Month: August 2013

Meet the Press: Andre Natta of The Terminal

Andre Natta

Andre Natta moved to Birmingham in 2004 to work for Main Street Birmingham, a predecessor of the economic development organization now known as REV Birmingham. A year later Natta started a personal blog he called Dre’s Ramblings, but soon realized that his blog wasn’t simply an online journal telling the stories of his life; it was telling the stories of Birmingham. Looking to sites like Gothamist in New York City, Gapers Block in Chicago, and Pegasus News in Dallas-Fort Worth, in 2007 Natta launched The Terminal, an online hub of information about the city of Birmingham.

Natta has garnered a number of awards and opportunities thanks to his work with The Terminal. The site was the first non-mainstream media site to place for four consecutive years in the Birmingham News’ readers’ poll Birmingham’s Best. The Terminal was also included in a list of 100 promising community news sites found by Michele McLellan during her fellowship of the Reynolds Journalism Institute.

“I’ve personally had opportunities to be a participant in the Reynolds Journalism Institute’s Hardly Strictly Young symposium, and present at the Online News Association conference when it was in Boston, and the first two years of the Block by Block Community News Summit in Chicago (attending all three years) in addition to conferences in Memphis and Chattanooga, Tenn.,” Natta says. “The fun part about presenting is the chance to learn from everyone else who’s in attendance.”

Natta’s work with The Terminal also led to The Digital City, a monthly column on technology in Birmingham that Natta has written for B-Metro Magazine since its launch in 2009.

In May of this year Natta started contributing to the Poynter Institute’s Regret the Error blog, which reports on media errors and corrections and accuracy and verification trends in journalism.

“Craig Silverman, the blog’s creator, has been focusing on his role as director of content at a startup called Spundge for more than a year now and was looking for someone to help hunt down the corrections and post to the blog,” explains Natta, who met Silverman at Hardly Strictly Young.
Silverman asked Natta to take on the job and Natta was more than happy to help.

“It’s been a beneficial learning experience for me,” Natta says. “I get to spend about two hours a day reviewing corrections and clarifications posted by news organizations across the country and around the world. It’s broadened what comes to mind when thinking about potential focus areas for the site. It’s also helped me improve my writing skills while getting critical feedback. I’m hopeful it will continue in some form and potentially lead to more writing opportunities.”

Natta recently relaunched The Terminal, making various changes to the site.

“The first significant change was to narrow the focus of the publication to be specifically about the city of Birmingham and its built environment,” Natta says. “It sounds limiting but it’s actually quite freeing and seeks to help visitors and readers understand why something is happening and how different things happening in different parts of the city affect each other. It also gives us a lens to look through when crafting pieces and projects for the site that makes it easier.”

The Terminal will also include more videos and written pieces will be longer. “I’ve realized I want to make sure we say what needs to be said instead of worrying about space limitations,” Natta says. “It is digital, after all.”

These days Natta also is busy working on a new project.

“I’m in the early stages of developing a project that would make the site more of a hub than ever before – one that serves not just The Terminal, but all of our local media outlets while serving as a resource for educational purposes,” Natta explains. He’s busy working on a site plan for 2014 and hopes to hire a sales associate soon. These efforts, Natta says, will help The Terminal “evolve into a different type of media organization – one more research driven than people believe possible.”

It’s about people, not pageviews

When Natta started The Terminal in 2006 he spread the word about his site in a number of ways.
“We leveraged word of mouth early on, using Myspace as a major communications tool,” Natta says. “There were also monthly mixers, partnerships with local cultural institutions, and a lot of sitting in coffee houses and bars just talking with people. Word of mouth was the most useful tool to grow The Terminal – that and an incredible group of contributors early on.”

Natta doesn’t deny that social media networks continue to be an effective way of reaching people, but he believes it’s important to step away from the computer too.

“At the end of the day, most of these social networks and websites are just digital spaces where we tend to act as we would offline,” he says. “We wanted to serve as a way people could connect on issues, regardless of opinion, and so I focused on figuring out how to connect with folks where they were most comfortable. I can’t measure the impact of a piece by pageviews alone; I’ve learned more about folks reading the site offline in conversation than I ever would just sitting behind a screen and not living a life.”

Natta offered advice for others hoping to launch sites like The Terminal in their towns.

“Look for those who don’t currently have a voice, or a specific void that needs to be filled,” Natta says. “You can’t be all things to all people, so I’d make sure you weren’t trying to overextend. You do want to test the limits of your comfort zone though, otherwise you won’t know what’s possible.”
Natta added that it’s also important to be willing to learning new things and open to criticism.
“I’d also reach out to those already operating sites, even if they’re in the same city,” Natta says. “Sometimes you’ll be surprised that all you needed to do was ask.”

Hi final piece of advice is simple, though something too many of us forget to do: “Most important,” he says, “have fun and be you doing it. If you can’t be you, what’s the point?”

