Archive | February, 2012

Linking a fear that must be overcome

29 Feb

In 1999, Scott Rosenberg of Salon.com declared that if people don’t like using links in their blogs/news stories now, they may be unemployed in the future. I can’t believe how on target he was, almost 10 years before the explosion of social media! Links are imperative to online journalism, and now, readers consider an article that doesn’t use links to be an atrocity. It’s also surprising that links were recommended on websites as early as 2006, when online news wasn’t half as influential and practiced as it is today.

The big question: When should we use links? Answer: As much as possible, with a few exceptions, of course. There are many different ways you can use them, too.

Since online news has become a much larger medium, our attention span has grown thin. We need many different resources from different websites in order to stay on top of things. This is why non-linear storytelling works so well: You don’t necessarily have an “inverted pyramid” format, which is how news traditionally works, but you can get tons more information this way. Which is where links come in. Journalism today could probably be described in one word: interactive. People don’t just sit at their coffee table and read the newspaper anymore.

Linking does have its limits, though. You don’t need to link directly to a website just because it’s mentioned. This may lead readers to think that a newspaper is trying to endorse a commercial product or site. In cases like these, web editors should follow guidelines like those used by the BBC. Links should contain valuable information that relates to the story. In recent years, there has been a rise in reciprocal linking, which refers to websites linking back and forth to other sites. Although this may seem good for search engine optimization, it also has been used solely for higher rankings over other websites. Links shouldn’t just be used for this. It almost seems like a quantity-over-quality issue.

In addition, some people are picky about what kinds of stories they should put links into. Although Robert Niles of the Online Journalism Review says links are effective depending on what type of a story it is, I feel that links can work in any kind of story, even though non-linear storytelling does work fairly well with links. Whenever I look at a story online and click on an embedded link, I always end up going back to the original story. I use these links as explanations for information I don’t know much about; after reading these, I still want to finish the story.

This “fear of links” needs to go away. It’s 2012, and link journalism is not slowing down. We just need to remember which types of linking may not be appropriate, and we can transition smoothly into link journalism once again.

Dossier:

Gabriela Gonzalez:
After just typing in “gabriela gonzalez” in Google’s search bar, the first items to come up were two pictures of her from her Google+ account. This may have been because I was logged into my Gmail account, since we are in each others’ Google+ circles. I decided to try logging out of my account and just typing in her name again, but as a stranger. For more specificity, I put quotation marks around her name and then typed “uf” next to it. I still could not find the correct Gabriela, since there was also a law student at UF with her name. I typed “-law” and “-northwestern,” since there was also a student at Northwestern University with this name. Her search results may have been poor because she has a pretty common name. Finally, I decided to enter things like “LinkedIn” and “google+” after her name, and I finally got more results. She wrote an article for the Alligator in 2010. Unfortunately, these were pretty much all of the results I came up with.

Luke Gavin:
I had to type in: “luke gavin” uf to find any sort of results on him. On the first results page, three of his blog entries came up, as well as a few articles he had written for the Alligator. He was not difficult to find at all.

I found out that he is in the Air Force ROTC at UF, as well as a contributing writer at the Alligator. He also wrote an article on a Dutch exchange student.

Casey Speers:
Casey was an easy person to find. By just typing in “casey speers,” I found his LinkedIn, Google+ and Myspace accounts on the first page of results. When I typed in “uf” after his name, I found even more results, including a website he made for a class. He also was a contributing writer for the Alligator, and one of his articles even showed up on NYU Poly‘s website. He enjoys hanging out with friends, reading (such as “Harry Potter” and “Catcher in the Rye”), Nirvana, Radiohead and “Forrest Gump.”

Journalists need to look at facts more closely

29 Feb

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/57400815/Feldman_Case%20Study%206.docx

Vampire Compile

27 Feb

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/57400815/Feldman_Vampire%20Compile.doc

Headlines can deceive, even though they shouldn’t

22 Feb

I don’t usually look at the sports section in a newspaper, so it took me a while to fully analyze what was wrong with this story.

Pete Prisco may have to relearn what it means to be a journalist. First of all, he cited one of his sources as “one player.” To me, this is just poor journalism ethics. If you aren’t going to name a sources, their quotes may as well be considered off the record. The fact that he named a few other players and didn’t name one of them seems a little suspicious to me.

