Friday, September 28, 2007

Blog Orlando- Media Track- Hyperlocal Blogs

Tommy Duncan is the track leader for this session.

When Tommy started blogging, he was just kind of "out there." He wanted to know what was going on in the community. Sticks of Fire, Tommy's blog, has grown so expansive, he now has several other writers posting to his blog because it got too big. He's had his blog for four years ago.

He moved into a 30-year-old subdivision with no homeowners association. No network. He went door-to-door and invited everyone to a backyard BBQ. One person showed up.

Tommy created a blog for another neighborhood and within a month, 30 people were posting on it.

What's the difference? The blog allows people to post on their own time. Tommy held his BBQ at a certain date/time that may not have been good for everyone. Blogging allows people to participate when it's convenient to them.

Tommy has former Tampa Tribune writers writing for his blog.

Side note: Tommy's also in a band.

Blog Orlando- Media Track- Community Blogs

Track leader is Daniel Sanchez

Orlando Sentinel is offering neighborhood blogs for residents to post items.

Why post on a newspaper's blog when you could post your own elsewhere? In a word, traffic. Let's face it. Lots more people likely read the newspaper'ssite daily than your personal blog.

Some people confuse these blogs with being columns written by Sentinel employees. That's not the case.

Something I learned from this: A good idea might be to start a blog on what's going on in your neighborhood. Some Orlando area neighborhood bloggers who are involved in their neighborhood groups find that's where a great deal of their material comes from.

For PR professionals: it's ok to send notice of events, meetings, etc. to bloggers. They may choose to post those items, they may not. It's totally up to them.

Be careful about posting negative remarks about others on blogs. You don't want to get sued.

Future of neighborhood blogging- rather than geographic boundaries, blogs grouped by interests. A great example of this is

Lunch at 310 Park South

I'm having lunch with a bunch of Polk County folks and we're baking in the hot sun at 310 Park South. Our waiter is less than enthused by 9 people on separate checks.

We've learned there are lots of rules here. For example:

Thou shalt not move tables together on the sidewalk.

Thou shalt not sit at the ends of the tables, either.

Thou shalt not get a straw if you're drinking water. But you can have a straw if you're drinking anything else.

Stay tuned. More to come.

Blog Orlando- Technology Track- Word Press

Mark Jaquith is the speaker for this track.

WordPress 2.4 comes out in December. It will provide more security. Better user experience. Happy Cog design firm is overhauling the interface. Adding an "undo" feature. Page searching feature to be added.

WP philosophy is flexibility over features.

Google site map- done in xml. YOu can give weights to things to help Google find your content in your site.

What if you're on Blogger, can you transfer? Yes! Mark says there's an importer. The comments come with the transfer.

WP provides page templates. So many plugins. So many themes. If there's something you want to do with WP, there's a good chance someone has already done it and written a plugin for it.

Side note: there's a guy in this track who looks like a young Dustin Hoffman.

Blog Orlando- Technology Track- Blogging Tools

Judson Collier is leading this session. He's 16. I hope his mother knows where he is right now.

Ping and Twitter- topics to talk about. Pounce is a similar product.

Twitter is a micro blogging Web site. You're sending what you're doing to all on your friends list. Check out to learn more.

Pounce is more Web based. Twitter is more mobile.

Twitter is good to get the word out to people. It's instant communication. This is along the lines of IMing people.

Everyone's talking about twits and tweet and pings and pounces....jeez...I'm lost. And stupid, apparently.

Judson Pings the site technorati. It's kind of like Google for blogs. This is more crap I need to learn about.

Someone just asked about "building their authority" on Technorati. YOu have to get links to get authority.

Lot of different tools to track your blog. At Technorati, you can subscribe via RSS to see who's talking about you.

RSS is a URL that updates you as soon as a site is updated. is an online site to submit stories to. Users who like the stories can vote for them. will give you a button you can add to your post for people to vote on your blog posts.

