Off The Written Path

Exploring New Journalism

Off The Written Path

Facebook Journalism On The Rise

March 8th, 2011 · No Comments · Tech Blog Posts

Facebook is not only a place to connect with friends, it is now more and more a way to connect with news. A recent post by Vadim Lavrusik on Mashable talks about this growing trend.

Facebook journalism is on the rise because the social media site is becoming more public, Lavrusik says.

The recent Egyptian revolution that removed Hosni Mubarak from power has been called a “Facebook Revolution.” Activists in Egypt used Facebook to organize, and journalists used it to connect to the pulse of the Egyptian community.

Lavrusik mentions that AlJazeera English was able to track planned protests, gather information, and find sources from the revolution through Facebook.

Other benefits of Facebook for journalists include:

  • Building sources
  • Gaining insight into the ‘voice’ of a community through status updates
  • Tapping into a community that you might not have access to, such as Libya

Lavrusik reminds journalists that they still need to contact people and check their facts before they use material from Facebook. For more on how journalists can use Facebook take a look at this Mashable guide.


‘JournalismNext’ Chapter 10 Summary

March 8th, 2011 · No Comments · Journalism Next by Mark Briggs

Photo By Joe Hardy

News is a conversation now, not a lecture, and there is no going back, says Mark Briggs in Chapter 10.

Briggs acknowledges that some journalists would prefer a lecture style of news, but says that journalism is made better by audience participation. The key now is for journalists to learn to “manage, and leverage, that conversation.”

One common method of audience participation in news is the “Comments” section beneath an article. However, comments easily devolve into “inane,” “cruel,” and “a ghetto of personal attacks and flame wars,” Briggs says.

It is the responsibility of the journalist or news organization to help maintain a high-quality comments section, which will ultimately lead to better transparency in the reporting process and improve journalist-reader relations, Briggs says.

Other methods for joining the conversation include:

  • Make news participatory: Provide an opportunity for user generated content. Use message boards, have a “most popular” section, display blog links to an article, use social bookmarking tools on your content, and use social networking.
  • Get involved: Put in the extra elbow grease by participating in the reader community. Solicit content, do community outreach, run contests, moderate the comments section.
  • Develop sources through social networks: Find sources through Facebook or MySpace, on niche social networks or build a Google group of sources.
  • Collaborate with your community: Instead of competing with readers for a story, collaborate. Let readers provide the “what” while you provide context; the “why” and “how.”

Briggs also reminds journalists of the importance of accuracy, and the importance of correcting errors when they do happen.

A mantra that is mentioned again in this chapter is that journalists should realize that readers “know more than we do” and that reader knowledge can be leveraged to improve reporting.


Dan Rather Shares Journalism Insights With Students

March 8th, 2011 · No Comments · C-SPAN Video Conference

U.S. journalists need some backbone Dan Rather told college students Feb. 24 during a video conference broadcast live from C-SPAN studios in Washington, D.C.  

“American journalism, in many ways, needs a spine transplant,” Rather said, “We’ve lost some of the grit in our gut. We’ve lost some of our courage, if you will.”

Rather, a former CBS Evening News anchor whose noted career has spanned the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the current Iraq War, answered questions from students during the video conference. The question and answer session was part of an University of Denver and C-SPAN long distance learning course, in collaboration with The Cable Center. Participating in the video conference with Denver students were students from George Mason University, Purdue University, and Georgetown University.

“I wholeheartedly agree with Dan Rather,” said Aisha Jamil, a Mason student who participated in the video conference. “Most journalists today, especially in America, have lost the meaning of what a journalist truly is,” Jamil said in an email, “They are more interested in gaining ratings, giving their own opinions and making money.”

Rather, who now hosts a news program on HD Net, pointed to several reasons why he thinks journalism today is missing some “guts.”  He said news have become:

  • Corporatized
  • Politicized
  • Trivialized

Rather also said individual journalists share some of the blame.

“Far too much, people went along to get along,” Rather said referring to news coverage leading up to the current Iraq War. Rather said journalists, including him, were hesitant and afraid of being called unpatriotic to ask the tough questions that needed to be asked before the war.

Rather also shared with students three qualities he believes make a good journalist:

  • Curiosity
  • Relentless determination
  • Ability to write well and quickly

“Curiosity is the bedrock of being a good reporter,” Rather said.

