Tag Archives: participatory journalism

Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for September 24, 2010

Photo courtesy Julia Freeman-Woolpert via SXC.

Fusion: The Synergy of Images and Words « Steve McCurry’s Blog
An amazing photo essay with lots of shots of people around the world interacting with the written word in various ways. Beautiful!

The powers and problems of the audio slideshow « Adam Westbrook
A British journalist discusses the pros and cons of audio slideshows as an online media format and provides links to some good examples.

AP Begins Crediting Bloggers as News Sources
From The Next Web. In a major shift in policy, the Associated Press released an announcement to its affiliates that bloggers could and should be sited as news sources in AP stories.

3 iPad Apps that Reinvent News Reading
Jennifer Van Grove, writing on Mashable.com, reports on Pulse News, Flipboard and FLUD, 3 iPad apps that allow readers to customize their media reading experience and share information on social networks.

The Future of Social Media in Journalism
Vadim Lavrusik outlines some very provocative, but possibly accurate scenarios for how journalism will be affected by the evolution of social media and how it is impacting journalism.

Storyful.
Storyful uses professional curators to gather social and web content and produce a story out of it.

BONUS LINKS!

Can Twitter Make You a Better Editor?
Erin Everhart, a marketing associate for 352 Media Group and a freelance journalist, argues on the Journalistics blog that Twitter has forced writers to become better at editing their own work — especially when that work has a character count of 140!

Confessions of a Recovering Bookaholic
Victoria Vargas, author of the Smaller Living blog, discusses applying her philosophy of simpler living to her passion for collecting books. Good tips, and the comment stream includes a variety of solutions and perspectives on the importance of books in our lives.

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Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for June 23, 2010

Photo courtesy SXC.

300 Words
300 Words is a project developed by Erik Proulx and Hugh MacLeod which is designed to put some peer pressure on writers to keep writing. Inspired by Hugh’s “daily quota,” it is a space is for anyone who wants to make a modest commitment to writing 300 words per day.

The Five Unwritten Rules of Guest Posting on Blogs – Danny Brown
Danny Brown, a social media marketer, gives tips for writing a guest post for someone else’s blog that helps your brand and your cause.

5 Ways Traditional Journalists are Embracing Social Media
Lauren Dugan, writing on the Social Times blog, discusses the ways in which web-savvy journalists are using social media to create better content.

What All Content Creators Need to Learn From Roger Ebert | Copyblogger
Mark Dykeman discusses what Roger Ebert’s journey, in which his voice has been silenced by cancer surgery that took the lower part of his jaw, but his writing is more prolific than ever, can teach writers and other content creators.

Create an online newsroom that reporters will love
Jessica Levco, writing on Ragan’s PR Daily, shares 10 tips for publicists from Pete Codella, CEO of Codella Marketing, that relate to building an effective newsroom for a company. Every one of them I can relate to–they make journalists happy!

The rise of page view journalism means companies must generate their own media
By Tom Foremski, writing on the Every Company Is A Media Company blog, discusses the rather distressing consequences of media companies assigning stories on the basis of the page rank they are expected to generate, and how smaller companies (and story sources) can combat this.

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Write This Way: Top Writing and Editing Links for May 28, 2010

Photo courtesy of SXC.

7 Easy to Miss and Fix Writing Mistakes
Meryl K. Evans, who writes a blog on web content, reminds readers of mistakes that even good writers make when reading and editing their own copy–and offers fixes for each one.

6 Tips For a Great Freelance Writer’s Vacation
Carol Tice, writing on the Make A Living Writing blog, gives good pointers for taking a real (= no laptop or mobile phone required) vacation without losing clients or your mind.

New Voices Invests in Nine Community News Projects
New Voices, an initiative of J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism, announced its most recent crop of grant winners. These projects mainly cover small cities and towns with hyperlocal journalism coverage. Each grantee will receive up to $25,000 to launch a news initiative and work to sustain it over the next two years.

10 sure cures for blogging burnout | WordCount
Michelle Rafter offers a number of really great suggestions for keeping one’s blogging fresh and consistent. I especially like her “cures” of using theme days and keeping drafts in your blogging software that can be posted when you need a new idea quickly.

The top cliches to avoid like the plague
Sally Jackson reports for The Australian. Journalist Chris Pash has spent nine years scouring newspapers and websites to find the media’s favorite hackneyed phrases, and this article gives the top offending phrases, as well as how Pash mined this data.

Three Annoying Habits of the Laziest Journalists on Twitter
Gawker has assembled a collection of irritating “don’ts” for journalists who are contemplating crowdsourcing their entire article via Twitter. Funny and pointed at the same time!