The headline for this story is a bit over-dramatic. Not only is it over-dramatic, it is also misleading. It is based merely on the opinions of a few of the Falcons players. Apparently not all of the Falcons members were upset; Coach Mike Smith even congratulated Drew Brees on his new record. Even if the Falcons were upset, they could have stopped Brees if they really wanted to. They’re football players, for crying out loud. Whether Brees “tainted” Dan Marino’s record or not, he broke it fair and square, and these players can be as bitter as they want (if all of them actually were, which I don’t believe after reading Prisco’s story).

Just two days ago, ESPN fired former writer Anthony Federico for writing a misleading headline about basketball player Jeremy Lin.  Writing headlines like these, and like Prisco’s, just doesn’t show journalistic integrity.

After reading this, I don’t think the author of the NFL article should have even linked to Pete Prisco’s. Prisco took a story that didn’t have much of a story in it and made it a biased journalistic piece. That is, if you can call it journalistic. A headline should give an overview of what actually  happened in a story, not over-dramatize it.

Topic pages: The new (and improved) Wikipedia?

22 Feb

The topics page is almost like an encyclopedia for newspapers. The best part is, unlike Wikipedia, you can be guaranteed that these topics include information from verifiable sources. Quite simply, it’s a smart way to archive stories. However, I do not agree with Robert Niles of the Online Journalism Review, who says that topic pages should not be updated frequently and that they should be “evergreen.” Although I do think some parts of a topic page should be “permanent,” I think it should be updated frequently. Many topics are going to have new information every once in a while, so why not update its page and provide readers with new facts?

It would be a lot more convenient if readers could look up a topic they are interested in, i.e. Whitney Houston or President Barack Obama, and find all the stories they need in one place. It’s amazing how people don’t have to flip to a certain page in the newspaper anymore to find a section they’re interested in.

Paul Grabowicz of the Knight Digital Media Center provides interesting examples  of topic pages. Unsurprisingly, many news sites have developed these. The great thing about topic pages is that they bring back the more in-depth side of news. Since we usually use Twitter updates for our news, it’s nice to have more detailed information once in a while. Topic pages will hopefully bring people back from, as Maurreen Skowan of Poynter calls it, the “news slump” they are experiencing. This may be because much of the younger generation “doesn’t have time” to read, and prefer short bits of news. These pages can also satisfy the older generation’s thirst for knowledge. They know better than any of us “youngins” what storytelling in news used to be like, when there weren’t any computers, let alone the Internet.

However, you may not read a town-specific newspaper. Fortunately, papers like USA Today have “places and geography” topic pages that will group articles together by a specific town, such as West Palm Beach. USA Today’s topic pages consist of more general categories, and then under these titles are the three most popular topics within that topic. This makes topic browsing much easier. For budding newspapers or long-standing ones that haven’t really thought about making topic pages for their websites, Daylife has its own guidelines for starting a topic page. With this kit, you can even start a sample page to see how it looks before it goes live on the Internet.

Although the Content Strategies Blog states that making a topic page could be risky, since people may not visit it, I disagree. I think everyone has their own crazy range of interests, and someone is bound to look at a certain topic page. However, I agree that increasing SEO traffic is one of the main benefits of a topic page. SEO-friendly headlines can link readers to a certain topic page, which will therefore increase traffic for said topic page.

Topic pages are just another piece of the puzzle that is journalism of the future. If your newspaper doesn’t have one, get one!

 

Delicious link: http://delicious.com/stacks/view/MLCTyM

A journalist could find out more about a subject by looking at his or her Delicious stacks. It could also be used to find different websites on different topics.

Case Study 4

15 Feb

Not only are websites like Reddit a good source for story ideas; Google Alerts work well, too. The best part? Google Alerts caters to your interests. You can work on a story that you actually want to write about! Pretty cool, right?

Miami Herald reporter Gary Fineout used his Web resources well for his Jim Morrison story. He made use of all parts of Google Alerts, receiving not only news alerts but Web alerts as well. This reporter knew where to look for ideas. It’s amazing how catching one little thing can make a letter from a fan site into a huge story. He was even able to track down Jim Morrison’s father, who lived all the way across the country! This is a great example of a story that would most likely not have been found through any old website. Google Alerts is a fascinating tool.

At the time of this story’s publication in 2007, Morrison had not actually been pardoned yet; the story just brought up the letter his fans submitted to former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. However, it wasn’t until three years later that Morrison’s pardon became a reality. Rolling Stone magazine had a story on it. MTV.com had a story on it. Even Fox News had a story about it. However, not one of these stories mentioned the fan letter written to Crist. This pardon may have happened even without the Miami Herald’s help; however, it did get out the message about the fan letter, so who knows? Gary Fineout may have been the sole reason for Morrison’s pardon.

