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Sacha Cohen’s review of "Content & Coffee"

by Sacha Cohen (
copyright 2003

Hosted by:
Merry Bruns, ScienceSites Communications

Am I dreaming or are writers and editors finally getting some well-deserved respect in new media?

After all, "ink-stained wretches" are often the brains behind sticky content, scintillating copy, and typo-free sites. But more often than not, writing tends to be lots of work and very little glory. Well, even if we're not getting any more respect, we may be getting more visibility and a more cohesive, active community.

Last week, I attended Content & Coffee, an event organized and hosted by the talented and exuberant Web editor and writer Merry Bruns. Merry, the self-proclaimed "ringleader for this shebang," has been a fixture in the DC new media scene for years and has paved the way for many aspiring online writers.

She started the event in 1998. "It was intimate at first," says Merry, "and then grew, as more and more people needed a place to talk with others about non-technical aspects of Web sites."

We've corresponded many times over the years, but this was the first time I had the chance to meet Merry in person. agreed to host the event at its Rosslyn office, across the river from its venerable print counterpart.

When I arrived and saw a room packed with people and tables overflowing with food and drinks, I knew it would be a few hours well spent. News Editor Alex Johnson kicked off the evening with a discussion of the Post's Web site and a peek into what goes on behind the scenes. He talked about adapting print articles so they work on the Web, reaching your target audience, and the challenges of finding a story's nut graf.

Then his colleague, Jody Brannon, Managing Editor of Breaking News, stood up and described the chaotic process of getting late-breaking news stories online. She also showed us a few of the site's slick multimedia features, but also emphasized the importance of quality copy. Jody also made a plea for qualified content people to join her staff. Hey, who says the Post doesn't have to beg?

After the presentation, a lively discussion about the future of content and editorial process took place. Timothy Maloy, editor of Internet Newsroom spoke to me briefly about the National Press Club's Cyber forum and his involvement with it. I also chatted with Dan Rutherford, Deputy Editor of Online Services at Kiplinger Washington Editors.

While munching on brie and melon, I spoke to Adlai Amor, Director of Communications at Greenpeace, about the evolution of DC's new media community.

In the end, we all agreed it's all about listening to your audience and there are no hard and fast rules, just lots of lessons. Plus, word on the street is that writers are starting to command more money and better salaries. Now that's the kind of trend I like to see.

The next event is planned for sometime in October (when Merry gets back from her honeymoon!), at the National Press Club in downtown DC.

—Sacha Cohen


Copyright 1997-2003 Merry Bruns
ScienceSites Communications
Washington, DC

All Rights Reserved.