questions that you want answered, and things that you learned. And this is a good way for you to band together, where, like, many of you are coming from big organizations you can say, I’m going to pitch this new workflow and you’re going to pitch this new tool, and kind of get organized together as a team. So this was one of the exercises in the toolkit. The idea with the toolkit is that they’re very mix-and-match. So we have these… sorry. These are little recipes that we had for each types of people. So why I do any prep but I’m at the conference now. What should I do? So here’s kind of three things you can try: goal-setting. I go to this event every year, my boss wants me to get more out of it. Maybe the planning exercise, and the brown bag sessions for your boss and how to get organized. And I’m a manager. SMART goals, getting organized, build case for change. And how to host a brown bag. And making handouts and sheets. This is all at srccon.org/share. And the other piece is what are the challenges coming the momentum going once you return from an event or conference. Especially coming from SRCCON, it’s not like I learned how to walk backwards. It’s like I had these really cool thoughts around this theme and idea and I want to bring that philosophy into my newsroom. So take about 15 minutes in your groups. Quickly join a table if you want to, so that you’re not by yourself and talk about what are the challenges to returning to the newsroom and keeping that momentum going. Go ahead!
[ Group Work ]
About a minute to end this conversation and then we’ll share out. Okay. Let’s bring it back. And are you guys ready to share out some of the challenges you talked about? We’ll go the other way this time. So, Chris, do you want to start with your table? Do you guys want to start to share out some of the challenges you talked about?
AUDIENCE: Um… where do we start? Well, just to kind of I guess pick up where we left off is, again, one of the things that I think we all appreciate about SRCCON is the diversity and, you know, the emphasis on community and defining and caring for and serving those communities with respect. And, you know, there’s been — I’ve encountered a lot more conversations about that here than I have in the bulk of my professional career. And it’s, you know, especially in this time that we live in culturally, you know, that I think being able to create these spaces just where we can talk about this. And I was saying this in my conversation with Kristen, as well, is we don’t know those answers.
EMMA: How do you bring that spirit back, though, to your organization.
AUDIENCE: That’s a difficult question. For me, it’s difficult because I’m remote. But we’ve had an incident in the past where we published something that should not have been published and we were hurt about it. And so I don’t know if anyone else here works remotely but I think that’s a special challenge for people who do work remotely is how do you — whether it’s this issue we’re talking about or any kind of, you know, issue where you want to share what you’ve experienced and learned and help build better teams, how do you do that when it’s everyone through a screen.
EMMA: That’s awesome for me when thinking about this toolkit because I have not encountered that as a persona, so thank you very much for sharing that.
DAVE: And, you know, like, culture on remote teams — it all kind of merges from the people that are there and you can enforce certain things. So I’ve been on certain teams where it’s like webcams on all the time and you’re sitting around a room very SCRUM-like, or people get into their head, and they come back for their stand-ups. But for most of the time, it’s screen off. So what I like to do was to bridge the gap and build that culture and rapport is pick one meeting where that camera was on. It didn’t matter if it was a Tuesday stand-up or anything. But one thing where everyone can mentally prepared to be extroverted.
AUDIENCE: That’s interesting you say that because at one Internet company that I was hired by, did a little Internet stalking and a lot of them didn’t have online presences. And all of our meetings were audio only. And we had a group meeting face-to-face retreat and it was really interesting, ‘cause it was like, “Oh, that’s you.” But yeah, more on how to deal with this and at attention remotely would be good.
EMMA: Awesome. Thank you guys for sharing that. Do you want to share what you chatted about?
AUDIENCE: The biggest challenge we talked about were, like, the walk to sharing back is time which I’m sure a lot can relate to but the quote from the table is there’s more than when you left because you’re not working here — well, you’re not working the entire time you’re here. And one interesting solution that came up at the table is before you even come to SRCCON, schedule something on the calendar with your team that’s like, during this hour, half hour, we will eat and share back what we learned at SRCCON and giving yourself kind of a self-imposed arbitrary deadline will kind of force your hand at create something and make you synthesize information at some point even if it’s low touch. So that was, like, the main thing we talked about.
EMMA: That was awesome. Can I include that in the toolkit?
DAVE: And maybe as a manager down to a team — I do it to my boss. So, like, when I do my one-on-ones, I go up the chain, as well, and schedule that ahead of time. Okay, in our next one, I want to lead and talk about this. That’s an awesome one. And just going around and listening and hearing all your awesome ideas, something else that jumped out to me is I kind of pump myself at conferences and there’s a lot of people saying, kind of unexpected energy, but also, you know, you kind of get worn down and so, as a natural introvert, I need some downtime. But I don’t want to retreat into work email because that’s the absolute wrong thing to do because all you’re doing is switching all your anxieties to all work shit that’s flooding in and then you’re completely detached from the conference and you have to get back into it. So what I like to do for those recharge times is that’s when I put down the three big ideas from session ideas. Not a report or a deliverable, but three things that stuck out for me. It gives me time and excuse to get into my own head without going into work.
