Archive | February, 2012

Week7: ‘Linking’ an Asset to Online Journalism

29 Feb

Linking, in its most basic form, is bringing an outside voice to a story or article.  It allows journalists to provide their readers with additional information that the article may not include, but is relevant to the content.  Although some traditional journalists from the “old school” may be skeptical, most are quickly realizing that linking to outside sources of information, even if it’s from a competitor or rival newspaper, might not be such a bad idea.  In this new world of Internet-savvy readers who have less time but expect more information, links are crucial.  It’s important to  give the reader as much access to information within the article as possible, even if it means he or she may leave your site momentarily.

Jim Stovall, a writer for JPROF, discusses the importance of “link journalism” (as coined by Scott Karp) in a piece he wrote back in 2006.  Stovall may have been ahead of his time.  He points out one article in particular that was done by the Los Angeles Times, which had everything one would expect from a great news piece — “interesting topic, good reporting, straightforward writing, good quotations.”  What it was missing, however, were links.  Even six years ago, Stovall realized the importance of links in making an article more engaging and interactive.  The problem was that news organizations hadn’t yet caught on to the idea, and some even discouraged it.  Journalists were hesitant to integrate their work with someone elses.  Researching and finding additional information also takes time, which some journalists on a deadline may not have had.  Still, as Stovall points out, “linking is too valuable for the reader and too important for the journalist to be ignored.”

Although link journalism is catching on rapidly, there are some guidelines to follow. It’s possible to take away from the meat of the article and lose the reader if not careful.  Robert Niles, with The Online Journalism Review, points out that “hyperlinks also allow writers to clutter stories, and to distract and mislead readers away from the narrative of the piece.”   A paragraph shouldn’t contain any more than two or three links.  Otherwise, the journalist risks distracting or confusing the reader.  Additionally, the link should only contain a few words — no more than five — again so the reader doesn’t lose focus.  The key is to give your reader the ability to research the content of your article on a deeper level if he or she chooses, all from the comforts of one single webpage.

The advantages of reading newspapers and articles online are numerous.  As more readers continue to gravitate to the Internet for their news, it is increasingly important for journalists to become experts in the art of linking.  If done properly, the original content of the article is enhanced.  The goal is to follow the path of “non-linear story telling,” as outlined by Jonathan Stray.  The reader chooses bits to read by following links.  “Choosing whether or not to follow a link is a simple way for a reader to tailor the presentation to what they already know, and to indulge their own curiosity. And links let you skip the boring bits,” Stray explains.  I couldn’t agree more.

John Boothe: Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook  I also found links to several articles that John has written in the past, for the Alligator.

Marissa Lyons: Quora I found links to a few articles Marissa wrote for The Post at UF, and also a resume that is public.

Finding information on my two teammates wasn’t very difficult.  John had more hits that Marissa did, I think only because he writes for the Alligator.  One problem I did run into at the beginning was after typing in John’s name, about half of the hits I got were for “John Wilkes Booth.”  I had to tailor my search by putting quotes around “John Boothe.”  I also included “University of Florida” and “Gainesville FL” around both names, to narrow down my search.

Case Study6: Suicidal Blonde

29 Feb

Suicidal Blonde

Week7 Vampire Story

27 Feb

Vampire

Week6: Topic Pages Gaining in Popularity

22 Feb

As the Internet becomes more important with each passing year, we are constantly trying to find new ways of updating and improving it.  In 2001, Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger created Wikipedia, which has now become the leading online source for information, with over 20 million freely useable articles as of January 2012.  But now journalists and news organizations are discovering a new way to compile information, with much more in-depth coverage.  The concept is called “topic pages,” and it’s beginning to catch on at big news organizations.

A topic page is essentially a “dynamically generated web page that gives readers detailed context on the given topic,” according to NewsCred.  Robert Niles of The Online Journalism Review describes it as a “single element within a theme – not just sports, for example, but on soccer officiating in the World Cup.”  So, in essence, topic pages are designed to provide news context on any given subject, so that the reader can have access to a large amount of information right in front of him or her.  Topic pages are not designed to be updated daily or weekly.  Unlike most news sources, which are constantly updated, the information on a topic page should last months or even years.  For example, The Arizona Republic has an investigative series on its website called “BCS: The Money.  The Games.”  On this particular webpage, you can find a compilation of stories and news articles that relate to several different hot topics related to the BCS.  These topics range from the controversial salaries that top BCS executives make, to the expenses involved for colleges to play in the BCS.  Each individual category has its own set of linked articles providing the reader with a wealth of knowledge and information.  Anyone choosing to research the BCS in-depth could do so using just this webpage alone.  This is the goal of a topic page.  

