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Case Study 10: Wordle

18 Apr

By: Gabriela Gonzalez

Wordle is an excellent tool. It is probably my favorite, so far. I love the idea of putting in a passage or piece of writing and having this system show you the most mentioned words in the piece of writing in such a visual way. The most common words are often larger, repeated and sometimes bold. This tool summarizes a piece of writing in the way a graph summarizes data. It makes themes easily understood in a  visual way. It can help highlight themes and underlying messages that may not be obvious when you first read or glance at the piece.

I used Wordle to examine President Barak Obama’s State of the Union Addresses from 2010, 2011 and 2012.

2010

Common themes and words in the 2010 State of the Union Address were: Now, economy, business, people, American, jobs, work and government. This was his first time addressing the nation as president unless you count his speech in 2009.

2011

 

Common themes and words in his speech in his second year were: New, people, years, work, American, world, country, future and spending.

2012

His common themes and words in 2012 were: Right, time, Americans, jobs, one, people, economy, energy, tax and congress.

By looking at these three speeches, we can see that his addresses to the nation have had a consistent theme. He has focused on addressing the American people about the future, the economy, jobs and spending. Becoming bigger each year was the mention of energy and jobs.

Tools like Wordle can help journalists spot changes in focus, emphasis and importance in certain aspects and areas by looking at the words used. The tool is also neat because you can choose colors, fonts and different ways to present your Wordle cloud.

This is something you could easily spend a lot of time playing around with and more importantly, analyzing.

Journalist Reform

17 Apr

By: Gabriela Gonzalez

Journalism needs reform. All of this reform begins with the ones communicating the news; journalists.

People need to be interested in the news. Not only should they be interested in what is being communicated, but also in the way it is being presented. Jonathan Stray said journalists need to make people want to get “lost” on their sites just like they do on Wikipedia and Facebook. They need to want to invest time on the sites. In other words, the news needs to be presented in an engaging way. It needs to give people the interaction they find on sites that are not news sites.

One ways Stray suggests increasing engagement is through linking. Though much of journalism does not use linking, it is vital, he said, to its survival now. It also increases transparency and credibility.

The media also has to be better at giving people what they want. Journalists must learn to read and listen to the public.

Alfred Hermida thinks journalists need to acquire more skill. It is only like this that they can become entrepreneurs of new ways to communicate stories accurately and well.

He said journalists have to stop thinking “of themselves as wanting to be broadcast journalists, or radio journalists or print journalists: increasingly it’s all the same thing.”

The role of the journalist is changing; that we know. Jonathan Hewett said: “The journalist – at least in general interest media – is no longer the privileged channel, the person who knows more than anyone else and has the contacts. That’s hard to accept. Before the internet, the journalist was an elevated gatekeeper to a world that was more or less closed to the readers.”

He also said there is great reward and potential when journalists take that extra step to engage their readers and interact with them.

Thad Mcllroy disagrees about the whole notion that reform is needed and that print is dying. He said that focusing on the U.S. alone is not enough to truly report on the state of the media.

He said: “When the U.S. media look at the changes in media consumption trends, naturally enough, they tend to focus on the United States. This is terrifically misleading. Newspapers are thriving in countries such as India and China…I say to my friends and colleagues: You should feel blessed. You are part of a revolution in how information is distributed far greater than the invention of the printing press, and certain to have more far-reaching effects.”

Whatever the case may be, the Cub Reporters website makes an excellent point: “The media isn’t the only thing changing. The world of work is changing.”

If the world is changing, the way we journalists think and present information has to change as well.

Social media values and possibilities changing the news

9 Apr

By: Gabriela Gonzalez

There is no question about it. Social media has revolutionized journalism. In some ways, some would argue it allows journalists to do or accomplish what they were already trying to accomplish, except in a more time efficient way that reaches more people.

Brenna Ehrlich said: “Journalists are, by nature, crafty folk who are wonderfully adept at stalking — I mean, finding sources and relevant information for various and sundry stories. Well, the advent of social media has made the process of reporting all the more nuanced, and has served as a vital channel for everything from finding leads to contacting sources to sharing and furthering one’s brand.”

Social media has made finding information about someone easier. Something that would have been awkward to ask may now be out in the open on Facebook. Ehrlich compares Facebook to a phonebook, except with photos and biographical information.

Social media has other advantages apart from facilitating information. It also makes it so that journalists are no longer asking questions because people are saying what they think.

In places where journalists are not allowed, people can use the Internet to broadcast their opinions or their oppression. Ehrlich mentioned Iran as an example.

Brian Stelter, a reporter for The New York Times, receives feedback on stories and polishes them through interaction with people on his Twitter and his blog. He also uses both to promote his work and create that ever desired “brand.”

The most crucial aspect of the social media tool is “engagement with the audience,” said Brian Dresher, manager of social media and digital partnerships at USA Today.

