Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My first week in Paradise

On the seventh day in a startup, you do not rest. It’s been one full week since I started work as editor of Peer News, what we’re calling a next generation news service in Honolulu. And as on all the days before - except my “days off,” when I drove around town looking for housing - yesterday was a mix of conversations with my new colleagues about topics we need to work through - for example, how to handle the contributions of non-staff writers - and the quiet of a blank office with a small group tapping away on Mac laptops.


What does an editor do to launch a new news service?


First, my new colleagues, Pierre Omidyar and Randy Ching, had already given a lot of thought, with their adviser Howard Weaver, to what the new service should look like. So the basic editorial direction has already been set, which gives me a huge head start. And they had adopted an approach to hiring, based on the book "Who: The A Method for Hiring,” which they used to hire me. So how to go about recruiting our staff had already been established, too. What I needed to do was focus on the basics. That meant unsexy tasks like writing job descriptions to make it possible to recruit people and have them understand what would be expected of them. I’ve also written a beat/coverage guide, again to sharpen what the service would offer and help explain it to prospective hires. All these, of course, go through rounds of editing and discussion. (We’ll be talking about our plans in more detail closer to launch.)


Moving has been a reminder of the stress that any new employee goes through. Good to remember. All the HR paperwork and questions. The crazy things that happen in a new town. Leaving the lights on in the rental car and getting stranded in a rainstorm. The difficulty of finding an apartment. New software tools to learn. Posterous. Dropbox. Skype Chat. (OK, I knew to how use it. But not properly, according to Mr. Omidyar...By the way, I thought I knew how to use e-mail, but it turns out I've been using it wrong all along. Blame it on my Blackberry.) And new user IDs and passwords to remember.


Job applications are rolling in. A gentle reminder: If you’re looking for a job, it’s a good idea to follow directions. A second reminder: Sending an online news service a resume that says your goal is to work at a metropolitan daily newspaper or something other than the job you’re applying for is probably not a good idea. Also, think about customizing your resume for each position. It makes people appear more serious if they seem to understand what we might be looking for. Generic doesn’t help somebody stand out.


One thing that’s impressed me in Hawaii is how open everybody is to meeting and talking about the work. Aloha actually means something. And for that I’m grateful.


I’m happy to be here. At the beginning. Digging in. Building.



39 comments:

  1. I've been in that stage with two startups, and it's a fun, magical time you are entering.

    Because the money is squared away, hiring is absolutely the biggest challenge. Between your big-picture view from Who, and your nuts-and-bolts look at resumes that have the wrong objective, you seem to be off to a good start.

    I do hope you'll continue to blog about how it's going. Shivering here in Denver, it's fun to live vicariously through your posts.

    And if you hear the car dinging, it IS trying to tell you something!

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  2. See my open journalism group on linkedin - http://bit.ly/linkedin_invites

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  3. Don't forget to check out the event of the year this weekend! Punahou Carnival -- you may think you don't fit the demographic but the food is great!

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  4. Like Scott, living vicariously is fun. I'm working on a couple start-ups myself so, I'll be taking notes. One of the start-ups is a TV show with the Association for Women Journalists-Chicago. It is about media, looking behind the curtain to help make it less mysterious to the media-consuming public, looking for answers to questions not being asked enough. We are bootstrapping it right now and working on identifying funding sources. No name for it yet, so working title is AWJ-TV. We aim to have our first show done by spring. It will be magazine-style, like 60 Minutes. While our audience will be local/Chicago, we'll be posting online and stories will come from where ever they happen to be. Aim to get my friend Todd Heisler talking about Final Salute sometime when he's in town. Would love to interview you if you happen to come through Chicago too...or hmm, might need to go to you. Good luck.

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  5. Welcome to Paradise. Remember, there's often a serpent in the garden.

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  6. Good for you! What a thrill! I had a few firsts to his name among obscure waders lobbing in to the salt fields near Adelaide, but in those days any serious birdo carried a .410 in the boot of his Holden to prove his “sighting”! Shooting with a camera is a lot easier these days…

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  7. That's good that you are working for peer news and I also liked your way of enjoying your work. It's really commendable. Good on you and keep it up.
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  8. Very interested in this start-up, it'll be neat to see what all of these great minds come up with. Hopefully a great new model for the future of journalism. Great to hear about new companies embracing Macs, I think it says something about the spirit of the comany. I'm curious, what are Mr. Omidyar's views on the proper way to use Skype and email? He mentioned something briefly on Twitter about replies?
    As for a place to live? Kailua. Hands down the best.

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