Find other people who are digging the same posts you're writing, become friends with them and they will starting digging you. allows you to submit 1 story to all social sites at one time. distributed social network. You can see who's reading your blog!

Google anaytics- wide variety of different stats you can get. Put code on header or footer of your site. Can tell you who's coming to site, how long staying, etc. another stats site.

Pros and Cons of Blogger vs. Word Press. WP is generally more expandable. Blogger is just a blog and your post. WP can give you pages, so you can tab it. WP helps it look more like a "real Web site." WP has a giant variety of themes. YOu can schedule posts in WP, but not in Blogger. good hosting site.

Judson is with

Blog Orlando- Technology Track- Blogging Basics

I'm just typing in my notes from the tracks directly in here.

It's standing room only in this track. Lots more people are like me than I thought- don't know much, but want to know more.

What is a blog?

Web log. Chronology. Conversational- comments, trackbacks. Contemporaneous.

Trackbacks- msite to site or machine to machine comment.

Blogs and Web sites are looking more

Starting a blog:

Can use Blogger, Word Press, Square Space. Type Pad- this is a paid hosting service.

If blogging for a business,may be best to have it hosted locally.

It's important to have your own domain name. Credibility. Makes it real. Provides portability.

If you're interested in a paid host site, check back with, where lots of info on this topic will be provided very soon.

It's fairly easy to switch over from Blogger, to Word Press, apparently.

Why businesses should blog: If you're not out there leading the conversation, someone else may be out there writing about you. You might as well try to be part of the conversation. I really like this concept. One person in this track who soon will be blogging for her business. She has a PR background and is worried about the potential inability to "control the message."

I think people- PR professionals particularly- should lighten up a bit. Kat from Y Lakeland commented that very few people leave inappropriate comments. She would rather open up comments to everyone and remove the random inappropriate comment, than be the Comment Police on a daily basis.

Dos and Don'ts

Do- write about what you know
Do- spend quality time writing your content
Do- read other people's blogs. Link to some of the more prominent blogs in your area.

Don't- plagiarize

Crap I know nothing about, but need to learn:

Look into Google Reader. Net Newswire. Vienna. All info on RSS readers.

Comment trolls apparently a great site to search for duplicate content.

Only at Blog Orlando...

...can you tell a joke like, "He doesn't have a Twitter in his pants," and get a laugh out of it.

P.S. I barely know what Twitter is.

Google it, dear readers.

Shel Israel

Shel is the speaker before the tracks begin.

Shel is from California. He wrote Naked Conservations. Not alone. He wrote it with some other guy.

Blog Orlando Has Grown!

This is Blog Orlando 2.0. Last year, 90 people attended. This year, there are close to 300 here. It's a free event. That means free to attend, and free to not show up. Aggravatingly, some people have not shown up. That sucks for Vonya, who might have attended last-minute, had the site not closed for registration.

Rollins College provided free WiFi for the event. Yay Rollins!

Blog Orlando

I'm at Blog Orlando today, trying to figure out a bit more about this whole blogging thing. I've determined I'm not nearly nerdy enough for this crowd. Just kidding. I'm stoked about all the info being offered here. More later!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Star Sighting

I was in Los Angeles/Long Beach for a 4-day weekend this past weekend. My friend and I had to pick up her sister at LAX on Saturday and while waiting for her in baggage claim, Jack White of the White Stripes walked past me.

It was one of those infuriating situations where I recognized him a split second too late to quietly call out his name.

Now it's kind of in the back of my head, wondering if it really was him. I know it was. I would recognize that black hair, pasty skin, pointy nose, lanky body anywhere. But why couldn't it have registered a millisecond sooner so I could have gotten his attention and confirmed it?

Story of my life...

Friday, September 14, 2007

Lord, Please Don't Make Me Kill A Terrorist This Morning

It's 5:25 a.m. and I'm at Tampa International Airport. I've already had a scare.

