Why we must support women in journalism

At a meeting at the United Nations in New York earlier this year on gender equality, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared to the world that he was a proud feminist, and would keep repeating it “until it was met with a shrug.”

Trudeau, who had only been in office for a few months, had already received global attention for his appointment of a gender-neutral cabinet – 50 percent women, 50 percent men. His declaration went viral, circulating through global Facebook and Twitter feeds, and made headlines in publications internationally.

I, like many, saw the clip through YouTube. I then opened up the Word Processor on my computer and began typing. The final article for Kettle Magazine in the UK had this declaration.

“My name is Alex Veeneman. I’m a journalist, and I’m a feminist.”

I had not said publicly that I was a feminist – a few of my close friends and family members knew of my thoughts, but it was not public knowledge until I had submitted that article for publication.

Indeed, there was another reason why that article was written – to show support for women in journalism, whether they were working in the industry, or studying it at university.

A study from the University of Oxford showed more women studying journalism than men. Above: University College, Oxford. (Image: Ozeye/Wikimedia Commons)

A study from the University of Oxford showed more women studying journalism than men. Above: University College, Oxford. (Image: Ozeye/Wikimedia Commons)

Recent studies, most notably from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, have shown that there are more women studying journalism at university.

Yet, this was not just the case in the US and Britain. Indeed, the trend was prevalent in other countries, including Australia and Germany. However, despite this, there is still difficulty for women to advance in the industry, as it continues to be heavily male-dominated.

As journalism continues to evolve in the digital age, thanks to the rise of social media platforms and consumption on mobiles, it is trying to reinvent itself to ensure it remains viable. At the core of this is women, for their ideas are detrimental to the future of this industry.

Many of my colleagues at Kettle are women. The majority of our section editors are women, and the number of women who have recently written for the site outnumber men.

Indeed, of the four managing editors currently working at Kettle, I am the only male managing editor, something that I welcome and champion. They got to where they were today because of the work they put in, the time they invested, and the shared goal of quality work.

At SPJ, where in addition to writing these blogs I work on their network of communities, all but one of the five active communities have women as a chair or co-chair. In its 9 active committees, 6 of them have women as a chair or co-chair.

In addition, more women than men hold positions on the Board of Directors. Of the 23 positions on the Board, 14 of them are held by women.

I want to support my friends and colleagues and see them advance in the industry, and have them not be deterred by the systematic treatment and oppression based on their gender.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who says we should embrace equality. (Image: Alex Guibord/Flickr)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who says we should embrace equality. (Image: Alex Guibord/Flickr)

We collectively must champion women in journalism, encourage them to raise their voices and share their ideas, and support their efforts by mentoring them and helping them excel towards their career goals. We must support the women who are leading the evolution in digital media, and whose ideas will help shape journalism’s future.

We must also especially champion the women who want to have careers in this industry by supporting them in their work, encouraging them in their studies at universities, mentor them, and to instill confidence in them amid current industry trends.

As Trudeau himself put it in an article for Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper, feminism is a word we should not be afraid of, but embrace.

“Feminism is about equal rights and opportunities for men and women, about everyone having the same choices without facing discrimination based on gender,” Trudeau wrote. “Equality is not a threat, it is an opportunity.”

Women must be equal in journalism, and though the equality issues currently at hand will not be solved overnight, we must champion their role in this industry.

After all, especially as journalism continues to evolve, what remains key are the ideas that come to help make it stronger, no matter who they are or what their background is.

It is something we all must embrace, today and every day, now and in the years ahead.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.


Education: A global value

WGBH's studios in Boston, whose mission was summarized as helping people cope with the world and their own lives. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

WGBH’s studios in Boston, whose mission was summarized as helping people cope with the world and their own lives. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

In the 1970s and 1980s, the public broadcasting station WGBH in Boston began and ended its day with the airing of a small montage, telling viewers in New England about its role.

In that montage was a simple summary of its mission: “Our purpose is to help you cope better with the world and your own life.”

For WGBH, it applied not just to their viewers in Boston and throughout New England, but through the programs it produced nationally, either through PBS or its partnership with public radio distributor PRI.

