Blogging and the Future of Community Journalism

Can a blogger be a journalist? 
How can you use your blog to cover a topic or community you believe doesn’t get adequate attention from mainstream media? 
Will community news flourish or wan in the age of new media?
We will tackle these questions and many more at the next See Jane Write panel discussion, Blogging and the Future of Community Journalism
Our panelists include: 
  • Staci Brown Brooks, Community News Director for the Birmingham Hub of  Alabama Media Group
  • Emily Lowrey, founder of Magic City Post, a web publication that offers a daily posts on the Birmingham metro area and shows off the best the region has to offer.
  • Andre Natta, founder of The Terminal, a critically acclaimed web publication about Birmingham.
  • Erin Shaw Street, travel editor for Southern Living magazine and editorial content manager for the magazine’s social media including its blog, The Daily South 

The panel discussion will be moderated by Edward T. Bowser, community engagement specialist for the Birmingham Hub of Alabama Media Group

But you can help determine the questions Edward will ask our panelists. Leave your questions for the panel in the comments section of this post. 
This is a free event, but registration is required. And, yes, men are welcome!
See Jane Write presents Blogging and the Future of Community Journalism
6 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013
Innovation Depot, 1500 1st Avenue North #31, Birmingham, AL 35203
Special thanks to our venue sponsor Magic City Post.
We will be a guest of Magic City Post at Innovation Depot for this event. 

Don’t forget to leave your questions for the panel in the comments!

Blog Like a Girl: Alexis Barton of Same Chic Different Day

Alexis Barton
Photo by Lynsey Weatherspoon
 of Lynsey Weatherspoon Photography

If you need advice on how to put together an outfit, you can’t go wrong going to fashion blogger Alexis Barton of Same Chic Different Day for help. Earlier this year Birmingham Magazine selected her as one of the city’s most beautiful people and in 2010 she was a finalist in the Birmingham Belle contest sponsored by the online magazine MyScoop

For those of you who live in Birmingham, Barton is teaming up with Birmingham Magazine and the Birmingham Public Library to offer free holiday fashion advice. The event is called Fashion Friday and will be held this Friday, Dec. 7, at noon in the Arrington Auditorium of the Central branch of the Birmingham Public Library, 2100 Park Place. Expect to learn how to take your office attire from day to night and how to look great without breaking the bank. And you can finally learn the difference between cocktail, creative black tie and dressy casual. 

Barton, however, is a good person to turn to for blogging tips, too. Her blog has only been around for 15 months and already has had the honor of being a finalist for best blog in Birmingham Magazine’s annual Best of Birmingham contest. Barton was also once recognized as a top blogger for Skirt magazine

I had a chat with Barton recently about her upcoming event and her blogging success. 

How did you come up with the idea to partner with the library and Birmingham Magazine to have this event? 

It was actually the library’s idea; Chanda Temple, BPL’s Director of Public Relations, invited me to participate.  I love reading. My first job was in a library. And I enjoy visiting the downtown branch frequently so I was happy to help.

What’s the biggest mistake you see people making when it comes to their holiday fashion choices? 

The biggest mistake people make in general when choosing what to wear is overthinking it.  It can make a person talk herself into wearing something she should leave on the hanger.

What inspired you to start a fashion blog? 

I needed a project to keep myself busy last summer, and decided to create an opportunity to use my creative writing and social media skills.  Most writers are advised to “write what you know,” and since I’ve been shopping forever and enjoy putting outfits together, I thought writing about style would be a natural fit. 

With so many fashion blogs around, what do you do to stand out?

I really don’t do anything in particular or intentionally to stand out.  If anything, I think people connect with my “voice” and writing style. 

Your blog seems to have become pretty popular in a short time. How did you spread the word and build a following? 

Honestly, it has spread through word of mouth.  When I began the blog, I really only thought my mother, sister-in-law and friends would read it; that it has caught on with others is a pleasant and welcome surprise.

Do you have any advice for other bloggers out there hoping to make a name for themselves? 

Yes: don’t focus on “making a name.” If you focus on putting in the work necessary to make your product or your blog the best it can be, people will notice.

Cross-posted at The Writeous Babe Project

Blogging Is About People, Not Pageviews

A few of the ladies of See Jane Write before our morning walk

I have a confession. 

When I came up with the idea for #bloglikecrazy several months ago I had an ulterior motive. While I, of course, wanted the challenge to get other women motivated to write and blog regularly, I also hoped the project would increase traffic to my blog. And I did see a small boost in traffic, but by the second week of the challenge I didn’t care about my stats. Something much more important and more exciting was happening. Thanks to the number of See Jane Write members participating, women bloggers in the Birmingham area started using #bloglikecrazy to build community. The ladies shared their posts on the See Jane Write Facebook group page and in the process discovered a host of common interests. One thing we quickly learned was that several of us were fitness fanatics. 

So Tanya Sylvan had the great idea of organizing See Jane Move

This morning I started my day with a gathering of a few of my favorite women who write at Railroad Park. The weather was absolutely perfect as we did laps around the park for about an hour and then sat down for a potluck brunch. We noshed on fruit, confetti rice and bean salad, and other healthy snacks and talked about nearly everything from personal branding to blog design to DIY manicures. 

