Archive | January, 2012

Challenge Questions 3

31 Jan

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/56676454/Challenge%20Questions.docx

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Challenge Questions

25 Jan

Link to dropbox week 2: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/56676454/Challenge%20Questions%202.docx

Link to dropbox week 1: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/56676454/Challenge%20Questions.docx

Case Study1

25 Jan

Eagle Snatches Dog While Owner Watches — Or Did It?

The difference between a good story and a not so good story lies in the details.

When it comes to news writing, details don’t just make the story better, they make it credible. Lack of detail is precisely the problem with the story, “Eagle Snatches Dog While Owner Watches.”

The story leaves the reader wondering so many questions that it’s hard to visualize the situation without drawing from a movie scene or commercial. What kind of dog? How old were the owners? What were their names? What kind of motor home? What kind of gas station? What was the weather like? What was their dialogue?

The answers to those questions would add depth and credibility to the story. A rich picture would be painted, and ambiguity would be erased.

The lack of detail actually raises the question, Is it okay to even publish a story that doesn’t include the names of those involved? If the people don’t need anonymity for the sakes of their reputations, then doesn’t an unidentified witness or subject just leave too much guessing on the writer’s part?

To explore another issue with this story, the role of tone should be introduced. The tone of this story was insensitive, which conflicted with the heartbreak the woman in the story was going through.

Tone should reflect the events of the story, unless it is purposely mocking them. There is a time and place for news to mock its subject matter, but that place is usually a news show like Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report.

Even when satire is used in the news, facts must be checked. In fact, satirical news should probably be written even better than a typical news story.

I tried to search some questions regarding writing and tone in Quora, and an interesting search that was already there asked about the necessity of a new writing format that allowed for tone in online discourse. One of the best responses was, “So the assumption is, misunderstanding of written communication was not a problem until the internet was invented?”

Conveying tone through writing, without the use of special colors or emoticons, is one of the most important skills a writer can learn. The story about the eagle snatching a dog doesn’t convey the right tone. It’s harsh and seems to make fun rather than tell a story, which, combined with the lack of detail, could really turn away readers.

Perhaps if the writer had gathered details and talked with those involved, their emotions could have been better-conveyed, and the right tone would have been achieved.

The job of a writer is to ask questions. The more those questions get answered, the better the story becomes. 

But it’s also the editors job to ask questions. Editors must edit skeptically, and while they aren’t questioning as many experts, witnesses and reports as possible, they should be questioning their reporters and their own knowledge.

The goal is to write credible stories, and it boils down to details and getting the answers to questions.

Blogs are Here to Stay and Not Just for the Tech-Savvy

25 Jan

The invention of the blog has opened new doors for writers.

For journalism specifically, the accompaniment of blogs to traditional news outlets has allowed for a larger audience to be reached, and it has created an opportunity for multiple writers to work together on a single blog to improve the content. Jouralism has also benefitted from blogging because it keeps journalism modern; it’s another platform on the internet that journalists can use to present news in an interesting way for tech-savvy readers.

Different organizations are always experimenting with blogs, but NPR began a particularly successful experiment in 2010 called the Argo Project. During Argo, NPR funded 12 of its member stations to create blogs and hire writers.  

It seems that Argo’s success can, in part, be attributed to the fact that the blogs offered an alternative news source, created by NPR, that wasn’t directly related to its usual content. Meaning, a new audience was reached.

Blogs also allow journalists and news organizations to expand their horizons without being radical. By definition, blogs can be about anything and everything, so traditional content doesn’t have to be removed or altered when blogs are created.

Blogs simply add an extra venue for presenting information. They expand the topic range for journalists to connect with the audience.

Another notebale aspect to blogging is that multiple writers can work together on a single blog to add variety and keep the content from going stale.

Matt Thompson, who was part of the Argo Project, wrote, “several of our stations also tweaked the model of the single, full-time blogger that we began with, splitting the position between two part-time bloggers, or augmenting the site with contributions from freelancers. And by and large, this has worked quite well for the stations that have taken this approach.”

In the article, Thompson also stresses the importance of hiring “double threats” to write the blogs — those who edit as well as they write. Blogs often operate a bit independently with the writer also editing, taking photos, headlining the piece and writing photo captions.

