Monday, December 6, 2010

Posting Wikileaks info on social media could ruin job prospects

Career services at Columbia University sent an email out this week warning students to refrain from posting links or comments to any of the recent Wikileak documents on Facebook or Twitter because it could ruin their job prospects in the future. Although leaked, the documents are still considered classified and any online comment or posts about the documents could damage the chances of jobs for those wanting to work in the state/federal sector.

Interesting. If I don't link to the documents, but a CNN article, am I ruining my chances of one day working for the state department after law school? Can I give an opinion about the organization? Is this post going to ruin me?

WikiLeaks, part II

Doug wrote an earlier post about Wikileaks, so I'm here for some recent updates that happened in the last several days, and some important implications the leak of these documents on journalism today. The Columbia Journalism Review has a great rundown of some news outlets' coverage of the documents.

Here's the break down of what has happened since the release of more than 250,000 confidential U.S. State Department documents last week:
  • It's been has been hit with denial-of-service notices, and kicked off the servers in the U.S. and France
  • On Friday, U.S.-based Paypal cut off Wikileak's account, a major source of income
  • Amazon has cut Wikileaks off its server service, it has now hired a Switzerland-based company to host its site
  • As a result of this censorship, WL has been using its Twitter account to request followers to start "mirror sites"
  • WL's founder Julian Assange is now wanted by the Swedish government on allegations of sex crimes, including rape

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Some shocking facts about social media

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think everyone is tired of reading yet another post about Facebook and Twitter so I'll keep this brief. This video has some shocking facts about the revolution of the internet and its implications on our way of life. To be honest, I was a little scared after seeing it. Let me know what you think!

The Expansion of Topics Pages

I think something great that has come out of several news organizations is the idea of a topics page for their online editions. A topics page typically contains a brief background of more general topics, such as The Debt Crisis, The Board of Education, the War on Iraq, and archives of stories, articles and links related to that topic. I think this is an amazing reference tool for current readers and an introduction to new, young readers who might not be familiar with certain topics, such as the Texas Ethics Commission or the history of abortion.

I first was introduced to Topics pages last year when I stumbled on the Texas Tribune's site when it first started. As its progressed, the Tribune has amassed an impressive list of topics related to state agencies, political races, current issues, and so much more. Even better, it has a list of editor's picks that link to hot topics.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The need for quality websites

By: Amber Genuske

To supplement my previous posts on shovelware (and why not to do it) and the importance of stellar multimedia, it is impossible to ignore the need for a great website for publications to implement these practices. The shift from print to online has many publications maintaining the print-purists ideas, often applying to their website with an exact replica of the front page of the newspaper as the homepage, or worse, the blog format with a running list of stories, like The Daily Texan.

Newspapers and magazines tote the circulation of the physical paper, ignoring that the largest readership is online, where anyone with access to the internet can look at their website. While the design of the printed publication should still be slaved over, it is what catches people's eye when they walk past a newsstand, the website has the potential to have an even greater impact.

Of course, there is the discussion of how to receive funding for a website and how to convert from a free to a pay wall system, but maybe people will be more inclined to pay for an attractive website with beautiful content than a blog roll.

The New York Times has the largest online readership and it's understandable with the website they have. Though still traditional as the Times will always be, there is a wealth of multimedia content on the front page, begging people to click and explore.

Clever and stylish design has always played an vital roll in magazines and there websites reflect that. New York Magazine and GQ's front pages are full of graphics, videos, photos and colorful links, while still maintaining the ever-important ease of navigation.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Mobile Phones & Journalism Education


80% of Americans now own a cell phone. Nearly 1 in 3 Americans own a smart phone.

Although this isn't much information, what does this mean in immediate terms?

It means that the majority of Americans have access to a mobile device, and nearly a third have access to a mobile device that has full computer capabilities. This in turn means that the majority of people are consuming information in a very different way than ever before.

The mobile device as a media platform is much more immediate and is also much more location-based than any other media.

For as often as we download apps, look up directions and access social media through our phones, how much have student journalists explored the mobile territory?

It is important to look at a mobile device for all of its benefits. What can a smart phone realistically do? What is it not so good at?

But to focus a little better on what multimedia journalism students should already be learning about mobile devices

1. Apps
  • Obviously, everyone knows what an app is. Every person with a smart phone downloads apps all the time. Any business, organization, or other establishment with a heavy presence (and a lot of times even not) has many apps out on the market. EX: Google has apps for almost all of their desktop counterparts.
  • What many students don't know however, is how to create and execute a highly successful app.
  • Apps, despite oftentimes seemingly simple and easy to use, generally have a fair amount of work put into them. It takes good design and user friendly concepts to create a good app. This is important to teach to upcoming multimedia journalism students.
2. Different Services Can Be Offered Via Phone
  • Although many would view mobile devices as limited modes of communication, there are actually an infinite amount of ways to maximize communication.
  • This can happen through emails to phones, texts to phones, implementation of hyper-geographic content, and mobile-specific deals or information.
  • Because so many different services can be offered via mobiles, the content must naturally also evolve. People are purchasing smart phones in increasingly large numbers, so this mobile audience will only continue to grow in the near future. People have already adapted to the cell phone. It is now up to journalists to continue adapting to cell phones.
  • Multimedia journalism students should be able to adapt to these differences.
3. Packages for Mobile Version of Sites
  • As mentioned earlier, as a new and successful medium like mobiles is introduced, an evolution of content or packaging becomes inevitable.
  • Mainly, websites should create their mobile compatible version at the very least. The next step is the app. After that is adding mobile specific content.
  • Some smart phones do not use Adobe Flash, for example. This is a problem that all multimedia journalists should be aware of.
  • Journalists should also not just use the everyday shovelware. This is a sin committed by even the most well-known of news organizations but really should not ever have the chance to happen.
  • Mobile journalism has so many hyper-specific benefits that they should be fully used, and not just stocked full with junk already sitting on the desktop page or physical newspaper.
As multimedia journalists, it is important to stay on top of trends. Currently, mobile is where everything seems to be going. Increased traffic is to be found, as well as many opportunities to connect with readers in a way never thought before.

