Saturday, May 4, 2013

Journalists leave traditional newsroom, build startups

Panelists — Tanji Patton, panel moderator, Laura Lorek, founder of Silicon Hills News, Marketing Consultant Roell Vento, and Charlotte-Anne Lucas of NOWCastSA — speak about entrepreneurial journalism for the SPJ Region 8 Conference.
Story and photos by Melody Mendoza

A panel of now-entrepreneurial journalists spoke about their experience transitioning into nontraditional journalistic roles. The session was part of SPJ’s Region 8 Conference May 4 in San Antonio.

Tanji Patton, who moderated the panel, said “Plan A is always the one you think is going to work,” but added that potential entrepreneurial journalists should have a plan B and C.

“You will work harder than you probably have ever worked,” she said, “but there’s something freeing about it being your own.”

Laura Lorek, founder of Silicon Hills News

Lorek is a former technology reporter for the San Antonio Express-Newspaper, and decided to start her own online publication after a move to Wimberley.

Silicon Hills News is a technology news startup covering Austin and San Antonio entrepreneurs.

From her experience developing her news site, Lorek gave these tips:

·      Start small: “Don't launch a big marketing budget right away unless you’re confident doing that” and “Don’t spend a lot of money on technology right away.”
·      “Never spend the money until you have it in the bank.”
·      Get grants: The Society of Professional Engineering supplies grants to journalists who are doing investigative projects and to get crowd funding.

Lorek also suggested tapping into local resources and investing in classes.

She said business cards really impact your brand. sells “cheap and fantastic business cards,” Lorek said.

Follow Lorek @lalorek or Silicon Hills News on Twitter

Roell Vento, marketing consultant

Vento has worked in Internet marketing and digital media since 1992 and helps national businesses and company startups improve branding, increase revenue, cut costs and meet business objectives.

Although Vento doesn’t have a background in journalism, he prepped future entrepreneurs about becoming a good accountant, which he said is the most important thing because “that is the backbone of your own business.”

Entrepreneurship is all about “looking for that opportunity.” When things happen, he said jump on the opportunity.
Charlotte-Anne Lucas, NOWCastSA

Lucas began as a journalist writing for newspapers throughout the country. In 2009, she was selected to lead NOWCastSA, which promotes and facilitates civic conversations through education, training, community news, events and multimedia, according to the website.

She said the online news organization has recorded 70 hours of local programming in San Antonio.

Lucas said it’s important to identify the customer and realize that they are actual people and are the ones that will pay for a service.

Lucas’ blog features books and columns by entrepreneurial journalists that she suggests following. This also builds networking and allows journalists to connect with similar businesses.

She said these partnerships are important to a successful startup.

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