Off The Written Path

Entries from February 2011

‘JournalismNext’ Chapter 4 Summary

February 15th, 2011 · No Comments

I just finished finding out that if I want to be a journalist of any relevance I have to have a blog. Now in Chapter 4 of “JournalismNext” Mark Briggs says that it’s not enough to have a blog, journalists have to know how to microblog, too. Hang in there, I’m overwhelmed too. It might be easier to understand if I say you have to know how to use Twitter. Writing in 140 characters or less is basically the essence of microblogging.

Here is a breakdown from Chapter 4 of how journalists can benefit by using Twitter and other microblogging services:

  • Get Leads. By knowing what people are talking about on Twitter you can get story ideas on what people care about most.
  • Find people to interview. Experts in their field also tweet (to learn the Twitter lingo click here) and it is easy to find and connect with them on Twitter.
  • Get feedback before an interview. You can ask your readers what questions they want answered before you do an interview so your story can be relevant to your readers.
  • Perform a public interview. It is also possible to interview people over Twitter.

One major thing not to forget is networking. Twitter can be an invaluable resource for journalists to connect with other journalists, and possible future employers. For a journalist’s guide on how to use Twitter visit Mandy Jenkins’s Zombie Journalism.

Another good resource is Mashable’s “The Journalist’s Guide to Twitter.”

Twitter offers people news without a time delay. Briggs calls it “real-time web.” Journalists can post breaking news and receive instantaneous feedback from readers. Journalists can also start a “real-time” conversation about other news and stories. That “journalism as a conversation” which we heard about in Chapter 3 helps the journalists know their audience and in turn adds richness and depth to a news story.

Tags: Journalism Next by Mark Briggs

‘JournalismNext’ Chapter 3 Summary

February 14th, 2011 · No Comments

“…The people formerly known as the audience…”

—Jay Rosen, New York University

It’s time for journalists to give up their high horses and join the crowd. That is the take away message from Chapter 3. Here Mark Briggs makes the point that collaborating with readers is essential in the new world of journalism.  Briggs says that journalists must eliminate the barrier which exists with their audience and embrace how technology can help them maximize that new openness. 

This new form of reporting, which heavily involves the audience, is an opportunity for wider coverage of issues that matter most to readers, Briggs suggests.   

There are three main ways in which the audience is becoming involved in journalism, according to Briggs:

Crowdsourcing: “Reporting based on the work of many people, including your readers,” says Dan Kennedy, media critic and instructor at Northeastern University.

  • Example: Haiti.ushahidi.com. During the 2010 earthquake in Haiti people living through the aftermath uploaded emergency reports to the site.

Open-source reporting: Making the reporting process transparent and encouraging feedback from readers by letting readers know the story you are working on.

  • Example:  Vartti.fi. Finnish news website that posts story ideas and encourages audience feedback and multimedia submissions, then publishes the resulting stories in several weekly papers.

Pro-am journalism: Also known as citizen journalism or participatory journalism, it is when citizens report their own stories and news organizations facilitate publication.

Citizen reporting is driven by one principle; “…Our readers know more than we do…” says Jeff Howe, the writer who came up with the term “crowdsourcing.”

However, journalists are not obsolete. Briggs points out that there are still valuable skills journalists possess which they can leverage in the new “crowd-powered” journalism environment.

  • Briggs says citizens need journalists to add context to information.
  • Journalists still have their news judgment, reporting and editing skills to contribute.

Crowdsourcing is about outsourcing the “what” in the five W’s, while journalists still provide the “why.”

Tags: Journalism Next by Mark Briggs

‘What the Internet Killed’

February 8th, 2011 · No Comments

Interesting slideshow from Newsweek titled “What the Internet Killed.” Looks like they forgot to add Newsweek to the list.

Tags: Tech Blog Posts

Is a Threat to Assange a Threat to Journalism?

February 8th, 2011 · No Comments

A recent post by Vadim Lavrusik at Mashable has me thinking: Is a threat to Julian Assange a threat to journalism?

The editors of The New York Times and the UK’s Guardian think so. Lavrusik reports that Bill Keller and Alan Rusbridger said they would stand by Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, if he is prosecuted for publishing documents on WikiLeaks. Both men spoke during a panel hosted by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

 I have been following WikiLeaks since the Afghan War Diary was published. I’ve read almost every news story I have come across regarding WikiLeaks. I have read some of the diplomatic cables published on the site. And then I became afraid. With politicians demanding  Assange’s prosecution, universities sending out emails to students warning them against mentioning the cables, and political pressure on servers to drop the WikiLeaks site, I began to wonder if Uncle Sam would come after me for reading the information about the inner workings of U.S. diplomacy.

 It is that flash of fear that tells me that Keller and Rusbridger are right to stand by Assange. This is the United States of America; we are not supposed to be afraid to access information about actions our government carries out in our name.

In “The Elements of Journalism,” authors Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel found that “The primary purpose of journalism is to provide citizens the information they need to be free and self governing.”

WikiLeaks does that. If it wasn’t for their site I would never have known that current U.S. officials tried to pressure Spain to drop an investigation  into the torture of terrorist suspects by the former U.S. administration. That is information I need to know to knowledgeably participate in this democracy, that is information that will affect who I will vote for in the next election.

If government officials threaten Assange in order to deny citizens that knowledge, then yes, a threat to Assange is a threat to journalism.

Tags: Tech Blog Posts

‘JournalismNext’ Chapter 2 Summary

February 7th, 2011 · No Comments

What’s the name of your blog? You don’t have one? Slacker. That’s right, in Chapter 2 of “JournalismNext,” Mark Briggs insists that “Every college journalist should have a blog.” Not just any blog, but a good blog.

What is a blog? Well, in my view it’s true information democracy. As Briggs says, anyone can publish with the click of a mouse. Briggs gives some straight forward advice for getting started, or if you do have a blog, he gives advice on how to make your blog better.

First things first. According to Briggs:

  • Learn. Understand the blogging language
  • Plan. What will be the name of your blog? Is there a catchphrase that can sum up what your blog is about? What is your mission statement, i.e. why does your blog exist?
  • Choose. What blog system will you use? Will your blog be hosted by WordPress or Blogger?
  • Customize. Make your blog your own. Pick a theme and enhance your layout; add a blogroll, widgets or RSS feeds.

Ultimately, you need people to read your blog. Briggs also goes in-depth on how to build your audience. The most important things he suggests are:

  • Publish often, and make it interesting
  • Grab attention with your post headlines
  • Be part of your blog’s community

Once you have those basics down, Briggs suggests that you should continually look for ways to improve your blog and connect with your audience. Briggs reminds us that a blog is simply another way to transmit news and information, and it can be influential or boring–it’s all up to you.

Tags: Journalism Next by Mark Briggs