Charlie Meyerson ...

Wednesday, July 1, 2020
… has delivered award-winning Chicago-area news for a long time—including more than 10 years at the city’s legendary progressive rock station, WXRT-FM 93.1; almost nine years at pioneering “smooth jazz” station WNUA-FM 95.5; almost 13 years at Tribune Co., as senior producer and Daywatch columnist at chicagotribune.com and then as news director at Chicago’s premier news/talk station, WGN-AM 720.

After a year as Chicago bureau chief for the short-lived (but fun) FM News Chicago and New York—covering government, politics, culture and technology—Meyerson became founding head of news at the digital audio startup Rivet, where he led the team to two national Edward R. Murrow Awards; adjunct professor of journalism at Roosevelt University; an occasional contributor to WXRT, WBEZ-FM 91.5 and Crain’s Chicago Business; and principal at Meyerson Strategy, a content strategy, podcasting and media consulting practice.

With his Rivet colleagues, he has been awarded a U.S. patent for delivering a “contextually relevant media content stream based on listener preference.

His latest project, Chicago Public Square, launched in January 2017, is a return to the newscasting biz—this time through an email-delivered news roundup billed as “Chicago’s new front page.”

Meyerson, winner of dozens of journalism awards—including a national Edward R. Murrow Award for audio investigative reporting and a national UPI award for investigative reporting—is NOT picking his nose in the photo above.


