May
2013

Social media and journalism

I’ve been meaning to write more on this blog, but I keep getting caught up in too much work stuff. I recently got to do a bit of writing for others though. I am passionate about making the case for just how important social media, Twitter in particular, is for journalism. I am keen to make the point that journalists need to approach Twitter just like any other medium they may report in. Our core function; be accurate. Here are a couple of interviews I did recently talking about that:

http://www.vocus.com/invocus/media-blog/tweeting-wisely-the-dangers-of-social-media-qa/

And

http://www.maineprmaven.com/2013/05/13/social-media-evolution-how-its-changing-journalism/

Mar
2013

I’m the Chris Farley of 207

It’s time I come clean with the viewers of Maine TV, I’m the Chris Falrey of 207. I can do the odd interview here and there (with some competence), but when I hit something that I am a big fan of; I geek out. I can’t hide my enthusiasm, or my excitement, that I am interviewing someone I am in awe of.


I can’t help but gush over how much I love the person’s show/writing/talent. During my Doctor Who interview with Matt Smith and Karen Gillan, I called Karen by her character name, Amy Pond, which you should never do.


Being a TV and broadcast journalism geek, I can tell you that with all certainty there is no better, or tougher, interviewer than Rob Caldwell.

I’ve worked with Rob for ten years now, and absolutely no one compares to him in terms of asking though, thoughtful, and fair questions. He knows how to ask the question that gets an answer the viewer will find interesting and engaging.

One of the elements of a good interview is not making it about you. This is a very hard lesson for many ego driven TV types.

In your mind you’re thinking, “well I’m on TV too, people know who I am. They obviously want me to interject what I think and feel into this conversation.” No, the viewers want you to ask the questions that make the interview all about the person they’ve tuned into see, which is not always going to be you.


Rob Caldwell gets this, as many other good interviewers do too. It’s becoming less and less of a common practice though. As we become our own mini stars, with TV and social media, a good reporter must remember what they’re there to do; tell a story.

What happens though, as in my case, when you just want to do the interview for yourself? Yes — I know it’s not about me, but it kind of is. I want to ask the questions I want to ask because I’m a fan. I don’t want to waste the few precious moments I have with this talented person setting up a question for people who are new to them. I want to get right to my super geeky, often inside, question.

Sadly, that’s irresponsible and I know it because I’ve watched Rob for the last ten years do the right thing every time. Whenever I get into a situation I can’t think my way out of, I think; “what would Rob do?” My Caldwell instinct always kicks in and I do the right thing.

It’s hard to stay responsible when you are a big fan. That’s where his years of experience trumps anything that can be taught. I know he’s interviewed many people he’s a big fan of, but he knows how to words things in a way that does the job for both fan and viewer. With an author, or an actor, you ask questions that will appeal to a general audience — not the niche audience.

I’m trying to find those precious words now as I struggle to ask the right questions of someone I am a big fan of (someone who doesn’t want a lot of gushing or fanfare). It’s where I see just how good Rob is, and how I need more experience. I need a couple of failures to know just how to do it right. Thought, let’s be honest, who wants to go on TV and fail in front of everyone? It’s not really failure; it’s more like a coach examining a good play to se where it can be done better the next time.

So I’ve gone back into my geekness and examined how I can do it better this time. How will I do? I have no idea, I’ll let the other fans and viewers decide that when the interview airs.

Aug
2012

New blog name: The Happy Hooligan

Shortly after I first switched over from producing full-time to being a social media reporter, I got my first complaint call. I’ve taken these calls for years as a producer, so I was prepared for whatever crazy thing they were going to say. In the past I’ve heard from people that were upset over how much cleavage an anchor was showing, how bad an anchor’s shoes were, how ugly someone’s glasses were, and how awful their hair was. There are also the more standard calls of “that person on TV is sending me a direct message, please ask them to stop.”

So I was ready for what was bound to be coming my way. Since most of my reports are focused on technology, and social media, I often talk about some confusing things (to older viewers that is). In this instance I think I was explaining a new Facebook feature that had just rolled out.

As I walked back into the newsroom from the set, one of the photographers yelled out “Hey we got a complaint about you!”

I said, “Oh what did they say?”

Photog: “She said that while you seemed like a nice young man, to tell that happy hooligan to knock it off with all of his computer shit!”

Me: “oh, anything else?”

Photog: “No that was about it, but I did tell her you were nice.”

Me: “thanks?”

