Tag Archives: digital

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.”

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Digital involvement

28 Mar

By: Gabriela Gonzalez

We live in a day where journalists post story ideas in Google Documents and through social media, and they ask the readers for feedback. Some news rooms have an “open door policy” where people can stop by and make suggestions, and others have even set up cafes where journalists hang out and wait for the community to come by and chat.

Emily Olson, the managing editor at Register Citizen, said people stopping by doesn’t necessarily mean the conversations and suggestions are helpful.

She added, “Our time is probably what suffers more than anything, but that’s a sacrifice we have to accept.”

The sacrifice, however, is worth it because of what journalists are able to get out of this interaction with the reader.

Having journalists interact with readers through diverse media helps them get a feel as to what the community thinks is important.

Mathew Ingram said the journalist’s interaction with readers makes news an “ongoing process” rather than a finished product.

Ingram wrote about John Paton, the new head of the Media News Group newspaper chain, and a leading advocate of a “digital first” approach to publishing, who said newspapers need to change their business style if they are going to survive.

“Many newspapers continue to focus their energy on the print version, then post things to the web, which results in stories without links, and static versions of the news that don’t evolve as the story changes and new information emerges,” Ingram paraphrased.

Sports Illustrated is a publication that has successfully gone digital. According to Lauren Indvik, the Sports Illustrated digital revenue went up 22% from 2009 to 2010.

The writers have their hands full making different versions of stories. The shorter ones go on the web, and the longer ones go in the print version and tablet versions, Indvik said.

“Nothing that we do converts easily one from the next,” Senior Editor Stephen Cannella said.

Other magazines like The Atlantic have transitioned well into the digital age.

Indvik said: “In some ways, The Atlantic was primed for web journalism. The magazine had been established in the mid-nineteenth century by a group that included Ralph Waldo Emerson and Harriet Beecher Stowe, prominent American intellectuals then in the prime of their careers. In its founding statement, The Atlantic (then called The Atlantic Monthly) pledged to be ‘the organ of no party or clique, but will honestly endeavor to be the exponent of what its conductors believe to be the American idea,’ concerned with ‘Freedom, National Progress, and Honor, whether public or private.’”

It is interesting though because The Atlantic still pledges that more important than being fast and technological is the quality of the work produced by the writers at the publication.

Some advice about generating interaction and traffic from  Liz Borod Wright includes putting your website or news organization on StumbleUpon or Pinterest. She also suggests using your blog name as your username on other social media and to be “generous,” and generate conversation and traffic on other sites. They may return the favor.

It is important to engage and use social media. People are likely to find ideas or news on these websites so you might as well use them to engage and seek ways to improve or have more perspectives.

Journalists, as they report, are using social media more. Some are using Twitter and Facebook as their platforms, Lindsay Oberst said.

Justin Ellis said Facebook data shows that when journalists pose questions on Facebook when they use Facebook to blog and report, it raises reader engagement.

International Journalists’ Network3 said social media is important because, when seeking engagement, on social media sites you can find people of diverse backgrounds and locations.

Twitter has proven useful, especially with the use of the hashtag which allows people to follow certain topics.

Steve Buttry argues that if you are a disconnected journalist you cannot give the people what they need and are seeking, therefore, you must be engaged with the community. He said journalists take the Society of Professional Journalists creed of “act independently” a little too seriously, and they become detached and “aloof” to what surrounds them.

He also said it is important to have many perspectives, and also, if you include the reader in your journey to obtaining information and the process of reporting, the reader sees that you are credible.

Though it can be time consuming, a complete waste of time and sometimes pose ethical issues, connecting with readers has proven to be valuable.

It is a concept that goes along with the saying, “How can one rule the people if one does not know the people?” How can you write and hope to educate a people if you don’t know what really matters to them?

As time goes by and more news organizations adopt more platforms, reporters will not only be reporting and publishing stories from far and strange lands, but they will also be analyzing and discussing them through these same platforms.

Through social media, you can reach the world and get its opinion, literally. Once you take the time to know your community, it can show you what you should care about, and you can show it what it should care about, too.

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 Digg.com. 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 123greetings.com. 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.