In which I frustrate a TV host …

Monday, July 17, 2017
When Chris Robling subbed for Bruce DuMont Sunday night as host of Beyond the Beltway, he invited me to join the panel for a round of political gab.

As you’ll see, I disappointed Chris by refusing to make predictions—something I’ve foresworn since the 2016 presidential campaign.

Save those videotaped memories—cheap

Sunday, June 18, 2017
Esquire culture editor Tyler Coates has filed an eloquent elegy for the last surviving records of his late father’s voice: Videotapes “sitting in a pile at my mom’s house … probably too old to transfer to a digital medium.”

(Photo: Toby Hudson.)
I’m here to say otherwise and to encourage you to save those memories while you can—for your sake, and for the sake of those who follow you.

It begins with two simple commands.
  1. Do not throw away any working VCR or video camera. (Meyerson’s Law of Aging Recording and Playback Electronics: If it works, don’t throw it away. Corollary: If it doesn’t work, keep it anyway because maybe it can be fixed or the parts will be useful.) Or pick up a few at estate or garage sales; they tend to break at this vintage, so having a backup or two is a good idea. (The cameras, especially, get pricey on eBay.)
  2. Until you’ve digitized tapes with irreplaceable memories, take care in your storage of them.
Yes, you can ship your tapes off to commercial services to have them digitized, but that quickly gets expensive.

And, yes, maybe your tapes have become fragile, but unless they’ve been submerged or baking in the sun, odds are good they have another few plays left. Assuming you have a working playback machine, you can do the job much more cheaply yourself.

Since I went through this whole process late last year, here’s a broad overview for how to save those recordings to digital computer files for generations to come. (And, yes, you can get a DVD recorder, but they cost a lot, too.)
  1. Make sure you have plenty of computer storage space. Video files are big, especially at VHS-tape length. If your computer’s hard drive doesn’t have much free space, get an external drive.
  2. Gather your tapes, ideally in chronological order. (If they’re not labeled, don’t worry about ordering them until after they’ve been digitized. The older the tapes, the less likely they are to hold up under repeated playback, so don’t watch them just to determine a date.)
  3. Connect your playback device—VCR or camera—to a computer. You’ll find lots of relatively cheap ways to do that.
  4. Devise a naming scheme that you’ll follow for each tape. My recommendation is to begin each file name with a consistent word or title, followed by a year, month and (optional) date—in that order—like “Meyerson 1993-05 to 07-31,” so that when all your files are collected in a folder, they can be arranged chronologically or reverse-chronologically simply by clicking on the file name header.
  5. Choose your recording software. For importing later-generation miniDV tapes to a Macintosh, I had good luck with—and responsive tech support from—LifeFlix software. You can find many other options for older VHS (and VHS-C and Betamax and Video8 and other analog format tapes; basically, anything with those red-white-yellow output jacks). The details will vary depending on your software, but the basic routine is then pretty much the same:
  6. Press Record on the computer, then press Play on the camera or VCR. (Some software will let you set a timer to stop recording; if not, you’ll want to trim the excess blank recording at the end to keep file sizes down.)
  7. Walk away (or sit there, if you prefer, slackjawed in amazement at how stupid hair styles used to be).
  8. Return and repeat.
When you’re done, dump ’em all on a backup hard drive—maybe many drives, as a gift for each relative.

If you’re willing to sacrifice image quality and don’t mind letting your computer take forever—days, if you start with dozens of two-hour tapes, as I did—to upload huge video files, Google Photos offers unlimited storage of reduced- (“high”-)quality images and videos for free. (Google automatically downgrades the quality during upload.)

From there, your archival videos are easily searchable and sharable via any computer or smartphone you’re logged in to.

Like this. (Caution: Much boring family footage follows. Viewer discretion is advised.)

Video8 tape recorded in 1993 digitized using EyeTV software, saved at “high-quality” resolution through Google Photos.

