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March 24 2011

16:32

Channeling the news brand on Twitter and Facebook

Tips for using Twitter and Facebook as a news brand for everyday interaction and breaking news. [...]

January 14 2011

15:30

This Week in Review: Real-time reporting errors in Tucson, Twitter’s WikiLeaks stand, and Quora arrives

Every Friday, Mark Coddington sums up the week’s top stories about the future of news.

Managing reporting errors in the river of news: Though Saturday’s tragic shooting of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was primarily a political story, it created several ripples that quickly spread into the media world. (One of those was the debate over our rather toxic climate of political rhetoric, though I’ll leave that to other outlets to focus on.) Another issue, more directly related to the future-of-news discussion, regarded how the news spread in the shooting’s immediate aftermath.

As Lost Remote’s Steve Safran described, several major news organizations, including Reuters, NPR, BBC News, and CNN, wrongly reported soon after the shooting that Giffords had died — reports that were corrected within a half-hour. NPR in particular devoted quite a bit of space to explaining its error, with social media editor Andy Carvin, ombudsman Alicia Shepard, and executive editor Dick Meyer all weighing in.

There was plenty of scrutiny from outside, too: Poynter’s Mallary Jean Tenore called the mishap “understandable, but not excusable,” and The Next Web’s Chad Catacchio suggested that Twitter use editorial judgment to ensure that inaccurate information isn’t highlighted in its Top Tweets. Salon’s Dan Gillmor cited the situation as a reminder of Clay Shirky’s line that “fact checking is down, but after-the-fact checking is way up.” Gillmor also posted an appropriate excerpt from his book, Mediactive, urging all of us to take a “slow news” approach to breaking news stories. Seattle TV journalist Paul Balcerak took the opportunity to remind both journalists and their audiences to ask “How do you know that?”

The erroneous tweets launched a parallel discussion on just what exactly to do with them: Leave them there? Delete them? Correct them? The debate began in the comments of Safran’s Lost Remote post, with NPR’s Carvin explaining why he left his faulty tweet as is. WBUR’s Andrew Phelps explained why he made the same decision, and ex-Saloner Scott Rosenberg defended both of them in two posts, suggesting a corrected retweet might offer a good compromise.

A couple of other new-media angles to the shooting’s coverage: The Lab’s Justin Ellis and Lost Remote’s Cory Bergman looked at the awkward art of publicly making interview requests on Twitter, and Nieman Storyboard highlighted innovative storytelling approaches amid the shooting’s chaotic aftermath.

Twitter’s stand against secrecy: The ongoing WikiLeaks saga publicly roped in Twitter this week, as news broke of the U.S. Department of Justice issuing an order requesting the Twitter activity of several people involved with the organization. Salon’s Glenn Greenwald, who posted many of the order’s details and a copy of the order itself, also wondered, “did other Internet and social network companies (Google, Facebook, etc.) receive similar Orders and then quietly comply?”

Remarkably, Twitter didn’t just quietly comply. The order originally had a gag order preventing Twitter from telling the targets themselves that it was handing over their data, but Twitter challenged it in court and got a new, unsealed order issued, then told the targets about it. Fast Company looked at the likely role of Twitter’s attorney, Alexander Macgillivray, in challenging the order, and Wired’s Ryan Singel praised Twitter for standing up for its users against government, something that hasn’t really been a norm among online companies.

Mashable’s Vadim Lavrusik examined the potential implications of the order for journalists doing reporting on Twitter and other social media platforms, and Mathew Ingram of GigaOM noted that the episode illustrates how much we rely on single corporate networks within social media.

The traditional news media, meanwhile, remains lukewarm at best toward WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, as McClatchy pointed out. At The Columbia Journalism Review, Craig Silverman broke down one manifestation of that cold shoulder — the way mainstream news organizations continue to incorrectly report that WikiLeaks has released hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables, when it has actually released just 2,000.