Burt Herman said: “Journalism will be more collaborative, embracing the fundamental social nature of the Internet. The story will be shaped by people involved in the news, curated by savvy editors from diverse sources and circulated back again to the audience. This is the new real-time news cycle.”

Social media has added the “personal” element into news. How “personal,” can be debated, but the point is that journalists and news organizations are taking advantage of these tools to connect with others.

“Get readers involved with your brand, engage them with their hearts and minds and the money will follow,” the CoverItLive editor said.

Dan Gillmor said there is a lot to be excited about.

“Why, given the crumbling of newspapers and the news industry in general, should we believe in abundance? Just look around,” he said. “The number of experiments taking place in new media is stunning and heartening. Entrepreneurs are moving swiftly to become pioneers in tomorrow’s news.”

With this breaking away from the monopoly of information, there is an issue with ensuring the credibility of the news media as it becomes more collaborative.

“We’ll have to instill throughout our society principles that add up to critical thinking and honorable behavior,” Gillmor said.

He said readers and participants need to be skeptical, critically think, and go out of their comfort zones. Journalists on the other hand, need to demand transparency, be fair, fact check and be independent. I find the first and last one very hard to do with this new collaborative journalism. How can you force people to be transparent and be independent when you rely on others a lot more heavily, which is what social media facilitates?

Esther Thorson and Michael R. Fancher found by using a Pew Research Center for the People and the Press study that the general audience and journalists have very different ideas about what the core values of the press should be.

If the values are different, it will be difficult for them to collaborate well together.

Matt Egan argues, “Social media is eroding core journalistic values. And whether that is a good thing or a bad thing, professional journalists are just as much to blame as flaming web trolls.”

He states that though journalists through social media are influencing a larger amount of people, they are also being influenced, and that may not be a good thing. He states this can be negative because the person influencing the news could be anyone. Anyone, means anyone.

Some are arguing that social media is destroying journalism completely; that journalists are trying to use what will end up being their demise. Robert Picard went as far as to write a piece in The Christian Science Monitor called “Why journalists deserve low pay.”

He began his piece by saying: “Wages are compensation for value creation. And journalists simply aren’t creating much value these days. Until they come to grips with that issue, no amount of blogging, Twittering, or micropayments is going to solve their failing business models.”

Whatever your opinion may be, one thing is certain: Social media cannot be ignored.

Richard Gordon, a professor at Northwestern University said, “Social media are changing in fundamental ways. Journalists, newsrooms and media companies ignore these changes at their peril.”

TOOLS

Google Trends and Google Correlate:

Google Trends and Google Correlate are tools that give you special insight as a journalists. They give you a peek at the mind of the reader and average person out there and what they care about or think about together.

Google Trends shows what term or reference people refer when they search, while Google Correlate helps you see what people associate with each other and search patterns.

These tools can help journalists not only figure out what to write about and what a “hot” topic is but also it serves as a tool to write SEO-friendly headlines that will be more likely to pop-up when the reader types a search into Google.

Check out my Google Trends [a] and Google Correlate [b] below.

[a]

Hispanic vs. Latino in the Google search.

[a] Latino is obviously a more popular term. One can see that it was especially used in Mexico and Spain. In the U.S., however, both are almost used interchangeable and at the same rate.

[b]

French Elections

[b]  It is neat that Google Correlate works with other languages. I tried it in French. I searched “Election Presidentielle” and it reflected the association and search pattern with “Sondages,” which means surveys or polls, which is something the French actively follow to see how the public opinion on certain candidates changes. Very cool.  🙂

Entrepreneurial journalism: World Hum

4 Apr

By: Gabriela Gonzalez, Luke Gavin, Casey Speers and Olivia Feldman

The co-founders of World Hum are Jim Benning and Michael Yessis. Benning was a freelance magazine writer who started at the Los Angeles Times and Orange County Register. Yessis was travel editor for the USA Today. Both were friends and big fans of Salon.com’s “Wanderlust” section. When Salon killed the section, Benning and Yessis complained until they decided to start one on their own for $30.

The site was cheap to start up partly because Yessis knew website coding and set up and coded the website by hand. The site began with three stories and a call for submissions. Their goal was to bring writing and editing expertise to the site, so they had high standards. Its big break was when a World Hum story was published in “The Best American Travel Writing” anthology.

World Hum did not have advertising at first, since traffic was minimal. In 2005 and 2006, however, Benning and Yessis redesigned the site, so that it could include ads. Currently, they are not selling ads on the website, but there are Google ads on the site, and these are triggered by key words on a page. Even with the ads, they weren’t making big money. The site’s revenue was modest, bringing in about $1,000 to $2,000 per year.

With the owners mainly spending only their spare hours on the site, it was more of a “labor of love,” Benning said.

