Archive | April, 2012

Using social media to share more than just status updates

19 Apr

One of the major characteristics of social media is the ability to share.

Not only are random, personal facts shared across the web, but so are articles, photos and networking information. As writers of online content, it’s important to be part of the sharing process and use social media to get work spread around.

WordPress makes it easy to choose social media sites to share blog posts with. Everytime I publish a new post, a link to my WordPress blog is posted on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The post includes a little picture and everything.

My blog has its own Facebook page. The page has the same name as my blog, Emily@UF, and includes a link to my blog as well as information about it.

I recently posted the Emily@UF facebook link to my personal Facebook account, and it’s added traffic and a few fans to the page. But even without a large audience, the Emily@UF Facebook page allows me to post extra information about my blog and communicate more with my audience.

Using LinkedIn has been most interesting. My blog entries are posted on my LinkedIn account the same way they are to the Emily@UF Facebook page, but the audience is a little different.  I was psyched to get a comment from someone who I wouldn’t have expected to read the blog and probably only read it because it was linked to LinkedIn.

The only improvement I would have made with promoting my blog would have been using Twitter more. But Twitter is very instantaneous and conversational, so because I have no Internet on my phone, I don’t know that it ever would have been something I would have kept up with even if I had put more effort into it.

Overall, I’ve seen more traffic to my blog, so either the links included in the blog are bringing readers to it or the posts on social media pages are drawing readers, although none of them comment on my posts.


Using Wordle to interpret and analyze is good time saver for journalists

18 Apr

Wordle is an interesting tool for journalists to use to analyze the key words in a lengthy speech or document.

Looking at Obama’s three State of the Union messages would have been a time consuming project requiring lots of analyzing, but Wordle whips up an analysis in just a couple seconds.

Obama’s first message stressed the economy, having a plan, American, banks, time, money and people. Just by looking at those few words you can get the idea that, at the time, there was a lot of confidence in turning around the economy and having a positive outlook that everything would change soon.

The second message still included the economy, but it more so included solid solution-words like jobs, businesses and energy.

The third message still stressed jobs, but has a resigned feel with words like education, years, new, America and work.

These vocabulary changes reflect the changing views of Americans through the years. The words seem to address Americans’ feelings and what they talk about needing.

Because the speeches seem to reflect the overall sentiment of the nation at each time, Wordle can be used to interpret issues being addressed to a large audience. When someone gives a speech, it’s often in response to something that is happening. Whether its the opening of something new or a State of the Union message, the speaker will still touch on key words that will resonate with the audience in that community, or nation, at that time.

Journalists can use the trends highlighted by Wordle to write stories targeting the key words.


Pushing journalism past interaction into personalization and digital brands

18 Apr

It’s a good point that the future of journalism lies in interacting with the users.

Media companies try to reach out by putting articles on the web and including videos, images and comment boxes with their online stories. But maybe it’s not enough.

Some ideas that continue to be tossed around as solutions are gearing news toward the younger audience, “frictionless sharing” and making sure users have input in the news. But perhaps the most influential ideas would be personalizing the news and making sure journalists have personal, digital brands.

When I say personalizing the news, I don’t mean having a search engine give the audience information most related to what that person usually searches for. I mean apps that allow users to choose their own most-related-information.

The personalization would be similar to Google Alerts, but instead of getting articles from all over the web, you would get related articles from the papers of your choosing.

Another viewpoint is to allow the audience itself to determine a news angle. This approach gives the audience a chance to explore topics it finds interesting and to really sift through the information already dug by journalists to come to a decision each individual determines as logical.

The idea is interesting in that it really opens up pathways for readers to “get lost in the news.” On first thought, it might seem like the role of the journalist is diminished when readers put together their own angles, but really, the role of journalists would be more important because they are producing facts for others to interpret.

This approach would not work for all stories. Investigative reporting, for example, should probably continue to be told as a story interpreted by the reporter(s) who uncovered the issue.

