Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How to Win the Internal Social Media Struggle

I know. It's hard to believe. But there are still people out there who believe social media is a waste of time.

I've found in most organizations there is a mix of people who believe in the power and the benefit of social media and those who don't. Often, a few social media believers spend a lot of time trying to overcompensate for the time their co-workers won't commit to.

The internal struggle can be the hardest to overcome. But imagine how much more efficiently an organization could spread its message if all the professionals put in even half as much time on social media as they spend on e-mail.

To give proper credit, Jay Baer makes the great analogy to e-mail on his Convince and Convert. He says 15 years ago, no one was using e-mail and that was time consuming, too. Now people spend an hour or two each day reading and replying to e-mails because the benefits far outweigh the time cost.

Chances are, if you're reading this blog, you're already one of the converted. So let me share a few ways you can help evangelize for social media and overcome your organization's internal struggle:

Be nice. I know this sounds annoyingly trite, but it's true. You can't force someone to interact in social media, and if you do, it's not going to be the kind of interaction you want.

People are working more for less, frustrated by the struggling economy and already attached at the hip to their smartphones. Realize where they're coming from and why adding an item to their to-do list—a time-consuming item at that—might not sound that appealing to them.

• Share the metrics.
How much traffic has social media driven to your site? How many new friends or followers do you get each week? How many impressions did your social media interaction result in? What new business have you driven or what connections have you made? Use solid, tangible examples to prove that it's worthwhile.

• Make connections.
Be on the lookout for how your social media connections could help your co-workers and vice versa. It might only take an e-mail or two with a great suggestion, helpful tip or meaningful networking opportunity to convince a colleague how worthwhile social media can be.

• Create internal resources.
This can mean a variety of things. Maybe your company blog offers tips and professional development information, so people see how blogging can be beneficial. Maybe—like I'm working on at my organization—you hold education sessions to help people use social media more efficiently and effectively.

In fact, we decided to make 20-minute personalized sessions because people are at so many different levels in their decision to embrace social media. We didn't want to overwhelm beginners, but we also didn't want to bore the more advanced users. So we're going to have people sign up for different sessions that are more specific to their needs.

• Help people prioritize. This is easier, of course, if you're someone in a position of authority. You could relieve some part of an employee's workload to give them a little extra time to figure out their way around the social media arena. But there's also always something we can do as co-workers to help ease each other's schedules, support each other and encourage innovation.

• Welcome them with open arms when they do join.
Encourage people to follow the new user, interact with them, "Like" and share their items. Prove to them what a positive and supportive environment social media can foster.

Be encouraging and tell people that it takes the most work in the beginning to build an online community, but it won't be this much work forever. Putting in the effort in the front end will eventually save time and effort.

You can't win over everyone all at once. But you can be positive, supportive and welcoming and show people the results—seen and unseen—that come from engaging in these new ways.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The social life

Last night, I helped host a TribNation and TribLocal event with Lake County Tweetup.

It was almost surreal to meet so many of the great people I work with—primarily online and also over the phone—in person. And the community of local Twitterers is strong and vocal on my TweetDeck, but even more so live and in color.

Sharing pizza and drinks, exchanging business cards and thoughtful ideas about our community all reinforced to me what we know to be true: meeting in person can't be replaced by any other interaction. There's something about sharing a Chicago deep dish with people that makes those connections last.

But as one of social media's biggest advocates, there's another point I can't help but make. Without blogs, Twitter and the user-generated focus of TribLocal, I wouldn't know who most of those people are. I wouldn't know how much I wanted to finally meet them in person and establish friendships with Tweetup founders, entrepreneurs, foodies, world travelers and the sweetest person you'll ever meet.

That's what's so phenomenal about the new level of engagement social media allows for. It turns metropolitan areas—even an entire nation—into a community where, to quote a cliche, everyone knows your name, or at least your Twitter handle. So if we're smart, we'll use the new tools at our disposal to meet more people, hear more opinions and share more ideas online and in person.

