Online Journalism

Entries from February 2011

Briggs Summary – Chapter 6

February 25th, 2011 · Comments Off on Briggs Summary – Chapter 6

Visual storytelling with photographs

The digital age has allowed photography to transform into a craft that used to be reserved for professional photographers only. Now that film is not the primary medium for capturing images, memory cards and advanced point-and-shoot cameras allow anyone to play the role of photographer. Some of the benefits of digital photography are:

  • Being able to take many more pictures, and viewing them as you work.
  • Uploading pictures to the internet and having the ability to share them with others.
  • Saving money from not having to purchase film.
  • Having the ability to crop and edit photos.

This chapter provides in-depth explanations of how to take a good photograph, and how to edit them appropriately. Likewise, issues of copyright and fair use are addressed. Taking excellent photographs isn’t as easy as it looks, but the best way to improve photography skills is to practice.

Tags: Comm361 · Student Blog Posts

Briggs Review 6: Photojournalism

February 25th, 2011 · Comments Off on Briggs Review 6: Photojournalism

Just the same way that anyone can be a journalist, anyone can be a photojournalist (just take a look at Flickr). You just need to be at the right place at the right time with either a camera or a cameraphone. But news is different things to different people, so any picture could potentially be photojournalism.

Here are a few pointers to make photos more professional:

  • Lighting is important! Make sure it is not too bright or dark wherever you are. Natural light is preferable to flash light.
  • Get close to the subject! Move around if you need to get a good angle
  • Do what you can to keep still. Put your elbows on something or lean on a wall.
  • Focus on the subject and cut out all of the clutter that could distract a viewer.

Photo editing is important too. Most times your picture will be a little too dark or blurry, etc. and you need to make the image as clear as possible. Here’s an example of a photo I took at the Chinese lantern festival at GMU:

Original Photo

Edited Photo

See the difference? It might not be perfect, but most times a little editing will make the photo much more clear and easier to focus on what’s important in the photo.

Tags: Comm361 · Student Blog Posts

MediaShift: How to Integrate Social Tools into the Journalism Classroom

February 25th, 2011 · Comments Off on MediaShift: How to Integrate Social Tools into the Journalism Classroom

This couldn’t be a better article for the relevance of this Comm. 361 Online Journalism class. This article gives an excellent overview of some innovative websites that can be used for classes dealing with journalism.

MediaShift is a website which tracks how social media, weblogs, podcasting, citizen journalism, wikis, news aggregators and online video are changing the media world.

This particular article, by Nathan Gibbs, gives a list of SEVEN social media techniques and websites that can be utilized in the classroom. The seven areas are:

  1. Facebook
  2. Group blogs
  3. WordPress
  4. Social Curation
  5. Collaborative Writing
  6. Mind Mapping
  7. Experimentation


  1. Facebook groups: students utilizing Facebook groupsis beneficial as students are already using Facebook so it eliminates making a new user name/password, it takes little effort to “like” or comment on students work, and it encourages more interaction.
  2. Facebook pages: such Facebook pages can be utilized to post stories and get sources for other stories.

Group blogs: group blogs are a great way to introduce students to online writing and basic web publishing; the kind of work they’ll be doing as journalists. He suggests using Tumblr or Posterous.

WordPress: Gibbs explains how WordPress opens the door to extensive customization. Users are able to enhance the blogging experience and really take their work to a new level.

Social Curation: Gibbs explains how it’s important that students know how to collect and annotate messages from social media websites. Storify, and Keepstream all allow users to gather and embed social media messages for use in blog posts and articles.

Collaborative Writing: Gibbs explains how Google Docs is an excellent editing tool that allows multiple contributors to write at the same time and track revisions.

Mind Mapping: Gibbs explains how structured brainstorming helps people organize their ideas based on their relationship to other aspects. He suggests using Mind Meister to implement online collaboration.

Experimentation: Trying new things and learning what works and what doesn’t is a huge component to journalism. Making sure to apply one’s journalistic curiosity by exploring how new social tools can further your storytelling skills.

Tags: Comm361 · Facebook · social media · Storify · Student Blog Posts

Chapter 6: Visual Storytelling with Photographs

February 24th, 2011 · Comments Off on Chapter 6: Visual Storytelling with Photographs

Journalism without photographs is like writing without verbs,” Mark Briggs said.

Photographs are important in journalism, and in all other aspects, because they are able to expand on a story in a way that words cannot. In order to fully express an idea, journalists must understand how to capture the perfect image.

When possible, shoot images using natural light. Avoid shooting with a flash or mixture of flashes. If bright sunlight is in front of subjects being photographs, it will create face shadows and make people squint; if the sun is behind the subjects then their faces will be darker.

