Online Journalism

Baby boomers: booming into the Internet scene

April 18th, 2011 · Comments Off on Baby boomers: booming into the Internet scene

You’re a young college student who has grown up with technology. You know Microsoft Word, Google, and social media outlets such as Twitter like the back of your hand. The Internet has become second nature to you and you can’t imagine how anybody would have trouble to adapting to it. You also can’t fathom your parents making use of such outlets, nor do you think they deserve to use such outlets. Your mother creating a Facebook? Pfft! That’s ridiculous.

If you are like many young adults, however, dooms day has come and you too have received a Facebook friend request from your mother, father, or even grandparent. According to Jamie Carracher’s article “How Baby Boomers Are Embracing Digital Media” for Mashable.com, encounters with the +40 population on the web are not going away anytime soon, in fact they are increasing. As Carracher cites, “social network use among Internet users 50 years old and older has nearly doubled to 42 percent over the past year.”

So why is there this proliferation of baby boomer web use? Why are more and more elders embracing smart phone technology? In his article Carracher offers the following answers:

  1. Baby boomers can connect with friends and family in ways that seemed unfathomable. Rather than having to call a son or daughter on the telephone or ask a child to mail pictures to them, baby boomers can email the children or look at their photo albums on Facebook or on album sharing websites such as Picasa.
  2. Baby boomers appreciate the mobility and convenience that comes with devices such as Blackberries and iPads. When adults were in college they were most likely using typewriters to produce papers and using telephone booths to call colleagues when they were away from land lines. With the use of smart technology, adults can now contact family and friends, search the web, and take photographs or videos with one simple device.
  3. Baby boomers realize the benefits of search engines and the incredible amount of information that is at their fingertips through the Internet. Career adults, or any adult for that matter, love the fact that they can find the information they need through a simple Google search. If a career professional needed to find out about school cancellations for his or her children, he or she could perform a simple Google search rather than having to call the school the child attends.

As can be seen from Carracher’s list, baby boomers see many of the same benefits of Internet use as we do. So what does their adoption of this medium mean to us? What should we consider when making an Internet that is easy for both the young and the old to use? We should think about the following when taking on this task:

  1. The adult population on the web is only going to continue growing. “Don’t ignore them.”
  2. Making the web easy for individuals who are not tech-saavy without being insulting. “We need to make sure we are building it to empower everyone.”
  3. How accessible the website is. Can adults with poor eyesight and a hearing aid take advantage of a web page the same way a college student with 20/20 vision and perfect hearing can?
  4. How we can educate elders on technology use. Baby boomers are not as tech-savvy as we are and there would be severe consequences if they fell in to the “digital divide.”

Rather than shunning adult use of the Internet, we should embrace it. Even better, we should partake in a sort of “community service” and help them understand the medium. If we do that, we can all live harmoniously and enjoy the great power of the Web together.

Follow Jamie Carracher on Twitter.

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

Twitter vs. Facebook in building news brands

April 8th, 2011 · Comments Off on Twitter vs. Facebook in building news brands

In her article “Channeling the news brand on Twitter and Facebook,” Mandy Jenkins discusses how newsrooms can most effectively use such social media outlets. One of the most important things to remember, according to Jenkins, is that Twitter and Facebook are not equal, and therefore require individual attention.

Jenkins offers the following advice to help guide newsrooms on Twitter use:

  1. Quality content over quantity of content: seek the most immediate, informative information that will set up a dialogue for your followers to ask questions
  2. Use good judgment: use information that will promote your brand. In Jenkins’ words, “some stories that come across your desk may not be ideal for the brand’s Twitter account.” You want to tweet stories that are as useful as possible
  3. Pay attention to time: tweet during high traffic hours of the day, mainly “in the morning, over lunchtime and in the late evening.” Think “if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” If a story breaks late at night and no one is awake to read it, does it really matter or make an impact?
  4. I tweeted it once, I’ll tweet it again. Tweeting an important story more than once is absolutely fine. Just reword your tweet and you’re golden, it makes the story sound new and will attract additional readers.
  5. Not all headlines are created equal. Some headlines transition to Twitter more easily than others. Sometimes you have to change the phrasing to make the most impact with a given tweet.
  6. Perfection by selection: Retweet information only if it is relevant, trustworthy, and important. Nobody likes the friend who retweets everything he or she sees.
  7. Be true to your newsroom. Don’t lose sight of your intended audience and the purpose for your Twitter account.

