Scott Saxton: The man, the myth, the news LEGEND!

No matter what field you’re in, we’ve all had people who have touched us along the way. From college professors, colleagues and in my case an INCREDIBLE boss.
You’ve probably seen me post from time to time about Scott Saxton.
Those posts only scratch the surface of the impact he’s had on my life and so many other journalists getting their start.

Stolen from Scott’s profile pic 🙃

I met Scott when he hired me as a producer in the Fall of 2009.
After nearly two years of nos, he gave me my first yes.
He was the first person willing to take a chance on me and I give him so much credit for the professional I’ve become.

In a field where morning shows can often be forgotten, when new employees can be lost in the crowd…Scott was always there.
I was hired to produce a 2 hour morning show and it wasn’t like copy and paste two hours. Scott had a very specific vision for the show and I carry that same standard with me everywhere I go.

During the early hours while most people were sleeping…Scott was out the door. Not sure if he does it anymore, but he would get up and run and then be back in time for my 5am show. If he saw something that needed to be changed or he didn’t like, there was always a friendly email… instantly. At first as a new producer it seemed harsh, but he was teaching me so much. In my early months producing Scott and I would meet every morning almost right after my show and we’d talk about what worked and what didn’t. More of that one-on-one feedback that helped make me a better producer and person. Feedback that kept me motivated to be better everyday. Feedback that helps me still today, give everything my all.

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For 10 years he has been a fearless leader in the WECT newsroom in Wilmington. Today he says goodbye to this industry, for now. Through those years he has touched so many lives. I reached out to a few of my WECT alum for a little help with this goodbye.

“I applied to over 100 jobs when I was close to graduating college. I heard back from three stations and interviewed with 2. I was so grateful for Scott. He hired me straight out of college and I hit the ground running. That job helped me grow up. It taught me the skills I needed so I could find my dream job. He also helped me find my husband. I am forever grateful to Scott Saxton. Good luck in your career change!” – Nikki Reck

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“My life would be much different if Scott Saxton didn’t offer me the opportunity at WECT. Sure, I would’ve found another small-market job somewhere but his style of leadership and news judgment was just what I needed. The story I choose to share doesn’t really reflect that, but it’s a fair account of what there is to love about him. We’re in the middle of wall-to-wall for a hurricane. Everyone is working long hours and most of us are soaking wet. There’s more food in the news room than a cooking segment, election night and Super Bowl potluck combined. At one point I was standing next to the managers as they talked out our plan for continuing coverage. Scott looked like he just woke up from a nap that was too short on an air mattress that was under-inflated. I’d never seen a boss like that. I’d also never seen someone FREAK OUT over chicken salad like that. The assignment manager had walked up with some on his plate. Scott was mid-sentence when he noticed the food and shouted. The exact quote is fuzzy but it was something along the lines of “And you’re eating all the chicken salad!” or “How much chicken salad have you had?!” It broke some tension from the seriousness of the hurricane. It woke up those of us feeling sleep-deprived. It showed me what a comical, quality person Scott is. TV news needs more Scott Saxton’s. His reason for leaving the business is proof of it. Maybe his family will share the chicken salad.” -Craig Reck

“Scott understands the importance of developing talent through opportunity. I was a morning producer when we met. But he gave me a chance to develop as a reporter and anchor. Those opportunities have shaped my career. His thoughtful leadership, empathy and compassion is what this industry needs more of. I’m happy for his new endeavor, and I will miss him working in television news.” – Tim Pulliam

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“I will always remember your calm and confident leadership style. I asked you once if you were nervous for your job interview to become the news director at WECT, and you said- “No! I knew they’d hire me.” I thought that was so awesome! I make it a point now to walk into every meeting, presentation or important event I have with your same confidence. You’ve been an excellent boss and news director, and I am so lucky to have spent some of the earlier years of my career working for you. Best of luck in your next adventure! —Cheers, Claire (Hosmann) Simmons

Scott will always downplay what it has meant for many of us to have him as a boss. He never takes credit for how he’s shaped so many of our careers. Even today, I feel very blessed to have him as a friend and to know he’s just one text away when I need him.

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I encourage all news managers to be a Scott to the people you manange. You never know the impact you’re having on their lives.