Great photographs are the ones where viwerers can see a picture within a picture.

According to Val Hoeppner, the biggest mistake amateurs and beginners make is that they do not get close enough to their subjects or to the action happening in front of them. Hoeppner suggests taking 10 steps forward after journalists think they are close enough to a subject.

Two secrets for capturing better photos are to be patient and to take more photographs.

Once journalists are done capturing photos, they should then edit them for online publishing.

Editing advice:

  • Edit a copy of the photo – never the original.
  • Crop the photo.
  • Resize the picture.
  • Modify the resolution.
  • Tone and color correct the picture.
  • Save a Web version.
  • Keep it simple.

Remember that adding and/or removing objects from an image is strictly forbidden.  An image should never be altered in a way that can “mislead viewers or misrepresent subjects,” says Briggs.

“In this day and age of photo manipulation, students new to photojournalism must understand and adhere to the ethics of not creating images that lie or are deceptive to the viewer,” says Colin Mulvany.

Photo editing software:

Tags: Comm361 · Student Blog Posts

Tech Blog – Live Blogging

February 24th, 2011 · Comments Off on Tech Blog – Live Blogging

In my summary of the fifth Briggs chapter, I mentioned how my friend Brian Chan did live blogs of sporting events at UNC Charlotte (he also did them in the past for Mason). Alas, via the trackback he saw my comment about his lame jokes and got ticked off. There is a downside to linking to everything I suppose. But I’ll take the risk and share this article about live blogging by Kevin Charman-Anderson. He says that live blogging is not just a collection of facts presented in real-time as they occur, but it allows news sites to compete with the immediacy of broadcast.

However, it remains a point of contention among journalists, and Charman-Anderson dubs the onslaught of continuous updates as “a fire hose of news”:

I really do worry that some of the aggregation that we’re doing is really difficult to navigate unless you’re a news junkie. We have to make sure that a stream of news aggregation doesn’t feel like a maddening stream of consciousness.

That almost raises the question of whether news sites should even want to compete with broadcast–it’s a matter of breaking the story versus passing on the necessities. Last night, “Survivor” host Jeff Probst tweeted a live commentary on the show as it aired on the west coast. As a fan of the show (albeit one who had to wait two hours after I finished watching the episode to follow Probst’s commentary), I loved the idea. But the execution left a lot to be desired, and hopefully if Probst repeats the experiment (he’s looking into watching with east coast viewers next week) it is handled differently. What Probst dubbed “the gobal [sic] conversation about ‘Survivor’” played out as a haphazard and not very informative review of what was on screen. An episode of “Survivor” is not a news story that needs to be catalogued in this way.

Jeff Probst, © CBS

The moral of the story? Use live blogging wisely. Know your audience and cater to what they want and need to know. Whether that’s minute-by-minute updates on a breaking news story or maybe some interaction with fans about a TV show, it’s the key to making the most of a live blog.

Tags: Comm361 · Student Blog Posts

Video Conference: Governor George Allen

February 24th, 2011 · Comments Off on Video Conference: Governor George Allen

“If the French can do it, so can Americans”

Our video conference with Governor George Allen was a great experience. Former Senator George Allen (R-VA)

Governor Allen stressed the importance of, “do not spend what you don’t have.”

“Defense wins championships”

Campaigning and advancing ideas is how we can get this country back to work.

Governor Allen’s 4 pilars in a free and just society.

  1. Freedom of religion
  2. Freedom of expression
  3. Private ownership
  4. Rule of law (fair adjudication of disputes)

Sportsmanship, fight hard for what you believe in.

The internet has been the best invention since the Gutenberg press.

“Education is personal empowerment.” -Dr. Allan Merten

Tags: Comm361 · Student Blog Posts

Briggs 6

February 24th, 2011 · Comments Off on Briggs 6

Visual Storytelling with Photographs

Even if you don’t have aspirations of becoming an artist with a camera, as a journalist you should understand how digital photography works. Journalism without photographs is like writing without verbs.

More time leads to better photos. If you want to improve your photography skills, the first step is to find more time when you go out and shoot.

Presentation is all about first impressions. Photographs, and especially slide shows, can attract huge audiences online.

Taking good photographs is a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Often, reporters find themselves in the middle of something newsworthy or interesting, so basic photography skills are critical for anyone who considers himself or herself a journalist.

As a journalist for, I have published many slide shows. Here is an example of one of my published slide shows.