Chronology

June 26, 2020: Sustaining journalism in a pandemic: ‘We need each other’ (Illinois Press Association)
“What’s yet to be seen is what that right size is for the media landscape at large. Is it going to be the big companies shrinking, or the small companies growing?”
June 9, 2020: ‘Chicago Public Square: Keeping Chicago informed and winning awards along the way.’ (Rad Letters)
“Readers’ attention is not to be taken for granted. Their priority is fundamentally opposed to publishers’ and broadcasters’ priority: We want them to spend all their time with us, and they want to get on with their lives. In email—as in radio news—every word counts.”
May 28, 2020: Chicago Public Square offers daily news briefings (WGN Radio)
“Charlie joined Bob Sirott to talk about … the competitiveness of digital news… and the ‘embarrassment of riches’ when it comes to news.”
March 18, 2020: ‘Charlie’s daily newsletter … a must-read every single day.’ (WGN Radio)
“Meyerson joins Justin to talk about Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park leaders urging residents to ‘shelter in place’ to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
Jan. 30, 2020: ‘The future of local news media’ (Newcity)
“A diversity of reliable, responsible and well-funded sources is a good thing—and a big improvement over the days when a handful of organizations, mostly run by white guys, decided what was newsworthy.”
Nov. 19, 2019: ‘How News Outlets Can Make Email Newsletters More Effective.’ (Local News Initiative)
“Certain words and turns of phrase and presentations and headline styles can work to connect people with great journalism.”
Nov. 11, 2019: ‘Meyerson wins best blog in Chicago Reader poll.’ (Illinois College of Media)
“More than 30,000 people voted in more than 300 categories of the poll.”
May 13, 2019: ‘Meyerson … picked up best radio newscast honors for The Chicago Public Square Newscast.’ (Robert Feder)
“The other finalist in the category was WBBM Newsradio. Meyerson also had a hand in the winner for best podcast, Rivet Radio, where the veteran Chicago newsman works part-time as vice president/editorial and development.”
Sept. 18, 2018: ‘Meyerson … moderated a thoughtful and enlightening panel …’ (Robert Feder)
“… on how newspaper editorial boards operate.”
April 4, 2018: ‘Charlie Meyerson, the veteran Chicago journalist and digital news pioneer who keeps finding new ways to do great work …’ (Robert Feder)
“… just launched a Chicago Public Square Newscast series.”
Sept. 13, 2017: ‘Charlie Meyerson, our terrific moderator’ (Wednesday Journal)
“Those of you lucky enough to be in the audience … saw the easy rapport between Axelrod and Charlie ….”
July 28, 2017: This veteran Chicago journalist is using an email ‘newscast’ to keep people informed (Poynter)
“In his opinion… what works in newsletters is what’s always worked best in journalism: Be clear and concise, don’t waste people’s time, offer them something of value.”
June 29, 2016: A Murrow award for Rivet Radio (Chicago Reader)
“A sweet honor for an innovative operation that was a gleam in Charlie Meyerson’s eye just two and a half years ago.”
June 21, 2016: Rivet Radio Makes the Best of a Bad Situation (FishbowlNY)
[The national Edward R. Murrow Award-winning report] “is hosted by Charlie Meyerson.”
March 21, 2016: Free from the tyranny of the clock (WGN-AM podcast)
“Charlie Meyerson ... joins Justin to discuss the evolution of the media landscape, the future of radio and podcasting, digital media, content creation, the ease of editing, what it takes to get people to listen and finding ways to monetize your product.”
March 3, 2016: Rivet Radio’s Charlie Meyerson gives our readers podcast pointers (Chicago Journalists Association)
“Award-winning Chicago radio (WXRT, WGN, WBEZ) and Internet (chicagotribune.com, Rivet) newsman Charlie Meyerson’s taking his expertise in audience engagement and radio production on the road over the next few weeks.”
Sept. 19, 2015: ‘Listen to it like you hate me’: Audio editing advice from a radio professional (Excellence in Journalism 2015 convention coverage)
“Meyerson ... taught me how to be a sharp self-editor, my best-worst critic, and a tactful audio journalist who throws it back to the basics with Strunk and White.”
Dec. 26, 2013:
Chicago startup Rivet News Radio echoes Zite and Pandora for audio news (Poynter)
“News head Charlie Meyerson explained to me the vision for the service: “Our mission is to provide one riveting experience after another.””
Jan. 7, 2013: Kudos to veteran Chicago newsman Charlie Meyerson ...(Robert Feder)
“It’s an ideal match for WBEZ and Meyerson, who pioneered the format as senior producer and Daywatch columnist for chicagotribune.com.”
July 18, 2012: Inside the Merlin staff meeting (Radio Ink)
“We are better positioned, with stronger, sharper skills than any of us had a year ago to go on and create something new again, somewhere else.”
June 24, 2012: Charlie Meyerson: Optimistic News Guy (Radiogirl podcast)
“Charlie … talks about his career at WXRT, WNUA, the Tribune Company, and WGN Radio. He also talks about his audio reports, his new teaching gig at Roosevelt University, and shares his optimism about the media.”
June 28, 2011: Merlin Media Quickly Hires Meyerson (Media Confidential)
“Charlie Meyerson has quickly landed a new gig.”
June 19, 2011: Charlie Meyerson Says Goodbye To WGN and Tribune (Chicagoland Radio and Media)
“We moved the news team from its home of a quarter-century on the 1st floor of Tribune Tower to the 4th floor, integrating it more tightly with the Chicago Tribune and WGN-TV news teams. We launched aggressive email and text alert services for our listeners. We overhauled and improved WGNradio.com several times. We aired some of Chicago’s smartest radio news reporting and analysis—on technology, the weather, the environment, politics, civic affairs and more. And the WGN Radio News team’s hard work has been recognized with several significant awards this year: The AP/Illinois prizes for Outstanding News Operation and Best Newscast; the Chicago Headline Club Lisagor Award for Best Newscast; and a contributing role in the Illinois Broadcasters Association Silver Dome awards for Station of the Year and Best Station Website..”
July 29, 2009: WGN-AM names Chicago Tribune Daywatch columnist Charlie Meyerson news director (Chicago Tribune)
“His return to broadcasting, announced Wednesday and effective Aug. 6, comes about 11 years after Meyerson left the business and joined the Tribune to help develop its then-nascent digital presence and strategy.”
May 14, 2008: The Power of Connections: Media Meets Mission, panel discussion at The Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management (WBEZ)
“You don’t need a broadcast license, you don’t need to own a huge antenna, you don’t need to have a TV studio, you don’t need to suck up to someone who owns giant printing presses, you know, all you need is a computer or a library card that will get you access to a computer, and ... you have the potential to connect to an unlimited audience.”
November 2007: Advancing the Story
“None of this should be cause for despair among journalists who fear becoming slaves to public opinion, reporting only what an audience wants instead of what they think it needs. ... Journalists who want to sail an audience in a specific direction need not be slaves to the winds of audience preferences. But, like a good sailor, they can navigate more successfully if they perceive which way those winds are blowing.”
Feb. 18, 2007: Chicago Radio Spotlight
“This is the best time in history to become a journalist.”
Aug. 25, 2006: News breaks at chicagotribune.com
[Review of Meyerson presentation at Society of Professional Journalists convention]: “The BEST convention session I’ve attended.”
July/August 2004: Illinois Alumni magazine
“The WPGU reunion, held in Champaign in April in honor of the student-run radio station’s 50 years of existence, lured Chicago radio news veteran Charlie Meyerson ‘77 COM, MS ‘78 COM, back to campus for the first time since 1987.”
March 14, 2002: Online Journalism Review
“Charlie Meyerson, a chicagotribune.com staff reporter who was a news radio veteran before he became an Internet reporter, informally trains colleagues in broadcast basics in the online newsroom. In addition to his text news updating and reporting duties online, including an early-morning, e-mailed update newsletter to [60,000+] subscribers [as of 2006], he gives an 8 a.m. radio broadcast on WGN-AM, a Tribune Company station.”
January/February 2000: American Journalism Review
“Meyerson and his afternoon counterpart, Joyce Garcia, update the information several times a day, taking feeds from the Tribune’s staff of a half-dozen online reporters and occasionally from the paper’s print reporters. Their goal is nothing less than their slogan--’Instant Chicago.’”
October 1999: The Communicator
“Three years ago, Charlie Meyerson, the news director at WNUA-FM in Chicago, sent a memo to his new bosses at Chancellor Media Corporation, urging them to embrace the Internet.”
April 7, 1999: Editor & Publisher
“Daywatch columnist Charlie Meyerson, a 20-year radio news and newspaper veteran who recently joined the Tribune breaking news operation, says he won’t be surprised to see some of his old radio listeners become readers of his Web content.”
Oct. 11, 1998: The sound of news is fading out on many FM stations (Chicago Tribune)
“Meyerson ... [is] taking his time before deciding what his next move will be, and it may not be back to the radio airwaves. He says that whatever happens, the Internet is bound to create more opportunities for journalists who know how to make news compelling: “The one thing that won’t change is the ability to tell a story, and tell it well.”
Sept. 2, 1998: Sam Weller’s 411 (Newcity)
“Longtime WNUA-FM 95.5 news director Charlie Meyerson has parted ways with his former employers. ... The award-winning journalist would like to stay in radio, but sees the Internet as an option as well.”
Dec. 5, 1990: Chicago Tribune Inc. column
“He’s in a helicopter covering a story about an oil tanker on the Chicago River (hey, this is fantasy, folks) and gets attacked by a giant flying monster ...”