Today this business is losing one of the good ones. They don’t make them like Scott anymore!

 

Getting Deep on Deepfakes’ Impact on Journalism

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It’s kind of hard to go deep on something you don’t really understand. Since deepfakes really are all about faking it.. I think I’ll be okay.

So here’s what I understand deepfakes to be— the use of artificial intelligence in videos or pictures to make it appear that someone is saying or doing something they are not. The whole concept of using artificial intelligence to manipulate a person’s image is scary, but not surprising. We live in a time where almost anything is possible, NEVER forget that!

Here’s where deepfakes get down right frightening. Right now social media is king and there are no limits. If someone saw it on Facebook, well it must be true *double eye roll*. During a time when media is still being referred to as “fake news” we should be concerned about what deepfakes could do to our industry. Allow me to break down my top two concerns.

First, as journalists we are the truth seekers… we should be the authority on what’s wrong and right. We are the whistleblowers, we carry the torch for the people. There’s a lot of weight that comes along with the job.. but what happens when you can no longer tell what’s real from what’s fake?

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Last year there was a video created of former President Barack Obama using deepfakes. In it Obama gives a PSA about fake news, little did anyone know what was really going on. The video was made by director Jordan Peele’s entertainment company. The whole thing was Peele himself, but thanks to artificial intelligence we were none the wiser. It sounds cool, but then you think about the harm that could have caused. What if someone hacked Obama’s social media accounts while he was president and used deepfakes. Imagine the kind of world chaos that could have erupted and the news would have been at the center of it all. People turn to us to get information out because of our reach. We would have been responsible for sharing wrong and harmful information and not even known it…until it was too late.

My second concern is what deepfakes could do to the reputation of a journalist. There’s a lot of power and respect once your career reaches a certain level. So imagine if a trusted reporter or news anchor did something to piss someone off. Think about the things that could be done with deepfakes to ruin their reputation. Think about the kind of fear that could put in a truth seeker. Deepfakes could be used to silence journalists concerned about how something like artificial intelligence could ruin them. As I mentioned before, in the days of social media it doesn’t take much.

Now I’m not a complete artificial intelligence hater. I understand the use for making things cool in movies and being creative. I just think… just maybe we should do better about not giving it all away. It shouldn’t be so easy to ruin a person’s life or career with a cell phone app.

 

My View: Social Media’s Impact On Journalism

Well, I’m one blog post (this one) away from finishing my first semester of grad school. I’m so proud of all that I’ve been able to accomplish this semester after more than a decade out of school.  I’ve learned so much these past couple of months. From shooting and editing to becoming a better writer and blogger, what a great experience it has been. As you can see from the picture below, I’m happy that I chose to start this journey. Going back to school is by far my best decision of 2018.

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This blog was started for my Intro to Digital Communications course. Our required weekly posts have been perfect, because I’ve been wanting to start a blog for quite some time now. This week in our final blog for the year, I’m reflecting back to week three when we dived into social media.

Social media has been such a game changer in all of our personal lives, no doubt. In some cases it’s made and destroyed relationships, jobs and even families– but we’re not going to go into all of that.

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For the purpose of this blog I’m going to focus on how social media has changed the news industry. I’ve worked in television for the last 11 years, so while I’m not a true news vet, I’ve been around long enough to see the social/digital change. I remember working my first news job overnight as a producer, having to post breaking news stories. I wasn’t the best at it, but I was able to get enough on the web until our digital producer showed up.  That was back in 2010, fast forward to 2014 that’s when I really got into using social media for work.

The coolest thing about working at The Weather Channel was covering weather situations across the world. TWC is based in Atlanta and while there are teams and freelancers strategically placed around the world, you can’t be every where all the time. So, as a producer I can remember surfing Twitter and looking for pictures and videos that I could use in my show to help tell certain weather stories. User generated content became such a tool for getting my shows done. Little did I know that this was just the beginning of my social media dependency.

In 2015, I went back to local news and I worked at a station where being a digital first newsroom was a priority. There was no getting away from it and based on my time at TWC I was all onboard. Every day we started our  news meetings looking at what’s popping on social and digital. We would then use that information to help determine the stories we were going to cover that day. This is something that I took with me to my next station when I became a news director and will take with me every station I go to next.

