How My Journalism Degree Supports My Marketing Career

I posted this on LinkedIn, and I’m proud of the writing, so I’m posting it here, too.

I’m sure degrees in content management and digital marketing exist. However, way back in 1992 when I graduated from college, the internet was barely a thing.

My BA is in *print* journalism, and while that may sound quaint in this digital age, journalism is the foundation on which I’ve built my current career track.

Journalism taught me how to write short, relevant copy, backed up with supporting facts, and delivered with clean text (with one space after a period!). It taught me that proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation are all important, and that fact-checking is not optional.

1. Style

My journalism professor Clark Edwards, God rest his soul, taught an entire semester-long class on the AP Stylebook. I had had a good grasp of grammar and punctuation rules upon entering college; English was my favorite subject in high school, and I already knew I wanted to be a writer. But AP style addressed the very specific needs of the newspaper publishing industry, answering questions about spelling, punctuation, and capitalization, as well as issues regarding libel and media law.

The AP Stylebook is published each year with updates and clarifications. Above all, AP style strives for consistency, clarity, and professionalism. With the exception of the Oxford comma (in which I default to the Chicago Manual of Style), the AP Stylebook is my source for writing standards.

2. Research

Any good news story starts with the right question(s), and then uses supporting facts to answer the questions. It’s important to know how to find the right answers. Journalism taught me about how to decide if a source is reliable, and how to report on facts. Digital marketing, like journalistic reporting, is less about selling or sensationalism. It’s about being a trusted source for information – and telling good stories.

3. Make it interesting

Blog posts are meant to be short and informative. The most important information goes into the first paragraph. Especially now, the way people take in information online, the lede has to immediately prove to be relevant. News writing taught me the reverse pyramid structure: Put the most relevant information (who, why, where, what, how) in the opening paragraph. The following paragraphs should contain important details to support the lede. Ideally, a blog post will be short and to the point, using subheads and numbered or bulleted lists instead of blocks of text, but the delivery structure is the same.

4. Meeting deadlines

Most of the deadlines in digital marketing are self-imposed. We have a social media and blog posting schedule that we have created as a department. But even a self-imposed deadline is a deadline, and as someone who has worked on actual print newspapers, I find deadlines compelling and helpful.

Digital Is Different

All that being said, digital marketing does expand on the basics of journalism and good writing in different ways than contributing to a news site would. The biggest challenge for me as a marketer who uses social media is making the goal to write for people, not for bots. Yes, SEO is important in digital marketing. But if you fill your article with lots of keywords to show up on Google, and make the headline read like clickbait, you aren’t doing your readers a service. [My work blog] isn’t purely meant as a sales tool. It’s about bringing news to our customers, and making them aware that we know and care about the issues that affect them.

Waiting IS the Hardest Part

Writing a book isn’t easy.

It takes a lot of time, and a big commitment to putting in that time. Spending an hour or two a night in front of a computer, trying to get my characters on paper — after spending eight hours at work, and taking care of my family in those other daytime hours — that was HUGE.

But once I did commit, and I had support from my husband and family, I did it. I sat down daily and got the words on the page. Except for Thanksgiving vacation, I mostly wrote at night, sometimes starting as late as 9 p.m.

Part of my 2015 NaNoWriMo experience was spent in Wilmington, NC, for Thanksgiving vacation with my family. My sister had just had a baby, so we were there for that. It was Thanksgiving, so we were there for that. My parents, my brother and his wife and children, my sister and her family, who live in the area, Dan and our children.

And every day — including THANKSGIVING DAY — this group of people LET ME WRITE. I mostly wrote in the mornings that week, with a cup of coffee or two.

That November, I wrote 50,000 words. In the next three months, I added roughly another 20,000.

Then I put the book (working title: Lone Wolf) away for a few months.

The rest I have mentioned here: second draft, line edits, beta readers. Both my beta readers had helpful feedback AND were very kind, so much thanks to them (Cari and Trista). Third draft.

And now it’s the hardest part: querying and waiting.

So: thing I learned about publishing last year at my very first writers conference: an agent, if you do not plan on self-publishing, is a necessary step. An agent is the one who is going to take your book and help you do the final shaping for publication. One does not send to publishers, one queries agents.

One needs a query letter to do that — I have learned a lot about queries, synopses, and pitching in general.

Yeah, I didn’t know that stuff before I wrote a book. It’s actually good I didn’t know too much about the process, because I would have overthought it.

