Archive | February, 2012

Linking: Why link?

28 Feb

By: Gabriela Gonzalez

There is a columnist who writes for The Star-Banner in Ocala who includes links in his columns, professor Edward Weston said. People send him hate mail, saying the links are annoying. His response is he puts them there for people who want to know more. Reader’s disapproval stems from the fact that this is an older, more traditional audience that does not like links.

Why should links be used in journalism? According to Jim Stovall, “links tap into the interactivity function of the web, allowing the users to have some control over what they see and how they navigate through the information that the journalist is providing.”

He said the knowledge required to add a link is minimal HTML, hypertext mark-up language. “The tag for linking is <a href=> followed by the web address of the information or page you want to link to,” he said.

Stovall continued: “This should be placed before the word or words that will appear as the link on the web page. Immediately after those words should be an end tag, in this case </a>. That’s it. That is all the technical expertise that is required.”

Professor Ronald Yaros of the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism did a study where it was proven that stories with the links to explanatory text did best as far as readership goes. And not just any links were good; traditional links were the best.

According to the Editor’s Weblog website, linking provides collaboration in news. “Link or sink” is the philosophy. Linking also serves to promote and publicize.

Ryan Sholin said journalists link to provide readers with as much information at their fingertips, to be ethical and to connect to different aspects of the community, whether it be other businesses, news outlets, government institutions or organizations.

Josh Korr expands on the idea by saying that you do not overwhelm the reader by aggregating and providing links, but instead you give them a choice. If they choose to click, they are given more information.

It is key, Scott Rosenberg said, to remember that reporting is not finding links, and that original reporting does have its advantages. Linking is not a call to abandon all that is traditional or original in journalism. It is a call to expand beyond that.

Salon editor-in-chief Kerry Lauerman said the time it takes to aggregate really well is still time away from original reporting. “It’s kind of the worst of both worlds,” Lauerman said. “You’re spending a lot of time on someone else’s work. You’re more motivated when you’re pursuing your own work.”

The BBC, for example, has guidelines to linking. Links should be relevant, maintained, suitable for the audience and accurate.

Journalists should be cautious in the way they link to stories. The Miami Herald learned about this the hard way when its software linked to a pornography website mentioned in the story published.

Other disadvantages can be that links lead readers to other websites and they may find an outlet they like a lot more than yours. Also, linking can create a conflict when it comes to objectivity. Perhaps certain links would reveal a journalist or organization’s inclinations or leanings.

According to Robert Niles, journalists are now becoming advocates for something, instead of remaining unbiased. Linking would, perhaps, add to this dilemma. There needs to be a fairness in linking.

Though linking must be done with caution and it does not substitute reporting, it is necessary in online journalism. It provides more to those who choose to go beyond what is given, which creates and rewards a more educated readership.

Case Study 6: Suicidal Blond

28 Feb

By: Gabriela Gonzalez

Summary: Suicidal model Jeanette Sliwinski killed three Chicago musicians after running three red lights.

Notes on the piece:  In this particular article, the people who are quoted are prosecutors, police, witnesses, lawyers and the most specific source is Dave Meis, a relative of one of the victims. The journalist needs to go back and get names so that the piece will be more credible. Anyone could say “police said.” Also, the name of the model is given really low in the story. It needs to be moved up probably to the lead. It would be appropriate in the lead because she is a model and known figure.

The piece is about a murder trial that is about to begin. How much coverage will actually be allowed so that the rights of the defendant are protected? Is it even worth covering an impending trial if the information given will be vague, and the summary of a police report?

At the end of the article, it is mentioned that during her arrest Sliwinski has been modeling which cause much fury against the defendant. People were angry with her, especially relatives of the victims. She was sentenced to reckless homicide and eight years in prison. She got out in four years and had the defense of “insanity.”  Information like this, though it is fact, can heavily influence potential jury and others who need to see her “objectively.”

The quote by Dave Meis is a harsh one, though one must see that he is brother of one of the victims. He said it would have been great if Sliwinski would have succeeded.

Technically, many say she went out to kill, and she did succeed. She just got the wrong people. Throughout the piece it is also important to, in an effort to be fair, make things that are alleged seem alleged and not label or assume, such as calling her a “suicidal woman.” Reports say that she changed her story many times and also denied trying to take her own life, so it wouldn’t be fair to label her that way.


Chicago Murder Trial Begins for Suicidal Blond

Former model killed three beloved musicians with car in bid to end her life, prosecutors say

They didn’t see her coming.

It was lunch hour in Chicago on July 14, 2005, when three local musicians, who worked day jobs together at an audio electronics company, were stopped at a traffic light in a Honda Civic in a suburb north of the city.