The other idea for new journalism is the notion that journalists should have personal, digital brands. This mostly means a blog, but the idea is more than that. Because journalists are now multidimensional and take photos, videos, write stories and publish, there is no reason they shouldn’t each be able to use their work to create a branded blog.

Many newspapers already have blogs, but rather than having blogs associated with the paper, stories should be kept with the paper and journalists should create their own (professional) blogs that are their own, not the paper’s, and give more insight into the stories they’ve created.

Marketing means a lot today. If journalists want to get a larger readership, they need to have an outlet separate from the paper, and they need to market themselves by showing how they are different from somebody else. It’s a way of giving the audience more options to choose from and more ways to interact with the news on a personal level, as well as giving journalists more flexibility to reach a larger audience.

Media could help save itself by opening up conversations on social media rather than broadcasting

11 Apr

There’s no denying there’s been a shift in the way that audiences consume news and the ways in which news is distributed. There’s also no way to get around social media’s large role in the new news consuming and distributing processes.

But social media is simply reflective of the new ways in which people want to connect with each other and share information. Social media is not a new “defining” feature of people today. Using social media doesn’t automatically get you into this new way of thinking.

People are drawn to social media because it reflects their own thought processes.

There are hundreds of articles on the Internet that talk about how journalists can effectively use Twitter, Facebook and blogs, and they give examples of successful ways that journalists have connected with their audiences through social media.

But the journalists weren’t simply successful because they opened up a Facebook account. They were successful because they realized social media is about networking and having conversations; it’s about connecting and sharing. By beginning an open pathway between the journalist and his or her readers, the journalist has used social media the way it works best.

Some media organizations have latched onto the idea of social media, but they have no idea how to use the concepts behind it. Sharing stories and updates is part of the conversation, but that shouldn’t be where it ends. Or really even where it begins.

Building a reputation as a journalist or news organization that can be trusted to listen to the audience and provide a good platform for the audience to both contribute to and receive news is perhaps the key to utilizing social media. 

Also, breaking news through whatever medium works, whatever comes natural and will create the best conversation, is also important. There has to be an acceptance that there will be a varying degree of control lost by the organization and editors. They can no longer dictate the way news will spread, or even the stories that will spread.  

News is going to spread no matter what, so trying to maintain an identity as the news-telling source is useless.

People using social media are talking about what’s important to them. I’m sure news organizations pick up on general trends when they follow Twitter and the like, but if they aren’t actually listening to what’s being said, and they aren’t following the conversation, then they ultimately lose out on what was driving the conversation.

They miss the small key element that could have spun the news into something fresh and interesting. Yes the facts are interesting, but what’s more interesting to people today are the features. And those are what can be dug up with conversations on social media sites.

Building that connection is what should keep media organizations in the loop. With a strong connection between reader and writer, perhaps when  those readers film great pieces of footage on their phones, they’ll post the video not only to their Facebook and YouTube pages, but they’ll also automatically send the video to their local newspaper. 

In addition to using social media to spot arrising trends, Google has created tools for searching and spotting searched trends. These tools also help spark  conversation.

Rather than simply using the tool to see a trend and then contact experts regarding it, a conversation can be opened on Facebook or Twitter and people with stories — ordinary community members who can serve as experts or people having a personal tie to the trend — can come forward and share what they have to say.


     media ride-along report

5 Apr is a nonprofit community news site. Affiliated with Columbia College Chicago, is built on citizen and student-written journalism, reporting on issues around Chicago.

Barbara Iverson, the site’s co-founder and co-publisher, started ChicagoTalks in 2006 after working on the English version of OhmyNews, a Korean news site that allowed people to register and submit stories for publication.

Iverson got funding from Knight’s J-Lab and help from Columbia College professor Suzanne McBride. Six years after its launch, ChicagoTalks continues to publish the work of many community members and Columbia College students and faculty.

