Category Archives: news web sites

Put your news on the pod

Podcasting is one of the new terms in online journalism. It simply means putting news and information into an audio MP3 format and making it available to folks who own MP3 players – millions of them.

News web sites, particularly broadcast sites where this is a natural, are beginning to use this method to reach those who want to do more than just listen to music on their MP3 players, according to Jonathan Dube, Cyberjournalist.net. (In addition to the MP3 players, there are lots of cellphones that have MP3 capability.) Dube cites an article in Digital-Lifestyles.info that says the BBC used this method for extending one of its programs late last year, and the file got 100,000 downloads.

The technology and technique are not confined to broadcasters, of course. Any news outlet can create these files and offer them to an audience that might not otherwise be exposed to its content. (The term “podcasting” comes from Apple’s iPod, which dominates the world of MP3 players.)

(Posted Jan. 25, 2005)
Update: Cyberjournalist has posted more information on the growing phenomenon of podcasting. As a result of the success of podcasting for the radio show On the Media, WNYC is going to start making another of its shows available as an MP3 download. The WNYC news release announcing this plan says the podcasting of On the Media has added significantly to the show’s audience:

“Podcasting is a remarkable boon for local radio broadcasts,” added Phil Redo, VP of Station Operations and Strategy. “This easy-to-access, easy-to-use technology allows local programming to transcend the limitations of both traditional radio and online streaming, by allowing users to plug into great programming from far-flung places, anytime, anywhere.”

WNYC launched the first podcast of an NPR program in January 2005 to great success. NPR’s On the Media, the station’s nationally-broadcast media analysis show, has doubled the amount of listeners it reaches online in just four weeks. OTM’s podcast audience now rivals the number of individuals that would enjoy the program in a mid-sized media market like St. Louis or Kansas City.


(That is an interesting way to describe the growth int he audience. It would have been nice had the writer of the press release also used some real numbers.) (Posted Feb. 12, 2005)

Permanence of the web, part 2

A number of years ago I called the local newspaper office because I was interested in getting a copy of a picture of an old and prominent local building in its early years. I spoke to the managing editor, a good friend, who told me with some embarrassment that the newspaper didn’t have any pictures like that.

Surely, I said, this building was in many news events and would have appeared in some photo that the newspaper had kept.

Nope, he said. It wasn’t there. He sounded as if he had had this conversation before.

Some years before that, he said, the man who was then managing editor had decided that the newspaper did not need to keep a lot of old photos, ones that he knew they would never use again. So he had them thrown out. It saved money and space.

How could that have happened, I wondered. How could the man have been so stupid, so dense? Didn’t he understand that part of the newspaper’s role is to preserve an archive that helps understand the history – the “story,” if you will – of the community?

Obviously, he didn’t.

That’s one of the points that Victoria McCargar, a senior editor of the Los Angeles Times, touches on in her essay about the disappearance of data from digital files in the Seybold Report (Feb. 9, 2005).

The problem with funding archives, moreover, is that it’s difficult for budgeters to see a return on investment. While digital preservation costs are still mostly a matter of speculation, most researchers agree that it will be expensive. True, some news archives generate a modest revenue stream from reselling old images and articles in new digital forms, but beyond that, publishers and chief financial officers aren’t necessarily willing to spend money to meet some vaguely perceived obligation to maintain a record of history in the making.

McCargar’s article goes more deeply into the dangers to digital data than just the neglect (and sometime stupidity) of the keepers of the data. It serves as a wake-up call to those of us who have blithely identified “permanence” as one of the major assets of the web. True, digital data are not subject to the deteriorating effects of air, light and time, but McCargar points out other dangers. Some of these are obvious; others less so.

Software obsolescence. All of us have run into this problem from time to time. We suddenly find that our new software won’t open our old files; or our old software isn’t compatible with another piece of software we often use. McCargar mentions WordStar, the most widely used word processing program of the 1970s and 1980s. No current word processing programs will open a WordStar file.

Hardware obsolescence. Who remembers punch cards? 8-inch floppy disks?

Inadequate metadata. Metadata is the information about information, and you can think of it as technical and content-related. The technical describes the file in which the data reside. The content-related describes the information itself. We do not always do a good job of providing either of these kinds of information about a file, and consequently, we lose track of what is in the file and how it is set up. This is the age-old indexing problem that librarians and archivists have always struggled with.

Lack of standards and best practices. Digital data is still so new that we are still trying to understand it. The development of a standard set of practices is only beginning.

Lack of institutional discipline. Few journalists give much thought to preserving what they have done from day to day. They figure that is someone else’s job. Their job is to meet their deadlines and produce their publications, broadcasts or web sites. In a sense, they’re right, but McCargar argues that they must be at least a part of the preservation process and must understand and perform the responsibilities they are assigned in this area.

Copyright. Who owns the information, and how should the owner be compensated for its use? As with indexing, these are questions that have been around for years, but we are likely to lose digital data because copyright issues cannot always be easily or readily resolved.

