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August 02 2012

13:26

Stable at Last, PANDA Reaches 1.0!

Eleven months ago, we began prototyping PANDA. The PANDA project aims to make basic data analysis quick and easy for news organizations, and make data sharing simple. I hacked for a month on an experimental version, verified that our technology choices worked, and then threw it out and started over. Since that time, development has proceeded in steady, week-long iterations, checkpointed by numerous releases and two-day long PANDA team-planning sessions. We've implemented every feature from our "must have" list, a large chunk of our "want" list, and even one or two off our "not likely" list (in response to user feedback).

Today, I'm pleased to announce that we have reached the end of our road map: PANDA Version 1.0 is ready!

YOU CAN HAVE A PANDA NOW

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If you've been taking a wait-and-see approach to getting PANDA in your newsroom, now is the time to see. Version 1.0 is the most polished release we've ever done. Among the highlights:

  • New user-oriented documentation at pandaproject.net.
  • No more default user accounts. A setup mode allows you to configure an admin user after installation.
  • Search for data within categories.
  • Additional metadata for datasets, including "related links."
  • Many, many, many bug fixes.

To get started with PANDA now, head over to our installation docs.

I have one month left to keep working full-time on PANDA. That means you have a month to get personalized help with any issues you encounter while setting up. If you get started now, I'll be answering your emails, tracking your bugs, and logging your future development requests. If you wait, you may have to get in line.

Still not persuaded? Check out an awesome presentation from Nolan Hicks, San Antonio Express-News reporter and PANDA beta tester.

Every newsroom can be a data-friendly newsroom. Get started with PANDA now.

April 10 2012

16:45

March 29 2012

14:00

Creating a Taxonomy of News Partnerships

In collaborative journalism right now we can see media theorist Clay Shirky's urge towards vast experimentation manifested. The journalism partnerships emerging around the country vary in size and type, and the practices that define those partnerships are still being negotiated and hashed out in newsrooms and communities.

Some partnerships bring together very different news organizations in order to provide expanded coverage, while others coalesce around similar newsrooms to cut down on duplicative efforts. Some focus on local or hyperlocal news, while others focus on regional and national reporting. Some bring the resources of multiple organizations together to focus on one issue in depth, while others partner with the public to capture a range of different angles on one issue.

This diversity in approaches to collaborative journalism is one of its strengths -- and one of its great challenges.

A Collaboration Framework

Journalists, editors and managers at news organizations are trying to navigate the parameters of these new kinds of partnerships as they happen. Developing a framework to categorize journalism collaborations is useful as practitioners look for lessons and models to replicate and build on. The dynamics between different newsrooms, and their various motivations for partnering, shape how a given collaboration is structured. While some collaborations may defy categorization, a few basic partnership models have emerged:

  • Commercial News Collaborations: These partnerships tend to be contractual agreements between commercial news organizations such as television stations and newspapers. They are often defined by the legal deals that structure them: Shared Services Agreements, Local News Sharing Agreements, Newspaper Broadcast Cross-Ownership, Joint Operating Agreements, etc. Many of these agreements consolidate resources, equipment, production and even newsroom staff. These kinds of commercial partnerships and near-mergers pre-date the larger collaborative trend we've witnessed across newsrooms since 2008.

  • Non-Profit and Commercial Collaborations: These partnerships are usually between public or non-commercial entities and a private news organization. This model gained significant attention during the Comcast-NBC merger debates because Comcast promised to expand local news coverage on NBC stations through partnerships with non-profit journalism organizations. Other examples include the New York Times' local news partnerships with non-profits in major media markets and sites like California Watch, whose model is based on these partnerships. In these arrangements, the commercial news outlet often serves as the distributor of content the non-profit produces. However, more complex and expansive non-profit and commercial reporting collaborations are also emerging.

  • Public and Non-Commercial Collaborations: These partnerships connect multiple public media outlets or bring public radio and TV stations together in collaboration with other non-profit newsrooms. The networked nature of the U.S. public media system, in which stations across the country are both producers and distributors, has meant that partnerships within the system are built into the DNA of the organizations. In recent years, innovative public media producers have built on that history and taken collaboration to the next level. We have also seen inventive partnerships between public media broadcasters and non-profit digital news startups.

  • University Collaborations: University partnerships with local news organizations are engaging journalism and mass communications students in hands-on reporting efforts that are producing some great journalism. This model takes many forms, from curricular-based service-learning efforts to campus-based investigative reporting workshops, and involves both commercial and non-commercial news organizations.

