Online Journalism

Entries Tagged as 'briggs'

Chapter 9 — Data-Driven Journalism and Digitizing Your Life

March 21st, 2011 · Comments Off on Chapter 9 — Data-Driven Journalism and Digitizing Your Life

“Unless you are a so-called early adopter, you probably find it impossible to keep tabs on all the latest and greatest tools and services available online.”

Briggs advises first and foremost:

  • Organize your e-mail
  • Find the right personal productivity tools

Data driven journalism:

  • Every story is a field of data
  • Telling stories with data

Tags: briggs · Comm361 · Student Blog Posts

Chapter 8 — Telling Stories with Video

March 21st, 2011 · Comments Off on Chapter 8 — Telling Stories with Video

Briggs’ eighth chapter explains:

  • Capturing quick video highlights, not documentary projects
  • Managing digital video on your computer
  • Using common software to edit video
  • Choosing online video hosting services
  • Driving audience to your video

“The best way to build a solid video story is to think about it the same way you would think about writing.”

  • Use different approaches for different projects
  • Try storyboarding
  • Mix your shots
  • Build five-shot sequences: Close-up on the hands/Close-up on the face/Wide shot/Over-the-shoulder shot/Creative shot

Being a film major at GMU, this is definitely the most chapter that I found the most interesting. It didn’t really teach me anything, per se, but it’s still beneficiary.

I really liked that Briggs pointed out to “aim for solid, not spectacular clips” – I can definitely see how this would apply in good pieces.

Tags: briggs · Comm361 · Student Blog Posts

Briggs Review 8: Video journalism

March 20th, 2011 · Comments Off on Briggs Review 8: Video journalism

Video journalism is an important way of telling a news story, whether its breaking news or a documentary, but there are a few different approaches. The biggest question one might ask is how much the quality of the video matters, and the answer is not much: “…the audience for video has become extremely forgiving and is now open to all levels of quality…quick and less polished video content on news sites often draws bigger audiences.” Sometimes the less polished videos are the most authentic ones and the audience knows it and is drawn to it.

Here, for example, is a video clip of the Japanese tsunami of 2011:

Click here to view the embedded video.

It is a bit shaky and not the best quality, but it is a professional video clip from CBS. It is the content that the users are most interested in and not the quality, especially when it comes to breaking news.

The difference between producing breaking news stories and documentaries is the time you have to plan your story. With breaking news it is important to simply get to the news scene and get footage of witnesses, first-hand accounts, and the overall environment of the incident- even if it means using a cell phone to record video. If it is a documentary, then you will want to take your time on it and make a storyboard. For both documentaries and interviews you will want to create a script.

Here are some tips for recording video:

  • It is good to shoot a variety of ranges (wide, medium, and tight), but do not overuse zoom (aka don’t record while you are zooming) as it makes a video look more amateur.
  • Shoot video like you are taking a still picture. A tripod is a good idea.
  • Sound is important! Make sure the audio is loud and clear- nobody will watch a video if they can’t hear what’s going on. Also, have a variety of sounds in your video, like ambient (background) noise, natural noise, voiceovers, etc.

One important thing to remember is that you should always be flexible and record what may not seem important now but could become important later on.

Tags: briggs · Comm361 · Student Blog Posts · video

Briggs 10: The Socialization of News

March 20th, 2011 · Comments Off on Briggs 10: The Socialization of News

THE DIGITAL AGE has socialized news, which means that the people who read the news are now the people who also take part in it. “[...] information wants to be analyzed, shared, synthesized, curated, aggregated, commented on and distributed. Even journalists feeling overwhelmed by new technology can see that more interaction with the audience carries big benefits.”

There are, however,  problems with having your audience be a part of your writing: News commentators are generally not constructive or respectful and there are either too many or too few of them. Forums are evolving, however, so that newsrooms are accepting more responsibility for the comments, commentators expect more from each other, and technology is improving.

It’s not just on a News websites page that this occurs either, it is also social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter which provide feedback from readers. Lending socialization to other sites has created more sources for News.

Social media is the next big thing and any organization or journalist that ignores this fact will be left behind; you always need to be where your audience is and social media is where they are today.

Tags: briggs · Comm361 · social media · Student Blog Posts

Briggs Chapter 9 Summary: Data-Driven Journalism and Digitizing Your Life

March 19th, 2011 · Comments Off on Briggs Chapter 9 Summary: Data-Driven Journalism and Digitizing Your Life




“There is no such thing as information overload, only filter failure.” 

Digitize your life: use digital tools + services to manage your day without drowning in e-mails, status updates, blogposts, etc. 