I was about the 4th person in line at baggage check-in when a man stepped into the line behind me with a suitcase and a laptop, set them down and promptly sauntered away.

Let me just set the scene for you here: I've flown exactly one time since 9/11, and I've not flown at all since the TSA determined that shampoo and conditioner are lethal weapons when placed in carry-on luggage.

I'm a bit jumpy.

I hear the loud speaker instruct travelers to report suspicious activity and not to leave luggage unattended. "Unattended items will be impounded," the voice clearly states.

I watch this guy- who appears to be of Arab decent, as my paranoid luck would have it- walk away from his luggage while he talks on the cell phone. Holy Lord, please don't let that cell phone be a detonator, I think to myself. He walks into the restroom.

As soon as he's out of sight, an official-looking woman walks by.

"Ma'am?" I call out. "This is unattended luggage," I tattle to her as I point at the man's belongings.

She furrows her brow.

"Where did he go?" she asks.

I tell her he's in the restroom and she says, "Oh, if he's in the restroom, he'll be back. No one listens about leaving your luggage unattended."

I guess she is aware of some code of ethics among terrorists. Allah must require that when going to the restroom, thou shalt return to thy C4 explosives upon completion.

As she walks away, I see the embroidered initials on the back of her jacket: TSA.

I think to myself, "Are you freaking kidding me?!"

The guy does return to his luggage, thankfully.

Apparently my "appropriate morning conversation" filter was turned off this morning because involuntarily, I shoot my mouth off when he gets back.

"Dude, are you trying to freak everyone out this early in the morning, walking off from your luggage like that?"

He looks at me, smiles and says, "I was just in the restroom. No worries."

No worries my ---. It's 2007. We live in a different world these days.

Just know this: as I fly to Nashville and then Los Angeles this morning, my eye will be on this guy. And if he even blinks funny, he's gonna get a country butt-kickin.'

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Internships for College Students

I highly recommend that you pursue internship opportunities as a college student. The hands-on experience is a great opportunity to apply what you're learning in your course in an environment that still allows you to make mistakes. It's the perfect middle-ground between college and that first job. To that end, here are some internship opportunities to consider:

St. Pete Times Internship (this paper has a reputation for being among the best in the nation)
WESH News Channel 2 Internships
WFLA News Channel 8 Interships
Paid internships at Orlando Sentinel
Ohio Newspaper Internships (click on plus sign beside each paper)
South Carolina Internship (click on the plus sign)

Scholarship Opportunities
FSNE Multi-Media Scholarship

Florida PR/Journalism/Internship Job Postings for September 13, 2007

Sorry this is late in the day, but here are a few good job prospects:

Writing/editing seeking writers
Dream job for lifestyles reporter
Editor- Navarre press
Writer/news producer
freelance journalist for newspaper at Celebration
health and wellness magazine editor needed
seeking writer for walking tour project- Miami
assistant writer needed by publisher

Major media company wants interns

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Conversation I just had

My friend is getting married this Saturday. She's a bit of a low-maintenance tomboy. She rides horses. She doesn't dress up.

Her husband-to-be insists she wear high-heels at their wedding. On the beach.

Yeah, that's what I said, too.

So she tells me her mom took her shopping and bought her a pair of shoes. This is how she told me the story:

"My mother bought me a killer pair of heels, and when I say killer, I mean they're gonna kill me."

Please tell me I'm not the only one who thinks that's hysterical.

Florida PR/Journalism/Internship Job Postings for September 12, 2007


Copy Writer/PR blogger
Blogger with staffing expertise

Write car reviews


Freelance writer for golf publication

Daily/weekly reporters- Cape Coral

Reporter-Daily Business Review

Reporter-Biscayne Times

Writers/editor/proofreader for regional lifestyle magazine

Public Relations
PR- media relations specialist

Until the answer is "no," consider the answer "yes"

I liken writing to sales. I think this is especially true when you are a freelance writer. As a freelancer, it is your responsibility to beat the bushes for those gigs.