  • Community and Audience Collaborations: Journalists are also collaborating with their communities in new and important ways. Crowdsourcing and crowdfunding -- as exemplified by projects at The Guardian, ProPublica and public media's Public Insight Network and Spot.Us -- are finding new ways for audiences to contribute to the funding, research and editorial decisions that shape the news. At their best, these projects are not just transactional, wherein the audience hands over something (money, information) and gets something in return (a story or other journalistic product); they are transformative for both journalists and participants -- as in the case of Departures, a web-based documentary series about Los Angeles developed by public media station KCET in close partnership with community members.

This taxonomy focuses primarily on editorial collaborations around the production of specific news products; however, each collaborative model listed above also encompasses cases in which news organizations can and do collaborate around shared infrastructure. Examples of infrastructure-driven collaboration include: broadcasters sharing equipment, such as news helicopters; two non-profits sharing the costs of developing a mobile app; and universities acting as fiscal agents for journalism organizations. Organizations like J-Lab, the Media Consortium and the Investigative News Network are all helping facilitate both editorial and infrastructural partnerships.

No One-Size-Fits-All Solutions

silver-bullet.jpgToo often, in debates over the future of journalism, we get caught up looking for a silver bullet -- the one business model to rule them all. Some debates about collaboration echo this narrow focus, assuming there will be a universal set of practices or guidelines that newsrooms can replicate and scale across the country. The categorization above should highlight the vastly different approaches to journalistic collaboration that exist.



We are still at the early stages of experimentation with large- and small-scale collaboration across the news and journalism ecosystem. Partners differ, motivations differ, needs differ and funding differs. This list isn't meant to suggest that news organizations only draw lessons from partnerships that most closely resemble their own -- indeed quite the opposite is true: We should be drawing on the lessons from across models, but we should do so with an awareness of the unique context of each collaboration. Each of the various models outlined above present unique challenges and opportunities that deserve to be unpacked and detailed in more depth.

Do you think these five categories are comprehensive or would you add others? Or would you suggested categorizing collaboration more by the type of journalism than the structure of the newsroom? For example, we might reorganize the list above to highlight similarities and differences between collaborations organized around investigative reporting, niche journalism, covering local beats, etc. Let me know how you would organize the field in the comments below.  

Photo of silver bullet by Flickr user Ed Schipel.

Josh Stearns is a journalist, organizer and community strategest. He is Journalism and Public Media Campaign Director for Free Press, a national, non-partisan, non-profit organization working to reform the media through education, organizing and advocacy. He was a co-author of "Saving the News: Toward a national journalism strategy," "Outsourcing the News: How covert consolidation is destroying newsrooms and circumventing media ownership rules," and "On the Chopping Block: State budget battles and the future of public media." Find him on Twitter at @jcstearns.

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February 03 2012

14:59

I’m more than a Twitter Monkey

I'm relieved to be out of my social media editor roles because I've been worrying about my future and the future of the social media role at news organizations, for lots of reasons. [...]

November 14 2011

21:45

A Newsroom Primer: Starting Fresh With Google+ Brand Pages

If newsrooms avoided creating an account on Google+ when the product asked brands to stay away, the time has come to build your brand inside the social-networking tool. Last week, Google opened up brand pages for all to use.

But before you set it up, there's an important thing you need to know: You can set up a brand page that is attached to your personal Google account, but at this point, only one person can manage a brand page.

My newsroom had an already existing Google account (that had a profile suspended on Google+ when it initially launched because brands were not allowed inside the social network). I rebuilt the new KOMU 8 News page using that Google account because it means I have a core group of people who have access to the username and password without having to give away my personal username and password. It also means you have to bounce between different browsers to manage your personal account and the brand account. There are pros and cons to both options. Either way, you have to agree to Google Pages' Terms of Service before you can move forward.

setting up your brand

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Once you agree to the terms, you have a chance to add your brand's avatar and create a tagline. This is the short summary of your brand that anyone will see when they look it up. You want to be concise and have fun with it if you can. My newsroom is focused on mid-Missouri, but Google+ has helped us expand our coverage. So our tagline is "Mid-MO and beyond. The most innovative + in the news biz." The New York Times' Google+ page says, "All the news that's fit to +."

There is no requirement to use a "+" in your tagline. I promise.

Once you have a tagline and an avatar, Google+ recommends you send out a post and share the arrival of your new brand. You can do that immediately or you can take some time to build out the look of your page.

managing your page

If you choose to work on your page, you can add a few things to it. If you just posted a URL to your website, you can also add a phone number, email and physical address if that's something you think is important. Be sure to verify the email you share on the page. (A little verification link will pop up minutes after you save your changes.) This is just a step you can take to prove to Google that you really do represent the brand. You can also add photos and additional links that help your Google+ consumer learn more about you.

