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Storytelling with Storify

Guest post by Community Media Workshop board member Teresa Puente

Looking for an innovative way to tell a story?

Try Storify.

Storify uses social media to curate and create stories.

You pull publicly available information from Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram and You Tube. You also can paste a link from anything you find in the web and post it on Storify.

You can pick a topic that is in the news, such as a recent protest, sporting event or anything sources have posted content about on the social media networks.

Or you can create a Storify on an issue that your nonprofit is following. Say you have an event or press conference. You can take photos, videos, tweets or stories from that event and create a Storify of the event itself, of news media coverage of the event or a combination of the two.

Here is how you start:

Login with your Twitter account.

Write a headline for your Storify.

In the box below you can write a lede or a summary.

You build a Storify by using key words or hashtags (#) to search topics on the right.

Drag the content you want to use into the left space. This is where you build your Storify.

Also note that you can write mini text blocks in between each item you curate. You can use this for captions or add additional information about the social media content.

You may want a total of eight to 10 items in your Storify. Make sure there is a balance of tweets, Facebook posts, photos, video an text.

Then you publish your piece. You can share it with others on Twitter. People also can follow you on Storify.

Many news organizations and bloggers are using Storify as a storytelling tool. Once your Storify is published you can share the link or embed it on a blog or website.

It’s a great way to aggregate and curate content as well as share your original content that you have posted on the various social media networks.

See my video tutorial here:


Teresa Puente, author of “Chicanísima” blog on the ChicagoNow network is founder of “Latina” A veteran journalist, she is also an Associate Professor of Journalism at Columbia College Chicago and a long-standing board member of Community Media Workshop. Follow her tweets @tcpuente

Lessons Learned as a Non-Profit Communicator

Guest post by Community Media Workshop board member Gary Arnold

Years ago, I moved into the communications role at Access Living, a non-profit service and advocacy organization for people with disabilities, with no prior communications experience.

Stories I’ve heard from my peers tell me I am not alone. Out of necessity, non-profits often assign communications jobs to employees who typically don’t have a communications background.

Like many of my peers, I turned to the Community Media Workshop for support, which helps bridge the gap between communications novices and the skill set necessary to pitch an organization’s story.

I still remember my first class at the Workshop.

To break the ice, Thom went around the room, asking each of us our media goal. Each of us gave roughly the same answer, “to promote and raise the visibility of our organization.”

Thom looked at us with a patient grin, then delivered my first lesson in public relations. He taught us that communications goals should not be as broad as an organization.

Communications is about delivering a specific message that resonates with broad audience. The best way to deliver that message is through a story with which everyone can relate.

While that first lesson proves timeless, public relations has evolved.

With mainstream media operating on fewer resources, the chances of the Chicago Tribune or Channel 11 publishing a story pitched by a non-profit communicator, no matter how specific and compelling the message, are slimmer today than they were a few years ago.

But while selling your story to a daily paper may be more difficult, non-profit communicators have plenty of tools to tell stories. With blogs, websites, social media, and expanded internet journalism, there are still plenty of outlets to pitch a story, and plenty of portals to self-publish a story.

Of course, a Chicago Sun-Times article that cites your organization will please your executive director and board chair more than a blog post on your organization’s website; but the value of publishing outside of mainstream media, then promoting and sharing content, should not be underestimated.

Just last week, I was reminded of social media’s value. I was following the Twitter stream of National ADAPT, a grassroots direct action group that employs civil disobedience to push disability rights. ADAPT was in Washington, DC for three days of protests against the White House; the US Department of Housing and Urban Development; and the Department of Labor for what ADAPT understood to be their failure to follow through on their commitments to the independence of people with disabilities.

ADAPT’s live tweets gave a play by play of the day’s action, but there were no visuals. I could re-tweet the messages, but if I wanted to post on Facebook, the picture-less messages would have little impact.

A few people tweeted directly to ADAPT, asking for pictures. Almost immediately, ADAPT sent pictures of hundreds of protesters marching and rolling in wheelchairs throughout the streets of Washington. The photos were posted on Facebook, generating a response many, many times greater than the impact made by a link to a press release posted earlier in the day.

It doesn’t take a communications professional to post on social media. But the experience last week underscores how media has changed in the past decade.

We may have lost some of the benefits of traditional media, but it’s hard to deny the excitement of instantaneous communication and innovative outreach offered by new media.