Keeping Up With Your Inner Journalist: A Brief Memo on Maintaining and Improving Skills


Some of us multimedia journalism students are graduating this weekend, and some of us are sticking around for another semester.

No matter what the case is, keeping up with journalistic skills we acquired at UT will prove to be extremely beneficial in any school or career path.

This is because journalism requires critical thinking.

Critical thinking is a vital component of surviving and thriving in the real world of internships, jobs, and graduate schools.

Journalism is best simplified as the gathering and sharing of information, two topics every productive society must pay attention to.

Researching stories, shooting video, organizing a photo shoot, prepping interview questions, and creating marketing plans all require the analysis of various factors others might not immediately think of.

These abilities are not only valuable for reporting but are also useful in other fields. To know how to effectively gather and share knowledge is an invaluable tool to harness and nurture.

Here are three things you can do to sustain the freshness of your talents.

1. Make sure you own the tools you need to efficiently gather and share information.
  • While the terms "mojo" and "backpack journalism" seem silly to some, the concepts they describe are not.
  • The ability to capture events and send them to contacts is important. If you cannot achieve this on your person, competing in the future will more difficult. This is because with the increased popularity of handling all business via cell phone (calls, messages, photos, document sharing, etc.).
  • This can be achieved by remembering what the essentials are: your smart phone, a laptop if possible, and a USB port or SD card to store the things you capture.
2. Maintain a contextual perspective on journalism by reading a healthy dosage of blogs dedicated exclusively to the topic.
  • By even just scanning a variety of journalism or tech blogs on a regular basis, your mind will automatically pay attention to key words it recognizes, and consequently be able to recognize the overall trend and what it means.
  • For example, usage of the word "tweet" exploded in the past year. This indicates how embedded social media has now become in our culture. This is pertinent information to everyone, not just news makers.
  • Keep up with these to start with: Mashable, Media Shift, and CyberJournalist.
3. Multimedia journalism is relevant to your life, no matter what. Challenge yourself to encourage it!
  • This is the hardest thing to do, not just for recent graduates. As people become distanced from material they learned, the less relevant it becomes.
It really is important to maintain these skills we have learned, even if they are just the basics. You never know what people or future employers might be impressed by. Be knowledgeable about your crafts. Yes, even the ones you thought you forgot, or think will be unimportant.

Crowdfunding and Journalism: Problems and Solutions

Crowdfunding can be thought of as crowdsourcing with a professional twist. Instead of harnessing Web 2.0’s ability to turn the audience into the producers, it turns the audience into the financiers. This isn’t a new development; public radio has asked for donations from it’s viewership since it’s inception. Only a few weeks ago, Wikipedia founder Larry Sanger made a public appeal to Wiki users to donate money in order to keep Wikipedia ad-free and running. But, as with any revolutionary idea, a beta phase is needed to discover problems and tweak. Crowdfunding in journalism is in its beta phase, some sites are more successful than others, but all are experiencing a fly in the ointment: who pays and who plays (writes)?

The most notable example is the nonprofit start up of the Center for Media Change. According to the creators is, “an open source project to pioneer community powered reporting.” Through Spot.Us the public can commission and participate with journalists to do reporting on important and perhaps overlooked topics. Upon opening the site, the top stories that may or may not be show status bars of how much has been donated by interested readership and how much is still needed to make this story a reality.

Advantages of this model are obvious. Crowdfunding cuts costs by more than just the salaries journalists are paid to do their jobs. It saves green through efficiency; a journalist does not have to waste time, energy, or money on a project until the seed money has been secured. Less obvious though is the improvement in quality of crowdfunded content. Many of the pieces of the modern newspaper (even new site) are designed and written to appeal to the lowest common denominator. A piece featuring violence or celebrity gossip usually attracts more attention that a re-imagining of the San Francisco’s waterfront (a November piece). There is no greater indicator of people’s support and interest than the dedication of their pocketbooks. Great, interesting stories garner funding and rise to the top.

Critics of this model have questioned the role of the professional journalist in this model. Does the writer of the piece matter? Other criticism has asked crowdfunding stories to make their donators available to public scrutiny. There is a concern that big corporations could infiltrate these sites and turn stories into fluff, PR pieces. Global For Me has been another notable example of crowdfunding per se, as it provides reporters for multi-national partners like Fox and BBC.