McCargar’s article also suggests some solutions to these problems, but the suggestions are only a beginning – only, in her words, “short-term, stop-gap” methods to stem the tide of digital disappearance. We are at a point where many people involved with producing digital information are not aware of the problems with preserving it. We have begun to address even the most basic questions:

What are we archiving? In the days of shelves and manila envelopes, limits on archives were a function of space, and it was obvious that periodic decisions had to be made about what to discard. One of the interesting developments of the Digital Age is the gradual abandonment of archival policies, written or otherwise, that spelled out what was going to be kept permanently, what was to be kept temporarily and for how long, and what was to be “de-accessioned” outright. Creators and archivists didn’t always see eye to eye on the policies, though, so it’s not surprising that as technology improved, creators began asking archivists to take in more material than ever before, whether or not they were equipped to handle it.

One of the strengths of the web continues to be its permanence – and with that, its retrievability and duplicability. These were the promises of some of the thinkers who conceived of the idea of digitizing information because it was simply overwhelming us physically. Ironically, these strengths are being eroded because we have not recognized the problems outlined in McCargar’s article.

Jim Stovall (Posted April 4, 2005)

Permanence and the web

Permanence is one of the five most important characteristics of the web (the other four being capacity, immediacy, flexibility, and interactivity), as explained in chapter 1 of Web Journalism. Until now, it has not been the subject of much discussion. But a high-level conference on blogging and journalism at Harvard University last week has spurred thinking about one part of the idea of permanence – archiving.

Many major news organizations, beginning with the New York Times, charge for accessing files that are more than a week or two old. Placing these files behind a tollgate has some important implications for the web and the activities that it has engendered.

The great beauty of the web (among other things) is that it does not deteriorate. Electronic storage is far more stable than print, pictures, videotape or audiotape. It is less susceptible to environmental conditions. What goes onto the web can stay there.

That’s not to say we haven’t lost much that has been placed on the web. We have – far too much of it. But we have lost material not because of the instability of the web but because of operator error. We have not done a good job at storing it, or we have simply deleted it.

The fact that the web is (or can be) permanent has two important meanings. First, it means we can retrieve material stored on the web. Second, it means we can duplicate that material. But when a site requires registration (which most people see as not a huge problem) or charges for that material, our ability to retrieve and duplicate is hindered or destroyed.

The tollgate for web archives is particularly difficult for the act of blogging, which is developing as major way of using the web. Web loggers pick up information they see on the web, discuss it, and pass it on. A discussion begun this way may last for several weeks, if not longer. However, if the article that generated that discussion goes into a tollgated archive after a week, it is cut off from all except those willing to pay. (A couple of nifty terms are used to describe what happens here: linkdeath and linkrot.)

Charging for articles inhibits the strength of the permanency characteristic of the web, and there are some powerful arguments against it. Some of those have been advanced by Simon Waldman, head of the Guardian’s online division (the Guardian is a newspaper in London) and Jay Rosen, a professor at New York University. They both call for “open archives” because (among other reasons)

closing archives takes the information out of the public discussion

closing archives diminishes the web site’s presence on the web and its ability to be part of the ongoing discussion of an issue.

According to Waldman:

What makes great news organizations great is not simply the work they do on a given day, but the accumulated quality of work done over weeks, months and years. For the first time, it can be available in one place: permanently. To neglect this is to go into battle with one arm tied behind your back.

In addition to these reasons, there are others that could be advanced for open archives:

Journalism has always been accused of being too episodic; that is, we have little sense of the past, even the recent past. We report stories on a daily basis as if this is the first time such an event has ever occurred. Giving readers the ability to reach back to previous stories about the same subject or similar events could show connects and help further their understanding of the things we report.

Giving information away at one point (a free news web site, as most are) and then charging for it at a later point does not, on the face of it, make a lot of sense.

Achieved information can be obtained free of charge even when a web site is charging for it. A consumer can simply go to a good library. So why make it so inconvenient?

The answer, of course, is money. While there is not much information about how much money archive sales mean for a news organization, there is no doubt that the income-to-cost ratio is very high. The money taken in is mostly profit, and news organizations see no reason to give it up.

Alex Jones, director, of the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard and co-author, with Susan Tifft, The Trust: The Private and Powerful Family Behind the New York Times, wrote this response after the Harvard conference had ended:

Open archives is a great idea! It makes moral and professional sense. But it also has great potential for building audience, especially at newspapers. All it would take is a successful experiment at a couple of respected newspapers that show the income from selling reprints could be matched or exceeded from advertising at a newspaper’s “old news” web site and from special services (for instance, tapping the desire for a momento by selling framed photocopies of actual clips). Result: win-win-win.

But for now, many news organizations have chosen the first “win” and ignored the possibilities of the two others.

Jim Stovall (posted Jan. 30, 2005; minor corrections, Jan. 25, 2010)

Digital divide continues

Around the time the 20th century morphed into the 21st, you heard a good bit about the differences between rural and urban areas in how much access they had to the Internet. At that time the term was the “digital divide.” But since then, you haven’t heard too much about it, and you may have thought that the problems had been solved.

Unfortunately, they haven’t.

Steven Levy, who writes The Technologist column for Newsweek magazine, devotes this week’s column to the digital divide without ever using that term.

Levy notes that he spent some time in the Berkshires in Massachusetts this summer where he had to depend on dial-up rather than high-speed access. (I had a similar experience for two months in a rural part of East Tennessee where we were a half mile or so beyond the cable.)