EMMA: I think that’s a really good tip and it’s a really good way to make it bite sized. Where you’re not like going, okay, I need to sit down and think about everything I learned in the last 48 hours. It’s kind of like sit down, bite, bite, bite.
AUDIENCE: Just building on the burnout on cons and stuff. Where I’ve been to other conferences and things where you’re all amped up and you force yourself to be on, and day two comes, around and you’re like… but I really appreciate the fact that there’s no booze here and I say that as a dedicated drinker. But it’s like I’ve been to other gatherings where there’s a bar session every other day, and maybe you get a hangover but it’s just different being in a communal setting without alcohol. I appreciate that.
EMMA: Make sure you give that feedback to Ryan and Erika because I’m sure they’d love to hear that.
AUDIENCE: No alcohol but, yes, kids.
AUDIENCE: It hasn’t always been that way. There were alcohol tokens for three years, when I was pregnant. But yeah, I noticed that.
AUDIENCE: And there’s bars near by.
AUDIENCE: I’m also a dedicated drinker.
AUDIENCE: And we were talking about that before. I mean, this is a very different vibe than O&A.
EMMA: Yes, but hopefully some of the things in the toolkit will be applicable to no matter what kind of event that you go to. But I think you’re very right in saying that SRCCON is very special and how to bring SRCCON back to our newsrooms and back to our communities feels a little different so I’m glad we’re making that distinction as a group.
DAVE: And even in a very small, say, a local meetup, and you go to a presentation or listening to somebody else’s talk, and using the same tools, and come back with one idea, one thing, it just gives you an excuse of something to talk about with your team especially when you’re remote and you’re craving something that’s kind of professionally relevant but not directly, like, part of, like, the backlog, right? Something that you can talk about. I find that super valuable. So…
EMMA: Anything else from your guys’ table that were challenges to sharing out, or moving the ball forward and keeping the momentum after a conference or event?
AUDIENCE: I think that was the main thing.
EMMA: Next up here?
AUDIENCE: One of the things that I shared was, I think, SRCCON a couple of years ago I wanted to do, like, a brown-bag session but it didn’t — I don’t know if I structured it well. Like, I did one of the group-share exercises. I’m not sure, I can’t remember what it was about but it was sort of, like, me trying to transfer the, sort of, energy from SRCCON onto my coworkers but it sort of felt like a like you said, a little artificial. So maybe finding a better way to take back my energy and things I’ve learned to my staff with just small, nine or ten people without sort of, like, forcing them to be like, “You have to get into this sort of, like, feeling, like, I got into.” And just sort of, like, sharing with them, the personal growth and what I’ve learned instead of, like, doing — trying to force it on them.
AUDIENCE: I’m curious has anyone tried to do, like, these long-force format, longer sharing at their workplaces.
AUDIENCE: I teach so people are kind of forced to spend time with me but I do try to bring that out. And I’ve found a lot of really good ideas at SRCCON for teaching because it does relate and I think in some ways than newsroom culture does, there’s a lot of focus on growth and education, there’s a lot of focus on sharing your expertise and peer learning. And even now, there’s also kind of a movement towards social belonging and values, and the idea that people will learn anything better whether it’s, like, physics, or computer programming, or whatever, if you also get them the opportunity to talk about who they are, and what they’re a part of and what assumptions they bring in. So it’s been really good to see how that works with professionals because I do see what comes from the educational perspective is often — not condescending but it’s child oriented so it’s nice to see how that works with adults in a way that’s respectful and not condescending. So I’ve also used that in some — I’ve put on some events which was a horrifying/terrifying experience for me and I used a lot of things from SRCCON from that including things like what kind of snacks to provide. Thinking back, oh, my gosh, what kinds of snacks do grown-ups like? And thinking about that, and also framing the conversations as if you were trying to foster conversation but make sure that it’s equitable — the way they do that here is better here than strictly anywhere else.
EMMA: Anybody else on that topic?
AUDIENCE: I recently —
EMMA: Go ahead. Sorry.
AUDIENCE: Sorry. I didn’t realize you were behind me. I recently led a too long migration so I had the team that I worked with go through our current tooling situation and identify how we use every single module and what the editorial thought behind all the things are and one of them is, like, what’s working and what’s not working but we were short on time and so, I forewent the — is that the right word — the “what’s good.” And being here I was like, man, that was actually, in retrospect, I should have really made the time to talk about what does work before going into what doesn’t work because that sets the conversation in a more positive and productive tone.