Embodying that summary was the value of education, and the notion that education can come from mediums like television, and make a difference in the lives of all people. Education can be for everyone, no matter who they are or their background, for at heart, we are all lifelong learners. We can be taught and we can be inspired through thought-provoking, stimulating, engaging, and some entertaining content.

Education is at the heart of journalism, and as the United States celebrates the 4th of July, it is something that remains integral to its foundation, and we as journalists celebrate the ability to be able to produce content that can inform, engage, but most importantly, educate.

Education however is not solely an American value. It is a global value, a value that is practiced by journalists here and around the world. Indeed, education is a global value in a journalistic sense, for in the digital age, content that is made in newspapers, radio, television or online can be construed as education, and ideas for stories can be taken from anywhere.

We enter this profession not to seek fame or fortune. Instead, we enter this profession because of our ability to be able to educate. We enter because our focus is not on financial gain, but on the people to whom we serve in our work. We enter because we know the work we do together can do the most good.

Yet, the culture of journalism that has come as the industry evolves has raised questions on how that education can be conducted, and if it can be conducted at all. As the line between news and comment becomes blurred, and more platforms, especially through social media, become available for this content, can education remain a quintessential focus of journalism, or has it become a lost art?

Raney Aronson-Rath, the executive producer of Frontline, a program that embodies the educational spirit of journalism. (Photo: Knight Foundation/Flickr)

Raney Aronson-Rath, the executive producer of Frontline, a program that embodies the educational spirit of journalism. (Photo: Knight Foundation/Flickr)

As this industry continues through its state of flux, arguments can be made on both sides. On one hand the sole focus is now going viral, and that attention comes solely through the click of a mouse. On the other hand, there is potential, and even though there are questions, it can continue.

Education is at the heart of what I do, and the heart of what we all do. We are in uncertain waters, asking ourselves many questions. Will the young graduate, journalism degree in hand, be able to have a successful, viable career? Will those in the industry be able to adapt to this new age? Most importantly, can the industry we all love, irrespective of medium, survive, and can we accomplish the ultimate goal we have in journalism — the ability to educate?

I believe that we can, though it may appear difficult right now. Education is a value that remains at the crux of journalism, and it is something that we should never take for granted. The platforms are going to change, and how we disseminate and curate news will too, but one thing is for sure — the ability to educate the public, and to help them cope better with the world and their own lives, will remain a constant.

Yet, we must not let it get lost in the shuffle. We must now take the time to support, advocate for and champion this value, whether it is supporting the public broadcasters, the media organizations and the individuals and storytellers that emphasize it, advocating for our ability to disseminate and educate, or championing the ideas that strengthen journalism’s role in education, irrespective of race, gender, or sexual orientation.

Education is at is at the heart of what we can do in journalism, now and in the future. It is a global value, not just through geography, but through the mediums of journalism, and on this day of all days, it is something we must not disregard. Instead, we should do what is best and embrace it, not just for those to whom we serve, but for ourselves.

After all, the world is better when it is informed, and we must never take that for granted.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.


Facebook, an updated algorithm and journalism

Facebook's algorithm changes have caused a debate for news organizations. (Photo: Pixabay)

Facebook’s algorithm changes have caused a debate for news organizations. (Photo: Pixabay)

Facebook this week announced plans to implement another change within its algorithm. Yet, these changes would have further implications on the social network’s relationship with journalism.

Facebook said it would be changing the algorithm to place more of a focus on content from a user’s friends and family, which as a result would see content from publishers and news organizations appear prominently less in other news feeds.

However, according to a report from The New York Times, concerns of traffic decline may be subsided if the traffic in question comes from individual users sharing and commenting on videos.

Adam Mosseri, the vice president of product management for Facebook’s News Feed, quoted in the Times, said connecting to friends and family was a top priority for the social network, a message that was also emphasized in a blog post written by Mosseri, and published by Facebook last Wednesday.

“The growth and competition in the publisher ecosystem is really, really strong,” Mosseri said. “We’re worried that a lot of people using Facebook are not able to connect to friends and family as well because of that.”

In a separate post, Lars Backstrom, the Engineering Director, said the social network did anticipate a decline in traffic from pages, though it was dependent on audience composition.

The news feed is seen by 1.65 billion users a month, according to the Times.