Things changed when the Travel Channel purchased World Hum in 2006 and employed the two men full time to run the website. This brought an editorial budget and other support that allowed the site to thrive, but only for a few years.
In 2010, Scripps Network bought Travel Channel and chose not to support World Hum, and Benning and Yessis were laid off. Although Travel Channel still owns World Hum, Benning and Yessis are licensed to run the site and earn profits from it.

Eva Holland is the senior editor of World Hum. She first heard about World Hum while still in England; the website was in a book called the “Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Writing,” and she became a huge fan. While at the Book Passage Conference in San Francisco in August 2007, she met Jim Benning, and she officially started blogging for World Hum the following month. Since becoming its senior editor in 2009, Holland now manages the unsolicited submissions inbox, which has many stories from new writers.

World Hum is not your typical travel site. World Hum has maintained its presence on the web by using social media to promote stories. One interesting aspect of their site is that on the homepage it has boxes where you can “like” its Facebook page, see what stories Facebook users are recommending to readers and view new and old posts from the @worldhum Twitter feed. Along with the integration of social media, the page layout is easy to navigate and nicely organized by categories. The website also has a “Destinations” tab, which allows users to browse every location that World Hum covers, which is just about every country in the world.

Journalism’s great experiment

3 Apr

By: Gabriela Gonzalez

“Journalism is not dying, it is just changing,” is what all of my first-year professors told us in J-school.

Advertisements’ cause of death: Yahoo and Craigslist. Newspapers’ cause of death: the Internet.

This is not a new topic.

It is official: Open newsrooms are having conversations with their readers and using social media to obtain feedback and information. Those who stick to traditional journalism shield themselves saying their type of journalism is more analytical and in-depth.

Clay Shirky said, “Journalism has remained so unchanged … that journalists didn’t feel they had to change. As such, there was a general skepticism of online sources. Leads can be found everywhere now, from places you’d never deem credible in the past. Amateur blogs, for one … But, five years ago, if you said you were citing a stranger on the Internet you’d [probably] get yelled at by an editor.”

If it was wrong before, what makes it right now?

Shirky also adds that by linking and becoming more innovative in journalism, newspapers can avoid plagiarism. This is an argument all on its own. Is aggregation plagiarism?

Of course, the media that opts to go digital faces its own challenges such as no or reduced revenue.

Newspapers went steady and even had their readership explode in the 1830s, he said. Part of the reason why newspapers were successful was because there was a scarcity of news. There was only a couple of selected places to get your information. Now, that scarcity of news is gone. Competition has intensified.

Shirky argues the newspaper and print media needs “radical reinvention.”

Julie Moos of the Poynter Institute writes, ““The monopoly era of factory-produced, one-way, institutional journalism has ended.”

Today, what exists is a “democracy of distribution.” Anyone who had Internet can publish or access any information available.

Journalism is not dying, however. “Many students are still choosing to enter journalism programs,” Eunice Chan said.

According to Ernie Sotomayor, careers director at Columbia University graduate school of journalism, the number of applicants to journalism schools is increasing.

What appeals to students even more now is the fact that with the Internet their work is received by a larger audience.

Mathew Ingram writes that people are still looking for journalists who can break down and make sense of what is out there. The readers need someone who can breakdown data and analyze it.

Even if journalism is alive and well, and it is just going through a period of experimentation, journalists must change with it to keep it alive and competitive.

Steve Myers said: “We know we should broaden our network of sources, but we stick to official ones. We know we can connect with the community through social media, but we haven’t signed in to Twitter in months. We know we should think Web-first, but our days are still built around the daily deadline.”

Not only does the journalist have to adapt to new technology and media platforms, but he or she must work on adding value to the craft.

Richard Koci Hernandez, a photographer at the Mercury News, said, “”Right now there’s a huge appetite for multitalented journalists. You have to bring something else to the table.”

In journalism today, you need to show that you can bring value to your work. If you can do multimedia, you’ll have a job. One needs to separate oneself from the average blogger out there.

Gina Masullo Chen said: “Challenge away. We’re fighting for our lives here as an industry. We can’t afford to do anything that doesn’t add value, and figuring out what adds value must be tied to the reader…We must listen to our readers.”

She writes about journalists saying, “I think part of the reason is we assume readers don’t really know what they want or we think what they want isn’t good for them.  That paternalistic model, frankly, hasn’t been working for decades.”

I think it is tough to balance listening to the reader, but keeping the quality of your work. She argues that journalists see world affairs and news about the economy as important, but the readership doesn’t care. People, in my opinion and maybe I am thinking like a “paternalistic” journalist here, are shallow. They want shallow and dumb news. People wonder why the U.S. ranks low in knowledge about international affairs and politics in comparison to other countries, and I believe this will get worse as we continue to go for the “listen to the reader” philosophy.