As we exchanged hugs and handshakes, I felt like I was back in the small town where I grew up (Those tall structures aren't office buildings, by the way, they're silos).

It was just a longer commute home.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Not just working—creating

I don't simply want to work in my job position—I want to help create it.

When I was recruited to help build Chicago Tribune's TribLocal, we were a team creating our own vision. I helped establish my job duties as I performed them. I learned as I went along, and I continue learning.

When I saw a lack of citizen contributors, I established a format for community workshops and began hosting them. That idea has spread and is now one of our most common—and most successful—practices.

I walked into my editor's office more than two years ago and told him we could no longer ignore this thing called Twitter and began recruiting and teaching anyone and everyone I could to learn how to use it and other forms of social media. Now we have nearly 15,000 followers collectively and gather story ideas, readers feedback and host Tweetups with other local Twitterers.

As I began to realize there weren't enough resources for our citizen contributors, I decided to start creating them. I conceived of the TribLocal: Inside the Newsroom blog, pitched it and now co-author a blog that offers a look inside of what I believe to be one of the country's most innovative newsrooms.

Because of my leadership in the newsroom, I was selected to be one of the members of the small TribLocal Ethics and Standards Committee, where we debate and engage with each other to ensure we are creative a quality product without stifling innovation or conversation. We address issues that don't exist most other places, such as designing a format for bringing blogs to print and developing standards for citizen bylines.

My journalism background is founded in traditional reporting. I worked for years as a crime reporter, where I won an Associated Press award covering gang crimes in southeastern New Mexico, and as an education reporter. I graduated from Michigan State University's J-school, and I loved returning there to talk to future journalists about the industry and their hopes for it.

And I believe fostering community engagement—an honest, true opportunity for community members to interact with and create their news. What I do not believe is that it's the future of the news industry. In fact, I believe it is a return to the roots of journalism and the democratic spirit in which it grew. The news began, and should continue, as a shared experience.

I hope other journalists committed to engagement will collaborate with each other as we pave this path.. I am working to begin an #engageme Twitter chat with me once per month so we can all come together, share ideas and support each other in finding new ways to engage our communities.

I hope you'll follow me @triblocaltara and feel free to contact me anytime if you're interested in engagement efforts.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Journalism from the other end of the world

While helping my husband edit a column for the newspaper in his home country of the Solomon Islands in the Melanesian South Pacific, we got to talking about the business of newspapers.

I wondered aloud how an economically struggling country—where many of the people live in what Americans would consider poverty—could support not just one newspaper, but several. I can't imagine the businesses there 't have much money for advertising and as a journalist, I'm constantly reminded of the newspaper business's woes here in the western hemisphere.

He barely glanced up from what he was reading to give me a quick reply. "Well, people buy the paper."

I was indignant. Subscriptions couldn't be the answer. It couldn't be that easy. Besides, what could people afford to pay for the paper? He said single-copy papers sell for $3 to $5 and with many mouths to feed and few jobs in each household, money is almost always tight in the Solomon homes.

"It doesn't matter," he said, shrugging his shoulders and ignoring my persistent questions. "Everyone has to read the newspaper. Everyone wants to know what's going on."

I continued investigating. His carefree island-style answers weren't settling well with my reporter persona (this wasn't the first time and won't be the last), especially when he was so quickly dismissing my disbelief. I started up a Facebook chat with Romulus Huta, a journalist at the Island Sun, an alternative paper in the country's capital, Honiara.

He seemed equally as nonchalant during my pelting of questions. Had things changed since they got online? No. (This didn't surprise me; time on the Internet is too costly for many in the Solomons). I knew they were on Facebook. Did they Twitter? No again. Did they accept citizen journalism? Reporters write stories, but they also accept contributions from local people.

I ended the conversation still feeling unsatisfied. It felt to me as if they were keeping a secret from me—as if the Solomon newspapers knew the secret ingredient to save the industry that means so much to me. But as fellow journalists, we made friends and promised to stay in touch. We both know about long hours, tough stories and unforgiving deadlines. And I knew going out what I knew coming in—that there was no easy answer.

