I’ve written before about how the culture of traditional journalism tends to be rather insular, self-referential and — increasingly — toxic. This is especially true of the events that journalists typically attend, and the communities with which they typically mix.
Journalists mainly go to conferences specifically about journalism or specifically for journalists. While they also attend other events, this is usually for research or reporting — not to be “part of the crowd.”
…And that, I think, is a huge missed opportunity. Increasingly, community building and team building are becoming core skills for a career in journalism. The fast-shifting news business requires that journalists personally know and be able to work well with technologies, business people, marketers, community organizers, financiers, nonprofits and advocates, and other people from complementary fields. Every profession has its own culture and its own events. Attending these events — not just for aloof observation, but in order to join those communities — can be a great way to expand your career options.
Today and tomorrow I’m attending an event that represents a perfect opportunity to connect with geek culture. It’s She’s Geeky, a periodic “unconference” held at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA…
The She’s Geeky site defines the purpose of this event as:
“A neutral, face-to-face gathering space for women who like to geek out. Attendees include women involved in all aspects of technology, including those who like to use geeky tools, not just coders, programmers and engineers. You don’t even have to be from the computer industry. You just have to be a woman who identifies as a geek.
From the perspective of a journalist who wants to connect more with geeks and geek culture, in order to build bridges that can support your journalism and your career, an event like She’s Geeky is especially appealing:
- Accessible. It’s not all going to be about hardcore coding or gadgets. There should be ample discussion at a level that most non-geeks (including journalists) can follow reasonably well.
- Unconference format. Attendees gather at the start of the event to define the topics of the day’s sessions. Also, these sessions are mainly for discussion and sharing, not lectures. This means that if you get there early you can propose a session or play a role in refining a topic. That’s a great way not just to get your own informational needs met, but also to get noticed as someone who wants to actively work with the community.
- Female culture. Most tech conferences are a heavily male playground. This affects not only the topics covered and event structure, but the tone of interaction. In my experience, conferences that are primarily oriented toward women in a given field tend to be more welcoming and less cliquish or hierarchical than events where male culture predominates. This means that even male journalists who are newcomers to tech culture might get more out of an event like She’s Geeky than an uber-geekboy rave like Gnomedex (which is fun, but maybe not for your first stop).
A good resources to find all sorts of upcoming events for various fields is Upcoming. Also, as I wrote earlier, Meetup.com can be your gateway to many local communities that gather on a regular basis.
How are you connecting with other communities and professions — not just as an observer but as a participant? What strategies have you found useful? Please comment below.
(NOTE: I originally posted this article to Poynter’s