Digitize your journalism: use technology to improve productivity + make journalism more meaningful to audience 

Your Digital Life: 

  • Organize e-mail

              – “Inbox Zero” – look at each e-mail message only once 

              - Spend two minutes or less per e-mail 

              - If you can’t reply in less than two minutes, file it for later 

              - Goal — zero e-mails in inbox after e-mail session 

  • Find right personal productivity tools:

              – Develop a strategy 

                 * What you need to manage + the right tools to manage it = personal productivity 

                 * Variables to consider when using tools: 

                     1. How much are you willing to pay? — many solutions are free 

                     2. Do you need to integrate with other systems or with a mobile device? 

                     3. Do you need an offline solution? 

                 *Investigate possible solutions: 

                   1. Office suites: Google, Office Live, Zoho  

                   2. Specialized solutions: Instapaper, Remember The Milk, Oh don’t forget, Evernote, Jott, Dropbox, Backpack, Basecamp, Socrata, MindMeister 

                   3. Latest tips and info:,, 

              - Bring order to your contacts: 

                 * Use digital, not paper-based, information storage systems 

                 * News organization can build reader database from e-mail addresses from readers/by advertising and inviting readers to join 

                 * Reader networks used effectively in many situations, especially when sources or feedback are needed 

              - Bring order to your work: 

                 * Project management programs allow you to assign tasks, share files, establish deadlines and include notes (Basecamp, Zoho) 

                 * Can be used to track all kinds of projects 

                 * Take courses/read books on project management 

Data-Driven Journalism: 

* Using databases, spreadsheets and other forms of structured or fielded data in news coverage or story development 

* Almost any assignment can be broken down into datapoints + organized for customized manipulation 

* Most daily newspapers have event calendar databases; visitors can access most recent information at any time; event planners can add events directly into database 

  • Why is data-driven journalism important?

              - News organizations are making their Web sites data destinations, providing information to audiences in a searchable database format while streamlining their own operation and cutting down on data entry 

  • Every story is a field of data – can break any story into separate fields for analysis and entry into a spreadsheet or database online
  • Telling stories with data:

              – Use data to create “alternate story form” for print edition 

              - Break down information into common parts – subject, location, date, action – build information resource that grows as you gather more 

              - Databases can help solve problem of slowly developing stories    

              – Helping reporters do their jobs: 

                 * Computer algorithms sort through databased information much more quickly than human investigative reporter 

                 * Reporter can use database to discover potential story leads that might never have been found 

                 * Often leads to great stories  

              – Sharing data: 

                 * Application Program Interface (API): allows anyone to tap into data and build tools and Web pages; connection of data and technology between two different Web sites 

                 * Closed systems + absolute control over content don’t work in digital information ecosystem 

                 * U.S. government created Web site at  that allows journalists to mix and mash all that data with other information sources according to their own specific focus 

Building Spreadsheets, Databases: 

  •   Creating a spreadsheet easy

               - Often easier to use a spreadsheet as first step to creating database 

               - Sometimes a spreadsheet is all you need 

               - When setting up a spreadsheet, include as many fields as possible 

               – Fielded data is key to sorting efficiently + being able to group items 

               - Use Excel or Google Docs to create spreadsheets 

Moving from spreadsheet to relational database: 

  • Turn”flat” list into relational database
  • “Relational” – one type of information relates to another
  • Database allows you to view each record as its own page
  • Software solutions can help build database once information is in spreadsheet (Microsoft Access for Windows + FileMaker for Mac;  free online solutions Socrata, Zoho or Grubba)

Map Mashups merge data from different sources: 

* Product of taking physical location data (addresses, points on a map) and organizing them based on a category/information type 

* People have created map mashups with Google, Yahoo and Microsoft maps for everything from pub crawls to tracking buses in Bangalore 

  • Map mashups tell stories, too:

              – Heavy on manual labor 

              – Homicides: example of ongoing stories that benefit from use of data visualization + power of capturing information + sorting it into right buckets 

              - If structure for data done correctly, computer software makes it easy to update + produce 

  • Applications in breaking news:

              – Databases and maps can be used for breaking news stories 

Build An Interactive Map With Data: 

* Build own map mashup with actual code or third-party service 

* Free online services will build map for you (, ZeeMaps,, UMapper, and Google’s My Maps

  • Think beyond single-use maps:

              - News organizations discovering power of building entire data ecosystems from geographically based journalism, data and user-submitted content 

              - Some local newspapers have projects that display several types of news and information based on geography 

              - Instead of a single-use map mashup, Web audience can see data feeds + recent news stories based on location 

              - The best allow audience to contribute information to share with the neighborhoods – a one-stop shopping for news and information tailored to your geography  

