Archive for the ‘ Techniques ’ Category

Do What You Do Best, Link to the Rest

‘Do what you do best, link to the rest,’ is a phrase coined by Jeff Jarvis. He encourages journalists, especially bloggers, to try on this new rule.

Right now, newspapers try to cover everything. This is because they used to be the all-knowing source for everyone in their market. Often, they had their own reporters replicate the work of other reporters elsewhere and ran the stories under their own bylines as a matter of pride and propriety. It’s the way things were done. They also took wire-service copies and reedited it. But in the age of the link, this practice is inefficient and unnecessary. You can link to the stories that someone else did..

According to Jarvis, “This changes the dynamic of editorial decisions. Instead of saying, “we should have that” (and replicating what is already out there) you say, “what do we do best?” That is, “what is our unique value?” It means that when you sit down to see a story that others have worked on, you should ask, “can we do it better?” If not, then link. And devote your time to what you can do better.”

Jarvis believes that people need to strive to provide value, and not the one-hundredth version of the same story. This will work for publications and news organizations. It will also work for individuals; this is how a lone reporter’s work (and reputation) can surface ‘

Jarvis mentions that news is not one-size-fits-all. News just doesn’t come from one source anymore. People are bombarded with news constantly – it is all around us. For instance, everyone knew that Anna Nicole Smith was dead. So that means that not every newspaper needs to cover that story in depth. The New York Times should not devote their time and effort to reporting on the story when they added nothing more to it. It’s not what they do best. If they wanted to cover it, they should have covered it online, and linked to the many, many other sources that are covering that specific story. Then the Times could have used its resources for news that matters and news that they can do uniquely well. They need to take advantage of the link.

Some newspapers are getting more comfortable with linking are and even linking to competitors.

Jarvis noted, “Once you really open yourself up to this, then it also means that you can link to more people gathering more coverage of news: ‘We didn’t cover that school board meeting today, but here’s a link to somebody who recorded it.’”

So you do what you do best. And you link to the rest. It’s a rule to live by..or at least report by.

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Right in Your Neighborhood

Mike Fancher, former executive editor of the Seattle Times, makes a very interesting point about the future of local journalism:

“Have the community at the center of everything you do…Bring people into your thought process. Get the benefit of finding out more precisely what their news information needs are, and be in a real partnership with them. And for Heaven’s sakes, take advantage of their intelligence, their knowledge of the community and their ability to help you create better journalism. I think that would be a very important starting point.”

This is what hyperlocal journalism prides itself on.

Hyperlocal journalism, sometimes called microlocal journalism, refers to coverage of events and topics on an extremely small, local scale. An example might be a website that covers a specific neighborhood or even a particular section or block of a neighborhood. It focuses on news that would usually not be covered by larger mainstream media outlets, which tend to follow stories of interest to a citywide, statewide or regional audience. For instance, a hyperlocal journalism site might include an article about the local Little League baseball team, an interview with a World War II vet who lives in the neighborhood, or the sale of a home down the street.

Philadelphia Neighborhood

Early on, hyperlocal journalism was hailed as an innovative way of bringing information to communities often ignored by local newspapers, especially at a time when many news outlets were laying off journalists and reducing coverage. Even some large media companies decided to catch the hyperlocal wave. In 2009 MSNBC.com acquired the hyperlocal startup EveryBlock, and AOL bought two sites, Patch and Going.

Patch.com has been growing ever since it’s start up, and is now present in 16 states. I wouldn’t be surprised if more sites like Patch.com started sprouting up. People like knowing what it going on in their town..their neighborhood…even their block, which is why there is a need for more hyperlocal journalism.

The Journalism Social Network

In light of the new hit movie, The Social Network, it seems appropriate to write a post on the infamous social network – Facebook. How does journalism relate to Facebook? Well, there are plenty of ways a journalist can use Facebook as a tool.

To start, Facebook is a great way to find contacts. For example, say a journalist is covering the health industry and adds 20 of his contacts to Facebook. By looking at his friends, the journalist may be able to find other contacts that he wouldn’t otherwise have met. Now, obviously a journalist has to be careful about adding “whistle blowers” or anonymous sources. These people can give false leads and information that will risk a journalist’s credibility. But, most of the time Facebook is a very useful tool.