Questions? Happy to help. Comment below, or email

Meyerson, recommended

Monday, June 12, 2017
A career devoted to creating content that keeps and builds an audience — from award-winning radio news that kept music-loving audiences from punching the button ... to what became Tribune Co.’s highest-clickthrough-rated editorial email product, Daywatch ... to creation of the innovative and award-winning “Tinder for radio news” app, Rivet: Content strategist, podcast and radio engagement expert, email and social media pioneer — linking great work with growing audiences online, on-air, in print. (Updated, June 2017.)

A sampling of recommendations. Many more posted to LinkedIn:


Sheryl BeckBroadcast Representative at SAG-AFTRA: “Charlie is exceptional! He created and led a social media training for our broadcast members that was so dynamic and informative, people just couldn’t get enough. He shared his vast wisdom, tips and insight and, at the same time, pulled virtually everyone into the discussion with participants sharing their best wisdom, tips and insight. The only problem was the training was just not long enough! At two hours, no one was ready to leave.”

Aurora AguilarEditor of News, Modern Healthcare“We had Charlie present at our annual editorial retreat. He gave us great insight into our distribution of content and offered some good advice on how to more successfully engage our readers through better headlines and concise writing. I would recommend Charlie for any editorial strategy consultancy.”

Molly McDonough, editor and publisher, ABA Journal: “Charlie was a positive, energizing force for me and my co-workers. I appreciated the time he spent learning about our operation, then pointing out ways he thought we could improve, and most importantly, showing us how. I especially liked that he rolled up his sleeves and spent one-on-one time with staff answering questions, editing and coaching. His observations and suggestions led us to make immediate changes that proved good for us and our readers.”

Sarah Rand, partner engagement and communications consultant, American Institutes for Research. Charlie was great to work with on our podcast. He helped with the podcast at every step of the way from conceptualization to editing. Our team constantly kept Charlie’s mantra in mind as we created the piece: Don’t be boring! And the podcast turned out great!”

Stephen Anzaldi, internal communications manager, Northwestern University. “When I brought him in to share lessons with my colleagues in the Northwestern University news office, he took it to the next level. Charlie is incredibly effective in clarifying, helping to cut through the noise that has become online communication. Our email news alert is more crisp and sharp as a result. ... I’m tempted to go back to j-school to sit in on more of his lessons.”

Dan Haley, publisher, Wednesday Journal Inc. “Several years ago our weekly community newspapers were trying to figure out how to drive traffic to the updated news coverage we were posting to our then new website. We had breaking news on the site but people were still perceiving us as a weekly news product. Charlie ... directly laid out the solution. We had to build an e-mail list of our readers so that we could push out our news updates to them. That solution is probably the most central element of our success digitally. Now, multiple times a week, we send e-mail updates to many thousands of our readers. Today that seems obvious. Eight or 10 years ago it was a fantastic insight from Charlie. He is clear-eyed, problem-solving, direct-talking.”

Bob Rowley, director of media relations, Northwestern University. “Charlie ... presented a fascinating and informative lecture and Q&A for my media relations team at Northwestern University on maximizing our audience and sharpening our Web content. He’s a pro, a wise man and a great colleague. He knows the Web and the news business and would bring great insight and value to any non-profit organization, public institution or private enterprise.”

Linda Lenz, then-publisher, Catalyst Chicago. “Charlie examined the audience data for our weekly news e-blast and our Feedburner feed, finding patterns that prompted us to make changes — mainly in layout and headlines. Almost immediately, our Feedburner ‘reach’ rose 50%, and our e-blast click-throughs are trending up. Charlie presented his critique in a manner that made them easy for all of us to swallow. It was time very well spent.”

Sophia Madana, then-digital/social media specialist, VanderCook College of Music. “I attended a lecture Charlie presented on email marketing. ... After implementing his tips, the open rate of my email campaign is nearing 20 percent and the click-through rate has increased significantly. I happily recommend Mr. Meyerson as a consultant to any company or organization looking to amp up its digital presence without feeling too overwhelmed.”


