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July 31 2012

16:41

Journalism and Digital Education Roundup, June 31, 2012

The best stories across the web on journalism and digital education



1. What will J-schools look like in 2020? (Poynter)


2. Graphic novels, e-books on student summer reading lists (Baltimore Sun)


3. Company adds e-books for community colleges, vocational schools (Publishers Weekly)


4. Tablets arrive at rural schools (Austin Daily Herald)


5. 10 tips for live digital reporting (journalism.co.uk)


Get the weekly Journalism Education Roundup email from MediaShift



This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

July 25 2012

15:51

November 12 2011

16:59

Readers request opinion and investigative reporting - stop to "report" only news

Forbes :: 95+% of journalists seem to only “report” the news, rather than give opinions or do investigative reporting. What's also annoying is, that the majority of journalists seem obsessed with “scoops.” There seems to be no higher honor in the journalistic profession than being recognized for getting a scoop and God save the other journalists who fails to recognize – and more importantly – credit a fellow journalist for his or her hard fought scoop.

[Eric Jackson:] The business world needs fewer journalists and more opinions and investigative reporting.

Continue to read Eric Jackson, www.forbes.com

July 11 2011

19:58

Future of reporting - from "filter, then publish" to "publish, then filter" or ...

Forbes | Disruptive Economy :: Timothy Lee wrote an "aweful" nice piece. In his article "A Crisis in Reporting" he describes the two different working styles of print and digital journalists.

He writes: "Print reporters sometimes waste time on stories that get spiked, file under-reported stories to meet arbitrary deadlines, or cut out interesting material to save space.

Clay Shirky has called this a “filter, then publish,” process. In contrast, Forbes bloggers like me operate on a “publish, then filter” model. We write whatever we want, the Forbes editors decide which content to promote on the Forbes home page, and we’re paid based on the traffic we receive. This is more efficient not only because we don’t have to waste time negotiating with our editors, but also because there are fewer perverse incentives: we get paid if and only if we write stuff people want to read."

Timothy, I would suggest a third way "curate, publish, listen and then respond". It is the working process I propose for the Liquid Newsroom. You first curate a stream of news covering a specific topic, publish what you find interesting and of value for your readers, listen to their response in real-time and respond to it with indepth articles on the subject of interest. I've tried to visualize it here: Liquid Newsroom - proposal for a process of real-time editing

Future of reporting - continue to read Timothy Lee, blogs.forbes.com

June 27 2011

14:30

Branding: Should journalists build a personal brand?

If you’re teaching journalism today, you must be aware of the discussion that surrounds branding.

If you’re a young journalist, or someone planning to enter the field of journalism, you need to understand what personal branding means.

On June 23, Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten wrote about this, and in summary, he said it’s a bunch of hooey. However, being an intelligent person, he also makes a very good point:

When I was a hungry young reporter … [my goals were]: 1) Get great stories that improve the world. 2) Get famous. 3) Get doe-eyed young women to lean in close and whisper, “Take me.”

Note the order. First came the work.

Now, the first goal seems to be self-promotion — the fame part, the “brand.” That’s because we know that, in this frenetic fight for eyeballs at all costs, the attribute that is most rewarded is screeching ubiquity, not talent.

It’s very important that new or would-be journalists take Weingarten’s point to heart. There won’t be anything to be branded unless you have some substance to market, and that means much more than a talent for writing glibly. Lots of people have such a talent. Many of them spend their lives writing for an audience of one.

“The work” is just that — work — and as part of the work, you have to get off Facebook and go outside and speak to real live people. You have to read, widely and voraciously. You have to be curious about those who live in skins other than your own. You have to learn what makes a good story and how to tell a good story well.

Journalism educator Owen Youngman put it this way:

[E]ffective personal branding turns out to be less about self-promotion and social networks than it is about accuracy, fairness and credibility. Whether the subject is a blogger in Portland, or a newspaper reporter in Kankakee, or a TV anchor in Florida, it turns out that the work creates the brand, and the brand then helps people find more of the work.

If you don’t like the word brand, you can substitute reputation. The reason we talk about this more today than anyone did back in the 1970s when Weingarten was starting his journalism career is that the pace and reach of journalism have changed quite a bit since then. Today someone who’s looking for a stringer to cover events in a hot zone might well turn to Google — and will that employer be able to find you?