At a speed of 70 miles per hour, authorities estimated, former model Jeanette Sliwinski, who, according to police, was trying to kill herself, ran three red lights and hit the Honda Civic from behind in her red Mustang convertible.

Both cars flew airborne on impact, witnesses said. Each car landed crushed upside-down on the pavement.

The three young men died. The Sliwinski walked away with a broken ankle.

Today, more than two years later, her murder trial begins.

“The one thing that would have brought this thing to closure would have been had she been successful in what she set out to do that day,” said Dave Meis, older brother of victim Douglas Meis, referring to the alleged suicide attempt by Sliwinski, who was then 23 years old.

Sliwinski’s lawyers have denied that she was attempting suicide. Her current attorney did not return a call seeking comment on the case.

The accident and subsequent arrest brought Sliwinski internet infamy. Many blogs and websites have posted modeling pictures of Sliwinski since she was arrested.

Link to Dropbox where this case study can be found:

Dossier on team members: Google dossier on team members

Vampire Story Merge

28 Feb

By: Gabriela Gonzalez

It is under assig.vampire merge.docx. The original was posted on Feb. 24, 2012. The program is not giving me the option to copy a public link so below is my public folder link.


Topic pages highlight the essentials

21 Feb

By: Gabriela Gonzalez

Imagine you enter a room full of clutter with things taking up space everywhere. There are bright colors, things you stumble upon; everything competes for your attention. It becomes overwhelming and frustrating. Eventually, you need simplicity. When everything is simplified and neat, you can see the essence of what everything is; you can feel in control and knowledgeable.

This is what “evergreen” topic pages can do. Maurreen Skowran said we all need a balanced news “diet.” It is easy to feel overwhelmed and frustrated. Topic pages serve as a type of encyclopedia that contains background information. It is not so much about constant updates, but about simplicity and seeing the essence of certain topics.

The summaries are not only wonderful because they simplify things, but they can also stand for a long time because they contain background information that one can build upon. There is a lot of curation of past articles to make smaller, simpler summaries.

Paul Edmondson describes the concept of evergreen as “perennially fresh and enduring.”  He gives examples of evergreen content as: encyclopedic entries, product reviews or tutorials.

“While Robin will tell you English is a living language, but the grammar rules for who vs. whom are pretty constant,” he said. “This article will be a valuable resource for years to come.”

According to News Cred, The New York Times is credited for the “birth” of topic pages. It is still said to have the best topic pages on the Internet.

The topic pages are pages with short summaries, graphics, analysis and visuals. Having topic pages linked to other articles on the general page can also help increase certain page views over time. These general pages and articles are in a way promoted by the evergreen page, and the additional readership would probably not have found the material if it weren’t for the topic page.

Evergreen pages are interesting, according to Robert Niles, because not only are they summaries and long lasting, but they are very defined and focused pages. He said the page “ought to focus on a single element within a theme – not just sports, for example, but on soccer officiating in the World Cup.”

Topic pages are that place where your questions about a hobby, interest or beat are answered, and answered attractively. Paul Grabowicz said topic pages are visual, and they appeal to younger demographics. They often include data, maps, timelines, polls, photos, slideshows, videos, archives and plenty of opportunity for interaction and comments.

There is something exciting about becoming an expert in something. That is why many people spend years in school specializing, or they earn certificates in certain professional degrees. An evergreen page allows the writer to specialize in and write about a certain topic that people will always care about. It could mean collaborating with a community of people that will be able to share valuable information with an interested, uninformed community that wants to know more.

Using Delicious: Delicious is a great tool for any journalist or writer who wants to follow a certain topic. It can be helpful, as is Google Alerts, in keeping information about a certain topic together. While Google Alerts tracks a topic, Delicious allows users to bookmark and share bookmarked pages organized by topic and tag.

Topic pages worth your time:

Hillary Rodham Clinton– Politics aside, I like her as a person.

CNN Freedom Project-For background and updates on human trafficking and child labor.– For keeping up with the French presidential elections.

One in eight million– A region topic page from The New York Times. It has excellent graphics.

Case Study 5: Why headlines are so important

21 Feb

By: Gabriela Gonzalez

As a reader, you can feel let down or decieved if a certain headline leads you to read an article, and then you realize the headline didn’t accurately represent the story.

For example, the summary of the article “Falcons ‘won’t forget’ Saints throwing late for Brees record” would be the Falcons lost a game because of  the Saints’ Drew Brees’ last throw, which cost the Falcons the game and broke a record. It is an article whose headline is supported by the information in the body of the article, in my opinion.

The reader is not deceived when he or she reads the headline and decides to read the article.