Journalists aren't ones for easy answers, anyway. We know easy answers are rarely the truest ones. So we'll continue to work hard, impassioned about creating a strong product that is relevant to our readers, no matter what side of the International Dateline we're on.

Social media cheerleader

Do you believe in the power of social media? I do, and if you've met me, I've probably tried to convince you why you should, also. I'm a social media cheerleader—or evangelist, a term I first heard used by a friend of mine.

I'm going to continue to use the phrase social media for recognition purposes, but I'm of the same mind as this poster on Advertising Age that there's no need for the term—it's simply digital media.

I find those who are most doubtful are those who simply hopped on a site—be it Twitter, Facebook or Digg—looked around and left. "How can this benefit me?" they often ask me. Or even more frequently: "I want to, but I don't have time." And the truth is, yes, you have to invest time. But after becoming more engaged with the community and your audience, whether it's readers, customers or colleagues, you'll realize it's well worth it.

So here's some of my tips about how to use that time wisely and build and foster an engaged online community:

• Start by knowing why you're there. What do you want to get out of your social media interactions? Begin with a vision for the community you want to engage in and then put plans in place to create that ideal for yourself or your business. Be strategic in who you want to talk to, listen to and interact with and what topics are most pertinent.

• Once you've created your profile, reach out to other people. This is not a matter of register and they will come. You have to find your audience. Use services such as to find people near you geographically. Find out who the key influences are in your area. Use tags, hashtags or word searches to find people talking about the topics you are also interested in. Find other people in your industry and learn from them. Follow, friend and interact with these people.

This will take the most time commitment in the beginning, when you are getting started and seeking out the community. It's not going to build itself. I say about three or four weeks of really immersing yourself, and you will gotten yourself a great head start. After that it will be just enjoying the community and building on that strong foundation.

• Engage with the people in the community you've built, and do it regularly. No one expects you to be online every second, but be available and prompt, just as you would in every other form of communication. People are quick to realize who they can rely on and who they can't, so be someone reliable. It's as true in social media as it is in real life.

• Be genuinely interested in the people in your community. If you're not online because you're interested in connecting with other people, then reevaluate why you've signed on in the first place. I follow readers and community members because as a journalist and as a person, I'm genuinely interested in brainstorming and sharing ideas with them. Retweet or share their information that you find valuable or think others in your community might be interested. This makes people more willing to do the same for you. Just like in any other community, one good act usually yields many more.

As you become involved in the community, you'll quickly find that you get much more than you give. There's so many amazing people out there sharing ideas, engaging in conversations and supporting each other. Yes, there is some negativity—that's human nature and it's impossible to avoid. But there's so much more of the good stuff, if you're willing to open your mind and find it.

And I hope you'll be following me @triblocaltara or @taramaytesimu, so I can see how it goes for you. I'm out there cheering you on!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Deerfield group offers support 'without judgment'

The woman who started this group, Kristen Scott, contacted me to ask for her group to be put in the community calendar. Right away, I knew there was more of a story to tell. Not only did I get to write my own news story, I found out she was a beautiful writer herself and spent time after our interview teaching her how to start a blog and contribute her columns to TribLocal. Kristen is kind and intelligent, and I hope she finds great success in sharing her story.

By Tara May Tesimu
Chicago Tribune's TribLocal

When Marla Davishoff joined a Deerfield support group for parents of special needs children, she already had plenty of information.

She'd done the research, knew about the treatments and read the books.

She just wanted a place where she could talk about how she felt.

"We're at the group because of who we are, not because of who they are," said Davishoff, a Deerfield mom who belongs to the group. "It's a unique resources. There's lots of resources out there for the kids, and that's essential, but we're trying to deal with all of this, too.

"None of us would trade our children for anything. But we all have dark moments, and this group is a place where we can talk about that without judgment."

The group is celebrating its five-year anniversary in May. It meets at 7:30 p.m. the first and third Tuesday of each month at Christ United Methodist Church, 600 Deerfield Rd., Deerfield.