Levy cites a Pew Internet and American Life Project study that reports that those in rural areas are only half as likely as urbanites to use high-speed access, and that continues to be a problem for these areas. Fast Internet access is becoming as essential as electricity and phone service. The Bush administration, he writes, has set a goal of having high-speed access in every home by 2007 but hasn’t done much to make that happen.

The availability of high-speed Internet access is important to business, education and the general quality of life. It is increasingly important to journalism and the mass media industries. Levy describes a proposal by two senators that would direct money from the telephone’s Universal Service Fund to funding broadband networks in unserved areas.

It’s great that new ideas might help extend broadband to the boonies, but why not hasten the process with a national policy that recognizes the importance of universal service, and invests wisely to give everyone access to the Net at geek-pleasing speeds?

Jim Stovall (posted Aug. 16, 2005)

The New York Times charges for the wrong thing

News web sites have to figure out a way to make money. As long as they are free and access to them in unlimited (even when they require registration), the ways for making money – or creating revenue streams, in the jargon of the business world, are limited. Advertising will cover some of the costs, but as yet, advertising is not yet turning news web sites into profit machines.

That’s why the step the New York Times took this past week is a significant one.

The Times instituted Times Select, a plan that puts the paper’s may op-ed columnists, such as Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, Frank Rich, David Brooks and others, behind a subscription wall. The subscription price is $49.95, or about a dollar a week. In addition, Times Select subscribers get unfettered access to the New York Times archives, the International Herald Tribune and several other premium products of the Times.

Most of the content of the New York Times webs site will remain open, however (except for the required registration). That means all of the news, magazine, book review, theater reviews, business and sports content (except for a few columnists) will still be available without charge.

Much debate is now taking place in online journalism circles about the wisdom of the Times’ move.

Undoubtedly, the Times will make some significant money with Times Select. If only 100,000 people sign up for the service, that will be an extra $5 million in the coffers of the Times. And, of course, the Times is hope for many more than that to subscribe. So, the money involved is not chump change.

But what about the cost? Is the Times hurting itself in the long run by closing off its columnists to the vigorous online discussion of current events? What about charging for what was once free? Steve Outing, columnist for Editor and Publisher and editor of Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits, interviewed Martin Nisenholtz, president of New York Times Digital, for his column last week. Here’s part of what he wrote:

One factor that (Martin) Nisenholtz (president of New York Times Digial) thinks will encourage people to pay to keep reading the Op-Ed crew is the nation of the “Times loyalist” — perhaps 1.5 million to 2 million readers who are devoted to the New York Times brand, and spend significantly more time reading NYTimes.com than they do other news sites. With them, he claims, their willingness to fork over “the equivalent to buying a few martinis” for an annual subscription could be expected. His hypothesis is that this loyal audience base can be persuaded to spend money on the NYT brand on the Web, just as it long has in print.

Of course, there are risks — foremost that the columnists’ readership and reach are severely diminished by going behind the subscription wall. Times editorial page editor Gail Collins says that everyone involved in this decision understands that there are trade-offs and losses in store. There will be fewer mentions and links in the blogosphere; news aggregators won’t point their users to the columnists.

(Steve Outing, Editor and Publisher: TimesSelect: Big Revenue Play or Dangerous Move? )

Bold and risky as the Times’ move, it is not as bold and risky as it could be. The Times’ columnists – as popular as they are with some readers – are not the news organization’s “crown jewels,” as they have been described.

The most valuable product of the New York Times is news, not opinion.

News costs a lot of money, time and manpower to produce. For more than a century, the New York Times has been one of the leading news organizations in the world. Its underlying foundation is its vast network of reporters and its reputation for presenting news and information.

That is what it should be charging readers for. It should give away its opinion section and even its archives. But it should tell visitors that the news on its web site is what is worth money.

Super-blogger Glenn Reynolds made that point on a radio interview when he said:

The New York Times thinks it’s going to make money selling op-eds, but hard news reporting is the killer ap for news media organizations. If they want to come up with opinion, they’re competing with guys like me, and we can kick Paul Krugman’s butt any day.

(This quotes comes from a discussion about Times Select on Jay Rosen’s blog, PressThink.)

Jim Stovall (posted Sept. 25, 2005)

Truthdig.com – taking advantage of the web

Too many good quality web sites still have the look and feel of the newspaper from which they sprang, or the newspapers that the editors and producers used to work for.

They often do not take advantage of their medium — its immediacy, capacity, flexbility, permanence and interactivity. They ignore even the simplest and most powerful tools of the web, such as linking. Some sites, however, are trying to break that mold. One such site is Truthdig.com, an investigative reporting site begun by Robert Sheer, a columnist who was recently bounced by the Los Angeles Times in an ill-conceived cost-cutting move.

Sheer and Truthdig.com are profiled in a recent Online Journalism Review article, in which Sheer is quoted as saying, “We’re not pitted against old media. What we are pitted against the model old media is trapped in. We wanted to stand as an alternative model to what’s going on on the Internet.” It’s that “old model” that many journalists today can’t get away from.

(Posted Dec. 7, 2005)

De-exiling the website

We may be getting past the days when the newspaper’s web site was a small group of techies exiled to a different floor — or even a different building — of the news organization.

