Updates from March, 2013

  • Crime News From Inside Seattle PD

    1:33 pm on March 27, 2013 | 1 Comment Permalink
    Tags: Blogs, Jonah Spangenthal-Lee, Journalism, Journalism Innovation

    Crime in the Emerald City may not pay, but it is forging a career for local reporter/blogger Jonah Spangenthal-Lee. The lifelong Seattle resident found his niche in journalism almost by accident, while writing for the alt-weekly paper The Stranger as an intern from North Seattle Community College.

    “I still don’t really know how I ended up on the crime beat,” Spangenthal-Lee said in an e-mail interview. “The first few stories I wrote at The Stranger all happened to be cop or crime-related, and I started making contacts and figuring out the cops/court system through trial and error.”

    The 4-month internship led to a job covering the city’s crime beat, and for years he gained valuable experience and established many solid contacts reporting at crime scenes.  After parting ways with The Stranger, he wanted to continue crime reporting, but knew it would be difficult landing a position in a newsroom.

    Soon after, with “a ton of help” from Justin Carder, publisher of CapitolHillSeattle.com and Central District News founder Scott Durham, Spangenthal-Lee’s site Seattlecrime.com was born. “A few other blogger/reporter friends also pitched in from time to time with posts on my site,” Spangenthal-Lee said.

    Creating his own news site did have advantages.

    “The editorial freedom that comes from running a mostly one-man show was fantastic, and operating without any sort of financial safety net, attorneys–or even petty cash to pay for things like court documents–really forced me to be resourceful about how I obtained and used information.”

    Spangenthal-Lee offered stories other media outlets didn’t have, by spending more time reading through police reports and by breaking stories sooner than the competition.

    “Being a small ‘independent’ operation also meant I could be a lot more agile with how and when I published (breaking news on Twitter from a crime scene hours before I’d ever get back to a computer to churn out a traditional inverted-pyramid story, for instance) but working 18 hour days and always having one ear tuned to the police scanner can take its toll.”

    “I worked hard to make sure I had stories or details no one else had and tried to inject a bit of personality into my posts as well,” he said.

    “It helped being able to break some good scoops, and that very few other reporters were combing through police records with the regularity I was, but I think just being present on the site–both in the comments section and over emails with readers–and putting out regular updates around the clock helped give readers a reason to keep coming back.”

    Seattlecrime.com developed a small but dedicated fan base as the “go-to-place” for local crime news. Connecting with neighborhood blogs that linked to his coverage and a Seattlecrime.com iPhone app all helped his site garner more local and national media attention.

    “Crime, however, does not pay,” he concluded. “Especially if you’re blogging about it.”

    He explained, “I tried to keep myself out of the advertising side of things because I didn’t want to risk compromising any editorial content. But from what I heard from the folks who tried oh so hard to sell ads for me, nobody wants to sell their product right alongside a story about a murder, car thefts, or other generally grim news.”

    And after dedicating his life to Seattlecrime.com for more than a year, the opportunity arose to work alongside the very folks he covered, the Seattle Police Department.

    For the past year he has worked as a contractor blogging for the SPD Blotter page, a site started in 2008, which informs local residents of the crime news and information happening in the city with updated blogs and twitter feeds, also written by the detectives and officers themselves.

    Spangenthal-Lee seems like a natural fit for the blog, and he’s enjoyed the chance he’s been given.

    “It’s been a great experience working at the SPD so far. I’ve received a tremendous amount of support and freedom from the chiefs, my boss, my unit, and tons of other officers, detectives, sergeants, lieutenants, and captains throughout the department. I’ve been encouraged to keep doing things the way I’ve always done them.”

    Although, he’ll be the first to admit that in the beginning his transition wasn’t exactly smooth sailing among his new colleagues.

    “I’d be lying if I said everyone here was initially excited to have me on board, but I get that I come with some baggage and that cops have a lot of preconceived notions about reporters, much as reporters have a lot of preconceived notions about cops,” he said.

    “I’ve really had a good time here, though it was a risk for them and a risk for me, but I think it’s worked out pretty well so far.”

    Being the one contributing blogger on the Blotter site who isn’t a cop, Spangenthal-Lee provides readers with an alternative point of view on crime news. He hopes that will further build an audience and make the site the best source for crime and police news.

    “I think my background, having not been a cop, I can come at things from a different perspective than some of my co-workers, who’ve been in law enforcement for some time. I get excited to write about incidents, crimes, or police processes that might seem routine or boring to them.”

    His efforts have been written about in The Seattle Times. And he was given an award from the Washington Coalition for Open Government, which praised his philosophy that “If there’s information we can give to anyone, we should give it to everyone.”

    He got a lot of attention for a blog post entitled “Marijwhatnow? A Guide to Legal Marijuana in Seattle.”

    If Jonah Spangenthal-Lee’s story shows other aspiring reporters anything, it’s that finding the right niche for yourself in journalism is possible by not only working hard, but also taking chances.

    His advice:

    “Get well acquainted with Twitter, learn to write quickly, function on 6 hours of sleep, and be equipped to shoot your own photos and video, even if it’s just on your iPhone.  Find something you’re interested in writing about and write about it (assuming it’s something anyone else on the planet is interested in).

    “There are tons of free publishing platforms out there right now, so if you’ve got something to say about a topic write it up, post it, and Facebook and tweet the hell out of it. The more you do it, the more feedback you’ll get, and the better you’ll get. Probably.”