Veteran journalist Steve Buttry responded to Weingarten’s column with this:

[B]randing starts with quality and hard work. But lots of outstanding journalists who did the hard work are losing their jobs. They are losing their jobs mostly because their industry has failed to develop new business models and new revenue streams in a period of disruption. But some of those journalists are losing their jobs or struggling to find new ones, in part, because they failed to show their value to their employers and their communities. Personal branding is about showing your value. It starts with quality and hard work, but if you don’t show the value, you can become undervalued. (Emphasis mine.)

That is the lesson new and would-be journalists need to learn so that they can make it in today’s media ecosystem.

Branding isn’t hooey — but it’s also not a shortcut to fame and admiration.

Related post: Journalists must build a personal brand: 10 tips

If you’re teaching journalism today, you must be aware of the discussion that surrounds branding.

If you’re a young journalist, or someone planning to enter the field of journalism, you need to understand what personal branding means.

On June 23, Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten wrote about this, and in summary, he said it’s a bunch of hooey. However, being an intelligent person, he also makes a very good point:

When I was a hungry young reporter … [my goals were]: 1) Get great stories that improve the world. 2) Get famous. 3) Get doe-eyed young women to lean in close and whisper, “Take me.”

Note the order. First came the work.

Now, the first goal seems to be self-promotion — the fame part, the “brand.” That’s because we know that, in this frenetic fight for eyeballs at all costs, the attribute that is most rewarded is screeching ubiquity, not talent.

It’s very important that new or would-be journalists take Weingarten’s point to heart. There won’t be anything to be branded unless you have some substance to market, and that means much more than a talent for writing glibly. Lots of people have such a talent. Many of them spend their lives writing for an audience of one.

“The work” is just that — work — and as part of the work, you have to get off Facebook and go outside and speak to real live people. You have to read, widely and voraciously. You have to be curious about those who live in skins other than your own. You have to learn what makes a good story and how to tell a good story well.

Journalism educator Owen Youngman put it this way:

[E]ffective personal branding turns out to be less about self-promotion and social networks than it is about accuracy, fairness and credibility. Whether the subject is a blogger in Portland, or a newspaper reporter in Kankakee, or a TV anchor in Florida, it turns out that the work creates the brand, and the brand then helps people find more of the work.

If you don’t like the word brand, you can substitute reputation. The reason we talk about this more today than anyone did back in the 1970s when Weingarten was starting his journalism career is that the pace and reach of journalism have changed quite a bit since then. Today someone who’s looking for a stringer to cover events in a hot zone might well turn to Google — and will that employer be able to find you?

Veteran journalist Steve Buttry responded to Weingarten’s column with this:

[B]randing starts with quality and hard work. But lots of outstanding journalists who did the hard work are losing their jobs. They are losing their jobs mostly because their industry has failed to develop new business models and new revenue streams in a period of disruption. But some of those journalists are losing their jobs or struggling to find new ones, in part, because they failed to show their value to their employers and their communities. Personal branding is about showing your value. It starts with quality and hard work, but if you don’t show the value, you can become undervalued. (Emphasis mine.)

That is the lesson new and would-be journalists need to learn so that they can make it in today’s media ecosystem.

Branding isn’t hooey — but it’s also not a shortcut to fame and admiration.

Related post: Journalists must build a personal brand: 10 tips

14:30

Branding: Should journalists build a personal brand?

If you’re teaching journalism today, you must be aware of the discussion that surrounds branding.

If you’re a young journalist, or someone planning to enter the field of journalism, you need to understand what personal branding means.

On June 23, Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten wrote about this, and in summary, he said it’s a bunch of hooey. However, being an intelligent person, he also makes a very good point:

When I was a hungry young reporter … [my goals were]: 1) Get great stories that improve the world. 2) Get famous. 3) Get doe-eyed young women to lean in close and whisper, “Take me.”

Note the order. First came the work.

Now, the first goal seems to be self-promotion — the fame part, the “brand.” That’s because we know that, in this frenetic fight for eyeballs at all costs, the attribute that is most rewarded is screeching ubiquity, not talent.

It’s very important that new or would-be journalists take Weingarten’s point to heart. There won’t be anything to be branded unless you have some substance to market, and that means much more than a talent for writing glibly. Lots of people have such a talent. Many of them spend their lives writing for an audience of one.

