Tag Archives: journalism

“Social news”: Why it is important, why it should be fact-checked

11 Apr

If there is one thing social media is responsible for, it is making personalization so much easier.

Many news organizations have their reporters and other staff members create blogs in order to connect with readers and have an outlet to express their opinions on different issues. After all, if reporters can reach out to the public in this way, readers are more likely to be able to relate to them. As Mathew Ingram of Gigaom said, “You should be the best possible version of yourself.” Everyday people express their opinions all the times in all kinds of personal blogs. Why shouldn’t reporters be able to?

As seen through blogs, news is not just in one central location anymore. Quora, Twitter and Facebook are great examples of new, journalistic outlets these reporters are using. Through these, journalists are allowing a much wider audience to view their work and talk about it. This goes beyond just reporting news. These sites have become so effective that there will now be a Pulitzer Prize category for real-time reporting. In addition, ongoing events like Occupy Wall Street have allowed the people to become journalists,  with many passersby shooting videos and blogging. Journalists like Elliot Volkman of Play This Magazine are now being praised for their extensive use of social media to find sources and information for stories.

As I have said before, story ideas and ideas in general can always be spread through social media. The fact that many Egyptians used Facebook and Twitter to send their message of revolution to thousands (if not more) last year shows just how effective social media can be. In this case, journalists and average citizens were able to collaborate by both finding out about and talking about the revolution.

However, as per everthing journalism, online news must be fact-checked, double-checked, cross-checked.  It is always safer to be a little skeptical of any story, especially one read online, than to not question it at all. Like any social network, Facebook is known to have its “fake” users, and if any of these become “sources,” it could potentially cause problems. However, since many young people have practically grown up with social media, they may be able to find ways around this in the future, since they know the online-media spectrum much better than many adults do. The introduction of websites like MediaBug is helping bring reporters and readers even closer by discussing errors they’ve made, along with corrections. This almost makes admitting a mistake not so shameful.

News created via social media outlets has become so powerful that I think it deserves a new name: “social news.” Because that’s what it is, isn’t it?

 

Trend and Correlate

Trend: http://www.google.com/trends/?q=gay+marriage&ctab=0&geo=all&date=all&sort=0

Correlate: http://www.google.com/trends/correlate/search?e=gay+marriage&t=weekly&p=us

Since gay marriage has been a pretty consistent topic over the past eight years or so, according to these graphs, it might be interesting to take different angles on this topic. This could also help with finding out how much progress has been made in other states to legalize gay marriage.

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Facebook: a journalism platform

4 Apr

Honestly, I think the people that utilize Facebook the most for its journalistic possibilities are its everyday users. In the five years I’ve had a Facebook account, I’ve rarely had to go to news websites to find out that people like Whitney Houston or Joe Paterno died, or that Tim Tebow got traded to the New York Jets. Sometimes, though, people constantly updating their status like this frustrates me because many of the statuses are the same.

However, many newspapers now have their own Facebook pages, and even morning talk shows like “Good Morning America” have their own videos and pictures that users can comment on. This is one of the great things about Facebook: It allows for discussion. Because of this capability, journalists should definitely take more advantage of it. Take, for example, CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour. She and other journalists have their own Facebook pages so that people can keep up to date on their stories, and reporters can then include even more elements of their stories onto the pages. In fact, Facebook even has its own page specifically telling journalists how they can use this website efficiently.

However, using social networks for news does have its ethical issues. In my Writing for Mass Communication and Reporting classes, we were told that it was never okay to use a Facebook friend as a source for a story, and I still believe this is true. I do think that finding sources through Facebook friends is not a bad idea if it is a person you truly do not know. Facebook is full of friendly users willing to help people out.

Journalists should definitely keep their opinions to themselves, even when social media allows us to express our thoughts on pretty much any issue.

I have used Facebook extensively to promote my blog. Each week when I post an entry, I write a one-sentence summary about it, along with the attached link, and people end up reading it. It has helped me out a lot with readership.

All-digital newsrooms may be in our future

4 Apr

If the Alligator blog site ever broke off from the Independent Florida Alligator and became more successful than said paper, I would be dumbfounded.

What happened at Penn State University is a gigantic leap forward in college journalism. Of course, many local and national newspapers may have more online readers than actual paper subscribers, but tons of printed college newspapers still have a large readership. However, I do think it’s good that The Collegian is still on Penn State’s campus because, as editor-in-chief Rossilynne Skena said, the newspaper provides detailed accounts of events on campus from different perspectives.

That being said, it is no surprise that many journalists are proponents of newsrooms becoming completely digital. In response to the widely circulated essay “Confidence Game” by Dean Starkman, NYU professor Clay Shirky argues newspaper institutions will fall behind if they do not adapt this practice. In a way, he’s correct. I’m pretty sure that in 20 years most newspapers will no longer be in print. Our generation has been raised with online news readily available to consumers. We are going into adulthood with Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets under our belts. This really is the only logical direction newspapers could go in. Steve Yelvington couldn’t have described the future newsroom better: “The monopoly era of factory-produced, one-way, institutional journalism has ended.”

