Let’s talk about something other than the elections. Please.
I’ve been working in digital media for (far) more than a decade, and I’m still amazed at the incredible time in which we live. A petition can gather a million signatures within hours. A cartoonist can raise more than a million dollars to build a Tesla museum. A single person with a cell phone can be heard around the world in an instant.
That’s why I started the Nutgraf Brilliance Award. I kept seeing these amazing things – incredibly imaginative campaigns, simple yet irresistible memes, acts of brilliance from unlikely sources. I wanted to give someone worthy a pat on the back when they do something exceptional, because no one hears it enough when they do a great job. And it’s thanks to these incredible tools that I can just decide one day to establish an award. Honestly, the hardest part was creating the very analog trophies.
In my work with the Association of Opinion Journalists, I’ve had the opportunity to hear some phenomenal newspaper editors – true content experts – discuss some of the problems they have in common. The journalism part is never at issue. What plagues them is how to engage with readers online – a must in today’s publishing environment – while keeping it classy. Online comments can be a catalyst for thoughtful discussion and a valuable tool for reader engagement. They can also be a cesspool of vitriol, hate and name-calling. Kind of like the real world.
Digital snark, sarcasm and outrage travel literally at the speed of light, and that’s sometimes a good thing. Whistleblowers, fiery commentary and warnings are incredibly valuable. The same conditions that foment lively analysis also nurtures trolls. It’s simply the ecosystem in which we work – just ask Gawker who recently exposed one of the most prolific.
As a manager, as a mother, and as a content producer, I believe that the best results come from positive reinforcement. When times are tough, we must work harder to praise and encourage great work – raising the bar and moving forward together.
My college (Oberlin – Go Yeomen!) had a motto: “Think one person can change the world? We do.” All of the projects and organizations featured on Armchair Advocates have in common the noble desire to make the world a better place. They also have the know-how and tools to make it happen, leveraging the potential of social media to fulfill the promise of social good.
And while the Nutgraf Award will never go Internet Supernova, it does brighten my corner of the world – and hopefully the days of the people and organizations we recognize for their fine work. I’m a big believer – like all people who work for social good – in the ripple effect, and am proud to make this contribution to the ecosystem.
Now, it’s your turn. If you’ve seen something online that made you sit up and say “Wow. They should get an award,” let us know. We’re accepting nominations until November 30.
Thea Joselow is a writer, editor and digital media consultant based inBethesda, Maryland. She has worked for such illustrious institutions as National Public Radio, Smithsonian Magazine, and at a strategic communications firm in Washington, D.C. Her favorite professional qualification is that for a brief time she wrote the online quiz for the Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me program. Currently, she is the head of social and digital media for Arogya World, a small but mighty nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting non-communicable disease. She is also somebody’s mother. On Twitter: @tjoselow