Remembering Dori Maynard: Journalist, Bellwether

Kimberly N. Alleyne

Dori J. MaynardDuring my time as a copy editor at the Poughkeepsie Journal newspaper, I was selected to attend the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education’s editing intensive. It was an eight-week program, I think, that to-date ranks as one of the most challenging yet simultaneously-rewarding professional experiences I’ve enjoyed. It’s where I met Dori J. Maynard.

I’ll break AP Style here and call her “Dori” on second reference instead of Maynard because to do otherwise would just seem odd, and cold.

I remember being impressed to near silence when we met; I felt so inadequate and unaccomplished in her presence. She did nothing to make me feel that way. It was the greatness of her, her work, her vision that caught my tongue. I knew she was an accomplished and highly-regarded reporter prior to taking the helm as president of MIJE and all I could manage to whisper, in my thoughts, was, “Wow…me, too. One day.”

Dori followed in the footsteps of her father, Robert C. Maynard, who co-founded the Institute for Journalism Education in 1977 (it was renamed the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education following Maynard’s 1993 death); but she certainly carved out her own byways—all in the name of diversity: diversity in newsrooms and diversity in coverage. “The Institute is the nation’s oldest organization focusing on ensuring newspapers, magazines and other news outlets accurately portray overlooked communities,” according to the MIJE website.

Robert C. and Dori J. Maynard. Maynard Institute.

Robert C. and Dori J. Maynard. Maynard Institute.

Her brilliance inspired me to go for more, to go beyond filing or editing a story, to add my voice to the conversation, to use journalism as a vehicle to spark solutions and change. I went on to write and edit for America’s Wire, a MIJE project, and to use journalism to lift up disparities among underserved populations. Some of my inspiration to focus on social justice journalism was triggered by my time at MIJE— and Dori’s work.

Americas_Wire
In 2013, after George Zimmerman was acquitted of shooting to death Trayvon Martin, she wrote a column for the Oakland Tribune:

It’s time for us to look at what our distorted coverage of communities of color is doing to the country. It’s time for us to look at whether we’re meeting our ethical obligation to give our audience factual and credible information necessary to make rational decisions in its private life and about public policies.

Dori died on Tuesday, Feb. 24, but her voice will continue to permeate conversations on race, social justice and fairness. The scores of journalists she mentored, those she befriended and other colleagues, will, I hope, carry the lyrics of her ballad for what is fair, right and equitable in their work.

Bob Butler, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, said, “It’s hard to fathom how the institute is going to go on, but it’s got to go on.”

Dori’s work, her father’s work, is not done, and the Institute will go on. It must.

We can carry the Maynard legacy forward and ensure the Institute does go on by 1) making a commitment to hire from communities of color when we are in a position to do so; 2) pursuing diversity in coverage — whether you’re an editor or a reporter, ask yourself, “Does this story/angle accurately and adequately represent the community my outlet serves? Do I have enough voices; 3) honestly assessing our biases and blindspots; and 4) Giving to the MIJE so that more doors are opened for more journalists of color more often. It’s not that hard.

Policy Link Dori Maynard

Infographic: Give Your Press Release A Little Oomph

10 Tips to Optimize Your Press Release by Ervin & Smith.

10 Tips to Optimize Your Press Release by Ervin & Smith.

Kimberly N. Alleyne
I love a good infographic, especially one that’s educational or helps make my job easier. I’m sharing this great infographic from Ervin & Smith on how to enhance your press release so that it’s more likely to be read. Enjoy!

Krispy Kreme’s Alliteration Blunder

Kimberly N. Alleyne

There is nothing like a fresh, hot glazed Krispy Kreme doughnut (Bow down Dunkin’ Donuts). And if you’re a genuine fan, then you know well the happiness that flashing red light evokes.

Krispy Kreme and I go way back. Since I am always exceptionally satisfied with the product, and can’t recall a negative customer service experience, we’ve had a great relationship. So I was quite disappointed to read of a UK Krispy Kreme’s recent promotion snafu. The franchise ran a promo using the letters KKK in the text. It was intended, according to the franchise, to stand for Krispy Kreme Klub. The franchise swiftly removed the promo from its Facebook page after followers called them on it, and then issued an apology. Perhaps, it was an innocent oversight, or maybe it was a dumb oversight; maybe someone thought it would be a clever play (KKK does have international branches).

