Online Journalism

Guest Speaker: Mark Potts

March 29th, 2011 · Comments Off on Guest Speaker: Mark Potts

Mark Potts, journalist and digital pioneer, visited our class this afternoon to share his opinions about online journalism.

“We have not fully taken advantage of what the medium can give us on the Internet or Web,” Potts said.

One way we can take advantage of the Internet is by the use of “crowd-sourcing.” Crowd-sourcing is a way of interacting with audiences to learn about new stories so that journalists can cover them with a different angle.

Another way of taking advantage of the Internet is by turning to Wikipedia. Potts said that Wikipedia is a fantastic news site in which the general public can turn to to see amazing collections of stories that are compiled by journalist citizens.

Below are a few sites that Potts mentioned and expressed his feelings about.

Baristanet + other hyper local sites

  • “A very interesting model for trying to get news back into the neighborhood.”


  • “It’s so local that it’s only important to a couple thousand people… If you live there, then it’s going to be important to you.”


  • “Do what you do, and link to the best.”
  • “People blogging about the community generally do not do it for the money… It’s a very different motivation. It’s not about money, but they do it for the respect of their community.”

Five Thirty Eight Blog + Computational Journalism

  • Nate Silver, the creator of FiveThirtyEight, a blog about election forecasts for the New York Times, “went from zero to being a Top 20 news site in 6 months!”
  • Analyzing available data can turn into a great story


  • “What he [Julian Assange] is doing is very much journalistic… What he did and what the Pentagon Papers did in the 70s was almost exactly the same. You got a whole pile of documents and decided what to make public. You make not like what he decided to make public, but you might not like what the New York Times makes public either.”


  • Twitter is too much noise. It’s nothing but noise… There’s no business model for that at all. I tweet for publicity – that’s the only reason… You find that Twitter burnout is unbelievable… I want good signal, I don’t want a lot of noise.”


  • The most important tool in the last 5 years is not Twitter, but it’s a phone. No questions asked.”

Sites to Visit

  • Tubeify: a music program that uses the Billboards database – look at the Billboards charts and travel through time with music
  • Google Flu Trends: Google searches for flu-related words (cough, sneeze) and puts the data on a map of the world
  • Newsmap: kind of like a tag cloud; story titles are color-coded by type and size (depending on how important the story is)
  • Map of the Market: a map of how stocks are doing at a very quick glance

Tags: Comm361 · Student Blog Posts

Mark Potts-Guest Speaker

March 29th, 2011 · Comments Off on Mark Potts-Guest Speaker

Mark Potts, who spent 15 years in the print business as a reporter and editor, is an entrepreneur who is a strategic/business/product consultant to leading business and Internet companies. In class today, he explained how many journalists get locked into telling a story a certain way, and don’t venture further and expand their storytelling ways. Potts showed the class numerous sites were they’ve taken storytelling to new levels with interactive maps and the integration of social media.

Here are some sites and stories that Potts showed us that I thought were exceptional examples of telling a story in the digital age:

  • Wikipedia: Although frowned on by many English Professors, it is an amazing collection of stories that is great way to get an overview or a story.
  • The Washington Post featured a story, in both it’s print and online version, is about a mother’s struggle with her child’s medical problems. The story is told through her Facebook posts and status updates, and The Washington Post annotated and edited her posts to tell a story.
  • Storify: A site that lets you create stories using social media, such a Twitter pics, Facebook updates etc. What Mark Potts described as “the flavor of the month.”

  • The term “crowd-sourcing:” saying to the audience “hey what do you know, what can you tell us?” Eg. The site WNYC posted a story after the snow storms in New York which featured an interactive map. The map shows the areas that were cleaned and those that weren’t cleaned, reaching out to people in those districts/people on the ground, that could tell their story and what is happening with the snow there.
  • Another term is “hyperlocal:” An example of trying to get news back into the neighborhoods and the communities. There are many websites that are filled with passionate bloggers who want to mimic what local newspapers used to do. Generally, these bloggers are called passionate bloggers because they don’t do it for money, but for the respect in their community and their desire to show the community’s stories. Eg:,
  • Computational jouranlism:” Another term explained by Potts that means using the power of the web and the power of the Internet to tell stories. Eg of data visualization:

*Tubeify: Took data from Billboard 100 and compiled it into a interactive site that lets you see which songs were the most popular in what years.