Follow Gary Arnold @gary8970

What You Say and How You Say It

Guest post by Adriana Diaz (opinions reflect that of the author)

It’s been a week, and I’m still riding high from the warm, fuzzy feelings I garnered from the love-fest we call the Studs Terkel Community Media Awards.

As a fairly new addition to the staff at Community Media Workshop, I was asked during a staff de-brief Tuesday,  to share my thoughts on last week’s ceremony.  I found myself choked up as I tried to report back what I felt after attending my very first Terkel event.

It had been such a great party, the culmination of our staff’s months-work of planning and prepping. Mostly though, the remnants from the presenters’ and winners’ speeches still resonated with me; a sure sign of  powerfully good messages. It’s like Maya Angelou once said, “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”

Hoy Chicago managing editor Fernando Diaz speaks after accepting his Terkel award. photo by Olga Lopez

These moving speeches, also made me reflect about some of the lessons we teach at the Workshop. When we coach others in their nonprofit communications; or provide custom spokesperson training, the Workshop promotes methods found in good storytelling: like use examples to help get a more general point across; use colorful words and contemporary references; create relationships.

It struck me that the messages that were delivered on Terkel night reverberated within me, not only because they contained the elements of a good speech (i.e. catchy intro; informing; inspiring), but because the speakers used stories, and found ways to engage the audience. Each of the speakers spoke with poise, deep humility, and warmth.

Megan, Fernando, and Dave are wonderful writers and engaging storytellers, but ultimately they’re connectors. They listen. They build relationships.

It’s like 2006 Terkel winner Mark Brown related in his introductory speech for Dave Hoekstra the night of March 14. Mark chuckled about the envy he often feels when he reads Dave’s work, wishing the subject had told him the story, “But they didn’t tell me. They told Dave.”

Please read excerpts from some of the night’s speeches and let us know how this text speaks to you. If you were present for the speeches, how did they make you feel?

Alden Loury, Better Government Association. photo by Olga Lopez

2009 Terkel winner Alden Loury, introducing Megan Cottrell:

As many of you are aware, as a nation, we’ve grown from a time when we wore our racism on our sleeves to a time when we hide and protect those feelings like our life’s savings–with the exception of the time when we log on and make anonymous comments on blogs spewing the n-word, racial epithets and other divisive language. Just about any news story with a hint of a racial undertone usually descends into a litany of comments that make you question just how far we’ve progressed.

We think about race, poverty, inequality and privilege all the time–all day, everyday. We just don’t talk about it. We don’t openly share those feelings. We’re too scared or too ashamed. But we still have those feelings.

But Megan Cottrell has helped bring down that wall, not all the way but enough for people to dialogue about our differences and gain some level of understanding about people of other racial or ethnic groups. As I was recently telling a colleague, in her blogging and reporting particularly about public housing, Megan has done well in reaching folks who are typically invisible and weaving her own perspective and experiences with those of her sources to pose compelling and sometimes uncomfortable questions about race and class.

She ran a successful blog of her own for awhile before joining The Chicago Reporter where I worked at the time. I was truly excited about her coming on board having followed her work. I thought she’d do wonders for our blogging and her impact was clearly apparent in her first six months. She has shown herself to be a 21st Century Terkelian journalist by telling stories and engaging readers online.

Please join me in congratulating the compassionate and courageous Megan Cottrell.


Megan Cottrell, reporter and blogger for the Chicago Reporter receives a 2013 Terkel Community Media Award. photo by Olga Lopez

Excerpt from Megan Cottrell’s acceptance speech:

A couple of months ago, I was asked by a nonprofit in Chicago to give a lecture to a group of people who would be tutoring kids in Cabrini Green. They told me I had about 45 minutes to give the new tutors a complete overview of public housing. There was obviously a lot of history and detail I could have gone into, but I tried to focus on telling the stories that had been told to me.

I talked about Audrey Johnson, the resident of Ickes Homes, who remembered the wholesome after school classes she took – sewing, folk dancing, cooking. It cost her family a dollar for her to go every day after school for the entire school year. She talked about her step dad dressing up as Santa Claus for the building Christmas party. I looked at a building and saw a place I wasn’t sure I was welcome or safe. She saw her history, her family, her entire life.

I told these new tutors about Doreen Ambrose, who had grown up in Cabrini Green. She remembered her third grade teacher reading her Langston Hughes, which inspired her to become a poet. She remembered living on the third floor of 325 W. Oak Street, the smell of her mother’s cooking wafting through the apartment while her dad watched TV after work and she scribbled poems in her notebook.

