Pageant-ing in Belize: 5 things to consider before you don your sash

What must it be like to be a beauty pageant contestant in Belize in the age of social media? When I was pageant-ing in 1986, there was no way for members of the public to instantly criticize me and share that criticism with hundreds–even thousands of other people. I heard very few negative comments; I suppose my friends and family shielded me. The few I did hear were baffling as well as dismaying.

So, I salute the ten contestants in this year’s Miss Belize Universe Pageant, whose pageant month was full of public appearances and opportunities to be scrutinized.

Yours truly with my predecessor–and friend–Romy Taegar! Circa November 1986.

Congratulations to Rebecca Rath of Dangriga! She is the newest Miss Belize and will represent us at the Miss Universe Pageant. Watch as she won on Sept. 10, 2016!

If I were to provide advice to young women about whether to enter a beauty pageant in Belize, here are a few items I would ask potential contestants to consider.

  1. Do you know what it feels like to lose? I suspect young women who know what this feels like will be able to face what’s coming. So, if you have competed before (e.g. in sports, academically, in other kinds of contests) and survived defeat with your ego intact, that is a point in favor of entering a pageant.
  2. Do you know how it feels to win? This is important because the minute you triumph you will become a magnet for people who want to be in your life, for better and worse. Being a gracious and humble winner can go a long way in keeping your ego intact.
  3. Is your support system strong and absolutely on board? Any ambivalence in the people closest to you can lead to self-doubt. Your friends and family love you, but they may not see entering a pageant as something they want you to do. Also, a ride-or-die crew will make sure you have the resources you need: They’ll help you find sponsors, be your cheering section, and remind you that you’re awesome no matter what happens.
  4. Are you confident? Confidence is not the same as courage. In my mind, courage gets you through something you may not believe you can actually survive. Confidence means that no matter what happens in the pageant, you’ll be fine. Maybe you’ll shed a few disappointed tears, but you won’t be shattered.
  5. What happens next? Do you have a plan to get on with your life, win or lose?

Would I do it again? Yes. I won a college scholarship (as did the 2016 winner, Rebecca Rath). I traveled to Singapore, Europe and all around Belize. I was probably too young; at age 17, my ego was fragile and the Miss Universe experience was overwhelming. Still, no regrets.

Rebecca Rath (holding the water bottle, wearing black dress) joins her fellow Miss Belize delegates for lunch at Cafe Michel’le in Belize City.

Follow Rebecca’s road to Miss Universe on Facebook!

Everybody hurts: 10 reasons journalists can have morale problems

Non-journalists are often surprised to learn that working in journalism is not all excitement, fun and a deep sense of fulfillment.  Working in television and digital news as I do, I find myself explaining that one of the biggest issues facing leaders is morale–and it’s one that often gets short shrift in the fast-paced, intense daily flow of work.


As many corporations have learned, a workforce of frustrated, frightened and angry employees is bad for productivity. There’s a reason new companies place a high premium on workplace amenities, generous benefits and opportunities for training and growth.

So why are so many journalists bummed out?

1. We are constantly finding out disturbing information about human nature.

2. That ever-present, sneaking feeling that you just missed a very important story/scoop.

3. Highly competitive. Journalists are constantly sizing themselves up against the news operation “across the street” as well as against their own co-workers. This is a losing game, but we can’t resist playing it.


4. Change. New technology, new platforms, new economic realities. It’s all scary.

5. With great responsibility and public presence come outsized egos. And, the flip-side is deep insecurity.

6. One minute you’re winning, the next you are down in the cellar.

A recent study looked at how constantly monitoring performance via metrics affects newsroom morale. No surprise, it found that simply checking how individual digital stories performed–or looking at daily television ratings–can be either be a huge downer or a massive upper–and both outcomes offer distortion that can feed into insecurity and frustration. MORE Study: Metrics have ‘powerful influence’ on journalists’ morale

7. Work-life balance. Say what?

8. Money. Unless you are a network anchor who writes a best-seller and marries money, you are unlikely to be rich. You will work very hard for long hours.

9. Love and hate from the public. When we give voice to the voiceless, expose the baddies and hold the powerful accountable we are heroes. When mess up, everyone knows and won’t let us forget it.

10. Bosses who just don’t get it.

Believe it or not, journalists are not always the best leaders! We tend to be impatient, cynical, skeptical and highly motivated by individual achievement. The qualities that make a reporter, producer or other newsie great at news gathering can make us terrible as managers. Recommended: What Great Bosses Know (podcasts)

As a newsroom leader myself, I find one of the toughest challenges is distinguishing between individual and organizational angst: There are people who have personal or professional problems unique to them, no matter where they happen to be working. Then are also low morale themes that permeate and fester. Tackling morale problems effectively requires leaders to correctly diagnose before taking action.

