Online Journalism

onMason Round-Up – 4-10-12

April 10th, 2012 · Comments Off on onMason Round-Up – 4-10-12

In the new onMason round-up we take a look at some of the most interesting posts throughout onMason.

Tragedy and Twitter” by Karina Schulthesis

This is an account of how social network sites like Twitter have changed the way people respond to and deal with school shootings. In order to make her article more effective, Karina begins with an anecdote about when she heard about the Columbine shootings in elementary school, drawing a connection between that tragedy and the recent shooting at Oikos University in Oakland.

The Inconvenient Truth about Racism” by Sayed Z. Shah

Using the Trayvon Martin murder in Florida as a starting point, Sayed discusses the issue of racism and argues that racism is as prevalent as ever. He states that efforts to combat racism are often ineffective and that racism is a universal problem, not one confined to particular geographic locations or demographics of people. The inconvenient truth is that racism can be reduced, but it can likely never be fully eradicated.

New ‘Strawberry Blonde’ Woolly Mammoth Found” by Kristen Janerio

This article is a short news piece about the discovery of an almost perfectly preserved woolly mammoth carcass found yesterday morning (April 4) in Siberia. The finding is particularly notable because the mammoth has a ginger-colored coat of fur, which contradicts scientists’ belief that all mammoths had dark-colored coats.

Mason Not Allowed to Recognize Domestic Partnerships” by Hannah Smith

This Broadside article details why George Mason University is unable to extend benefits to partners of faculty members in same-sex relationships or unmarried couples. Because domestic partner benefits are illegal under Virginia law, the university is prohibited from extending health insurance coverage to partners of unmarried employees.

Social Media Does More Than Connect Friends” by Allie Hunter

This article talks about how surgeons at the Houston’s Memorial Hermann Northwest live-tweeted an open heart surgery to help teach other surgeons and answer questions regarding the procedure. It uses this point to show how social media like Facebook and Twitter can be utilized for more purposes beyond simply connecting with friends.

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Tags: Comm361 · Facebook · Student Blog Posts

Guest speaker: Mark Stencel

April 14th, 2011 · Comments Off on Guest speaker: Mark Stencel

Mark Stencel’s journalism career began around 1995 where he worked at the Washington Post for 12 years (9 focusing in online things), The News & Observer in Raleigh, NC. He currently works for NPR (National Public Radio), has been there for just under 2 years and is the digital managing editor.

NPR is a non-profit organization, so money comes mainly from individual donations. It is very news-centralized and one of the largest, most-consumed news organizations in North America with around 20-30 million listeners. They are being challenged, though, by people who are in their offices not wanting to listen to NPR.org or the radio.

NPR has used the iPhone and Android markets to expand to listeners through those capabilities. NPR staff also take pictures for their website which show you pictures. The radio’s job is to paint that picture for the listener.

It is very difficult to work with three mediums (radio, text, video) so NPR typically just does text and radio.

Historically, NPR has produced great audio. Now, they have also added great text to their capabilities.

Don’t cover events, cover implications.

At the Post, he tried to bring talk radio into text form through interactivity with the audience.

On NPR’s Facebook page, they take stories that never got huge amounts of views on their site and add them onto their Facebook page so it can receive more views.

Twitter is also a very dynamic form of social media for NPR. Andy Carvin and others tweet some stories for their followers and turned the reporting process inside-out to show everyone how it’s done.

These social mediums are great ways to tell people what is going on air soon. It also helps show how interactive the hosts are.

NPR’s job is to cover news and break it in every possible way whether its on the radio, blogging, etc.

Tags: Comm361 · Facebook · 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

Guest Speaker: Mark Potts

April 7th, 2011 · Comments Off on Guest Speaker: Mark Potts

Mark Potts, who is a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, came and spoke to our Comm. 361 class on March 29. He has been exploring the digital world for 19 years and is always looking for new tools to utilize.

Copyright: newsonomics.com

During Potts presentation, he gave us TONS of wonderful resources, helpful websites, and examples of well-done storytelling.

One thing that I was especially surprised to hear was that he spoke very highly of Wikipedia and called it “a fantastic news site”.  After constantly hearing from professors that it’s not a reputible source of information, here Potts comes saying he thinks it’s great. He explained how its got voluminous work and is built by the crowd, which adds to it’s resourcefulness.

He then showed us a story done in December of 2010 that utilized Facebook as the medium to telling the story. So in essence,Facebookdid the storytelling and the rest fell into place. The article is called “A Facebook story: A mother’s joy and a family’s sorrow” and can be found here.

