Tag Archives: journalism

When The Tweets Hit The Fan – A Survival Guide

By Amanda Smyth Connor

Everyone needs a survival kit. I'm not judging you on yours...
Everyone needs a survival kit. I'm not judging you on yours...

Are we in the midst of an insane Hurricane right this instant as I write this blog post? Yes!

Is my mother near-hysterical in her makeshift post-apocalyptic bunker in New Jersey (..inland..not anywhere near the beach, or any water for that matter…) where she is heavily stocked with can goods, wine coolers and Janet Evanovich reading material? You bet your buns!

And here in Boston, am I not glued to social media and 24-hour news sources watching this Frankenstorm develop? ABSOLUTELY!

But I warn you, storm lover, weather fanatics and wine cooler bunker survivors – do not believe every photo and every Tweet that comes through in the waves of media covering this storm. We need to put hysteria and drama aside and remember to keep our hard-nosed wits about us.

1. Do NOT spend 12 uninterrupted hours watching the 24-hour news channels – this includes The Weather Channel. Believe me, there is only so much accurate reporting that can happen over the course of covering one story for many, many hours. At some point, your favorite and most trusted journalists will turn to Twitter for second-by-second updates, which you should know by now are not fact-checked.

2. Which brings me to my next point. Don’t trust everything you read on Twitter/Facebook. How many photos of flooding have you looked at in the last 3 hours? Like, a million. (Did you see the photo of the shark swimming through a backyard in NJ?) How many of those were photoshopped? We have no way of knowing. Please take these news sources with a grain of salt and don’t lose your heads. Remain calm.

3. Be part of the solution. Don’t hit that RT or SHARE button if you suspect that what you have just read seems too crazy to be true. Be a scout for trust-worthy news updates in the midst of a big story. Don’t continue the stream of hype without using sound judgement.

Light hearted blog posts aside, my heart goes out to any who have been seriously affected by the storm. If you are without power, please be safe and be careful.

Amanda Smyth Connor is a social media manager for a major publishing company and has managed online communities and content development for many start-up and Fortune 500 companies.  She has been a professional editor for more years than she can remember.

Freelancers: Turn Your PC Into a Lean Mean Freelancing Machine

By Celeste Heiter

Throughout my life, it seems, I’ve had to wait for technology to catch up with my dreams. As a child, I grew up in family that valued both academic achievement and creative expression, and in high school, I excelled in the clerical arts. So, as a young woman, I graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in both English and Art.

I loved ad layout and graphic design, but had little patience for the technical precision it required. In those days, graphic artists were still using Letraset dry transfer font sheets to set type, and wax-adhered paste-ups for publication layout. And although my veins practically course with printer’s ink, and I had always dabbled in creative writing, I hadn’t a clue how to break into the world of publishing…Unless I count my first real job, working as a classified ad typist at our local newspaper, a short-lived summer job that never segued into the editorial department.

Upon graduating college, with zero prospects in journalism or graphic design, I earned my daily bread waiting tables and tending bar. I was good at both, and although I loved the culinary world (and still do), I never gave up on the notion of someday working in the publishing industry.

Fast-forward twelve years, to the day I got my first computer. By then, I was the mother of a precocious toddler, and my first attempts at publishing were two parenting books: one called Potty Pals, a children’s book for potty training; and another one for parents titled The Reading Seed, outlining how I taught my son to read at age two. But even with the advent of the home PC for “desktop publishing” (as it was called back then), neither of my books took flight. So I shelved them both and went back to the restaurant business.

Fast-forward another nine years, to the day I submitted my first story to a publisher of web-based travel articles. Not only did he publish the story I submitted, he assigned me to write four more articles, which eventually became the foundation for my first published book, Ganbatte Means Go for It…Or How to Become an English Teacher in Japan.

There was no stopping me now. I had finally cracked the publishing nut, and I wanted more. So the first thing I did was streamline my computer (now a laptop model) for optimal productivity. I set up my Internet browser to maximize my research time, customized all my publishing and bookkeeping software, and organized my documents for easy access. In less than a year, I had transformed myself and my laptop into a lean, mean, freelancing machine, and had written an e-book to show other freelance writers how I did it.

celeste heiterThe next thing I did was quit my day job, and…I’ve never looked back. Ten years and six laptops later, my gaze is firmly fixed on the future of publishing: E-Books! In the past few months, with the help of that precocious toddler who has since grown into a brilliant young man with a degree in computer science, I’ve been hard at work learning to design and code e-books for Amazon Kindle. I’m now offering my e-book design services to independent authors, and have more than a dozen of my own titles in circulation, including Turn Your PC Into a Lean Mean Freelancing Machine.

With machete as metaphor in the jungle of the publishing industry, this lively and colorful e-book (for which I also designed the layout) teaches aspiring writers to streamline their computers for productivity, and shows how to maximize the potential for publishing success.  Each page is packed with my best tips and secrets as a successful freelance writer and published author: from customizing software and setting up time-saving shortcuts, to finding sources for freelance writing jobs. And of course…Freelance Zone is mentioned on my short list of the best resources for freelance writers!

About the Author: With her lifelong love of Japan, its people, and its culture, Celeste Heiter believes that she may have been Japanese in a previous incarnation. In this lifetime however, Celeste was born in Mobile, Alabama, where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Art and English from the University of South Alabama.

Inspired by a lifelong dream to visit the Great Buddha at Kamakura, she moved to Tokyo in 1988, where she spent two years teaching English conversation. Celeste now makes her home in California’s beautiful Napa Valley, with the most treasured souvenir of her life in Japan: her son Will, who was born during her stay in Tokyo. Her books are inspired by her travels, and by her culinary creativity as a cookbook author, food writer, and photographer.

Celeste Heiter
Celeste Heiter

Celeste is the author of Turn Your PC into a Lean Mean Freelancing Machine, the creator of the LoveBites cookbook series for Kindle Fire, and the author of Potty Pals , a potty-training book for children (PottyPalsBook.com). She has also written ten books published by ThingsAsian Press (ThingsAsianPress.com); and spent eight years posting her recipes, food photographs, and film reviews on ChopstickCinema.com.

Visit her website at CelesteHeiter.com, and her Amazon Author Page at http://www.amazon.com/Celeste-Heiter/e/B002OXU6S2

Freelance Sources, Open Government, and BoingBoing

Freelance writers who do deep research into history, government and military operations and related topics must often resort to using the Freedom of Information Act to obtain transcripts, government records, court documents and other material not readily available to the public. But now, according to BoingBoing.net, a group dedicated to transparency in government is lobbying for better access to information and government media. Could this have implications that reach as far as the Freedom of Information Act?

In the excellent blog post Principles for Open Government, BoingBoing’s Cory Doctrow discusses the Open Government movement spearheaded by Larry Lessig. This movement’s principles include insistence that there be no technological barriers to information/media sharing–a great concept that, while not aimed specifically at freelancers or other writers, does have implications for us if this movement gains any traction at all.

There’s a good video at the Open Government site available for download or streaming that lays it all out.  While much of the Open Government concept is aimed at media sharing, this is a movement that could champion–or at least inspire–a move to overhaul the Freedom of Information Act at some point. Could it happen? That remains to be seen, but the potential is tantalizing.