So why to we do it?

Remember that excitement, fun and a deep sense of fulfillment I mentioned earlier? It does exist! Also, we love being in the know and on the front lines of life.

There is no formula for all of this. But, we know listening and hearing are vital. We know that walking the talk speaks volumes.  Suggestions welcome!


When did that happen? 9 things I do differently in 2015

A few months ago I unplugged my television and called the cable company to request Internet-only service. I am not one of those “I don’t watch TV,” people! I work in television news, and I have a number of favorite must-see shows. What I realized, however, is that I could watch most of them online, either via live stream (for example, the news) or using my trusty Netflix account and Amazon Prime memberships.

RELATED: Find live streaming news for free 


Now, the only time I watch actual TV is at work (CNN or 9 On Your Side News) or when I am visiting my mother in St. Louis: Ample opportunity to catch up with the latest from Flo, the Progressive Insurance lady. (I do miss the delight that comes with finding a Law & Order episode on any number of channels at pretty much any time of day).

RELATED Flawed but Fabulous: 8 TV Women Who Rock

Upon reflection, I realize that slowly but surely I am becoming one of those (other) people. Are you?

  1. Holiday and birthday greetings via Facebook rather than actual cards, as of 2010
  2. No landline phone, as of 2011
  3. Binge-watching shows online, as of 2013
  4. Cable quitter, as of 2014
  5. iTunes, as of 2006
  6. Spotify, as of 2013 (I am not a Pandora person)
  7. Most news consumption online, as of 2007
  8. Arranging travel (flights, hotels, car rentals, destination information), increasingly as of 2008
  9. Bill-paying, increasingly as of 2006

I can’t remember the last time I bought a CD or DVD. And, I’m considering getting rid of the ones (still) collecting dust in my apartment.

There are a few things I still do the old school way: I read books and magazines in actual paper form. I also do crossword puzzles on paper–binge style, via compilations of Sunday New York Times puzzles. When it comes to shopping, I am about 50-50: For clothes and shoes, I usually go to an actual store; when buying gifts, it’s online. Also, I still like to carry some cash, and I write a check for rent.

What about you? Please take my poll!

Since I last blogged…

It’s been a while since I blogged. I have a good excuse: Been busy with the paradigm shift in local journalism.

In February, WCPO became the first local broadcast news operation (as far as we know) to implement a subscription option. Call it a paywall, if you will. There is a bit of a difference with WCPO Insider, though.

  • Most content on remains free. Like what? Read more here
  • There is no meter or wall; many visitors to the site may never choose to click on a headline with the plus sign and therefore never encounter premium (paid) content
  • We are offering content and more: deals, “bundles” (e.g. a digital subscription to the Washington Post)

WATCH: “There’s always more to the story”

In terms of the role of the community team (myself and two community managers), this initiative has meant answering emails and social media posts that range from angry (News is free! What happened to the free press! I hate you!), to thoughtful (Here’s why I think what you are doing is a bad idea), to technical (How exactly do I subscribe?).

It also means finding ways to put our arms around our members; connect them to what they care about in the community; and, connect them to each other.

I could tell you what we are planning in this regard, but then I would be spoiling the surprise. WCPO Insiders who attended the TEDxCincinnati Main Stage Event, “Vibrant Curiosity,” in October, got a taste of what’s in store, though.

WCPO Insider become the media sponsor of the event, which expressed itself like this:

  1. We partnered with TEDxCincinnati organizers to offer early access to an annual subscription “bundle,” which included two tickets to the event, and drink tickets and an invite to a WCPO Insider reception before the event.
  2. Yours truly took part in the auditions as a judge to select potential speakers.
  3. We created a calendar of editorial content about the event. From August through October, we published stories at There were also three television stories.
  4. WCPO news anchor and reporter Chris Riva served as emcee for the event

Check out the TEDxCincinnati Flickr page for photos from “Vibrant Curiosity”

My colleagues tease me, but I can honestly say I felt a bit emotional as the 200+ Insiders and their guests arrived at Cincinnati’s Memorial Hall for “Vibrant Curiosity.”

This is what the intersection of journalism and engagement can look like. It feels very good.

Here are some items you can read about what we’ve been up to:

Stay tuned!

POLL: Where do you find humor?

#ROFL: Vine and Twitter are making me laugh so hard I can’t even stand it.

#ROFL: Vine and Twitter are making me laugh so hard I can’t even stand it

Screen Shot 2013-09-07 at 11.52.00 AMJudging by the number of social media posts about how to maximize, leverage, and optimize social media it’s fair to say that we take social media very seriously.

That’s why I am thankful to the people who find time to create parody accounts on Twitter and produce exquisitely funny six-second videos on Vine.