Kristen Scott, the Deerfield mother of an 18-year-old son with severe autism, started the group in May 2005 after meeting another parent of a newly diagnosed special needs child who was feeling alone.

"I thought I could make use of where I'd come from and the trauma I'd gone through," said Scott, whose then 13-year-old son, Daniel, had already been diagnosed with autism years ago.

Scott said for several years after her son's diagnosis, she lived in a state of denial. She brought her son to his therapy, nodded her head at the doctors and doing everything that needed to be done.

"But in my heart, I just couldn't understand—or accept—that this was going to be forever," Scott said. "That was a journey I had to take on my own time."

Read the full story on Chicago Tribune's TribLocal

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Words I Live By

“In times of change learners will inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to work in a world that no longer exists.” – Eric Hoffer

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

When surviving is winning

The woman in this story invited me in to her home, allowed me to write a story about her and her son and awed me. She is both optimistic and realistic. She looks to the future but preserves her past. She is an inspiration to us all.

When surviving is winning

By Tara May
Pioneer Press Staff Writer

Anna Roeser knows the ugliness of cancer.

She knows it as a mother, carrying her son's dehydrated 3-year-old body in and out of hospitals as leukemia ravaged his blood cells.

She knows it as a diagnosis, vividly recalling the conversation that changed her life -- the doctor calling to tell her the lump in her breast was malignant, and she would need aggressive treatment and surgery.

She knows it as a lifestyle, first watching the chemotherapy tear through her son's body and then, only months later, looking in the mirror at her own bald head, devoid of eyelashes and eyebrows.

And she knows it as a survivor, a woman who will stand with her now 8-year-old son Gus during Relay for Life's survivor ceremony, both of them in remission from the disease that entered their life six years ago.

"When you first hear the word cancer, you think it's a death sentence," the Libertyville resident said. "That's what I thought. But I want people to know that's not how it has to be. There is hope.

"In everything, there is hope."

Roeser and her son are the honorary chairpersons for the 13th annual Green Oaks-Libertyville-Mundelein-
Vernon Hills Relay for Life, which will take place from 6 p.m. June 2 to 6 a.m. June 3 at Mundelein High School.

She said she wanted to give back to the community that helped her so much — friends and family and church members who helped her arrange childcare and cook meals and grocery shop during her hard times.

"They were there by the grace of God," Roeser said. "Even those day-to-day activities, just getting dinner on the table, was a challenge, and they helped me through that."

But Roeser said she also wanted to participate in Relay for the first time this year to help raise money to look for a cure for a disease inflicted on both her and her son.

And, she said, the event will also be a chance to stand up with her community, others whose lives have been affected by cancer.

"We're all members of the same club -- one we didn't ask to join," she said. "Cancer doesn't discriminate."

The Green Oaks-Libertyville-Mundelein-Vernon Hills Chamber of
Commerce, which partners with the American Cancer Society for the event, has strongly supported the Relay for Life since 1999, chamber President Dwight Houchins said.

"We view cancer as a business issue," he said. "There's loss of productivity, increase in insurance and health care costs, not to mention pain and suffering. It's a stressful thing."

The event has garnered more than $3.5 million since it began taking place in Lake County, Houchins added.

That money goes to research, advocacy, education and service, said
Kelli Burke, an American Cancer Society spokesperson.

Last year, the Relay brought in $422,000, she said. This year, the organization is aiming to raise more than $438,000.

For more information, a complete schedule of events or to register, visit the event Web site.

The June Relay for Life is open to the entire community.

The GLMV-area high schools are also holding a youth Relay for Life, which will take place April 14-15 at the Libertyville Sports Complex.
That event is for high school students only.

The June community event will include the Luminaria, an evening candlelight ceremony in honor of those still fighting against cancer and in memory of those who lost the battle, a survivor reception and an opening lap walked by cancer survivors.

When Roeser thinks about her life for the past six years, she has to blink back tears. She smiles at her son Gus, who was born with down syndrome and was in and out of hospitals for so many years, as he comes off the bus from school, grinning back at his mom.