*The New York Times took Netflix rentals and made an interactive map that you can click on area and see what Netflix rentals are most popular.

Tags: Comm361 · Student Blog Posts

Mark Potts talks online journalism, Twitter and the future of how we consume the news

March 29th, 2011 · Comments Off on Mark Potts talks online journalism, Twitter and the future of how we consume the news

Summary: Journalist and founder of the blog “Recovering Journalist” Mark Potts discusses why bloggers are the most passionate journalists, the uselessness of Twitter, and how the digital revolution has and will continue to change the way we consume the news.

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Online journalists need to “use the medium to tell the story,” Mark Potts told a group of George Mason online journalism students today. The reporter/futurist/founder of the blog Recovering Journalist showered the class with Web sites as he gave his insights on the trend of journalism today.

Hyper-local journalism in an interesting model, Potts said, and utilizing passionate bloggers who focus on their local community can help break previously overlooked stories. Potts doubts the success of the hyper-local Web site saying that it does not harness the organic growth of these blogs and should instead focus on aggregating stories rather than creating it from scratch.

Potts also touched on “computational journalism,” using the power of a personal computer to analyze data and disseminating the results. One successful site is, which successfully predicted primary race results in 2008 before its founder was offered a job at the New York Times.

Instead of delivering the news, some organizations are finding was for its readers to interact with it. “I learned more about city planning by playing (Sim City) than in any college course,” Potts said, providing a personal example of learning through a video game. Allowing people to learn through simulations is more engaging and can be an effective tool when explaining processes not commonly known to the general public. The popularity of Zyanga games on social networking sites shows that this medium shows future promise, Potts added.

Unlike many journalists and technology enthusiasts, Potts is not a fan of Twitter. “I find twitter absolutely useless,” he said of the social networking site, “it great for publicity… but is not a tool I would use as a journalist.”

Tags: Comm361 · Student Blog Posts

Guest speaker: Mark Potts

March 29th, 2011 · Comments Off on Guest speaker: Mark Potts

Mark Potts, creator of, showed us how journalism works without using the typical inverted pyramid, who/what/when/where/why style.

He showed us how good Wikipedia can be, despite its reputation.

He also showed us how Facebook was used as a storytelling device as well as Storify.

How to get the audience involved:

  • Crowdsourcing (at both local and hyperlocal levels)
  • Comments
  • Facebook

When creating a blog, know what you do and do it best.

People who blog do it to be an authority in their community and to be respected for their passionate dedication rather than for money. These same people want their audience to become passionate and care.

The blogs tell people what is going on in that specific community that is not being covered by anyone else.

  • Computational journalism: Using the computer to tell stories
  • API: Giving people ability to create data tables

As a Twitter user, Potts surprisingly felt that it was not a useful tool except for publicity. When he posts a new blog on his site, he will post that URL on his Twitter and gets many hits from that.

The most important technological tool for journalists in the last five years?

The cell phone.

With social media, the super fast speed can be both an advantage and a disadvantage because some people are struggling to keep up with the need to publish as soon as possible and multiple times throughout the day instead of having one deadline.

It also exposes laziness because journalists may not have the pride in their work to get it right the firs time instead of doing it lazily and waiting for their editor to fix the mistakes.

Newspapers are struggling to realize that there are websites with better writing to give the same information that they give the day after.

Living in a “river of news,” it is important for each person to individually be able to filter their own news.

Tags: Comm361 · Facebook · Student Blog Posts

Tech Blog #11: Guest Speaker Mark Potts

March 29th, 2011 · Comments Off on Tech Blog #11: Guest Speaker Mark Potts

Mark Potts, journalist and digital pioneer, spoke to our class today. He helped create the Washington Post website, served as editor for various news websites and has worked in the media field for nearly 20 years.

Check out his blog Recovering Journalist.

