BizVoice Earns APEX Award for Entrepreneur Profile

32137645The Indiana Chamber’s BizVoice® magazine earned a prestigious honor in APEX 2016, the 28th annual awards program recognizing excellence in publishing by professional communicators.

Tom Schuman and Rebecca Patrick authored profiles of three entrepreneurs (Max Yoder, Crystal Grave and Jim Hallett) in the September-October 2015 issue. The entry was selected for an Award of Excellence in the Writing Series category.

There were more than 1,600 entries. Grand Awards were presented in 11 categories, with Awards of Excellence recognizing exceptional entries in each of the individual subcategories.

BizVoice, with limited entries each year, has earned 79 national and state awards in its 18-year history. Learn more at

Help Boston-bound Students Pursue Journalism Dreams

Until this week, I didn’t know about the Urban Media Institute at Arsenal Technical High School in Indianapolis, which provides inner-city high school students with media training opportunities. That all changed when I received an email about this amazing program.

Students are doing some pretty cool things. They’ve produced newspapers, a centennial yearbook and broadcasting segments with Channel 20, the local PBS affiliate. And they teamed with the Indiana Chamber to discuss the future of journalism with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein when that duo headlined our Annual Awards Dinner in 2012.

What’s next in these students’ “journalism journey?”

Fundraising efforts are underway for a trip to the National Scholastic Press Association’s (NSPA) Convention/Competition, “The Revolution Starts Here,” on November 14-17 in Boston. Students will hone their skills, network and learn from others. In short, it’s the experience of a lifetime. But without donations, the trip is out of reach. You can help students succeed by assisting in making this trip possible!

Learn more about the Urban Media Institute at Arsenal Technical High School and the NSPA trip (the deadline for donations is October 31) at

The sky truly is the limit for these talented students – and for the Hoosier businesses that may one day employ them.

“Have You Tried Turning It Off and On Again?”

When you’re the poor sucker who gets stuck with the general newsroom phone line at a news organization, you get a lot of weird and wacky calls. Sure, you can be the first one to get the breaking news tips, but you’re also in for a world of crazy requests, silly questions and “great” story ideas.

During my term at the helm when I was a reporter for a local newspaper I got story tips on everything from giant and or oddly-shaped vegetables, to an old tree that got knocked down in a storm (believe it or not, I had to cover that last story). Sometimes it was just acting as a general knowledge base for a population of people that don’t have access to or don’t know how to use Google.

We all lamented our turn with the general tip line, but what I had never considered was that those who work in the IT and technical support field get screwball questions and requests every day as long as they are in the field. I should have realized this – my computer programmer husband to this day still gets funny requests from my family on how to fix their computers.

But it wasn’t until I read over a press release of a survey of chief information officers around the United States about some of the ridiculous requests and questions that I realized reporters have nothing to complain about; never once have I been asked, “How do I clean cat hair out of my computer fan?” or “Can you come over and plug this cord in for me?”

Here are some other doozies:
“How do I remove a sesame seed from the keyboard?”
“I need help drilling holes in the wall.”
“Can I turn on the coffee pot with my computer?”
“I dropped my phone in the toilet, what should I do?”
“How do I pirate software?”

These get even better:
“I’d like to download the entire Internet so I can take it with me.”
“How do I start the Internet?”
“Will you show me how to use the mouse?”
“My computer won’t turn on or off.” (The computer was unplugged in that case.)
“How do I send an e-mail?”
“How do I click on different files?”

Yes – these are all legitimate questions that have been asked by people across the country. It seems like there is still quite a digital literacy gap in the population, which requires patience and understanding by the IT or help desk support staff.

What questions have you heard others ask – or you yourself asked – of your IT staff? Chime in and see if you can beat some of those previously mentioned.

This is Off the Record, Right?

If you’re a character in the “Harry Potter” series, one of the most dreaded phrases spoken is “Voldemort.” If you’re the parent of a teen, you may be tempted to give a kidney if it would mean your child never uttered, “Whatever” again.

I can tell you as a journalist, one of the phrases that strikes frustration into the hearts of reporters everywhere is “off the record.” It makes our jobs more difficult and brings up ethical dilemmas, including deciphering what we can and cannot use for our stories.

Most of us were taught in journalism school that “off the record” is a term that means none of the material can be published (with attribution or anonymously) or shared with another source.

Be warned, however, that as a PR professional or business source speaking to reporters – depending on the circumstances and the particular reporter you’re working with – simply saying “this is off the record” doesn’t necessarily mean that your words will be saved from print or broadcast. A recent article quotes Johna Burke, senior vice president at BurellesLuce, on the “mythical creature” that is “off the record.”

The very idea of confidentiality has changed over the past few years, Burke said. Things employees used to talk to their friends and families about now gets shared on social media sites. Voicemails and emails make their way to the press.

“Everything is public record,” she said.