“The work” is just that — work — and as part of the work, you have to get off Facebook and go outside and speak to real live people. You have to read, widely and voraciously. You have to be curious about those who live in skins other than your own. You have to learn what makes a good story and how to tell a good story well.

Journalism educator Owen Youngman put it this way:

[E]ffective personal branding turns out to be less about self-promotion and social networks than it is about accuracy, fairness and credibility. Whether the subject is a blogger in Portland, or a newspaper reporter in Kankakee, or a TV anchor in Florida, it turns out that the work creates the brand, and the brand then helps people find more of the work.

If you don’t like the word brand, you can substitute reputation. The reason we talk about this more today than anyone did back in the 1970s when Weingarten was starting his journalism career is that the pace and reach of journalism have changed quite a bit since then. Today someone who’s looking for a stringer to cover events in a hot zone might well turn to Google — and will that employer be able to find you?

Veteran journalist Steve Buttry responded to Weingarten’s column with this:

[B]randing starts with quality and hard work. But lots of outstanding journalists who did the hard work are losing their jobs. They are losing their jobs mostly because their industry has failed to develop new business models and new revenue streams in a period of disruption. But some of those journalists are losing their jobs or struggling to find new ones, in part, because they failed to show their value to their employers and their communities. Personal branding is about showing your value. It starts with quality and hard work, but if you don’t show the value, you can become undervalued. (Emphasis mine.)

That is the lesson new and would-be journalists need to learn so that they can make it in today’s media ecosystem.

Branding isn’t hooey — but it’s also not a shortcut to fame and admiration.

Related post: Journalists must build a personal brand: 10 tips

If you’re teaching journalism today, you must be aware of the discussion that surrounds branding.

If you’re a young journalist, or someone planning to enter the field of journalism, you need to understand what personal branding means.

On June 23, Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten wrote about this, and in summary, he said it’s a bunch of hooey. However, being an intelligent person, he also makes a very good point:

When I was a hungry young reporter … [my goals were]: 1) Get great stories that improve the world. 2) Get famous. 3) Get doe-eyed young women to lean in close and whisper, “Take me.”

Note the order. First came the work.

Now, the first goal seems to be self-promotion — the fame part, the “brand.” That’s because we know that, in this frenetic fight for eyeballs at all costs, the attribute that is most rewarded is screeching ubiquity, not talent.

It’s very important that new or would-be journalists take Weingarten’s point to heart. There won’t be anything to be branded unless you have some substance to market, and that means much more than a talent for writing glibly. Lots of people have such a talent. Many of them spend their lives writing for an audience of one.

“The work” is just that — work — and as part of the work, you have to get off Facebook and go outside and speak to real live people. You have to read, widely and voraciously. You have to be curious about those who live in skins other than your own. You have to learn what makes a good story and how to tell a good story well.

Journalism educator Owen Youngman put it this way:

[E]ffective personal branding turns out to be less about self-promotion and social networks than it is about accuracy, fairness and credibility. Whether the subject is a blogger in Portland, or a newspaper reporter in Kankakee, or a TV anchor in Florida, it turns out that the work creates the brand, and the brand then helps people find more of the work.

If you don’t like the word brand, you can substitute reputation. The reason we talk about this more today than anyone did back in the 1970s when Weingarten was starting his journalism career is that the pace and reach of journalism have changed quite a bit since then. Today someone who’s looking for a stringer to cover events in a hot zone might well turn to Google — and will that employer be able to find you?

Veteran journalist Steve Buttry responded to Weingarten’s column with this:

[B]randing starts with quality and hard work. But lots of outstanding journalists who did the hard work are losing their jobs. They are losing their jobs mostly because their industry has failed to develop new business models and new revenue streams in a period of disruption. But some of those journalists are losing their jobs or struggling to find new ones, in part, because they failed to show their value to their employers and their communities. Personal branding is about showing your value. It starts with quality and hard work, but if you don’t show the value, you can become undervalued. (Emphasis mine.)

That is the lesson new and would-be journalists need to learn so that they can make it in today’s media ecosystem.

Branding isn’t hooey — but it’s also not a shortcut to fame and admiration.

