Traveling Fast and Light with Repurposed Journalist Lee Schneider

Posted: November 21, 2011 in employment

Traveling Fast and Light

“There’s a connection with the truth that journalists have. When people become journalists they have a purpose.” – Lee Schneider

Today Lee Schneider produces documentaries, writes a blog for Huffington Post and does online strategies for businesses with a socially responsible mission. His production company creates “cause-driven” nonfiction films. At 55, Schneider has found his purpose on the digital media frontier.

But it didn’t come without a lot of searching.

“When I worked at NBC I was working for GE. That’s what I stood for. When you work for Nat Geo, (owned by Fox) you stand for Rupert Murdoch.” Schneider, a veteran of NBC Dateline, Fox and ABC’s “Good Morning America” is now directing Shelter, a documentary focusing on architects and how good design helps the homeless and victims of disasters. His documentaries have aired on History Channel, Discovery Health Channel, The Learning Channel, Bravo, Food Network, Court TV, ReelzChannel and A&E

Schneider’s been blogging since 2009. He started by writing a blog called, “500 Words on Thursday”. “I did about one hundred of them. Now I help get clients’ blogs off the ground.” Currently he averages 2-3 blogs a week. He blogs  once a week for the Huffington Post. “The voice you’re putting out there better be good. He reads Maureen Dowd, Kristof and David Carr of the New York Times. He also follows Mark Horvath’s “Hardly Normal”, another repurposed journalist who’s using new media and “tapped into a tribe.”

How does the journalist repurpose himself on the frontier of digital media? “There’s a connection with the truth that journalists have,” says Schneider. When people become journalists they have a purpose. He says he’s grateful for how the newsroom work ethic prepared him to work hard today.

Schneider began to grow weary of network news in the mid-90’s. “Why do I want to keep doing this?” he kept asking himself as he turned out investigative pieces often involving murder, rape and other forms of violence. “I produced stories I couldn’t show my kids.” But it was the reach of network broadcast news that was enticing. “I’d be done after a long day and the phone would ring and they’d ask, Can you do re-cut for Nightly?” Still, he left NBC Dateline in 1996. “It took a while but I’m out of TV. The problem wasn’t me – it was television.” But it took an adjustment.  Something happens when we work for big TV networks. There’s a sense of entitlement. And when that goes away we ask, what happened? “The technology we’re using now – WordPress is not a helicopter. And it’s not Dateline but it’s a good reach.”

Schneider’s tips to journalists searching for new purpose, or bloggers looking for tips to attract more views? “Well, that’s one way to do it, list tips” or top ten lists or “how to’s.” All journalists have skills,” Lee says. “We all know how to interview. We all know how to find people who know how to tell their story, people who can drive the narrative.” But “deciding and curating content is the issue.” Curating should be at the top of the list for any journalist trying to make sense of the digital world.

Nobody else is going to do this for you.”

When Schneider went to Haiti in August of this year to document earthquake devastation, it was just Schneider and a local videographer. Two people, two backpacks.

They arrived at the scene to start unpacking what little gear they had and someone asked Lee, “Where’s the crew?” But that was it – two people. Now with no TV news network to pick up the tab and call the shots, he’s writing up fundraising proposals to go back to Haiti. Unfinished work for the journalist who has found his purpose, travelling light and fast.

Schneider is a New York native, living in Santa Monica, California with his wife, Tabby Biddle who also blogs for Huffington Post

  1. Elizabeth W says:

    I think he really hit the nail on the head with current mainstream media. It’s controlled by advertisers and corporations. And that affects how news in covered. Such an important point in looking at the repurposed journalist.

  2. Deric says:

    Great feature… an inspiration to all journos as well as non-journos.

  3. docuguy says:

    It’s all changing so fast. But it’s up to us to get out in front of it. You’re finding a good community here, John. Keep it up! Looking forward to your next articles.

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