Christine Perkett of Perkett PR agrees, “From executive internal memos to ‘private’ DMs on Twitter, to emails, anything that can be shared – and if it benefits someone – probably will be,” she says. …

Be transparent with your message and communicate it well, Burke advised. She said, “I’d hate to think we need to be guarded” with information, though she did say it’s a good policy to keep a tight circle around communications you don’t want going out into the public sphere.

Perkett puts it this way: “A good mind frame is simply, zip the lip.”

(Gil) Rudawsky (senior director of communications at Ground Floor Media) doesn’t expressly prohibit going off the record, but he says to be very careful about it.

“The only way I’d recommend sharing off-the-record information is with reporters who you have a good preexisting relationship with, but even then it is with reservations,” he says. “Otherwise, assume that everything you say will show up in their stories.”

However, as I said earlier, depending on the circumstances and the reporter involved, the phrase still holds water. When I was a beat reporter at a small newspaper, my concern was developing trust with – not burning – my very valuable sources. So, even though hearing the phrase pained me, I would respect the source’s wishes and seek out someone else who could give me the information I needed for the story. Many reporters – but not all – follow a similar code. 

When you know you’re going to be interviewed, at least have a conversation with the reporter prior to the interview regarding information that should stay off the record. And, if there’s something you really don’t want to have published, you’re probably better off just keeping it to yourself.

Of course, as a journalist at heart, that last sentence cuts me pretty deep.

Ranking Jobs … By Their Stress Level

According to a report, choose a career related to health care rather than the media if you want to reduce stress on the job. Remember, that’s their findings, not mine. Not sure how much to put into the analysis, but here are the rankings:

The criteria used by researchers include 11 different factors that invoke stress. Each factor was assigned a range of points, and a high score was given if it was a major part of the job, while fewer points were given if it wasn’t normally required.

The most stressful job was found to be commerical airline pilot, but four of the top 10 were media related.’s Highest Stress Professions:

Commercial Airline Pilot
Public Relations Executive
Corporate Executive, Senior
Advertising Account Executive
Emergency Medical Technician
Real Estate Agent

Audiologist, a practitioner who assesses and treats hearing disorders, is ranked as the nation’s least stressful profession, according to the new report. More than half of the 10 least stressful professions are in the health care field.’s Lowest Stress Professions:

Software Engineer
Computer Programmer
Dental Hygienist
Speech Pathologist
Occupational Therapist

Are Computers the New Newsies?

It seems that while the newspaper industry continues to struggle to adapt to changing revenue models, news consumption in the U.S. remains fairly strong. This likely confirms what most thought, but it’s nice to put some numbers to the discussion, and hopefully serves as encouraging news for the industry itself:

Mediapost reports:

According to a new comScore release, more than 123 million Americans visited newspaper sites in May, representing 57% of the total U.S. Internet audience, as the New York Times Brand led the category with more than 32 million visitors and 719 million pages viewed during the month. The average visitor viewed 22 pages of content on the New York Times. Tribune Newspapers ranked second in terms of audience with 24.8 million visitors, followed by Advance Internet and USA Today Sites.

Jeff Hackett, comScore senior vice president, said "… even as print circulation declines, Americans are actually consuming as much news as ever… it’s just being consumed across more media," said. "The Internet has become an essential channel in the way the majority of Americans consume news content today… 3 out of 5 Internet users read newspapers online each month… as advertising rates for digital move closer… (to) traditional media, the economics of the news business… look(s) a lot more promising."

The study shows that among the top site categories where display ads appeared in April 2010, online newspapers accounted for 2.4% of impressions but a higher 6.7% of display advertising dollars. The average cost per thousand impressions (CPM) on online newspaper sites was $7, higher than each of the other top site categories and nearly three times the average CPM for the total U.S. Internet at $2.52.

The Changing Face of Journalism: Weekly Paper Offers Bonuses for Web Presence

I found this VERY interesting. According to The Awl, the New York Observer is offering financial bonuses to its writers who have the most visibility on the Internet… via followers and such, that is (as opposed to the YouTube singing phenom or Russian ninja type of Internet visibility):

At last Wednesday’s weekly staff meeting at the New York Observer, an old-fashioned paper memo was distributed; it was not sent out by email. It explained a new trial incentive program for reporters, to begin immediately. A bonus pool—of money—had been set aside, and, beginning immediately, it would be dispersed to the staff as incentives for web popularity and web traffic.
The memo explained the intricate system, clearly the product of much labor.

There are five categories, each with their own cash bonus, and each category will have a first and a second place award each month. The trial period is for May, June and July.

The categories are:

• Pageviews
• Number of posts
• New Twitter followers
• Number of comments
• External pickups

So many ways to win.

The first place will pay $500. The second place will pay $300. There is a $2500 cap per employee in total awards. This means that one employee can sweep each month; but also there is a caveat that the same employee cannot win in consecutive months (questions of fairness versus merit—capitalism!—were clearly considered).