USA Today announced today that it is bringing its web site staff in from the cold and will be integrating it with the paper’s newsroom. The announcement makes the point that story planning will include the web site now. The paper’s press release attributes executives as saying “the move to combine the newsrooms is a response to the growing importance of the Internet as a vehicle for news delivery.

The new structure will allow both operations to begin working together to make the transition from a world of stand-alone news products to one in which news is available where, when and how consumers desire.” Other news organizations should “recognize the growing importance of the Internet.”

They should have done it years ago, of course.

(Posted Dec. 13, 2005)

Web polls

One of the most popular features of a web site is the web poll, and anyone who is involved with the development of a web site should consider using them.

Web polls enhance the look of a site, and properly and cleverly done, they give readers a chance to physically participate in the site and the information that is there.

Fortunately, it does not take much in the way of programming to get a poll onto your site, to make it look good, and to keep up with the results. A number of free services offer to generate polls for your site and to maintain the results.

One of those services is BasicPoll.com. (This is not an endorsement of this particular service. There are plenty out there, and you should test a few to see which you are most comfortable with.) We found BasicPoll when we were searching around for a service that is free and would be appropriate for EHCWired.com, the news web site of the Department of Mass Communications at Emory & Henry College.

The following describes how BasicPoll works:

The first step is registration. You will need to establish a login name and password and you need to give the site the URL of the web site for which you will be generating the polls.

With that done, the process is simple. You will be given a dashboard of tools (Number 1) from which you can choose any operation you need to perform.

When you want to generate a new poll, the site will take you to a table (Number 2) that contains all of the polls that you have created. At the bottom of that list is a link to “Add New Poll.”

A new table (Number 3) asks you for a title for the poll, the question you want to ask and the responses that you want to offer to the users. BasicPoll allows as many as 20 responses. At the bottom of this table are a number of options that will affect how the poll looks. A preview mode lets you see how the poll will look. (You can also change the colors and some of the other items when you get the HTML code generated.)

Once you are satisfied with the way the poll looks, you click on the “Generate HTML” button and are taken to a page with a window that contains the HTML code for the poll (Number 4). Click inside this window, Select All, and Copy. You can then paste this code anywhere on your site.

When it is live on the site, a user can simply select one of the answers and then click on “Vote!” That will take the visitor to a page that the BasicPoll web site has created to show the results of your responses. There will be a link on that page that goes back to your site.

Polls such as this one are not scientific surveys, of course, and are not representative of any population. It may not be a bad idea to have a disclaimer to that effect when you use one of these polls. You should point out that the results are simply from those who have chosen to participate in the poll.

(And as a web site developer, you should never use the results of these polls to make decisions about the site itself.)

Still, a web poll such as this one is an easy, simple and inexpensive way to get readers involved in the site, and they can be fun to generate. They may even result in some interesting comments by the readers and some ideas for additional polls or even news coverage.

Jim Stovall (posted April 7, 2006)

Launching Politico

The coming launch of the political news web site Politico has drawn much attention from those who wonder about its longevity (see the latest New York Times article about it; and an earlier one). I have no idea about how long it will last — though, being a political news junkie, I hope it will be for a long time — but I am fascinated by the ideas that its founders have about how it should be structured and how it should operate.

Politico is a news web site that will focus on Capitol Hill politics, presidential election campaigns, and Washington lobbying and advocacy groups. It is set to launch in two weeks (Jan. 23) but has made a splash over the last couple of months by hiring the likes of John Harris and Jim VandeHei from the Washington Post, Martin Tolchin from the New York Times, and Mike Allen from Time magazine, among its other stars. The chief financial backer is Albritton Communications.

More interesting than the journalistic stars it has attracted to its staff is the approach that Politico will take to its publishing. Here are some of the things that the site is doing that are worth noting (although none of these represents a brand new or unique appraoch):

Web-centered rather than print-centered. The web site, not the print edition, will be the crown jewel of this operation. That is a major shift in thinking among big media types, especially in a place like Washington where print is revered. There will be a print edition, a 30,000 run three days a week when Congress is in session and once a week when it is not. And the print edition will be free.

Focused subject matter.
The site, as noted above, will focus on Washington politics and on only a part of that. The all-purpose newspaper approach and the blanket coverage of the wider community are ideas that are left behind. In the parlance of web discussion, this is called “unbundling.” The site doesn’t care about food or high school football or the stock market. It is betting that there are enough people interested in politics — and in the particular parts of politics that it has identified — to draw a large audience. In Washington, that’s not a bad bet.

Small, star-quality staff. The site not only gained a lot of publicity by the hires of John Harris, author of a widely-acclaimed book on the Clinton administration, and Jim VandeHei, a well-regarded journalist and frequent face on MSNBC, but it also gained some instant credibility. Most of the journalists on the staff (staff page) are well known and deeply experienced. The news organization has every chance of living up to its own billing as a top-ranked center for information about congressional and presidential politics.

Staff outreach. Plans are for the staff to step out of the organization by writing for other publications and appearing in other venues. Mike Allen will continue to write a column for Time magazine. Others are having their columns syndicated. Undoubtedly, you will see faces from Politico on the cable and network talk shows.