Potts showed us a variety of different websites that all present unique ways of telling stories:

  • Wikipedia — As soon as a story breaks, there is always a collection of new data and compilations by citizen journalists. A lot of journalists look down on Wikipedia, but Potts believes it’s a great tool for researching.
  • Washington Post article “A Facebook Story” — used Facebook as a story telling device to create a human-interest story
  • Storify – Pulls pictures and tweets to create a unique storytelling platform. However, it doesn’t work for everything. A downside is that the reader has to pull together the story themself without any transitions.
  • Baristanet – example of hyperlocal news with an organic focus.
  • TBD — Combined a variety of users’ blogs to create local news coverage from the public without having to hire other local-based journalists.
  • FiveThirtyEight – A blog that follows and analyzes political polls and looks at how electoral votes are being represented during elections.
  • The Texas Tribune – Non- profit website that covers serious topics in the state government that other news organizations seem to overlook.
  • Tubeify — Music website that uses the Billboard program and lets users travel through the years to see what was ranked on the charts in the past.
  • New York Times interactive map “A Peek Into Netflix Queues” — Lets you mouse over neighborhoods in big cities to see what the top 10 rentals are according to zip codes.
  • Google’s Flu Trends — Maps flu trends based on searches the Google database.
  • Newsmap — Kind of like a Tag Cloud, it features a variety of stories color-coded by type to see what’s going on in the world.
  • A few websites like NCAA Probe  , Play the News  and Predict the News  let users play interactive games featuring certain news-worthy events or situations.

Potts also explained the term crowd sourcing, which is asking the audience what they know and letting them report on what they find. For example,  certain news outlets might ask the public to call in when there is a pothole somewhere or allow them to go through government documents to see if they can turn up any suspicious information.

“Twitter is nothing but noise,” said Potts. It has “a fire hose of stuff.” Potts believes that at times Twitter can be useful, and says it is an excellent publicity tool and something necessary that journalists should keep up with. However, Potts says there are too many posts without filters, something I definitely agree with.

When asked what the most important tool for journalists in the last five years has been, Potts pointed to his iPhone.

Potts encourages the use of a variety of different mediums for telling stories and writing articles. “You don’t have to tell every story in words,” said Potts.

Tags: Comm361 · New York Times · Storify · Student Blog Posts

Guest speaker: Mark Potts

March 29th, 2011 · Comments Off on Guest speaker: Mark Potts

Mark Potts works in the digital world for the past 20 years, and tries to take full advantage of all internet resources.

He started showing us some good examples and resources:

  • Wikipedia: you can find anything, and it’s built by the crowd. It’s looked down upon, but it’s a great way to find an overview of things.
  • Story on the Washington post about a mother who just had a baby. Wash Post used Facebook to tell the story. Quite compelling, a must read.
  • Storify! He had an idea of having a story just made with quotes, but transitions are important.
  • Crowdsourcing! Click here for a good example. Another good example? Snow story in New York.
  • Hyper local news: replicate what community newspaper used to do and still do, but opening for readers involvement.
  • Huge amount of blogs, it’s better to aggregate them instead of creating a new one. That’s where Patch is going wrong.
  • TBD: there are all these blogs out there, let’s cooperate! You take advantage of people who are already doing it. Modern way to look at a city newspaper.  Interesting model.
  • Some bloggers do it for the respect in the community. Journalism is about passion and covering things you care! It’s very different news, it’s what is going on the community and no one else is covering it.
  • Computational journalism: using computers to tell stories. Good example by Nate Silver. Fun to read and unique.
  • Using data in a different way: API making public the way you sort your data. The New York Times has done it.
  • Music program that uses online data:
  • Netflix map by the New York Times. Maps are a very good way to tell stories, and it’s very easy to visualize.
  • Most important tool in journalism: your phone!
  • More maps? Flu map
  • Another idea: visualize the stories by using colors and visualization with newsmap
  • Give the readers a way to interact with the news, create different things, even create news.
  • Interactive timeline that tells the Middle East protest
  • Good blog about journalism and technology: 10,000 word
  • We need to be our own filter!

Tags: Comm361 · Storify · Student Blog Posts

Mark Potts visit

March 29th, 2011 · Comments Off on Mark Potts visit

Mark Potts started out by stating that Wikipedia is a sort of new site. It’s useful because it’s built by the crowd and articles can be built instantly.

The Washington Post implemented Facebook to tell a story about a mother who gave birth and then got sick a couple months ago. Potts said this story was hard to tell without including the medium in which it happened.

Potts said Storify is the flavor of the month; but when it’s used, it needs transitions between bits. Otherwise the reader can get lost.

Potts said people who blog about their community do it out of passion not for the money. They want the pride of being recognized by their community. Bloggers have passion. You want people who care.

Computational journalism: the application of computation to the activities of journalism. Potts recommended Five Thirty Eight, a blog that excels at computational journalism and “is devoted to rigorous analysis of politics, polling, public affairs, sports, science and culture, largely through statistical means.” Nate Silver from being a zero to a top 20 blogger in six months.