  • Location-aware devices changing the game:

              - Displaying information, or interacting with audience, based on geography is powerful new frontier for many local news organizations 

              - Can reach growing portion of audience that carries GPS-enabled mobile phone depending on where they happen to be 

              - Location changes everything: inputs + outputs

              - Locative technology demands different presentation (non-linear) because it’s a different experience for the user 

Better Life, Better Journalism: 

  • “Data literacy more important now”
  • “Beat reporters should know how to obtain, analyze and write about data on their beats”
  • Get the most out of data — store electronically then convert, organize, update and enhance 


Tags: briggs · Comm361 · Student Blog Posts

Briggs Chapter 8 Summary: Telling Stories with Video

March 16th, 2011 · Comments Off on Briggs Chapter 8 Summary: Telling Stories with Video


Creative Commons


Video storytelling:  

“Whenever possible, let your story tell its own story: let the characters talk, let the events speak for themselves.” –Tim Peek  

The Digital Video Revolution:  Cheap digital video cameras and free video-editing software ushered in the video age 

  • Impact: millions of amateurs worldwide publishing frequently
  • Versatile form of journalism: VJs — video/backpack journalists — work solo as both reporter and videographer

             1. Quality varies – differences deliberate, audience knows what to expect 

             2. Perfection not necessary  

                  * Quick, less polished video content often draws bigger audiences  

                  * Unedited video streams becoming common practice  

                  * “It’s shot vérité style.”   

             3. “The only way to learn video journalism is by doing it.”  

Plan Your Video and Go:  

  • Use different approaches for different projects

              1. Documentary-style video story; breaking news and highlights clips  

              2. Breaking news: witnesses/investigators’ reactions, footage of scene

              3. Press conferences for compelling news events make good video  

              4. Highlight clips, especially in sports, among most popular content; isolate short clips of best action edited together with voice-over descriptions or linked to news story as raw clips with captions

              5. Documentary-style video story — requires more planning; storyboards  

  • Try storyboarding

             1. Visual sketch of story, separated into parts so it can be organized  

             2. Think about focus of story: main idea you want to get across  

             3. Interviews/demonstration sequences (A-roll) + environmental footage (B-roll) support and explain main idea  

             4. No artistic talent necessary — use stick figures  

             5. Can rearrange pieces to tell more effective story  

             6. Adapt shooting to what will make most compelling story  

             7. Have idea of what story is  

             8. Make mental list of shots and interviews needed to tell story effectively  

             9. Bookends (opening and ending shots) really important  

            10. Can update storyboard after shooting video and before editing  

  • Mix shots

              1. Beginner mistake overuse of zooming and panning  

              2. Collect sequences of wide, medium and tight shots  

              3. Wide-angle/establishing shots give viewers sense of the environment  

              4. Medium shots give the viewer normal view  

              5. Close-ups: zoom first, then record  

              6. “Blank” shots of location/setting for natural sound  

  • Build five-shot sequences:  shoot in exactly this order and get usable material everytime; shoot steady — no panning or zooming

             1. Close-up on the hands  

             2. Close-up on the face  

             3. Wide shot  

             4. Over-the-shoulder shot  

             5. Creative shot from different angle  

Voice in Video:  

  • Effective video interviewing

             1. Select right location –  complements story topic; makes subject comfortable; ask for permission to tape if on private property  

             2. Sound and lighting — some environmental noise OK if subject wears wireless mic; pick location that fully lights subject  

             3. Capture first response and body language  

             4. Interviewer must remain silent while subject is speaking   

  • Use a stand-up

             1. Content: short with important or interesting details  

             2. Write a script, warm up: or jot down outline with major points  

             3. Be stable, breathe easy: stand/sit straight; don’t move shoulders while talking; breathe from stomach/diaphram  

             4. Talk with hands: looks less formal; use sparingly so it’s not distracting  

  • Control story with voice-overs

Gear Up and Get Out There:  

  • Camera choices

              1. Flip cameras — a staple in beginning video journalist’s toolbox  

              2. Point-and-shoot digital photo camera with video mode  

  • Video camera shopping questions (don’t buy more camera than you need):

              1. Media type – one that uses mini-DV tapes or solid-state memory card  

              2. High def — could present problems with storage and processing  

              4. Editing software — compatible with camera and computer  

              5. Accessories — cost can be half the camera cost  

                    * Tapes and batteries  

                       - Completely charge batteries several hours ahead  

                       - Use largest-capacity battery available; keep factory one for backup  

                      - Have enough mini-DV tape/storage capacity on cards for job 

                    * Microphones  

                    * Tripod: makes videography look professional  

                    * Headphones: listen to make sure you’re recording good audio  

                    * Lighting  

                        – Essential to shooting video  

                        – Most options clip into a “shoe” on top of camera  

                        – Increases drain on battery   

Shooting Good Video:  