Once you post, you need to revisit your page and hit refresh to make sure you see any new reactions. I'm often adding my personal Google+ profile in the posts so readers know they can also respond to me. I hope that will help keep me up to date with the responses to the content I post on our brand page.

Here are some of the lessons I've learned after working inside the Google+ brand pages for a while:

  1. Your brand must get circled before you can add anyone into your brand's circles. This helps prevent spam inside Google+, but it also makes it a lot harder to keep track of how and who to circle. Adding people into your circles is a slow and manual process. The +KOMU 8 News page is focused on our regional market of mid-Missouri, but our Google+ audience extends around the world. I've created circles for regions in my market and beyond to help me track what people are saying. I haven't been able to keep up with our 6,500-plus circlers because Google continues to restrict the number of people I can put into circles. Hopefully, that process will change soon. I am committed to adding people into our circles so I can listen and learn from the many people who are talking inside this space.


    Time magazine is trying an idea I tested out the first time my newsroom was inside Google+. The Time page has asked its consumers to tell them what topic circles they'd like to be in. The question was so successful, they had to ask it a second time because the brand had reached its 500-comment limit. Each person who pitches a topic circle has to be manually added into the brand's circle. Hopefully, someday Google will make it possible for brands to create public circles and allow anyone to put themselves inside.

  2. You don't get alerts when your brand is mentioned or added into a circle. I rely on those alerts with my personal profile. My only workaround on this is by searching my brand in the Google+ search bar. I don't know if it shows everything that is said about my brand, but it gives me a chance to comment and +1 content that includes my brand.
  3. Hashtags work. This is another way that's worth trying to keep up with the way people want to engage with my brand. My newsroom tested out an idea where we asked our G+ readers how they heard the national Emergency Alert System by adding a #KOMUalert hashtag. We didn't hear from a lot of people, but it was clearly a quick and easy way to track a topic. It can't hurt to share hashtags on your brand and see if others will use them.
  4. Take advantage of sharing circles. One of the best ways to make sure your brand is included in a collection of recommended media brand pages is to build one of your own, and contact and share your newly created page with people you know who are active on Google+. Promote the heck out of your page so everyone knows it exists. Of course, once you promote it, make sure you follow through and add content there!

Here is a list Google created of the differences between a Google+ profile and a brand page.

Our newsroom's page is asking for input at every turn as we build the page. Google+ gives you the opportunity to share extended content, links, images and video. Try it all out, and get opinions from the people who have circled you. Our newsroom is also using Google Hangouts every Monday through Friday as part of a nontraditional social media-based newscast called U_News@4. I was impressed to see ABC's "Good Morning America" test out the idea of using Hangouts on its show and spent a good chunk of time on it during one morning broadcast this week. CNN and Fox have also found opportunities to use Hangouts in recent months. Let's keep this going! Get creative and see if Google+ offers new ways to reach media consumers and beyond.

Jen Lee Reeves worked in television news for the majority of her career. In the last six years, she has moved from traditional journalist to nontraditional thinker about journalism and education. Jen is currently the interactive director at KOMU-TV and komu.com. At the same time, she is an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and was a part of the inaugural class of Reynolds Journalism Institute fellows (2008-09).

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October 04 2010

16:06

COMMON SENSE: GOOD NEWSROOMS ALWAYS MAKE THE DIFFERENCE

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From “common sense” Jim Moroney III, the Dallas Morning News publisher, in a letter to staff on the paper’s 125th anniversary:

“And what is newspapers’ sustainable competitive advantage?

Fortunately for our democracy, it’s the scale of their newsrooms.

It is important to recognize that digital technology has already leveled the technological playing field for local media. In the internet environment, the means of transmission and the devices used to access news and information are identical for all media.

The sustainable competitive advantage newspaper companies have is the scale of their newsrooms and the quality and quantity of important and relevant local news and information it permits them to originate as compared to all other local media.

If newspaper companies continue to reduce the scale of the reporting resources in their newsrooms, they will level the reporting playing field with local TV stations and give up their competitive advantage.”

Amen.

August 23 2010

12:37

2010 INNOVATIONS IN NEWSPAPERS WORLD REPORT (5): THE CASE OF EL TIEMPO

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INNOVATION’s Director Marta Bitero writes about one of the most radical and successful editorial and management multimedia integrations in the newspaper industry: the case of El Tiempo in Bogota, Colombia.

Get the full report here.

12:27

2010 INNOVATIONS IN NEWSPAPERS (4): REAL NEWSROOM INTEGRATION

2010-08-23_1317

INNOVATION’s partner Juan Señor writes in this chapter about how to fo from “paper centric” newsrooms to real integrated ones.

The chapter includes the last version of our most popular graphic about this transition from “print and online centric newsroom” to the “content and audiences” one.

Get the full report here.

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