5 Myths about Digital Journalism: Recent Grad Style

I have always said that if someone is willing to argue for or against a list of myths post them on the Internet, there are plenty of people who have no problem throwing in their two cents. So that's what I'm going to do too.

A little over a week ago, Mark Luckie of 10,000 Words published an article titled "5 Myths about digital journalism," issuing some statements that are certainly against the grain, especially if you have taken a multimedia journalism course or two in the past few years.

Mark received a few (Andy Boyle) responses (Robert Hernandez) back (Michelle Minkoff) in return. (Major kudos to Mindy McAdams for compiling these. She also had something to say.)

Here's my take.

Multimedia journalism and the Internet commenter

Over the past few years, the bourgeoning field of Internet journalism has also become associated with a somewhat more unsavory aspect of the internet: the internet commenter. Formerly relegated to chatrooms and forums in the 1990’s, the opening up of comments to the public on most journalistic blogs and news sites has changed the public’s perception on the national discourse in recent years. What was once treated as an anomaly on the internet, as well as a source of mostly negative opinionating, is now a commonality that has changed the way some stories are reported or filtered, for better or worse. The intention of many sites in opening up comments is to act as a kind of instant form of crowdsourcing, but sometimes this plan can backfire.

A recent NPR story dealt with the kind of people that feel it necessary to make their opinions known to complete strangers about even the most remote of topics. The NPR story mainly dealt with an enterprise that began with the literary-based website McSweeney’s to do regular feature stories on certain Internet commenters and their online habits. Another recent article on the tech blog Gizmodo outlined an etiquette guide for commenters to follow if they are to remain in a civil discourse with the journalists and authors that they regularly engage in conversation. With all of this interest taken in the behavior of the readers, it seems essential to stop and take stock of the communities that form in these environments.

When most people think of the typical internet commenter, our society has cast the average commenter on YouTube as the nadir of Western Civilization, where comments can range from borderline illiterate, to overtly hostile, to openly racist or misogynistic. In other more journalistic-leaning sites, such as conservative news aggregate, the contributors are certainly more literate and most likely older than the average YouTube commenter, however the comments tend to lean towards the vitriolic in regard to the viewpoints of opposing political parties. On The Huffington Post, comments can become so overwhelming in their numbers that keeping track of various trains of thought on the threads becomes impossible. And then on top of that, you have the notorious “trolls” who just show up to make everyone mad and contribute nothing to the conversation.

Despite these intimidating, impenetrable networks, there are still some areas of the internet where commenting is still useful and mostly a positive experience. The political website,, features well-moderated comments that identify contributors by political affiliation. The Awl, a New York-based news and culture blog, has a fairly well-informed and intelligent commenter base. Several of the offshoots of the Gawker empire, such as the sports site Deadspin and the aforementioned Gizmodo, have informed and sophisticated readerships. The comedy/viral video website Videogum, has an especially active and witty community where comments on viral internet videos are jumping off points for debates on literature, science, religion and philosophy. If journalistic sites want their content to be taken more seriously by their audience, they would do well to imitate the commenting communities in these examples.

The New York Times Twitter Beast

By Eric Pickhartz

The New York Times claims itself as the largest seven-day newspaper in the United States. It’s Monday through Friday circulation checks in at 1,039,031 readers, and the Sunday edition reaches 1,451,233. However, the Twitter monster has claimed a grand total of 2,753,510 followers for the New York Times account. That’s nearly twice as many readers than those of the hard copy of the newspaper. What exactly does this mean?

The Rising Use of Social Media in Politics

By Luther Xue

Social media has reached the point in today's society that it has become a huge part of politics. Take for example the latest elections in 2010. This post here details just how social media affected the elections. The talk on Facebook and Twitter has an exit poll-like quality in that they were able to predict who was leading, and would probably win elections. They provide an outlet for the regular people to be able to communicate more effectively with the people that will be leading them.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Freebase Gridworks hits 2.0, earns the new name Google Refine

Google Refine, the revamp of one of Google's summer acquisitions Freebase Gridworks, reached version 2.0 last month, adding an extension backend to the already powerful open source database cleaning software.

Freebase Gridworks gained a significant following within the data journalism community due to ease of use, particularly with the implementation of algorithms.

Of course, "ease of use" is very much a relative term. If you have no idea transforming regular expressions means or what n-gram clustering is, well, this isn't going to do much for you. But for journalists and programmers whose job is to make data friendlier on a daily basis, Google Refine is a godsend.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Entrepreneurship and Journalism: A Teachable Skill?

As it is on the horizon for many J-students out there (myself included), I set about trying to imagine what an interview might look like for someone interested in become a journalist. The basics, I imagine, haven’t changed much over time: Do you have a degree? Yes. Have you been published? Yes. There is an obligatory looking-over of the interviewee’s experience. And what else?

It is that what else that I believe is the new criteria for getting hired and becoming a journalist today. Something that transcends newspapers clips and internships. A new buzz words that is prevalent in the conversation about the changing journalism landscape but oddly absent from the J-classroom. And that what else is entrepreneurship.