Secondly, Facebook is a great source of special interest groups. Previously, journalists looked to large ‘official’ organizations to comment on a story.  Now, a journalist can get a further perspective from groups that are using social networking platforms. This is particularly important as stories are increasingly pushed by people from these niche groups.

A third way to use Facebook is as a news source itself via the feed of friends’ status updates. This can be more miss than hit, but there’s always the chance someone will mention something newsworthy, or even post newsworthy images. Either way, having friends on Facebook will improve a journalist’s relationship with contacts by showing an interest in others’ lives.

Finally, a journalist can set up his own group on Facebook. This can provide a useful organizational and distribution tool for stories. A journalist can seek help on a story, and get others to give their perspective on an issue. The group is like a community that can feed into the news agenda of the site, suggest ideas, leads and treatments. As journalists become increasingly stretched, being able to tap into support networks like these is becoming increasingly important.

Adapting to Facebook will be easy for young journalists, since so many of them have practically grown up with social networks. College students are perhaps one of the most connected groups of people, which is important for those entering the field of journalism.

    Steps for Journalism Entrepeneurs

    So, you’re fed up with the news industry and thinking about starting a news website. Sure, many people get lucky and stumble into into entrepreneurship, but there is a greater chance of success if you start with a plan.

    Starting a news website requires its own step-by-step process, combining the aspects of business and journalism.

    Robert Niles from MediaShift shares his checklist for starting an online news website:

    The name:

    ☐ Select a name for your publication
    Pick a name for which you can obtain the “.com” domain of the publication name, without spaces or special characters such as hyphens. It should be easy to spell, and easy to remember.

    ☐ Register your domain name
    Once you’ve selected a name, don’t hesitate to register it with a domain registrar, such as GoDaddy or Network Solutions.

    ☐ Open a business checking account
    Open a bank account as soon as you have a business name. Separating your business account from your personal account will help with accounting, taxes and projecting a professional image to customers.

    ☐ Register a fictitious business name.
    Banks often can help you do this when you set up your business checking account, which is another reason to take that step immediately.

    ☐ Trademark your name
    No lawyer is needed to trademark a website name. Simply follow the steps on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website. All of the paperwork can be filed online. The process takes months, but it’s worth it.

    Getting operational

    ☐ Select a calendar app or system to record deadlines, meetings and assigned tasks. This helps keep track of key dates and tasks as you move forward.

    ☐ Secure office space
    You need a place to work. Even if you work at home, you need to set aside space that’s just for your work. That has a tax advantage, as well, as you might be able to deduct dedicated work space within your home, especially if you rent. Out-of-home office space can be a better bet for many entrepreneurs, though (especially “hyperlocal” publishers), as a “real office” demonstrates that you are serious participant in the local business community.

    ☐ Obtain equipment
    At minimum:

    • Laptop computer
    • Mobile phone (with e-mail and Web access)
    • Digital camera
    • Video camera (with tripod and mic for better production values)
    • Digital audio recorder (be sure it can sync with your computer to upload audio files)

    ☐ Get insurance
    You’ll need libel insurance, as well as insurance for your workspace and equipment. Visit the Online Media Legal Network before you proceed, too, so you’ll know where to go should you get into legal entanglements in the course of your reporting.

    ☐ Review publishing systems and select one
    Here’s one review of content management systems popular with start-up news websites. If you’re simply looking to blog, and want to start ASAP, there’s always Blogger, too. E-mail small publishers you admire or your LinkedIn network for advice. This decision’s too important to leave to a single website article or Google search.

    ☐ Select a hosting provider
    You’ll want a hosting provider with extensive experience supporting the CMS you’ve selected, which is why I listed that step first. Again, rely on recommendations from colleagues and friends to guide you.

    ☐ Install publishing system, if necessary
    Depending upon the hosting package you select, you might need to install the CMS software yourself. Delve into your hosting provider’s support forums, or throw yourself upon the mercy of its support staff. If your hosting provider doesn’t have either online support forums or a helpful support staff, you’ve picked the wrong host.