Related post: Journalists must build a personal brand: 10 tips

June 17 2011

09:18

Via Twitter - #MuckReads: ProPublica's social way to share the best accountability reporting

ProPublica :: ProPublica readers can now share essential watchdog reporting with its reporters and readers using ProPublica's newest feature, #MuckReads. #MuckReads will curate the day's essential accountability stories, discovered and shared by our reporters and editors, and its readers—stories about the abuse of prisoneers, the education levels of country's legislators and the laundering of public funds.

Continue to read Amanda Michel, www.propublica.org

June 15 2011

20:05

BBC developing new iPhone app for field reporters

Journalism.co.uk :: The BBC is developing an app that will allow its reporters in the field to file video, stills and audio directly into the BBC system from an iPhone or iPad. The software is being adapted for the Apple phones from an existing app used by the BBC and is due to be in use within around a month.

Continue to read www.journalism.co.uk

June 05 2011

12:36

Updating Reporter’s Guide to Multimedia Proficiency

It’s been two years since I wrote this free guide. Do you think it’s worth my while to update it?

I’ve been thinking it might be good to put it on Wikia and allow others to edit and add to it. Then it could be updated any time, and translations could be contributed too.

Please comment.

 

It’s been two years since I wrote this free guide. Do you think it’s worth my while to update it?

I’ve been thinking it might be good to put it on Wikia and allow others to edit and add to it. Then it could be updated any time, and translations could be contributed too.

Please comment.

 

12:36

Updating Reporter’s Guide to Multimedia Proficiency

It’s been two years since I wrote this free guide. Do you think it’s worth my while to update it?

I’ve been thinking it might be good to put it on Wikia and allow others to edit and add to it. Then it could be updated any time, and translations could be contributed too.

Please comment.

 

It’s been two years since I wrote this free guide. Do you think it’s worth my while to update it?

I’ve been thinking it might be good to put it on Wikia and allow others to edit and add to it. Then it could be updated any time, and translations could be contributed too.

Please comment.

 

April 02 2011

03:38

Timelines in journalism: A closer look

You’re not going to create one every week, but a timeline is a useful — and helpful — type of information graphic, and fairly common in journalism. When teaching students about timelines, here are some ideas to consider and discuss:

Chronology or timeline?

Sometimes a timeline is not a timeline, according to Len de Groot, a longtime graphics journalist. A timeline shows actual spans of time, with proportional measurements for decades, years, days or hours, depending on the total time involved. “The space between events should be as important [as] or more important than the events themselves,” he says. A chronology, on the other hand, shows the momentum of a series of events. It might be more effective if presented as a list, or as an illustrated slideshow.

Here’s an excellent chronology about Operation Odyssey Dawn on Libya, from El País:

Cronología: Operación Amanecer de la Odisea sobre Libia

Not what we think of when we imagine a timeline, is it? But it’s quite well suited to telling the story of recent events in Libya, and it is being updated day by day. (Navigate days via the two arrows at upper left.)

The Wall Street Journal has published a multi-line timeline covering recent events in Arab countries (below). Selecting any day loads a region map and summary of events for that day in an area above the timeline. I like the way this compact layout shows us at a glance where activities have occurred, and when. This is a very successful timeline graphic tailored closely to the story.

WSJ: Middle East Turmoil

Here are some questions we can ask before we sketch our timeline ideas:

  1. Is this a story about hours, days, years or decades?
  2. Should equal periods of time be represented with equal space? (Example: 100 pixels equals one year.)
  3. Are parallel time periods required? (Example: While this was happening in India, this was happening in China.)
  4. Does it make sense to combine the timeline with a map or a line graph?
  5. Should photos or other images be added to the timeline to help tell the story?
  6. How much text is necessary to make the story understandable — and satisfying?

A “timeline” that does not represent time proportionally to space — but which works well, I think, because it is straightforward and clear, is this one by graphic designer Sean Carton:

Sean Carton: Social Media Timeline

Design questions

Most timeline graphics present time in horizontal lines, with the oldest events to the left and more recent ones progressing to the right (I suppose we would do it right-to-left if we were Arab or Chinese). A notable and very recent exception is the Guardian’s brilliant (and vertical) Arab spring: An interactive timeline of Middle East protests (blogged about by Tracy Boyer last week).