You can meet Andre Natta and other editors of Birmingham-based publications at tonight’s See Jane Write Meet the Press Media Mixer presented by Hamer Law Group. This is an invitation-only event. Invitations will be extended to See Jane Write members and sponsors. Click here for more information on joining See Jane Write. If you’re interested in being a See Jane Write sponsor email

A version of this story was originally published at See Jane Write Magazine.

Meet the Press: Edward Bowser of The Birmingham News/

Edward Bowser

As some of probably know, Edward Bowser is my husband. He’s also the behind-the-scenes copy editor for See Jane Write Magazine and is paid only in hugs and kisses. But those things have nothing to do with why I’m writing about him today.

With nearly 10 years of experience in the newspaper industry, Edward (sorry I can’t refer to my husband by his last name) has plenty of wise words to offer on the world of journalism. He started his career as a copy editor at The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky. , where he worked for eight years. Edward then worked in advertising for a few years. It was during that time that he discovered the power of social media while serving as the agency’s community manager. Last year Edward returned to his first love – newspapers. Today Edward is a community engagement specialist for The Birmingham News and

Edward will join other editors at our Meet the Press Media Mixer presented by Hamer Law Group, set to be held Thursday, Aug. 22. 

What exactly is a community engagement specialist? 

Edward: My role of community engagement specialist can be broken down into three main components: 1) I’m a part of the Birmingham News’ editorial board, where I weigh in on key issues around our city and nation. I also focus a lot on issues that specifically affect the young professional community. 2) I help manage the’s social media channels, using Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus to share our writers’ stories and stimulate positive conversation. 3) I work as a community ambassador, organizing and attending that help bridge the gap between the newsroom and community.

It combines my three major passions – editorializing, social media and community service – into one role. I enjoy every minute of it.

What are the keys to writing good opinion pieces?
The No. 1 rule for writing a good op-ed is to have an informed opinion. Everyone has an opinion, but backing up your statements with hard facts and engaging writing will make an impression on readers. Your op-ed also needs to be clearly focused. Stick to one topic and ride it all the way through. Meandering muddles your point.

Do your research, stand firm on your position and write in a clear and engaging manner. Whether or not your readers agree with your position, those tips will help them broaden their thinking.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to write opinion pieces for an online publication but they’re afraid to receive negative comments?

When it comes to opinion writing, negative comments come with the territory. And in this era of online anonymity, that has only increased. But if you’re truly passionate about your topic, you can’t let naysayers rattle you.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s important that you do your research and support your line of thinking with solid facts. That way, when the haters come a-calling (and they will), you’ll have a solid foundation to stand on. When critics attempt to pick apart my work in the comments section, I literally copy and paste paragraphs from my own column to refute their claims. They almost always back down (likely because they didn’t even finish reading the column before they started complaining). Believe in what you write and stand by it.

Remember, you don’t write op-eds to get cheers. You write them to offer a fresh perspective on an important topic.

What is your response to people who think journalism and newspapers are dying? 

Journalism was born from the human desire to know more about the world around us. That curiosity and thirst for knowledge will never die. However, technology is evolving at a rapid pace and the world of media is rapidly attempting to catch up. Sure, the way we consume media is changing, and along with that change, we’ll stumble a bit to find our footing. But as long as we’re guided by the basic principles of journalism – accuracy, the pursuit of truth, and serving as a moral compass – good journalism will survive no matter what device delivers our news.

You can meet Edward Bowser and and other editors of Birmingham-based publications at the See Jane Write Meet the Press Media Mixer presented by Hamer Law Group. This is an invitation-only event. Invitations will be extended to See Jane Write members and sponsors. Click here for more information on joining See Jane Write. If you’re interested in being a See Jane Write sponsor email

A version of this story was originally published at See Jane Write Magazine.

Meet the Press: Erin Street of Southern Living

As senior editor of travel and integrated content at Southern Living magazine, Erin Shaw Street seems to have a dream job. After all she does get to visit places like New Orleans and the Florida Keys and call it work.

“It is a dream job,” Street says, “but it’s a lot of hard work.”

At Southern Living’s offices in Birmingham, Ala., Street manages all of the magazine’s regional travel content. Southern Living covers 17 states and six different regions, producing targeted content for each one. Street’s job includes managing freelance writers and staff editors, managing the Daily South (the magazine’s daily blog), and working on strategic initiatives across print and digital.

“I’m always working on multiple issues — editing copy, planning visuals, and figuring out the puzzle pieces of telling the stories of a large region,” Street says.

And, of course, as travel editor Street’s job obviously requires a lot of traveling.

“It’s important that I’m traveling the region to keep up to date on what’s happening,” Street says. 

“Part of my travel is reporting and the remainder of my travel is for speaking on behalf of the brand.”