Steve Scully, senior executive producer and political editor of C-SPAN, hosted the video conference. Jon-Christopher Bua, a White House commentator and U.S. political analyst with U.K.-based Sky News, joined Rather and Scully in Washington D.C., and Tucker Carlson, co-founder of The Daily Caller, joined the video conference about 25 minutes into the class.

The C-SPAN distance learning course allows students to interact regularly with notable speakers in politics, media, history, and government via video conference. The class video conferences can be viewed at



‘JournalismNext’ Chapter 7 Summary

March 1st, 2011 · No Comments · Journalism Next by Mark Briggs

Audio journalism from Edward R. Murrow. 1945.


Sounds are a bit like smells. Just like a scent can transport you to your childhood, so can a certain sound transport you to another place. In Chapter 6 of “JournalismNext” Mark Briggs argues that as a reporting tool, audio deserves another look.

“Audio journalism is about more than just getting a sound bite,” Briggs says. He adds that audio can help journalists build a “textured, layered” story that takes on “multidimensional” aspects.

The chapter lists some abilities unique to audio reporting.

Presence: Sound can take readers to the scene.

Emotions: The sound of a voice can convey emotion better than print (and without the distraction of visuals).

Atmosphere: Natural sound helps pull listeners in.

Briggs describes audio as a personal experience that builds an intimacy with listeners that is absent in print or video.

There are several ways journalists can do audio journalism:

Reporter overview: Simple audio overviews of a story.

Podcasts: Regular audio episodes on a particular subject.

Audio slideshows: Adding audio to a photo slideshow to create a compelling multimedia story.

Breaking news: Quick audio reports which can be filed from the field.

Briggs says that it is not difficult to compile an audio story since they just have a few basic parts; interviews and voice-overs, natural or environmental sound, and imported sound clips including music.

There are several steps to get started.

  • Record an interview. Interviews can be used as stand-alone audio files with a story, podcast, stand-alone audio file for a blog post, audio for a slide show.
  • Prepare. Improvisation won’t do. Here is a class that can help you improve your voice if you are a print person nervous about doing audio.
  • Choose your location. Make sure the place is not noisy.
  • Gather natural sound. Listen for natural sounds that will help set the scene for your story and record the sound separately from your interview.
  • Prepare your subject. Let the subjects know about the story you are doing and give them questions in advance so they can prepare answers. This helps in audio so you don’t have audio with awkward pauses.
  • Watch what you say. Your voice will also be recorded so try to stay quiet and give nonverbal cues to your interviewee.
  • Try delayed recording. Record an interview after the initial print interview. It will make your subjects more confident since they have already answered some of the questions.
  • Note the time. If you jot down the times for the best quotes it will be easy to go back to them when editing the audio file.

Finally, make sure you pick up a good digital recorder and find a good audio-editing program.

If you are not convinced audio can be a powerful tool for journalism listen to the classic report at the start of this blog post. It is Edward R. Murrow reporting from the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1945.


Crowdsourcing in Libya Aids Traditional Media

February 27th, 2011 · No Comments · Tech Blog Posts

Videos, pictures and news of the uprising in Libya are making it out of the country, but the images are not all coming from traditional media. A post in Mashable by Radhika Marya tells of how crowdsourcing is providing traditional outlets, like CNN, with some of their coverage of the Libyan uprising.

I have noticed that the Libyan revolt has not been as visible in the media as the revolution in Egypt. International journalists don’t seem to have the same kind of access to the Libyan people as they did in Egypt. But crowdsourcing is clearing the obstacles standing in the way of traditional media outlets.

“One Day on Earth,” a collaborative video project on the web, is now serving as a resource for news from Libya. Members of the One Day on Earth community have provided videos, news and photos about the uprising. 

 Brandon Litman, executive producer for the project, is quoted in the Mashable story as saying:

 “Social media, local filmmakers and citizens armed with cameras are a key source of information in today’s media, especially in situations like what is happening in Libya and the Middle East.”

According to the Mashable article Litman believes social media, such as crowdsourcing, can “knock down the walls” that traditional media faces. 

I saw in CNN that some international journalists were invited into Tripoli by Libyan officials. Such a situation easily lends itself to spin, with officials restricting the places journalists can go to or only taking them to places they want people to see (although the move seemed to have backfired in this particular case).   

In this instance it seems that crowdsourcing rises to the top as a direct link to the people of Libya, serving to help tell the story of the Libyan people without the regime spin.