Also on the WikiLeaks front, Assange claimed in an interview to have “insurance” files on Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp., and WikiLeaks attacked those who have called for Assange to be hunted down or killed. American WikiLeaks volunteer Jacob Applebaum tweeted about his being detained by the U.S. while re-entering the country, and was profiled by Rolling Stone. And Evgeny Morozov of Foreign Policy argued that WikiLeaks’ cause would be best served if it would shift from leaking information to building a decentralized, open Internet infrastructure.

Quora hits the scene: The explosion of the question-and-answer site Quora is a story that’s been building for several weeks, but I thought now would be as good a time as any to get you up to speed on it. The buzz started just after Christmas, when tech guru Robert Scoble wondered whether it could be the next evolution of blogging. MG Siegler of the influential tech blog TechCrunch followed up by saying much the same thing, and talked about using Quora as inspiration for many of his TechCrunch posts. That week, it also received praise from Google’s head of user interaction, Irene Au.

That was the nudge Quora needed to begin some seriously explosive growth, doubling its number of signups twice in about two weeks. Quora, which was founded in 2009 by two Facebook veterans, is a fairly simple site — just questions and answers, not unlike Yahoo Answers and Facebook Questions. But it’s managed to keep the quality of questions and answers up, and it’s attracted a smart user base heavy on the “cool kids” of the tech world.

The next question, though, was how this rapid growth would shape Quora. The Telegraph’s Milo Yiannopoulos predicted that it would get bigger than Twitter, though Vadim Lavrusik of Mashable saw it as more suited to niche communities: “Quora feels heavy, which is of course where it excels, providing in-depth commentary to questions. But that heaviness is unlikely to attract a large audience.”

Mathew Ingram of GigaOM questioned whether Quora will be able to maintain its standard of quality as it grows, and Mary Hamilton wrote about Quora’s struggles between what its admins want and what its user want. Meanwhile, Journalism.co.uk’s Kristine Lowe noted that more journalism-related questions were being posted, Poynter’s Mallary Jean Tenore explored several of the best ways for journalists to use Quora, including looking for ideas for local content and monitoring the buzz around an issue.

Reading roundup: I haven’t given you any iPad updates yet, so you know this review can’t quite be finished. Very well then:

— We’re still talking about the decline of magazine app sales on the iPad, with The Guardian’s Jemima Kiss looking at that disappointment and some publishers’ efforts to overcome it. Advertising Age’s Simon Dumenco called those sales declines meaningless, but designer Khoi Vinh urged those publishers to stop pouring their resources into print-like tablet products.

The particular project that everyone’s most interested in is Rupert Murdoch’s The Daily, which was reported to be launching next Wednesday with Murdoch and Steve Jobs on stage together but now has reportedly tabled its launch for a few weeks. Rex Sorgatz heard that its companion website will have no homepage and be hidden from search engines, and Poynter’s Damon Kiesow took a peek at the site’s source code for clues.

— Wikipedia will turn 10 this weekend, and Pew kicked off the commemoration with a survey finding that 42% of American adults use Wikipedia to look up information. Mathew Ingram of GigaOM explained how Wikipedia set the prototype for modern information flow on the web.

— Facebook announced this week that it will allow users to like individual authors and topics within sites. ReadWriteWeb’s Marshall Kirkpatrick said it’s a step toward Facebook being able to do what RSS feeds couldn’t. Meanwhile, the Bivings Group looked at the top newspaper Facebook fan pages.

— One great piece I missed last week: Paul Ford conceptualized the web as a customer service medium, organized around the central question, “Why wasn’t I consulted?” Ryan Sholin applied the concept to online reporting.

— If you’re interested in real-time editing and curation, this might be an experiment to watch: Quickish, launched this week by former ESPN-er Dan Shanoff, who is starting by applying that concept to sports commentary and hoping to expand to other areas.