NewsCred, which is a content strategies blog, identifies some basic guidelines on creating a workable topic page.  Included in NewsCred’s list of standard elements of a topic page are:

  • A bio or summary
  • A timeline of events or detailed summary
  • A list of important articles from this source
  • A list of important articles from trusted sources around the web
  • Multimedia such as video, images, audio, podcasts, maps etc
  • A list of related topics

Incorporating all of these elements ensures a great topic page, and the benefits of creating a great page are numerous.  Not only will you be providing more depth and content for your users, you will also see an increase in ad revenue and sponsorship opportunities.  Money is always the bottom line — so anything that generates more money for any given publication is a plus.

http://www.delicious.com/stacks/view/PaswsI

Above is the link to my Delicious account.  Having a Delicious account can be beneficial to journalists in several ways.  The most obvious is that once the account is created, it is much easier to keep track of frequently used websites.  The user is able to organize and apply tags to all of his or her bookmarked favorites, so that they are easier to identify and find.  Journalists who wish to share their tagged favorites may do so because the account is public.  So, for example, if there are a group of journalists all working for the same publication in one newsroom, they would be able to share all of their favorite sources of information with each other.  This encourages teamwork and collaboration.

Case Study5: Get Over it Prisco

22 Feb

As hard as I’ve tried, it is very difficult for me to be objective in relation to these two articles about Drew Brees breaking Dan Marino’s record.  Being from New Orleans, I have been a Saints fan since I was little, and for the first time in my life we actually have an awesome team with record-breaking players.  There will always be controversy and criticism, but the fact that Brees and the Saints were criticized for the way he broke the record is ridiculous. 

The Falcons had every opportunity to turn that game around and stop Brees.  It is not Brees’ job nor is it the job of Sean Payton to make sure the Falcons players and staff don’t get their feelings hurt.  Brees had the chance to break the record and he did, which was awesome since I was there to witness it.  The fact that a few of the players, one unnamed, had a problem with it is too bad.  They have no one to blame but themselves.  These guys are playing grown-up football, not Pop Warner.  No need for the Saints to stop trying to score just because the Falcons can’t stop them.  In my opinion, it would have been more embarrassing for the Saints to have stopped trying just to not upset the Falcons. 

The headline that nfl.com decided to go with was somewhat misleading.  One player said that “we won’t forget.”  That certainly doesn’t represent the opinion of the entire Falcons organization.  Mike Smith, the head coach for the Falcons, had nothing negative to say about Brees or the Saints after the game.  He congratulated Brees on his accomplishment.  However, Pete Prisco would have readers believe that Smith was looking “angrily” across the field during the last drive.  This could have been because he was upset that the Falcons secondary couldn’t stop Brees from moving the ball down the field.  I don’t think that nfl.com had any business linking the cbssports.com article.  It was an extremely biased article written by a sports writer who clearly had an agenda.  The fact that Prisco wrote the article isn’t the problem; the problem is that nfl.com quoted him as if he was an objective journalist, which in this case he was not.  The bottom line is that writers love controversy and this game provided plenty.  So, rather than focusing on the angle of Brees breaking the record, which is what these writers should have done, they chose to write about the more controversial topic, which was a few of the Falcons players whining after the game because they had just gotten slaughtered by their rivals.

Week5: Journalism and the Internet

15 Feb

It’s no secret that the landscape of journalism and the print media industry are rapidly changing, as technology develops and consumes more of our world each day.  While technology has arguably made the life of a journalist much easier than in days past, the wealth of information available can also become overwhelming.  The key to a successful present-day journalist is the ability to sift through all of the information and to develop relevant and accurate story ideas that are new and fresh.  This can sometimes be difficult.

The great thing about being a 21st century journalist is that the possibilities are endless – story ideas can be found almost anywhere, and the Internet has made research easier than ever.  Much of the leg-work that was required pre-Internet has been eliminated, freeing up more time and allowing for more stories to be written.  As good as this may seem, finding new stories can sometimes be problematic.  Journalists are required to come up with new ways to gather story ideas in order to keep up with the competition.  Mark Glaser, a writer for MediaShift, provides a great example of how the times have changed.  In his article “Revamping the Story Flow for Journalists,” Glaser describes a more modern way of conducting business in the newsroom, including a community or social network set up specifically for a reporter’s beat.  He also illustrates how a reporter can post a story idea to his or her blog, and receive feedback from readers in an effort to gauge the popularity of the idea.  This would allow journalists to tailor their story ideas specifically to what the readers are interested in.  The advantages of this are obvious.

As journalists, we must constantly be on the look-out for potential story ideas and places we can find them.  On Ron Rodgers blog “The Art and Craft of Intelligent Editing,” he outlines 50 resources for gathering ideas.  Some of my favorites include: No. 38 – “The Barber / hairdresser: Fifteen minutes chatting while in the chair can produce several leads. Don’t laugh. If it’s happening in the community, a barber or hairdresser has likely heard about from someone sitting in his/her chair;” No. 33 – “Crime statistics: Talk to police about what trends are happening, what are the most common crimes, get stats on break-ins, car thefts, drunk driving charges, 911 calls, etc;” and No. 22 – ” Eavesdrop: Eavesdrop at the grocery store checkout. Eavesdrop at the coffee shop. Eavesdrop at the arena or sports field. Learn to listen to what people are talking about.”