I've had two experiences recently that drive home the point that until you are told "no" by a potential client, you ought to assume that the answer is going to be "yes."

My pitch to a national magazine that wound up with me getting the gig is a perfect example. I played email tag with the editor for two weeks before we finally sealed the deal. It would have been easy to get discouraged and to think that if he hadn't responded by now with a "yes," he must not be interested. I decided to keep pursuing the issue until the man flat-out told me, "No, I'm not interested."

I had a similar occurrence last week. I see a help wanted ad and submit a resume and clips. Couple days pass and poster responds with what he needs done, but doesn't come right out and say he wants me to do it. I write back with a question. He writes back with a response. Finally, I ask him if he wants me to take a stab at this project. He says yes.

I share all of this to tell you not to give up. If you see a prospect you want, latch on like a pitbull. Be persistent. And keep at it until you hear the answer you want to hear, or until the door is firmly closed.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sit down a spell. That can wait.

That's the motto of the Professional Porch Sitters Union. It's a motto I can live by.

I became interested in the Professional Porch Sitters Union after watching a news segment about it recently on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. Who, by the way, has gotten a really bum rap in the media during the past few months over the news show's ratings, but alas, that's another blog for another time.

You can read about the PPS Union here, but in a nutshell, the Union encourages people to "sit around with friends and neighbors shooting the breeze as often as possible or practical."

I liked the sound of that. But I take my union memberships seriously, so I decided to give it a test run before I committed.

Two weekends ago, my husband and I sat on our screened front porch, which has three rockers, a ceiling fan and an old beer keg with a wooden checkerboard on top. It's really the perfect place for union meetings. We sat out there for a while and as we saw neighbors come outside for one thing or another, we yelled (yes, we're country and don't always believe in using the telephone) at them to come over. By the time it got dark, we had four other people on our porch.

It was a great time for a couple of reasons: 1) We had several cans of cheap, old beer in our fridge and one neighbor loves the cheap stuff. This was a great way to unload that beer. 2) No one knows their neighbors well enough these days, and it was nice to visit and get to know the people who live around us.

Last weekend, we ventured over to another neighbor's porch and sat a while.

After two weekends of giving this union a try, I'm ready to make a commitment to sittin' down for a spell. I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce all residents in the Lake Bonny area to PPS Local 1633, at your service.

Another Awkward Stage

At 35, I have reached yet another awkward stage in life. Honestly, I thought awkward stages were behind me at this point.

This isn't my most awkward stage on record, mind you. I think that one was around age 12 or 13, when I still had braces. I was shy but didn't want to be shy. I was in that "gangly puppy" stage.

You know the one I'm talking about. Remember when that puppy starts to have the body of a grown dog, but still has the legs and mind of a puppy? That was me- clutsy, unsure of myself, embarassed by everything.

This current awkward stage I've stumbled into has to do with my hair. It's getting gray. But it's not full-blown gray, so I'm in this annoying state of limbo- do I go ahead and start coloring it? Or do I turn to my best friend Anastasia and start using her to-die-for tweazers and pluck these annoyances one by one?

And that brings me to yet another awkward stage. Maybe I don't have enough gray hair to color, but darn if I don't have too many to pluck.

Perhaps I'm fortunate. Lots of friends my age have been coloring their hair for years by now. I know my mom was hiding gray before she reached 35.

I'm kind of low-maintenance with my hair, so I want to hold off on coloring it until it's absolutely necessary. I've colored it for fun before, but I've demonstrated a clear unwillingness to keep up with it, so I end up with those unfortunate roots. Not attractive.

I keep finding a little patch of six or eight gray hairs growing in one little area. Sometimes it scares me and I immediately reach for the tweazers and yank them all out. Other times, I'm defiant and I decide to let them grow. After all, State Rep. Marty Bowen has one of those streaks in her hair and she wears it well. Stacy London rocks a great skunk stripe, too.

