Archive | February, 2012

Hyperlinking for non-linear storytelling

29 Feb

After discussing aggregation, it would only make sense to address how this idea is influenced by good hyperlinking and curation practices. The New York Times has capitalized on this by dedicating an entire blog to hyperlinking to other stories on various topics. Using links followed by brief summaries of stories and issues allows readers to quickly brush up on a topic and then explore it through a multitude of different sources. Many other big-name sources are linking to other sites as well in a demonstration of how “link journalism” is giving readers well-rounded coverage at the expense of the old notion that news outlets should never divert traffic away from its own content.

However, linking is more than clicking “activate” — it has the same kind of standards and important things to consider like a regular news story. For example, there should be transparency for the kind of content that would be in the links once clicked. It would be frustrating for readers to divert away from the story they were reading only to be directed to something they believe to be irrelevant without proper set-up and context. It is also the responsibility of the reporter and editors to make sure the links they direct readers to are live. The BBC drafted a section about external linking within editorial content to maintain a set of standards and to have protocol against linking for profit and linking to unsuitable sources. The Miami Herald is a prime example of using linking irresponsibly — although the context of the link was established as pornographic, the nature of the publication would not lend itself to make readers think they needed to be wary of the links they clicked within stories.

We need to ensure a process by which we understand the sources of the content, the understanding that not all links are created equal. We need to guarantee the expertise. The standards those sources apply for balance and news judgment. – Carolyn Washburn, Publishing 2.0 thread comment

If the post is not for an aggregation-based service, it’s best to decide beforehand whether the story merits linking. A test of two New York Times stories (one with the inverted pyramid style  and one with background information presented early, both versions having two sets of links for traditional related sites and explanatory text) showed that readers preferred stories that paired explanatory text with explanatory links and traditional article writing with traditional links. Moral of the story: Prepare to link a story the same way you would prepare to write one — think ahead and consider the story’s context.

This idea of non-linear storytelling eliminates the need for readers to sift through information that they don’t find interesting or relevant. The Internet has not lessened our attention spans, but rather made audiences more picky about the information they choose to consume. Curation means that the audience can act as their own filters for the news they read and we as journalists simply supply them the tools to make their own decisions.



2008 graduate of Cardinal Gibbons High School, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; top 10 in her class

Journalism major at the University of Florida

Managing Editor (Online) at The Independent Florida Alligator

Studied abroad in Berlin and Salmanca, Spain

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2008 graduate of Brandon Senior High School, Brandon, Fla.

Journalism major at the University of Florida

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My first choice for both Laura and Marissa was to put their name in quotes to make sure I got search results for those specific full names, as opposed to their first or last names. The first search results yielding social networking pages like Facebook and Google+, likely because I was logged my profiles at the time and we’re all in each other’s circles. As journalism students, it was easy to find clips in newspapers and magazines. After I sifted through those results, I narrowed my search down even more by including “UF” and their high schools to get older information that would be buried under more current updates. One of the more difficult aspects of the search was deciding if a piece of information was about one of them or someone by the same name. Oftentimes I would find just as much information about another Marissa Prieto in Kansas as I would about the Marissa Prieto in my group.


Case Study 6: Suicidal blond

29 Feb


27 Feb

Using topic pages for content management

22 Feb

One of the great advantages about the digital media wave is how easy it is to categorize interests and stay up-to-date on a narrow set of subjects of particular interest to you. RSS readers can easily organize blogs for users, and publications’ websites make it easy to skip ahead to your interests — as opposed to flipping through a paper just to get to the sports section. One of the more subtle but effective innovations of the online news transition has been the topic page.

Topic pages compile information on topics for readers to have a go-to location for news and updates on at their convenience much in the way sections in a newspaper split up broader subjects like sports and local news. In addition to news articles, topic pages also have “evergreen” content such as background information and online communities for users to comment and interact. News giants like The New York Times and BBC News have embraced the idea of a built-in infrastructure within their brand for niche audiences, and have set up pages for topics like global warming and special reports.

The idea that content is not driven by the latest  news but by the raw relevance of the information itself may be unusual for many journalists because this idea seems to go against general journalistic protocol in today’s day. However, the hyper-specific subject matter coupled with the presentation of good information over new information makes evergreen topic pages stand apart from other news sources or platforms. Strong background information is a necessity for readers, but one that is not necessarily provided by the news source with the latest scoop.