Below I will describe two story ideas that I came up with using some of the techniques outlined above.

1.  The first involves a debate among the Alachua County Commission on whether to put a one-cent sales tax
on the November ballot to help fund transportation projects. I got this idea from the Virtual Town Hall blog on The Gainesville Sun website.  If the initiative is approved by voters, the city of Gainesville would receive about $15 million a year.  City commissioners are talking about using part of that money to initiate Bus Rapid Transit routes in Gainesville.   BRT is intended to speed up transit service through the use of dedicated lanes, more efficient loading and fewer stops. 

This story is relevant because it has a direct effect on the residents of Gainesville.  People are always interested in potential tax increases affecting their city and their pocketbooks.  Additionally, informing the public of the possibility of a new bus transit system allows them to voice their opinions to the county commission on whether they approve.  This will give the commission an idea of how Gainesville residents feel about it. 

This story could be accompanied by graphics or pictures to illustrate where and how the new bus transit system would run.  A map could be included to pinpoint current bus routes and stops, and then show where the new routes and stops would be.  I would also calculate the time frame of any given bus route, and then recalculate that same route factoring in the fewer stops and dedicated lanes, so the public would have an idea of how much more efficient the new system would be.  It would be a good idea to break down the rest of the $15 million as well, to inform the readers of where the rest of the money would be going.

The online version of the story may be better because I would then include active links and graphics to add to the story.  With print, no additional information can be added, but with online articles the journalist is able to provide as much information as possible to accompany the story. 

2.  A second story could be on the tow truck industry in Gainesville.  I would identify all of the “hot spots” for tow companies and how often they are towing.  Having a car towed is something that I believe almost everyone in Gainesville can relate to,  including myself.  I think that a story involving tow trucks would be interesting to a lot of people.  It also may increase people’s awareness of where they are most likely to get towed in the city.

I would first find out where tow truck companies constantly patrol, and then find out approximately how many cars they tow from each of those areas daily.  This can be done by contacting the companies directly, or by talking to local businesses and even residents who work in certain areas.  I know that every day when I pass the Copper Monkey parking lot, there is always a tow truck driver roaming the lot, waiting for someone to park illegally.  I see him towing a car at least once a week, and that is just me observing for a window of about five minutes.  Also, I would add up approximately how much money these companies are making daily.  Each car towed is around $80 — I would first attempt to get the companies’ records on how many cars they tow daily.  But if that didn’t work, I would then have to do a bit more research to come up with a number.

A chart or graph could be made to illustrate what areas of Gainesville are illegal to park in without decals, and what areas are most frequently patrolled.  Raising awareness may help residents to avoid these areas and save money on tow fees.  Charts can also be made to show how much money these tow companies are making in comparison to other city businesses — this may be upsetting to some because tow companies make all of their money from residents who are parked illegally.  I, like most people in Gainesville, have been burned by these companies, and in one case a tow resulted in my car being significantly damaged.  The tow company claimed no liability, but perhaps raising awareness will help other people avoid my misfortune. 

Again, as noted with the previous story, an online version would be better because of the ability to link other stories and graphics to the original story.  It would also give people an opportunity to comment on the story, which I’m sure many would take advantage of.

Case Study4: Google Alerts Essential for Journalists

14 Feb

The concept of Google Alerts is yet another tool that journalists can use to stay one step ahead of the competition on story ideas.  It allows  journalists to receive daily emails on key topics that interest them.  Not only can this provide information on a specific beat that a reporter covers, it can also bring about new ideas for stories.  This is especially useful when a journalist is in need of a good story but doesn’t have the time to go out and search for one.  For beat reporters, Google Alerts is essential for keeping up with the daily influx of information that appears online.

Gary Fineout of McClatchy Newspapers provides a great example of the usefulness of Google Alerts with an article he wrote on Jim Morrison back in 2007.  Through the use of Google Alerts, Fineout  discovered that the governor at that time, Charlie Crist, had been asked to pardon a 1969 conviction of Morrison, in which  the rock-star served six months in jail for indecent exposure during a concert performance in Miami.  Morrison appealed the conviction, but died in Paris in 1971 before his appeal could be heard.  Fineout was alerted to this story because he had his Google Alert set to web as well as news on Charlie Crist.  This gave Fineout an advantage over his fellow reporters and the opportunity to write this interesting story.

Google Alerts was developed by a man named Gideon Greenspan, but has no affiliation with Google other than using its web services to perform the searches.  Greenspan is a long-time Macintosh developer and has a PhD in computer science.