  • Focus: use automatic focus unless you have photography skills
  • Zoom

             1. Set before recording; use only when necessary as slowly as possible  

             2. Never zoom when someone is talking  

             3. Do separate shots if you want different angles and compositions  

  • Exposure

             1. Automatic works in most situations  

             2. If light especially low, switch to manual to open iris + let in more light  

  • Aim for solid, not spectacular, clips

              1. Be selective  

              2. Avoid panning and zooming  

              3. Hold all shots at least fifteen seconds — helps in editing process  

              4. Be silent — won’t be able to edit out unwanted audio  

              5. Framing and composing — follow “rule of thirds”  

  • Get good audio: choose best microphone for job

              1. Built-in mic: best for sporting events, fairs and festivals  

              2. Wireless mic/lavalier: best for interviews  

              3. Shotgun mic: best for capturing conversation among several people  

  • Mix in still images: screenshots/mug shots can be used in print to tease to the online video package or on Web site as promotional icon

Working with Digital Video Files: editing best way to improve shooting  

  • Keep it short
  • Choose editing software

              1. Most computers have video-editing program already installed  

              2. Programs also available on the market to give professional results  

  • Practice visual storytelling

              1. Tell a story  

                   * Arrange clips in coherent, interesting order  

                   * Run audio of interview or voice-over “under” the video  

                   * Keep it short and to the point  

              2. Lessons to learn  

                   * Hook audience and define story in first 20 seconds  

                   * Have a beginning, middle and end  

                   * Use many short clips so viewer won’t be bored  

                   * Focus on one central idea  

                   * Better characters = better stories  

                   * Show viewer what subjects are talking about  

Publishing Video Online:  

* Most video files too large to publish unless compressed  

*Video-sharing services compress files, publish them in universal Flash video format  

* Best approachcontent delivery network (Brightcove or Akamai), or free video-sharing service (YouTube, Vimeo, and Metacafe) — take video files, convert to Flash, offer embed codes so you can publish them on your Web site  

* Before uploading video file: use editing program Export function, find link to Settings, make adjustments to ensure highest quality  

  • Can also do your own compression

              1. Need Web server with ample bandwidth and storage  

              2. Factor in additional compression file will receive before publication by video-sharing site  

              3. Higher quality = larger file size = longer upload  

  • Seek viral video distribution

             1. Web sites like YouTube and Vimeo can help distribute video and get it seen by more people because they have larger audiences and more search engine visibility  

             2. Embed codes make it easy for others to help distribute video  

             3. Recommended: Web service called TubeMogul automatically uploads your video to as many as 20 different video-sharing sites

NOTE:  Anyone who has taken COMM 360 or COMM 353 can relate to the following:

Creative Commons


Tags: briggs · Comm361 · Student Blog Posts

Chapter 8: telling stories with video

March 12th, 2011 · Comments Off on Chapter 8: telling stories with video

In this chapter, Briggs makes a point in explaining that good video speaks for itself. No need to edit, do voice overs. No, nothing. Good rough video, and the audience will get the message.

“Visual journalism is about telling compelling stories that connect an audience with subjects, people, and issues.”

Some things are better to understand if you have video. The digital world made video even more accessible and easy to use.

It’s up to you if you want to use your webcam to record video, or if you want to set up a well-illuminated high-quality well-edited video session.

Despite your decision, there are some tips and guidelines you need to follow:

  • Know the approach you’re going to take. Are you breaking news? Is it a highlight clip? Every clip asks for a different approach
  • Plan ahead. Sketch your story. Storyboard! Have an idea in mind before you start.
  • Mix your shots. Use five-shot sequence: 1-close-up on the hands, 2- close-up on the face, 3-wide shot, 4-over-the-shoulder shot, 5-creative shot.
  • Sound is very important in a video!
  • Force yourself to feel comfortable doing stand-ups. Get up!

When shooting a video, keep in mind the focus, zoom, exposure! Think about composition, and keep it short!

You don’t have a camera? Start with your webcam like I did.

Click here to view the embedded video.

If you ready to go out and shoot, get yourself a camera! Not ready to buy a camera? You can always borrow one from the starlab!

Tags: briggs · Comm361 · Student Blog Posts · video

Chapter eight: Telling stories with video

March 10th, 2011 · Comments Off on Chapter eight: Telling stories with video

These days, as long as you have a phone with a camera, you are armed with one of the most powerful tools on the planet: a video camera. What words and pictures can’t capture, video does. From World Cup soccer matches to political revolutions to weddings, video captures it all with the click of a red button.