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Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for May 1, 2010

Photo courtesy of SXC.

10 Tips for (journalists) Designing Infographics
Randy Krum, a visualization professional writing on Cool Infographics blog, provides a wonderful primer for journalists on how to use infographics to communicate the meaning of data successfully.

7 Reasons to Consider Small Clients | FreelanceFolder
Laura Spencer, a regular contributor to the FreelanceFolder blog, points out more than a half-dozen reasons why taking gigs with small clients can pay big rewards. A very well thought out post!

The Audience-First News
Henry Woodbury, writing on Information Design Watch, discusses the future of online news and how newsrooms will transition to a future where the audience calls the shots on what it wants to experience.

Should newspapers embrace a point of view? – Editors Weblog
Alexandra Jaffe covers a thorny topic for print news journalists–should newspapers become more like blogs (or magazines, for that matter) and embrace a strong “stance” that shows in their work? Or do readers demand balance among all opinions presented, whether by sources or reporters?

Programmer-Journalist? Hacker-Journalist? Our Identity Crisis
Aron Pilhofer, writing on MediaShift Idea Lab blog, shares his frustrations about what to call journalists who do what he does–which is lead a team of journalist/developers who build dynamic, data-driven applications to enhance his paper’s online reporting.

4 uses for Foursquare for journalists | Online Journalism Blog
Paul Bradshaw ponders a few ways in which the new location-based social networking “game” Foursquare might help reporters do their jobs.

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Write This Way: Top Writing and Editing Links for January 12, 2010

Photo courtesy SXC.

Bloggers, like other writers, can make yearly resolutions, and one of mine related to my Write This Way link posts is to trim them down so readers can spend more time digesting and acting on the information I’ve linked to and less time reading.

In 2010, I’ll pick my top 2 links and comment on them each time we run Write This Way, and provide one additional bonus link for fun and edification. Be on the lookout for a new feature—Write This Way, Condensed—which will be a quick post of my favorite links of the moment, all presented “bonus link” style.

Let me know if you enjoy this new slimmer format, or if you see any writing or editing-related links you think need more exposure!


News orgs’ goal for 2010: Imagine tomorrow’s media world today

Gina Chen has written an insightful post on what news organizations should be doing this year on the Nieman Journalism Lab blog.

As she puts it,

“The legacy press — or the traditional media, or whatever we’re calling newspapers these days — has one main challenge for 2010, and it’s not finding a new business model. It has to do with vision. It has to do with being able to imagine a world that does not yet exist.”

This quest is more difficult than it first appears, but Chen notes that this is not the first time in history that a business entity has faced such a challenge related to figuring out how to make products that customers will find useful. IBM face a similar challenge in popularizing the concept of a personal, desktop-based computer, and the inventors of the microwave had to wait nearly a quarter century from the time the device was first offered in the late 1940s until it caught on in America’s kitchens.

In both cases, the businesses had to make a guess as to how future customers would want to interact with their products, and overcome resistance related to attachment (both by customer and manufacturer) to the current state of technology. According to Chen, journalists need to focus their attention on these areas, as well.

“The challenge for the news biz is to look ahead and imagine how people may want their news and information. It’s about format (online, by phone, through social media) and content (aggregated, local, tailored to their needs.) For local news operations, this mean “organizing a community’s information so the community can organize itself,” as Jeff Jarvis puts it.

“ …This doesn’t mean news organizations should be inventing technology. I think that’s probably out of the pervue of most journalists. What I’m talking about is envisioning a new way to use technology, in this case the Internet and the cell phone and likely other tools that others will invent. The new business doesn’t need to invent the tools — just figure out how to use them to best serve their readers.”

Chen’s post hones in on the primary issue that’s strangling the news business right now, particularly in print newspapers: lack of forward-facing customer focus. I’ve seen post after post about stop-gap measures such as government grants for investigative reporting and setting up nonprofit foundations, but this post does something that those do not—it assumes that news media organizations can still survive as business entities, and it provides the million-dollar (or more) question that they must answer in order to thrive: what do our readers want from us?

Forget E-Books: The Future of the Book Is Far More Interesting

This post is Number 8 in Adam Penenberg’s very interesting “Viral Loop” series on FastCompany.com. The author of 3 books, including one on the Viral Loop theme, he posits a provocative vision of how the printed book, and the book-reading experience, will evolve.

He argues that e-books do NOT represent the long-term future of reading matter.

