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October 19-23 was Mass Communication Week at Texas State – a week when professionals working in the media industry, some of whom are alumni, speak on panels and give great advice to aspiring students. Tuesday, October 20, I attended the Adventures in Media Innovation panel sponsored by the Social Media club and moderated by Dr. Royal. There was a particular buzz about this panel because of the amazing guest speakers who were Burt Herman, co-founder of Storify, Trei Brundrett, chief product manager for VOX, and Anna Tauzin, senior marketing manager for innovation at the National Restaurant Association (NRA).
If you are a Mass Comm Student at Texas State, then hearing that the co-founder of Storify was going to be on campus was a big deal because it is required to use in the Fundamentals of Digital and Online Media class, better known as F-DOM. For those who don’t know, Storify is a social network that uses content from other social networks and websites to make an interactive storyboard that innovates journalism. The company started in 2010, went public just one year later in 2011 and Burt Herman, the co-founder, sold it in 2013, he no longer works for or with the company. Prior to this panel I was unaware that Herman actually worked in the journalism field, it was a pleasant surprise. He studied at Stanford University where he received a BA in Political Science and an MA in Eastern European studies. From there he became a world correspondent for 12 years, reporting news from countries like North Korea, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
Not many students in attendance knew exactly who Trei Brundrett was, but they had certainly heard of the company he works for, VOX Media. Vox is one media company that has eight individual sites that cater to different audiences, the most popular being The Verge and S.P. Nation. They cover topics such as technology/culture, gaming, sports, news, food/nightlife, beauty/fashion, real estate, and the technology business. Out of everyone on the panel, I found Brundrett to be the most interesting and, personally, the most influential. He attended the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where he attempted to study history, astronomy, and psychology but dropped out twice. The fact that he dropped out of school and has success in a field where the the job market is extremely competitive and constantly evolving is inspirational because there are many people who can’t afford to go to school, or drop out for numerous reasons, and Brundrett’s career is proof that you can still have success despite not having a college degree.
Anna Tauzin was a very interesting addition to the media panel. She graduated from Texas State with her MA in Journalism in 2008, only to decide a few years later that she didn’t enjoy working in that specific field. She kept trying do innovative things with technology and journalism and at the time no one truly understood her vision, so she respectfully moved on to bigger and better things. Apart from the National Restaurant Association, Tauzin now works with numerous companies like Google, Facebook, and Yelp to find the next big thing in technology and apply it in a way that fits that company’s needs. Off the record, Tauzin also helps restaurant businesses with their start up process by helping them pinpoint an issue or need and finding a way to provide the solution to the consumer.
Over all the focus of this panel was how we can better incorporate technology in media and the future of media as technology develops. While discussing innovation of technology in the media our guest speakers shared great advice for aspiring entrepreneurs as well as their thoughts on the future of the mass communication industry. Here are some summarized highlights:
Question: Define Innovation
Anna: Innovation means questioning and challenging everything without being mean about it.
Trei: Innovation is a response to the public who sets the pace for change and growth.
Burt: Innovation is a sometimes a defense or a result of trial and error until you find something that works.
Question: What advice can you give to aspiring student who want to start their own business?
Burt: Make sure your product is essential to the user, building a product is a lot of trial and error and figuring out the product is only part of the business, you then have to figure out how to get it out and find people who want to invest. Make sure you love what you do because you have to wake up and do it everyday.
Trei: There’s a lot you have to consider when starting a business.What do you need for what you’re doing? You have to raise money and invest money. You need a solid idea of what you’re going to do. Essentially the investors are partners so be careful who you partner with. You also have to able to sale yourself well.
Question: Our generation (millennials: 1980-2000) seems to have difficulty communicating face to face, with that in mind what advice can you give us to better network?
Anna: Consistency is key. Have universal go to questions and make it about them. When you make it about the other person they’re more likely to pay attention to you. Find them on twitter.
Trei: When it comes to networking be confident and ask questions. Tumblr, Twitter, social media in general is a big deal. Participate in conversation on social media.
Burt: I actually had a problem networking which is how meetup.com came about.
Question: How do you see technology innovations affecting media in the future?
Anna: I see robotics being integrated in restaurants and and doing back end jobs that would help restaurants focus on the more important issue that is hospitality.
Trei: News updates will be incorporated into messaging apps like Kik. The traditional form of media won’t be relevant anymore, media may even stop being public and be tailored to each person specifically.
If you missed the Innovations In Media Panel, you really did miss an enlightening and inspiring discussion. There are definitely things to look forward to in the future of journalism and technology. The best thing I took away from this panel was to be flexible and to cross train myself in every field, program, and skill that I possibly can be because innovation doesn’t just mean new tech to play with or a new fancy way to get your updates. It means the job market is constantly evolving and asking for new skills. With the advice of our three amazing guest speakers I feel confident in tackling the industry.