Potts considers WikiLeaks journalism. Journalism isn’t necessarily about writing something, but disseminating information. Not affording the same protections to the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, as other journalists is damaging to journalism, according to Potts.

Tubeify is an example of a web site that excelled at data visualization by showing which songs were tops on the Billboard 100 throughout the years.

According to Potts, Twitter is worthless as a professional tool; it’s too much noise for him. RSS feeds are much more valuable to him. But Twitter is a must-use tool for professional journalists to increase publicity.

The most important tool in the last five years for journalists is the smartphone.

Potts says journalism is better than ever been before. The problem is the gutting of newsrooms, having fewer people to cover things. Those people are shifting to other places.

The river of news today is overwhelming, so people need to be their own filter of news.

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

Mark Potts

March 29th, 2011 · Comments Off on Mark Potts

Use exisitng information to help get your story together.

“make a great map of pot holes”

use readers to help fuel your ideas for stories. and other hypernet worlds are capable of making money, and are run by the community.

Sites like Patch should be teaming up with other sites like hypernet.

And they won’t make it…

TBD is something that is working existing stuff and highligting somethign that already exist. CROWD SOURCING BABY!

People can be more subjective while being an audience member

People need passion, or people won’t care.

Community information for people who live in that community.

Do it for the money! Dolla dolla billz yall!

but for real man, wikileaks IS JOURNALISM

and the government is messin with the first amendment.

Twitter is useless

newsmap is a good new way to show news.

Tags: Comm361 · Student Blog Posts

Lecture by Mark Potts from

March 29th, 2011 · Comments Off on Lecture by Mark Potts from

He’s here! Mark Potts is right here in front of me. About ten feet away, honestly.

Here is his site. He follows almost thirty fabulous blogs as well, see it under his Essential Readings tab.

Potts said, “I think a lot of journalists—and traditional media executives—are caught up in old ways of thinking about the industry that are being wiped clean by the digital revolution. Without radical new approaches, the old journalistic institutions are suffering through horrible death spirals.”

Regarding hyper local media. Potts said “ did an amazing job trying to get all the little blogs together. We’re going to link to you and drive traffic to your site. TBD was an incredible model. You’ll see other model’s like that spring up across the country.”

“Darwinian and dog eat dog,” said Potts. Networks of blogs in neighborhoods are becoming very important. People are proud of their community and if they don’t do a good job, the community will reject them.

Passion is what journalism comes down to in hyper local media. People who blog for their communities don’t do it for money! You want people to care about the communities. “Reporters will not care about the pot holes in the road, if it is not the town they live in,” Potts said.

The WikiLeaks founder! That got my attention. “WikiLeaks of course is journalism. You may not like his politics. But just like the editor of The New York Times, the founder is gathering information. Journalism is about disseminating information. To not afford him the same protection other journalists get is damaging to journalists,” Potts said.

He did not take too kindly to the “importance” of Twitter. Potts said, “I heard someone say that Twitter is the new CNN. Really? Too much stuff, it’s not filtered at all. But I think RSS is important.”

HERE IT IS: The quote I longed for and got my heart racing! Would you like to know? Here baby birds, I’ll feed you: “You know what the most important tool for journalists in the last five years? The iPhone!”  Thank you Potts, I now feel validated spending $80 a month on this thing :)

Tags: Comm361 · Student Blog Posts

Mark Potts 3/29/11

March 29th, 2011 · Comments Off on Mark Potts 3/29/11

Mark Potts

Interesting creative ways to submit news:

  • Wikipedia is an amazing news site. Is away to get a really quick overview an event or something.
  • Using facebook to tell a story… the Washington Post used facebook as a story telling device for a pregnant sick mommy.
  • The people news- straight from the horses mouth. Ask the audience whats happening there on the ground.
  • Hyper-local trend is exploding, community can participate. (Stuff like
  • Crowd Sourcing ^ information your not going to get from the Washington Post or other newspaper

TBD- a great news site.

“Do what you do best, and the rest up to the link.”

“Journalism requires passion- the bloggers have it.” Klein

You may not always like was is made public.

Using Data in a Different way:

  • API is a away to make your data public so it can be used by others.
  • Build things with data like maps, webs, timelines- what are the people watching? What r people interested in? Listening to? reading? eating? etc….
  • Its about creating a database for people to use

Tags: Comm361 · Student Blog Posts