In the business of social media, journalism has been seen as two things — a commodity in the context of the ability for platforms to engage users, as well as the ability for news organizations to not just retain but also engage new audiences through these platforms. It has evolved as a win-win relationship despite the controversy that is approached when it comes to the algorithm.

Facebook still has value for news organizations despite these changes considering its vast audience. However, it is a time for news organizations to take caution as to how Facebook is used and what further implications such an update may have.

Facebook’s goal may be its ability to connect friends and family together, but alongside that connection comes the conversation about current affairs and other subjects that is curated through the platform. At the core of that conversation is the content from news organizations that has become a central feature of a user’s News Feed.

Indeed, for news organizations, Facebook is more than just an ability to curate a conversation and enhance the civil discourse. It is an ability to inform audiences and tailor content to their needs and wants, to create insightful and meaningful journalism around the world in new ways.

Though it is not wise for a news organization to write Facebook off the social strategy at this stage, it is a time to monitor its next steps, for the next move by the social network will have an affect far beyond its ability to increase its reach. It will affect a crucial, quintessential relationship it has with journalism, either for better or for worse.

But in the end, what matters the most are the people directly accessing content. Facebook needs to consider that in its next steps as this update is rolled out, and we ultimately have to consider how to respond to it, not just for ourselves and our own engagement strategies, but for the people that matter the most — our audience.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.


The social audience

Social media has the potential to help news organizations engage with younger audiences. (Photo: Pixabay)

Social media has the potential to help news organizations engage with younger audiences. (Photo: Pixabay)

Recently, Dr. Talia Stroud, the director of the Engaging News Project based at the University of Texas at Austin, wrote about a study looking at the role of gender and age in consuming news in the social media and mobile age.

In that post, examining the Mobile-First News report from the Miami based Knight Foundation and the ratings agency Nielsen, Stroud wrote about how women and younger audiences are more likely to engage with news on social media and mobile devices. Stroud added that she hoped this study would start a conversation within news organizations on how these audiences can be catered to, especially through social media.

Indeed, in this evolving age for journalism, there are opportunities for news organizations to make a difference, to enhance their journalism, to help audiences understand the world around them in new ways, especially when it comes to younger audiences.

Some organizations are already at the helm. In the UK, the BBC has a service called Newsbeat, telling the news from a younger audience standpoint, by offering explanation pieces on key events, especially during the UK’s most recent vote on its membership in the European Union.

It also provided unique analysis of the political fallout that followed, from the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron and the Conservative Party to the concerns surrounding Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour Party.

Newsbeat airs two 15 minute editions, Monday to Friday, on the broadcaster’s pop music service Radio 1, and has presences on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat (search for bbc_newsbeat), as well as an app, accessible through its web site. Stories are also sometimes available as links from the main BBC News web site.

In the US, BuzzFeed has utilized video to encourage younger audiences to vote, recently uploading this video to its Facebook page featuring President Obama. BuzzFeed also produces news content on its web site as well as a News app.

Even though younger audiences are being exposed to media through multiple platforms and screens, there is potential for news organizations to make a difference, to help audiences understand issues in new ways. While the BBC and BuzzFeed are two notable examples of what is out there, there is much more that can be done to help younger audiences be informed news consumers.

Social media platforms and news organizations can work together to make that happen. Young people want to be informed, and in order for that to happen, more news organizations must look outside the box for that to happen, in spite of challenges that come.

For them, the ball is firmly in the news organizations’ court.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.


Why it is truly #SPJ4All

My photo for #SPJ4All.

My photo for #SPJ4All.

Last May, I picked up the telephone at my desk and dialed into New Albany, Indiana. Situated on the Indiana-Kentucky border, it was the town that was home to an idea that is at the core of SPJ’s beliefs, principles and ideas.

The idea took root last year when Indiana lawmakers were considering legislation which would have been branded as discriminatory to gay and lesbian couples. Membership Committee chair Robyn Davis Sekula then came up with the idea to do #SPJ4All, a social media campaign that emphasizes SPJ (which itself is based in Indianapolis) is welcome and accepting of all of its members, irrespective of their gender, race, nationality or sexual orientation.

With the help of SPJ colleagues nationally, it developed into an event. After it launched, it got immediate reaction, not just through this blog, but also across social media. When I spoke to her about it last year, Sekula said she wanted to start a conversation.