These women had sad stories too. Audrey’s stepfather was murdered when she was a young teenager just a few floors up from their apartment. Doreen remembered when the stable families started moving out and more and more troubled families started moving in. She could distinctly recall a young man, a classmate of hers, being murdered blocks away and the terror that she felt when it happened.

After I spoke about this for awhile and played clips of these women telling their stories, a young woman raised her hand at the back of the class. She said, “I think I get it now. I always looked at those buildings and thought, ‘Why would anyone want to live there? And why would anyone be sad if they tore that place down?’ but now I see – these were people’s homes.”

That moment was a little victory for me. That’s all I really want out of my career. I hope that something I write helps bring people’s experiences to life in a way that makes them real to my readers, real enough to understand their point of view.

In short, I want to create empathy in the world. That’s a word that makes most journalists nervous, because it borders on advocacy or editorializing. But in my view, empathy is what creates change — change for the better. We cannot take care of our neighbors until we understand them, and a well-told story can help us understand them in ways that lists of statistics or news briefs will never do.  We don’t have to agree with someone or say that they’re right, but we can listen to them and understand where they’re coming from.

We live in a world where empathy is not widely regarded. Studs talked about how we have national amnesia. I think we also have a national empathy deficit. Our news, our politics, our discourse is so polarized that we are quick to talk about “those people” and how we could never understand them or be like them. In a world of sound bites and constantly scrolling headlines, we have no room and no time for empathy.

But we desperately need it. I stand in a room full of people, who despite claiming to be unbiased and objective, all deeply care about their city. That’s why we do what we do.

Studs Terkel once said “I want people to talk to one another no matter what their difference of opinion might be.”

These days, people don’t talk to each other. They don’t want to. Maybe they’ve forgotten how. But we can tell their stories. We can bring people together, even when they don’t think they want to be brought together. That’s our job. That’s our legacy. That’s our gift.

“Red socks. Studs Terkel wore red socks,” 2013 Terkel Award winner Dave Hoekstra, begins his acceptance speech. photo by Olga Lopez


Read Dave Hoekstra’s full acceptance speech, reprinted here.


Navigating through Morocco

The following post and its opinions are that of the author and not of the Community Media Workshop.


New Media Associate Marissa Wasseluk on the streets of Casablanca, Morocco. Picture by Hassan Aaddak.

Casablanca explodes with activity. One after another, motorbikes and bicycles weave through traffic and pass our car with the grace and agility of snakes moving through tall grass. We maneuver our way around several cars straddling the imaginary line that separates the lanes on the highway. “How are you finding Casablanca, Marissa?” asks Noureddine, our interpreter, as he puts his car into another gear. He drives forward and doesn’t flinch as another person pulls in front of us, leaving only a whisper of air between the two cars. “So far so good!” I over-exclaim while reassuringly pushing my seat belt into its lock.

Like any big city, Casablanca is on the move. When I first arrived I felt like I had to hit the ground running, and faster than usual to keep up with its pace. The geographic bridge between Europe and Subsaharan Africa, globalism and multiculturalism define Moroccan society. Walking the streets, I overhear conversations between residents that flow from French to Arabic and sometimes English with ease. I see women in traditional hajibs and kaftans check their cell phones for messages and a stylish young man light a cigarette as he leans against a centuries-old wall. It’s easy to see how the country earned its nickname, the global crossroads.

Some traffic began building on these roads about two years ago.  Civil unrest triggered a social movement that called for reformations in the constitution. Some people call the movement The Arab Spring. Here it’s more often referred to as The Democratic Spring. I, myself, am traveling these roads as a part of a legislative fellows program wherein nonprofit professionals from Chicago meet professionals from NGOs in its sister city, Casablanca. Personally, I’m looking to find out more about the correlation between new media and social movements like The Democratic Spring. I’m also curious about the different ways people here are using technology to fulfill their missions (and perhaps, give them a little advice on how they could).

The changes brought on by this movement are now beginning to take really take root.  Because of passionate people working hard to create a better society, nonprofits across the country are finding it easier to fulfill their missions without breaking laws. After visiting several NGOs in Morocco with missions ranging from empowering women, rights for the disabled, and urban agriculture, I’ve found that these organizations have grown by leaps and bounds in a short amount of time, but there’s still much to be done.

