What They Don’t Teach You at Journalism School (A SXSW Preview)

Confession: I crashed the Stanford School of Journalism. I may never be a Knight Fellow in their Journalism program, but some of my ideas resonated enough for Ann and Katherine to not kick me out after they discovered my intrusion Feb 24.

Here is what I observed in the weeks leading up to SXSW. Here is what I’m paying attention to and here is how things might turn out.

What They Don’t Teach You At Journalism School (That I Learned @SXSW)

1. Press Pass 2.0

The old way was for your average journalist to get an average press pass.

The new way is for the double-dipper mooch-a-pass maneuver. Your press pass doubles as access to VIP events, but also for you to promote your own fledging, moonlite startup.

But conference producers are starting to barter back for pre-event coverage, which leads me to…

2. Does Anyone Pre-Blog Anymore?

There is this hack I recommend to the CS Major CEOs I mentor. Yeah, they’re usually undergrads at Palo Alto’s Community’s College (PACC). I recommend that they pre-blog an event, conference or speaking engagement.

Very few people pre-blog.

I counted and looked for blog posts coming out about SXSW. This year measured the fewest posts according my very unscientific Twitter feed. I follow appx 780+ social media savvy thought leaders and saw very few sxsw posts.

3. Get In Late. Get Out Early.

My USC Film School professors stressed, “Get in late on a scene you’re directing and get out early.” Their reasoning was that the audience figures out the back-story and is curious to know more.

This resonates with me in my blog posts because audience’s swallow very bit sized chunks of information.

This also is at the heart of my personal strategy on “Sequel posts” that are evergreen…

4. Evergreen vs Shiny Nickels

So I seek to expose granular tactical, street level ideas, tips and strategies that are evergreen. Most bloggers are out there seeking shiny nickels in the form of breaking stories.

Evergreen blogging allows you to allude to nickel-like developments, but to hone in on your core blogging platform… therefore staying relevent and semi-shiny, yet evergreen.

5. Promotion vs. Discovery

You don’t get paid to write,
You get paid to promote.

Self-promotion is some of the toughest work. Believe me, I used to hope to get discovered.

Burt, CEO of Storify, used a “hack” to promote a group of journalists who used to write at the AP (Associated Press – I’d link but I don’t think I’m allowed to ;-). He called his group “hacks and hackers”. Through this group (that he had to personally launch & promote) to get attendees, he found a co-founder and even launched a company: Storify.

6. Embrace the Criticism and Make Some Up

I used to cringe when I saw negative comments or criticisms.

I realize now that negative energy is energy and that energy can be redirected. President Clinton said to me (via his audiobook), “My mentor taught me that negative, personal attacks are to be forgiven because they seek a portion of your power”.

Hear it, forgive, embrace, redirect.

7. Hacks, Hackers, Painters and Bloggers

Do you like that I sequel prequel memes and hijack (and augment)

By sequel prequel, I mean mix two phrases
Hacks and Hackers
Hackers and Painters (by Paul Graham)

By hijack, I mean link them in way that causes curiosity. My most infamous use is my formulaicly awesome keynote / preblog / conference recap called, “What a Supermodel Can Teach a TED Attendee About Credit”.

Yes there was an afterparty here:

So the formula is, “What a Supermodel…
…Insert event I’m crashing/hosting/promoting/crashing (I said crashing 2x because its scandalass– yeah I just made that up.
…insert dose of real content

Paint them a pretty picture. A mentor from the NSA taught me, “Make them think they’re thinking and they’ll love you. Make them really think and they’ll hate you.”

So I’m gonna petition the Stanford School of Journalism to do a Larry Chiang program. Its where you go bang out blog posts on a mobile device.

About Larry Chiang

Larry edits the channel What They Don’t Teach You in Business School for BusinessWeek. He is also the founder and CEO of Duck9 and author of “What They Will NEVER Tech You At Stanford Business School” which comes out 11/11/12. Its the sequel to New York Times bestseller “What They Don’t Teach You At Stanford Business School.” You can follow Larry on Twitter @LarryChiang.


  1. Hello,

    My name is Isaac Doyal. A friend and I are about to start a website in which we will need to obtain press credentials. I am not sure exactly how to obtain these for the journalist which will be freelancing for us. From some of the research I have done I found the website for the IAPP. Through this website for a small fee you can become a member of the International Association of Press Photographers and receive a press card that according to the website will get freelance journalist into most events or conferences. I know this is not going to get our guys in a presidential press conference but I would like to know if this will be suffice to get into local and state events. Especially with the great political calendar over the next two years. Please give me some advice or help.

    Thank you,
    Isaac Doyal

  2. This is some great advice. Much of it seems common sense, others, well, one learns though experience, right?

    So is it as important to market oneself as it is to hone writing skills?

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