Is entrepreneurship a teachable skill in a J-classroom? There are several universities that have attempted to make this future a present. CUNY and Berkley have new courses in entrepreneurial journalism. Also, Arizona State has a new Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship are some notable attempts to teach students to blaze their own trails to rise to the top of the competitive landscape.

Deborah Potter, in her web article, “Journalism Entrepreneurship” said “One other point about journalists as entrepreneurs: it’s not just about learning the business side or starting your own business. Entrepreneurship also means thinking independently and marketing your stories.”

Thinking and acting independently, encouraging students to make and market their own content (independent from their J-class work), and learning and understanding the media machine, encompasses the idea of entrepreneurship in budding journalists.

Acting independently isn’t something prevalent in the J-classroom, as has been my experience. The highly structured nature of the curriculum doesn’t leave room to explore the world beyond the syllabus. Encouraging students to observe their world and think about not just the story, but the structure of the story. How is this story most compelling? Is it a Soundslides? Should it be a data table or a graph? What is the audio I can collect?

Whether or not these questions are present in the J-classroom, the second step is where the classroom is failing the student. J-classes must encourage student to market their own word. Why is this piece new and creative? Where would there be a need for a piece like this?

Specialization of work and proper marketing can be the difference between a story that we turn in to our professors for a good grade and a story that gets the notice of an established webzine or newspaper. Professors must make this push; they must push students to think about how their work is distinct and whom to share their work with.

Ultra-Local Citizen Journalism

By Eric Pickhartz

With the struggles the newspaper industry has been facing, there’s no doubt the future of news is shifting into a completely different animal. Since consumers have a wealth of available information, and seemingly no barriers keeping them from finding it, there has been a movement of ultra-local news sites, devoted to one specific neighborhood or geographical area and the news that happens within it. Ultimately, it is citizen journalists who contribute the most to such sites, and now more than ever the consumers are becoming the producers in their own backyards.

Shovelware, one more task on the newsroom checklist

Photo courtesy of Tiziana Haug of The New York Times

By: Amber Genuske

For many traditional publications, the emergence of the web, a new platform to publish content on, has not inspired a fervor to create additional content, but another task to complete before the night in the newsroom is over. Despite having unlimited space, numerous possibilities for alternative story forms and world-wide access, publications are committing the ultimate web atrocity of what is known as shovelware.

Shovelware (link to a funny anecdote on shovelware by New York Times reporter William Safire) is the publishing of content online that is identical to the print version. Without development of stories for online — multimedia, longer story form, etc. — shoveling content online when the script is set at 2 a.m. to be printed, copying and pasting the stories and photos online and clicking the "publish" button becomes a chore instead of an opportunity.

One of the reasons this problems persists in traditional newsroom setting is the lack of a dedicated staff, or even the lack of knowledge of the staff, to multimedia and/or web. This leaves the stragglers at the end of the night, i.e. the copy editors or the managing editor, to publish the content (The Daily Texan is a prime example of this).

While websites like Innovation in College Media provide reasonable suggestions like "Post news as it happens," "Don’t rely on Twitter updates," Stagger deadlines," and "Make sure everyone (or almost everyone) in your newsroom knows how to post to your site," there is often a lack of emphasis on the creation of multimedia content and longer story form to avoid this problem.

Multimedia and developing longer story form for web-only content are the best ways to supplement a story online to eradicate the problem of shovelware and plain text on a page. Publications like The New York Times and the LA Times luckily have figured this out, while places like The Daily Texan are left in the dust and dirt of shovelware.

Monday, November 29, 2010


I'm sure I won't be the only one to touch on the Wikileaks controversy, but hopefully I can help provide some background, a summary of the various dominating schools of thought over it, and the role Wikileaks plays in 21st century online journalism.

For those unfamiliar with the site, Wikileaks is a nonprofit organization that publishes documents and other materials that would otherwise be inaccessible to the public at large. Founded in 2007, the site quickly garnered several new media awards from prestigious organizations such as The Economist and Amnesty International.

Most recently, Wikileaks is making headlines after releasing a quarter-million classified diplomatic cables to major news outlets such as The New York Times and The Guardian. Major revelations in the documents include evidence the U.S. State Department spied on the Secretary General of the United Nations, Saudi Arabia urged the U.S. to invade Iran and serious corruption within the Afghanistan government.

Reaction to the leaks has been mixed. Some praise Wikileaks for its contribution to transparency, with noted media critic Jeff Jarvis blogging "The only solution to leaks is then not more secrecy but more transparency," while others have criticized the leaks, claiming they put Americans in danger and some information is better left secret.

What does this mean for online news?
Obviously it is impossible to say for sure because leaks continue to be reported and the entire episode is ongoing. That said, I would argue Wikileaks impacts online journalism by elevating the importance of crowdsourcing and collaboration and, on a broader scale, reintroducing Americans to hard news.

Wikileaks operates by releasing thousands upon thousands of documents, and then asking others to sift through them for the important information. If this method of reporting is to become the norm, then crowdsourcing will subsequently grow in value.

In a broader sense, I believe Americans are suffering from the shock of substantial, hard news. The average news consumer has been lulled by the atrophy of journalism as cable and a lot of online news consists of horse-race stories of little consequence to the reader. Now that readers are confronted with serious news with serious implications, they are scared and don't know how to react.