Krispy Kreme KKK Promo

I won’t speculate on the intent. However, there a lessons PR pros can learn from this alliteration accident:

1. Incidents such as this are reminders of the importance of diversity–and inclusion–of public relations, marketing and communication teams. The same goes for  newsrooms. In an age where one in five Americans will be foreign born by 2050, it’s critical that public relations practitioners be cognizant of the diverse audiences/publics they often speak to and engage.

Today’s practitioner must be adept at studying and accommodating the unique needs and sensitivities of population segments — there really is no excuse for the, “We didn’t know,” excuse anymore. Corporate, nonprofit and government teams that are responsible managing the face, voice and reputation of organizations must be comprised of diverse perspectives, backgrounds, races and ethnicities. No excuses.

2. Sometimes it is wise to get points of view of colleagues outside of the pr/marketing space. You might have spent hours thinking of the perfect phrase or wording, but that does not mean that more due diligence isn’t in order. Step outside the ego box and solicit opinions; you never know what you might be overlooking.

3. Market testing, though not always plausible, is valuable and worth the effort. Testing language and potential promo campaigns on a select audience can prevent crises.

Screenshot of Hull, England Krispy Kreme Facebook page

Screenshot of Hull, England Krispy Kreme Facebook page

A short round of applause to this UK Krispy Kreme for quickly removing the offensive promo and issuing an apology.

   “We do believe this was a completely unintentional oversight on the part of our longtime franchise   partners in the U.K.,” according to a statement by company spokesperson Lafeea Watson.

#Check It Out: PR in A Box with Personal Branding Expert Amanda Miller Littlejohn

Kimberly N. Alleyne

How’s your branding game? Are you in the fourth quarter with no clue how to score a touchdown or field goal? Could you use a few tested, concrete tips to add some panache to your play book? If you find that you’re able to expertly create PR and marketing strategies, solutions and tactics for others but not for yourself, then perhaps your personal brand needs a good polish. If that’s you, I have an answer for you, and it comes in a beautifully package box from Amanda Miller Littlejohn, personal branding consultant and coach.

Continue reading

Polish Your Pitching Prowess with These Tips

Kimberly N. Alleyne

??

It’s no secret that journalists are doing more with less, primarily less time. That means they have less time to listen to or read pitches. So, what’s a PR pro to do? How does a PR pro make her/his pitch stand out and draw interest? Here are tools to enhance your pitching game and get your story at the front of the line.

1. Be familiar with the work of the journalist you’re pitching: This is particularly important if you don’t have an established relationship with the reporter you’re approaching. Knowing the topics that a journo typically covers and what she has covered recently can only increase your chances of success. Even more so if what you’re pitching has a close tie-in to a recent story the journalist wrote. So study the reporter’s work, get to know his style and the details he likes to include in his stories.

2. Know the audience of the publication you’re pitching: This is an easy one. Don’t pitch the research findings of a new non-biodegradable material to a quilting magazine.

3. S&S: Short and Simple: Ideally, you should be able to summarize your pitch in one to two (short) paragraphs. One effect of the digisphere, is that folks do not appreciate reading as in decades past. Emailing/posting dissertation-esque material puts you at risk of losing a reader’s attention in milliseconds.

4. Get the basics right: Not much to say here. It’s inexcusable to misspell a reporter’s name, or worse use the wrong name altogether. Do your homework and get it right.

Continue reading

This Is How Brian Williams Should Handle His Credibility Crisis

Kimberly N. Alleyne

For the last few months, NBC has been running a great tribute package to celebrate Brian Williams’s 10 year anniversary as the anchor of NBC Nightly News. Each time I see the tribute, I think, “I can’t believe it’s been 10 years.” I still remember watching the program when Tom Brokaw was the anchor. In the 10 years since Williams has taken the throne, he has greeted viewers each evening with qualities that take [broadcast] journalists far: likability, good reporting and trust. Now two of those elements are in question. He’s still likable, but can viewers trust him to deliver a truthful story? And what about his reporting? Is it accurate, or is he forgetful about what actually happened in the course of his reporting?
Continue reading