Telling her story now, she says, is therapeutic.

"Going through this has been cathartic," she said. "Life is good. We've come so far. It really makes you appreciate everything – your life, your family, everything."

But it is that walk she looks forward to most — June 2, when she will grasp hands with Gus and show the world they are survivors.

That will be her victory.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

News should be a community dialogue

In a post on the TribLocal blog, I say we believe at TribLocal that people deserve to have a voice in the community dialogue before, during and after our reporting process. We welcome residents to comment on existing stories or submit their thoughts on a topic separately from our staff-written stories.

And if we're not talking about a topic you're inerested in, the TribLocal Web site offers an open invitation for you to start your own conversation.

And just because a story is written doesn't mean the conversation is over. If you comment on a story or submit your own opinions, you will see them online and often in print. For example, some responses submitted to a story on the Ft. Sheridan golf course debate in Highland Park appeared in print as part of an ongoing look at the issue. In print editions, we remind readers to weigh in online and look for that discussion to be reverse-published in a later print issue.

Read more.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Committee looks to build $10M family center

By Tara May Tesimu
Published in Chicago Tribune's TribLocal

The members of the Community Family Center committee in Highland Park have a vision.

They walk down the hallways of the old Karger Center basement with dilapidated floors and crowded halls that flood during rainstorms. But they envision a redeveloped center where the city's youngest children have room to spread out and play.

They peer into a storage room where social workers hold counseling sessions and crowded shelves are spilling over because there's no room anywhere else. But they envision ample, private office space for meetings about personal matters.

They talk about social workers who drive from building to building across Highland Park and Highwood to do their work and help families. But they envision one campus in the heart of downtown Highland Park where social service organizations could work in cooperation.

And they know there's a lot of work in front of them: millions of dollars in fundraising, for a start. But they envision a community that supports their cause and plan to meet—or at least come close to—that fundraising goal in 2010, begin construction in the fall and open in the summer of 2011.

The Community Family Center steering committee is a group of Highland Park and Highwood residents who have dedicated their time on a volunteer basis to build a family center in the heart of downtown Highland Park. The organization they plan would house a variety of maternity, infant, preschool, kindergarten and family service organizations, including Family Network, Family Service, Highland Park Community Nursery School and Day Care Center, the Highland Park/Highwood Home Child Care Association and the Tri-Con Child Care Center.

A decade in the making

The Community Family Center steering committee members began meeting about nine years ago—although at that time, they didn't have a name for themselves yet. Nor did they know exactly what they were working for or where they would build it.

They simply knew there was a need for more affordable child care services in Highland Park and Highwood. In 2002 and 2006, United Way assessment surveys showed that the community saw a need for more early education support—specifically affordable, non-religious child care.

"It's sorely needed," said Herbert Wander, an attorney who led the committee for much of its duration. "We've got these great agencies who do amazing work in sub-standard conditions. We need to take care of our young kids."

Read the full story on TribLocal.

Monday, March 15, 2010

State of the Media report

The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism released its annual State of the Media report this morning.

Read it on the Columbia Journalism Review Web site.

The information is as bleak as we knew it would be and includes:

• The newspaper industry has lost $1.6 billion in reporting and editing capacity in the past year.

• Online advertising, content pay walls and the idea of unbiased news aren't working.

But, I don't think this should discourage anyone. We knew all this. Now is the time to move forward with more news analysis, opinions and community engagement. We as newspapers should foster and host the conversation.

If we don't, someone else will.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Check out the TribLocal: Inside the Newsroom blog

This is my personal blog.

Want to know more about Chicago Tribune's TribLocal? Check out our blog hosted by Chicago Now, the Tribune's blogging network.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ann Landers

Today, I found out something I should have already known.

Ann Landers worked for the Chicago Tribune.

I should have known this because I work for Chicago Tribune's TribLocal, and, well, it seems to be common information.

