Posts Tagged ‘ blogging ’

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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Blog, Blog, Blog

The rise of blogs in recent times has sparked a series of debates about its place in the news industry. Here are a few important topics, questions, and issues surrounding rise of the blogosphere:

Are bloggers a threat to news organizations?

The latest, and perhaps gravest, challenge to the journalistic establishment is the blog. Journalists accuse bloggers of having lowered standards. But their real concern is less high-minded – it is the threat that bloggers, who are mostly amateurs, pose to professional journalists and their principal employers, the conventional news media..

Are blogs accurate?

Having no staff, the blogger is not expected to be accurate. [I’d certainly argue with that -jeff] Having no advertisers (though this is changing), he has no reason to pull his punches. And not needing a large circulation to cover costs, he can target a segment of the reading public much narrower than a newspaper or a television news channel could aim for. He may even be able to pry that segment away from the conventional media. Blogs pick off the mainstream media’s customers one by one, as it were.

What opportunities do blogs provide to journalists?

Bloggers can specialize in particular topics to an extent that few journalists employed by media companies can, since the more that journalists specialized, the more of them the company would have to hire in order to be able to cover all bases. A newspaper will not hire a journalist for his knowledge of old typewriters, but plenty of people in the blogosphere have that esoteric knowledge, and it was they who brought down Dan Rather. Similarly, not being commercially constrained, a blogger can stick with and dig into a story longer and deeper than the conventional media dare to, lest their readers become bored….

Do blogs benefit from each other?

What really sticks in the craw of conventional journalists is that although individual blogs have no warrant of accuracy, the blogosphere as a whole has a better error-correction machinery than the conventional media do. The rapidity with which vast masses of information are pooled and sifted leaves the conventional media in the dust….In effect, the blogosphere is a collective enterprise – not 12 million separate enterprises, but one enterprise with 12 million reporters, feature writers and editorialists, yet with almost no costs. It’s as if The Associated Press or Reuters had millions of reporters, many of them experts, all working with no salary for free newspapers that carried no advertising.

Are blogs unfair?

How can the conventional news media hope to compete with blogs? Especially when the competition is not entirely fair. Bloggers can simply copy the hard work of the conventional journalists without paying a cent for it. There is also the fear of some critics worry that ”unfiltered” media like blogs exacerbate social tensions by handing a powerful electronic platform to extremists at no charge, where they can post biased opinions at will.

Can blogs be trusted?

Blogs enable unorthodox views to get a hearing. They get 12 million people to write rather than just stare passively at a screen. In an age of specialization and professionalism, they give amateurs a platform, and most people are sensible enough to distrust communications in an unfiltered medium. They know that anyone can create a blog at essentially zero cost, that most bloggers are uncredentialed amateurs, that bloggers don’t employ fact checkers and don’t have editors and that a blogger can hide behind a pseudonym. They know, in short, that until a blogger’s assertions are validated (as when the mainstream media acknowledge an error discovered by a blogger), there is no reason to repose confidence in what he says. The mainstream media, by contrast, assure their public that they make strenuous efforts to prevent errors from creeping into their articles and broadcasts. They ask the public to trust them, and that is why their serious errors are scandals.

So whether you follow blogs or have your own blog, these are all important issues to keep in mind.

A Journalists’ Code of Ethics: Applied to Online Journalism

The Journalism Code of Ethics is very important in all news outlets, including online journalism. It is obviously impossible to control what happens on the Internet, however, if online journalists want to be taken seriously they must still abide by some rules. A journalist can’t just publish whatever he or she wants and call it ‘newsworthy.’ Fortunately for all you online journalist, there are a few principles that help separate the good writers and publishers from the frauds and con artists online.

Here are a few online journalism codes to follow, provided by the Online Journalism Review:

1. No plagiarism

This may seem like the simplest rule, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to plagiarize on the Internet. To put it in raw terms…You wouldn’t want someone else stealing something you worked hard on and passing it off as his or her own. So don’t do it to others! Plagairsm is stealing. With the Web, plagiarism does not just apply to print and cutting and pasting articles. It also applies to copying photos, graphics, video and putting them on your website without citing a source. If you want to reference something on another website, it is best to link to it. It also doesn’t hurt to give readers the name of the publication that published the page and its date of publication.

2. Disclose

Tell your readers how you got your information, and why you chose to publish your content. Describe your personal or professional connection to people or groups you’re writing about. Readers deserve to know what has influenced the way you reported or wrote a story. It’s important not to hide from your readers. Tell them who you work for, or where the money to support your site comes from. If your site runs advertising, label the ads as such. This will only gain your readers’ trust!