“We cover news better when we have a wider variety of perspective to bring to the events,” Sekula said.

Today, the SPJ is running the campaign once more, showing that we are truly welcoming and accepting. I recall the conversation for this post, as I believe these ideas make not just SPJ a better organization, but makes the industry stronger, and those who work in the industry better at what they do.

I have been an SPJ member for a little over two years. I joined shortly after my graduation from university, as I tried to figure out the next steps in my career. Since that time, I have been the beneficiary of hearing some wonderful ideas, ideas that are ubiquitous to the future of not just SPJ, but also this industry. I continue to benefit from these ideas not just through contributing to this network of blogs, but through my work as Community Coordinator and other initiatives I take part in for SPJ, as well as through my professional work.

Journalism is changing, and what continues to make this industry stronger and resilient are these ideas that come from a wide variety of people. In order for us to be a stronger industry, all ideas should be heard. You may not necessarily agree with an idea, but its worth hearing, for it may be the one that allows journalism to continue to be at its best.

What I like about SPJ is that all ideas can be heard without fear or vigorous disdain. No one will write you off, and no one will belittle you. Instead, you say your idea in a welcoming environment, and an open, lively conversation ensues, whether its on an issue of governance, an idea for an event, a resolution for the Excellence in Journalism conference, or indeed, journalism itself. It is conducted for all of our benefit.

We are stronger together when we collaborate and exchange ideas together. We are stronger together because we are making journalism better together. We are stronger together when we make your SPJ better together.

That is why we are truly #SPJ4All, and frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.


Social media: Journalism’s hub

Social media and the web have influenced how journalism is disseminated and presented. (Photo: Pixabay)

Social media and the web have influenced how journalism is disseminated and presented. (Photo: Pixabay)

New data from Britain released today has given a new indication as to the role social media has in the world of modern journalism.

The data, released as part of the Digital News Report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, showed that 73 percent of Americans consume news through the web, including social media, while 46 percent say they consume news exclusively through social (an increase of 6 percent compared to 2015).

The large amount of people consuming news online, and some through social exclusively, is evident in other countries as well. In the UK, 72 percent of people consume news online including on social platforms, while 35 percent say they consume news exclusively through social platforms (a decrease of 1 percent compared to 2015).

Facebook was the top social network for both countries, however there were some key differences in the top 5 social networks. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn were in the top 5 in the US, while Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp and LinkedIn were in the top 5 in the UK.

The trends showcased in this report are indicative of where the industry is heading. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are becoming hubs for content, most notably from Facebook’s Instant Articles initiative. Indeed, as journalism is embraced in a multi-platform age, Twitter has taken advantage of this with its recent decision on its 140 character policy, allowing for a focus on multimedia elements, making photos and videos center alongside text.

As journalism continues to be a commodity within the business of social media, expect more of these projects or ideas to originate moving forward. Whether or not most of these plans come to fruition is uncertain, but one thing is clear — social media has become not just an influence in how audiences consume news, but how it is presented, and is challenging news organizations to think carefully and creatively to ensure successful engagement strategies. It is a win for journalism in the sense of outreach, but also presents questions as to where journalism will go next.

Social media is re-innovating journalism with every new project and platform. The ultimate question is if journalism itself can keep up.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.


What Jacques Pepin can teach journalists

The work of chef, author and broadcaster Jacques Pepin provides lessons for journalists. (Photo: Edsel Little/Wikimedia Commons)

The work of chef, author and broadcaster Jacques Pepin provides worthwhile lessons for journalists. (Photo: Edsel Little/Wikimedia Commons)

Jacques Pepin and I, through our professions, are different. Pepin is the successful chef, author and broadcaster, known to millions as the host of multiple cooking programs airing on public television. I am a journalist who writes primarily about journalism and digital culture.

Despite our pursuits of different lines of work, there are two things that we have in common — our commitment to quality and our ability to tell stories.

For Pepin, he tells these stories through his recipes, curating the experience of enjoying food with family and friends. For me, it is through the stories and essays I write, not just for SPJ, but for the British publication Kettle Magazine, for whom I have served as an editor and contributor for over 4 years.

Yet, Pepin’s work and philosophy can provide lessons for journalists. In a recent broadcast of the PBS Newshour, Pepin did a segment reflecting on the culture of the recipe, and that at the core of a recipe is the idea that comes from it.