Obviously I am generalizing, but I think there is some truth to the claim that much of the outrage over the leaks comes from a consumer base being unsure how to react to hard, consequential news because it is so rare.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Site-Less Internet

In this post, I will ask you to recall the internet 10 or 15 years ago. Back to the mid to late 90s era internet. Everything was pushed at you. Websites existed and they were self-sufficient. The website was the be all and end all. Today, the concept of actual webpages is being changed into something wholly different from what it was a decade ago. We are entering into the era of the “site-less internet” where people pull in whatever news and other content they desire

This idea was talked about in WIRED's article from August, titled The Web Is Dead. That article talks about the web on the whole transforming from simply the browser-centric web to the new internet landscape. I will focus in on news and content in the post.

The evidence of the new "site-less" internet is present everywhere. In commercials and news broadcasts, it is as common to see a plug for a companies’ Facebook page rather than a static company page. CNN's facebook page has nearly 1.5 million fans.

The flow of information and news in this new landscape is different. Information is made on one platform and is trickled down to others and flow through the internet via RSS readers, link aggregation sites, twitter and others. This trickle down of news creates what Professor Alves termed as the new journalistic ecosystem. There become many new ways for content to be monetized. I attended Les Moonves's speech at UT. He elaborated saying that now content is on multiple streams and this provides multiple sources of revenue.

Of course, some sites exist as stand-alone behemoths, but I believe to be a successful content creator or organization making content available, easily transferable and open is vital. Having a Facebook fan page or twitter with followers allows companies to “manage” their followers or fans and communicate with their fans on the fan’s own terms with a system that they trust and are comfortable with.

I googled site-less internet and found just a few other people that recognized and commented on this phenomena. This change will not be realized over night, but one day we will look around and see that what we first imagined the internet to be will have changed.

For journalists, this means that our content could be seen by many more people, but on the other hand attribution and revenue could change. In the end, the main concept is change. The internet will be changing and journalists must continue producing content worth reading to stay relevant.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Are long-form multimedia stories newsworthy?

By Reshma Kirpalani

A debate exists as to the newsworthiness of many long-form multimedia stories. for example, The New York Times series, One in 8 Million, received an Emmy Award in the "new approaches to news and documentary programming" category this year. The series is a collection of stories told via audio and visuals that portray every day New Yorkers.

The series has not only received acclaim amongst critics, but casual bloggers - a forum for the everyday man - have also praised the site. For example, Wordpress blogger Adam Westbrook says on his site, "It’s not so much the content of each story I like (in fact, I’ve only watched a couple), but the way all the stories collectively create this living breathing tapestry of modern New York. And I love the presentation: a slick fluid carousel running along the bottom of the screen. Choosing a story is like picking a delicious sushi from the conveyor belt."

But are these delicious stories news?

In the New York Times Lens blog, James Estrin interviewed three of the series' producers: staff photographer Todd Heisler, the senior multimedia producer Sarah Kramer, and Deputy Photo Editor Meaghan Looram. Estrin asked each if they thought the series was considered "news," even though the the category they won was called, "new approaches to news and documentary programming."

Heisler responded that the One in 8 Million series is not news.

"That's the point... It's not beholden to any event or anything that's in the news. It's timeless."

Deputy Photo Editor Meaghan Looram offered, "Whether or not there is breaking news element, these are the lives lived in the city. And in that way, it's documenting what is happening here."

This begs the question, if series like One in 8 Million are not news, then what are they?

The seamless collection of stories is certainly relevant - with 3,535 likes on Facebook. Perhaps Looram defined the series when she included the word "document." Or Heisler did when he used the word, "timeless."

Regardless, this series proves that long-form multimedia stories do not have to be newsworthy to be relevant and even, celebrated.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Link-Related Practices in Sports Journalism

By Colin Reynolds

So here is a pretty interesting article from the National Sports Journalism Center about the evolution of journalism from print and television to the online medium. Incorporating links into online news delivery has become essential for nearly every news organization and second-nature to the users experience. So much so that I hardly notice that I'm utilizing links are including them in something that I write, although I always do. But I never hhave actually considered corporate policies on links and whether they are allowed minimum and maximum link additions for their reporters. It wasn't until John Burnett from NPR came to talk to our class that I realized that this was a reality in the newsroom (it was either Burnett or Larry Rohter from The New York Times, I actually don't recall which one).

Anyway, this article lays out a set of commandments (and suggestions) for how to use hyperlinks in a news story. The article focuses specifically on sports journalists and how this reporters should use links but the rules obviously transcend sports and are relevant to all reporters. Here's a quick recap of 5 rules outlined:

1. "A link is not an endorsement" - I think this is pretty self-explanatory but it does make sense to note that a link does not equal an stamp of support or even agreeance. Therefore reporters should not worry about linking to a counter argument to their point. Readers are sophisticated enough to tell the difference.
2. "Never surprise a reader with a link" - Keep the reader in mind when including a link. Let them know what they are getting and don't trap a user in browser windows. Also, if content is possibly offensive, warn the reader first.
3. "Linking increasingly obliges you to be a gateway" - This keeps a reporter connected to his/her readers without feeling obligated to cover every story or gossip that ends up on the web. Becoming a gateway to other information, a reporter can maintain a level of standards and ethics while remaining in touch and on top of what's happening.
4. "Reader assumptions are bad for you" - Readers assume that journalistic ethics or a code of standards to be laziness on the reporter's end. Don't assume that the readers view your standards the same way you do. Readers like gossip and there is no other gossip hotspot like the internet.
5. "Therefore, explain yourself" - Be more transparent in your reporting and tell the readers your intentions and reasoning behind certain decisions. If a story or rumor has become popular and watercooler fodder, link to it and explain why you (or your newsroom) aren't covering it. This will hopefully help develop trust with your readers.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"How to be a Citizen Journalist"

