Online Journalism

Tech Blog – Making the Most of Your Journalism Internship

April 14th, 2011 · Comments Off on Tech Blog – Making the Most of Your Journalism Internship

Steve Buttry was a fantastic guest speaker, and appropriately enough his blog is just as chock full of great information, including a particularly helpful article on making the most out of your internship. I’ve never partook in a journalism internship, but I’m currently interning at Loudoun County Public Schools Television, and I’ve kept Buttry’s tips in mind ever since I read his article.

The #1 entry he lists is to ask questions, and I think that can’t be stressed enough. You don’t have all the answers, and if you’re lucky enough, your supervisor will allow you to explore the possibilities on your own. But at a prior internship, I found that, while the project director appreciated my efforts and enthusiasm, whenever I was faced with an executive decision myself and I didn’t at least consult her to let her know the direction I would be heading in, there was some natural resistance to my ideas. I learned to ask ahead of time, and everything was approved immediately.

Buttry also suggests working hard and having fun. I think this applies to any job, not just an internship. I’m not the most experienced editor from a technical standpoint (although I’m certainly above competent), but I do think I’m a relatively pleasant person to work with, and even when I’m not feeling 100%, I never let it get in the way of my duties. Would that give me the edge over an incredible editor who’s a pain to work with? Probably not for every production company looking to hire, but it would certainly be a deciding factor for some.

Another piece of advice is to own up to mistakes. A couple weeks ago, I went to a shoot and had forgotten to check the camera case before leaving–everything had always been taken care of and put away properly before, so I just assumed it would be the case once again. When I arrived at the shoot, I discovered there was no battery; another intern had forgotten to put it back. But while they certainly erred, I did too. Rule numero uno going on a shoot is to check your equipment ahead of time–that it’s present, let alone in working order. I apologized profusely probably to the point where my constant “I can’t believe I did that; I’m so sorry!” was probably a bigger irritant than the situation itself.

With graduation a month away, I’m looking for employment (or paid internship) opportunities and Buttry’s advice is something I will definitely take into account. And hey, Professor Klein, if you can recommend any good journalism jobs (particularly pop culture-related), let me know!

Tags: Comm361 · Steve Buttry · Student Blog Posts

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

Briggs 9: Dealing with data

March 22nd, 2011 · Comments Off on Briggs 9: Dealing with data

MORE AND MORE information becomes available online all the time, so more organization of the information is needed as well. The formula to find out what you need to do to organize is this:

“what you need to manage + the right tools to manage it = personal productivity.”

The best place to start getting organized is your e-mail:

-Make folders, like a ‘read this’ and ‘waiting on’ folder

-Take no more than 2 minutes to look at each e-mail.

-Look at an e-mail only once to save time

Journalists and freelance writers also need to organize things like to-do lists, calenders, images, documents, and notes. The best thing you can do for yourself is use fewer tools/websites to organize your things as possible, so that you won’t have too many things to check at once. Using web-based programs are the best option so that you can share your material with anyone and access it from anywhere.Some free programs include Google Docs and Zoho. Some services you do have to pay for, but there are many free programs/services available online.

As for organizing the information itself, databases and spreadsheets can be useful tools for a journalist: Databases and spreadsheets are useful for keeping contacts’ information (name, address, phone number, etc.), as well as keeping stories with a lot of data organized.

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 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

Briggs Ch. 10

March 8th, 2011 · Comments Off on Briggs Ch. 10

Early in this chapter, Briggs writes:

[M]any journalists (maybe most journalists) preferred news as a lecture. Only begrudgingly have they come around to the idea that a future in journalism means managing online communities and participating in various social networks.

It’s a pretty damning accusation but one that I’m unfortunately all too familiar with. When I first took a journalism class in high school, the teacher seemed downright ignorant of the shifting landscape–every single lesson was based on writing for newspapers. That was a mere six years ago, and admittedly things have changed rapidly since then but that resistance to change pretty much goes against everything journalism is about.