At the end of the day, I know going gray is unavoidable. But Lord, please let me forego the unsightly wiry gray hairs and get a head full of smooth platinum hair to eventually replace my dark brown locks!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Journalism/PR Students- Choose Your Internship Wisely

This one goes out to all you college students. I had lunch this past week with a Southeastern University journalism major who will graduate with her bachelor's degree this year. She's a real go-getter who seems to know what she wants in the way of a career. Any time we have discussed her path, she's always seemed so willing to listen to the advice of those who have been in the field for a while.

Our conversations make me wonder how many college students truly seek out professionals in their field of study for the purpose of gaining insight on what they should do in college to make their educational experience as meaningful as it can be.


An internship is the way to go. This particular student landed a great internship with a local magazine.

You can, too. Here are my recommendations for landing an internship that will be a meaningful learning experience:

Determine Your Game Plan

Try to narrow down the field you're most interested in and track down some professionals in that field. Sure they're busy, but let's face it- everyone feels a bit flattered when a novice comes to them for guidance and advice.

Some questions to ask include:

  • what skills should I master to make myself marketable after college?
  • of those skills, which ones will I get from my courses, and which will I need to learn during an internship?
  • what companies would you recommend I approach for internship opportunities?

Don't React Too Quickly

Once you know the types of internships you're going to seek, don't accept the first offer you get, just because you've been offered it. Make sure it's the best fit. You can accomplish this by asking questions during your interview.

For example, if you know you want to write for a newspaper after college, you will need to learn the AP Style Book like the back of your hand. On an internship interview, ask them if they use AP Style. If they don't, you might consider seeking an internship with a publication that does.

Make sure your internship will be a learning experience for you, and not an opportunity for the company to hire an errand girl/boy for little or nothing. A good internship will allow you to get some hands-on experience. If the job description includes an overabundance of making copies, getting coffee, filing records and answering phones, you might want to consider looking elsewhere.

Don't thumb your nose at the unpaid internships. Now is the time to gather the most knowledge and experience. The internship that doesn't pay could be the one that gives you a portfolio full of clips. And those clips are sure to help you land a job after graduation.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Going for the National Gig- Be Bold!

As a writer, I've always wanted to get an article into a national magazine, but the sound of that task was so daunting, I never attempted.

Well, now I work from home as a full-time freelance writer. I know that to be successful at this, I have to beat the bushes looking for work because it's certainly not going to come knocking at my door.

I do a lot of freelancing locally. I recently wrote an article on a topic that I dearly love and although I was happy with the finished product that was published, I also felt a twinge of disappointment. There was so much more to the story that I didn't have space to put in a newspaper article.

This dilemma got me thinking: why not finally take that leap and approach a national magazine? This way, I could write a different article on the same topic and include all those nuggets that I couldn't put in the newspaper version.

I did it, and I got the gig. It was so easy, in fact, that now I can't imagine why I didn't attempt it sooner. The editor said something that really surprised me, too.

In my case, I had already written an article on the topic, so I included that in my email pitch. During a follow-up phone conversation, he said it was obvious that I had a strong newspaper background because the article was concise and well-written.

I'm not telling you this to brag on myself. I'm telling you because of what he said next: "You wouldn't believe some of the crap that people send me."

I got off the phone and couldn't quit thinking about how I've been short-changing myself all these years. I've always felt like I was a decent writer, and never had the guts to send anything to a national magazine, while apparently there are people out there who aren't good writers, but they still have the guts to submit ideas nationally.

You know what that tells me? Be bold.

Now I want to share with you how I did it, in hope that it gives you the confidence to try it for yourself.

Do Your Homework
  • Go to a local bookstore and look through their magazine section for the type of magazines that focus on the particular subject you wish to write about.
  • Read the articles to get an idea of the tone, the type of information they include and the style the magazine uses.
  • Find the name of an editor. Then go to the magazine's Web site, where you can almost always find the editor's email address.