EMMA: That’s a great point. For my session that I did yesterday on, like, alliship and diversity, we talked a little bit about how to, like, if we’re talking about ≈, like, white fragility and shame in an incidence where they didn’t act as an ally, and we just talked about ways to build them up, so that it wasn’t like negative, negative, negative, it’s like let’s talk about a good time, let’s talk about a bad time, or let’s talk about some positives, let’s talk about some fairlies rather than saying, that was bad, that was bad, that was bad because people get turned off. So that was a really good point.
AUDIENCE: So last year, I did the Poynter Women’s Fellowship Academy. And when I got back, I started a women’s Brown Bag that I actually structured around SRCCON’s session kind of in the same format where I had the young women that were in our newsroom come together and we would do it every other week and we would pick a topic, and kind of do it, like, a SRCCON session and it was things that they wanted to talk about. It was things — it was — they were, generally speaking journalists who were just starting out in their careers. Most of them were journalists of color so it was kind of different things that were impacting them in their careers and in their lives and we would talk about it but we kind of took more of a SRCCON format and did it more, like, how we do it here. And so that’s kind of another way that I took it back.
EMMA: I like that. Anything else from your guys’ team that you wanted to talk about regarding challenges?
AUDIENCE: Yeah, two of my colleagues at the Times, Isaac and did a great talk yesterday about library and they’re actually going to use that tool to compile a list of everyone’s slide index and notes to bring back to the Times and I feel like that’s one actual thing that we can do to at least give some people something to read for those who are curious about those of us who went here. And I think that would be helpful.
EMMA: Can you talk about the Slack channel and so many people from the Times here?
AUDIENCE: Yeah, we have a Slack channel saying, hey, what session are you going to, and it’s also how to plan dinner. So I thought that was a good way for us to connect with people here because I didn’t know how many were here until I saw them. So…
EMMA: That was awesome.
DAVE: I love that point of emphasize the good before starting conversations. Common performance feedback is, you know, start, stop, continue. Everyone who’s a manager have probably seen that as a manager. Here’s things we should start, here’s things we should stop, here’s things we should continue. Put the start at the beginning. If you see something that your team is doing already very well that’s a best practice, champion that. Hey, I saw this, and I saw that was working really well, let’s do that more. Everybody likes to feel they’re at the front of something, right?
EMMA: So one of the exercises in the toolkit is I went to a manager, I went to this conference, here are three ideas that I took away. I met one of your former colleagues, blah, blah, blah. Kind of touch points: I know we’re hiring for a social media manager. I know this great candidate. Trying to encompass all the great things that you’ve encountered but especially pointing out, like, someone talked about how cool our membership program is going, or someone mentioned our app. Make sure you bring that up because it’s like you’re the bearer of good news.
DAVE: Poaching, certainly a good topic as well. If you meet someone who you think is awesome and you don’t have an opposition now, put them in your notes so that when the time is right, you already have a short list of people to reach out to.
EMMA: So the last 15 minutes, we’re going to be a little unstructured, talk in the full group about what do you guys need to be successful, what could we add to the toolkit to serve more people and serve the larger audience and kind of what else are you thinking about as you head back to your newsrooms. Questions that you have, what resources we can share with you. So I’ll open it up and whatever questions or comments that you guys want to bounce around. Or you can leave early… whatever.
DAVE: I also heard somebody talk about — people talking about, like, the newsletters. That’s another thing for, like, your shareout. It could be whatever format you want it to be. Maybe it’s a couple slides for a deck because that’s what your boss likes seeing. Maybe that it’s one-page memo. Maybe it’s six links in a newsletter format with a paragraph describing. Lots of different examples and formats here. So don’t treat these as, “Set in stone, do it this way or it’s wrong.” Pick and choose, rift, adapt it to your style.
EMMA: So I think we’re using the hashtag #opennewsafterparty, and let us know how you’re doing. If you’re using this brown bag, if you got a glowing review from your manager, let us know on how you’re doing this because we want something that’s within document that’s useful not only after SRCCON but after other events, as well. Awesome. Well… any last thoughts? Thank you so much for coming. I know this was, like, a little meta-dive-into on, like, a Friday morning. But hopefully everybody is hangover free because of the lack of booze.
DAVE: And you have a few minutes before you have to go and the energy begins again. So you can write down what you’re going to do.
EMMA: What are your next steps? what you’re going to do on your plane ride home. When you meet with your boss. Plan ahead. You’re welcome to share it with anybody. You’re welcome to share it with us. Thank you so much for coming.
[ Applause ]