Guardian.co.uk: Arab Spring timeline graphic

I think it’s useful to think about Len de Groot’s distinction between timelines and chronologies when admiring this graphic: Is this really a “timeline”? I don’t think so — has there ever been a better illustration of the momentum of events? No need to quibble over the words, though, when the execution is so effective.

Here are some questions we can ask as we examine our sketches of our timeline ideas:

  1. Will people like it?
  2. Is it helpful, easy to understand?
  3. Is it confusing?
  4. Hard to use?
  5. Does it add something that text alone would not convey?
  6. Does the graphic need to be a timeline — or would a regular slideshow (or map, or whatever) be equally effective?

One of the more successful interactive timelines is 10 years old — every time I revisit this package about Winston Churchill, I am amazed all over again at how well it works. Note in particular the double timeline at the bottom: The upper bar is Churchill’s life, and the lower bar shows concurrent world events.

Library of Congress: Churchill and the Great Republic

The Template Trap

Sometimes I think we fall into a “one size fits all” trap with templates or tools. You have a template or a tool, and you re-use it for various stories. But is that always the right decision? Does expediency sometimes defeat the goal of clear communication?

WSJ: Deepwater Horizon Rig Disaster

I think the Deepwater Horizon Rig Disaster timeline (above) is much more successful than the Biggest Volcanic Eruptions (below), which skimps on details about the eruptions. Both are from The Wall Street Journal.

WSJ: Biggest Volcanic Eruptions

Likewise, CNN’s Trapped Chilean Miners timeline (below) is better suited to its timeline interface than the recent Egyptian Protests timeline, which uses the same interface.

CNN: Trapped Chilean Miners

Timeline tools

TimelineSetter is a new, free tool from the great folks at Pro Publica, the nonprofit investigative journalism organization. It’s not available for mass consumption just yet (“We have some more code generalization and fixes we need to do before it’s ready to open source, but we plan to do so as soon as we can,” they said on March 22), but it might be useful in lots of different situations. Below is a timeline created with this tool.

Pro Publica: How One Blast Affected Five Soldiers

The functionality and the design are similar to the timeline template The New York Times has been using for some time; for a recent example, see Elizabeth Taylor: 1932-2011 (below). I found the checkbox options to be distracting and unnecessary.

New York Times: Elizabeth Taylor: 1932-2011

Other free timeline tools were described (and linked) in a post by Alex Gamela in May 2010. Dipity and SIMILE are fairly well known; others are less so, but it’s worthwhile to check out the different visual approaches to presenting information in this way.

Which of these tools produces the best result for the story you want to tell?

Do not create an interactive timeline just because it’s cool. Use interactivity to make the information more clear.

Two older timelines that are worth a look:

03:38

Timelines in journalism: A closer look

You’re not going to create one every week, but a timeline is a useful — and helpful — type of information graphic, and fairly common in journalism. When teaching students about timelines, here are some ideas to consider and discuss:

Chronology or timeline?

Sometimes a timeline is not a timeline, according to Len de Groot, a longtime graphics journalist. A timeline shows actual spans of time, with proportional measurements for decades, years, days or hours, depending on the total time involved. “The space between events should be as important [as] or more important than the events themselves,” he says. A chronology, on the other hand, shows the momentum of a series of events. It might be more effective if presented as a list, or as an illustrated slideshow.

Here’s an excellent chronology about Operation Odyssey Dawn on Libya, from El País:

Cronología: Operación Amanecer de la Odisea sobre Libia

Not what we think of when we imagine a timeline, is it? But it’s quite well suited to telling the story of recent events in Libya, and it is being updated day by day. (Navigate days via the two arrows at upper left.)

The Wall Street Journal has published a multi-line timeline covering recent events in Arab countries (below). Selecting any day loads a region map and summary of events for that day in an area above the timeline. I like the way this compact layout shows us at a glance where activities have occurred, and when. This is a very successful timeline graphic tailored closely to the story.

WSJ: Middle East Turmoil

Here are some questions we can ask before we sketch our timeline ideas:

  1. Is this a story about hours, days, years or decades?
  2. Should equal periods of time be represented with equal space? (Example: 100 pixels equals one year.)
  3. Are parallel time periods required? (Example: While this was happening in India, this was happening in China.)
  4. Does it make sense to combine the timeline with a map or a line graph?
  5. Should photos or other images be added to the timeline to help tell the story?
  6. How much text is necessary to make the story understandable — and satisfying?