    In essence, Spangenthal-Lee is reporting about the Seattle Police Department from within the institution. Asked what he would say to people who are skeptical that any public agency can report honestly about itself, he answered philosophically:

    “I guess I’d just say that I hope people remain skeptical. We need to continually work to earn and maintain public trust and a healthy dose of skepticism is just more incentive to be as open and accurate with our information as possible. That said, some acknowledgement — when we do the right thing the right way — wouldn’t kill anybody, either.”

    (Patrick Fancher is a freelance writer in Corvallis, Oregon.)

     
  • My Edmonds News lauded in Knight Digital Media Center

    3:03 pm on February 12, 2012 | 0 Comment Permalink
    Tags: My Edmonds News, Teressa Wippel

    Entrepreneurial journalists in the Pacific Northwest continue to draw attention for their innovative ideas.  The News Leadership 3.0 blog at the Knight Digital Media Center features the work of Teresa Wippel in creating and sustaining MyEdmondsNews.com.

    In addition to advertising, the site generates revenues from live internet streaming of local high school football and basketball games.

    Kudos to Wippel for her journalistic passion and dedication.

     
  • Seattle fashion bloggers looking sharp in Pacific Northwest Magazine

    11:27 am on September 4, 2011 | 0 Comment Permalink
    Tags: boraborastyle.blogspot.com, emeraldcloset.com, it'smydarlin'.com, lindsayliving.com, Pacific Northwest Magazine, , , seattlealamode.com, YouLookFab.com

    The Seattle Journalism Commons includes a list of noteworthy local blogs and news sites that are redefining news and information in the Greater Seattle area. Pacific Northwest Magazine highlights a category not yet on the list — fashion bloggers.

    The delightful article by Janet I. Tu, with stylish photos by Ellen M. Banner, says style bloggers are making their mark nationally. “In Seattle, too — not exactly known as fashion central, though it’s probably fairer to say we’re practical even when fashion-conscious — style bloggers are making their presence felt,” the story says.

    In addition to featuring several local bloggers, the article includes a list of style blogs  from around here:

    YouLookFab

    It’s My Darlin’

    Seattle a la Mode

    The Emerald Closet

    Lindsay Living

    Bora Bora Style

    Hey Pretty Thing

    Abiola (pronounce Ah-bee-aw-la), creator of Bora Bora Style, posted a note about the magazine article on her site. She says:

    “It’s jarring and somewhat liberating how much weight style bloggers hold in the world of fashion today, but why shouldn’t we, we’re someone to know! Fashion gives us the good stuff, the wearable art we’re inspired by, but it’s when you take that wearable art and make it your own that it becomes style, and that’s what we all want to see – ‘style on a girl like me'(as in all of us women occupying this earth), hints the birth of bloggers. Gotta love us.”

    Whether you are interested in fashion or not, this magazine piece reveals yet another aspect of Seattle’s vibrant emerging media scene. Let us know these entrepreneurs talk about how they are doing and what others can learn from their endeavors.

    Let us know if you’d like to attend a discussion with these entrepreneurs of how they are doing and what advice they can offer.

     
  • New local partners for Seattle Times

    5:02 pm on July 15, 2011 | 0 Comment Permalink
    Tags: Bob Payne, Capitol Hill Seattle Blog, , Inside Bainbridge, J-Lab, Justin Carder, Kate Bergman, My Everett News, News Partner Network, Next Door Media, Northwest Asian Weekly, Northwest Vietnamese News, , Public Eye Northwest, , Seattle's Child, , West Seattle Blog

    The Seattle Times announced it has added three websites to its News Partner Network. They are Inside Bainbridge, My Everett News and Seattle’s Child. All together, The Times now has forty partners in three categories:

    The Times launched the network in August 2009, with a relatively small grant from J-Lab. At the time there were just a handful of local partners, but they included real online news pioneers such as Tracy Record of the West Seattle Blog, Kate and Cory Bergman of Next Door Media and Justin Carder of the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog.

    The network has grow remarkably. I’m unaware of any newspaper in the country that has done as much as The Times to build such a collaborative network. A list of success stories on The Times’ site includes cross-linking to stories, photo swapping, training on topics such as mobile reporting and video editing. It also mentions two collaborative news projects, one on homeless families and the other on graffiti.

    The Times says it wants to establish and build cooperative relationships with other news sites. If you have questions or suggestions to include in the network, contact Bob Payne – bpayne at seattletimes dot com, Times editor for partnerships and audience engagement.

    The News Partner Network is a prime example of what’s working in the Seattle area news and information ecosystem. Other examples are included in the State of the Media section of the Seattle Journalism Commons. We invite you to submit other examples.

    P.S. In the interest of full disclosure, I worked at The Times for 30 years, but all of this wonderful work happened well after I retired in 2008.

     
  • Newsdex Seattle -- Measuring brand reach of local news sites

    2:13 pm on May 9, 2011 | 3 comments Permalink
    Tags: Chuck Taylor, Gary Love, Metrics, Newsdex, Research, Resources, Social Media

    For an intriguing glimpse into how well Seattle news organizations are connecting with social media, check out Newsdex Seattle, a spare-time project by Gary Love and Chuck Taylor. It is a daily rundown of the Facebook and Twitter data for organizations ranging from The Seattle Times (36,885 in network today) to My Everett News (25 in network).

    Love and Taylor readily acknowledge, “Measuring the effectiveness or reach of a company’s social brands is, to be sure, an inexact science, and our metrics are decidedly a work in progress.” Kudos to them for stimulating discussion, anyway.

    One purpose of the Seattle Journalism Commons is to help local media people learn from each other, so here are some questions prompted by Newsdex:

    (More …)

     
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