— Finally, three bigger pieces to ponder over the weekend: Dan Gillmor’s book excerpt at Salon on surviving the tsunami of information; Forbes’ Lewis DVorkin’s vision for the news site built on personally branded journalists; and the Lab’s Ken Doctor on the metrics that will define news in 2011.

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January 10 2011

17:09

November 17 2010

10:43

October 14 2010

15:30

Bill Simmons on breaking news in a Twitter universe

A brief treat for sports fans and future-of-media junkies: Bill Simmons’ column at ESPN.com about his accidental tweeting last week about Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss’ trade to the Minnesota Vikings. Simmons heard a rumor about the trade from a source and meant to send a direct message (“moss Vikings”) to ESPN reporter Adam Schefter. Instead, Simmons accidentally tweeted it to the world, which made the story blow up from private rumor to public discussion in record time.

The column talks about how that happened, but more interestingly, it also gets into how journalists think about Twitter today, as an outlet for breaking news, as a source, and as a forum for speculation. It’s worth a read, but here are a couple excerpts:

Twitter, which exacerbates the demands of immediacy, blurs the line between reporting and postulating, and forces writers to chase too many bum steers. With every media company unabashedly playing the “We Had It First!” game, reporters’ salary and credibility hinges directly on how many stories they break. That entices reporters to become enslaved to certain sources (almost always agents or general managers), push transparent agendas (almost always from those same agents or GMs) and “break” news before there’s anything to officially break. It also swings the source/reporter dynamic heavily toward the source. Take care of me and I will take care of you.

[...]

On the surface, this annoys me to no end. Who cares? It’s not like we have some giant scoreboard keeping track of everything. But my reporter friends all say the same thing: It’s not about one scoop but the entire body of scoops (not just for the reporter, but the company that employs them). Think of Ichiro grinding out 200 hits every season. Yeah, most of them are mundane singles … but they add up. For readers, that volume turns it into a “feel” thing.

I feel like that guy breaks his share of stories, hence, I trust him. Or flipping that around: I don’t trust that guy, he throws stuff out there left and right and half of it’s not true.

So yeah, there’s no official scoreboard for scoops. We just subconsciously keep score. As do editors. As do media companies. Some will do whatever it takes to pad their stats, whether it’s pimping every decision someone makes to get repaid with information later, playing the odds by reporting something they hope is true (and if it is, they look like a stud), spinning every angle against someone who once butted heads with a favored source, whatever. The best reporters maintain relationships, avoid agendas, craft good narratives, never stop cultivating new sources and — occasionally — break news simply because it’s an outcome of being good at their jobs. That’s what should matter. And that’s how they should be judged. I wish that were always the case.

[...]

In the Twitter era, we see writers repeatedly toss out nuggets of information without taking full ownership. It’s my least favorite thing about Twitter (because it’s wishy-washy) and one of my favorite things about Twitter (because nonstop conjecture is so much fun for sports fans). We saw it happen during the LeBron saga, the baseball trade deadline, Favre’s latest round of “I Might Come Back” — it’s just part of following sports in 2010. Call it “pseudo-reporting”: telling your audience that you think something happened or that you heard something happened, and somehow that sentiment becomes actual news.

Simmons also gives a window into the source development process, detailing how an NBA-exec candidate tried to get Simmons to promote him for a job in exchange for the promise of later scoops. Overall, it’s a great, self-aware piece useful for any journalist thinking about how Twitter fits into new workflows.

October 13 2010

13:48

Real news takes real time…

For decades folks have gotten their news condensed…factoids gathered up, picked at and chosen by journalists, summarized, and passed on as ‘”THE NEWS” to the waiting audience.

Rarely does the audience have the opportunity to fully experience breaking news in the way that field journalists do – until live TV came along (now streaming video on the Internet).

Unless it is 911, most news is the traditional “hours and hours of tedium punctuated by moments of sheer terror (or joy).” Waiting for the moment…the few seconds that generally makes the top of the show.