A “timeline” that does not represent time proportionally to space — but which works well, I think, because it is straightforward and clear, is this one by graphic designer Sean Carton:

Sean Carton: Social Media Timeline

Design questions

Most timeline graphics present time in horizontal lines, with the oldest events to the left and more recent ones progressing to the right (I suppose we would do it right-to-left if we were Arab or Chinese). A notable and very recent exception is the Guardian’s brilliant (and vertical) Arab spring: An interactive timeline of Middle East protests (blogged about by Tracy Boyer last week).

Guardian.co.uk: Arab Spring timeline graphic

I think it’s useful to think about Len de Groot’s distinction between timelines and chronologies when admiring this graphic: Is this really a “timeline”? I don’t think so — has there ever been a better illustration of the momentum of events? No need to quibble over the words, though, when the execution is so effective.

Here are some questions we can ask as we examine our sketches of our timeline ideas:

  1. Will people like it?
  2. Is it helpful, easy to understand?
  3. Is it confusing?
  4. Hard to use?
  5. Does it add something that text alone would not convey?
  6. Does the graphic need to be a timeline — or would a regular slideshow (or map, or whatever) be equally effective?

One of the more successful interactive timelines is 10 years old — every time I revisit this package about Winston Churchill, I am amazed all over again at how well it works. Note in particular the double timeline at the bottom: The upper bar is Churchill’s life, and the lower bar shows concurrent world events.

Library of Congress: Churchill and the Great Republic

The Template Trap

Sometimes I think we fall into a “one size fits all” trap with templates or tools. You have a template or a tool, and you re-use it for various stories. But is that always the right decision? Does expediency sometimes defeat the goal of clear communication?

WSJ: Deepwater Horizon Rig Disaster

I think the Deepwater Horizon Rig Disaster timeline (above) is much more successful than the Biggest Volcanic Eruptions (below), which skimps on details about the eruptions. Both are from The Wall Street Journal.

WSJ: Biggest Volcanic Eruptions

Likewise, CNN’s Trapped Chilean Miners timeline (below) is better suited to its timeline interface than the recent Egyptian Protests timeline, which uses the same interface.

CNN: Trapped Chilean Miners

Timeline tools

TimelineSetter is a new, free tool from the great folks at Pro Publica, the nonprofit investigative journalism organization. It’s not available for mass consumption just yet (“We have some more code generalization and fixes we need to do before it’s ready to open source, but we plan to do so as soon as we can,” they said on March 22), but it might be useful in lots of different situations. Below is a timeline created with this tool.

Pro Publica: How One Blast Affected Five Soldiers

The functionality and the design are similar to the timeline template The New York Times has been using for some time; for a recent example, see Elizabeth Taylor: 1932-2011 (below). I found the checkbox options to be distracting and unnecessary.

New York Times: Elizabeth Taylor: 1932-2011

Other free timeline tools were described (and linked) in a post by Alex Gamela in May 2010. Dipity and SIMILE are fairly well known; others are less so, but it’s worthwhile to check out the different visual approaches to presenting information in this way.

Which of these tools produces the best result for the story you want to tell?

Do not create an interactive timeline just because it’s cool. Use interactivity to make the information more clear.

Two older timelines that are worth a look:

March 08 2011

18:49

Is your story actually a story?

“The problem with many news stories is that they’re not really stories at all.” (Source: Advancing the Story, an excellent blog about broadcast journalism and multimedia.)

This is true not only in TV news but across the board — and not only for student work! Sometimes the material is new (or at least news), but it lacks story. It lacks the quality of a story.

I like to say a lot of journalism is merely reports. A report is NOT a story. The act of reporting can produce a story, but usually, it doesn’t.

The five W’s and an H produce a report, a listing of facts. A good reporter shapes them into a optimum bundle, with a sensible order and no unnecessary chatter, no repetition — and no factual errors (we hope). Around the world, that reporting bundle is called “a story,” and I’m not trying to change the vocabulary. What we call that bundle is not the issue.

The issue is that when I ask students to go out and find a story that is interesting, that is fresh, that has something new or provocative or engaging to offer — they come back with a report. A report about a fund-raising event, a band practice, a street-corner protest. But there’s no story there.