These tips provide journalists with sound advice about tweeting, but “what about Facebook?“, you may ask. Lucky for you, Mandy Jenkins also offers advice as to it’s use as well:

  1. Conversation starter: update your Facebook page with information that you would share with friends. If the link or update will allow for friendly conversation, than feel free to post it to Facebook.
  2. The time is right: update your Facebook during times of heaviest traffic. Employers are not fond of staffers being on the website during office hours, so it is wise to update Facebook when they are home and free to use the site at their leisure.
  3. Use discretion with cross-posting: hashtags were made for Twitter, long updates were made for Facebook. Remember: “Facebook users shouldn’t be seeing Twitter names and hashtags – and Twitter readers shouldn’t be seeing tweets that are too long coming from a Facebook stream.”

With the advice of such an influential social media superstar, you will be ready to use social media to your newsrooms advantage! Just remember Jenkins‘ guidelines and pointers and you will be golden.

Follow Jenkins on Twitter.

Tags: Comm361 · Facebook · Student Blog Posts

How social media would have affected 9/11/2001

April 8th, 2011 · Comments Off on How social media would have affected 9/11/2001

LA Weekly blogger Alexia Tsotsis examines how social media would have influenced reactions to the September 11th attacks in the article “What would 9-11 be like in the age of Social Media.”

She explains that, “our real-time communication platforms would provide crucial information on survivors and those looking for loved ones, as Craigslist did after Hurricane Katrina.”

By using social media platforms such as Twitter or Facebook, people would have quicker access to a multitude of information relating to the crisis. According to Tsotsis, social media outlets would have allowed for:

  1. Multimedia from those inside the World Trade Centers. If the attacks had taken place during 2010, office workers would have been able to tweet about what was going on and post pictures of the impending disaster. Even more importantly, they would be able to post video that would capture the true horror of 9/11. Had they had iPhones and other sorts of technology, we would have been able to more clearly understand the reactions of those inside the building, rather than just imagining it through the reactions of spectators.
  2. Videos from passengers on the planes. If we had the level of cellular device use that we have today, we would have hundreds of videos of passengers on the jets that crashed in to the twin towers. We would be exposed to a plethora of videos of passenger reactions and maybe even videos of the terrorists as they hijacked the planes.
  3. More myths, and quicker mythbusting.” With the use of Twitter or Facebook anyone and everyone would be able to post their opinions or their encounters during 9/11. We would have more exposure to conspiracy theories and exposure to people claiming that the Bush administration knew about the attacks all along. We would also, however, have access to people arguing that the 9/11 attacks were not an inside job and that Bush and his advisor’s had absolutely no knowledge of these attacks.
  4. More opinions. After Bush declared war on Iraq, Americans would have been faced with a flood of tweets that both supported and opposed the war. On the extreme, conservative side, some might say, “lets show those Jihad terrorists what America’s made of.” On the more peace-loving side, however, tweets might say, “peace in the Middle East not death showers and bombs.”

There is no denying that the American reaction to 9/11 would have been entirely different if Twitter and Facebook had been around. We would have access to an unprecedented amount of information from an unbelievably huge amount of people. Along with just being exposed to more personal encounters, and being able to find information more quickly, we would also be exposed to international opinions of the attacks. It is very apparent that if we were able to decipher the sound from the noise in the world of social media, we would have had a much better, unbiased understanding of the devastating attacks on that infamous September day.

Follow Alexia Tsotsis on Twitter.

Follow LA Weekly on Twitter.

Tags: Comm361 · social media · Student Blog Posts

Making sense of the digital world despite the myths

March 10th, 2011 · Comments Off on Making sense of the digital world despite the myths

The world of journalism brings with it an enormous amount of confusion, as we are in one of the biggest transition period since the printing press. In his article “5 Myths about digital journalism” Mark S. Luckie speaks of several points of confusion, and tries to debunk them.