Ongoing all over the world right now: streaming video of the rescue of 33 Chilean miners. In real time. It will take two days to bring them all up to the surface…about an hour for each to wait for the capsule, get outfitted, climb in, take the agonizing ride up to fresh air and family.

I sat through some of the rescue…with the same anticipation as the rest of the world, but also in my mind reliving moments past. Stakeouts…sitting for hours waiting for the perp, the announcement, the arrival. Tragedies…generally the aftermath, again waiting for announcements and movement. Relaxed boredom with tensed muscles. Mind in meditative mode, ready to grab gear and run. No matter what the conditions, the weather, the situation…waiting with coiled springs ready to release and capture the moment…for replay in less than a minute thirty. The chewed up, edited, regurgitated version will be compelling and full of drama and allow the audience to hold their breath for a moment and move on. Unlike reality.

At least this time it ends happily.


September 21 2010

09:31

Inc.com: TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington on breaking news and building trust

Great interview with TechCrunch founder and serial entrepreneur Michael Arrington on his approach to publishing, journalism and work.

On breaking news:

We break more big stories than everyone else combined in tech – and that’s not prebriefed news or something that was handed to us. I judge my own performance based on that. When we break a story, that’s a point. When someone else breaks a story, we’re minus a point. And I want to be positive points.

On dealing with sensitive information:

Negotiating with companies over how news breaks is a big part of what we do. I don’t think traditional journalists would do this or admit to it, but a source might say, “Yeah, we just got bought, but can you please not write about it for a week, because it might kill the deal?” Unless I know lots of other journalists are sniffing around, I generally defer to the entrepreneur. We probably lose half of those stories, but it’s the right thing to do. It builds trust. People aren’t going to tell you things if they don’t trust you.

Full post on Inc.com at this link…Similar Posts:



September 03 2010

14:00

July 30 2010

08:00

#Tip of the day from Journalism.co.uk – automated Twitter tools

Twitter tools: Sitepoint offer their list of the top five tools for setting up automated Twitter feeds, great for breaking news or updates. Tipster: Rachel McAthy. To submit a tip to Journalism.co.uk, use this link - we will pay a fiver for the best ones published.


July 06 2010

14:03

Twitter and breaking news – a match made in heaven, or hell?

A post by Herman Manson on Memeburn.com looks at the difficulties of juggling the need for immediacy online with well researched and accurate journalism.

People in the news business love breaking news. This is why we are arming more and more journalists with the equipment to live tweet and blog major news events. And it is entirely true that newspapers and news sites lag Twitter in breaking news. That is because it takes time to write anything longer than 140 characters, to get it fact-checked, and then, to publish/broadcast it to a wider world.

He focuses on the issue of what to do when an incorrect tweet gets blurted out into the cyberworld, and the danger of the ‘retweet’.

With Twitter able to deliver news quickly and to a potentially huge audience due to its viral nature, already-pressured newsrooms are under increasing pressure to get content out, and to get it out fast.

But few are asking what this is doing to journalistic ethics. For example, can media organisations and journalists delete inaccurate tweets that were posted without revealing they did so?

With journalists under pressure to be first online, Manson says he also worries quality journalism could be at risk, as reporters try to cut “thought-provoking voices into 140 character sound bytes, typed on the go”.

Read the full post here…Similar Posts:



June 17 2010

07:43

BBC College of Journalism: YouTube and the flaws of ‘unstructured’ network news

The BBC College of Journalism’s Kevin Marsh reacts to YouTube’s launch of a breaking news feed, suggesting that “the proposition is as simple as it’s flawed”.

Marsh raises concerns about verification and the skewed news agenda that might surface through this feed:

Citizen Tube doesn’t tackle these questions or anxieties – to be fair, it doesn’t claim to. But that’s part of the problem.