Multi-platform. In addition to the web site and print editions, there will be a television show on the Albritton cable television network and a five-minute drive-time radio program broadcast on WTOP all news radio in Washington. Presumably, all of these media will be used to cross-promote each other, but the web site will be what is always available and always at the center of the action.

 

As we noted earlier, none of these ideas is particularly original. There are certainly political information web sites with good journalists in existence now. What makes this effort noteworthy is its high profile, and the big media money that is backing it.

One of the unknowns is what the site will look like and how it will approach the presentation of information. The web, as we have often argued, is not a newspaper on a computer screen, and it is also not radio or television. It is a different medium with different demands and different audience actions and expectations.

The coming weeks will show us whether or not the founders of Politico understand these differences.

Jim Stovall (posted Jan. 9, 2007)

Discussion notes: Online journalism and audience

Photojournalism
The Big Picture principles and concepts of photojournalism

 

>Importance of the single image. Nothing gets into our heads and stays there like the single, iconic image. Many of examples of this throughout history. See What did Abraham Lincoln look like? here on JPROF.

All journalists are photojournalists. When they were first introduced in the late 1830s, cameras quickly became widely popular. Their popularity has never waned. Now cameras are even more prevalent. Demands of the profession make it imperative that every journalist carry a camera, know how to use it and know what to do with photos.

Text and photos. No picture can stand alone. It needs text to explain its action and context.

Accuracy. Photos can give an incorrect impression or even lie in some circumstances. Journalists must take care to explain photos carefully, handle the editing with great care, and make sure that viewers gain a level of factual truth from them.

Ethics. The power of the image gives rise to special ethical considerations. This includes the preparation of photos as well as their presentation.

Print vs. web. On the web, photos are usually smaller, but there is greater capacity and potential for versatility.

Carry your camera. Be ready to use it.

The practice of photojournalism
general considerations

point of view – find different angles, unique aspects

contrast – subject-background differences

framing – look at all parts of what’s in the fame, not just the subject of the picture

composition – rule of thirds

lighting – know the source of light; learn to judge the lighting conditions (outside is better than inside)

distance – three types of photos: long shots, medium shots, close-ups (see photos at right)

decisive moment – what tells the story of a news event, captures the elements of the day, time, people, weather, subject; sometimes you can plan for this, sometimes you can’t; be ready
See Heller’s Guide to Making Strong Photographs

Practices and techniques

plan, plan, plan

take lots of pictures – longs, mediums, close-ups

know your equipment and push it

move around – don’t be self-conscious

be creative

See Guidelines for the student photojournalist

 

Downloading, editing photos

— Become familiar with you camera and the settings with which it records pictures (large pictures at low resolution; small pictures at high resolution; etc.).
— Develop a system for downloading your photos efficiently; file your photos in some order and rename the files if necessary; use descriptive file names for efficiency
— Learn basic photo editing functions and techniques of Photoshop; Photoshop offers some free editing tools. Free alternatives to Photoshop: Photobucket, Picnik, others. Low-cost alternative ($60): Pixelmator.com.

Editing photos
–the trick is not to do too much

  • selection
  • cropping
  • lightening
  • sharpening
  • sizing

Getting photos web ready
— photos should be sized properly for the web site for which they are prepared; if you don’t know what size works best, ask. And always change the resolution to 72 pixels per inch. (right)

See Preparing images for the web (PDF file)

 

Cutlines

— At the picture-taking stage of the process, you should be carrying a notebook and writing down information for each picture or set of pictures that you take. Do not trust your memory. With some exceptions, you will need to identify every person whose face is visible in your photographs.

  • Use the present to describe the action in a picture. 
  • Always double-check identifications; never guess. 
  • Be specific. 
  • Avoid cutline clichés. 
  • AP style rules.

Constructing the picture story

A picture story should be developed around a single event or subject that the photographer has thought through beforehand.
— Begin with basics: who, what, when, where, why and how.
— What is the main action of the story, the main event; what are the secondary actions and events.
— What are the photo possibilities: people, actions, angles.
— What are the restrictions, physical and otherwise (children, etc.).
Remember: If it is happening in a publicly accessible place, you can take a picture of it. You are not violating anyone’s rights when you do. People in public places, or visible from public places, have no reasonable expectations of privacy.

 

Presentation
Remember that even with a slideshow or photo story, you are single images – the photo in isolation. One of the big questions then is sequence — how are the photos presented to the viewer?
–If the story is about an event, the sequence is likely to be chronological so that you can the story from beginning to end.
–If the story is about a subject that is not an event, the sequence can be whatever the reporter/photographer decides it should be.


Make sure your cutlines are accurate and complete.

Are your pictures of the highest quality you can make them?

You should write some kind of an introduction to the photo story in addition to the cutlines themselves.

Have you included links on the page that would take readers to other information?


You can use a variety of galleries and slideshows that are available for free on the web: Photobucket, Picasaweb (Google), Flickr. Mac users also have the slideshow function of iPhoto available. These can be embedded onto your stie. (The Tennessee Journalist content management system Ochs has its own photo viewer/gallery function.)

