How Facebook is stepping up and serving as a tool for journalists

4 Apr

For journalists trying to navigate the new ways of telling and finding news, Facebook offers options different from those offered by Twitter, and those options should be explored also.

Twitter is very useful for breaking news. There is no option but to be concise, and the way it supports conversations is great for discussing news.

But Facebook is making its own place in the journalism world, especially with the creation of pages rather than just profiles. In addition to the Facebook Page specifically created for journalists, Facebook gives the option for journalists to create their own personal pages.

With Facebook Pages, it’s possible to continue using Facebook the way it was originally intended, which is as a way to personally connect with others and have a personal profile, but it also allows journalists to separately and effectively promote their work and “brand.”

Also, because Facebook is interconnected, meaning posts from Facebook Pages for businesses, TV shows, writers, etc. are not separate from posts from individuals’ profiles, everyone in a community who “likes” a journalist will that journalist’s news on their feeds.

It doesn’t seem to have the same conversational appeal as Twitter, but the ability to comment and spread information, especially with the new use of Facebook apps, is still available and it has the ability to reach a very large group.

I do have one futuristic idea for Facebook’s tie to journalism, and that’s Facebook creating a separate tab for a news-only feed. Similar to Google News, the feed would show news from only journalists and the Facebook Pages of news organizations you chose to like.

It would be like a combination of Twitter and Google News, but right on a social networking site that has already gained large popularity (unlike Google Plus) and allows for longer posts/photos/tags with regular names (unlike Twitter).

Like most ethical issues stemming from new technological uses, there’s the possibility of giving or receving false information when a tool like Facebook is heavily relied upon. But on the plus side, it gives a lot more personality and openness to the news organization.

Personally I use Facebook to promote my blog. I created a Facebook Page for it, and the page allows me to post information outside of what’s posted in the blog, and I can also promote my name because it should turn up in more searches. My blog is also linked to the page so everytime I put up a blog post, my Facebook Page also posts that I added an entry.

The next step is to get people to see my page and like it…

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New journalism still at roots, new methods should neither take over nor be dismissed

4 Apr

While many news oganizations have effectively morphed with the new Intenet landscape for news, there are still some journalists of the old mindset who believe print should prevail.

That mindset alienates a large number of readers — and not just readers of the young crowd. Walk into any Starbucks or other coffee shop and there are plenty of over-30 and 40-year-olds on iPads, laptops and smartphones.

So is it stubbornness that makes some wish to keep the old journalism model? Or is there a real notion that it’s possible to make print more popular than online news?

One argument against online news is that requiring journalists to be in constant connection with social media and constantly updating posts and responding to comments is far too time consuming to also allow them to do any substantial journalism. Real, investigative reporting, some argue, requires months of coordination and research.

The thing is though, thanks to technology, what used to take months only now takes days. Instead of traveling across the country for face-to-face meetings, it’s possible to meet via Skype. Instead of trekking across town to interview sources and gather opinions, news sites can send out tweets and poll readers online.

While the Internet is gathering basic information for journalists, they can be doing more investigative reporting or maybe just updating those blog posts.

 A valid argument against online publishing, however, is that news is given out free that way and it’s very difficult for news organizations to make money when they distribute content without a price. But on the flip side, as is seen in the article about the Penn State blog v. its newspaper, online news seems to attract a larger readership than does print.

So perhaps we’re still in the early stages of online journalism. News organizations seem to be making strong online presences, but maybe it’s the readers, not the writers, who haven’t fully grasped the idea that online is a new medium, and it’s not a requirement that content on it must be free. Perhaps there will come a time that readers will accept that they must pay for online news.

Maybe the readers who prefer to hold a real paper and get straightforward news from just a couple publications will eventually grasp onto the idea of subscribing to a legitimate news site. With tablets and electronic readers, it’s not so crazy that “print” will eventually be online as a sort of combination between what was and what the news has morphed into.

Other ideas about the future of journalism revolve around the combination of media organizations to produce better-quality pieces. Scroll to the bottom of that article, and it talks about the Chauncey Bailey Project. 

