Online Journalism

Entries from March 2011

Zombie Journalism: ‘Interacting with the audience as a news brand’

March 31st, 2011 · Comments Off on Zombie Journalism: ‘Interacting with the audience as a news brand’

Using social media to talk to an audience is what this blog post was all about.

Social media and customers

Social media allows brands to interact with consumers.

Mandy Jenkins had some interesting tips.

Here are my thoughts on them:

  • Responding — I know you’re always supposed to respond. I hadn’t really thought about direct messaging someone other than getting their contact information. Although this is kind of difficult when doing it just because you’re shy about talking to them because in order to direct message someone, you have to follow them.
  • News tips — I knew that after you get a tip from someone you should verify it with them and re-tweeting it afterwards.
  • Ask for help — Asking your followers for media about a scene works if you have a large audience. I don’t really have one. Sometimes this has worked for me, especially when it was a current issue like when I was researching DC Fashion Week or GMU football.
  • Be thankful — Give credit when credit is due. You can do this on social media sites and within your story or multimedia.
  • Questions – It makes sense to respond as quickly as possible since everyone expects instant contact. It’d be polite to tell them if you were finding someone to answer their question.
  • Criticism – I didn’t think you should always address it, even to say if you are passing it on but it makes sense. So does not getting into fights and going offline if it goes to far.
  • Corrections – I was surprised at how you should correct a factual error in a tweet. Instead of deleting the tweet, you should correct it in a follow-up tweet.
  • Start the conversation — Asking questions to your followers sounds a little silly if you feel like you have none but adding a hashtag can help people find it.
  • Responses – I didn’t think of re-tweeting a good response with a link with what it’s about it.

Tags: Comm361 · social media · Student Blog Posts

My first computer: So easy to use, King Kong Bundy could use it!

March 30th, 2011 · No Comments

Tags: Comm361 · King Kong Bundy · online journalism

Tech Blog – Mark Potts

March 30th, 2011 · Comments Off on Tech Blog – Mark Potts

In today’s class, we got to hear from Mark Potts,  and I have to say, with all due respect to the others who have spoken to us, I think he was the best guest brought in to COMM361 this semester.

Within an hour or so, Potts shared approximately three to four dozen different and helpful websites that provided great resources or simply examples of particularly well-done and unique storytelling techniques. But I think what I appreciated most was his unconventional opinions on news resources, namely touting the merits of Wikipedia and downplaying the importance of Twitter. The only thing missing was a boxing match between Potts and Professor Klein, who seemed horrified at the suggestion that Twitter was not a big deal. (For the record, my money would be on Klein–he’s the one grading me!)

Potts also acknowledged that Storify does not work for every story, because it asks a lot of the reader to mentally fill in the transitions between quotes. (He once wanted to write a story consisting entirely of quotes but it never panned out.) He stressed the importance of community bloggers, the ones who aren’t doing it for the money but for the passion of helping out their community, suggesting that mainstream news sources could benefit from using these resources–as he put it, “Do what you do best and link to the rest.”

It might seem as though Potts’s visit was pretty rushed and contradicted what we’ve been taught by Klein and other guests, but I found it refreshing and I think it provided a lesson that one man’s trash is another man’s journalism (for lack of better phrase). In other words, every single journalist operates differently. The method and tools that work for you might not come in handy for everyone else. In the increasingly complex world of social media and online storytelling techniques, it’s important to give these new tools a fair shot but it’s also just as important to know your own strengths and what you’re capable of producing. I highly recommend that he be a guest in all future COMM361 classes.

Tags: Comm361 · Student Blog Posts

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.

Image provided by

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