As Professor Klein has told me throughout my year at Mason, “Don’t leave Mason without learning video!”

And it’s true.

Video is one of the most essential ways for journalists to tell stories.

So, what accessories do you need as a journalist to tell a basic news story?

• Tapes and batteries: We have all had the time where we have gone to interview someone and realized that our battery is about to die. Embarrassing, isn’t it? The best way to ensure that your battery lasts longer is to charge it before you come and always keep a back-up in your case just in case! As for tapes, keep at least two to three back-ups in case something urgent arises!
• Microphones: Audio, audio, audio! 70 percent of video is audio, so if you cannot hear the person being interviewed, you are only left with a 30 percent retention rate.
• Tripod: Always try to use a tripod to make your video look professional. There is no need to zoom in and out or move around when interviewing someone unless it’s an emergency. So, just use a tripod.
• Headphones: Buy a pair of decent headphones and plug into the camera and listen to the audio while you are shooting. That way you can ensure your interviewee can be heard.
• Lighting: A spotlight is essential when interviewing candidates, especially indoors. Entry-level lighting cost less than 100 dollars but use battery up quickly!

Happy reading!

Tags: briggs · Comm361 · Student Blog Posts

Briggs Ch. 11

March 9th, 2011 · Comments Off on Briggs Ch. 11

Although most of the Briggs book focuses on aspects of digital journalism that display its strengths versus print, this chapter acknowledges something both good and bad for aspiring journalists: while print was at one time the only real legitimate news source, there are countless news sites online and it’s much harder to compete for an audience than print in its heyday.

Here are some tactics one can use to increase readership:

  • Tracking your site content as well as page views and reader response. Briggs suggests setting benchmarks based on these figures.
  • Optimize your site for search engines.
  • Write effective headlines and stories for the Internet audience. That goes just as much for robots as well as regular readers.
  • Distribute and advertise via social media.
  • According to Monica Wright, the most important tip is:

Above all–good writing still prevails. Quality, relevant, in-depth content will not only attract the bots, but will capture new audiences as well.

Mike Starr - Getty Images

As a test, I did a Google News search on recently deceased Alice in Chains bassist Mike Starr to see which results were the most prominent. While the news of his death is clearly the biggest part of the story and probably what readers are most interested in, it’s interesting to note that only three of the top five entries (as of this writing) are reports of that while the other two are about fan reactions and comments from Starr’s fellow “Celebrity Rehab” cast members. Those two articles are both courtesy of MTV, which says quite a lot about their position in the blogosphere. Check out “Man in the Box” from Alice in Chains’ debut album, “Facelift.”

Click here to view the embedded video.

Tags: briggs · Comm361 · Student Blog Posts

Chapter 10: Managing News as a Conversation

March 8th, 2011 · Comments Off on Chapter 10: 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.” – Mark Briggs

According to Briggs, journalism now means 1) managing online communities as well as 2) participating in various social networks.

Audiences being able to comment on stories online and voice their opinions is not only a way to stay technologically savvy, but it gives the journalist more to work with.

Yes, journalists have always had sources, but by making news into a conversation, journalists can have a lot more sources,” said Patrick Thornton, editor of “What would you rather have: a network of 25 sources or of 500? Being social with users is easier than ever before, and the more social a journalist is with people, the more sources a journalist can mine.”

Len Brody, who aided in the launch of NowPublic, says there are five different types of user generators based on people’s motivation for commenting. They are:

  1. Those motivated by money (smallest)
  2. Those motivated by ego
  3. Those motivated by issues
  4. Accidental bystanders who didn’t set out to do any reporting (largest)
  5. And the “plain old crazy” users that every Web site seems to have

The chapter then goes on by explain how to build and manage a community online. Here is a list of how to do that:

  • Make news participatory: interactivity by contributing photos, video, event listings, edits, message board posts, blog posts, votes and recommendations and promotions.
  • Journalists must get involved:evangelizing the brand, soliciting the content, moderating comments, solving user problems, running contests, etc.
  • Develop sources through social networks: finding sources through Facebook, MySpace, Linkedln, etc.
  • Collaborate with your community: collaborating with your competitors and fellow journalists to get the best information out there for your audience.

In conclusion, you want to follow these steps to keep conversations accurate and ethical:

  • Setting guidelines for participants
  • Monitoring offensive postings
  • Knowing your legal responsibilities
  • Correcting errors

Tags: briggs · Comm361 · Facebook · Student Blog Posts