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Archives: May 2012

Is Shake Up Coming to MSNBC.com?

As reports indicate NBCUniversal is in talks to buy Microsoft Corporation’s 50 percent stake in MSNBC.com, what does this mean for media folks who work on the site?

Adweek indicated it’s “not clear at the moment” what will happen to MSNBC.com employees.

Initially the site was launched as a joint venture between NBC and Microsoft but in 2005, NBC bought most of Microsoft’s stake in MSNBC. In 2007, NBC fully owned MSNBC but the site hasn’t been fully taken over by the peacock network.

Considering NBC hasn’t previously taken over Microsoft’s portion of MSNBC.com, it’s still technically a joint venture and reflects content from NBC News and Today, but also includes more generic news content.

One possible outcome, according to the piece, is launching a separate NBC News site and then MSNBC.com’s content would more fully reflect its television shows. Plus, if a deal is reached perhaps personalities Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews will have a stronger Web presence. If so, perhaps the so-called shake up at the site would reflect the need for more opportunities and therefore, more content taken from the shows.

Three Ways to be Productive on a Slow Work Day

Tick tock goes the clock.

On a slow work day like today when many people scurry out of the office or grab a quick lunch before they head out the door, some of us are bound to our desks much to our chagrin. That is, until the end of the work day you’re trapped.

When you stop to think about it though, it’s not all that bad. It’s probably more quiet as the day continues and technically, it creates an opportunity to go through that in box.

According to a piece posted by The Daily Muse, there are several ways to be productive on an otherwise non-productive day.

1. Create a succession plan. For starters, you can take your job description and outline tasks per month. As an example, perhaps you create an editorial calendar on the first Monday of every month, reconcile freelance invoices every other Tuesday, that kind of thing. The purpose of this task is to create a work flow document so when the day comes that you leave your job and your mind is frazzled, you won’t have to do it then.

2. Get organized! For most of us, this means organizing that overflowing in box with countless emails. While you’re at it, create new folders or start deleting old ones which are no longer relevant. Just don’t get too caught up in a delete key frenzy — be sure to save anything involving HR or employee issues, thank you messages from colleagues, and detailed process issues so you won’t have to recreate the wheel the next time you need to send out a lengthy message.

3.  Read. After all, it’s fundamental! Even though you may already be online 24/7 as you create new stories and headlines, why not take some time to read articles about leadership, careers or trend pieces about the media. When all is said and done, chances are you’ll enjoy the much needed downtime that is technically productive at its very own pace — your own.

How to Make Your Cover Letter Shine

Ah, the dreaded cover letter. Many people cringe writing it but truth be told, a recruiter and hiring manager probably won’t spend too much time on it anyway. The key to standing out during their limited attention is to know your audience.

So, in the media realm depending on the tone of the outlet you’re targeting, your letter can be punchy and succinct or a bit more serious; technically it’s not unlike a freelance pitch for a story. David Noble, Ph.D., and author of Gallery of Best Cover Letters, advises, “The more you know about the reader of your cover letter, the better you can tailor its content to appeal to that person.”

While his book provides more than 300 samples of cover letters, the author says to make the letter as personal as possible. That is, avoid the “To Whom It May Concern” salutation and instead address it to a specific person.

His advice? “If you have not been able to make a personal contact, at least do everything possible to find out the name of the person who will read your letter and resume, and then address the letter to that person.” Athough a magazine’s masthead may make it easier for us in the print world, digital outlets may make the name hunting a little bit more challenging. Therefore, cold calling the receptionist is a place to start.

As for how to handle it if a contact suggested you forward it to his or her contact, be sure to “say this in the first sentence of your cover letter.” Mention the mutual contact’s name so you can get past a gatekeeper who may be sorting through the letters.

In addition to the basics like researching the company and tossing in some information like a recent positive news blurb to show you’re keeping abreast of them, end it on a light note. Noble explains, “Toward the end of the cover letter, consider repeating the recipient’s name to convey friendliness and to provide a personal touch.”

Society of Professional Journalists Offers Two Fellowships

Got fellowships? The Society of Professional Journalists has two of them!

According to their press release, the Eugene C. Pulliam Fellowship for Editorial Writing doles out $75,000 to a writer to broaden his or her horizons and knowledge of the world. As for the cash itself, apparently it may be used for travel costs, researching topics or the cost of studying.

The other award, the Eugene S. Pulliam First Amendment Award, is granted to someone who has fought to preserve one or more rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. And it’s not limited to just one person — an individual, group of individuals or organizations may receive the award of $10,000 and an engraved crystal.

The deadline for both awards applications is June 22.

Times-Picayune To Go The Way Of The Ann Arbor News; Deep Cuts Coming

The New Orleans Times-Picayune is losing a large chunk of its staff and may cease daily publication, the New York Times reported late last night.

Owner Advance Publications/Newhouse Newspapers may be following the Ann Arbor model, in which it transformed the Ann Arbor News from a print to a primarily web-focused publication, cutting staff in the process.

Editor Jim Amoss is said to be leaving after assisting with the transition. Also departing will be managing editors Peter Kovacs and Dan Shea.

Gambit, a local NOLA weekly, has more from shocked employees: “All employees with whom Gambit spoke — even longtime senior writers and editors — said they learned of their fates from The New York Times report….’I had to find this out by Twitter,’ said [a reporter]. ‘Do I go in to the office tomorrow? Do I even have a job to go in to tomorrow? I don’t know. No one has called me. No one has said anything.’”

Also according to Gambit, the layoffs are likely to target at least 50 reporters, bringing the newsroom staff down by one third. The remainder will likely take salary cuts and become bloggers.

If the Times-Picayune owners are truly emulating the Ann Arbor model, the cuts are likely to be deeper than just those 50. When the Ann Arbor News closed, about 10 percent of the 274 employees got jobs at the new AnnArbor.com.