Of course, as I go forward, I have to work very hard not to overthink it.

At this time, I have a handful of (very nice, very polite, and VERY encouraging) rejections under my belt. Rejections are good, it has been pointed out to me; it means I’m doing something. And, they have, to an email, been encouraging, as I said. The gist being: Thank you for querying; this isn’t for us at this time; keep going because someone is going to love it and pick it up.

Yeah, it could just be a form letter, but it’s better than 1. Being ignored and 2. Being told I stink and should throw in the towel.

Speaking of throwing things, I decided to throw my hat in the ring for Pitch Wars as well. In short, Pitch Wars gives writers the opportunity to work with a published author (mentors) to polish a manuscript. Mentors each pick a mentee from the submissions they get, they spend two months shaping the MS, and then there is an agent round.

If you’d like to watch me and other writers freak out about #PitchWars on Twitter, you can go check out that hashtag. Its both fun and masochistic at the same time.

Pitch Wars closes on August 6, and mentees are announced August 24. At this point, I have subbed to three mentors and one mentor team. They get the query and Chapter 1. I am *trying* to not obsessively track the #PWTeaser(s) on Twitter, but sometimes I just have to give in for a few minutes.

It’s out of my control, now: whether I get a mentor, whether I get an agent, whether I get published. And that is a difficult thing to sit with. If I don’t get a mentor, I will just continue querying agents. I gave myself a year, and I started this process in May.

In the meantime, time to get back to that *other* WPI (work in process), another few weeks of 9 p.m. computer time.

No matter what happens, I have written I book. I am working on another book, and I have yet a third in my brain. I can do this part.

And I can wait. I just don’t have to like it.

Is waiting the hardest part for you, too?

Letter to Congress: Health Care, Yet AGAIN


I drafted this letter before the ridiculous vote in the Senate last week. I was on vacation when I tried to publish this, and a little bit behind. But a version of this did get to Senator Toomey, and a thank you to Senator Casey. 

Dear Senator Toomey,
I am writing regarding the Better Care Reconciliation Act, the healthcare bill from the Senate, and about the Senate’s attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare in general.

Just, stop it.

The BCRA is a disaster of a bill that will hurt Pennsylvanians, not just those who have been able to get healthcare under the ACA. The ACA increased the number of Pennsylvanians who were able to get health insurance, financial security for low-income people, and access to treatment for opioid addiction and mental health issues.

The BCRA is worse than the House bill, the American Health Care Act, which is impression, because the AHCA is pretty terrible. Here is what the BCRA does worse:

  • Kills Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania, leaving the state to cover, over the next three years, 90 percent of the cost of people added to the program. This creates a $3 billion annual funding gap, which would effectively lead our state to dropping the Medicaid expansion program — leading to sick people unable to get care.
  • Reduces funding overall to Medicaid. States will have to make up the difference with their own funds; cut programs by reducing the number of people they serve or the number or health benefits they receive; cut payment rates to providers. This will reduce access to health care for low-income populations.
  • Makes insurance subsidies less generous. This would most affect older, lower-income citizens. A silver plan for seniors under the ACA (with seniors defined as 64 or older) costs $6750 a year in premiums. Under BCRA, that cost nearly triples to $18,250 per year.
  • Consumer protection: BCRA allow insurers to charge people with pre-existing conditions more. It also ends certain essential health benefits at the insurer’s discretion, ending things like maternity care, prescription drug benefits, and addiction treatment.

Don’t pass this bill. Vote no. The President, the leader of your party, has the lowest approval rating of any President, and he’s only six months into his term. Why would you give him a victory at the cost of the people in your state depending on you? You can be a hero, Senator Toomey.

I strongly urge you to vote NO on Trumpcare, and NO on “repeal now and replace later.” Work with your colleagues in the Congress, both moderate Republicans and Democrats, to shore up the ACA, and make it continue to work for the American people, especially the most vulnerable populations, including children, the disabled, and seniors.

Thank you for your time.

Your constituent,
rpm

Source

The Silliest Update I’ve Ever Done

I did something recently that is probably de rigueur for a lot of people (at least for people in the glasses-wearing population).

I purchased prescription sunglasses. And I love them.

I started wearing glasses in second grade.