Earlier I talked about arguments claiming investigative reporting could not withstand the new newsroom. However, the Chauncey Bailey Project did use a new journalistic model to compose a successful piece of investigative reporting.

“It was clear that we had hit the tipping point – the point at which news organizations with disparate skills and expertise and shrinking resources were better off working together,” wrote Rosenthal about the Chauncey Bailey Project. “We knew that we were doing great journalism, which felt good, but the collaboration was necessary to keep the investigation going…”

Traditional journalism doesn’t tell news instantaneously the way Twitter, Facebook and blogs do, but maybe that’s its advantage. It’s the medium reserved for telling the story.

People want to know breaking news as soon as it happens, that’s why they carry the Internet around on their cellphones, but they also want to know background and the real story surrounding that breaking news. And that’s another place that traditional journalism might find its real niche.

It seems old journalism was about being the first to break a story. Regular citizens have taken over that, so perhaps the new journalism is about drawing from all possible sources and producing fresh information.

Challenge Questions 10

28 Mar

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

New way to find balance is reading the same story by different publications

28 Mar

Part of a writer’s job is to take facts and turn them into a story. The goal is to be objective and just turn what happened into a readable, more interesting sequence of events, but oftentimes the words used can seem to put a little slant to the information.

In a comparison of two stories that reported a newly released poll about life in Afghanistan, two papers, The New York Times and USA Today each had different ways of reporting the study.

The New York Times began with the negative results of the poll, and then went into the different areas that people were unsatisfied with and gave statistics to back those statements. There were no quotes aside from a statement taken from the survey.

USA Today approached the story with a positive lede and gave essential background information about the survey up at the beginning. The statistics were listed, which made it difficult to follow, but the quotes solidified the story. Also, USA Today used quotes that both agreed and disagreed with the survey results.

It seems to be argued that striving for balance in a story can lead to the publication of opinions that just aren’t true. Opinions that are proven to be untrue should be weeded out by the reporter. But if two experts disagree, the two opinions are creating balance in the story and should definitely be sought after and published.

When it comes to balance, the USA Today story did a better job. It may have slanted the story by using a positive lede, but it used quotes that represented both the positive and negative attitudes toward the progress in Afghanistan. Listing the statistics also gives the impression that the writer isn’t trying to lead you anywhere.

But the balanced quotes at the end of the USA Today story are wasted if people skim the first few bulleted statistics and then move on to another story. The New York Times story was much more readable in form, and that should be important too.

Before looking over the stories again to write this, I wanted to say that I both prefered The New York Times article and thought it did a better job telling the story because it seemed more readable and informational. But now I think I only prefer it.

I did get more information from the USA Today article, and it was more balanced information, so after reading the articles again I feel they did a better job. 

Compiled story:

Compiled from Times wire services.

– Afghans have lost a considerable amount of confidence in the direction of their country over the past two years, according to an extensive nationwide survey of over 6000 Afghans conducted over the summer and released Wednesday.

In the survey, 44 percent of Afghans interviewed said the country was headed in the right direction, compared with 64 percent in 2004 on the eve of the first democratic presidential elections in Afghanistan.

Security was the main source for optimism among those who said the country was headed in the right direction. But among those who expressed pessimism, more than half said the biggest problem was a lack of security, the Taliban threat and warlords.

While violence has increased, Afghanistan has made some progress in the nearly five years since U.S.-led forces overthrew the fundamentalist Islamic Taliban regime.

Afghans finally got a chance to vote in presidential elections in 2004 and in parliamentary elections in 2005. Roads have been paved and schools reopened after three decades of anarchy.

Frederick Starr, Chairman of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, said he was not surprised by the survey.

“These findings … in no way contradict the larger conclusion that this is a country still desperately poor and desperately in need of help,” Starr said. “What they affirm is that help produces results, which in turn generates appreciation.”

On a local level, unemployment was cited as the biggest problem. Corruption, which has become one of the main criticisms of the government, was less of a concern for respondents than unemployment and lack of services.

The survey showed strong support for democratic elections, and strong approval of new national institutions, including the Afghan National Army, of which 87 percent approved, and the Afghan National Police, of which 86 percent approved.