“It’s the end of the book as we know it … It won’t be replaced by the e-book, which is, at best, a stopgap measure. Sure, a bevy of companies are releasing e-book readers … but technology marches on through predictable patterns of development, with the initial form of a new technology mirroring what came before, until innovation and consumer demand drive it far beyond initial incremental improvements. We are on the verge of re-imagining the book and transforming it something far beyond mere words.”

Penenberg argues the reading experience of the future will be one that, like our online (and increasingly, our mobile) experience, is rich and multi-faceted.

“For the non-fiction author therein lie possibilities to create the proverbial last word on a subject, a one-stop shop for all the information surrounding a particular subject matter. Imagine a biography of Wiley Post, the one-eyed pilot from the 1930s who was the first to fly around the world. It would not only offer the entire text of a book but newsreel footage from his era, coverage of his most famous flights, radio interviews, schematics of his plane, interactive maps of his journeys, interviews with aviation historians and pilots of today, a virtual tour of his cockpit and description of every gauge and dial, short profiles of other flyers of his time, photos, hyperlinked endnotes and index, links to other resources on the subject.

“Social media could be woven into the fabric of the experience–discussion threads and wikis where readers share information, photos, video, and add their own content to Post’s story, which would tie them more closely to the book. There’s also the potential for additional revenue streams: You could buy MP3s of popular songs from the 1930s, clothes that were the hot thing back then, model airplanes, other printed books, DVDs, journals, and memorabilia.”

Novelists won’t be left out of the cyber-cornucopia, either, he says. Imagine video games where readers alter the storylines as they see fit, or digital “rainstorms” of words, images and audio to reinforce metaphors for the reader.

The specifics of his prophecy are “out there,” to be sure, but not by much. I’m in agreement with Penenberg that “all writers should be optimistic” because “where there’s chaos, there’s opportunity.” Much like the previous link, the author’s willingness to focus on a literary world that doesn’t exist yet, and play with product ideas that would meet reader/audience needs in a new way, is exciting and has set my mind to imagining rich-media extensions of the book proposal ideas I’m currently incubating.

Bonus Link!

8 Must-Have Traits of Tomorrow’s Journalist

Vadim Lavrusik defines 8 roles that 2010-era journalists need to be ready to fulfill–including entrepreneur, programmer, curator, blogger, community builder, multimedia storyteller and more.

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Can this profession be saved?

Photo courtesy SXC.

I’ve finally read the synopsis of Leonard Downie Jr. and Michael Schudson’s report, “The Reconstruction of American Journalism, ” in the Columbia Journalism Review, as well as a number of reactions to it. I appreciate that CJR let the authors publish such a rich (30-page!) summary of their 100-page report.

Downie, a former executive editor for the Washington Post and currently a professor of journalism at Arizona State University, and Schudson, a professor of journalism at Columbia University, provide their take on what has led up to the current sad state of affairs at American newspapers, and to a lesser degree, at television and radio stations. They discuss the approaches of a number of new media operations (and are generous with links to the projects in question) and suggest several possible new business/nonprofit support models for the industry.

Whether you end up thinking the authors are offering sage advice to journalists, or are off in left field, you really should read the CJR synopsis or the report. It’s important that those of us working in the media have a say in what happens to our profession in the future, and the only way to do that is to be aware of where we’re at now and what people are doing NOW to adapt to the challenges and opportunities the Internet Era has brought us.

On the plus side

The report largely accepts that Web 2.0 and the other cultural factors that have disrupted American journalism are here to stay and cannot be magically “rolled back” by industry collusion (think simultaneous content firewalls on all major newspaper sites) or government mandate. I know this sounds mean, but this is a good sign!  I have been concerned about the number of journalists—including professors and veteran editors and writers—talking as if the Internet is something that must be, or even can be, “stopped.”

Downie and Schudson present a variety of options for fixing the current situation from across the business spectrum. They discuss multiple variations on publicly funded media, as well as foundation-endowed news projects and hybrid corporate/nonprofit news operations. By doing this, they are acknowledging that one model will not fit all in the future, and that journalists need to consider the context of their news operation or project when devising a funding plan.

The authors rightly identify local news coverage as one of the biggest casualties of the shifts in journalism over the past two decades, and do propose several ideas for reviving it. While local involvement and participation seems to generally be associated with our “bowling alone” culture, there are plenty of people who do care about it, and who now have fewer mainstream media resources for tapping into news about the community they live in.

On the minus side

I immediately noticed that there is almost NO discussion of the fate of the magazine industry, perhaps because that’s what my degree is in (magazine journalism) and because I have worked for nearly all my career as a journalist for magazines—either as a freelancer or a staff writer/editor. I believe that magazines had to face the decline of the so-called “mass media” far earlier than newspapers, after the death of “general interest” magazines such as Look, Collier’s and LIFE in the 1960s and 1970s.

