Online Journalism

Tech blog item #8: Repainting the Deck Chairs on the Titanic

March 7th, 2011 · Comments Off on Tech blog item #8: Repainting the Deck Chairs on the Titanic

“Circulation is down. Ad revenue is down. Staffers are facing week-long furloughs, yet again. There are whispers that USA Today is in trouble. The classifieds business is pretty much gone. Newspapers are dying. The broadcast business isn’t much better. Even the company-backed Newseum is a disaster.”

That quote was taken from Mark Potts’ latest blog post and I think that it speaks for itself.  The question that now remains is, what to do about that now?  Not only that but, what’s Gannett, a leading media and marketing solutions company, going to do?

Change its corporate logo and slogan, of course.

The focus of this blog post is Pott’s opinion on the stupidity of this company and how changing the slogan to, “it’s all within reach,” gains nothing.   It also doesn’t make up for laying off most of the company’s designers in a cost-cutting move.

Instead of the millions used to change this slogan and logo, these dollars could have been used to keep Gannett staff from being fired, or to help create new innovations that benefitted the company.  Or why not hire a few more reporters for the company?

As Potts says many times in this blog post, “this is not so smart” at all.

Tags: Comm361 · Student Blog Posts

Tech blog item #7: My New Front Page–And Tina Brown’s

March 7th, 2011 · Comments Off on Tech blog item #7: My New Front Page–And Tina Brown’s

According to Mark Potts, he has been noticing something about his news consumption over the past few months.  While he rarely has looked at newspapers the past few years, and rarely looks at newspaper Web site home pages and consumes a huge amount of news via RSS feeds and Twitter, one site has emerged as his go-to “front page” for news.  That is, Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish blog.

Apparently Sullivan’s blog has been drawing interest from many people.  In fact, it has been the biggest traffic draw on The Atlantic’s Web site, accounting for fully a quarter of its traffic.  That has to say something!  Also, journalist Tina Brown has now taken Sullivan to be an anchor for her “every-more-interesting” Daily Beast/Newsweek hybrid.

According to Potts, Sullivan’s blog is very well put together, includes an old-school front page, and has an engaging smorgasbord of news, with commentary, that provides readers with a guide to a wide range of topics.  What more can you ask for here?

Could it be possible that people could completely ditch their newspapers for blogs like Andrew Sullivans?  If people want to see their news in a new and different way, why not start here?

Tags: Comm361 · Student Blog Posts

Video Conference Story #1: Dan Rather and Tucker Carlson

March 7th, 2011 · Comments Off on Video Conference Story #1: Dan Rather and Tucker Carlson

Click here to view the embedded video.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Journalist and former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather, along with political news correspondent Tucker Carlson, appeared in a C-SPAN video conference with George Mason University. Both guests answered questions from students ranging from the current situation in Egypt to their careers in the media.

Rather stressed the importance of determination in young journalists and the ability to write well and quickly. He also emphasized that “curiosity is the bedrock of being a good reporter,” and it is absolutely necessary for young people to be interested in journalism. They must be able to relate to the emotions of the American people, while still striving for objectivity and putting up a strong front when needed in times of great uncertainty.

Rather went on to discuss the Watergate scandal and the assassination of President Kennedy, both events of which he covered in his tremendous career. At the time of the assassination, the media had “tremendous differences” compared to today’s media. Now, the dominant source of information in the Internet, while back then it was radio and television. We have so many more channels of information available to us today- you experience news almost everywhere. Television may be on the back-burner for many, but Rather says it’s strength is that it “can take you there.”

Regarding Nixon’s presidency, Rather said, “In America, presidents are not sun gods.” Rather stressed the importance of our political heads to be treated with “equal justice under the law,” exactly as every other person in America should be treated.

When asked about the current situation of news and reporting in the United States, Rather said, “American journalism needs a spine transplant!”

Carlson agreed with this statement, and argued that American journalists are “unwilling to take on figures of authority.” This can be seen with the Iraq War and former President Bush’s theory for ‘weapons of mass destruction.’ We as journalists need to weed out the ‘fishy’ information from the rest and dive deep into investigative journalism techniques to discover the truth behind big issues.

Carlson also stressed that each individual reading the news has a responsibility to sort out the information and decide what is fact and what is fiction. Believing everything that you see or hear is a huge fallacy that so many people commit.

Having the opportunity to participate in such a great conference with Mr. Rather and Mr. Carlson is something I will always cherish. As a journalist, I look forward to living by Mr. Rather’s words: “I’ll do my lead-level best to get as close to the truth as I can.”

