Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A NEW LIFE: Journalists on how they reinvented themselves - Part 2 - Jay Bryant


During my series, "Pulitzers Lost, What a cost," the idea of a new series telling the stories of journalists who had reinvented themselves took shape. The feedback I was hearing told me that journalists appreciated reading about others in the business who had found their way after they had lost their job.

At this time of great disruption in the business, I hope it's encouraging for those caught in the storm to see that there's life after newspapers.

If you'd like to participate or know someone whom I should ask, please let me know.

Today: Jay Bryant, Vice President of Sales, LiveWorld Inc.


I had spent almost 20 years working at newspapers including the Rock Island Argus, Associated Press, The El Paso Times and The Orange County Register. In 1995 I considered myself at the top of my game in this profession. We had a good news year in Orange County and were recognized by the NPPA for Best Use of Photography at a large Metro.

But I knew something was going to fundamentally change in the media industry with the Internet starting up. I needed to stay in front of it to survive and maintain a quality of life for my family. My 5-year-old daughter had mastered using an Apple computer and I realized that in 15 years newspapers in printed form would not be relevant to her. Because of that I felt there would be no advertising base and I would be unemployed at age 50 if I stayed at a newspaper. My daughter turns 20 this year and my predictions have come true, except for being unemployed.

So I became very active in the local interactive development community, attending monthly computer user-group meetings, hearing stories about how developers were building new exciting things. At the end of these meetings the president of the group would always tell us that to get started all we needed to do is learn how to ask for our first $100,000.

What really changed my career is when I started volunteering at my daughter’s school in Orange County. I built a web site for the school (the original HTML files can be found at http://www.jaybryant.com/fhr) and that was picked up and used by the whole district as a template for the other schools. It was at this same time that I left the newsroom and went to work for Freedom Communications doing corporate communications and Internet projects.

I had set a goal that I wanted to be a Vice President of an Internet company by age 40. I left Freedom Communications in 1997 and started work with Frank Daniels III’s (former editor of the Raleigh News & Observer) new company KOZ.com to provide online community systems for media companies. At KOZ.com I continued my interest in education and started the education online community SchoolLife.net. I was able to partner with a non-profit organization and picked up the hosting of 5000 school web sites in 1998.

SchoolLife.net was then acquired by a new education company backed by Bell & Howell and Goldman Sachs. We raised $100 million and bigchalk.com was started with three other web sites. I was employee #3 and was a Vice President at age 40. I was relocated to New York City. When the dot.com crash took place in 2001, I was laid off and unemployed for 6 months.

Since that time I’ve worked in business development and product management positions at Educational Testing Service, TV Guide and now as Vice President of Sales at LiveWorld.com (a provider of white label social networks and services for large companies).

The things that have helped me in the business world that carried over from my days as a journalist:

  • Ability to work on deadlines and turn around work quickly. This has been a very valuable skill that helps me stay ahead of my competition and impresses my clients.
  • Strong communication skills. I use my writing and photography skills every day to communicate with a broad audience.
  • The ability to spot trends and analyze vast amounts of information. All the hours of having to read the AP wire and budgets have given me great skills to analyze a lot of information and use that with my job. I now have over 200 blogs that I read through my RSS reader every day for about 2 hours each morning.
  • Ability to gain trust quickly. As a newspaper photographer, I had to gain people’s trust really fast so I could photograph them for an assignment. This skill has translated well into my role in sales.

38 comments:

  1. I worked with Jay during our years with bigchalk.com, which has since rolled into ProQuest at http://www.proquestk12.com.

    Also as a slightly younger newspaper reporter-turned-education .com professional, Jay's trend spotting was spot-on, and we continue to build the future of both online school networking, information/news access with ProQuest tools, and staying ahead of the curve with social media.

    Certainly I can attest to using skills with massive data consumption as a reporter and turning it into cohesive stories and, now, easy-to-use websites by busy educators and parents as key skills.

    Tim McLain
    ProQuest
    tim.mclain@proquest.com
    http://www.proquestk12.com

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