By: Colin Reynolds

So I stumbled upon this video while doing research on user-generated content and citizen journalism and it's definitely not great but the quality is pretty good. And although I don't find it particularly funny (its rather lame attempts at 195os sexism and gender inequality are futile at best) but it does make light of what is perceived to be the biggest shortcomings of citizen journalism. I do think it effectively brings to question the flaws of citizen journalism and does so in a mildly humorous way.

For one, the video brings up the idea that anyone can be considered a journalist with little or no training and no association of any sorts. In fact, one could even "report" on an event or issue completely anonymously. But is this journalism? Some would argue that, despite various beneficial aspects of user-generated content, it is not in fact actual journalism. As Kelly McBride of Poynter Online suggests, "The journalists' loyalties are with the reader and viewer. You might question the independence and loyalty of various news organizations, or even all news organizations. But at least, in theory, you expect those values to guide the process of gathering news."

Although I feel like citizen journalism (a term I use solely because it has become the common idiom) has its advantageous, this aspect of trustworthiness and relevance is difficult to overcome. I think the video does a decent job highlighting these problems and the issues involved with UGC. For more on the advantages and disadvantages of "citizen journalim," check out this article from the Online Journalism Review.

Journalism and the Drug Cartels

With the drug war raging on between the drug cartels in Mexico, it has become increasingly difficult for the Mexican journalists to cover the stories that are related to the drug violence. They fear retribution on themselves and their families or they get paid off by these drug cartels and become corrupt.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has a great website dedicated to showing how many of these journalists have been killed, directly or indirectly, because of their coverage of the drug cartels. They have worldwide statistics, but this interactive map showing these deaths in Mexico shows just how dangerous it is.

Between the corruption and the deaths, it has become nearly impossible to find a news source that will show just exactly what is going on. A recent report by ProPublica tells how these newspapers in Mexico are failing at their jobs. Attempts by the mainstream media to cover the drug war in Mexico has been silenced.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Social media trends around the world

The rise of social media around the world has been rapidly increasing due to the ubiquitous social network options that have sprung up in recent years. Being the starting point for most of the more prominent social networks, the United States leads the way in social media usage and number of individuals by a wide margin. However, social networks are on the rise in many international communities as networks spread to many foreign countries, and as these countries establish their own networks. According to a recent article, the U.S. surpasses the next largest internet-using country, Japan, by about 100 million social media users.

Certain networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace have the majority of their audience stateside as they are all American products. But the penetration of these networks in some foreign markets has been not as complete due to many of these countries fashioning their own social networks that have become popular exclusively among their own residents. In some cases, a social network that was started in order to have universal appeal would only find an audience in a particular region.

One prime example of this is the social network that was started by Google named Orkut. Originally based in The United States, the network failed to find a wide audience in this country. However, it spread internationally and soon became the top social network in Brazil. In addition to Brazil, Orkut has also become one of the top social networks in India, making it one of the most widely used social networks outside of the U.S.

In Japan, which is officially directly behind the U.S. in overall social media usage, a social network known as Mixi has become the most popular site by a large margin. However, if claims by China are to be interpreted as accurate, their country could in fact be the nation with the most social network use as their largest network, Qzone, has an estimated 380 million users.

A more expansive breakdown of which countries are using which networks can be found here.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Social Media Event planning

Social media for events

Anyone involved in a campus organization, or remotely knows anybody involved in a campus organization, is frequently faced with a barrage of Facebook invitations to various events the group is hosting. I remember the first specific organization event I was invited to, it was a University Democrats meeting the spring of my freshman year. The volunteer coordinator decided to make an event for Dr. Jensen speaking at the meeting, and the meeting was subsequently packed. From then on, every University Democrats meeting had a Facebook event, but diminishing returns took its toll and the impact now is virtually nil, because they are using social media completely wrong when preparing for an event.

Mashable suggests 5 ways to utilize social media for an event: help attendees connect with each other, broaden participation, encourage attendees to share information, provide recreation, and put it all together.

The most important suggestions for students to take away from the list are broaden participation and encourage attendees to share information. Broadening participation simply means allowing those who aren't at the event to enjoy some of its experiences. Not all, but most, student events are extremely behind in this sense. There is no reason why every event isn't live tweeted, or even broadcast online.

Secondly is sharing information. While this concept is obvious to multimedia students, to others, it is less clear. For a social network event to be successful the creators of the event need to solicit conversation and information sharing from members attending the event. This performs two functions. 1) It gives members more of a stake in attending the event, because they have already put time and effort into planning it, and 2) It shows everybody that lots of people are attending and excited about the event, and the more people that people perceive will attend an event the greater the hype is and more people will attend.