By the time I was taking j-school classes in the 1980s, we were told that starting a magazine was much like starting a restaurant—if you know what you’re doing (business-wise) and can self-fund for part of the first five years in business, you have a good chance of making it. Notice that in that description there is no mention of whether the content (or the food) was any good, if competitors were using unfair tactics, or whether customers were reading (or going out for sit-down dinners) less and less. The focus was on establishing a niche and a business model first and foremost. Paying attention to the market, as well as knowing your craft well enough to produce a quality product, were also assumed parts of that model.

On a related note, Downie and Schuder make huge assumptions about the audience for news content and how they will, or should, behave. To be fair, this is something I’ve noticed over and over again when I read essays of this nature written by newspaper-based journalists. The report doesn’t focus much at all on what readers/viewers/listeners are telling journalists about how they’d like to receive their news, or what sorts of news they’d consider worthy of paying for online.

The authors even go so far as to proclaim that “American society must take some collective responsibility for supporting independent news reporting in this new environment,” and wonder out loud in another section whether journalism is a “significant public good whose diminution requires urgent attention.” These are important issues, but this mindset, coupled with a lack of curiosity or genuine connection to one’s audience, comes across as preachy and pedantic—not the sort of vibe one wants to project to attract supporters to an important cause!

Finally, the report points out one of the largest challenges in journalism’s current crisis—we can’t seem to decide if we’re a profession best suited to entrepreneurial or philanthropic support. I like the fact that the authors include both for-profit and nonprofit approaches to new media, but the way in which they are presented serves to highlight the lack of business sense many of us in the field seem to exhibit. What is it that newspapers do? They’re businesses. Wait, no, maybe we should run them as nonprofits? Wait, maybe we can sell ads and get foundation grants, too?

Late in the CJR synopsis, Downie and Schuder use the term “independent news reporting” fairly specifically, and that’s really what they are concerned about, not so much journalism as an industry or business sector. As they note, “it may not be essential to save any particular news medium … What is paramount is preserving independent, original, credible reporting, whether or not it is popular or profitable, and regardless of the medium in which it appears.” (Emphasis in that passage is mine.)

It bothers me that so many of their suggestions rely on government intervention, although I share their opinion that stronger support for radio and televisions stations receiving money through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be a good thing. I am a huge fan of public media; however, I also believe that journalistic enterprises can be successful as for-profit businesses. It remains to be seen how that will happen in the future—my feeling is that the “large public” that the authors seek to have journalism’s best work presented to may have already been replaced by a series of balkanized niches, each one hungry for content, but only within a narrow spectrum of interest.

Please use the comment section below to chime in about your reaction to the report, or the state of American journalism in general.

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Participatory Journalism … what’s it all about?

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Photo courtesy SXC.

Four links, three new, one “classic,” related to civic or participatory journalism caught my eye this week. For the uninitiated, participatory journalism refers to the emerging trend of non-professionals taking to the Internet and creating blogs, podcasts, YouTube or Vimeo videos, websites, Twitter feeds, etc., that cover stories that used to be understood as strictly the province of traditional media, such as television and radio stations, newspapers and magazines.

These aren’t intended as a comprehensive introduction to this phenomenon, but rather relevant, and timely (or timeless, in one case) snapshots of where it’s headed.

The People Formerly Known as the Audience

This first post should be required reading for all writers and editors struggling to understand the shifts in the media landscape over the past 10 years. NYU’s Jay Rosen wrote this post in 2006 for his PressThink blog, but he could have written it yesterday. It’s all still so, so true.

He notes that the media platform shifts taking place have many journalists questioning their sanity, but that their former audience members are basically telling them to get over themselves:

“Many media people want to cry out in the name of reason herself: ‘If all would speak, who shall be left to listen? Can you at least tell us that?’

“The people formerly known as the audience do not believe this problem—too many speakers! — is (their) problem.

“Now for anyone in your circle still wondering who (they) are, a formal definition might go like this:

“The people formerly known as the audience are those who were on the receiving end of a media system that ran one way, in a broadcasting pattern, with high entry fees and a few firms competing to speak very loudly while the rest of the population listened in isolation from one another— and who today are not in a situation like that at all.”

Rosen, speaking for most of the post in the voice of the newly empowered audience, tells professional content creators not to worry or complain, but rather, stay relevant and appreciate how content consumers have evolved into content prosumers (produers + consumers).