There were more caveats; for instance, web-only employees were not eligible.

Brokaw Among Those Whose College Rejection had Positive Outcome

Building upon higher education week on our blog last week is an interesting article from the Wall Street Journal illustrating how getting rejected from their first college choices served to motivate some who became icons in their fields. Case in point is Tom Brokaw, broadcast journalist and keynote speaker at our 21st Annual Awards Dinner in November:

And broadcast journalist Tom Brokaw, also rejected as a teenager by Harvard, says it was one of a series of setbacks that eventually led him to settle down, stop partying and commit to finishing college and working in broadcast journalism. “The initial stumble was critical in getting me launched,” he says.

People Read Newspapers Online, But Won’t Pay for Privilege

Challenges abound in the newspaper industry as it struggles to reconstruct a profitable model. While many anticipated just having subscribers pay for access to online content, it seems the potential subscribers have other ideas.

As someone who’s worked in community journalism, I understand both sides. I’d say people need a viable, authentic source for unbiased news, although there’s nothing to say a thorough, non-ideological blog couldn’t provide the same service with a staff. But, how would he/she get paid? The answers are out there, we just need to keep searching. In the meantime, here are some interesting poll results from CNET:

Would you pay to read your favorite newspaper online? Most say no, at least according to a new Harris poll.

With traditional print newspapers struggling to turn a profit, many have turned to the Web as a means to stay afloat. While some offer their online content free of charge, other papers have played around with subscriptions by charging readers a monthly fee. But that strategy may backfire, says a Harris poll released Wednesday.

Among more than 2,000 online adults surveyed, 77 percent said they wouldn’t pay anything to read a newspaper’s stories on the Web. And among those willing to pay, 19 percent would cough up between $1 and $10 a month; only 5 percent would shell out more than $10 each month.

The poll also revealed what many newspapers have already experienced–that readership of traditional news is steadily dropping. Just 43 percent of the people surveyed said they read a newspaper each day, either in print or online. Around 72 percent read a paper once a week, while 81 percent read only once a month. And 10 percent said they never read a newspaper.

One factor in the decline of the daily newspaper is age. The younger you are, the less interested you seem to be in reading the daily news. Among folks 55 and older, 64 percent still read a daily paper. Among those 45 to 54, 44 percent catch a daily paper, while 36 percent of adults 35 to 44 do. But of those 18 to 24, only 23 percent said they read a paper each day, while 17 percent said they never do.

NOTE: It was also recently discovered that Newsday’s foray into charging for online subscriptions fell flat, garnering just 35 customers in three months.

Reporters for Hire Could Find Refuge with Sports Teams

The New York Times recently documented how the L.A. Kings and other franchises have taken to hiring their own reporters with coverage in the local dailies waning. This will obviously raise questions of objectivity, but may be a viable solution for teams, organizations, readers/fans and even journalists looking for stable work:

If your business depends on free publicity from newspapers, what do you do when the papers can no longer afford to send reporters to cover you? In professional sports, the answer, increasingly, is hire your own.

The Los Angeles Kings hockey team last week hired Rich Hammond, who had covered the Kings for The Los Angeles Daily News, to write about the team for its Web site, Michael Altieri, a Kings spokesman, said the team had given Mr. Hammond a multiyear commitment and complete autonomy to post reporting or commentary.

“We have a passionate fan base who want instant information about our team, but there’s been declining news coverage of us,” Mr. Altieri said.

After years of trimming jobs, pages and travel budgets, many big-city papers no longer provide regular coverage of every local sports team, and sending reporters on road trips has become rare. Mr. Hammond, 32, will travel with the Kings and cover all of their games. He said the job switch means a modest pay increase, and considering the state of newspapers, it may also improve his job security.

Last year, Chris Botta, a longtime New York Islanders executive, began writing about the team on its Web site. He developed an avid following, and when the team dropped the experiment this year, he continued with his own site,

“The Islanders used to get covered by four major newspapers, and now it’s one,” he said. “Teams have to do this kind of thing, and I believe more of them will.”

Major League Baseball has a beat reporter assigned to each team for But the Cincinnati Bengals football team was the pioneer in this field: a decade ago, the Bengals hired Geoff Hobson, a sports reporter at The Cincinnati Enquirer, to write for its site.

But how sure can readers be of tough, impartial coverage when image-conscious businesses are paying for it? Mr. Hammond said it would be no use debating the ethics; teams will do what they must to generate fan interest, and fans can distinguish between reporting and public relations.

“I understand that people are going to have doubts,” he said. “The proof is going to be in the product.

UPDATE: Amy Mengel, a communications manager and freelance consultant, doesn’t seem to be buying this as a viable paradigm. Thoughts?

Hat tip to the Ragan PR Daily Newsfeed.