 

Audio slideshows
marrying sound and photos

Discussion notes: Online journalism and audience

— The journalist and the news organization can no longer afford to ignore the audience. Instead, they must be prepare to build, cultivate, engage and respond to the audience.
— People on the web have plenty of places to go besides your site. As Jakob Nielson says, visitors to a web site are “selfish, lazy and ruthless.”

— Audiences value what THEY think is important and interesting; they also want the opportunity to engage.

 

Discussion notes: Journalism concepts and practices

Journalism on the web, starting with just journalism

Teach the basics of journalism — reporting, writing, presentation; they’re much the same on the web as they are in any other medium, but there are important differences that you should introduce:

    • lateral reporting
      We are used to thinking of journalism in a certain form. If it’s a newspaper, it’s an inverted pyramid news story. If it’s television, it’s a 45-second package with video (or something). The web offers the flexibility to tell and expand a story in many ways. What pictures and images can be gathered for the story? Are there graphics that can be produced? Are there documents (PDFs) that need to be included? What are the links that are most important for this story?
      Lateral reporting (excerpt from Writing for the Mass Media)
    • backpack journalism
      Backpack journalism is a reporting technique in which a reporter uses a variety of tools — computer, digital camera, voice recorder, video camera, etc. — to gether information for a story.
    • web packages
      An important consideration for the web journalist: what is the best way to present the information I have gathered.
      A web package is the gathering together of a variety of formats (usually on a single web page, but not always) to tell a story. One element of the package is often the central part of the story, but readers should find it obvious and easy to find any part of the story they wish to read or look at.
    • blogging
      An individual blog is a personal journal.
      A group blog is a blog that has several contributors. The New York Times, for instance, has a number of group blogs:
      Group blogs are common outside of journalism. For instance, Murderati, the group blog of a set of mystery novelists. Group blogs have a lot of power with an audience.
    • new story forms:
      tipsheet journalism: Mahalo.com, for instance
      Amy Gahran, “Tipsheet Approach to News: The Launching Point IS the Point.” Article argues that sometimes all you need to do for a story is a list, not a narrative. “News doesn’t always have to be a finished story. In some cases, a launching point might be even more intriguing and engaging.”

      twitter: 140 characters including a link

Discussion notes: Understanding the basic concepts of the web

Introducing your students to web journalism

Basic understandings

 

And don’t assume they have them already.

HTML, general concepts, a few specifics, such as linking tags, boldface, lists, etc.

 

web site — basics

  • what it is
  • what makes it up
  • how it’s organized
  • where it is

 

URL — uniform resource locator

 

networking — email and beyond, way beyond

 

gathering an audience — understanding the audience is an integral part of journalism now
You cannot practice web journalism without considering how you are going to interact with the audience.
THINK: communities of interest.

New York Times redesigns its site (2006)

In a note to readers from Leonard Apcar, editor in chief of NYTimes.com, the editor explains some of the reasons behind the design and what the organization hopes to accomplish:

Our goal when we set out to redesign The Times Web site more than a year ago was to make experiencing The New York Times online simpler and more useful. We hope you conclude that we have done that on the new pages appearing for the first time this month.

We have expanded the page to take advantage of the larger monitors now used by the vast majority of our readers. We’ve improved the navigation throughout the site so that no matter what page you land on, you can easily dig deeper into other sections or use our multimedia.

We also wanted to give our readers a greater voice and sprinkle a little more serendipity around the site by providing prominent links to a list of most e-mailed and blogged articles, most searched for information and popular movies. A new tab at the top of the page takes you directly to all our most popular features.

At first glance, there seems to be little that is new or innovative about the Times’ new look. The site is being place on a wider sheet, as Apcar says, because users have wider monitors. That may take some getting used to on the part of those of us who still don’t have a wide screen on every computer that we use.

What is likely to get a lot of comment in the reduction in the size of the type used for both headlines and body type. Smaller type is more difficult to read, but this difficulty may be mitigated somewhat by the increased amount of white space the site is using around all of its type.

The Times has also promised a more flexible way to personalize pages, but this function is not operative.

Little seems to have changed on the inside pages except for the change in type size and font. The Times tends to drown its headlines and body copy in a swirl of advertisements, making the reader work to find them. Then it requires that the readers follow the copy around inserts that occur on both sides of the copy — all of which give the feeling that graphically, the text of the story has little integrity and can be violated at will.

One of the disappointments with what the Times has done is the clinging to the old school thinking that “multimedia” is something different and apart from the regular reporting that the Times does. The site has a separate section for its “multimmedia” presentations. Readers might not understand what multimedia means and might wonder why it is something separate.

I believe that it would be far better for the Times (and other web sites) to integrate their various reporting methods into packages that would be convenient for the readers. Thus, a story about Iraq would contain not only the text of the story but also the slideshow, video, graphics and whatever else the Times might have to inform the reader.

Maybe by the next redesign (the last one occurred five years ago), the Times editors will have caught on that should not be assigning one of the true strengths of the web to the ghetto of “multimedia.”

Jim Stovall (Posted April 3, 2006)

Intercollegiate Online News Network conference set for January

The Intercollegiate Online News Network (ICONN) will hold its third annual conference on Jan. 13-14, 2011, in Athens, Ga.

Mark Johnson, journalism professor at the University of Georgia and faculty adviser to the GradyJournal, is the conference chair.