Today, it is so easy to find story ideas. We should feel lucky to have Google available to us, because in the days of typewriters and printing presses, people had to physically go out and search for stories and sources. Kudos to Gary Fineout, who “lit the fire” on a small story and made it a big one.

Stories are out there, you just need to know where to look

15 Feb

Stories are everywhere. You just have to know where to look and how to use them.

When I took UF’s dreaded Reporting class two years ago, I loathed the idea of looking for story ideas. Although I ended up barely passing the class, if I could have done it over again, I would have looked at the best place to find story ideas: everywhere. The trickiest part for me was localizing a story.

You can usually find story ideas just by talking to your friends. If they know of a cool concert going on, or even if they have a friend who owns an exotic animal, you’ve got a story. If you don’t have any friends, there are many other public places you can go to that have bulletin boards chock full of story ideas.

Fortunately, websites like Reddit are really great tools for finding story ideas and just news stories in general. My boyfriend, a frequent Redditor, browses the subreddit “r/politics” to keep up to date on the 2012 presidential election and other happenings in Washington, D.C. Other sites, such as Digg.com , compile stories from many different newspapers’ websites, separates them into categories (much like Reddit’s “subreddits”) and lets users comment on them. If you’re looking for a story idea, it is always a good idea to localize stories found on these websites. Even Facebook is a great source for stories: Facebook “pages” of different newspapers talk about stories they’ve published. These can be great to localize! Twitter is especially good to use for finding stories. The CNN Breaking News  account (where I get a lot of my news) constantly has top stories reporters can localize.

MediaShift blogger Mark Glaser’s version  of how journalists will write stories in the future consists of using social networking sites like Reddit and Digg, but regularly, almost replacing on of the crucial jobs of the editor and reporter. There will be even more user/reader participation as well. Sites like Poynter are even providing story ideas for journalists that they can localize.  These sites are basically doing the work for us! It will be exciting to see if the future of finding stories turns out the way Glaser predicts.

However, once you do have a story idea, it is important that you do any necessary research for it. Sources will appreciate that you took the time out to look into what you’re reporting on. John Wihbey of Journalist’s Resource says thorough research can make for a thought-out, well-written piece, and he actually provides great resources to help budding reporters out with this. In addition, Al Tompkins of Poynter also explains different terminology related to such topics as economics, politics or whatever else you are writing about, because we know every now and then we get stories on a subject we are pretty much clueless on. If we journalists are more informed on the subjects we are writing about, we will have less fact errors in our stories, therefore raising our credibility as reporters.

Conclusion: You don’t really have an excuse to come back to your editor without any ideas. If you ever groan, “I can’t find a story!” that’s just (excuse my language) bullshit.

 

Story Ideas (these would be for a Gainesville, Fla. newspaper):

1. I recently read a story about CNN poll stating that Mitt Romney’s popularity is fading. Since he won the Florida primary, I could localize this by interviewing the chairman of the Alachua County Republicans and political science professors who specialize in elections at UF, asking them why they think this is and what this could mean for Romney’s campaign. Since Gainesville is in Alachua County, a blue county in a sea of red ones, I think this would be interesting to Gainesville citizens. The 2012 election is an ongoing spewer of news right now, and people are trying to determine who would be the best Republican candidate to run against President Obama. There would probably just be an AP photo of Romney, since this is more of a national story. It could probably be about 10 inches. I’m not sure how different the story could look online, except maybe there could be a video in which Gainesville citizens are asked questions on how they feel about Romney running for the Republican candidacy.

2. A feature on hazing. With the recent Alpha Phi Alpha hazing incident, in addition to the FAMU hazing that ended in a student’s death,   I think a story on how hazing affects fraternity (and maybe even sorority) life at UF. Even though this could be a controversial story, since technically hazing is prohibited in any sort of Greek life at UF, this may be able to help uncover which houses are hazing and how it can be stopped. Among people interviewed could be the student who was hazed at UF, Bernie Machen, the president of the UFIC (Interfraternity Council) and certain members of fraternities. Hopefully through these brothers we could hear about how hazing has affected them as people and how serious of an issue it is. This would be a bit of a longer story, maybe about 20 inches, and could include pictures of Greek houses, since the fraternities probably wouldn’t let a reporter in on their brotherly activities. Maybe we could include half the story in print and then show the rest of the story on the newspaper’s website so people would be forced to check out our online features. These could include a video slideshow of pictures of fraternity activities with voiceover from an interviewee.