Here are my favorite Twitter parody handles, in no particular order:

@PrinceTweets2U – Samples: “excuse me but purple is the new black” and “i am the royal baby i am prince”

@ShakespeareSong – Sample: “Halt, the hammer of time is upon us” and “Frozen water, frozen water, infant”

@SeinfeldToday – Samples: “Jerry’s vacation’s ruined by the stress of avoiding Breaking Bad spoilers. Elaine’s never seen the show, ruins a viewing party w/questions” and “Jerry & George discover Kramer’s the subject of an insane number of Craigslist missed connections. Elaine gets a pixie cut. It’s disastrous.”

@DangItObama – Samples: “I don’t get Labor Day off.. THANKS OBAMA. ” and “Miley Cyrus. Thanks Obama.”

@PRISM_NSA – Samples “Our intelligence indicates that Obama is late for his Syria speech because Candy Crush Saga.” and “30 years ago today this was the #1 song in America. It’s still #1 at the NSA Every Breath You Take”

And over on Vine…

The thing that’s great about comedy on Vine is that creating it requires a lot more than six seconds to think out before you actually start rolling.

And, Vine is making stars out of every day people who have a knack for tapping into the hilarity of the things we do every day. Many of them have an insane number of followers, and advertisers are taking notice.

For example, a young Frenchman named Jerome Jarre has 2.1 million followers on Vine. He specializes in hugging strangers in New York City and other antics that perhaps only a foreigner could get away with in the Big Apple. Recently, I saw that General Electric featured Jarre and his buddy Marcus Johns (2.5 million followers) in a Vine to advertise something called the Apple Drop.

Rudy Mancuso (1.7 million followers) was recently featured in a Trident Gum Vine post, along with Nicholas Megalis (2.6 million followers). One of the best Rudy posts is a collaboration with King Bach (2.2 million followers). It’s a rap that goes like this:

Bach: “I’m lovin’ New York City…”

Mancuso: “But you know I love it bigger…”

Bach: “I’m chillin’ with my Cuban…”

Mancuso: “And I’m chillin’ with my…. African-American”

One of my favorite Vine celebs is Alphacat (1.1 million followers), who does a spot on impression of President Obama (dancing, tapping our phones). Another good person to follow is QPark (about 625,000 followers), whose schtick includes “Sudden Rachet Syndrome.”

Among the relatively few truly hilarious female Vine celebs is Simone Shepherd (959,000 followers) whose “How to handle those friends who…” skits are classics! She has a real flair for nailing the above referenced quotidian elements of life.

Silly? Perhaps. But you’ll thank me on those days when instead of shaking your head over a post that would have been best left unposted, you instead find yourself #ROFL. You’re welcome.

Every dog has its day and now so can you: 10 steps to your own special celebration

This post is for entertainment purposes only. Does not imply an endorsement of setting up your own day.

It seems like every cause, organization, food, drink, hobby, etc. now has a its very own day. There are many that most people can agree are worthy of a special place on our calendar: Earth Day on April 22, for example. Here are a few you may not have heard of:

So, what’s to stop you or me from establishing our very own day? There is an official procedure for doing so, which involves an act of Congress. But, why bother? You can declare your very own special day.

Aug. 6, may birthday, is Wiggle Your Toes Day.
Aug. 6, may birthday, is Wiggle Your Toes Day.

Here’s how:

  1. Pick a day. It’s a good idea to find a day that’s not already taken. See the website to find a good one. Cost: Free. (I was sorry to learn that Aug. 6, my birthday, is already taken. It’s Wiggle Your Toes Day, origins unknown).
  2. Start a blog about your day. Do this a few months ahead of time so you can build up some buzz. Cost: Free
  3. Begin your social media campaign. Create a Facebook Page and Twitter account to get the word out and spark some engagement. Consider Instagram if your day involves something visual. For example: Your Instagram account for Nail Polish Day (there isn’t such a day yet, as far as I can tell) might feature photos of different colors of nail polish. Cost: Whatever you’d like to spend on supplies for your nails.
  4. Consider setting up a YouTube channel and posting videos. For example, you painting your nails or interviews with experts (like your favorite nail salon owner). Cost: Free, if you at least have a smart phone. Otherwise, borrow gear from a friend or consider investing in some basic equipment.
  5. Create a Wikepedia entry for your day. Cost: Free
  6. Consider hosting a launch party to which your nearest and dearest are invited. Since they presumably love–or at least like–you, they are potential evangelists for your special day. Cost: You might want to buy snacks and refreshments.
  7. Host a meetup. This is a great chance to assemble random people who share your obsession (nail polish, for example). They may also become evangelists. Cost: Again, food and beverages are great incentives. In our nail polish example, you could also promise a free bottle to the first 10 people who show up.
  8. Write and send out press releases to the media. Your list should include specialty and trade outlets that might get excited about your obsession (say, nail polish). Cost: free
  9. Take the week leading up to your day off from work. This will free you up for interviews with the media and allow you devote as much time as you need to ramping up your social media efforts. Cost: If you get paid by the hour, it’s a big sacrifice. If you are salaried, you’ll use up paid time off. Probably worth it, though.
  10. Enjoy your day! And, start ramping up for next year.