Tags: Comm361 · Student Blog Posts

Chapter 10: Managing News as a Conversation

March 7th, 2011 · Comments Off on Chapter 10: Managing News as a Conversation

Questions and challenges for the modern journalism:

Description: Social Networking Source: own wor...

Image via Wikipedia

  • How to maintain objectivity or credibility
  • Legal and ethical issues with publishing freedom for everyone
  • How to gather the audience

With social networking tools and blogs embedded on news sites, conversing the news is possible. One can converse through comments or social networking (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.). This can enable tremendous ways to communicate and collaborate with the audience, despite potential problems due to anonymity. The benefits to news as a conversation include:

  • Transparency
  • Immediate feedback
  • Spread of news through word-of-mouth marketing

The 1-10-100 rule for participatory online communities:

  • 1 percent of the user community — including the journalists on news sites — actually create content
  • 10 percent of the user community will “synthesize” the content by posting a comment, e-mail, blog post or a link from a separate site.
  • 100 percent of the user community will benefit from actions of the first two groups.

Some of successful Web sites that utilizes user-generated communities are Wikipedia, Flickr and YouTube. User-generated communities do not cost money. However, it takes a great amount of time, energy and resources to build the sufficient community for the purpose. Major tasks for creating user-generated communities include:

  • Evangelizing the brand
  • Soliciting the content
  • Moderating comments, blogs and other user submissions
  • Solving user problems
  • Staffing booths at weekend events
  • Running contests to drive traffic

Some of ways to keep your user-generated communities clean and safe:

  • Don’t editorialize
  • Consider if public disclosure of someone close to you may become embarrassment to them.
  • Monitor offensive postings
  • Know your legal responsibilities
  • Correct errors
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Tags: Comm361 · Facebook · Student Blog Posts

Tech Blog #5: Guest Speaker Jon DeNunzio

March 7th, 2011 · Comments Off on Tech Blog #5: Guest Speaker Jon DeNunzio

Jon DeNunzio, User Engagement Editor at The Washington Post, visited our class for a lecture on how social media is impacting journalism today and how we can use it to our advantage.

DeNunzio gave us a list of a few social media website worth looking into:

He also stressed that “It’s not the media, it’s the social,” rather than “The medium is the message,” referring to a quote from Marshall McLuhan.

DeNunzio also gave some great advice for job interviews. In your cover letter, talk about how you can connect with users in journalism — it will set you apart from other prospective applicants.

For more information, check out Jon DeNunzio’s Tumblr account or follow his Tweets on his personal Twitter account!

Tags: Comm361 · social media · Student Blog Posts

Project Storyboard

March 7th, 2011 · Comments Off on Project Storyboard

NAMI History Multimedia Project

Our project’s goal is to recover NAMI Northern Virginia history and present it interactively. We will conduct interviews with past board members, do research about the institution, and gather information about its history. We will be using different online platforms to organize and present the information.
Our project will be constructed around an interactive timeline. We’ll be using dipity to create it. We’re planning to use YouTube to post our videos, but they also will be linked to the timeline.  We will use batchgeo to create a Google map, and point the locations and programs offered by NAMI Northern Va. The map will be linked to the timeline. Slideshows, scanned documents, and other images will also be linked. We will use social media to disseminate the information we produced, and to reach out to NAMI NOVA already established audience on Facebook.

My role within the project is to create the timeline. I will gather all the information about the organization’s history and bring it all together to be put in a horizontal timeline dating from NAMI NOVA’s creation to its current state. I will do most of the research but other members of the group will also do some research and send it to me to put into the timeline. I will also be assisting with the writing component and social media.

Tags: Comm361 · Student Blog Posts

Briggs Chapter 10 Summary: Managing News as a Conversation

March 7th, 2011 · Comments Off on Briggs Chapter 10 Summary: Managing News as a Conversation




“Now that news is a conversation, one of the greatest challenges facing journalists is how to manage, and leverage, that conversation.”
  • How do journalists participate without sacrificing objectivity or credibility?
  • What about legal and ethical issues?
  • What happens if the audience doesn’t participate?

News as a conversation:

  • Many journalists preferred news as a lecture
  • Editors have to develop cheerleader and outreach skills
  • Online commentary is a bete noire — participants are rarely as constructive or respectful as journalists would like
  • Beyond interactivity, the power of transparency makes online comments worth the investment

Making conversation provides journalists with a lot more sources

  • Conversing through comments:

              1. Most online news stories contain a comments link

              2. Audience always chooses what kind of journalism it wants

              3. Rarely do controversial conversations end up in court since prior restraint

                   has been ruled unconstitutional

              4. ”Today, there is vastly more interaction between the social Web and the

                   news Web than ever before.”  

