McCormick Specialized Reporting Institute

Last week, I was lucky enough to be selected to participate in a McCormick Specialized Reporting Institute at Cal State Fullerton. The topic on hand was “Covering Social Protest Movements in an Age of Social Media.” It was an interesting seminar, bringing together content creators of all types — newspaper reporters, both local and non-local, social media managers, photographers, web producers like myself — to discuss journalism, protest movements and social media.

Since growing my family, I haven’t been able to get out to many extra-curricular journalism activities — in fact, I pretty much quit cold turkey at about the time I had Michael. Not that I quit news, of course, but getting out, talking to other journalists, discussing recent trends, etc, went on the back burner of importance. I’ve only recently started keeping track of Meetups (both journalism and blogging/WordPress related) and making time to attend the ones I am really interested in.

Enter the Specialized Reporting Institute. I’m no longer a reporter (although local PIOs should not be surprised to hear me calling for pictures, to ask a particular question or anything else), but my interest in news and stories hasn’t waned. And even though I work online, for a TV station, I still have a soft spot in my heart for newspapers. So the Orange County Register’s Rob Curley was a special surprise, and really got me gung-ho about making newspapers relevant again. I did take some notes, but I tweeted a whole lot during his presentation.




This photo a listing of the Las Vegas Sun’s (Curley’s previous paper) top stories at that moment, with the number of readers on each story and an icon noting how many readers arrived by each site (Facebook, Twitter, Google, Bing, etc.) I really do want something like that. Stats like that literally made me addicted to the web.

(Later, you’ll see that the hash tags I use change; we had a pretty extensive discussion about how we should tag the conference. Originally it was going to be #coveringsocialprotests, but a bunch of us said that didn’t leave us much room for the actual tweet. Someone else proposed #protestreporting, and ultimately, we settled on #FullSRI — with “Full” standing for Fullerton. I had suggested csufsri, but no one got on board with that. Oh well.)

We also heard from Ron Thomas, the father of Kelly Thomas. If you’re not up on Southern California news, Kelly Thomas was the mentally ill homeless man who was beaten into a coma by Fullerton police officers. Kelly Thomas later died, and his father had to post a photo of his face, beaten to a pulp, online in order to get the attention of the mainstream media.




I will admit that those two sessions were my favorite. I also enjoyed the presentation by LA Times reporter Kate Linthicum and Martin Beck about the difficulty the paper had reporting on Occupy LA as “corporate media.” Literally, she was called a “corporate reporter” to her face.

The other thing I wanted to kind of take note of was the fact that several of the women at the conference were just so friggin cool! Michelle Nicolosi (@nicolosi) was a member of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team while at the Orange County Register, a fact she didn’t seem to think was a big deal. (!) Vanessa Williamson (@V_Williamson) and I were talking before our Friday night dinner, and when I asked her what else she is into besides food porn (discussed earlier during Rob Curley’s session), she replied something along the lines of, “I do aerial acrobatics.” I nearly fell over — that was the last thing I would have expected her to say. And later, after sitting down because you can only stand for so long in 4-inch heels when you’re mostly accustomed to flip flops, I was talking with OC Reg reporter Claudia Koerner (@ClaudiaKoerner). She mentioned she’d have to leave early the next day because she had a roller derby game in Ventura County. ?!!!

Dude, I just blog. And I have two kids. I am so boring.

Anyway, it was a great, invigorating conference, and now when I make offbeat suggestions or eyebrow-raising story pitches, I’m going to reference Rob Curley at the Specialized Reporting Institute conference. You think I’m kidding?