Since graduating grad school, I keep coming back to this blog. I’m not entirely sure what to do with it, but I know I need to keep it. I need to keep writing – if for no other reason then to stay on my toes creatively. It’s also a good therapy from time to time. More importantly though, it helps me to continue to grow as a writer (I still have trouble with tenses and possessives). I’m not saying this is ever going to become Shakespeare over here, but one can only grow as a writer — if you write. So it’s good to have an outlet. I know the viewing public on this blog is quite small, so I think of it like a comic trying out new material in one of those tiny clubs in New York at 2 am.

I was nagged all the time during grad school to come up with something more creative than “Not Just Another TV Geek.” I just never found anything I liked more. I’d like to find something that works with my Twitter handle of @Timebrat, but I don’t think that idea is anywhere right now. So for the time being, I like “The Happy Hooligan.”



Jul
2012

How “The Dick Van Dyke Show” gave me social anxiety disorder

I often avoid parties. The thought of going to a party gives me a touch of anxiety. Will people like me outside of work? Will I have anything other than Doctor Who to talk about? Will I know everyone there? What do I do if I don’t know everyone? How on earth will I hear everyone over the music? You know, absurd questions like these race through my head. Luckily, I bring the Mrs. and all is okay. At the very least, my significant other never leaves me alone to publicly humiliate myself, and when I do she covers nicely for me. The drive home usually consists of her telling me it’s not as bad as it felt at the time.

I was invited to two parties this past weekend. While work kept me away from both, I started wondering why I get so anxious at the very idea of going to parties.

As a kid, reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show were appointment television for me. Nick At Night ran them all the time. Between the ages of 10 and 13, I though Dick Van Dyke was the funniest person on the face of the planet. It’s a credit to how well the show holds up that I was clueless as to how old the show was.

Dick Van Dyke played Rob Petrie, the head writer of The Alan Brady Show, a comedy hour style show that was based on Sid Caesar’s Show of Shows. We never really got to see the show within the show, which was fine by me. Rob and Laura were the real stars anyway.

They often would host the most amazing parties. With the usual furniture set cast aside, the living room floor because center stage for anyone who came to their event (mostly Rob’s co-workers). Obviously everyone would be drunk, but we (the viewing audience) never knew that. Rob would sing, Laura would dance, Buddy would play the cello (plus tell a few jokes) and Rose Marie would belt out a tune in her smoky voice. Everyone seemed to be a performer.


When Rob’s brother came by he was always encouraged to perform, but he would always get very nervous and go to bed (how anyone could sleep during these parties is a mystery). He would come out some time later and be the most wild guy on the living room floor. The character suffered from a kind of sleepwalking that caused him to call everyone “Buford” while he played his banjo and sang.

As I grew up, every sitcom that followed seemed to show every lead character needed to perform at the parties they went to. The worst was The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Mary Richards was cursed at having the worst parties in the history of her work place.

Problem is, that’s not real life. No one expects you to do anything at their party, except have a good time. So the more I try to figure out what you’re supposed to do at parties I’ve realized that I am not going to be called to the center stage for my vaudeville act. As a real life adult, the more I discover I need more small talk for life outside of work.

Do you want to talk about classic TV, Doctor Who, or comic books? Them I will be a hit at your place. I’m perfect for geek a party, that’s my crowd (always has been).

Honestly, I love that people are nice enough that they invite me. I don’t always make it, but I do make an effort.

Apr
2011

Capstone Research Help

Hi everyone,

I am looking for feedback on the topic within my capstone project. I am designing a class to teach social media to people who are either entering or are in journalism. The class in the style of our classes in the ICM degree but on a website like ICM 501, 505, or 508.

Here is where I need the help. How do I narrow down what to teach? How basic do I start and how advanced should I get? Should I just focus on Facebook and Twitter and do I go as basic as how to set up an account? For the capstone I am only going to teach three modules. There is so much stuff to teach about social media it’s overwhelming trying to narrow it all down.

Also I know how I feel about online classes, but I need to know how other people feel too. As a part of the research, I am looking to hear from people in our degree about what they think works and does not work when taking an online class. Please be as honest as possible. We have all had various Professor’s in this degree. What have you found is the most effective teaching method and what are the type of things a professor does that makes you scream? Again looking for your honest take.

I need a wide audience to get the right feedback. Also if you chat with anyone else in the degree program please pass this on. I would love to hear from as many people as possible. You can either comment below or email me if you want to keep your thoughts private. I will not be sharing peoples opinions. I am simply conducting research so I can better approach teaching.

Thanks everyone. here is my email: brett.whitmarsh@quinnipiac.edu