  • Conversing through social networking:

              1. A new way to connect with people and communicate information, but the

                   standards and values of journalism do not change

              2. Benefits to news as a conversation:

                   * Provides transparency on the reporting process

                   * Enables an immediate feedback loop

                   * Spreads awareness of news coverage through word-of-mouth


              3. Common for people to discover news on social media sites — news

                   organizations must go where the audience is and participate how

                   the audience participates

              4. Social media tips for journalists:

                   * Familiarity with the tools is important

                   * Be mindful that you represent more than just yourself

                   * Presume your tweets, etc., will go further than you intend for them to go

                   * Ask your boss to follow you on Twitter — it’s a good accountability


Why the news conversation is important:

  • Knowledgable users can provide tips, links, additional insight or even clarify a post
  • Five different types of user generators based on participants’ motivation:

             1. Those motivated by money (smallest)

             2. Those motivated by ego

             3. Those motivated by issues

             4. Accidental bystanders (largest) 

             5. “Plain old crazy” users every Web site seems to have

  • If someone posts something questionable, the online community will “smoke it out pretty fast”

Build and manage a community online:

  • Make news participatory — power of the Web comes from its interactivity

              1. The link, which connects one piece of information to another, is the

                   primary building block of the digital age

              2. Secondary building block is the comment, or contribution, from audience

              3. The 1-10-100 rule for participatory online communities states:

                   * One percent of the user community actually create content

                   * 10 percent of the user community will “synthesize” the content by posting

                      a comment, e-mailing a link to a friend, etc.

                   * 100 percent of the user community benefit from the actions of the first

                       two groups

              4. How mainstream organizations make news more participatory:

                   * Message boards;

                   * Most commented, e-mailed, viewed;

                   * Display blog links to an article;

                   * Social bookmarking and sharing tools on stories;

                   * Social networks on sites

              5. Making news participatory creates brand loyalty

  • Journalists must get involved and build online communities:

             1. Evangelize the brand, both print and online

             2. Solicit content and community participation

             3. Moderate comments, blogs, user submissions

             4. Solve user problems with Web tools

             5. Staff booths at weekend events

             6. Run contests to drive participation and traffic

             7. Inform community establishments about advertising opportunities

             8. Tap the power of the crowd during breaking news events

             9. Acknowledge who sent tips and how

           10. Set up and moderating a message board forum if breaking news is


  • Develop sources through social networks:

             1. Generic, large-scale social networks like Facebook, MySpace or LinkedIn

             2. Niche social networks like CafeMom or Gather

             3. Building a niche social network for your sources with a free tool like Ning or

                 Google Groups 

             4. When journalists join existing social networks they should immediately let

                  people know who they are and that they are on specific social networks

  • Collaborate with your community:

              1. The audience increasingly provides the “what” while journalists provide

                   the “why” and the “how”

              2. Regular citizens using mobile phones to report breaking news while

                   journalists provide the context and connect them together

              3. A form of pro-am journalism

              4. War is over between mainstream media and bloggers

              5. Networked journalism: reporters and bloggers complement each other’s

                  skills to expand the reach of the news

              6. The more resources shrink, the more essential collaboration becomes

Keep conversations accurate and ethical:

  • Set guidelines for participants
  • Monitor offensive postings

              1. Some editors turn off the comments, others keep a closer eye on them   

              2. Anonymity often blamed for destructive comments and trolls

              3. Many editors now believe requiring actual identities would stifle valuable


              4. Enlist community for help: flag comment as inappropriate; police the

                  comment streams 

  • Know your legal responsibilities — Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, 1996

             1. Online publishers held to distributor standards — allows Web publishers

                  to open their sites to interactivity without worrying about verifying

                  every statement published by users

              2. Original creator of content can still be held liable for defamatory


              3. You have no obligation to remove material from your site if you’ve been

                   notified by another user that it’s defamatory or problematic

              4. Just because you can leave defamatory material published by someone

                  else on your site doesn’t mean you should 

  • Correct errors:

              1. Accuracy is a hallmark of the best journalism

              2. Nobody’s perfect, so mistakes will be made

              3. Journalists lose credibility when they fail to prevent and correct errors

              4. It’s in the best interest of news organizations to standardize a workflow for

                  error correction and to create the expectation for all journalists to be

                  accountable for their mistakes

Social media is journalism:

  • Connects journalists and reporters to people and information
  • Doesn’t replace other forms of connecting with people — adds to them       

“The world is always talking, and journalists can get a lot out of listening.” 

Tags: Comm361 · Student Blog Posts

C-SPAN Video Conference with George Allen

March 7th, 2011 · Comments Off on C-SPAN Video Conference with George Allen

Click here to view the embedded video.