Yes, both citizens and their journalists need some way of bringing this particular kind of personal news into the news continuum. And Citizen Tube isn’t too bad a first stab.

But, at the moment, it falls way short and demonstrates at the same time the essential weaknesses in unstructured networks that aim to provide ‘news’. And it adds to that regret some of us have that Big Journalism just never got the web when it was really important that it did.

And that the world of ‘personal journalism’ is – for the time being at least – failing to deliver what can reasonably be called journalism as assuredly as Big Journalism is failing to understand or adapt to the personal.

Full post at this link…

Similar Posts:



May 13 2010

08:02

#Tip of the day from Journalism.co.uk – breaking news strategies for Twitter

Twitter: Steve Buttry gives a fascinating and thorough breakdown of using Twitter to break news of a plane crash in Austin, Texas, including how to developing a breaking news strategy for Twitter, hashtags and verifying tweets. Tipster: Laura Oliver. To submit a tip to Journalism.co.uk, use this link - we will pay a fiver for the best ones published.


May 12 2010

15:00

Location, location, etc: What does the WSJ’s Foursquare check-in say about the future of location in news?

It was the Foursquare check-in heard ’round the world. Or, at least, ’round the future-of-news Twitterverse. On Friday, the Wall Street Journal checked in to the platform’s Times Square venue with some breaking news:

The headline that screenshot-taker dpstyles appended to the image is correct: the real-time, geo-targeted news update was, really, a pretty amazing use of the Foursquare platform.

It wasn’t the first time that the Journal, via its Greater New York section, has leveraged Foursquare’s location-based infrastructure for news delivery purposes. The outlet has done more with Foursquare than the much-discussed implementation of its branded badges; it has also been making regular use of the Tips function of Foursquare, which allows users to send short, location based updates — including links — to their followers. The posts range from the food-recommendation stuff that’s a common component of Tips (“@Tournesol: The distinctively French brunches here feature croques madames and monsieurs and steak frites. After dining, check out the Manhattan skyline in Gantry State Park”) to more serious, newsy fare:

@ The middle of the Hudson River: Remember the Miracle on the Hudson? Well, investigators aren’t saying that Captain “Sully” shouldn’t have landed in the river, but he probably didn’t need to. [Link])

@ George Washington Bridge: Police were told to stop and search would-be subway bomber Najibullah Zazi’s car in Sept. 2009 as he drove up to the bridge — but waved him across without finding two pounds of explosives hidden inside. [Link]

@ Old Homestead Steakhouse: Kobe beef, one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes, was pulled from the menu after Japanese cows tested positive for foot-and-mouth disease. [Link]

The general idea is, essentially, curation by way of location: geo-targeting, news dissemination edition. “You get these tips because you’re nearby,” Zach Seward, the WSJ’s outreach editor (and, of course, the late, great Lab-er) told me. “So at least in theory, that’s when you’re most interested in knowing about them.”

The Journal’s use of the check-in feature for a breaking-news story, however, suggests a shift in the platform/content relationship implied in the info-pegged-to-places structure. “Times Square evacuated” is a legitimate news item, of course, in most any context; but it’s particularly legitimate to people who happen to be in Times Square at the moment the news breaks. The Journal’s check-in acknowledged and then leveraged that fact — and, in that, changed the value proposition of location in the context of news delivery. In its previous tips, the location had been pretty much incidental to the information — a clever excuse, basically, to share a piece of news about a particular place (see, again: “The middle of the Hudson river“). In the Times Square check-in, though, the information shared was vitally connected to the physical space it referred to. Location wasn’t merely a conduit for information; it was the information. Proximity’s previously weak tie to content became a strong one.

In other words, as Seward explains of the Times Square check-in: “If you’re following the Journal, and you’re in New York, you’re going to see this at the top of your timeline on your Foursquare app. And if you’re not in New York, you’re not going to see it — or you’re not going to see it at the top. And that makes perfect sense.” Because, again: “That idea that you want to be informed about what’s around you is the fundamental principle that Foursquare is operating on.”