The article “Brees’ record-breaking night tainted by decision to go for it late,” on the other hand, is one that is deceptive to the reader. The writer, Peter Prisco, begins the article with an anecdote about how a child told Brees that he hoped Brees would break the record. Prisco ends the piece again reaffirming that the child got his wish, but he adds his opinion in that it was an unfortunate way for the child to get his wish.

In the middle of the body, he includes comments from the opposing team about the late pass. Prisco tries to focus the article on the late pass but it doesn’t fit well with the anecdote of the child. The article’s focus, defined by the writer, is the fact that Brees broke the record and that the child got his wish.

The headline suggests that this article is like the former one about the late throw. Obviously, he is a columnist, and he expresses the opinion that he was bothered by the late throw as were players and Falcons staff. What he did was he merged what disappointed him in the game with an innocent and nice anecdote that doesn’t further support his point. It almost makes Prisco look mean. He “taints” the record breaking moment. The record-breaking moment was not tainted for the child.

Writers who do what Prisco did may not get much readership after that. Readers don’t want to waste their time thinking they are getting one thing when they get another. Also, perhaps the reader does not care for the writer’s personal opinion. The same goes for magazines that try to lure readers by announcing something on the cover. Oh the disappointment when you open the magazine, and what you find is not what you were told to expect.

Amy Gahran, of the Poynter Institute, said: “Online headlines should be intuitive, not cryptic, vague, or leading. That is, simply by reading a headline you should be able to grasp what a story’s about. A well-crafted online headline provides the reader with sufficient information and incentive to decide whether to click a link to read the story.”

Gahran states how headlines require effort. A headline like “Business backs college,” she said, tells the reader nothing.

The University of Iowa has a website with a chart of what makes a headline strong. An important element is detail. Not only should the journalistic piece be accurate, but the headline should be accurate in tone and thought.

Save and Delete said it can be helpful to plan your headlines first. This helps you maintain a focus in your piece as you write and develop it.

Not only do headlines generate interest and bring in readers, but they can also show a lot about the quality of the work and the writer’s mentality.

Fair: Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting said, if a writer or media organization has a bias, this bias may be revealed in the headline. This is seen in the example of the Brees story by Prisco. He was obviously disappointed in the late throw, but that doesn’t mean others were. His unfocused headline reflects his unfocused article in a sense, and it reveals his bias. Fortunately, he is a columnist so he is permitted to exhibit some bias. Unfortunately, the headline doesn’t represent the piece.

Headlines are important. They may determine the response you receive from readers or whether they take the time to read your work at all.

Tools that help us find what to write about

15 Feb

By: Gabriela Gonzalez

Whether you are assigned to a beat, or you are a general reporter, finding story ideas can be complicated. At times, things that seem genius to you are lame to your editor. One of the two sides might not see the issue or the trend that fascinates the other.

Before social media and other technological advancements, journalists would use the simple techniques of speaking with people in person, searching bulletin boards and collecting flier announcements. We still resort to these techniques, but recently we have been given resources that allow us to be more lethargic as far as our movement is concerned. Today, there are easier and faster ways to find trends or story ideas that don’t involve driving around or looking strange at bulletin boards.

One idea is to look at information, statistics and numbers related to the area you are covering. You can find data online in archives and documents. A figure that doesn’t match or a dramatic change over time can be an indicator of something newsworthy. You can use the Consumer Price Index, the Producer Price Index, the Bureau of Labor and utility companies, said Al Tompkins, of the Poynter Institute. Checking people’s math, if it turns out to be faulty, can also reveal a news story.

The internet facilitates our search for stories. There are great tools that can spark ideas like: Google Trends, Google Alerts and the Google search engine while we are at it. These tools can help you monitor blogs and all other news outlets, allowing you to pick up on something that others may not know about.

Reddit is also a tool that is being used more frequently by journalists.

Reddit can also help journalists find sources by using the “Ask Me Anything” session, Ethan Klapper said.

David Cohn recommends the social bookmarking site This website allows users to rate the best articles of the day. In these articles, reporters can get story ideas from other stories which may have other potential leads or angles in them.

Mark Glaser, of MediaShift, said things are changing. There are things journalists did before, but now they do things differently with technology. He also mentions the way things will be in the future. Social technology will play a huge role in not only how reporters contact sources, but also how they obtain story ideas.

Tom Regan said, “Technology is quickly eliminating the usual reasons reporters find to avoid creating extra material for their new media partners.”

“Technology is changing journalism,” Regan said, “just as it always has.”

Despite journalism’s fast evolution, which is happening before our eyes before we can blink, he said people hate change and journalists hate it more than most others because they are so skeptical by nature. They embrace change with caution.

Technology is changing the way we do things in that somethings will be easier to obtain, therefore, more content will be expected. Expectations will rise as facility in newsgathering increases.