I think that in the process of teaching them reporting, we may kill their instinct for finding and telling real stories.

Is that the problem? Or have they never known what a story is?

18:49

Is your story actually a story?

“The problem with many news stories is that they’re not really stories at all.” (Source: Advancing the Story, an excellent blog about broadcast journalism and multimedia.)

This is true not only in TV news but across the board — and not only for student work! Sometimes the material is new (or at least news), but it lacks story. It lacks the quality of a story.

I like to say a lot of journalism is merely reports. A report is NOT a story. The act of reporting can produce a story, but usually, it doesn’t.

The five W’s and an H produce a report, a listing of facts. A good reporter shapes them into a optimum bundle, with a sensible order and no unnecessary chatter, no repetition — and no factual errors (we hope). Around the world, that reporting bundle is called “a story,” and I’m not trying to change the vocabulary. What we call that bundle is not the issue.

The issue is that when I ask students to go out and find a story that is interesting, that is fresh, that has something new or provocative or engaging to offer — they come back with a report. A report about a fund-raising event, a band practice, a street-corner protest. But there’s no story there.

I think that in the process of teaching them reporting, we may kill their instinct for finding and telling real stories.

Is that the problem? Or have they never known what a story is?

March 04 2011

16:00

January 11 2011

15:00

Seeking out sources, made transparent on Twitter

As the story of the shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords continues to unfold, we’re seeing another example of Twitter in motion and the different approaches news organizations take to using social media.

Twitter has proven its usefulness to the media in breaking news as a real-time search tool, an instantaneous publisher, and a source discovery service. It’s that last point that is often of most use — and interest — to reporters on Twitter, finding and talking to people who could be useful in a story. But making that approach can be difficult — if not downright awkward. How does Twitter etiquette work when approaching a potential source, particularly when that approach plays out in the open?

NYC The Blog tracked the media requests of Caitie Parker, a woman who tweeted that the shooting took place near her house and that she was a former classmate of the alleged shooter. And that’s when the stampede for interviews began, with more than 30 interview requests coming in on Twitter from The New York Times, CNN, the Associated Press, and more. (Not to mention a similar number by email and Facebook.) So what were their approaches?

The 140-character interview

Anthony De Rosa of Reuters seems to be the first person to find Parker and through a series of tweets conducted something in between an interview and standard fact checking. But De Rosa’s discovery seems to be what broke the floodgates on Parker.

Playing the local card

Reporters from outlets like the Arizona Daily Star, Arizona Republic, and KTAR radio in Phoenix made a pitch for talking with the local guy, as they tried to compete with the national media parachuting in to cover the story. At least one reporter from the Los Angeles Times tried to play up his local ties, telling Parker he “went to school at UofA.”

Name dropping

Sometimes you have to roll the dice on name recognition and hope it has a little sway. The New York Times wants to talk to you! PBS NewsHour wants to talk to you!

The question tweet

At least a few reporters cut to the chase and asked Parker a question outright, or sought to verify new information about the shooter.

I feel your pain

Another approach uses a little empathy — as in, “I know yr overwhelmed,” or “sorry to add to circus.”

Going native

ABC News White House correspondent Jake Tapper is known for being savvy when it comes to using social media in his reporting. Tapper apparently decided to cut to the chase and use the parlance of Twitter when reaching out to Parker: “how can abc news get in touch w you? I will follow u so u can DM me”

The end result of all this attention from journalists?

@caitieparker: I've said it before & I'll say it again I AM NOT DOING & WILL NOT DO ANY MORE INTERVIEWS. Please leave my family, & home, alone!

December 05 2010

16:15

Skills for journalists: Again, the question

What skills does today’s journalist need to have? I do not think this question has only one answer.

In a comment on a blog post by Robert Hernandez, Michael Grimaldi wrote:

The highest skill of journalism is knowing the number of questions to ask, how many people of whom to ask them, and then reporting the answers as thoroughly and accurately as possible to convey the truth.

That’s journalism. The rest of it (touch typing vs. hunt-and-peck, spreadsheet software, graphic design/page layout, programming, code, photography or whatever) is technical skill and important to know, but, I suggest, not the essence of the profession and vocation of journalism.