Alison Scholly, former chief operating officer, Chicago Public Media: “Charlie Meyerson is ... creative, well spoken, pays attention to detail, challenges conventional wisdom and has an affable relationship with all colleagues, whether they work in the news department or not. I worked with Charlie for many years at Chicago Tribune Interactive, and his leadership was frequently sought out by others because he was insightful, witty, respectful of others and worked tirelessly to collect and share audience insights with his team. I would hire Charlie into many leadership positions, but especially into roles that require consistent high effort, thoughtful decision-making, strong relationship-building skills and the ability to glean audience insights and take well-reasoned risks.”

Lou Carlozo, investment staff writer, U.S. News & World Report: “Charlie is, plain and simple, a visionary of news and radio content. He was the first person I ever met to grasp what ‘search engine optimization’ meant, in the mid-2000s. He was years ahead of his time. The same reporters who groaned at his wise counsel regarding SEO were scrambling to catch up years later. Charlie is wise, smart as a whip, and hands down one of the best news and radio pros I’ve ever worked with. I’m grateful for all he taught me, as it allowed me to go to AOL and achieve fabulous results in a short time. He also has a way of promoting loyalty and team play like few others I’ve met. He’s the best, period.”

Walter Sabo, former CEO, Merlin Media; and former vice president, ABC Radio NetworksCharlie is a great professional ... extremely collaborative and smart. He knows Chicago and understands the needs of the listener and the media community. I would work with him any time, anywhere.”

Boris Geisler, UX & UI design, innovation and production consultant — and architect of the Rivet Radio app: “Charlie is phenomenal! He combines a level of comprehension, professionalism, and joy that I’ve not seen in a newsman and story-teller. His attention to detail and sense of righteousness is what makes him a top-notch leader and strategist. He led Rivet Radio to journalistic excellence and a long list of awards. Plus, if it wasn’t for Charlie, I wouldn’t have the primary news source I enjoy every day! If you’re up to something big, hire Charlie! He knows!”

Former students and interns

Adam Langeracclaimed novelist, critic and Forward culture editor. “One of the great pleasures of my college years was the time I spent as an intern at WXRT-FM. What, in part, made it such a wonderful and fulfilling experience was the presence of Charlie Meyerson. Always professional, informative, dedicated, and exceedingly well-prepared, Charlie helped me to learn the crafts of editing and writing, particularly under tight deadlines. He was both an excellent teacher and a terrific colleague.”

Scott Kitun, CEO at Technori, management consultant, and Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism graduateOf all of the many instructors at Medill, ... Charlie ... provided me with the most value, post-graduation! I still rely on Charlie for guidance and mentorship years after having him as my instructor. His vision and understanding of the ever-changing media landscape is invaluable, as is his professional experience.”

Lauren Victory, reporter, WBBM-TV (CBS), Chicago. Charlie Meyerson mentored me since my beginning days as a journalist. When I was in my junior year at Northwestern University, ... Charlie focused on both the old and new of our industry — delving into ethics and the digital future .... Years after my internship, he remains a sounding board for me and a connection to several important journalists in the Chicago area.”

Giacomo Luca, reporter, KXTV-TV (ABC), Sacramento. “Professor, mentor, news director, friend: If you’re looking for the best of these, it’s Charlie Meyerson. He is one of the most influential teachers in my life and I wouldn’t be where I’m at today without him. His News Reporting class was spot-on what it is like to work in a daily newsroom. He brings passion, years of experience and independent attention. He helped instill the skills I needed to go on to become a professional journalist.”

Kim Strickland, author, blogger and airline pilot. “I interned under Charlie at WXRT Radio in Chicago during the summer of 1984. ... He made me feel comfortable at ‘XRT, like part of the team, even though I was just a kid, and he found a way to critique my writing in such a supportive and instructive way, I still carry what he taught with me to this day.... On days when I just don’t feel like sitting in the chair, I hear Charlie’s words in my ear, “Have fun and do well.” Do well. And so I try. Because I do not want to let this man down.”

Read more recommendations.

Email newsletters and the art of the headline

Tuesday, June 6, 2017
When Chicago-area librarians invited me to talk about driving engagement through email and social media, I was honored to share what I know.

Here’s my presentation to members of Library Administrators Conference of Northern Illinois, April 28, 2017, at the Oak Park Public Library.

If your organization could benefit from similar counsel, just holler.