Posts Tagged ‘ online journalism ’

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.

Advertisements

Is Skype the Future of Live TV?

Almost everyone has used Skype these days, whether it is for a business conference or to stay in touch with loved ones and friends face-to-face. However, Skype is also being used in the newsroom.

According to Poynter Online, a WTSP-TV anchor/reporter Janie Porter was on TV, reporting live from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. on the run-up the week’s national college football championship game. Interestingly, she didn’t have a big live truck accompanying her, an engineer tuning in a shot or a photojournalist standing behind the camera and setting up lights. All she had, was her computer.

Porter set up her own camera, opened her laptop, connected the camera to her computer, slipped a wireless connection card into her laptop, called up Skype and used her Blackberry to establish IFB (the device TV folks wear in their ears to hear the off-air signal). Put this all together, and you have a pretty decent live shot without all the hassle of a crew and a huge camera.

This type of reporting marks a new day. It is more than backpack journalism or one-man-band reporting. It is a potential cost-saving way to use fewer people and to send in live reports without using expensive trucks.

According to Poynter, WTSP News Director Darren Richards said, “The process was surprisingly simple. We used a camera with firewire video out to a reporter laptop computer. We then used Skype to send the picture via a wireless AirCard. Back here at 10 Connects, we called up the video via Skype in a computer in our control room that we have on the router. We then punched it up like a regular live video source on our switcher. We ran some tests in advance and they all worked great — very smooth with only a slight delay, probably a little shorter than a SNG (satellite truck) shot.”

The key to a smooth shot seems to be having solid high-speed connection. The slower the connection, the worse the signal becomes. It also helps to have a fast laptop.

Well, If this doesn’t sum up the future of reporting, I don’t know what does. I’m very proud to say that I did my own live shot recently for QNN – The Quinnipiac News Network via Skype. I’m so glad that our professor is using Skype as a journalism tool and is helping us get some live shot experience while still in college.

Here are some examples of live shots using skype.

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.

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.

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.

Tweet, Tweet

Photo Credit - arkarthick.com

Twitter has revolutionized society as we know it. In a nutshell, Twitter is a networking tool that helps users keep up with friends, strangers, and even celebrities. But for news organizations, it is a resource for publishing work, communicating with other journalists and finding story ideas.

Along with The New York Times, other news organizations such as CNN, the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel and The (Portland) Oregonian are using Twitter to post breaking news alerts and updates on sports, business and traffic, that can be read via cell phone text messages, instant messaging or on a user’s Web browser.

One of the best things about having a Twitter account for a news organization is that it doesn’t take much time to create. And it’s free. Having a free tool is especially important in today’s industry with newsrooms making tons of cutbacks to save money.

Journalists can also use Twitter to get tips for story ideas through updates from other organizations. Journalists can use Twitter’s public timeline and look for trends to develop into a story. They can also find sources in the search option on the right-hand side of the Twitter page.

Some journalists are even using Twitter to find jobs. The British journalism site, journalism.co.uk., has a Twitter account that sends job updates to subscribers who write “Looking for a job.” Followers of the twitter site can also have job updates instant-messaged or text-messaged to them through Twitter.

Recruiters can use Twitter to help keep in contact with people who apply for jobs and internships. By posting a tweet, a recruiter can let everyone know where the company is currently at in the selection process. This will definitely save them a lot of unnecessary phone calls and e-mails.

Although many people in the news business are still not familiar with Twitter, it can be a very useful tool. So journalists…jump on the Tweet-wagon and tweet away!