But I read Ann Landers' columns when I was a little girl living in Lowell, Mich. in our metro newspaper, The Grand Rapids Press. I had no idea then where they originally came from, and only my dreams, not my reality, spanned much beyond the west side of the state. I remember wondering if she existed at all, or if she perhaps was the invention of a newspaper editor.

She had a way with words that I admired and aspired to. She had the answers to all the questions I never even knew to ask. She wrote intelligently and inspired me. One piece of prose she penned in her column I clipped in 1995, and it is preserved inside a frame that also holds my wedding photos. "Love is friendship that has caught fire..." it reads.

I wanted to be a writer and a newspaperwoman more than anything, and there she was, every day. Her career seemed a million miles away from my life.

And yet, here I am today, working for the same major media company as Ann Landers. I can't wait to tell my mom.

Lake County to restore rare ecological system

This story had one big surprise factor for me: Thousands of volunteers help preserve the Lake County Forest Preserves land. I had no idea so many people were committed to protecting the lands in my county.

By Tara May Tesimu
Published in Chicago Tribune's TribLocal

Rare plants and a unique ecological environment will be protected in a major restoration of Grainger Woods—an endeavor that will be jump-started by one of the largest grants in the forest preserves' history.

The Preservation Foundation of the Lake County Forest Preserves District garnered a $500,000 donation from the Grainger Foundation, which will in part fund the comprehensive restoration planned for the 308-acre Grainger Woods Conservation Preserve, Lake County Forest Preserves District officials said.

Planning is already underway for the $1.5 million project, which is set to take place over a span of seven years, said Barb Vicory, the executive director of the preservation foundation.

The preservation foundation will continue fundraising to cover the cost of the project, she added. The foundation is a nonprofit organization that receives charitable gifts from individuals, corporations and foundations to support the public lands owned by the forest preserves.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources designated 169 acres of the land as an Illinois Nature Preserve in January. That status is only given to the most ecologically sensitive public lands, Vicory said.

"That's a distinction that's held for the most rare areas of our state," she said.

The portion of the site designated as a nature preserve contains wet-mesic upland forest and northern flatwoods, which the state considers globally imperiled. The designation will provide protection to seven state endangered or threatened species.

During the restoration project, the forest preserves will have to be cautious in removing the non-native species without damaging the rare native plants, Vicory said. The plan may include the use of spot-applied herbicides.

"We have to be very careful," she said.

Read more. The full story is on TribLocal.

Lake Forest teachers invent reading curriculum, raise ACT scores

I really had fun reporting this story. Education stories fascinated me even before I became a parent, and now I am even more intrigued by how and what we teach our children.

These two teachers are passionate about their work. I could hear it in their voices as they spoke about this project. They put in long hours and extra time to help these students succeed. They're being innovative and doing something no one's done before.

And, as a writer and avid reader, I know exactly how valuable it will be for students to have a higher comprehension level.

Meet two Lake Forest teachers who are changing the world, one student at a time:

By Tara May Tesimu
Published in Chicago Tribune's TribLocal

Two Lake Forest teachers are inventing the curriculum for a course to help high school students become better readers—and raising ACT scores while they’re at it.

Lake Forest High School teachers Becky Mueller and Linda Rich co-teach a one-semester elective class called strategic reading, in which they teach students how to become better readers through different reading strategies and three main components: vocabulary building, comprehension and fluency.

"The idea usually is that you learn to read until you're in 3rd grade, and then you read to learn after that," Mueller said. "It's a paradigm shift. Teachers are not used to teaching reading in high school. We teach students that reading is an active process as opposed to just sitting there absorbing information."

The class is considered tier two intervention, the teachers said, which means that it is designed for students who need some help improving their reading abilities but is not considered intense intervention.

And it's also come with an unexpected bonus. The class began in the 2007-08 and testing has shown that many students who take the class see a rise in their ACT scores—from 1 to 7 points, or from a 13 score to a 20 on the reading portion of the standardized test. The information shows that 63 percent of the students who take the class have seen a rise in their ACT reading score.