    Starting up

    ☐ Design web templates
    Once you have a CMS, you’ll need to customize it to reflect your website. Select an available theme, or design your own.

    ☐ Select a Web traffic analytic system and install tracking code in web template
    Google Analytics is one example. It’s free and provides more than enough data for a small start-up’s needs.

    ☐ Create a Facebook page for your publication
    Go to http://www.facebook.com/pages and click the “Create a Page” button. Be sure to add a prominent link to your Facebook page within your site template.

    ☐ Register a Twitter account
    You probably have a personal Twitter account, but you should also register one for your publication, using its name. Always remember which account you’re logged into when you tweet!

    ☐ Create an e-mail list and online subscription form
    Constant Contact is one example, but other options are available, as well. Using a third-party provider for e-mail will help you avoid bandwidth overload issue on your host’s e-mail servers, and keeps you from having to deal with the hassle of blacklist management.

    ☐ Design and print business cards
    Sure, you’re a paperless online business. But leaving behind plenty of these “old school” artifacts is essential in building a network of clients, sources, customers and readers.

    ☐ Create a rate card
    Potential advertisers will want to know how much you charge for their ads to appear on your site. So you’ll need to establish (and publish) a rate card listing your available packages and prices. That means that you’ll have to select ad sizes for placement within your site templates. (I recommend the Wide Skyscraper, Leaderboard and Medium Rectangle. Check out Google’s eyetracking heatmap for more detail on where to place your ads.) Determine a CPM (cost per thousands impressions) for those ads and do the math to create impression packages. You might choose to run persistent ads, rather than rotate. But you’ll still need fixed ad sizes and to do the math based on a site CPM to figure an appropriate price to charge.

    ☐ Create a media kit
    You’ll need to describe your site, on a single page, to convince readers to read it, advertisers to support it and other journalists to report about it. Here’s the who, what, where, when and why about your new website. That’s your initial media kit. Plan to update your kit, as you gather more readership data, laudatory quotes and refine your site’s focus.

    ☐ Create a customer lead list
    Who will you solicit to become advertisers or funders of your website? That’s your customer lead list. Gather contact information, then use your calendar to assign times to contact everyone on your list. And then, to contact them again.

    ☐ Create a promotional lead list
    Who can you talk into writing about your site? At what events can you meet and recruit new readers? Where online can you promote the site, without looking like a spammer or scammer? List these promotional opportunities, then use your calendar to assign times to follow up on each opportunity.

     

    Wow. It looks like starting a real online news site is not as easy as it seems. It’s a good thing places like CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and other universities are beginning to offer entrepreneurial journalism classes! I guess that goes to show you that starting a business is hard work, which is probably why so few entrepreneurial ideas are successful. Although it seems difficult, I’m sure it can be done. Perhaps one day I’ll put this check list to the test.

    Crowdsurfing the Crowdsourcing Scene

    A journalism technique called crowdsourcing is like a close relative citizen journalism. Crowdsourcing, in journalism, is the use of a large group of readers to report a news story.

    Crowdsourcing allows reporters to collect and gather information through some automated agent, such as a website. This is a huge advantage. Journalists no longer have to be ‘on the scene’ to get information, which can save so much time.

    Although it is using new technology, the concept of crowdsourcing is not new. Modern crowdsourcing is similar to hooking an answering machine to a telephone “tip line,” where a news organization asks readers to phone suggestions for stories. Or, asking readers to send in photos of events in their community.

    These old methods, however,  require a great deal of manual labor. Reporters must sift through submitted material, looking for information that can be used well in a story. But with new technology, reporters no longer have to do this.

    True crowdsourcing in today’s terms involves online applications that enable the collection, analysis and publication of reader-contributed incident reports, in real time. Applications such as twitter, Facebook, and even mobile applications. The audience can use these tools to contact reporters, letting them know of story ideas as they break. In essence, crowd sourcing allows journalists to have eyes everywhere.

    A great example of this is Janis Krums’ Twitter post about the plane crashing into the Hudson River. The photo seen below was the first photo of the crash.

