Out of our comfort zone

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One of the things that’s come out of Nonstop Honolulu is that all of us, to varying degrees, have had to break out of our comfort zones and try things we’ve never done before.

This means everything from becoming media personalities, blogging, shooting video and more. Sometimes, it’s been awkward to delve beyond familiar ground, yet we’ve realized we have to redefine who we are and what we can do to help Nonstop succeed. It’s also a new era of journalism, where journalists can’t just be a writer or editor. In this age of digital journalism, we have to be adept at many things, even things we never would have previously considered doing.

Here are some examples of how some of us have gone well beyond our comfort zones:

Mari Taketa: Mari’s probably undergone the most radical transformation of anyone on the Nonstop team. I first started working with Mari in late 2007 for Metromix Honolulu. At the time, she was a seasoned writer and editor, but definitely someone with more traditional journalistic sensibilities. She had never blogged; refused to sign up for Twitter and adamantly argued (and I mean argued) against appearing on video. In fact, she was reluctant to even be photographed for Metromix or The Honolulu Advertiser, partly because as a food reviewer, she didn’t want people to recognize her, but also because she was somewhat adverse to public attention. She still held such notions at Nonstop’s inception. But after we convinced her that her avatar for the site shouldn’t be a photo with her face blacked out, she started opening herself up. And once she did, she became a totally different person.

On Twitter, she’s now a frequent tweeter with more than 1,150 followers and 3,000 tweets to her name (@NonStopMari). She’s also hosting tweetups, like the upcoming snout-to-tail dinner, with Twitter friends, as well as strangers, joining her on this culinary adventure.

Mari was the last person on our core team to start a blog, but once she did, her wonderful, funny and insightful musings about food and eating came forth. I love her blog posts, because they’re so passionate, genuine and full of personality. She offers a lot of herself into these posts, and that’s what makes them must-reads.

Lately, Mari’s been pushed even further. This former extremely camera shy writer is now doing a regular TV segment with Melissa Chang on KITV, M&M eats. In their latest segment, notice the authority in Mari’s voice as she dissects the world of oysters. She’s also appearing on camera in our own Nonstop videos, like last week’s segment about a new food truck, Tiki Truck. And at last Friday’s Eat the Street, Mari and Melissa were asked to be the featured reporters on a video segment that will be shown on Hawaiian Airlines flights. (See photo above of Mari in action.)

It’s amazing how far Mari’s come on this multimedia journey. She’s now leading the way for others on the team, including myself.

But she’s not the only one going through a journalistic metamorphosis.

Ed Morita’s journey: Although Ed has long been snapping photos around town, not long after Nonstop launched last August, I asked him if he would start shooting party pics for the site. Hardly a clubber, he was reluctant. The thought of going up to random people at bars and parties and asking to take their photos made him cringe.

“Girls are going to think I’m a pervert,” I recall him telling me.
“Please, just try it,” I said. “It’s what we need.”

Like the trouper he is, he ventured out to a party and came back with beautiful pics. He wasn’t entirely convinced it was something he could do regularly, yet he kept going to party after party, snapping smiling peeps and handing out our Nonstop cards. Now, he actually volunteers to shoot party pics, and if I ask him to go to a specific party, I usually get an email that says, “Sure” or “No problem.”

Tracy Chan: Tracy has long been one of the city’s most well-known nightlife photographers, but she’s also embraced new roles for Nonstop, like shooting and editing video and blogging. It’s new territory for her, because although she may know everything about Honolulu club culture, she’s somewhat of a shy person and not one to draw too much attention to herself.

At first, in some of her early blog posts, I could sense some self consciousness. She wasn’t entirely convinced she had anything significant to say. But over time, I’ve noticed a clear change in her voice. Her blogs now flow with self confidence. She’s embraced the idea that she is an expert on local nightlife, and that people want to hear her assessment of the scene. She’s also shooting and editing video, even though she has little past experience doing either. To me, she’s what today’s journalist has to be — versatile, a self learner and embracing of new technologies.

For my part, what’s been most challenging and what’s pushed me most out of my comfort zone is having to play lots of different roles simultaneously. I’ve always worked for big media companies, where I was hired with a specific editorial role: writer/reporter, editor or manager/director. Although I often had to multitask in these jobs, I could remain somewhat singularly focused on my main editorial responsibility.

Now, I’m an editor, but also a manager, business owner and dot-com entrepreneur. I’m not the one selling ads on the site, but I have to take part in business meetings, file our company taxes, help market the site, serve as Nonstop’s spokesperson (for good and bad news) and work toward making Nonstop not just an editorial success, but a financially viable one. It’s new territory for me, and frankly, I feel often out of my element. But I have to get skilled in these new areas and push myself to think of myself not only as a journalist, but as a business person.

I’ve also returned to writing a bit and being a content producer. My roots are in newspaper reporting and writing, but it’s been many years since I’ve held a media job where I wasn’t just an editor or manager. It’s funny because although I probably was the person here in Honolulu who really pushed forth the idea of doing restaurant reviews and other content as photo galleries, it’s been a little strange to actually do these types of galleries myself. I enjoy both editing and writing though, so it’s a good thing for me to expand what I do for the site.

So as you can see, as Nonstop grows, so do all the people behind it. It’s a site that doesn’t really see boundaries, and I would say that’s become an accurate description for our team.

My question for you is, do you think in this ramped up technological and socially networked era that most people have had to expand their skills like we have?