ICONN is an association of campus news websites that was formed at the University of Tennessee in 2008. Academic programs, campus news websites, professional organizations and individuals are welcome to join ICONN at no cost. If you are wanting to start a news website for your course or program, ICONN can help you do that with its JeffersonNet content management system.

More information can be found at the ICONN website.

JPROF.com celebrates 5th anniversary


JPROF celebrates its fifth anniversary today.

In the past five years the site has grown in size (more than 400), expanded in purpose and reached around the globe to people I never would have touched or heard from.

JPROF was originally conceived (in my small study in Emory, VA, where we were living at the time) as a large, personal filing cabinet for material that I had accumulated during more than 25 years of teaching journalism. The amount of material on the web was expanding exponentially (as it still is), and I also wanted a place to store the things I had found that I might be able to use.

And, because I had several textbooks in print at the time, I wanted a web site that would give users more expanded and up-to-date material.

Since that time, JPROF has also become a forum (particularly through the companion blog http://jprof.blogspot.com for my impressions of what is happpening in the world of journalism and a site for all of the courses that I teach.

Because of JPROF, I have taken on some interesting and exciting projects, particularly this year for Edgenics.com — something you will hear a great deal about during 2010.

Much has changed in my life during the last five years. I am now on the faculty of the University of Tennesse, having moved from Emory and Henry College in 2006. I am the faculty adviser for the Tennessee Journalist, the students news web site of the School of Journalism and Electronic Media, and through it, we have been able to launch a national organization of campus news web sites, the Intercollegiate Online News Network (ICONN). At UT, we have been able to change our curriculum in an interesting and innovative way, and I have the privilege of being in the midst of those changes.

The field of journalism offers many excellent opportunities for our students, and I am happy to still be a part of it.

Personally, 2009 brought Sally and me a move to the farm where she grew up and a new daughter-in-law. Our video review of the year is now on YouTube.

As ever, I am profoundly grateful for the friends I have made through JPROF and for all of the people who have contacted me over the years because what they have found here.

Now, as is my usual custom on this date and because it is New Year’s Eve, I bid you: Party on!

Have a great New Year.

(In case you’re interested, you can read what we said about JPROF on each of the previous anniversaries on JPROF’s About page.)

TNJN Nutshell – a new form for getting information on the web site quickly

One of my big concerns is that our journalism students (at the University of Tennessee and elsewhere) do not understand the immediate nature of the web. As a news medium, the web has more immediacy than even broadcasting.

But the students don’t seem to get that.

And, of course, that means we’re not doing a good job of teaching it.

Too much of what is on the Tennessee Journalist, the student-operated news web site at UT, is old news — sometimes several days old. And the students seem fine with that. They give themselves several days to write a story after an event has occurred when they shouldn’t be giving themselves more than several minutes.

Consequently, I am planning on introducing a new form for the Tennessee Journalist tonight at the TNJN staff meeting. Below is the handout that I will be giving the staff and talking to them about.


TNJN Nutshell
Jim Stovall
October 8, 2009

The TNJN Nutshell is the standardized form for getting news and information on the site quickly. It consists of the following:

  • headline
  • summary
  • lead paragraph – who, what, when, where and the most important piece of information
  • three bullet points about the story – preferably in complete sentences (Check out CNN news story pages for examples.)
  • explanatory paragraph after the bullet points (optional)

Concepts governing TNJN Nutshell:

Gather accurate information. Accuracy is always the first priority.

Work BEFORE the story occurs by

— setting up the page
— writing the headline (you can/should/will change it later)
— writing the summary (you can change that, too)
— finding and putting in the links you want to use
— finding the pictures/audio/video and any other sidebar material that’s relevant

Prepare to take pictures of the event

How do you quickly download, edit and upload your pictures. Figure that out before you cover the event.

Write as the event occurs.

Post as the event occurs, if possible.

Find ways to post your information in places other than TNJN.

— post the bullet points on Twitter with the hashtag #TNJN
— post the bullet points to Facebook (better: set your system up so that your tweets automatically show up on Facebook)
— find other web venues to put your information. Many site accept reports from unpaid reporters. Begin with CNN’s iReport. But that’s just the beginning . . .

Return later to write a full story.


I invite any and all comments.

A superior user experience

Those of us who struggle every day trying to figure out this new media thing and worrying about economic models for journalism get distracted by many ideas and lamentations.

Thanks, then, to Jonathan Rosenberg, senior vice president for product management at Google, for this long, thought-provoking, and perceptive piece that helps to refocus on what we should be about: a superior user experience.

. . . As written communication has evolved from long letter to short text message, news has largely shifted from thoughtful to spontaneous. The old-fashioned static news article is now just a starting point, inciting back-and-forth debate that often results in a more balanced and detailed assessment. And the old-fashioned business model of bundled news, where the classifieds basically subsidized a lot of the high-quality reporting on the front page, has been thoroughly disrupted.