I started wearing contact lenses in eighth grade. Not just any contact lenses: gas-permeable rigid contact lenses. (Corrected my vision better, lasted longer than soft lenses, blah, blah, blah, felt like shards of glass in my eyes until my eyelids formed callouses.)

I wore gas permeable contact lenses until my final trimester of pregnancy with Michael — coincidentally my final trimester of pregnancy ever, for the rest of my life. Between pregnancy and age, I was no longer able to wear them. It was kind of nightmarish. Switching over to glasses full time took a lot of getting used to.

I eventually switched over to soft contacts, a daily-wear lens. However, soft contacts don’t correct my vision enough for all-day use sitting in front of a computer. So I tend to only use them for outdoor activities, such as swimming, hiking, and camping, for short amounts of time. If it’s sunny, I would just wear regular sunglasses.

Due to a comedy of errors that is vision health benefits, eye exams, and ordering contact lenses, I am in the midst of summer 2017 without appropriate contact lenses. I tried to order some, but my prescription wasn’t current enough, and I can’t get another eye exam until December.

So I went to Zenni Optical* to order prescription sunglasses.

My most recent pair of glasses were also ordered from Zenni, and I wasn’t 100 percent sold on the experience. They didn’t fit right, still don’t — went from too tight to too loose. The lenses get smudged too easily, and I find myself cleaning them several times a day. The whole “online experience” just didn’t work out for me.

However, it’s a different story with the sunglasses. They fit. I think they look pretty good. And it is so great to just be able to put on sunglasses and see. I’ve noticed a big difference between wearing clear lenses and sunglasses. Much less glare when I drive; I can wear them in the pool; I can even read a book out of doors without strain now.

The challenge, of course, is to make sure I don’t lose them. I can’t just run out to Target for a new pair.

*I am not being compensated in anyway for endorsing Zenni. To be honest, I’m only batting about .500 with them as a provider of glasses in any case.

How to Be A Decent Man

This list was inspired by a number of things, including a Dear Prudence letter and an article from Upworthy. (You should definitely read the Upworthy article.)

10. Don’t catcall. Anyone. At any time. It’s not flattering.

9. Don’t tell a woman to smile. We’re not here to look good for you.

8. Realize that you are not entitled to sex. No matter the size your bank account (or your cock). Again, we women do not exist for your pleasure.

7. Even if you have had sex with a woman before, you are still not entitled to sex.

6. Don’t have drunken sex. (This goes for women too.) Sex is better when you’re not trashed. I’m not saying don’t drink. Go ahead and drink! Get drunk! Have some fun. Just don’t have sex with someone you don’t know well if you or she or both of you are drunk. It ends badly.

5. Understand consent. (Link is to the clean version of the Tea Consent video. Again, another worthwhile thing to check out.)

4. Listen to women. Don’t interrupt. Don’t be thinking of what you are going to say. Just pay attention to the words coming out of her mouth. Hear her.

3. Don’t mansplain. If you don’t know what that is, or you don’t think you mansplain, think about your response. If the first word out of your mouth when responding to a woman who is talking to you is “actually,” you may be mansplaining.

2. Don’t harass women online.

1. If a woman says no, move along. Don’t call her names. You can’t go from wanting to get with a woman to calling her a bitch. That’s just dumb.

Just: Treat women like people. It’s not that difficult, it’s honestly not. Although, to be fair, you also have to stop treating women like every one is a possible sexual conquest. So, your level of difficulty may vary.

All right, ladies, what am I forgetting?

It Feels Like Losing a Friend

Famous people die, because people die, and famous people are people.

Some deaths do cut deeper, though. As a music fan, I felt the losses of 2016 — David Bowie, Prince (PRINCE!), Leonard Cohen — very deeply.

Dave Rosser wasn’t FAMOUS, but he was a well-known musician, and he played with my favorite artist, Greg Dulli. Dave was the guitarist for Twilight Singers, Gutter Twins, and Afghan Whigs, among others. He was respected by his fellow musicians, and out-and-out loved by fans.

The first time I saw Afghan Whigs was in Pittsburgh, at Mr. Smalls. The band is extremely accessible, usually coming out after shows to mingle with fans, sign CDs or posters or setlists, and chatting with anyone still hanging around. I took pictures (that I can’t find now!) with John Skibic, the other guitarist for the band, and Dave. I think I have one with Rick Nelson, too. And of course, the pictures I took with John Curley and Dulli.

(If you do visit the blog post from 2014, Mr. Rosser is off to the right of Mr. Dulli in two of those images.)