And so, the city and country continue to move – towards cultural and political change.

I’m happy to be along for the ride.

To be continued…

The Professional Fellows Program for Egypt and Morocco is funded by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, and implemented by Citizen Bridges International, a nonprofit in Chicago, and its partner organizations, El Sadat Association in Cairo, Egypt and IDMAJ in Casablanca, Morocco.


Romney vs. Big Bird : A Nonprofit Communications Win

sesame street communications strategy

Guest post by Marissa Wasseluk (opinions reflect that of the author)

As we anticipate the last American presidential debate of this election season, I look back to the first and the communications crisis that almost came out of it. I just want to be sure to give big kudos and a powerful, slow clap to the communications team at Sesame Workshop.

The nonprofit behind the beloved children’s educational television program Sesame Street unwittingly found itself a central figure of political discourse when during the first U.S. presidential debate of 2012, candidate Mitt Romney declared his plan to cut government funding to PBS in spite of his personal love for one of the show’s mascots, Big Bird.

Almost instantly a wave of Big Bird memes exploded across the Internet – the hashtags #bigbird and #savebigbird trended on Twitter, while pictures of the muppet attached to political propaganda phrases took up web real estate. It seemed everyone in America was googling “Big Bird”.

They needed to make a statement, and quickly. Inaction would mean losing control of the brand they had worked over thirty years to create.

Less than 24 hours since the bird became even more famous, the Sesame Street twitter account sent out this tongue-in-cheek message:


The Twitter account then retweeted  another tweet from Sesame Workshop (the nonprofit has a separate Twitter account, which makes a lot of sense since the show itself is popular enough to have its own audience and can stand in the social media sphere as its own entity). It stated:

Another tweet followed with a link to the Workshop’s longer-than-140-characters statement, which took end users to their blog. As far as nonprofit crisis communications go, this plan was incredibly executed. Sesame Workshop did not shrink from the spotlight, but instead used it as an opportunity to shed light on the work that they do.

From one Workshop to another, I say, well done.

Top 5 summer iPhone apps for the nonprofit communicator


I know… some of you might be saying… “iPhone apps? What about Android and Blackbery?” Well, here at the Workshop a majority of us are iPhone users. But, we would love to hear what apps you are using on other platforms. Add your comments below!

Here’s what we love using lately… Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling as advocacy for the blind of Chefchaouen

Saida (left) telling the story of the blind artisans of Chefchaouen to our interpreter Noureddine (right)

We were in the middle of our usual routine of taking group shots while visiting with officials, diplomats and civic leaders – this time with the mayor of the beautiful city of Chefchaouen, Morocco. In the middle of our photo shoot, a short and animated women with thick glasses entered the office, bumping the door into some of us from behind and interrupting our official and diplomatic poses. No apologies, no introduction, she simply lined herself with the rest of us and smiled with a glowing presence.

Read the rest of this entry »

Six degrees of separation on the last train to Tangier, Part 1

The following post and its opinions are that of the author and not of the Community Media Workshop. 

Mohamed and I were engulfed in conversation about social media, development and civic society in Morocco after meeting with the Minister of Communication in Rabat. We walked at a steady pace towards the train station under the burning sun and the soft humid air channelling our ideas back and forth about the opportunities constitutional reform would bring to the country. We were separated from our group and would be meeting up with Erin, Whitney and our young, tall and talented translator Noureddine to board the last train to Tangier–north of the country and just south of Spain. Read the rest of this entry »

I don’t know kung fu… but a little more about Morocco…? Yes

A picture perfect view of the Gardens at the Hassan II Mosquee

There’s a scene in the movie The Matrix when the character Neo (the One) downloads a program to his brain and in almost an instant, unplugs from the computer and says… “I know Kung Fu!”

From left to right: Lawrence Benito, Whitney Woodward and Erin Stephens

Well, I don’t know kung fu but this does sum up my experience so far here in Morocco this past week–the consumption of so much information in such a short period of time. In five days, We’ve been able to visit four cities and meet with numerous civic organizational leaders, community activists, media professionals, government officials, mayors and many friendly people in general. Read the rest of this entry »

Communiqué from Morocco

For a long time I’ve believed that the Community Media Workshop is a unique institution–offering resources and sharing knowledge that strengthen civic institutions’ ability to transform communities in Chicago and beyond. Our unique mission has now been presented the opportunity to expand its reach–Morocco! Read the rest of this entry »


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