“A recipe is a teaching tool, a guide, a point of departure,” Pepin said. “You have to follow it exactly the first time you make the dish. But after you make it again and again, you will change it, you will massage it to fit your own taste, your own sense of aesthetic.”

The same rule applies, albeit indirectly, to journalism. The ethics and background rules apply and must be abided by the first time you sit down and write a story. You have the information that comes from 6 basic elements — who, what, when, where, why and how. But as the mediums evolve in the digital age, there are more ways for stories to be told, whether through conventional platforms like a newspaper, TV or radio, or through the web and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

What I have come to appreciate about Pepin’s work is the stories that he tells with the experience of food. Every dish, whether he cooks it himself or with the help of his daughter Claudine, granddaughter Shorey or best friend Jean-Claude, tells a story, and though the basic recipe elements either remain the same or differentiate depending upon taste, there is a different story that can be told.

Good journalism and good storytelling has the power to make a difference in the world. It not only informs and engages, but also has the ability to inspire. It is the type of storytelling that I hope to do as I continue my career.

Pepin is curating a unique experience with every dish he makes, which makes his programs on public television (and indeed other public media programs) so worthwhile. Pepin also gives a reminder to all of us about the importance of a good story, and how much benefit it can have.

Happy cooking, and happy storytelling.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.


Why the world needs journalism students

In the final scene of the legendary sitcom Frasier, as the eponymous character prepares to embark on a new chapter in his life and career, he sits at the microphone at fictitious Seattle radio station KACL and recites a passage from Ulysses, the poem by Lord Tennyson.

I think about it now as I sit down and write this blog post, conscious of the fact that many journalism students, as well as some of my colleagues and the student writers I work with at Kettle Magazine, are completing their degrees, and contemplating their next steps.

In that poem, as Frasier interprets it, it is about taking that chance. As the idea of journalism evolves in the digital age, many of us within the past few years (myself included), have rolled the dice to see if we can be able to work in a profession that matters so much to society, for fear of regret later in life.

We have asked ourselves many questions as we shook and rolled the dice. Am I able to get a job? Will the work I do be meaningful? Can I make a useful contribution to the profession itself? We wonder if all of our work will pay off, or if we went down the conventional path only to find a dead end, and that everything we have done and hoped for will never come to fruition.

Students graduate university, ready for what's next. (Photo: DariaRomanova/Wikimedia Commons)

Students graduate university, ready for what’s next. (Photo: DariaRomanova/Wikimedia Commons)

But you needn’t worry yourself, for you, dear journalism student, are still needed and valued. You will be successful, yet you may face difficulties along the way.

Even though journalism is changing, journalists are still a necessity, no matter the platform, a point emphasized especially by the former New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan. The men and women of this industry, irrespective of medium, are making a contribution that has no price tag, even though the business of journalism is trying to figure out the best way to monetize the offerings.

The idea of journalism in the 21st century has evolved, most notably because of the internet and social media. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram are becoming hubs for content, while the line between news and comment is being blurred, raising questions on the value of facts and accurate information. However, there is an important relationship our society has with journalism — it can inform and engage, which helps our democracy.

It has been at the foundation of the industry’s development, from the beginnings of newspapers and the printing press, to the invention of radio and television, and now the rise of the internet and social platforms. The people who entered this profession were like you — they were not after fame or fortune, but they wanted to make a difference, improve the quality of life, and to help improve the civil discourse by informing and engaging the public to help them make decisions in their everyday tasks.

Many people have proclaimed that journalism is dead, but that isn’t true. You have a purpose in this ever changing media landscape, to hold politicians and powerful people to account, to put context on the events that matter, to shine a light on this ever-changing world we live in, but most importantly to inform the individuals that matter most — your audience.

You will still have a role in journalism, for you are bound to do great things, exciting things, wonderful things, and in the end, you will have the knowledge that you are doing the most good you can for people around you.

The mediums may change, but the norm remains the same. The world always needs journalists, and you, graduating journalism student, will always be needed, not just now, but in the days, months and years ahead.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.