Then, when I went to Cincinnati last year, I chatted with Dave again. I expressed surprise that he sang baritone on a couple of songs. “Oh, I love singing those low notes!” he exclaimed. “It’s my natural range.”

Dave and Diane
Dave, Diane, and the red hat (Cincinnati, 2016).

Last year, the band announced that Dave had been diagnosed with inoperable colon cancer; there were fundraisers and benefit shows, and an outpouring of love and support. The Afghan Whigs recorded a new album, and announced new tours. Dave played on the album — check out the guitar on Copernicus — but didn’t join the group on stage for the tour.

Still, I think I expected to see him again. When I bought my VIP ticket to the Cincinnati show later this year, I imagined being able to give him a hug, ask how he was feeling, tell him it is good to see him.

I won’t get to do that now. And that sucks.

Reading through stories from fellow fans, one theme is prevalent: Dave was easy-going. He was down to earth. He was strikingly friendly, easily starting conversations, making people comfortable. I mean, he tore it up on stage, pouring all of his talent out on us. But down on the floor, mingling with the audience, he was just a guy, doing his thing.

I’m not sure what else to say. When the news broke on Wednesday, I wanted to pack it in, go home, and listen to Twilight Singers for the rest of the day. I texted my husband, “Hi, I know this won’t mean much to you, but Dave Rosser died. He was the guitarist for Afghan Whigs.”

My husband surprised me, though. “That SUCKS!” he texted right back. “I’m sorry. In spite of my teasing, I really thought they were a tight band, and I really enjoyed the show we went to together.” Dan and I may not have the same taste in music, but we can recognize talent.

His text continued, “I remember two years ago, when BB King died, I felt like I lost a friend. I suppose that’s the way it is with the artwork of those who touch us, and inspire us, and reach us in that solitary place deep inside.”

He captured it, utterly. Dave was someone I had met — someone I had liked — and chatted with. He was a vital part of music that I love. I cannot imagine how much deeper his close friends and family and bandmates must be hurting. And I hurt for that, too.

Rest in peace, Mr. Rosser. You will be missed here. Thank you for your music, your ease, your smile. I hope you know how much you meant to so many people. Go in love and light.

Rosser on stage.
Image by Janet Elizabeth. Thank you for sharing.

Give Me Your Money!

Just kidding.

Give the Congenital Heart Walk your money, via my page.

I am walking to raise money. My friends Katrina and Kevin had a little boy who was born with ToF. You can read more about him here. They are pretty great, he is pretty great, and I’d like to do something to help.

Thanks!

ETA: I met my goal! Thanks to all who contributed, especially my father, who donated so much, I actually upped my goal. 😉

Seven Things: The Rough Start to Summer Edition

1. The children got out of school June 6.

Jump for Joy!

I think they were pretty excited.

2. Flora got a follow-up vaccine the morning of June 7. Yes, I had to wake Flora up early on her first official day of summer vacation.

For a shot.

I was not very popular that morning.

3. On Thursday, I was working from home because our nanny Kim had to go out of town for the day. I also had to get the children ready for a memorial service for my husband’s uncle and godfather — one of his father’s brothers.

I was not popular that morning either.

4. Friday, the children spent the weekend at my brother and sister-in-law’s, with their four boys. My SIL is a *saint*. They were staying until Sunday.

Dan and I had the house to ourselves.

I’m sure you can guess what we did.

Cleaned the office!* Exactly right.

Dan was a TROOPER. He tore up that room, in a good way. We got rid of five bags of trash, a trunkful of donations, and cleaned out drawers and the closet. I have a couple things to mail; Dan has some stuff to take to his office or storage. The office is once more usable. The challenge will be keeping it that way, and then reclaim other spaces in our house to make them usable as well.

*not a euphemism

Before.
the office after we cleaned it
After

5. Then our nanny went on vacation for a week. That has not gone well. We scrambled for childcare. With Dan busier than ever at work, it’s hard for him to have them at his office. He took them two and a half days; my MIL took them for one; I worked from home one and a half days. It’s been a little stressful.

6. Flora went to Kennywood all day Monday. Then Flora got sick. She was supposed to be at soccer clinic this week, but she has not been well enough to attend. I think between the sleepovers and all-day Kennywood, she was run down.