The “factory-only” system worked really well for everyone from the early 1900s until about the mid ’90s. However, even though printed news has its benefits, you can’t fight change. Starkman’s idea of reinventing the newsroom rather than creating new entities isn’t totally without reason, though. A fair amount of people do still read newspapers, and news websites have proven to be effective. His essay has still received plenty of criticism from people other than Shirky, including Steve Buttry, who calls journalistic nostalgia “seductive and dangerous.” Needless to say, an absolute decision about what to do with newspaper institutions is not going to be made anytime soon.

I admit, I would be sad to see the day printed newspapers disappear forever. There is still something wonderful about holding a paper in your hands while reading about the latest happenings. For now, though, I can deal with some new, innovative techniques that are bound to raise their heads in newsrooms all over the world.

Unborn fetus: person or not?

4 Apr

The story about a grandfather involved in arson that killed his pregnant daughter, son-in-law and grandson is a difficult case. Whenever a controversial issue is involved in a story, nobody ends up agreeing with each other on how it should be reported.

I think that, no matter how reporters Smith and Shah handled this story, it would invoke some sort of complaint with how the “three vs. four killed” situation was handled. I would say, though, in this case, to follow the Tribune’s stylebook. At least by doing this, you let the public (and the editor) know that you were strictly following the stylebook’s rules, which do not consider an unborn child or fetus to be a person. This is probably the only way for this story to remain semi-free of bias. Newspapers have stylebooks exactly for difficult situations like these, especially involving morality and the public interest.

However, the headline and the text clash with each if these rules are followed. Changing the headline to something like “Grandfather charged in blazed that killed relatives” makes the headline a little more general and not as specific, although this may not be as SEO-friendly as the original.

What confuses me, though, is how editor Timothy McNulty reacted. Although I agree with him when he says that journalists “should recognize their weak spots and moments of unintentional bias when dealing with religion and morality,” he then almost counteracts that by saying the headline doesn’t agree with the story. He should probably have used more care in this matter before sending it out to print.

Tweeting a great social media tool that should be fact-checked

14 Mar

Twitter has become a part of daily life. It is second nature for many of my friends to tweet about what they’re doing almost every hour of their day.

Sometimes I wish I could grab my friends by the shoulders, shake them and tell them that Twitter can also be used (more effectively) as a news outlet. Lately I have been using Twitter to promote my blog on ‘90s nostalgia, as Mallory Jean Tenore of Poynter suggests. I’m not sure how well it has been working for me, but at least I’m getting it out there.

In an attempt to organize my tweets, I created a “news outlets” list so that I could have all my tweets from newspaper websites in one place. If I made my list public so that it could be shared, journalists could use this as a way to find breaking news, therefore coming up with new story ideas.

Although tweeting a finished story to sources may sound like a good idea, if you write for a local newspaper, some of your older sources may not have a Twitter, so it would still be a good idea to email or call each said source and tell them to either pick up a newspaper to see the story or send them said news story via email.

Tweeting parts of a story is also effective, since the whole point of Twitter is to spark conversation. This helps people interact more with their news. Reactions to a story via tweets can also make a great article. In short, on Twitter, anyone can be a journalist or publisher. However, Mathew Ingram of Gigaom makes a good point when he says this new “networked journalism” has made news a bit more chaotic. Instead of looking to one prominent newspaper/reporter for our news, we have many outlets, which is great but can also be a bit repetitive. Many people like to tweet the same stories over and over again.

Because of Twitter’s many benefits to the world of journalism and social media, you could say that the site has become a worldwide sensation. However, Mark Hill of Cracked.com argues that it indeed has become a sensation — only in the U.S., that is. It isn’t too surprising to me that people in the Middle East barely use social networking, since there are many third-world countries in the area, meaning a supply of computers is scarce. Although Hill is probably right, I disagree with him when he writes that social networking is a terrible source for news. Yes, people may tweet inaccurate information sometimes, but since Twitter is not an actual “news site,” it is up to us to figure out the truth. Research is still important.

Reporters should not depend on Twitter entirely for their stories; they need to check the facts first, as is common journalistic practice.

Twitter story

17 MarOlivia FeldmanOlivia Feldman ‏ @oliviarianne 

This is Olivia Feldman live tweeting from a bus filled with alcohol on the way to Wet N Wild. Happy St. Patty’s! #shotbus

17 MarOlivia FeldmanOlivia Feldman ‏ @oliviarianne 

A girl in a Gator blazer is walking around telling us “You want a shot” while holding a bottle of rum. #shotbus

Someone turns to their friend and says, “This is gonna be a long bus ride.” #shotbus

My seat neighbor is explaining the differences between different types of pigs. #shotbus

The soft country music does not reflect the mood on this vehicle.#shotbus

17 MarOlivia FeldmanOlivia Feldman ‏ @oliviarianne 

After going onto the Turnpike exit on I-75, a group of people rejoice, “We’re not going to Tampa!” #shotbus


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.

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.