The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash. is one of the many publications using this method to distribute information. Its summary of the year’s events on one page condenses issues to background information and relevant detail to give readers a more generalized idea of news impact instead of minutia. Research has shown that the younger audience the Internet and online media often cater to know fully well what information they want to find, so topic pages provide easy access for a reliable audience without over-saturating readers with an excess of information. One of the bigger concerns is that topic pages might not be able to retain a strong enough audience based on their content, but with SEO becoming a more refined science in recent years, savvy journalists should be able to hold a readership with stimulating content, interactive usability and visibility.

In an effort to condense the news for the news-claustrophobic generation, social bookmarking sites like Delicious have proven to be a great way to keep up-to-date with specific pages and content. This would be especially useful for journalists who want to compile research and articles for aggregation by subject or tag. From personal experience, it can be difficult to wade through research or important websites in a browser’s Favorites alone, so being able to organize these in a streamlined way — as well as share them with co-workers and fellow journalists — is a great tool.

Case Study 5: Substantiating your claims

21 Feb

Sports writing can be said to market off of hyperbole and excitement. What’s a great sports story without a sense of urgency and that the stakes are high? But at what point do sports stories toe the line from sensational to blatantly misleading?

Coming into the NFL playoffs this season, Drew Brees, quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, was close to breaking Dan Marino’s 27-year record for the most single-season passing yards. A young fan told him while he was signing autographs, “I’m here to see you break the record.” So when coach Sean Payton opted to capitalize on their 38-16 lead against the Atlanta Falcons, some saw it to be in poor taste to kick a team while they’re down. But was and’s stories about the issue full of hot air?

CBS referred to the act as “classless,” which are harsh words to paraphrase an anonymous Falcons player in the locker room who said they would “not forget it.” It is also too assumptive on the part of the writer to designate the opinion of one unnamed player as a representative of the attitude of an entire team. Just as reporters often confuse one or two testimonies for the cause of a trend story, one angry member does not speak volumes for a team. The writer’s observations about the Falcons’ reactions to Brees’ frequent pass plays seemed forced to make a point. Why wouldn’t a quarterback who is so strong in a passing game not default to that method if it’s both close to the end of the regular season and it’s an effective game plan? I’m sure anyone on the sidelines would have looked upset that their team’s defense could not prevent Brees from breaking the record, but not necessarily at how the record was broken.

Misleading headlines, such as one implying Obama dislikes Caucasian women, is one of the worst problems plaguing journalism today. Although it is not blatantly unethical, the idea behind perpetuating false notions to either drive page views with sensationalism or by not being a smart editor is irresponsible and does a great disservice to the readership. Especially in the case of sensitive issues, the onus is on the copy editor to ensure that readers are getting a legitimate idea of the content of the story.

Creative story ideas: more than a press release

15 Feb

The key to finding fulfillment as a reporter and having pride in your work as a journalist is feeling good about the stories you cover. Although many journalists love having a sense of routine in covering a local government beat, others resent covering the “same old thing.” However, without any inclination to find ways to get new story ideas, their griping is hardly warranted. But there’s so many ways to find new stories and angles that it’s certainly worth discussing.

Oftentimes, the local news reporter gets caught in the repetitive cycle of either tired news or uninteresting general copy fodder to fill news space. A great way to spice up the usual finance or economics section is to take a look at public government records on your own time. By waiting for a press release from U.S. departments or the Census, you’ll just be reporting the same news every other outlet is printing, and it’s not as fresh. Although taking the time to personally analyze data can be tedious at first, but the payoff of finding trends or unlikely statistics yourself is absolutely worth the time. In addition, academic and scientific studies can also be localized for interesting pieces that apply to a wide demographic and capture the readers’ interest for things that affect them personally.

News aggregation sites have also proved to be great tools for finding quick story ideas. In addition to the more fleshed-out articles on Mashable or The Huffington Post, user-submitted content on websites like Reddit and Digg are excellent for browsing for ideas. The extra benefit is that these sites are often partitioned off by subject (or “sub-Reddits”) for a huge range of topics such as politics, environmentalism, humor and even local job postings. The I Am A sub-Reddit is specifically dedicated to those with extensive knowledge on various topics to post their expertise for others to ask them questions — or, in other words, a sources goldmine. Although it’s a bit slapdash and on the cyber-geek side of the Internet, it’s an invaluable tool for those brave enough to trudge through the seemingly endless amount of daily content.