This is a problem, but since online journalism is still in its relative infancy it’s one that can be solved (we’re technology optimists, remember?). The experience of consuming news on the web today fails to take full advantage of the power of technology. It doesn’t understand what users want in order to give them what they need. When I go to a site like the New York Times or the San Jose Mercury, it should know what I am interested in and what has changed since my last visit. If I read the story on the US stimulus package only six hours ago, then just show me the updates the reporter has filed since then (and the most interesting responses from readers, bloggers, or other sources). If Thomas Friedman has filed a column since I last checked, tell me that on the front page. Beyond that, present to me a front page rich with interesting content selected by smart editors, customized based on my reading habits (tracked with my permission). Browsing a newspaper is rewarding and serendipitous, and doing it online should be even better. This will not by itself solve the newspapers’ business problems, but our heritage suggests that creating a superior user experience is the best place to start.

What do readers want? My guess is that it’s three things:

  • news and information
  • conversation
  • opportunity

Opportunity for what?

We’ll try to explore that in future blogs.
_________

And thanks to Jack Shafer, writing another excellent piece in Slate on business models for journalism (Not all information wants to be free), for pointing to the Rosenberg article.

The demise of newspapers means better journalism

We who contemplate the importance of journalism look at the future with trepidation.

What happens to journalism, we ask, when newspapers continue on their inevitable decline? The question assumes that journalism itself will be diminished.

I am coming to a different conclusion:

Journalism will improve once newspapers die or decline to a minor medium.

Note that I said news-PAPER, not news organization. I have worked for newspapers in five cities (technically six because Bristol, Virginia, and Bristol, Tennessee, are two different cities). I loved the work and made my living at it for a while. I have many friends and former students who are newspaper people. They are facing difficult and uncertain times right now, and I wish them stability and good fortune.

But the medium they work so hard to produce — the paper — is holding back journalism from doing the best job that it can for society. The sooner the paper is gone, the better.

I have been thinking a lot about a piece that Steve Outing wrote for Editor and Publisher a couple of weeks ago. In it he envisioned the all-digital newsroom, and I teased out of that his list of qualifications that people who got jobs in that newsroom would have. Those qualifications are just the ones we need for journalism to thrive in this new technological age.

In addition, I was privileged to be in Nashville last week and hear Janet Coats describe how the Tampa Tribune (via TBO.com) is shifting its focus and operation from print to digital. (A short video of some of what she had to say is here on Jack Lail’s Random Mumblings.) Her talk was fascinating — a blend of practical and inspirational words that this beleaguered profession needs.

So, I began to think ahead to the day when won’t be chained to the printing press. And my conclusion was that journalism will be better. Here’s why:

  • More reporting. I don’t necessarily buy the argument that there will be fewer journalists in the new age of digital journalism. The numbers will drop if the current news organization managers (editors and publishers) are in charge. Fortunately, they won’t be. Instead, we’re likely to have managers who recognize that good reporting — and lots of it — is an asset to the organization, not a cost to be cut.
  • More reporters. Students in my experience are wildly excited about this new age of journalism. I am honored to be the faculty adviser to the Tennessee Journalist , the student operated news web site of the School of Journalism and Electronic Media at the University of Tennessee. More than 35 people regularly show up at our weekly staff meeting (only the editors are required to come) and the numbers are growing. The number of our majors has grown from 350 to 450 in just one year.
  • More, different and better ways of telling a story. Newspapers and the people who run them have stifled the development of digital journalism. Slavery to print — as well as simple laziness and stump stupidity — have sucked the energy out of efforts to creatively use this new medium.
  • Recognition that journalism occurs outside the traditional news organization. Digital newsrooms will form in places that never thought of themselves as news organizations. All web sites that attract an audience are news web sites. Visitors demand new information. That why people return to a site. Journalism would do well to embrace this concept.
  • More respect for the audience. The accusations of arrogance leveled against traditional journalism are unfortunately correct. The web — with its interactivity and with the ability of the audience to leave in an instant — does not tolerate the arrogance of the journalistic priesthood.
  • Better writing. As Jakob Neilsen, usability guru, says, readers are “selfish, lazy and ruthless.” They will not put up with the flabby, self-indulgent prose we produce.
  • Better reporting. With the audience involved in the process, we will have more sources and more points of view. We won’t be gatekeepers. On our best days, we’ll be conversation starters and guides. But we won’t be in control. And that is a good thing.

Despite the current financial woes of news organizations and the generally hard economic times, the future of journalism looks bright and exciting.

And it will improve when we are done with print. I say, speed the day.

Qualities of the digital journalist

Steve Outing, a well-known thinker and writer about online journalism, has envisioned the not-so-distant future digital newsroom in his January 28 column for Editor and Publisher. (The All-Digital Newsroom of the Not-So-Distant Future)

The whole thing is well worth reading and, journalism profs, recommending to your students.

Of particular interest is what Outing says will be the qualities of those who land jobs in this new space. They will be:

  • people with understanding of and enthusiasm for new forms of media and storytelling
  • multifunctional journalists who can use all the tools available, particularly audio and video recorders
  • social networks users and people who know how to gather an audience
  • people who can engage with audiences and are comfortable sharing personal information

Underlying all of these qualities is an affinity for practicing good journalism.

Someone asked me today what I thought the Knoxville News Sentinel (the local paper) would be in 10 years. I said I thought there would be a 24/7 web operation with a weekend print edition. That’s based on what has happened in the last few weeks.

But who knows what innovations await us? We can only say with certainty that paper will no longer be surpreme.