Energy reform is one of the top platforms Senate hopeful George Allen brought up in a recent video conference.

Allen, who served Virginia as a Representative, Governor and Senator over almost two decades, joined students participating from the George Mason University Video Studio along with Steve Scully, the political editor for the C-SPAN networks, and students from the University of Denver to discuss his upcoming Senate run and his 2010 book “What Washington Can Learn from the World of Sports.”

“Oil and gas, we have it in this country,” Allen said. “We ought to let states like Virginia or others explore off the coast and share 37-and-a-half percent of the royalties with the states. In Virginia, we could use that money for roads.”

According to Allen, approximately 41 percent of the ballooning national deficit in 2010 was due to foreign oil trade, and he estimates that that figure has only increased. Allen reiterated that the United States does not need to bring in national gas from outside sources.

“[The United States] need[s] to be the world capital of innovation,” Allen said. “We need to work with top quality, less waste, greater efficiency and using technology and productivity.” He suggests that the country adopt techniques to ensure that we use our resources as wisely as possible.

“Some people may consider it blasphemous but we can learn from the French when it comes to nuclear [energy],” Allen said. “They get about 70 percent-plus of their energy from nuclear. What they do is a much safer, less dangerous, more efficient approach. They recycle; they reprocess that fuel. Our country, nuclear’s impediment beyond its enormous capital cost is what do you do with the spent fuel?”

Allen discussed how, in 2009, the Obama administration effectively shut down the country’s designated national depository of nuclear materials in Yucca Mountain, Nev. which means the United States’ 104 reactor sites must store their own waste.

“I don’t know any community who really thinks that’s a great idea,” he said. “I know darn well that if the French can [recycle nuclear waste], so can Americans.”

Allen also spoke of diversifying the energy supply utilized in order to boost the economy and provide jobs for Americans, in turn making the country more competitive. He talked about how the EPA has carbon dioxide regulations that no other countries have to deal with, another energy policy that ultimately hurts the U.S.

“We really can get our economy jumpstarted, make our country more competitive, keep money here at home and most importantly, keep jobs here at home by utilizing the blessings of our plentiful resources,” he said.

The distance learning course, which is produced by C-SPAN, is a unique opportunity for students to interview guests via video conference. The course airs on C-SPAN3 on Fridays at 5 p.m. and also streams online ( The interview with George Allen can be viewed here.

Tags: Comm361 · Student Blog Posts

Tech blog item #6: Smart stuff

March 7th, 2011 · Comments Off on Tech blog item #6: Smart stuff

The period of September through December was a dry one for Mark Potts.  There were no blog posts on his “Recovering Journalist” blog because he was just plain tired of “repeating himself over and over again.”  He must have a point because sometimes, you just run out of things to talk about.

However, his main reason was that he was more and more frustrated by the media industry’s inability to make the fundamental changes in product, technology and business model that are needed for survival.  He claims that the shift from traditional media to digital continues at a rather slow pace.

Mark Potts’ advice to the reader is to click these posts by a couple of the smarter people on the subject of the future of media:

  • And John Paton, the smartest newspaper executive of all (mostly because he refuses to define himself as a newspaper exec), with a progress report on the massive changes he’s pushing through at once-moribund Journal Register. (If you want the summary version of John’s presentation, Matt Ingram has it here.)

My advice is to read these posts from these two journalists, and as Potts would say, “if you care about the future of journalism and the media business, you have to read and learn from them.  They’re telling the truth about what’s happening and what desperately, urgently needs to happen.”

Tags: Comm361 · Student Blog Posts

Briggs chapter 10: managing news as a conversation

March 7th, 2011 · Comments Off on Briggs chapter 10: managing news as a conversation

According to Briggs, now that news is a conversation, one of the greatest challenges facing journalists is how to manage, and leverage, that conversation.  To prove Briggs’ point, it is best to bring up a quote from one of the most famous journalists of all time, Edward R. Murrow.

“The speed of communication is wonderful to behold.  It is also true that speed can multiply the distribution of information that we know to be untrue.”

Today, Murrow’s observation has been truer than ever.  According to Briggs, even journalists feeling overwhelmed by new technology can see that more interaction with the audience carries big benefits.  However, every opportunity creates questions and challenges:

  • How do journalists participate in the conversation without sacrificing their objectivity or credibility?
  • What about legal and ethical issues now that everyone can publish anything they want on a professional news site?
  • And what happens when you really want the audience to participate, but they don’t?

This chapter addresses those questions and how many people focus on the idea that a future in journalism means managing online communities and participating in various social networks.  That’s part of it, but a huge part of news is managing it as a conversation and its outcomes.

Tags: Comm361 · Student Blog Posts