"That's not our main goal," Mueller said. "We're thrilled that the kids are getting something so tangible out of it, and that motivates them, but to us, it's just an extra—a great way to hook their interest."

...Read more. The full story is on Triblocal.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Getting to know you...or me!

We spend every Friday getting to know TribLocal journalists on our blog at Chicago Now.

Here's an introduction to myself and the innovative blog co-moderator, Heather Leszczewicz:

Community Manager Tara May Tesimu


Q. What's your journalism background?
A. I can't remember a time I wasn't doing some form of journalism. I was editor-in-chief of my middle school paper in 8th grade, held the same position at my high school paper and started at Michigan State University's student daily when I was a sophomore. I then worked for two daily newspapers in New Mexico and Michigan before coming with my family to Chicagoland.

Q. What drew you to TribLocal?
A. TribLocal is innovative--using new media and technology to transform the way we think about local news. But it is also a return to the roots of journalism, in which we are working hard to foster a community discussion. We want everyone to have a voice, and we encourage not only thoughtful and unique contributions to our site and print edition, but through comments and feedback in any and all formats. I believe we are creating a model that works--not only for news but for true community engagement.

Q. What do you like about covering Highland Park, Highwood, Deerfield, Lake Forest and Lake Bluff?
A. It doesn't take long to realize people in these towns are extremely dedicated to their communities. And why wouldn't they be? The communities are intelligent, passionate, vibrant and beautiful. The people who reside here work hard to make them great places to live, work and play--now and for future generations.

Q. What do you do when you're not working at TribLocal?
A. I am the mom of a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old, so a good chunk of my time is spent chasing tricycles, reading books out loud, finger-painting projects and playing at the park. My husband, Sammy, is a tennis pro, so I often find myself on a court pretending I can actually swing a racket. If I find a moment to myself, I love independent films, concerts, reading (actual grown-up books) and swimming. I also love weekend trips back to the small town where I grew up in Michigan to see my family and have a bonfire.

Q. If you weren't a journalist, what career would you have?
A. If you weren't a journalist? That sounds like a foreign language to me. Teach journalism at a university? I think I'd also be interested in psychology, so I could still work with people and write.

Reach Tara by calling 708-498-4130, e-mailing, on Twitter @triblocaltara or on Facebook.

Community Manager Heather Leszczewicz

Q. What's your journalism background?


A. I've always known I wanted to be a writer. I wasn't a kid wavering between several different aspirations. I got into the Internet early and started e-mail newsletters focusing on things that interested me or girlie advice. I started interning for a PR/Marketing firm while at St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights and I worked for the school newspaper, the Viator Voice.

I majored in journalism at Marquette University and graduated. I worked at the Marquette Tribune as a jack-of-all-trades--reporter, copy editor, editor and designer--as well as the literary/news magazine the Marquette Journal. And I spent a year and a half as an intern for Milwaukee's online daily magazine

I graduated in 2007, moved back to Illinois and started a position with the Chicago Sun-Times' hyperlocal, citizen journalism Web site, which is defunct. Now I'm at TribLocal which allows me to report, photograph, design and work online.

Q. What drew you to TribLocal?
A. I had already been introduced to citizen journalism at my last job and I love it. I know there are plenty of important things happening in communities that aren't getting covered. And TribLocal allows residents to have some control over their news and learn what's happening right down the block. I'm a big believer in user participation, which is why I also love (okay, am addicted to) social media. TribLocal gets the community involved.

Q. What do you like about covering Lincolnshire, Lake Zurich, Vernon Hills, Libertyville and Mundelein?

A. I previously had the chance to explore Libertyville, Vernon Hills and Mundelein and now I'm getting a chance to learn more about Lincolnshire and Lake Zurich. There's a beauty in all these communities and residents have such pride when it comes to their town. And everyone I've met has been so nice. I've also liked discovering some of the local treasures.

Q. What do you do when you're not working at TribLocal?
A. I watch a lot of TV and movies. I have a DVD collection that rivals some rental places. I love to read for fun. I've been trying to cook more, but my kitchen has limited counter space.

