Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Trip to the Tribune

There's plenty of perks to going to journalism school in a major city, even if the media industry is going through some tough times right now.

One such perk is the "field trips." These aren't your typical field trips: Chicago History Museum, Election Night rally at Grant Park, Washington D.C. for the Inauguration, and last week the Chicago Cultural Center and a photography history museum downtown. Not bad.

Being a history buff, I can't get enough of all this. Tonight was another memorable trip.

After touring the Sun-Times newsroom on Jan. 30, tonight I had the opportunity to tour the Chicago Tribune. It's funny, because when I first set foot in this city in September, and walked around the river, the parks, etc., I pointed to those two buildings and said they were two places I'd never get to see. For a kid from a small town, they just seemed so unattainable at the time, so out of reach. And since then, it's been amazing to see what a few connections can do.

Connections can generate a view like this:

That's from the 22nd floor of the Tribune Tower. Taken from my iPhone - still blown away by the quality. Here's what makes the picture really interesting: I'm standing on a balcony, hanging the camera over a ledge, scared out of my mind I'm going to drop it and just being extra careful, with wind swirling in the background. I only had one shot to get the pic; not only did I get it, but it turned out great.

I was at the Tribune for class. One of my instructors works there as a photo editor, so we met there for a tour, as well as the actual class in none other than the 1A Conference Room with historic editions like Nov. 5, 2008, on the walls around us. Pretty cool place.

It was great to be there, but the timing was a bit odd. As reported by United Press International just three days ago, the Tribune Co. announced it is going to cut 20 percent of jobs at the Chicago Tribune to save money as the recession continues. Granted, we went in the evening, and I don't know how busy the place usually is, but there were a lot of empty seats, and some very stressed faces.

I overheard one guy in sports on the phone with someone say, "I'm sorry, so sorry, just absolutely swamped tonight, five calls in a row, can't keep up." He was seated in an isolated area, and the only one on the phone, so I wonder if he was doing two or maybe three people's job.

Tough to see, real tough. But these are tough people too, you could tell, and it was interesting to see how professional they were going about their business. Well, except the guy I saw playing Yahoo Games.

Just, overall, a really fascinating excursion. A fantastic place to be, and history's all around you there, from the bricks outside the building (imported from famous buildings/landmarks around the world) to the walls inside.

Trips like these? Fantastic educational experiences. And they're a big reason why I came to Chicago in the first place. Hopefully, the Tribune Co. get things turned around soon, and the company can start growing again rather than cutting back; it's hard to see any business the way they are right now.

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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Meeting with Guy Kawasaki

The way things progressed was surreal.

At 1:24 a.m. Monday night, I sent this message to Guy Kawasaki through Twitter: "@guykawasaki you should do an Alltop page for @breakingtweets with the different regions and topics"

A few friends of mine sent a similar message to him moments after in an effort to catch his attention.

Forty-eight hours later, not only had we heard from him, not only had he agreed to put Breaking Tweets on Alltop, he gave it an entire page on the popular "online magazine rack" site:

Late Wednesday night, Guy wrote this: "'Breaking Tweets' is 2nd to only Mac.Alltop today in traffic, and it's only been live for 9 hours." And shortly thereafter, he announced Breaking Tweets was the top traffic getter of the day.

No. 1 on Alltop on its first day there, not bad.

That's when things really got crazy. I received a private message from him through Twitter that he was coming to Chicago Thursday. He asked if I'd be up to meeting him for breakfast Friday and asked to meet some of the other editors.

And this morning, we met.

The experience at the Hyatt Regency McCormick was just awesome. Guy was so personable, and he took an hour out of his schedule - a whole hour - to meet with us. He gave us tons of great feedback on the site - what he liked, what he thought could be improved, how we could market it, how to promote it, how to effectively use Twitter, and how the content could be improved. I feverishly took notes and have a bunch that I'll type up later so we can start implementing some of his suggestions. And they were fantastic suggestions.

Oh yeah, and he treated us for breakfast.

You know, named him the No. 1 Most Influential Twitterer recently. Now I know why. He tweeted about Breaking Tweets not once, not twice, not three times - six times - to his 72,000+ followers between Wednesday and Thursday. Those tweets were retweeted more than 150 times, and we saw our traffic go up like crazy. He's going to plug us a bit more and we're going to help promote the Alltop page. It's a great connection to have for a site like ours, just getting started.

And if you read this, and I wouldn't doubt you might, thanks again Guy. Really appreciate it.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Buffalo plane crash

Here's "my story" on the Buffalo plane crash that killed 50 people last week and made international headlines. Everyone in the Buffalo area has one, and I figured this would be worth documenting.

It was really ironic because the night this transportation nightmare occurred, I was en route to Western New York from Chicago via Amtrak.

Here's how I found out...I was on the phone with my fiancee Nicole around midnight, somewhere in Indiana or Ohio. I asked her to check the headlines for a possible update on my new Web site When she said, a plane crash in Buffalo was the main story, I couldn't believe it.