Why Twitter’s changes are good for journalism

Twitter has unveiled changes to its 140 character format in response to investor concerns on user numbers. (Photo: Anthony Quintano/Flickr)

Twitter has unveiled changes to its 140 character format in response to investor concerns on user numbers. (Photo: Anthony Quintano/Flickr)

Recently, Twitter announced plans to revise its 140 character length. The changes come as chief executive Jack Dorsey continues to try to find ways to engage new audiences with the social network, amid a history of decline of the number of users.

The most notable changes come in embedding multimedia on the platform, as the photo, video, GIF, poll or quoted tweet (a retweet with added comments from a user) will no longer be counted in the 140 characters you would have available. Additionally, when tweeting a user, the @username will also not count against the 140 characters.

It is unclear as to when the changes will specifically be rolled out, but a blog post on Twitter’s corporate web site says these features would be rolled out within the next few months.

In an interview with the BBC last week, Dorsey said the focus was on ensuring that when people tweet, it makes sense.

The soon-to-be rolled out updates are good for journalism on the platform, as users look to Twitter to engage with journalists and news organizations, either through discussions on current issues, or to be informed about events on the go. Journalists and news organizations also can do crowd sourcing on the platform, and the changes would likely allow more context to be put into a request or verification of user generated content.

Yet, the big item will come from live tweeting a story, especially a breaking news story, and how multimedia elements can help tell that story on Twitter. Journalists will be able to tell a story better on the platform with more context, alongside the photos and videos, whether its a local piece, a sports event, or a story on the forthcoming elections.

These changes allow journalists, irrespective of beat, to truly have Twitter become another platform alongside conventional platforms, to expand the two-way conversation between journalist and user, and to practice accomplished and quality storytelling.

While there is a ways to go before Twitter’s problems are properly solved, this is a step in the right direction, and will allow journalism to flourish on the social network. It will benefit not only the engagement strategies for news organizations, but to the people that matter most — the audience.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.


The legacy of Morley Safer

CBS News correspondent Morley Safer, seen here in 2010, died Thursday in New York. (Photo: Charles Bogel/US National Archives/Flickr)

CBS News correspondent Morley Safer, seen here in 2010, died Thursday in New York. (Photo: Charles Bogel/US National Archives/Flickr)

There are various reasons as to why we go into journalism. We pursue this work because it is a calling, because we have the ability to make a difference for the common good, and ultimately because we believe that the power of the written word or the broadcast segment evokes the ability to impact the civil discourse of our society.

We do this not for fame or for fortune, but for the ability to know that the work we are doing is making a difference, no matter what we cover.

The same rule applied to Morley Safer, the longtime CBS News correspondent synonymous with the program 60 Minutes. Safer died Thursday in New York, days after announcing he would be retiring from the network after 46 years on 60 Minutes, and over half a century with CBS itself. He was 84.

Safer did 919 stories for 60 Minutes over the course of his tenure, some associated with the currency of events, others to paint a portrait of the world and what makes it tick, in addition to its effervescent qualities. There were certain elements that became quintessential hallmarks of a Safer story for a viewer — from the language he used to the picture he wanted to paint, to what Canadian journalist Peter Mansbridge described as the broad picture, the world view, in an interview with Canada’s public broadcaster, CBC.

These were elements that were signature of Safer’s work, especially on 60 Minutes, whether it was his 1979 interview with actress Katharine Hepburn or his 1991 visit to France, to examine the global health effects of the country’s food culture.

His interviews were different compared to others one would see. He humanized personal interviews with celebrities, asked questions of key events here and abroad, but most notably, left us thought-provoking images and thoughts about how the world, and its key personalities, work.

Safer, born in Toronto, and who worked for Reuters, as well as CBC, before joining CBS in 1964, yet said that he was never comfortable being on television. For Safer, one suspects the story trumps the medium to which it is seen, and that the quality of the story is the only thing that matters.

This industry continues to change, and new platforms continue to become available beyond broadcasting and newspapers. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are becoming hubs for content. Yet, through all of the changes, there is one fundamental reason journalism continues to prevail. There’s always room for a good story, and that good storytelling remains the core ethos of journalism. Good storytelling can change anything.

The stories will continue, and though we will never again see a new story by Safer, he has left a prolific insight into how a good story should be.

He also gave us a reminder to us all, that in spite of the changes to come, journalism is still fundamental to society, and it is worth preserving, not just today, but every day.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.


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