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So, why does local news care so much about social media, the answer is simple. You want to make sure you’re covering stories that people care about. Every day social media lets you know that based on stories that are trending. If the Government Shutdown is the biggest trending story, it’s something you need to make sure you’re covering. People are more likely to tune in to watch a story they already have an interest in. As a news organization your job is to figure out how to tell the story in a different and interesting way. A way that makes it more relatable to their lives.

The other big win for using social media in news is connecting to communities that you might not otherwise know about. In several of my past newsrooms, we have been able to tell some pretty incredible stories based on things that were found on social media posts. The cool thing about a platform like Facebook is that it gives you these groups where people of like interests can come together and discuss things that are important to them. As a news organization, being able to get inside of those groups and really find out what people are talking about can pay off for both you and them. There might be a problem that’s brought up in a group of moms and they don’t know who to turn to. As a local news station you might be able to get involved and bring the change/help they need.

Social media has also opened the door to helping the world become a lot more informed. I’m guilty of getting a lot of my news from my Twitter feed. Now, don’t get me wrong I’m following reputable sites and news organizations. I start almost all of my days checking my Twitter feed to see what’s happening in the world. From time to time I might turn on the television if I need a deep dive on something. For the most part I’m getting what I need from social media and push alerts.

Now, just as helpful as social media is with spreading news, it can also be harmful. Sadly, not everyone is vetting the information they see on their timelines. I can think of at least a couple of times where I’ve seen someone share an Onion story as fact. For some people they believe if it’s on social media, it has to be true. I look forward to the day when people will stop and think before clicking share.

As I continue on the path of getting my master’s degree and working in the news industry I know that social media’s impact will only increase. As an industry we’re already doing so much across all social media platforms. At times it’s mind blowing to see how we are able to connect and impact the communities we serve with just a few clicks of a mouse.

Keeping the Brand Alive Through Storytelling

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We all know the saying “what’s in a name?” — this week I’m diving into what’s in a brand?

As journalists we’re use to being fair and balanced when it comes to the stories we tell ( at least we should be) it’s a BIG part of the job.  There’s no room for opinions or trying to sell the public on a view we want them to have. Well, not in a normal news setting—enter brand journalism.

Journalists are now being sought after by companies, to help sell their products in unique ways. We’ve all seen those cheesy setups trying to get us to buy something during a news segment or a quick social media post. Companies are now getting much smarter in the way they appeal to consumers and they’re using journalism to pull them in.

This week I had the chance to read 7 Reasons Why You Should Break Into Brand Journalism. The article highlights the reasons journalists should get into the brand marketing business– and I have to say it’s pretty appealing. Through brand journalism companies can skip the traditional route that involves going through public relations. Companies are now able to get their messages out themselves through social media platforms– cutting out the need for big PR firms when it comes to marketing.

Companies like Patagonia have turned to bloggers to help build the company’s brand. With Patagonia being an outdoor store, the Cleanest Line blog appeals to the nature lovers and people who care about what’s going on with the environment.  The company is using storytelling to help people connect with their brand. By doing this they’re able to build a new following that they hope will turn into a new customer.

Ultimately, brand journalism is doing what you don’t typically find in PR. You’re not just hearing from the company when something big is happening. It’s a constant connection with the consumer by pushing the company’s brand in a way that might not be as obvious as traditional marketing and PR. I personally find it more engaging — if done right it can be a win- win for both the customer and the companies hoping to pull them in.

What A Time To Be A Journalist

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In my Sophia Petrillo voice “picture it, the year 2018 and journalists are under attack.”
Despite my Golden Girls humor it’s not a joke, it’s actually quite sad.
Journalists are being threatened, physically assaulted and in some cases even killed.
So, to answer this week’s blog question I have to say It’s not just a challenging or exciting time to be a journalist, it’s a scary time as well.

For as long as I can remember there was something about being part of the news that pulled me in.
I got my first taste when I was part of our elementary school’s morning show.
That feeling was reignited again in middle school when we took a trip to CNN.
It wasn’t until Junior year of college when I really went after the dream.
I landed a job as a producer of our campus news show, Ram News.
From there I haven’t looked back.