He writes,

“Look, media people. We are still perfectly content to listen to our radios while driving … Should we attend the theatre, we are unlikely to storm the stage for purposes of putting on our own production. We feel there is nothing wrong with old style, one-way, top-down media consumption…

“But we’re not on your clock any more. Tom Curley, CEO of the Associated Press, has explained this to his people. ‘The users are deciding what the point of their engagement will be — what application, what device, what time, what place.’

“We graduate from wanting media when we want it, to wanting it without the filler, to wanting media to be way better than it is, to publishing and broadcasting ourselves when it meets a need or sounds like fun.”

Still writing in the guise of the audience, he ends the main part of the post (there is a terrific “after matter section” and loads of comments, too) with a gentle ultimatum to his fellow professional journalists:

“There’s a new balance of power between you and us.

“The people formerly known as the audience are simply the public made realer, less fictional, more able, less predictable. You should welcome that, media people. But whether you do or not, we want you to know we’re here.”

If you’re wondering what value there is in user-generated content, or if you’re clinging to the illusion that all these audience members are going to return to their seats and quit making their own media products, you need to read this post.

Mainstream Media Miss the Point of Participatory Journalism

Another group of journalists who might benefit from re-reading Rosen’s post would be the presenters at the Future of Journalism conference, an event held at the University of Cardiff in Wales earlier this month. Alfred Hermida, writing for PBS’s MediaShift blog, feels as if the titles of keynotes and workshops indicate even organizations considered leaders in utilizing user-generated content are still coming at it from the perspective of being the appointed “gate-keepers.”

Hermida writes,

“The advent of participatory journalism, or user-generated content (UGC), has done little to change the way the media works … The research paints a global picture of how journalists are seeking to maintain their position of authority and power, rather than create a more open, transparent and accountable journalistic process that seeks to work with readers …”

The British Broadcasting Corporation, a major player at the conference, illustrated the point being made very well.

“UGC has become institutionalized at the BBC as a form of newsgathering, consolidating the existing relationship between journalists and the audience … This institutional approach towards UGC was reflected in the BBC course on the topic, entitled ‘Have They Got News for Us.’ This session at the conference focused on how to scour comments, pictures and video from the public in order to separate the wheat from the chaff, rather than on how to collaborate with the audience on stories.”

It’s true that crowdsourcing one’s stories is a new skill set, one that many of us haven’t mastered as writers or editors, and that journalism is a long way from empowering citizen journalists to make significant discoveries the way citizen scientists can.

But I agree with the unspoken subtext of this post, which is that a serious, peer-to-peer (or public-to-pro) discussion of the public’s role in shaping, collaborating and even to some degree co-creating the future of journalism has to begin, and soon. Rosen’s essay of 2006 (see above) presages it. And it’s clear that many people are finding value in user-generated content, however much we journalists may disparage its shortcomings.

Nerds, News and Neat Stuff

One way in which journalists are responding to the participatory media landscape is by creating new tools to empower readers to participate intelligently, a niche that fits very nicely with traditional media roles of diving beneath the surface of complex issues and providing context to help others understand an issue’s impact.

Jan Schaffer, executive director of J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism, recently posted some comments about the winners of this year’s Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism. Her piece takes a whirlwind tour through some of the more interesting innovations that are being cooked up inside and outside newsrooms, but the quote that stood out for me the most came from Ellen Miller, whose Sunlight Foundation is making data openly available on a huge array of things, from government contracts and grants, to lobbyists, to congressional bills, and even to the words used most frequently in the Congressional Record.

“Technology is not a slice of the pie of what we do, it’s the pan,” she said.

I think Miller “gets” this change to a participatory media environment and how journalists can enrich the conversation. The participatory nature of Web 2.0 apps and the tools that journalism’s new creative technologists develop aren’t just decorations to be sprinkled on top of the already pre-mixed media pie; they change how the pie is baked. And eaten!

Schaffer’s post is a nice sampler of developments from the outposts of journalistic practice. The focus on innovation is refreshing—while not all of the award winners are equally cutting-edge, these contestants are taking a look at their environment and filling unmet needs, instead of grumbling about how their audience (or former audience!) no longer looks to them for the same things it used to.

Bonus Link!

Civic News Networks: Collaboration v. Competition

Caveat emptor! I haven’t had a chance to watch this 45-minute video, a recording of a panel discussion at the August 2009 Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication conference. But it is moderated by Jan Schaffer of J-Lab (a center of American University’s School of Communication) and with a title like this, you can bet I want to hear what the panelists have to say!

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