Effective email communication in times of crisis

Wednesday, June 24, 2020
“Times of crisis” pretty much describes this era for all of us, all the time, these days.

Ironically, as I mulled the Publicity Club of Chicago’s request that I speak on “Effective Email Communication in Times of Crisis,” I realized that that challenge isn’t all that different now from times of non-crisis.

Job One remains the same: Not taking the attention of your audience—any audience—for granted.


Presented here by popular demand (well, a couple of people asked): Slides and video from my virtual appearance before the Publicity Club, June 17, 2020.

Here’s the video.


And here are the slides.

I was tested for COVID-19. Here's what happened.

Thursday, May 28, 2020
Tuesday night after dinner, I felt a little chill. As we’ve probably all been conditioned to do in the pandemic, I went to the bathroom to grab a thermometer. It registered a fever of 101ยบ.

I called my longtime doctor. He recommended I get myself to one of Illinois’ free COVID-19 drive-through testing stations the next morning. Which—after a night in which my wife and I kept our distance under the doctor’s strong advice—I did.

The testing station I visited, at 6959 Forest Preserve Dr. in Chicago, used to be one of the state auto emissions testing centers until—for reasons that still frustrate and enrage me—then-Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration allowed closure of the last of the city’s stations, forcing many Chicagoans to drive more than an hour round-trip to get vehicles tested.

That said, the Forest Preserve Drive station is well suited for a drive-through medical test site. Here’s how it went:

Wednesday

6:55 a.m. I arrive five minutes before the station’s supposed to open. Driving southwest on Forest Preserve, I’m pleasantly surprised to see no cars lined up to enter … until I’m unpleasantly surprised to realize cars are lined up to enter from the other direction—and they’re backed up around the corner, and around the corner after that. Dozens and dozens of cars ahead of me. A flashing sign warns people will be turned away when the center’s met its testing capacity for the day. I put on my mask, roll down the window and ask a cop if they’re close to full yet. He assures me they’re not.

7 a.m. I find my way around the block to the end of the line and settle in for a long wait. (Note to future test-takers: Fill up the tank before you go.)

7:45 a.m. A woman asks me to place my driver’s license and health insurance card—if I have one; she stresses that the test is free, regardless, and not to worry if I don’t have one—on the dashboard where they can be read. She also gives me a detailed sheet explaining the guidelines for getting tested and what and when to expect the results. (My doctor said the results could come that evening or the next morning; the official word—on the info sheet—is 4-7 days.)

7:53 a.m. An Illinois National Guardsman walks up, asks me how many tests I’ll need—“One,” I explain, “since there’s just me in the car, right?”—and asks for my phone number. Because I’m a little nervous and light on sleep, I give him the wrong one, but I catch myself in time to get it right. He writes both numbers—1 and my phone number—on sticky notes I place on my windshield as he’s directed.