Mashable also has advice for using social media to enhance events. The most valuable advice they give is to "engage attendees in conversation before, during and after the event. It’s an innovative approach that integrates social media throughout the entire process."

This is the concept lost on most college students. While they are excellent and expeditious at using social media to inform about events, they tend to be seriously disabled when it comes to using it before and after. Some tips are having the event organizer actively engage in conversations leading up to the event, livetweeting throughout the event, and then reaching out to attendees for advice about improving the event afterward.

Take this Facebook event for a speaker on campus. I know all the important details based on it, but there is no presence on the wall and I haven't received any messages or solicitations. Subsequently, I know about the event, but am not anticipating it at all and don't plan to attend.

To wrap up, social media can do wonders for events, but when using it for event planning then make sure to engage the audience, encourage attendees to engage each other, and make it an organic and continuous process.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Non-for-profit news organizations and the Investigative News Network

Investigative journalists are able to do their true job now on a greater scale because of the Internet and the database resources online reporting initiatives make available. It is no longer based on local reporters uncovering scandal in their own communities because the Internet allows for reporters around the country, or even around the world, to collaborate on a certain subject and as a result prompt significant change.

Based on classroom discussions in the last two years I have had while at UT along with articles on the Internet, there seems to be two debates going on about whether the Internet has been a positive or negative thing for journalism. There is the side that says the Internet has killed the traditional news organization and is the reason why there is not enough money to hire more employees. Then there is the discussion that the Internet has been bad for investigative journalism because now it is hard for readers to distinguish between what is an investigative report and what is simply someone’s blog. Despite what some may believe, investigative journalism initiatives have improved the level of credibility online reports hold through exclusive databases that the average citizen would not have access to. The Investigative News Network has become iconic in the non-for-profit news organization sector and has had major success since its initial launch in 2008.

There is a wider range of stories being told now because of these online initiatives and has become an outlet for a wider variety of content to reach a wider variety of consumers. These online initiatives for investigative journalism have created a sphere where more citizens are functioning as “watch dogs” in society because the profession is no longer condensed to the limited job availability the news room allows for, which is also important because now there is a wider range of stories that can be covered that a traditional news organization would not be able to handle.

Investigative News Network CEO Kevin Davis discusses the importance of this concept and believes online investigative reporting initiatives will foster and create more comprehensive community tools through a lot of “organic” and “natural” collaboration. Davis is referring to the new “Members Only” section of the new INN website, which became available this month.

“We will now have toolsets that enable people to share best practices, nurture ideas, and when those ideas actually come to fruition – when there’s a solid story, we’ll have systems by which those stories can be offered up to get other members in the network involved.”

Davis continues to explain that with this kind of a system, we are going to see increasing collaboration with external for-profit partners, who are keenly interested in INN’s content and getting it out there.

MediaStorm Continued: Controversial & Consequential

By Reshma Kirpalani

One of the principal elements that enhance MediaStorm's photo reportage is the use of audio. In fact, founder Brian Storm says that he always tries to encourage photojournalists to start by using audio only. “The biggest challenge is, as a photojournalist, we’re taught to be a fly on the wall…But at some point along that arc of reporting, a photojournalist needs to break that wall and say, “I know I’ve told you that I’m not here…but I really want to sit down and ask you some very specific questions. And that’s a different kind of journalistic experience than I think photojournalists are used to having.” (Nieman Reports 2010)

Among the benefits of audio, Storm includes giving the subject a voice, augmenting communication via the visceral qualities of a first-person interview or even, music, and providing a narrative spine for the story. (The Digital Journalist 2005)

But others in the news industry argue that the use of music in the field of journalism is not always appropriate. "The problem is not that music doesn't work, it's that it works too well," said Al Tompkins, Poynter's broadcast and online group leader. (Poynter Online 2009) In other words, music can amp up the emotionality of a piece, or otherwise disguise technical or narrative flaws. Others argue that it can hurt a journalist’s credibility.

Geolocation, Media & Journalism

By Bill Bowman

In a decade, it is probable that everybody will know where everybody is. Geolocation is making this possible.

Currently, people can voluntarily share their location with others via Gowalla, Fourquare, facebook and other GPS-based social platforms. It amounts to a game of sorts. Friends check in around the city and earn titles and badges to show their adventurousness. Of course, behind the fa├žade of play there is a tangible advertising, marketing and journalistic aspect to this game that can be tapped into.

Both news and marketing companies can know where you go and how to market to you and potentially have a new avenue to sources and information.

Looking to the future, Geolocation technologies could bring about a number of things. In Minority Report and other Sci-Fi movies people where tracked via their retinas. The cell phone will replace the retina in these dystrophic futures. Here are a few possible consquences of Geolocation for media and journalism.