I thought she was joking and asked several times, are you sure? Buffalo is sometimes in the national headlines, but never international. A---what?? Plane crash? It was shocking to me, just as I'm sure it was to many other Western New York natives.

To hear about the 50 lost lives was heart-wrenching, and for it to happen in Clarence Center really blew me away. A home was destroyed, just a few miles from my home. My heart immediately went out to the family. Thinking about it more, I couldn't imagine a plane going into a house in Clarence..just couldn't! It's such a nice little neighborhood.

But what happened the next day was even harder to take. First, I found out that one of those dead, according to a preliminary list by the Buffalo News, was Alison des Forges. She's a Rwandan genocide researcher who lived in Amherst and worked for the University at Buffalo. I saw her speak once at St. John Fisher College, and we read a lot of her work for my class Rhetoric of Hate at Fisher. I really admired the work she did. To know somebody who died in the crash hurt a lot. But for something like this to happen to her, someone who devoted her life to raising awareness about the deaths of innocent people in Africa, it just blows my mind.

Then, I was driving on the Thruway (I90) that night when I passed the scene. I saw helicopters flying around and a bunch of lights in the area. It was really disturbing to see...a very emotional sight. Clarence should not get this type of attention, ever. It just didn't settle right in my stomach.

And finally, when I went over to my parents' house to visit - I learned that someone my mom works with lost her best friend in the crash. There were stories like this everywhere in the Buffalo area. If you didn't know someone in the crash, as I sadly did, you knew someone who knew someone in the crash. Really, just two degrees of separation. That's the type of tight-knit community Buffalo is.

Thoughts and prayers go out to all those who lost their lives and their families.

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Friday, February 6, 2009

Here's my card!

I now have a "business card" for the World Wide Web.

Saw this somewhere else and I think it's really cool. Here it around to explore!

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

New Web site covering world news

I have a new Web site:

If you want to see the latest in world news from a very personal point of view, it's a great place to go. Basically, I scan the popular and ever-growing social networking site for comments on the latest news. I piece them together and form stories, posted only hours after news breaks.

The best part of these initial reactions...I try to select them in the geographic area the news actually broke. For example, a few moments ago I posted a story on Iran launching a home-made satellite. I scanned for messages within Iran itself first. When I noticed nobody was talking about it there (strange but true), I checked elsewhere in the world and pieced together a story.

One thing I'm stressing in this project is interactivity. I'm growing a network of followers from all over the world through the Breaking Tweets Twitter account (@breakingtweets), and send messages back and forth with many of them. I think far too often the media ignores those who actually consume their news.

I've had this idea for a while, and reading over the Australian Open "tweets" (messages on Twitter) the other day finally put me over the top. The fact it was Super Bowl weekend didn't hurt either.

It was going to start as a personal blog. But it seems to be growing into something more. People keep following. Of course that makes a lot more exciting, so we'll see where this goes...

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Friday, January 30, 2009

D.C. Trip officially in the past

Later tonight, The DePaulia's Inauguration coverage in D.C. will be removed from the home page of DePaulia Online and replaced with a series of fresh stories.

It's not disappearing completely. It will be archived. It will be accessible through the Search bar in the upper right hand corner by typing a single word: Inauguration.

But it's the end of an incredible journey, an independent study of a lifetime. It's an experience I'll always be able to look back at fondly and one I'll of course want to play up on my resume.

Just completed the last few chapters of this experience. Yesterday, John Kristoff and I presented to DePaul's Alumni Office on our trip; we showed photos, videos, maps, tweets, and other content thanks to a handy laptop projector and answered plenty of questions. And today we stopped at the Sun-Times newsroom for a tour from Web Editor Kirsten Miller and sat in on a few editorial meetings.

You know, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski says it best: "If what you did yesterday still looks big, then you haven't done much today." And with that, onward!

This weekend, I'm working on a 10-page research paper on Twitter and a new media paper on film. Should be fun (no sarcasm - I like writing, and the topics are interesting).

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Aurelio's review, new Web portfolio

On Saturday night, I went to a pizza place called Aurelio's with my roommate Ericc and some of his buddies.

It HAD to get in here; it was just a matter of when as I've been pretty busy the last few days with schoolwork.

So far, it's the best pizza I've ever had in Chicago, hands down, no competition. Maybe that's because their specialty is thin crust? What can I say -- I'm from New York.

We ordered a Fiesta-sized (18-inch) pepperoni and sausage pizza. It was fantastic and the perfect size for the four of us. We finished it yet all left quite satisfied.

They use a sweet sauce with crispy bits of pepperoni, tasty sausage, and a crunchy crust. Am I making you hungry yet? It is really good, and I don't say this often, but it goes right up there with the best of Western New York pizza.

In other news, I threw together a Digital Portfolio on WordPress tonight. My Web site already has a nice sample of my professional work on it, but as I wrote on the portfolio itself, it's "an easy (and alternative) way for a quick overview of my journalistic endeavors." It certainly can't hurt, that's for sure.

For those who want to take a peak, the new Digital Portfolio can be found here.

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