7. It hasn’t all been *bad*, just non-stop. Dan and I went to the Wilco show last week; I took the children to the Arts Fest; Michael has been enjoying the soccer “camp” very much. June is flying right on by!

Dan and Dawn Show, Wilco edition
I married this guy. Pregaming Wilco at Southern Tier.
Arts Fest Umbrellas
Successful summer outing the first, Three Rivers Arts Fest.
Cool.
Cooling off at the fountain at Point State Park.

How’s your summer going?

ETA: The nanny got home from her vacation early, and was able to watch the children today. HALLELUJAH! It’s mostly great for Dan, who is booked from 8 a.m. today through 7 p.m. Whew!

Letters to Congress: Health Care, Again

Dear Senator Toomey,
I am contacing you today to ask you to vote AGAINST Trumpcare. It will hurt so many people, including my family. You should work with Senate Democrats to address the weaknesses in Obamacare, instead of trying to ram through this terrible and harmful bill.

Specifically, what I am asking is the following:

  • Vote against any bill that results in anyone losing healthcare coverage
  • Commit to voting against any bill that does not protect people with pre-existing conditions from higher premiums
  • Vote against any bill that eliminates ANY funding for Medicaid

The Republican health care bill that was passed in the House takes health care away from 777,000 Pennsylvanians. More than 300,000 Pennsylvanians will lose Medicaid coverage, and average premiums will increase by more than $1000. This is all unacceptable.
It is time for you to choose your constituents over your party. Pennsylvanians will lose if the ACA is repealed. You could do even more if you would strengthen the ACA, rather than try to get rid of it wholesale.

Dear Senator Casey,
First of all, I want to thank you for all you have done to protect the people of Pennsylvania from the T*ump administration. I’m sure sometimes it feels like an uphill battle. Please know how grateful I am that someone is on our side, rather than rubber-stamping the President’s agenda.

As the Senate Republicans strive to pass their version of the deeply damaging ACHA, I hope we can count on you again to oppose them. What I would like to see from the Democrats in the Senate is the following:

  • Please withhold consent on all Senate business until Republicans hold a public hearing on Trumpcare.

While Obamacare improved coverage for millions of Americans, it does have its weaknesses. Democrats should work on addressing the weaknesses in the law, as well as look at ways to create a single-payer healthcare system. It turns out that Americans like health care! And certainly more Americans approve of Obamacare in its current form that approve of the T*ump administration.

Please continue to resist. We are grateful to you.

H/T to Indivisibleguide.com for giving me the talking points for these communications.

Peace Be With You (14)

When we walked into church on Sunday, I noticed the priest was wearing red.

“It’s Pentecost,” I whispered excitedly to Dan. “I love Pentecost!”

I do love Pentecost. As a Catholic, I know that Easter is the most important holy day in the calendar. Without Easter, there’s no Christianity.

But I always regarded Pentecost as extremely important as well. (Please note: I am but a layperson in the church, not, by any means, a theologian.)

Jesus promised his disciples that he would not leave them alone. That he would send them a helper. He sent them the Holy Spirit so they would have the strength to go out into the world and share the good news.

And that’s what is documented on Pentecost Sunday, fifty days after Easter. A great wind comes to the disciples, tongues of flame rest over their heads, and they leave the room where they had locked themselves away, and begin to declaim the Word.

Imagine if the Spirit never came. Imagine if they never left that room.

++

Fourteen years ago today, it was Pentecost Sunday.

Fourteen years ago today, I delivered my stillborn son Gabriel, after four days of being induced and going into labor.

I truly believe that the Holy Spirit came to me and to Dan, in our time of need, and I was given the strength to deliver our son. Jesus breathed into that room and stretched out his hands, and peace came into my heart, and strength came into my body. It did what was needed to deliver Gabriel.

I was given the strength to leave that room.

Without the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, I’m not sure I would have left that room.

I don’t mean literally. I am sure I would have been delivered of Gabriel one way or another, and I would have left the hospital, empty handed, hollow in my heart.

But metaphorically, if I had not received the strength of the Holy Spirit, I would have stayed locked in that room. I would not be mother to three other children. I’m not sure my marriage would have survived if I had stayed in that room out of fear.

So, Pentecost has deep personal meaning to me, as well as being important to the church in which I practice my faith. I give thanks to God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit for imbuing my life with the ability to move forward. Every day I am thankful for my marriage and my motherhood, in all their aspects, both dark and light. I feel the flame in my heart.