  • Tailoring billboards and physical signs to the desires of those who frequent that area.
  • Journalists will be able to track the movement of people to spot trends.
  • Law Enforcement will be able to know where people are and use that to pinpoint people during crimes.
  • Google Goggles times a thousand. The augmented reality seen in Google Goggles and other graphic overlays of cell phone cameras will become more and more sophisticated. Simply looking at an object will reveal details about. In the near future, pointing the camera to a face could bring up a facebook profile or Google search of that person.
  • Pop up news based on location. If a person is near a breaking news event, a notification could be sent to their phone.
  • On the other side. If an event happens, journalists could potentially have a list of people in a certain area who opt into a hypothetical program, like iReport. They could report for a news outlet.
All the previous bullets are extrapolations on current technology. Some seem far-fetched, but who would have though that a website like facebook would exist, attracting 500 million people, a decade ago.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Getting Started with Data: Google Fusion Tables

By Ryan Murphy

With data oriented reporting on the rise, journalists are naturally looking for ways to jump in. However, many quickly realize that it is not just a clean cut process, even less so than stepping into the world of video. Whereas now it is as simple as creating a YouTube account to get your footage online and viewable by the world, creating data interactives still require a certain level of expertise (both with coding and data management) and, even more difficult, somewhere to host it.

Much like how Google's YouTube became the standard for video online, Google is trying to do the same in the field of online database management with Google Fusion Tables. Fusion Tables, recently released as a beta (in classic Google form), is a "modern data management and publishing web application that makes it easy to host, manage, collaborate on, visualize, and publish data tables online."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Twitter Use for Journalists

By: Luther Xue

As social media continues to evolve and become a larger part of our lives, it has become increasingly important for journalists to learn how to use these different mediums in order to make themselves a better reporter. One of these sites that is becoming an integral part of a journalists' repertoire is Twitter. So how exactly can a journalist use Twitter to their advantage?

One of the biggest advantages of Twitter is that it is a huge crowd-sourcing tool. Ask your followers any question you want and then sit back as the answers come flowing in. For example Jason DeRusha (@derushaj), a TV reporter in Minnesota, uses his Twitter account to ask about what kind of stories his viewers want to see covered. He used it to great effect for a Christmas story when he asked his viewers if they knew anyone that had allergies towards Christmas trees. One of his viewers replied that her allergies were so bad, she had to wear a full body suit in order to put her tree up. This kind of stuff wouldn't have happened if DeRusha did not have a tool like Twitter.

The Personal Brand & Journalism

By Bill Bowman

The newspapers and large media outlets are no longer the sole beacon of information and content in the world. Individuals are broadcasting their own news and opinions on their own terms. They are doing this for self-promotion and control. This trend has some interesting consequences for the producers and consumers of news in addition to the companies that make their living off of news.

The first and most widely known example of this trend was Drudge Report. One man, Matt Drudge scooped and aggregated news from all over the world, or at least all over the internet. The Huffington Post was the next iteration of personal journalism, except with more collaboration. It has since grown in traffic to exceed Drudge.

On a smaller level, having your own brand can lead to better job opportunities and control of your future. In the current environment, those without an online presence are lost in the sea.

Looking to concrete examples of using the personal brand to find jobs, there are a myriad of case studies out there. An interesting one that I learned about in another class was a person who deftly used internet advertising and a website to get a job. Alec Browstein did just that. He used Google AdWords and a respectable personal brand to land a prestigious advertising job.

Twitter in conjunction with blogs have made this particularly effective and relativity easy. Using just the speakers in this class and the faculty is a great example. Professor Alves has over 5,000 followers. This built-in audience is a soap box that can be stood on to promote activities or spread news. Accordingly, the power and leverage of the massive is diminished.

Maintaining the Human in a Digital World

By: Amber Genuske

Mark Briggs’ book “Journalism Next” he discusses the facets of online journalism in the first chapter entitled, “Journalism Is About People, Not Technology.” What Briggs says in this chapter is to maintain the human aspect in stories despite the conversion of story form. The easy part is learning the new mediums in which to tell the story — the challenge is to create stellar content to hold the attention of the reader (and, now, listener and observer).

Multimedia journalists, mainly in life and arts sections, need to view the videos, audio and photography just as they would a story. What will catch the attention of the consumer? What will hold their attention? What is the best way to tell the story? Outside of quick and hard news snippets, I think all of these questions can be answered by having an artistic eye. There is a line that needs to be pushed while maintaining a balance between creativity and journalism.

One of the best examples of this balance is Masie Crow's profile of an elderly gentleman's plight with the solitude of old age, "A Life Alone." Crow's eye for the small things that tell a story is magnificent, and something that every multimedia journalist should aspire to. She uses brief shots of a crack in the wall, a stack of old hand-written letters and a tattered flag blowing in the wind to illustrate the stark emotions of her subject. Shot entirely in black and white and without music, this is a raw and beautiful story. subject. Shot entirely in black and white and without music, this is a raw and beautiful story.

"Last Minutes With Oden" follows the owner of a dog as he goes through the struggle of euthanizing his doThis story is considered a documentary and does incorporate music, both of which are debated if they can be considered journalism. However, this is another example of how to mix an artistic eye with storytelling. The videographer uses alternative shots like riding next to the subject on his bike and artistic touches like blurring of the scene to tell the story.

Note: The following video contains graphic content of a dog being euthanized so do not watch if you are sensitive to such imagery.

Last Minutes with ODEN from phos pictures on Vimeo.

Though both of these stories are tragic, they have what Briggs says is the challenge — they have the human aspect, artistic visions and editing and a strong story, the basis of journalism.