The concept is still new, and it seems that blogs are treated like the newsroom accessory. They’re integrated into and used by the organization, but like the big chunky bracelet on your wrist, they’re still a little new and foreign to the rest of the whole.  

But more and more, journalism students are graduating with skill-sets that include more than one aspect of journalism. Classes require students to be the new journalist who can write and self-edit, as well as take photos, write captions and write headlines.

They also write blogs for classes, and in doing so, they practice sharing and collaborating with other writers, designing blogs as well as the new requirements mentioned above to be a journalist today.

Journalism classes require students to write blog posts that are about something, so the post is written with a lot of thought and scrutiny. But for a news organization, many posts aren’t written so carefully.

Because there are countless ways to define a blog, some organizations simply use blogs as the second step in the “convoluted life cycle of a news story.” They are posted without jumping through many hoops and without getting scanned by many sets of eyes.

The writers of those blog posts are writing short blips of news, but they still have to write them flawlessly, which circles back to the need for double-threats in the newsroom. With the increasing popularity of blogging, there is an increasing need for the great writer/self-editor.

As technology is incorporated into our lives even more, the relationship between journalism and technology will grow closer and the skillset of the typical journalist will increase. Blogging is just the starting point.

Curation and Aggregation: Simplifying electronic mass media for the masses

18 Jan

Emily Burmaster – ecburm@gmail.com

The new roles in journalism are those of curators and aggregators.

With the increase of available information in this new age of technology, where methods of distributing news and information change just as rapidly as the information being sent out, there is a need for that information to be collected and presented in an easily accessible forum. Those forums include news aggregation sites like Google News and The Huffington Post, or curator sites like Tumblr blogs.

News aggregators and curators are a necessity because readers would otherwise miss out on the differing points of view from different news organizations, as well as important points from bloggers. However, issues of attribution sometimes arise as multiple articles are compiled into the aggregation.

An article on the site GigaOM addressed a recent issue with The Huffington Post and whether or not it is fair in its aggregation and attribution. The Huffington Post was accused of stealing a Miami Herald article, but according to GigaOM, The Huffington Post not only attributed its information to the original article and included links, but it also added some of its own information to the story as well. 

Does that mean that some would like to define the sheer act of aggregating as stealing? 

As noted above, aggregation is a necessity if readers are going to navigate through the plethora of information available on the internet. GigaOM notes, “…no one can agree on what over-aggregation is, or whether it even exists. If an outlet — or even another newspaper — quotes facts and includes attribution and a link, as well as more information on the topic, how is that an offense?”

Electronic media is uncharted territory, and the boundaries of aggregation are only one area currently being mapped.

Another issue that comes up with aggregation is that even with links and attribution, will readers ever visit the original news site? A Poynter. article titled “The aggregator’s dilemma: How do you fairly serve your readers & the sources you rely on?” addresses this issue.

The reporters who investigate and write an original story deserve credit for the story, but when it’s read on a site other than the original, and it’s possibly been modified, the original writer loses some of his or her credit. According to the article, including multiple sources in the aggregated article, as well as keeping a neutral voice, both help to emphasize the original articles.

Similar to aggregation is the concept of journalistic curation. In the blog “Teaching Online Journalism,” the author compares journalistic curation to museum curation.

According to the article, museum curators select which pieces to include in an exhibit, and similarly, journalistic curators review many possible articles and links and decide which fit their points and would best benefit readers. The article also emphasizes the importance of giving context to the included links. Readers should know why they are being directed to that source.

This differs from aggregation because aggregation involves taking multiple perspectives of a single current event and aggregating them into a single news article. 

It should be noted that curation involves more author discretion than aggregation does, but a curator must still follow journalistic ethics. There may be a higher degree of opinion from a curator, but all information must still be true. 

The concept of truth and trust is expanded on in the article “Why Curation is Important to the Future of Journalism” on mashable.com.

Aggregation and curation seem to be subtly different, although it can be difficult to understand that difference. An article from the Nieman Journalism Lab titled “Aggregators, curators, and indexers: There’s a difference and it matters” attempts to explain the differences, but it was still confusing. 

Whatever the subltle differences may be, the conclusion to be drawn is that information is constantly updated and revised, and it’s essential to have aggregators and curators to compile that information into a single, easily accessible platform and sort through the masses of outputted information to determine what is relevant and essential.