You’re probably tired just reading about all the work Street does.

“People tend to only see the fun side, but there are a lot of sacrifices and long hours,” Street says. “This is a rapidly changing, competitive industry. Still, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

News Woman

Street began her career as a newspaper reporter working in Birmingham, Ala., and Sarasota Fla.
Her years in the newspaper business taught her the fundamentals of reporting, writing, and working under pressure, Street says.

In 2001, she moved back to Birmingham from Florida and took a job at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, where she managed their quarterly magazine. She spent seven years there, eventually serving as the Director of Community Affairs, and thought she would continue in the non-profit sector. But when an opportunity became available at Southern Living in 2008 she seized it, first working for the Health & Beauty section, before it was discontinued, and then moving to the Travel department.

“As I learned to become a magazine editor, I also saw the need to learn digital skills, so I taught myself.” Street says.

And those digital skills came in handy when she helped the magazine launch its blog, the Daily South, last year.

“We launched the site nearly a year ago because we needed a portal for original, up-to-the minute content that reflects all areas of our brand: food, homes, garden and travel,” Street says. “Our editors are the foremost authorities in these areas, so the Daily South gives them a place to connect with readers 365 days a year. Also, as a brand we recognize the importance of being in the digital and mobile space. The Daily South is part of a larger effort to reach our readers any time, any where.”

The Daily South is just one example of ways Southern Living is striving to remain relevant.  They recently launched Southern Living Hotel Collection, a carefully chosen selection of four- and five-star resorts, hotels and inns, vetted by the Southern Living brand and offering the best in Southern travel and hospitality.

Loyalty and Longevity

Street believes Southern Living continues to survive tumultuous times in the magazine industry in part because of loyal readers.

“Everywhere we travel we hear, ‘My mother loves the magazine, and saves them all.’ This means the world to us,” Street says. “Our leadership has been strategic in continuing to provide loyal readers what they’ve always come to this brand for — service that reflects our pride of place as Southerners. We’ve also reached out to the next generation of readers, creating content that reflects their lifestyle.”

Summing up the Southern Living strategy, Street says, “We have to do things in bold, new ways, while staying true to our foundations.”

The Editor of the Future

For women hoping to develop a career freelancing for magazines, Street says it’s important to cultivate relationships with editors.

“This means taking the time to understand what kind of stories the magazine is looking for,” Street says. “Most of the pitches I receive are from writers who haven’t read the magazine and become familiar with our new formats. So when I get a carefully customized pitch, tailored to our format, it gets my attention.”

Street says it’s also important to consider the visual aspects of stories as well.

For those hoping to land a staff position at a magazine Street says “becoming a 360 editor is vital.”
Street recently attended an intensive magazine publishing course at Yale University where she and others in attendance spent much time talking about the editor of the future.

“She is someone with the ability to curate for a brand in print and online,” Street says. “Digital skills are a must now.”

For both aspiring freelancers and aspiring editors, Street offers this advice:

“To be successful in this industry you must know your reader, your subjects, have a voice, be able to handle a large volume of work, and be able to adapt to change. How we do things today will not be the same in six months or a year. Many people have struggled with the pace of change in this industry, but if you can adapt there’s still opportunity. Finally, the fundamentals — being able to tell a good story, staying on top of trends, and having an impeccable work ethic — never change.”

You can meet Erin Street and and other editors of Birmingham-based publications at the See Jane Write Meet the Press Media Mixer presented by Hamer Law Group. This is an invitation-only event. Invitations will be extended to See Jane Write members and sponsors. Click here for more information on joining See Jane Write. If you’re interested in being a See Jane Write sponsor email

Originally published at See Jane Write Magazine.

Meet the Press: Carla Jean Whitley of Birmingham Magazine

Carla Jean Whitley

Carla Jean Whitley knew she wanted a career in magazines when she was only 10 years old. But she started her journalism career in newspapers, working at The Tuscaloosa News, The Cullman Times, and The Birmingham News – all Alabama-based publications.

“I can’t say enough about how valuable my newspaper experience was,” Whitley says. “I had a chance to write, copy edit, line edit and design.

Still her magazine dreams were alive and well.

“When I heard there was an editorial opening at Birmingham magazine, I compiled my materials in 10 minutes flat,” she says. “I had interned at the magazine, and in the process I fell in love with city and regional titles. I always thought, ‘If I could get THAT job, I’d be set!’”

Whitley’s first day as associate editor of Birmingham magazine was Dec. 1, 2006, and she became managing editor on July 9, 2009.

“As I approach the seven-year mark at the magazine, I am so lucky to say that I’m working in my dream job,” Whitley says.

We talked to Whitley about her thoughts on the future of journalism, on her plans to write a book, and much more.

SJW: Why do you think Birmingham magazine continues to survive at a time when many print publications are folding?