Whether Foursquare itself is an effective venue for a news outlet’s realization of that principle is a different issue. There are certainly advantages to Foursquare for location-aware news — its built-in user base, for one. Its curatorial power, for another. (“One really specific way in which it’s ideal,” Seward says, “is that the whole platform is designed around only telling you what’s in your vicinity.” It focuses, myopically and straightforwardly, on the near — filtering out the far.) For users, then, Foursquare-as-news-platform suggests a river whose width is narrow, whose content is familiar — and whose current is as such readily navigable.

And for news organizations, it offers a relatively organic approach to the problem of content presentation. “Generally, whether it’s in print or online, or any platform for a news organization, you have one opportunity to decide how important a story is — and give it a huge, assassinations-sized banner headline, or a small little bullet, or whatever in between,” Seward points out. “But with local news in particular, the relevancy, and the importance, varies widely, often based on where you are, and/or where you live.” A location-based infrastructure for news delivery provides, among other things, “an opportunity to make that adjustment.”

Which is not to say that Foursquare itself is ideal for those purposes. The Journal’s use of tips and, now, check-ins, Seward says, “is a bit of a hack of a system that wasn’t created for brands.” The Journal is still, according to Foursquare, located in Times Square — via a check-in clarifying that Friday’s bomb scare had been a false alarm — and until the outlet’s editors decide that there’s another story worth checking in to, it will remain that way. “Because that’s just how Foursquare works.”

There’s also the “how Foursquare works” in the more ephemeral sense. Whether you’re a badge-laden multi-mayor or find the platform to be an unholy union of the mobile web and Troop Beverly Hills, Foursquare has defined its identity, at least in its early existence, by a feature that has been both its key limitation and its key asset: the purity of its socialness. Foursquare is fun. It’s peer-to-peer. Even more importantly, it’s pal-to-pal.

The Journal’s presence on Foursquare — and, further, its leveraging of the platform for purposes of news dissemination and (oof!) branded information — adds some tension to that freewheeling spirit. (As Adam Clark Estes, The Huffington Post’s citizen journalism editor, put it: “Does @WSJ sending news alerts via @foursquare clog the utility/fun? Or challenge Twitter?”) News content, almost by inertia, has a way of infiltrating nearly every major social media platform; there’s an is nothing sacred? aspect to the criticisms of outlets’ imposition of themselves on the board-game-writ-real that is Foursquare.

That’s something Seward is well aware of. “Perhaps more than Twitter, people use Foursquare in a really personal way,” he says. “They limit who they’re following to people they actually know, and they’re expecting to see their friends there.” So it might well be jarring to find a news organization’s tips and check-ins mixed into a timeline with the personal ones. (Then again, he points out, users “can choose or not choose to have those updates pushed to them.” So that mixture, like the updates themselves, is an opt-in scenario.) And then there’s the issue of a check-in suggesting a reporter’s physical presence on the scene of a news story: How should news outlets navigate that implication? They’re “good questions,” Seward says — even as he downplays the check-in’s significance in the greater scheme of things. (“Foursquare just announced that it now has over 40 million check-ins,” Seward notes, making the Times Square update “just one of 40 million check-ins in its history.”) Still, one little check-in can suggest a lot. Location-based news — its potential and its pitfalls — is something that the Journal and, now, other outlets will likely continue to grapple with as they find their own place in the new media landscape.

January 27 2010

09:00

#Tip of the day from Journalism.co.uk – Twitter lists for breaking news stories

Breaking news: Covering a breaking news story with multiple sources/eye witness reports coming in on Twitter, why not use Twitter lists to manage them? See how it was done by news organisations covering the Haiti earthquake in January 2010. Tipster: Laura Oliver. To submit a tip to Journalism.co.uk, use this link - we will pay a fiver for the best ones published.
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