It just goes to show that there is much truth to the phrase, “To whom much is given, much is expected.”

Budget lines by: Gabriela Gonzalez

1. Child slavery and labor

This story would be about what the local community is doing about the child labor and other fair trade issues that affect child labor and human trafficking worldwide. Our consumption of certain products prolongs others’ suffering and enslavement.

My audience would be both the local and national community. The purpose would be to create awareness, and if no action is being taken, to effect change.

Sources I would want to contact would be: someone from the CNN Freedom Project, which has been breaking the news and reporting on the child slavery happening on the Ivory Coast; Cindy Laughren, president of the Human Rights Council of North Florida; someone from the Amnesty International chapter at UF and from Invisible Children. I would speak to leaders in the community who work and support migrant workers like the members of CHISPAS at UF and Harvest of Hope.

I would also want to consult records of field raids that have occurred in Alachua County and records of mistreatment of migrant worker children locally in the county and at the state level. Another source I would like to contact is the producer and those who played a role in filming the documentary “The Harvest,” about migrant workers who pick our food in the U.S. I would also contact the state governor and senators. I would also want to include background on farm worker struggle, including Cesar Chavez’s movement. I would also use U.S. Department of Labor’s documents and quotes that show that agriculture is one of the most dangerous things a child could be involved in because of the chemicals and pesticides.

Ways to illustrate this story would be to take photos of the migrant children, with the parental permission, who work in Alachua County farms. Also, something that could impact the reader and be used in an online format would be a video interview with the children. It would also be helpful to include a list or chart of places that have child labor problems in a ranking.

2. Cards

Electronic cards were a trending topic this week because of Valentine’s Day.

I think it would be interesting to study to what degree greeting card sales have been in decline ever since the electronic card emerged. People are sending more E-Cards, and I would like to explore whether this is having an effect on our culture and relationships.

My audience would be general. To anyone who celebrates a holiday or is in a relationship, I suppose.

The story was covered generally in 2011 around Christmas time, but I would want to focus on Valentine’s Day. My sources would include the National Greeting Card Association, a sales representative from Hallmark and American Greetings and a representative from I would also want to get anecdotes from people. I would want to find a survey from a random sample relating to how they communicate with loved ones. This story would be a small piece in a bigger picture on how love and affection are becoming more digitalized. It would not only focus on the decline of greetings cards but also of mail in general, which could tie into the financial strains being suffred by the U.S. Postal Service.

Looking at the trend with greeting cards and mail can open the door to further explore length and depth of relationships and dating trends. The change in relationships through technology could be further explored with commentary from psychologists and sociologists.

To illustrate this story it would be great to have a graph showing the decline of greeting cards. Also, a chart with the decline of mail perhaps in certain countries compared to other countries that have reduced internet access and resources. It would also be neat to have a sidebar listing the ways social media and other technology such as phones are used in romantic relationships today. A before and after contrast would help simplify for the reader the enormous changes society has undergone.

Case Study 4: Google Alerts

15 Feb

By: Gabriela Gonzalez

Google Alerts can find some interesting stories and facts you may have never known about without its watchful eye.

“The service was created by Gideon Greenspan, a Ph.D. student at Israel’s Technion and long-time Macintosh developer,” said Jonathan Dube, of the Poynter Institue.

It just so happens that a Herald Reporter obtained news of a letter written to Florida Governor Charlie Crist asking him to pardon Jim Morrison of The Doors posthumously.

He got an awesome story that no one else had because he had alerts on the governor.

Signing up is free, and it only takes a moment. When you sign up, articles, blogs and whatever other news outlets you choose with your keyword are delivered directly to your inbox.

Google Alerts goes through about 4,500 news sources a day, Dube said. That is power.

The New York Times has an alert-tracking system, but it became a subscription service. Yahoo offers free alerts, but it seems no system can beat the Google Alert.

For financial news, Dube said Forbes and Market Watch also have an alert system that is free.

So, why use Google Alerts or any other tracking system for any other reason other than the fact that you want to be the reporter with the story no one else has?

Alerts can be used for many things, said Melinda Storrs, who gives online tips for marketing entrepreneurs. Other than helping you keep tabs on certain subjects or even teams, they can help you keep track of yourself and your online profile.

Not only can alerts help you keep track of yourself and offer new story ideas, but they could point to potential sources and new interests.

The most important and obvious reason why Google Alerts and other alert systems are so useful is because they save you time. They send to your inbox what you could only perhaps find by sitting at a table reading for the rest of your life.

We don’t have 1,000 hours in a day to read every newspaper and look for those keywords we are so interested in or the words that pertain to our beat, Dube said. It is impossible.