Q. If you weren't a journalist, what career would you have?
A. Like I said, I always wanted to be a writer. If I was forced to choose something else, I think I'd enjoy being a photographer most. I love making coffee table books full of photos and taking photos of scenery.

Reach Heather by calling 708-498-0248, e-mailing or on Twitter @hlesztriblocal.

Read the original post on Chicago Now.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Working to ensure accessibility

In the Feb. 11 post by Heather Lesczcewicz, she introduces the new look of TribLocal as part of the smaller Chicago Tribune.

As she recounts, the redesign basically cleans up the print edition and gives us more room to fit what's important to our readers on our pages.

But there's also some changes that have a specific goal in mind: To let readers of the print edition know exactly how we work. What we know about our readers is that they are either coming to or reading the print edition—but not enough of them are doing both.

TribLocal has given citizen journalism an outstanding platform with its Web site, but we also offer something many hyperlocal initiatives have not: a print section with a dedicated readership. We love our Web site—and without it, we couldn't put out that print edition—but we also know landing on your doorsteps inside the Thursday Chicago Tribune gives us a distinct advantage.

So the redesign features photos of the community managers on the content page where we interact with you each week. And it reminds you on the masthead to go to the Web site. A graphic shows readers that their photos and stories can be contributed to our site and then end up in the paper.

At TribLocal, we believe the way to make "hyperlocal" and "citizen journalism" successful is accessibility. We engage with our readers and contributors as often as we can and we invite you to get in touch with us. Our aim is for the Web site to be simple to navigate, but if you're having difficulty, just call or e-mail us.

Ask any of our contributors. Once they try us, they're hooked. Most of the TribLocal contributors sign up and return often—some several times a week and some every few months. But they keep coming back. One Highland Park blogger contributes his thoughts on community issues nearly every week. Some school districts contribute multiple times a week. Libraries tell us about their events. Local photographers share their favorite shots. The people in our towns find a million ways to interact with us, and we never cease to be amazed by their talent and creativity.

We're on the Internet—in every form of social media you can think of—but we're also in your towns. We hold community workshops at libraries and in schools. And if you'd like us to hold one near you, just ask. We're also happy to arrange one-on-one meetings.

The quest to be better never ends, so we continue to look at ways to work with our communities. As we've said before, we're examining and improving TribLocal in 2010. So if ever you have ideas about how we can be better, let us know.

Those of us in the media industry talk a lot about citizen journalism. Now we at TribLocal are working hard to ensure every reader knows how to become a voice of their town.

—This post was written by Tara May Tesimu, a TribLocal Ethics and Standards Committe member, community manager and blog moderator. It is cross-posted from the TribLocal blog at Chicago Now.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The news: A shared experience

My first job in media was at the Roswell Daily Record, the only daily newspaper in the city of Roswell, N.M.

The newspaper there is the heart of the community. Reporters and editors attend every event in town. The winner of the county fair animal contests make the front page. The newspaper sponsors a little bit of everything. People read the paper daily from front to back, and they have opinions about it.

I always look back on it as the best lesson in maintaining relationships, because chances are, I wasn't only going to be working with those people professionally, I was going to be bumping into them at the grocery store, at the bank and at the post office.

The Roswell Daily Record is traditional journalism at its purest.

Years later, I am now a community manager for, a Chicago Tribune product that covers the suburbs in a non-traditional manner. We ask contributors to be our voices and share their stories on our Web site, which we then share in a print edition delivered inside the Thursday Trib.

Chicago could not be more different than New Mexico. The Roswell Daily Record and are very different. But, in truth, all the same principles still apply.

People are still the voices that make up a newspaper. Whether they come from a reporter's notebook or a Web site, it is people's thoughts, words, feelings and actions that are news.

And sharing our stories still gives us the shared experience that makes us more than just individual people living individual lives. It makes us a community.

About Me

My photo
Stories are my passion—and I am an advocate for the new, engaging ways to share and create those stories. I grew up in a small town in Michigan and now live and work in the Chicago area.