Whitley: We’ve got nearly 52 years of history on our side. The magazine was launched in December 1961 by the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (now the Birmingham Business Alliance), and over time grew into the consumer publication it is today. However, I don’t think success is all about that longevity. The magazine has evolved with the community, and we constantly work to ensure our coverage reflects the metropolitan area we cover.

City and regional magazines have also been something of an anomaly during trying times. Although no publication is immune to economic and industry changes, these types of titles have held strong across the nation. Perhaps it’s because we offer readers an intimate experience with the cities they call home. In any case, I’m grateful to be part of it.

Why do you still believe in journalism despite the state of the industry? 

I believe journalism is a changing—certainly not a dying—industry. And while the pace of that change seems to have accelerated in recent years, I don’t think change itself is new. Heck, I remember designing pages by hand and marking photo crops with wax pencil when I was a high-school yearbook editor! And of course, that’s all digital these days.

But at its heart, I believe journalism is storytelling. Stories, whether fiction or nonfiction, news or features, bring us closer to other people. They give us insight into our communities and neighbors. Stories shed light on government activity and on opportunity for improvement in any realm.

Speaking of stories, we heard you recently landed a book deal. Tell me more!

Several months ago a reputable independent publisher contacted me about the possibility of writing a book. I was flabbergasted. Who doesn’t want to receive that email?! We began a conversation about what might appeal to me and their demographic. They focus on historical books, and I was kicking around ideas with the Alabama editor. We landed on an Alabama music-oriented topic, and now things are off and running.

I have begun research for the book, and will begin interviews this month. It will be a fairly quick turnaround; my manuscript is due in April, and the book is scheduled to be on shelves in July. Right now, I’ve set aside a few hours every Tuesday night for book work, but I expect the pace to increase over time. The first step is breaking through the mental block of “oh my gosh, I have to write a book!” I think I have done that and am now in the “let’s get ‘er done!” phase. I’m looking at the project as 13 feature stories rather than a book. I know how to write a feature; writing a book is overwhelming!

It’s also quite a juggling task. I’ve got my full-time work at Birmingham magazine, of course, and that takes center stage in my writing life. But I also freelance a bit and teach at the university level. And then there’s my non-writing life! This fall is going to be a balancing act, but I’m excited about all that awaits.
(Whitley will be documenting her writing and publishing adventures at PostScript, the blog of Birmingham-area shop Church Street Coffee and Books.)

What advice would you give to a woman hoping to have success in the magazine business?

Start writing! Seek every opportunity you can for improvement. And reach out to the editors you would like to work with. I’m always happy to grab coffee with a potential freelancer or someone who is hunting for a job, whether we have an opening or not—and we typically do not. There is so much wisdom to be gained by merely talking to people whose careers you admire, and most people I know offer that help freely.

Yes, that does mean you can ask me out to coffee. My email is, and I’m usually fairly flexible!

You can meet Carla Jean Whitley and other editors of Birmingham-based publications at the See Jane Write Meet the Press Media Mixer presented by Hamer Law Group. This is an invitation-only event. Invitations will be extended to See Jane Write members, See Jane Write Magazine contributors, and See Jane Write sponsors. Click here for more information on joining See Jane Write. If you’re interested in being a See Jane Write sponsor email

Originally published at

Meet the Press Media Mixer Presented by Hamer Law Group

I have been fortunate enough to have landed paying freelance gigs with several local and national publications. I’ve seen my byline in Birmingham magazine and on Magic City Post. I’ve written for national magazines like Heart & Soul, a fitness publication for women of color, and Hispanic Executive, which afforded me the opportunity to interview the fabulous Nina Garcia. And I am very proud to say that I am a regular contributor to USA Today. 

Those who know me well know that I have a master’s in journalism from UC Berkeley, but if you think for one second that I landed those freelance gigs because of that degree, think again. All the aforementioned opportunities landed in my lap because of people I know, people I met at internships or people I met during my old job as a features reporter in Louisville, Ky, or people I met through See Jane Write. Sure, I had to do a good job in those positions or the folks I met along the way wouldn’t have wanted to work with me again, but that old saying is true — it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

If you’re a freelance writer in the Birmingham area and you’re looking for more opportunities to make money and/or get exposure, you need to get in the face of local editors. You could have the opportunity to do just that on the evening of Thursday, Aug. 22.

On that day See Jane Write will host its first Meet the Press Media Mixer, presented by Hamer Law Group. This event will give you the opportunity to meet editors of local publications to discuss freelance opportunities and more. As of now we have editors from Birmingham magazine, B-Metro magazine, the Birmingham News/, Southern Living, and The Terminal who have agreed to attend. 

This is a special, invitation-only event only open to See Jane Write members, See Jane Write Magazine contributors, and See Jane Write sponsors. 

Learn how to become an official member of See Jane Write here

If interested in sponsoring See Jane Write, contact me at