In an email, Iverson said the college’s journalism students generally publish at least one story per semester, while graduate students publish at least four stories per semester. Submission is open to anyone, though, and stories frequently come from nonprofit groups in the area.

To ensure the quality of published work, teachers edit student work and select particularly good stories to submit to ChicagoTalks. Editors look at all stories before they are published to the site, verifying information with writers by phone or online. The student editor is the only paid employee.

“We don’t pay our contributors, but we use a Creative Commons license and everyone gets attribution for their work and retains all rights,” Iverson said.

ChicagoTalks is funded by donations. On the site, visitors can donate via the Kachingle service. In the fall, the site will work with a class at Columbia College called Virtual Newsroom in which students will study search engine optimization and CT’s metrics in order to experiment with advertising and revenue models Iverson has been considering.

SEO is important to ChicagoTalks, but Iverson emphasized the value of solid newsgathering in light of the site’s “hyperlocal” focus.

“We will publish stories if we think that someone in the community will benefit,” Iverson said. “However, (the site’s student reporters) understand that their reputation is tied to stories they publish.”

To market itself, ChicagoTalks shares links to similar sites and asks those sites to “share back.” Students who work on the site are taught to use social networks to advertise stories. CT cross-publishes with other local sites like the Beachwood Reporter, and it worked with the Chicago News Cooperative before it folded. One of the site’s stories was even published in the New York Times.

Because trends point to mobile devices and tablets taking over as the “method of choice” for consuming journalism, Iverson said ChicagoTalks will continue distributing content without a print component. CT routinely adds video, audio and Storify pieces to its stories.

ChicagoTalks is one of the only organizations of its kind in Chicago, so it doesn’t have much competition. Iverson has been able to pursue a growth strategy at her leisure. Her latest project includes a collaboration with a DePaul University reporting class, which will be expected to contribute to the site.

Challenge Questions 11

4 Apr

Does the stylebook still prevail when it comes to moral and religious issues?

4 Apr

Part of producing news is deciding the image the publication will give to the public and choosing the right words to reflect that image.

In a story from the Tribune concerning the death of a woman, man, child and unborn baby, the headline read, “Grandfather charged in blaze that killed 3.”

After the story’s publication, Tribune public editor Timothy McNulty wrote that the reporters had let their religious convictions get in the way, and the headline should have read that the blaze killed 4 since the grandfather was prosecuted with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of intentional homicide of an unborn child.

McNulty also noted, however, that the story followed the paper’s stylebook of not referring to an unborn fetus as a person.

More criticism came from a Chicago media critic, but this time it was aimed at the public editor. The media critic wrote McNulty really had no ground to stand on in this situation, and I think he’s absolutely correct.

The media critic said, “The Trib style guide says not to refer to fetuses as people, and McNulty doesn’t present anything remotely compelling for why the headline, which correctly refers to the number of people who died, should be different.”

Dealing with matters pertaining to religion and personal beliefs are the most important times to stick to a stylebook.

What would have been the reasoning behind going against the stylebook and calling the fetus a person?

I will admit that I had to reread the story when I got to the 3-year-old grandson’s age because I’d missed the fact that when the article first mentioned a grandson it wasn’t talking about the unborn baby. But that unclarity was due to my moral views.

But just because my views made it unclear wouldn’t mean I would go against the stylebook if I were the editor.

 Because the law considered the fetus’ death to be an intentional homicide, it seems that the Tribune should change its stylebook. But McNulty was incorrect in thinking that the paper should call this fetus a person because the law did. In another story not involving the intentional homicide of an unborn child would a 5-month-old fetus not be considered a person? You can’t switch back and forth.

Again, as the editor of that story, I would have gone by the stylebook. I agree with McNulty that “moments of unintentional bias when dealing with religion and morality” shouldn’t interfere with reporting or editing. But to achieve that, you don’t allow outside views to serve as the  publication’s views, and you don’t allow your own views to serve as the publication’s views. You use the publication’s written style guidelines to follow its own views.