8:10 a.m. My car has crept along enough that I can see the testing station—and a big sign banning photography. This saddens me, because I’d hoped to record the test itself, which is mysterious to and therefore frightening for many.

8:17 a.m. My time is at hand. I ease my car into place—just as I used to do when they were about to stick a probe up its tailpipe; the similarities are funny. I roll down my window as directed and ask the person about to administer my test—someone dressed head-to-toe in hazmat gear—whether I, a journalist, can video record my own test. He asks his superior to come over and hear my plea. The superior says no. I don’t have much time to be sad, though, because the swabber then politely inserts a long stick up my nose, to boldly go where none of my fingers have gone before, scraping it around a bit in there before removing it. The maneuver takes less than 15 seconds—really not that big a deal, although, as I write this, a day-and-a-half later, I can still kindasorta feel where he swabbed—like, as the Chicago Sun-Times’ Stephanie Zimmermann wrote in April, “how it felt if you’ve gotten chlorinated water up your nose in a swimming pool.”

8:20 a.m. After thanking my swabber—who agrees it’s not that bad but shares that many patients are terrified when they roll up—I drive off.

Thursday

6 a.m. My fever’s subsided to a rock-steady 98.6. I consider mentioning my adventure to Bob Sirott while we chat over the airwaves on my former employer, WGN Radio, but opt to stay mum while the results are still out.

11 a.m. I send out my free daily email news briefing, Chicago Public Square.

11 a.m.-2 p.m. Three hours of various Zoom meetings for work.

2:30 p.m. I watch Gov. Pritzker’s daily coronavirus pandemic briefing. He takes my remotely submitted question about the safety of water supplies in office buildings that have been largely idle for months but misses the point: What guidance do you have for building managers—and for people who’ll be returning to work in those buildings? (52:56 in this video).*

4:15 p.m. The doc has recommended plenty of rest, so I set out to take a nap. I don’t get far.

4:25 p.m. My phone rings from a number that it labels “unknown” but that I recognize as the number from which the state said my results would come. It’s hard to understand the recorded message that plays and I miss the part about what number to press to get results, but I do hear the part that encourages me to call back to talk to an agent.

4:26 p.m. Keeping a safe distance away, I enter my wife’s makeshift home office, so she can listen on the speakerphone as I call for the verdict. A polite man asks me for my phone number and my name so he can look up my results. He tells me my test is negative. I thank him for the good news, and I encourage him to pass on the advice that someone should re-record that automated callback message. For the first time in almost 48 hours, my wife and I hug.

4:29 p.m. I begin sharing the word with the few friends and relatives I’d told about the fever and the test—and some I hadn’t.

Need a free test? Here’s the state’s evolving list of community-based testing sites and whom it recommends be tested.

* Turns out the University of Illinois Sustainable Technology Center was already on the case. (Hat-tip to prof Gretchen Winter.)

Tips for appearing on TV via computer

Saturday, March 21, 2020
Are you a reporter or an interviewee planning a remote appearance on TV in the era of the coronavirus? Or are you a producer counseling a reporter or interviewee? Or are you just hangin’ remotely with friends, coworkers or family? With the help of video whiz Jim Parks, here are a few tips for making the best TV you can:

Look at the camera. If you have more than one screen, avoid looking like you’re staring off into the distance—at an extra screen. Make sure the window connecting you to the anchor is positioned as close as possible to the camera on your computer—not on an auxiliary screen. For most laptops, that means dragging the Google Hangouts / Skype / FaceTime window to the top of your computer screen. (Consider shrinking it to a size that forces you to stare at it right under the camera.)

Make sure your camera’s level with your eyes. Unless you think viewers enjoy looking up your nostrils, prop up your laptop (or whatever) on a dictionary or two so you’re looking at it levelly—not up or down.

Position yourself for the best lighting available. Avoid sitting with a bright window at your back. Better: Locate yourself so you’re illuminated by the window. If you’re in a room with no daylight, position yourself so the available light is on you and not behind you. Move lamps as necessary so your face isn't in shadow.

Sound as good as you can. Ideally, connect your computer to a high-quality microphone or headset; that becomes necessary to avoid feedback if you and another person are on separate devices in the same room. Try to use a room that has carpeting or rugs to suppress echoes. If you have no time to run tests before you go live, at least do what you can to position your mouth as close as practical to your computer’s onboard microphone. The further away you are, the more echoey and thin you’ll sound.

Have other suggestions? Share them in the comments below or email me (as Jim Parks did): Charlie@MeyersonStrategy.com.

P.S. Or you can just do what my friend and colleague Stuart Hughes has done.