Photo Gallery: West Islip Hit With More Than a Foot of Snow

Photo Credit: Bridgette Barnhart

Tags: briggs · Comm361 · online journalism · Student Blog Posts

Briggs Chapter 5

February 24th, 2011 · Comments Off on Briggs Chapter 5

Going Mobile: Mobile reporting.

“According to an article in the Daily Telegraph, a London newspaper, children in the United Kingdom get their first mobile phones at age 8″ said Briggs.

Anyone one the ground can technically become a reporter at any given time that something newsworthy breaks out in front of them. A child could see a car accident, snap a picture of it, and the picture could end up on twitter, or even the front page of a newspaper the next day.

Briggs explained that there are two ends of the spectrum when using equipment on the field.

Gearhead: A dedicated mojo whose job is to be out and about and report from the field all day, ever day. This person is telling multimedia stories and publishing them from anywhere. Equipment needed- The best and coolest.

Light packer: A more traditional journalist, someone who occasionally needs to report or publish immediately from the field. Equipment needed- Just enough to get the job done.

You will need(compact versions are preferred): Laptop, Internet connection, camera, video camera, tripod, audio recorder, headphones, microphone, and/or cell phone.

Tags: Comm361 · Student Blog Posts

‘Journalism Next’ by Mark Briggs: Chapter 6 summary

February 24th, 2011 · Comments Off on ‘Journalism Next’ by Mark Briggs: Chapter 6 summary

Summary: Digital photography is crucial for journalists… Learn the basics.

Nikon D700 camera

Image via Wikipedia

Digital photography:

  • Digital cameras are much less limiting than film cameras
  • A megapixel represents one million pixels. The higher the megapixel the tighter you can crop in on an image and the bigger you can make the photograph without getting all those visible squares
  • The amount of images one can capture depends on how big the memory card is, and they can constantly be deleted and reused if need be.
  • Resolution is the number of pixels in an image. The higher the resolution the more space (in bytes) is taken up.
    • Computer monitors 72 pixels per inch (ppi)
    • Newspapers 200 ppi
    • Glossy photographs 300 ppi

Ownership, copyright and fair use:

  1. Do not “borrow” another persons work without premission
  2. Creative Commons Project: allows people to mark their work with Creative Commons license ranging from “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved.” People can use others work as long as they receive credit.
Image representing Creative Commons as depicte...

Image via CrunchBase

Digital camera basics:

  • Point-and-shoot: Fixed lens and flash, has video mode
  • Single-lens reflex (SLR): Changeable lenses and flash for more or less power. May or may not have video mode, generally for a professional grade photographer only interested in still shots.

All cameras have:

  1. Modes; generally should be on automatic unless shooting video
  2. Zoom; to get a closer shot without moving closer
  3. View/delete; immediately view a photo and delete it if it’s not what you wanted to keep the extra photo space available for a better shot

***More time leads to better photographs***

Working with digital photographs:

  • Use a photo-editing software to edit photos and add special effects
  • Manage/organize photos on computer


  1. Always edit copy NOT original
  2. Crop the photo
  3. Resize the photo so it is not too  big or small for the medium it’s being sent to
  4. Modify resolution
  5. Tone and color correct photo
  6. Save a web version: compress the image so it does not take as long to download
  7. Keep it simple: try not to over-edit the photo

Final step!

Publish photos online

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Tags: Comm361 · Student Blog Posts

Briggs Ch. 6

February 24th, 2011 · Comments Off on Briggs Ch. 6

The adage that a picture’s worth a thousand words has, alas, proven untrue whenever I try to submit a 1250-word paper to a professor with just a photograph and three paragraphs. But when it comes to online writing, not including pictures is a capital offense (and I’ll plead guilty to occasionally committing the crime).

A picture may not be literally worth a thousand words, but the difference between showing and telling is staggering. In print, perhaps a publisher might want to avoid the hefty amount of ink necessary to include a picture. That excuse doesn’t cut it online. Digital photography imposes little expense beyond the camera itself (which admittedly can be costly). However, that’s assuming you’re talking about photographs you’ve taken. Just like in print, any credible online publication will get permission from and credit any sources for its images.

This is not a digital camera. But it's under Creative Commons so there you go.

There are many benefits to digital photography that don’t apply to conventional cameras as seen on the left:

  • A memory card holds a lot more pictures than a roll of film
  • You can immediately look at–and discard–any pictures you take
  • Pictures can be uploaded and shared with family, friends, editors, etc. easily
  • Editing and cropping images can be done quickly

All that said, digital photography is simply a progression of a technology that already existed. You use the pictures in the same way one would utilize conventional photographs.

Tags: briggs · Comm361 · Student Blog Posts