However, the police, in particular, have been widely criticized for being corrupt, brutal and beholden to local warlords.

Barnett Rubin, who studies Afghanistan at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation, said in an e-mail, “I have never met one person, including the minister of the Interior, who trusted the Afghan National Police. I think this is not a very reliable survey.”

Starr counters: “For a country that didn’t have a national army and had only local militias, the fact that one exists — no matter its absolute level — is a breakthrough.”

      – USA Today contributed to this story

Link between journalism and social media only gets stronger as news continues to tie them

28 Mar

It’s not just Twitter that can be utilized for story telling in the new age of journalism. While Twitter breaks news fast and can bring in a large supply of sources and opinions, other social media sites like Pinterest, blogs and Facebook can also bring the audience to the writer in a fresh, interesting way.

The information isn’t presented as quickly and urgently as it is on Twitter, but the other social media platforms allow for longer posts and more images. By connecting to all the outlets, writers expand their personal brands or publications’ brands.But perhaps the most important reason to use social media is that it allows for audience feedback or, in some instances, for the audience to inform writers. The “open news concept” allows readers to submit questions or suggestions, editors sort through them, and if it seems like a good story, then a reporter is assigned to it. It’s almost like the reporters are commenting on user-generated posts.

Zits cartoon

The result is that a certain readership is invested and the community is more informed about issues that really pertain to the area. It really seems like a good model for local papers. And having two-way communication between readers and writers seems to almost be expected now, especially at the local level.

But opening up channels for communication seems to be easier to do when the entire publication is online. For organizations that use print and the web, establishing how to give the audience the story and allow for feedback while also maintaining a strong print presence can be much more difficult.

It seems that organizations are figuring out what works best for them, though, and while online news definitely doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, it really doesn’t seem like print is either. Sometimes online is used just for short, easy-to-read pieces and print is reserved for longer articles, and other times the model is more that online breaks the news and print gives the full story.

This notion that online should come first is just logic if you think about it. More people are constantly connected to the Internet than they are to a newspaper, and of course web news can be updated as it comes in where print has to wait to go to press. Breaking news online doesn’t ruin the print version if the print version uses the extra time to write a fleshed-out story from a new, maybe more personal, angle.

 While it’s hard to work out the kinks in an environment that’s always changing, journalism itself sort of fits the always-changing profile. News is different everyday, and journalists have always had to work to be on top of what’s going on and figure out the best way to tell the story.

Now we’ve added the use of social media and various story-telling platforms, but I think we can handle it.

Challenge Questions 9

21 Mar

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

How much should information and sources from Twitter be used to tell news?

21 Mar

In a comparison of a breaking news story written by BBC v. the same story covered by RTE News, it’s clear that BBC relied on Twitter information much more heavily than did RTE News. The result is two stories with different information.

RTE News mainly used the police as a source, and while BBC had multiple sources, none of them seemed to be experts. The information came in from “reports” and witnesses. It is important to have points of view from people who saw an incident, but reporting on a crisis soley through those accounts rather than police reports is an issue.

BBC’s method of creating a story relates back to an earlier post I wrote about an eagle that snatched a dog. The dog snatching story had only one source, and he was a witness, not someone directly invovled.

So while it does seem important to use Twitter to learn about a breaking news story and even to find witness accounts to add to the story, I think the BBC story puts itself into a little trouble by not relying on police reports or named sources.

Another option is to perhaps tell the audience that the story is based off witness accounts, and may or may not be true, but this is the information that’s breaking. And also say that once verifyable information is found, it will be published to correct any errors made in the initial reportings.

By doing that, the organization is getting news out, and it’s somewhat factual if it’s coming from witnesses, but it’s clear that the information isn’t coming from police reports or other expert or offical sources.

Also, even though the information in the two stories does differ, I don’t think it’s fair to compare one of the stories to a fabricated story like “Jimmy’s World.” Both stories did use real sources, the information gathered just conflicts.

Twitter can be an important tool for journalists looking for news or sources, but the old tried-and-true methods can’t be discarded. Police reports, press releases and named civilians still add necessary verification to a story.