Here we are before sitting down for our healthy potluck brunch

And as I sat there I saw a blogging lesson come to life: it’s all about people, not pageviews. No amount of web hits could have created the joy I felt this morning.  

I left the park feeling so inspired by the girl power in the air and very hopeful about the future of See Jane Write. 

See Jane Move was an excellent way to start a Saturday and a perfect way to end #bloglikecrazy. 

See Jane Move

Ironically, one of the best things that have come out of the #bloglikecrazy project has nothing to do with blogging.

Throughout the month members of See Jane Write who have participated in the challenge have been sharing links to their posts on See Jane Write Facebook group page. Through these posts we quickly realized that many, if not most, of us have a strong interest in fitness.

So Tanya Sylvan had the great idea of organizing See Jane Move — an event to both celebrate the completion of #bloglikecrazy and help us all in our quest to stay or get in shape.

On Saturday, Dec. 1 at 10 a.m. we will meet at Railroad Park, 1600 1st Ave. S., Birmingham, for a walk/run. Feel free to roller skate or dance or do whatever you please. Just keep moving.

Bring a healthy snack to share. After exercising we will sit down and enjoy a little picnic brunch.

I hope those of you in Birmingham this weekend will join us. You can RSVP here or leave a comment on this post letting me know you’ll be there.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: why should writers care about fitness? You can’t write a best seller or an award-winning blog if you’re dead!

Cross-posted at The Writeous Babe Project

Time Management Tips from Moms Who Blog

As #bloglikecrazy comes to an end you may be thinking, “OMG! I need a blogging sabbatical after this!” But please resist the temptation to take a hiatus. Most likely, you’ve picked up a following of new readers or won back old ones this month. This is no time to give them the silent treatment.

Please know I’m mostly talking to myself here. And so, I recently turned to a few of my blogging buddies for some time management tips. I decided to specifically ask bloggers who are also moms for help. Why? Because I figure if they can find time to blog with kids running around the house I really have no excuse.

Rachel Callahan
Time management has become increasingly important for Rachel Callahan of the blog Grasping for Objectivity.

At the beginning of this year, Callahan embarked on a study of how to successfully utilize Pinterest as a blogger. (The results of her studies can be found on Birmingham Blogging Academy here and here.)
Callahan explains: “When I wrote those posts, I only thought I had experienced virality, with about 20,000 pins of my posts.  A month later, I found myself getting 1 million hits on my blog in a little over a month, up to 88,000 hits in a day, and eventually leveling out to 10-15,000 visitors per day.  Before the summer, I was getting 1,000 hits a day!  As of today, I have nearly 300,000 pins of my posts on Pinterest and adding around 2,000 pins a day, with my Inconvenient Gap of Truth post creating most of that traffic.”
More hits, however, mean more work.
“I am determined to answer all emails and question comments, and a million hits create a LOT of emails and question comments,” she said. Also, in addition to making a lot of money from her ad networks after this boost in traffic, Callahan was contacted by a major denim manufacturer for consultation for their lines.
So how does she find time to do it all and be a wife and mother of two?
“I try to get as many posts done on the weekend as possible, because of the demands of simply keeping up with my emails and comments during the week,” she said.
And throughout the week Callahan always takes advantage of her kids’ nap time.
“Those couple of hours every day is when I accomplish blogging, working from home for my husband’s company, answering email and comments, and everything else that has to be done,” she said.
Another piece of advice Callahan offered for all bloggers: “Try to capitalize on your brain when you’re in the right mindset to write. I have learned to sense when writing will come easily and when it will be excruciating.  When I’m in the right mindset, I try to write as much as I possibly can.  When I’m in the wrong mindset, I use my time more efficiently by answering emails, comments, and other administrative tasks.”
Amber Wright
Amber Wright started her blog The YeYo Diaries to document her journey of pregnancy and motherhood and to use as a virtual scrapbook for her family. She also writes about marriage and relationships, easy recipes, pop culture, and other topics.
Wright juggles blogging with a full-time job and a part-time job, along with being a wife and mother. She stressed the importance of consistently setting aside time to blog, “even if it’s only an hour to get one or two posts done,” she said. “It will leave you feeling focused and accomplished!
Wright usually writes on Sunday and she keeps a running list of topics for inspiration.

“A couple of time management tips I’d offer other bloggers are to know why you’re doing it,” Wright said. “Is it for fun and leisure? To grow an audience? Promote a cause? Knowing why you’re blogging will keep you from wasting time on it.”
Laura Kate Whitney

Laura Kate Whitney, author of the popular Birmingham-based blog Magic City Made, gave advice specifically geared toward mothers, but tips that any of us could use. She suggests that you set aside a certain time and place to blog. 

With little ones around, there will never be a good time to blog, so just assign yourself a time and place to get it done,” Whitney said. “But unless you’re getting paid to post on time, don’t fret being a bit late. You are, after all, a mother. The job tends to pull from all angles. It’s okay.

That said, Whitney stressed that it is important for moms to be vigilant enough to get in time to write, even if it means getting a neighbor or your spouse to watch the kiddos while you steal a few quiet moment alone with your laptop.
“Sometimes we mamas put everybody else first, and our own interests take a back seat,” she said. “Make time to get those words out, Mama. You deserve it.”

Cross-posted at The Writeous Babe Project