The first myth he speaks of is journalists must know everything. According the Luckie this myth could not be farther from the truth. As he puts it, “the trick is not to be a master of everything, but to be knowledgeable about the tools at your disposal.” Imagine this: you are a company-owner seeking to hire somebody for your press department. You have one candidate who is an expert on web design but does not know much about social media and one candidate who knows a little bit about web design, writing, photography, and videography. Who would you be more inclined to hire? Probably the second candidate with experience in several different aspects of multimedia.

The second myth Luckie speaks about in his article is social media is the answer. The world of Twitter and Facebook has allowed us to connect with our audiences in ways that were inconceivable less than a decade ago. As the journalism ship is sinking, it is easy for us to become caught up in the idea that it will be the clear answer that will save us all. Nobody, “not even social media gurus” knows what is going to save journalism. All that we can do is use “social media to help augment and distribute the news” and to make “audiences more invested in the development and discussion of news.” If that is enough to save journalism remains to be seen.

The third myth in this article is journalists must have database development skills. Although it is good to have some skill with web page development, Luckie essentially tells us that we just aren’t as good at . He explains, “unless a journalist has a knack for computer programming and web development skills, the quality of work they can produce cannot match the level of expertise of a dedicated programmer or developer.” Don’t let these words discourage you from practicing web design, though. Who knows, one day you might even be considered your organization’s resident Internet expert!

The fourth myth is that comments suck and that they are essential for democracy. Many people believe that comments are awful. As Luckie puts it, “truly civil and engaging comment threads that news sites strive to cultivate are far and in between.” The reason for such unsuccessful message boards is not necessarily the fault of our readers, however. We cannot control the fact that some lunatics frequent our websites and like to voice their opinions. What we can control is if we allow those users to post comments. By making use of tools such as Facebook Connect and “flag comment” features, we can take positive steps necessary towards the truly engaging conversations we desire.

The last myth he talks about in his article, which is perhaps the most reassuring point he makes, is that there are no journalism jobs. It is indeed true that there are much more applicants for a much smaller amount of jobs today. It is also true that “journalism jobs that existed decades ago are often not the jobs that are available.” Don’t let these facts hinder your decision to go in to journalism though. With the tremendous growth in online journalism ventures, journalists just need to learn to look in unexpected places for jobs. Rather than being set on print journalism, look towards jobs in social media or other multimedia aspects. Also, remember to “set yourself apart from the pack by developing diverse and unique skills.” If you practice with Twitter and blogging, photography and Photoshop, and with sound editing software such as Audacity, you will stand out from the enormous group of unemployed, and will very quickly receive job offers.

Tags: Comm361 · social media · Student Blog Posts

Soldier Transition Project

March 9th, 2011 · Comments Off on Soldier Transition Project

For my online journalism course with Professor Steve Klein, I am required to create a multimedia project with several other classmates. We are able to chose our topics and choose our teams, keeping in mind stories that work well over multiple media outlets and keeping in mind the need for multiple skill sets.

Several weeks in to the semester, one of my classmates gave a presentation about her project idea. She hoped to follow army soldiers as they transitioned from a life of war in Iraq and Afghanistan to a civilian life at George Mason University. If the project went as planned, she explained, it could potentially be featured on the ACAP, or Army Career and Alumni Program, website.

Intrigued by the idea, and excited about the potential benefits coming from the project, I decided to join Tony’s “Soldier Transition Project,” as we have now come to call it. My other teammates include Brandi, Jen, Ethan and Aisha.

Together, we hope to create a sleek website that involves multiple pages. One tab off of our main page, will include the actual stories that our team writers have worked on. This page will also likely involve slide shows of a particular soldier, and his or her actual interview. Another part of the website will include resources that future soldiers can use to help them transition in to college life.

My main part of the project will be the social media page. On this page I hope to integrate an RSS feed from ACAP and other soldier resources. I also hope to have a feed that will feature useful tweets for our audience. These tweets will likely involve the G.I. Bill. If I get approval from our subjects, I also hope to connect with them through Facebook and feature some of their statuses that will capture how emotional the war and the transition has been.

Over spring break I plan to gather up sources, and get information on our interviewees so I can see about my plans for Facebook. As the project goes on, I will update this post so you all can keep up with our progress up to the finished project!

Tags: Comm361 · Facebook · Student Blog Posts