He explained how Storify gives the reader structure and some kind of flow, but doesn’t necessarily work for every story. He definitely believes that crowdsourcing is a HUGE component to storytelling today and very beneficial.

“Do what you do best and link to the rest,” Potts said towards the middle of his presentation. I thought this was very powerful and presented the fact that using outside resources and stories to LINK to your story is a good thing.

Another big topic that came up, as always, was Twitter. His take on it was incredibly different from what we’ve been hearing from previous speakers. He said:

  • He only uses it to tweet his recent blog posts
  • Doesn’t care for it
  • Doesn’t see it as that interesting
  • Isn’t filtered
  • There’s just too much stuff

I was very surprised to hear this, but understood what he meant at the same time. It’s good to find the pros and cons to everything, and since we’ve ONLY been hearing the pros it was cool to get a different perspective.

He ended his presentation by saying that he stopped reading print news years ago because there’s better writing on the web. He explained how30 years ago only way you got info was the newspaper. It was the only option you had. He explained how newspapers are out of date the second they’re published, but that the web is constantly keeping up to the SECOND with information.

His final statement, which stuck with me for the rest of the day was, “We need to be our own filters today.” Basically saying, there’s so much information out there, but WE need to be responsible consumers.

Tags: Comm361 · Facebook · Storify · Student Blog Posts

Kevin Anderson- Guest Speaker

April 7th, 2011 · Comments Off on Kevin Anderson- Guest Speaker

Kevin Anderson, now working for Al Jazeera Arabic in Doha, Qatar, has over a decade of journalism experience under his belt. Along with jobs at The Guardian and BBC News, Anderson has been a digital journalist since 1996 and rode the .com boom to becoming the BBC’s first online journalist outside of the UK.

Anderson’s main points:

  • What tools do journalists need to know how to use?
  1. Internships
  2. Setting up blogs (knowing how to write, take pictures, edit video)
  • The role of social media in journalism today?

The major role is “networked journalism”

  1. Not enough to build a website, make sure content is available and take it to places were people are congregating online, like Facebook and Twitter.
  2. Using networks to find sources and add voices to our journalism
  • How do we differentiate ourselves as journalist?

If we amplify everyvoice it just becomes noise(when it comes to people trying to be their own reporters) it’s still important to make editorial choices. We just have a richer wider choice of quotes.

Kevin and his wife, Suw Charman-Anderson, have a blog called the Corante. Check out their postings.

Tags: Comm361 · Facebook · 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

Guest speaker: Mark Potts

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

Mark Potts, creator of Washingtonpost.com, 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

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

Skype session with Kevin Anderson

March 29th, 2011 · Comments Off on Skype session with Kevin Anderson

Courtesy of his Twitter; Kevin Anderson: Digital strategist and freelance journalist with more than a decade experience with the Guardian and the BBC. Helping create the future of journalism. FOLLOW HIM ON TWITTER!

On Thursday, March 24, 2011, Anderson skyped in to chat! Being half way accross the world didn’t stop him from making his 3:30 p.m. EST Skype sesh.

Valuable advice given to aspiring job-searching journalists: Go to WordPress.com or Tumblr, set up a blog, start writing and taking pictures. The costs of doing that is almost nothing. Use your moble phone and take pictures of videos. Think of the best ways to tell stories with graphics and data. You need to show you didn’t need that first job to make the initiative.

Anderson said, “With BBC, I did interviews with military bloggers. One of the most powerful radio programs is I got three soldiers together talking about their experiences. With a joint interview, you can usually get more out of them; you can have them talking to eachother. They all conversed and shared their stories. I still get shivers when I think of that radio program.”

Storify has been a hot topic in the Online Journalism classroom the entire semester.  He did raise caution with one aspect of the site. “Its grat to collect material, but make sure you use the text tool to add content to what youre making,” said Anderson.

Professor Steve Klein responded with, “So in otherwise, bridge the material with good old fashioned writing.”

“Absolutely,” said Anderson.

Twitter. On the topic of media giant Twitter, Anderson said talked about maps and locations. In all seriousness, he said that he includes his location in his tweets so he can map them later. Although, don’t do that in Syria because you don’t want to encourage an air strike.

Relating to online journalism and storytelling. Anderson wrapped up the Skype sesh with, “You couldn’t tell the horror without the Japanese tsunami without the videos. And that is a small example of it. You can’t tell the story of the revolution in Egypt without the voices or the people submitting their videos online.”

Tags: Comm361 · Storify · Student Blog Posts