Related reading:

Use your words (and photos): One journalist’s month in social media and grammar

The Poynter Institute is the leading go-to training and ideas hub for journalism. So, I was pretty pleased and proud when Joe Grimm, the “Ask the Recruiter” guru for Poynter, asked me to take part in a live chat about social media and communities.


Like many journalists and others who spend a great deal of time in and around social media, I’ve been a participant in live online chats. This was my first time actually playing the role of question-answerer. Along with Mallary Tenore, managing editor of, Joe and I got started at 3 p.m. on Jan. 15. It was fun!


In other news…

Here are a few interesting, quirky and useful items I’ve come across this month:

  1. Poloroid’s Fotobar Stores Will Let You Print Photos from Your Phone ( Interesting to see Poloroid making a play for a slice of the digital pie in this way. The Fotobars will let people come in and print digital photos stored on their phones–and not just on paper. I predict a great many “selfies” coming to life as questionable art via materials like metal, acrylic, wood, bamboo and canvas.
  2. How the World Consumes Social Media ( Who knew that Bangkok has more Facebook users than any other city in the world? Also, the United Kingdom is the only country where men outnumber women on Pinterest. 
  3. 100 Amazing Social Media Statistics, Facts and Figures ( For anyone seeking a primer on just how our most popular social media platforms stack up, this is a great one-stop shop.
  4. Have your say: The best and worst words and phrases of 2012 ( Speaking of the word “selfie” (see #1 above), it’s a term I learned just this month, as various organizations put out the call for Americans to nominate the best and worst words phrases of 2012. I love these lists, because the vocabulary of any given 12 months is often emblematic with our culture, obsessions, and outrages. Also to love, The American Dialect Association encouraged us to submit nominations via social media.

Be yourself: 5 social media rules from your mother

New school, high school dance, first date, college, job interview. You were nervous, and your mother would say, “Just be yourself. You’ll be great!”

(Picture her smoothing down a stray hair or straightening your tie).

She was not talking about the you who left dirty clothes on the floor, broke curfew, got a bad grade, moaned about chores, talked back, or generally got up to no good. She was talking about your very best self: the one that exemplified the attributes she most admired in her own offspring, not to mention the home training she worked so hard to instill.

Check out my "Mama Said" playlist on Spotify!
Check out my “Mama Said” playlist on Spotify!

I think the exhortation–along with its implicit directives–holds lessons for life in digital age.

1 – Count to ten. Before you post that screed about whatever is ticking your off to your Facebook timeline or shoot off an email tirade, take a breather to consider the consequences. I once advised an employee who was prone to vent electronically to write the angry email, save it as a draft, and then go back later to see if he still felt he should send it.

2 – Do unto others. I see this from time to time on Twitter: 140 snarky and harsh characters from one Tweep and a response in kind from another. First Tweep takes umbrage. Second Tweep RTs the offending Tweets to the world. The Golden Rule is especially golden in the 21st Century.

3 – Keep in clean. Do not use naughty words. Think about your reputation before you share photos that show you in a scandalous light. Remember: your best efforts to control privacy settings aside, content you share might be seen by people you never imagined.

4 –  Share and share alike. Get beyond using social media for New Age navel gazing. Sure, some of your friends might want to know you just had the best sandwich ever. They might like it even better if you share interesting articles and information that relates to their lives. I get a warm fuzzy feeling when a friend shares a memory like an awesomely bad eighties music video that we once loved or a photo from high school. Even those happy birthday Facebook (HBD, for those who don’t have time to type out the words) posts are appreciated!

5 – If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. In case you hadn’t noticed, social media has evolved way past a fun, consequence-free way to play around on your computer. From time to time, conversations get heated. Things are said that cannot be unsaid. On a very basic level, some people find they simply don’t like the exposure that an active social media life comes with. Or, perhaps, there are platforms you simply don’t find useful or interesting. No one is forcing you to join the club.

And how about these? They are extensions of the five rules above and worth thinking about:

Don’t run with a bad crowd.

Set a good example for others.

Do your homework.

Try it: It might actually taste good.

Some things are private.

We all make mistakes.

You mother wanted you to be happy, loved, and–to quote Oprah–live your best life. She told you life is not fair, you can’t always have your own way, and challenges and disappointments will come. Remember: She was right.

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