Knowing which questions to ask — and of whom to ask them, and where to find those people (or those data sets) and how to get them to give you answers — yup, absolutely, these are essential skills …

For a reporter. But it takes more than reporters to produce journalism, and it always did. No, I’m not going to claim that the pressman was a journalist — he was not. And the IT guy is not a journalist either. But I think Michael Grimaldi and others who agree with him need to recognize that editors and designers and photojournalists and data journalists are, in fact, journalists.

They do journalism work. They produce journalism. And they don’t all go out with a pen and a notebook and ask questions of people on the street.

They do, however, ask questions. Lots of questions.

If you don’t understand that a graphic designer asks (and finds answers to) a very large number of questions before producing something like this, then I would suggest you do not understand how journalism is done in 2010.

December 01 2010

23:55

Data journalism and programmer journalists

Some good stuff on this topic:

Debate over journalism’s required skills gets heated, by Robert Hernandez:

I do not believe you need to master programming to succeed in journalism.

I do believe you need to respect and understand the power of each and every craft, not just programming, but photography, design, texts, etc. that make up journalism. They are not as simple as hitting a button.

I also believe, at the most minimum, EVERY JOURNALIST (whether be it reporter, editor, photographer, etc.) of EVERY BEAT needs to be proactive in spotting opportunities to best use the diverse crafts.

“I do not believe programming replaces the story” No, no, no!!! by Michelle Minkoff:

Thanks for this nice redirection of the conversation. I found myself agreeing with so many of your points, we don’t all need to do it. But I’m very concerned by you discouraging all journalists from bothering to try. I’m one of these strange hybrid recent j-grads who’s using coding and data skills for journalism. I wouldn’t have believed it a year ago. Yes, not everyone needs to do it. I happen to like it, but we need people doing a lot of different things.

Data analysis and the future of journalism, by Andy Alexander:

Looking ahead, data analysis should become one of the accepted skill sets for new generations of journalists. Many communication colleges already offer elective courses or seminars in computer-assisted reporting. But all of them should think mandatory training in data journalism, as well as advanced degrees for that specialization.

Lots of great fodder for discussion here — let’s keep it civil.

October 18 2010

18:18

Best advice for Soundslides

I was asking around recently, among my friends at other j-schools who teach photojournalism. Yes, they are still teaching Soundslides. The No. 1 reason is almost unanimous: It’s a great transition from making stills to making video. I think it also helps — a lot — with teaching storytelling.

Right now I’m in the midst of a four-week module where I teach green young journalism students to tell a story with Soundslides. Fortunately, they’ve just finished four weeks of gathering and editing audio. Unfortunately, most of them have no experience with photojournalism.

Gathering Audio. Part 2: A Practical Guide. Brian Storm and Jim Seida wrote this guide years ago, and I think it’s still the best. I was just re-reading it earlier today, and man, it rocks. It’s 4,000 words, or about 10 pages single-spaced, and I would bet most of my students don’t take the time to read it — even though I assign it every semester. What a pity. It’s like gold.

So I’m blogging it here in case you’ve never read it. Or maybe you read it a long time ago and forgot how great it is.

Which should I work on first, pictures or sound?

That depends. If there’s sound that I think might be gone in a few minutes, I’ll probably break out my MiniDisc and start recording. If the light is perfect but fading, I’ll most likely make pictures first.

There’s no right way to do it, and there’s always a tradeoff. You have to accept the fact that when you are recording, you’ll miss some great images and when you are shooting you’ll miss some wonderful sound. I’ve tried doing both at once, it doesn’t work very well. Getting good sound takes just as much skill, energy and focus as getting good pictures; it’s tough to do both things at the same time.

– Meredith Birkett, Special Projects Multimedia Producer, MSNBC.com

That’s just a taste. Ha, we don’t use MiniDiscs any more (thank God!), but all the advice still fits. There’s lots more, just as good as that bit.

September 27 2010

02:52

Contents of a journalist’s backpack

Neerav Bhatt describes himself as a professional blogger, photographer, geek and qualified librarian. Okay, so he never says “journalist,” but if you read his post that accompanied the photo below, I think you’ll forgive my headline.

He’s got some interesting choices (which he explains in his post) and gives some very practical advice too. I have a similar Asus netbook, and I concur that you can’t beat it for long battery life! The screen resolution is fantastic too.

Thanks to @jayrosen_nyu for linking to Neerav’s post!

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