I’m not writing all of that to just talk about myself.
I’m writing it because just as I fell in love with journalism at such a young age, so did many others in this business. It’s a career that they’re passionate about. True journalists don’t just do it because they want to be famous.
They do it because there’s a family whose lights might get cut off tonight if they don’t step in.
They do it so they can ask the questions that others might be afraid to or just don’t know to ask.

During this current political climate, I’m grateful for the watchdogs and truth seekers.
They are the ones who keep journalism exciting and impactful.
They’re also the ones whose jobs have become the most challenging.
Right now, from our national media organizations to local newsrooms we’re dealing with misinformation on social media platforms.
We’re also dealing with a lack of trust in news media — and that’s not fake news.
According to a poll from Gallup/Knight Foundation released in September, 69 percent of those surveyed say their trust in news media has dropped in the last decade.
See full report here.

When you have an administration that’s often at odds with the media, it’s kind of hard to keep or even win that trust back.
When you have people who only get their news from Facebook without vetting the story and just assume it’s accurate because a girl from work shared it—that’s troubling.

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So while it’s exciting to take down the bad guys and make real impacts in the communities we live in—the challenges cannot be ignored. We have to work even harder these days to keep from being silenced.
We have to prove our value like never before.

JACKPOT: Winning With Big Data

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There’s nothing like a good cruise! Sure the food and entertainment are great, but the casino is where I have the most fun on the ship.  There’s nothing like winning $5 on a $1 bet. Or that time I won $500 on $100. I could go on and on about my big wins and big losses, but  that’s not what this week’s blog is all about.

Today I’m taking on BIG data– by analyzing some of the industries that use it and how they can better use it. When I looked for examples of big data use I ran across an article about casinos and I thought–JACKPOT– I know what I’m going to write about.. so here I go.

While my love for casinos started on cruise ships, it hasn’t stopped there. While I don’t go out looking for places to play slots, if I have an opportunity I take advantage of it. For anyone who hasn’t been in a casino before it can be a little overwhelming. There are machines everywhere– rows upon rows.  I always go in and look for my favorite games and never put much thought into how the floor was setup, until now. There’s actually a method to the layout madness. Casinos use big data to help determine what machines should be where. If a machine is a hot machine, it’s getting a key spot on the casino floor. After all, you want to make sure the hottest machines are the easiest to find.

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Big data is also being used to get us to spend big. According to Yahoo Finance, casino resorts are tracking the spending habits of their customers while they stay at their hotels.  Yahoo says that information is used to come up with incentives that keep the big spenders spending!  That kind of tracking is not just limited to the casino resorts, I’ve also seen it in on the cruise ship.

When you play slots on most ships you insert your sign and sail card into your machine. Those cards are used to collect data on your spending through a points system. On a Carnival ship for instance, there are incentives tied to those points. The more you spend, the more you get. For example 1,500 points — which equals $1,500 gets you free drinks in the casino through the end of your cruise. For someone who’s a drinker what could be a better incentive, right? I’ve also personally noticed that my spending in the casino has been tracked to offer me special rates to go on casino specific cruises.

Now, while I’ve expressed my love for a good slot machine– gambling isn’t always all fun and games.  According to addictions.com there are at least 750,000 people dealing with some sort of gambling addiction. To be clear we’re not just talking about casinos– however, they are definitely getting richer off of big data.

While profits are great, there are people fighting addictions who need help and just maybe big data can give them that. As I mentioned before, some casinos offer cards that will help track your spending on slot machines etc– it’s optional but maybe it shouldn’t be. Maybe we should require our gamblers to tell us about themselves. Why? Maybe just like a bartender cuts off the obviously drunk person at a bar– we cut off the person that can’t afford to play any more. If your profile tells me you’re a single parent of 4– who makes $10 an hour but every Friday you’re throwing hundreds of dollars in a slot machine– that’s setting off red flags. Or maybe every few pulls of the lever the machine will throw you a bone and you might actually walk away making more than you spend.

Of course this is a pretty far fetched idea, but if we’re looking at what we can do with big data why not think big and out of the box.

Gambling is a game of chance—but big data could be used to give someone a chance at a life they never thought was possible.