    Photo Credit - Twitpic

    Krums whipped out his iPhone and took this photo right after the plane crashed, beating all the traditional media outlets to the story. This shows how media outlets can find great value in using Twitter as a news source.

     

    Written by the People, For the People

    These days, you don’t necessarily need a degree to be a journalist or even any experience for that matter. With a new concept called “citizen journalism” anyone can partake in journalism. Although some are skeptical of this idea, many new organizations are actually encouraging audience participation in journalism practices

    One type of citizen journalism to consider is sometimes referred to as “open-source” or “participatory” journalism or reporting.

    This type of reporting is a collaboration between a professional journalist and his/her readers on a story. Readers who are knowledgeable on a specific topic are asked to contribute their expertise, ask questions to provide guidance to the reporter, and even do actual reporting which will be included in the final journalistic product.

    There are various ways for journalists to get readers involved with a story. Here is one example from Poynter Online:

    “Announce up front that you are working on a particular story, and ask readers to guide you. An example would be if you have an interview scheduled with a famous politician or celebrity. Announce that you want to go into the interview armed with questions submitted by your readers. Pick out the best ones, add your own, then do the interview.”

    Another way to get readers involved takes the concept a step further. A journalist can distribute a draft of his or her article to the readers before publishing. Readers will feedback to help the journalist “perfect” the article before it is officially published. For reporters who publish on Web sites or on blogs publish a draft online, getting public feedback, and then later publish the updated version.

    One of the most advanced forms of open-source reporting actually makes the readers the reporters. Readers with knowledge or involvement in a topic go out on their own to do actual reporting, which is then incorporated into the final published story. This brings up the issue of payment. Payment for readers’ work can be as simple as giving them credit in the finished article; it does not necessarily always have to be a monetary reward. Obviously, it is always important for the reporter publishing the story to double-check the reader’s reporting.

    Nowadays, citizen journalism is becoming a huge trend. CNN’s iReport allows readers to submit their own stories and ideas. Who knows..you may become the next Walter Cronkite.

    The Digital Media Pyramid

    Remember that inverted period that was pounded into our heads during our first journalism class? Well, get ready because this is the new and improved version.

    The Digital Media Pyramid, coined by Benjamin Davis from the Online Journalism Review, takes the traditional pyramid and reworks it for today’s journalists. Journalists who write a television, radio, or print story are often required to re-write and re-work their story for the Web. This pyramid helps them do so.

    Photo Credit: Online Journalism Review

    Keep in mind that the Digital Media is not a substitute for the inverted pyramid. Instead, it simply enhances it. Young journalists and students, who are already digitally minded, are well-prepared to gasp this concept. At the top of the pyramid is a traditional brief introduction of facts (otherwise known as the five W’s – who, what, where, when and why). These facts are very important, and separated from supporting details.

    The Digital Media Pyramid also addresses finding supporting information online, and explains rules such as cut-and-pasting. The Digital Media Pyramid tries to bring home the importance of respecting copyrighted material and original works by teaching proper attribution and giving credit where credit is due.

    The pyramid also explains the proper use of photographs, video, and other digital media sources. The pyramid also draws a journalist’s attention to ads. Journalists must be wary of advertisements on the Internet, since new software has the ability to automatically place relevant ads next to a news story. This can easily be mistaken as bias. Writers must strive to still maintain objectivity.

    Finally, the “Digital Media Pyramid” encourages what is known as ” self-education of  users.” This is when readers are able to quickly seek out balanced information on a news story through the use of embedded links, social networks, and other sources.

    In theory, the pyramid is good, but how is it in practice? According to the OJR, “journalism students who have been taught the Digital Media Pyramid for the past seven years at Rutgers University have enthusiastically welcomed the change in how they are to prepare and present their news stories.”

    As a journalism student, I would love to see one of my professors use the Digital Media Pyramid in one of my classes. The inverted pyramid is a great building block, but an updated version will help journalists cope with the demands of the fast-moving digital world. Finding a balance between journalism and new technology is not an easy feat, but techniques like the Digital Media Pyramid can help us all adapt together.