Of course, finding a great story idea isn’t just tips and tricks — there’s a mindset a reporter needs to be in. A journalist should be open to anything and always be on the prowl for a new lead. Especially in this new digital age, self-sufficiency is imperative for a reporter-editor-blogger looking to stay afloat among a world full of innovative forward thinkers. Technology and the our reliance on new platforms to aggregate community ideas and priorities is shifting the burden of interesting stories from a routine of assignments and meetings to highly personalized process that is dependent on the proactive nature of the journalist.


Using the resources and ideas above, here are two story ideas that could be used in a local Gainesville newspaper:

1. STORY DESCRIPTION: The Gainesville Roller Rebels, the local women’s roller derby team, was selected for initiation to the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association Apprentice Program. Explore how they have grown as a team in the past few years and if they’ve gotten more popular, their community involvement and how they plan to expand their influence and brand. In a SEC town that is extremely football-focused, it would be interesting to get a story about the accomplishments of a more low-key sport that is thriving. The story would be about 650 words.

SOURCES: Members of the roller derby team, sponsors, volunteers (B. Lawhorn, a University of Florida advertising major), fans in attendance of a derby

ONLINE: Action photo of a derby match. Online, a Soundslides presentation that captures the relationship of the derby members and their fans would be a great addition to the story.

2. STORY DESCRIPTION: This survey data suggests that women perform lower on tests about politics, which in turn causes lower female voter turnout, run for public office and otherwise influence the political sphere. Because Gainesville is a college town with an active political voice, explore how women in politics view this statistic and if they have noticed a similar problem in their own experiences. The story would be about 750 words.

SOURCES: Local women politicians (such as Jeanna Mastrodicasa, a city commissioner), UF students involved in Campus Democrats and Republicans, students involved in Student Government, and both male and female political science professors.

ONLINE: A great way to do this online would be to have an interactive infographic display, similar to what The New York Times does. Having clickable content comparing various cities (college towns, metropolitan areas, rural areas), socioeconomic demographics and other data in an aesthetically pleasing way could make this a great online piece.

Case Study 4: Google Alerts for the well-rounded journalist

13 Feb

It’s no surprise that Google is doing all it can to stay on the ball to make finding things as easy as possible for both Regular Joes and journalists alike. The advent of social media tools has made it easier for users to locate exactly what they’re looking for based on what their peers have seen and found, essentially cutting a third party search service like Google out of the equation. However, Google Alerts have made it even easier to find exactly what you’re looking for, especially if it’s a specified search.

By setting up Google to find things in news, blogs and essentially anywhere else on the web, you can have alerts sent to your email inbox about anything from news about your favorite store to your own name. For example, I have alerts set up for my name, a popular movie coming out in December that I like to stay updated on and a topic that I frequently blog about.

Google Alerts is a great feature for journalists to keep up with important people and topics, as well as a useful professional tool to keep tabs on your Internet image.

For journalists, Google Alerts is an invaluable research tool because it does a lot of the heavy lifting for you. Especially for reporters working on a beat, it’s a great way to catch a story. Poynter has picked up on its benefits, and, from personal experience working in a local broadcast newsroom, it would have been much more helpful to use it to keep an eye on the competition than stalking WSVN and CBS4’s websites all day was.

But using this feature is more than simply setting it up and forgetting about it unless there’s a major breakthrough — it’s about thinking outside the box and maximizing it to its greatest potential. The story of the young Miami Herald reporter who, instead of just relying on the news setting, paid close attention to blogs for ideas and got a great scoop about Florida residents trying to get musical artist Jim Morrison posthumously pardoned. While many others in the newsroom had their alerts set to news only, he took advantage of getting updates from the all over the web. Other tools like GoogleNews and GoogleTrends are also great for the savvy journalist to stay on top of what’s popular and who’s covering what subjects to what extent. While the feature certainly does not replace reading blogs and news on your own time (Google has that covered too with its RSS Reader), it’s a great tool to stay ahead of the curve and facilitate the exploration of story ideas outside the usual fodder.