3. Do not accept gifts or money for coverage

To avoid any sort of conflicts of interest, it is best to refuse all gifts or money from sources you may cover. Journalists who accept gifts or money from someone they write a story about, open themselves up to the belief that their work is a paid advertisement. You don’t want readers thinking that you are not being honest. If offered a gift, just politely decline.

Some major news organizations do allow their writers to accept free admission to events for the purpose of writing a feature or review. But journalists should deny anything else from such groups, such as free travel and hotel rooms.

Some companies also send items such as books and DVDs to writers who review them. These items can be returned, or even donated.

When writing about an employer, let readers know your relationship. Identify yourself as an employee, so people know can make their own judgment about your credibility.

The same rules apply in the other direction. Journalists should NEVER ask for anything in return for writing a story. If your website or blog runs ads, do not solicit people or groups you cover to buy ads or sponsorships on your site.

Although the world of the Internet and ethics may seem tricky, just following a few simple rules will help online journalists become more credible and respected. Just by tweaking a few things here and there, a Code of Ethics for Online Journalism such as this one can serve as a good guide.

Words from the Big Man

Paul Steiger, ProPublica’s editor-in-chief, has some interesting ideas when it comes to the transformation of investigative journalism. According to Steiger’s article, investigative reporting is “on the cusp of major transformation—in the way it reaches its audiences, how news and information is gathered and distributed, and the topics on which it is focused.”

Let’s explore a few of his main points:

Reaching Audiences: The first thing Steiger mentions about the transformation of investigative reporting is how they will reach audiences. The old traditional newspaper format no longer works for the majority of readers. Not many people will sit down and read a five-part series or long story that continues on for pages. Instead, audiences have a much shorter attention span and want more creative communication techniques. According to Steiger, reporters can use humor, irony, photography, video, animation are all great ways to reach readers. But, Steiger stresses that there is a right and wrong way to do this. Merely adding a couple of pictures and a graph or two to a newspaper story and putting the same story on the Web is not effective. Instead, reporters must completely rethink how the story is told. They must piece video clips and graphics together to create a seamless story. Then after the visual element is complete, reporters can then back up their stories with narratives, interview transcripts, supporting statistics and data sources from the Internet. Steiger has noticed that some audiences will read the writing and statistics first, and others will skip them entirely and go straight for the video. Either way, it’s important that they supporting facts are present.

Reporting Tools for Gathering: Steiger’s second point discusses how reporters can use technology to their advantage. Today’s investigative reporters have the opportunity to master computer-aided devices and use them to their advantage. Steiger mentioned his experience at a seminar he attended for Wall Street Journal reporters and editors. Interestingly, the seminar was led by the youngest person present, Vauhini Vara, a San Francisco-based reporter just a few years out of college. The topic? How to use Facebook in combination with other databases to find sources inside major companies. Steiger explained the reaction of the seminar attendees upon hearing this concept:

“I watched jaws drop all around the table as she demonstrated in two or three minutes that she could identify a dozen present or former employees of a given company who were all within two degrees of separation of a reporter in the room. She convinced many veteran reporters that these people could be reached through friend-of-a-friend contact instead of being cold-called.”

This was a huge breakthrough for the journalists at the meeting. Who would have thought that the notorious Facebook would prove to be such an asset to reporting? Steiger noticed that Vara’s approach is similar to old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting, and greatly reduces the time and effort required to gather sources. As more and more information becomes digitized on the Internet, reporters will have more information at their fingertips.

Topic Choices: Steiger mentions how most investigative reporting focuses on where the most power resides – government or big business. Although it is important to exposing abuses by these institutions, there are many other areas to investigate as well. Institutions such as unions, school systems and universities, doctors and hospitals, lawyers and courts, nonprofits and the media, should not be overlooked. People such as the elderly and immigrants are increasingly becoming targets of abuse or fraud by such institutions.

Unfortunately, there are many crucial topics to be investigated and a small number of well-trained investigative reporters. That’s where bloggers come in. Obviously, blogs can be extremely opinionated and should not be trusted as credible news sources. However, some bloggers have actually uncovered errors in traditional news organizations published stories. According to Steiger, “bloggers also have the ability to add information and insight to build on what reporters have unearthed.” As long as the bloggers are accurate, they have the power to enrich public knowledge on a topic.

On a side note, Steiger mentions that ProPublica launched a blog of its own, which will be aimed at “aggregating any noteworthy investigative reporting that we can find that day.”

Overall, Steiger gives some good advice on investigative journalism and how to utilize the Internet during all steps of the reporting process. This is more of an overview, and I plan on going more into depth on specific techniques such as database mining in later posts.