The idea of shifting into a conversation especially shouldn’t be too disconcerting–after all, newspapers have published and encouraged reader letters for decades. Of course, there was more discretion in that than automatically publishing what Doug Feaver calls,

anonymous, unmoderated, often appallingly inaccurate, sometimes profane, frequently off point and occasionally racist reader comments

The conversation moves beyond just comment sections–Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media can help readers share their thoughts, and as an added bonus, are often attached to their real identities. However, journalists cannot just sit back and wait for readers to pour in. There are several steps to creative effective conversation:

  • Branding and promoting the site to attract readers
  • Soliciting content
  • Moderating user content and dealing with reader problems
  • Know your legal and ethical boundaries

Once again, social networks are an effective way to complete all of these elements.

Tags: briggs · Comm361 · Student Blog Posts

Briggs Ch. 7

March 1st, 2011 · Comments Off on Briggs Ch. 7

Everybody knows that links and video are advantages to online journalism that don’t exist in print, but people often neglect to acknowledge the value of audio as well. Audio offers many options for things that wouldn’t be practical or possible in video.

Words and quotes may be powerful on paper, but imagine how much stronger they would be heard directly from the source, with all the subtle tones and pauses present. Sometimes those can say even more than the actual words of the quote.

One of the biggest formats in which audio reporting has emerged in recent years is podcasting. Podcasts are typically almost like talk radio, only focused on a singular topic and scheduled on a semi-regular basis. I generally don’t follow podcasts, as I like to listen to music while I’m using the computer, but I do enjoy checking out the Hipsters United podcast about the Smashing Pumpkins. Once you grow accustomed to the commentators, it makes for a fun listen on a subject I (usually) enjoy hearing about. For people who might not be as interested in the 90s alt-rockers as I am, there are thousands of podcasts you can subscribe to on iTunes.

Any reporter that wishes to utilize audio will have to select a digital recorder. There are a couple of things to keep in mind when doing so:

  • File format. Make sure it’s something compatible with your software and of decent quality.
  • Capacity. You probably don’t need to keep 300+ hours of audio, but hey, it can’t hurt to have the space.
  • Interface. Is it easy to use? Are there too many menus to go through to use it properly?
  • Power source. Does it run on batteries or do you have to charge it?
  • Connectivity. If you can’t even get the files onto your computer, maybe you should leave audio reporting to the pros.

Tags: briggs · Comm361 · Student Blog Posts

Briggs Ch. 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tags: briggs · Comm361 · Student Blog Posts

Briggs Ch. 5

February 22nd, 2011 · Comments Off on Briggs Ch. 5

It may be getting repetitive at this point to say once again how crucial it is to implement technology into modern journalism, but it remains the vital takeaway point of the Briggs text. One aspect of this is mobile journalism. If cell phones allow people to receive calls and access their email anywhere at any time, why shouldn’t they also provide the news people want and need to know about? It can also help journalists find and cover breaking stories in ways that were impossible before.

Of course, journalists need to keep a few things in mind:

  • Mobile journalism is not a replacement for print or online journalism. It is a supplement designed to get a reader’s attention and drive them to the more in-depth story.
  • Mobile journalism does not require the most advanced equipment. Use whatever you’re comfortable with, and whatever you need to get the story.
  • Mobile journalism can allow instant and interactive stories to be disseminated.

My friend Brian Chan, former sports editor for Broadside, often does live blogs for games at his current school, UNC Charlotte. Basically, he watches the games and uses a laptop to provide constant updates as it’s happening. Since sports are a constant, shifting series of events, this is a great way for fans who can’t make the games to get a play-by-play of what goes down. Of course, in the case of Chan, you also have to sit through some occasional bad jokes, but having known him since sixth grade, I’m used to them by now.

Tags: briggs · Comm361 · Student Blog Posts