Have a Well-Prepared Pitch

  • In my case, this was easy, because I already had an article on the topic. If this is the case, send them a copy of the article and be up-front about whether it's been published somewhere else. If it's been published, explain how this article will be written differently for the publication to which you are pitching.
  • If you don't already have an article written, make sure you include in your email why this is a good topic for the magazine. Pitch your three most interesting elements of this idea.

Don't Jump the Gun

  • Of course you're dying to know what you will get paid, but don't be tacky. Wait until you know you have the gig, then ask about payment. If you're not happy with the amount and you think you can do better, politely thank them for the opportunity and explain that you want to shop the idea to other publications first.
  • Don't forget to ask them about their preferred style and length. There's no sense in writing 2,000 words if they only have room for 900.

So that's it. I hope this helps. Happy pitching!

Dressing skimpily on Southwest Airlines

College student and Hooters Waitress Kyla Ebbert almost didn't make her flight from San Diego to Tuscon for a doctor appointment recently. That's because one of the flight attendants, who also was serving as the fashion police that day, told her that her outfit was too revealing. Check out the entire story at USA Today.

This morning, Kyla was on the Today Show to be interviewed by Matt Lauer. The Today Show did a great job of building up the story by showing Kyla only from the neck up until the actual interview took place, so they could do the "big reveal" and have Kyla stand while wearing what she had worn on that fateful flight.

I'll admit that I'm a VERY observant person. It's a blessing/curse that comes with having worked as a journalist for much of my life.

So I saw something during this newscast that I wonder if many others saw. Miss Kyla, tall and tanned, stood up during the interview to show viewers her outfit. Honestly, the only clothing item that I could have called into question was her short, white denim cut-off skirt.

Frankly, it was rather anti-climatic-- until she sat back down and crossed her legs. I'm telling you, gentle readers, it's a good-thing Kyla wasn't pulling a Britney Spears that morning, because viewers who were watching closely saw white undies glaring back at us from the camera!

I hope I'm not the only one who finds the humor in this. Here's Kyla, her mom and her attorney on national television in an attempt to show how ridiculous it is that her outfit was deemed inappropriate. Then she gives the nation a glimpse of her panties. What a riot.

Blogging 101

Yesterday I met up with local blogger Chuck Welch at one of my favorite coffee shops, Black and Brew. His blog is Lakeland Local and it's a good, often humorous read, especially if you live in Lakeland, Florida.

Chuck graciously agreed to give me some blog coaching, as I'm trying to beef up my blog and make it into something really relevant. Doing that means I have to learn the basics first.

Let me just say this: Chuck knows his stuff.

Chuck offered to help me out after I sent out a call for help on Polk Voice, a blog site that is a product of The Ledger, Polk County's newspaper of record. I was so grateful when Chuck responded with an offer to help.

I also was surprised to find that after my original post was published in the print version of Polk Voice, I received two additional offers from local bloggers to assist me in whipping my blog into shape.

Here's what I learned: never be shy about asking for help. This is true for everything- breaking into the freelance writing business, becoming a blogger, anything.

When someone is kind enough to give of their time and expertise, thank them. And when the opportunity presents itself to return the favor by helping out someone else, do it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Florida Freelance Writing Opportunities

Here's some good news for all you freelance writers in Florida. Soon, this blog will post a periodic round-up of excellent freelance writing opportunities, with a focus on jobs in Florida.

Until that element is added to this blog, feel free to visit and click on Florida. You will notice that Craigslist has added several new Florida cities, including my hometown of Ocala, and my adopted hometown of Lakeland. Other new areas are the Florida Keys, the Space Coast and the Treasure Coast.

Happy hunting!

If you know of a freelance writing gig and you would like me to list it on this blog, please email the information to