Maybe the “feed the reader” system hasn’t been working for decades, but I can tell you that through traditional media we had a much more educated public back then than we do now.

I think Ingram is right when he argues that journalism is more about inquiry and analysis rather than a method of publishing. So whether journalism goes digital first and print second is irrelevant, though this will probably happen. The most important issue here is the quality of the work being given.

I very much agree with Brent Cunningham who said, “Sustaining serious journalism in the digital age is a topic of much discussion and experimentation, most of which focuses on the product — the supply side of the information equation. But there will be no solution without demand from a citizenry that understands and values quality journalism.”

Case Study 9: Fetus or unborn child

30 Mar

By: Gabriela Gonzalez

Editor response:

Summary: The story is about a man, Subhas Chander, who set fire to a house and killed his 5-month pregnant daughter, her husband, whom he disliked because he was from a lower caste, and his 3-year-old grandson.

The debate: The debate is whether it should be three counts of murder or whether the unborn should be counted as a person.

The arguments: Timothy J. McNulty argues that it was four deaths not three and that the stylebook or the writer’s own personal belief was what made the writer say three. He argues that this is wrong.

A Chicago media critic said McNulty is doing the same thing and basing his reasoning on his religious beliefs.

Conclusion: Ultimately, none of us can completely separate ourselves from our personal beliefs. It is also evident that some stylebooks advocate certain religious or political beliefs, so perhaps using them as a guide in these touchy situations will always cause some stir because someone may not agree.

The best thing to do would be to use the legal sentencing to describe what happened even if it makes the headline a bit longer or avoid it all together. I am afraid we’d have to ditch the stylebook in this case.

Instead of saying, “Grandfather charged in blaze that killed 3,” the headline could read, “Grandfather charged in blaze with three counts of first-degree murder, one count of intentional homicide of an unborn child.” By saying it like this, it is an accurate and legal. People may argue that the fact that it is called a child is political and religious if it is not born, but it is the way the court has written it, so that is an option.

Another option would be to say, “Grandfather charged in death of pregnant daughter, her husband and 3-year old grandson.” In this way you avoid having to choose between child or fetus.

No matter what you do, people will find something wrong with it. Being politically correct can be so annoying sometimes. There are some things that are so controversial that there is no neutrality available when talking about them.

Facebook: The new face of journalism

30 Mar

By: Gabriela Gonzalez

“Everyone has one,” is what most will say about Facebook. It is the place where people go to connect, create an image and check up on other people. It is a place where you can collect every face you’ve ever encountered and follow their lives, and where you can post photos you took of yourself shamelessly.

This tool that has managed to connect the planet, except for the Chinese because they have their own version of it, is seen by journalists as a platform. It is a place where they can, as The Next Web website explains, create online communities and engage readers. Facebook is not a place for breaking news like Twitter, but it can still deliver news in a timely fashion and be updated constantly, it argues.

Facebook also allows you to receive notifications, and you choose who you share certain things with. In this respect, Facebook is a lot more private than Twitter.

It has become about building relationships with people and creating dialogue. It is a platform, not only for media, but for protests and other mobilizations of groups.

Vadim Lavrusik calls Facebook a “social newspaper.” He said Facebook helps journalists build their brand, and it helps disseminate information to a large group of people. It can also help tell a story in a multi-media fashion because one can embed videos and other links.

Journalists through Facebook can ask readers questions and involve them in the process of news and provide them with extra analysis.

As a journalist, with Facebook,  you can try to reach an audience of 800 million.

Facebook continues to grow and add applications and new ways to tell stories. You can update from just about anywhere with a mobile device. There is no telling what new things could come up in the future. Things we perhaps have never thought of.

It would be neat if in the future Facebook partnered with Skype to add interaction to the medium between journalists and the readers and audience. If Facebook adds a “live TV” type element, this would further help the timeliness of news and the presentation of it on the spot.

For my blog, I have added an application available under “share” where you can share my blogs on Facebook or Twitter. I don’t have a Facebook. As clever and useful as it may be, I think it is a shallow way of interacting with people. Nothing beats being in a place with another person face-to-face.

Facebook also brings many ethical concerns. Facebook boasts privacy and protecting your profile, yet at the same time is serves as a medium to give out information and leave nothing hidden. Ethical concerns include and are not limited to: conflicts of interests with readership and “friends;” because Facebook is about real time, sacrificing quality for the speed you can spread the information; and having readers contribute and not fact checking. Another concern is that most people communicate through typing. Most of the time email communication for journalists is discouraged because it could be anyone, which undermines credibility, and one cannot distinguish tone in a written message which could make portraying something accurately a problem. Facebook is no different.

I think Facebook could compromise the key values of “acting independently” and “accuracy” in reporting. I also think it cheapens what we do. Facebook and Twitter have strived to give anyone the power to publish, and that is NOT always a good thing.