Monster Adds Social Connections to Job Board

Monster updated its jobs board a few days ago when it added a “friends” connection. Essentially, this allows its members to view who they know at companies who post jobs on the site.

Here’s how it works: If you’re looking for a job on Monster, there’s a “see who you know” feature. With one click of a mouse, a list pops up full of the BeKnown connections who currently work at the company you’re looking into. And if you aren’t already a member of BeKnown, you can join. All you need is a Facebook login to sign up.

According to a post on ERE, this allows job seekers to engage in a conversation on the site about the job opportunity as well as the company. Instead of simply applying, job seekers are encouraged to connect with people within the company to establish a personal connection.

Back to the Basics: Your Job Search Secret

As in, keeping your job search a secret may be a challenge but it’s well worth it.

We know the situation all too well. You’re done. Burned out and ready to move on, in a rut with nowhere to go. Sure, it may be tempting to commiserate with colleagues but according to a piece published by the Harvard Business Review, it’s wise to resist that temptation.

Regardless of how close you feel you are with coworkers, chances are the best kept secret is simply with yourself. Assume it will be leaked if you’re the one who first leaks it!

Second, as pointed out in the piece, it’s important to conduct stealth networking. Do you really need to tell people outright that you’re looking? Not quite. Instead of being blunt and saying you’re looking for a new job you can tactfully state you’re “open to hearing about new opportunities.” Or that you’re not actively looking but always entertaining your options to see what’s out there.

Lastly, and this is a big one, wait for the offer and wait until you sign on the dotted line to confirm your employment. Only then should you tell your manager you’ve resigned.

USA Today To Become An ‘Orchestra Of Voices’

Name a reporter at USA Today with a powerful brand–a columnist or blogger you follow.

You probably can’t, says Jay Rosen. “USA Today has always been an editor’s paper—very digestible news is the big idea—not a home for writers or a school for sensibility.” But new president and publisher Larry Kramer says that that time is over.

“We really can’t survive if all we do is commodity journalism. We have to do things that… we say things differently, we help people understand things,” he told Howard Kurtz on CNN. “I’d like us to be more complete and more outspoken in several areas, including stories about the impact of actions by government and business,” he told Politico’s Dylan Byers. ” “What we need here is what we haven’t had before — a lot of strong voices…Here, it was just the USA Today brand by definition…” he told Marketwatch’s Jon Friedman.

He also said that he plans to hire “unique voices”–Kramer’s way of adding value in a supersaturated media landscape. Rosen says the thought is good, but: “Overthrowing that approach isn’t as simple as hiring a few bloggers or loosening the rules for writers. We’re talking about ideological change within an occupation that sees itself as having no ideology. That’s… tricky. And there’s no guarantee that people who excelled at the old way will be any good at the new.”

USA Today announced another round of furloughs last month, the fourth in four years. Parent company Gannett Co. is still profitable, but its profits have fallen far and its revenue has declined for five straight years.

Unemployment Rates Drop in Several States

If you think the economy is on a modest rebound, raise your hand!

According to numbers released the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there’s slight growth on the job front. Unemployment rates fell in two-thirds of the states last month!

Plus, unemployment rates dropped below seven percent in 22 states in April; that’s less than the national average of 8.1 percent. That said, unemployment rose in five states and remained unchanged in eight. Considering almost half of our nation’s states saw a drop, that seems like a cause for a mini-celebration, yes?

As for the states with the lowest unemployment rates? Check out North Dakota: Their rate in April was three percent. Next up? Nebraska’s rate was 3.9 percent and South Dakota was 4.3 percent. Larger states saw a relatively low rate as well since Minnesota and Virginia both had unemployment rates of 5.6 percent last month.

And Texas has pretty strong numbers, too! Our second largest state added 250,000 jobs during the past twelve months and dropped its unemployment rate to 6.9 percent last month.

Keep in mind the national average is just that — an average. Although some states dipped, others increased. For instance, Nevada has the highest unemployment rate in the nation at 11.7 percent, followed by Rhode Island at 11.2 percent.

Although the optimistic report doesn’t break down numbers in terms of industry — ahem, the media — hopefully the trend will continue as we head into June.

Three Ways to Survive a Reorganization

Let’s face it: When a new editor-in-chief or anyone at the top of the food chain comes into play, there’s likely to be a reorganization. Or maybe it’s year-end and the powers that be decide it’s time to shake things up a bit. Whatever the reason, reorganizations are not uncommon in the workplace. In fact, they’re practically inevitable.

According to a piece on Forbes, there are a few survival tips when things get turned around without your control. For starters, Ron Ashkenas explains the sense of confusion and disequilibrium is par for the course. In the piece, he writes:

“Imagine if someone suddenly rearranged the clothes in your closet: You’d probably feel disoriented or uncomfortable when you went to find something. It’s the same with reorganizations: The established patterns for getting things done have been rearranged. You have to develop new routines, adjust to a revised cast of characters, and even deal with “survivor’s guilt” if any of your colleagues lost jobs or were moved elsewhere. So the starting point for moving forward is to remember that the distress is normal, and your colleagues are probably experiencing those feelings as well.”

So, now that you realize discomfort is a given, the key component is figuring out where you not only fit into the new structure but how you can be successful in it. For instance, maybe the social media team was reduced so now you’re responsible for posting all of your pieces to Twitter and Facebook. Although it may create an additional daily few tasks, just think of the way you may rethink the way you create headlines to make them clickable and user-friendly.

For the last tip, Ashkenas points out taking a view of the new organization. As per the piece, he writes, “Often when the structure changes, key processes need to be rewired. Consider this as an opportunity to influence others in your value chain so that the entire end-to-end process becomes more effective.”

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