Archive for August, 2016


The world and its stories

The New York Times is trying to increase its readership outside the US, which may have long-term effects beyond engagement. (Photo: alextorrenegra/Flickr)

The New York Times is trying to increase its readership outside the US, which may have long-term effects beyond engagement. (Photo: alextorrenegra/Flickr)

Recently, The New York Times did something rather interesting when it came to its coverage of the forthcoming presidential elections. It assigned a foreign correspondent to cover them, allowing for not just an interesting way to cover these elections, but also an indication of trends in media and how they will impact storytelling overall.

The Times assigned Declan Walsh, its Cairo bureau chief, to cover the elections in the same way he would a foreign story, for a series called Abroad in America. Thus far, he has written about both conventions, as well as the role of coal country in voting and the issue of women in US politics.

His column, according to an article from the Nieman Lab at Harvard University, is being edited and run through the international desk at the Times, though Walsh does consult with its politics team.

In an interview with the Lab, Walsh said the column was part of the recognition by the Times about digital readership — that much of it was outside the United States, and as a result, there was potential for such content.

“It speaks to the balance that the paper has to achieve, especially in stories that are about the United States, in writing stories about things in the US that foreign readers are very interested in, but they do not have the same degree of familiarity with or the same cultural connectors that a reader would in the United States,” Walsh said.

This initiative is part of broader work the Times is doing to expand its international readership. It recently created NYT Global, a $50 million effort over the next 3 years to expand this work, and, according to the Lab, it sees potential when it comes to attracting paying subscribers from outside the US.

Though the move is strategic on the part of the Times, this decision speaks to a larger trend in the world of journalism, largely influenced by the internet — a trend that comes off of the idea of the global village, a theory from the Canadian communications scholar Marshall McLuhan, where new technologies would be making the world smaller, connecting more and more people, no matter their location. This was part of his core theory, the medium is the message.

Indeed, the internet and the social media age have influenced how we consume news, and where we get our news from. The global age has influenced our ideas of media brands — alongside the BBC, Reuters, The Guardian, The New Yorker, the Financial Times and NPR come other sites including BuzzFeed and Vice. More people are getting access to content, either online streaming or through podcasts, whether its Stuart McLean’s The Vinyl Cafe from CBC Radio in Canada or other podcasts from public broadcasters or other sites.

As a result, news organizations like the Times are thinking more globally as far as their reach, and while the Times is a unique case, it does show how far reaching stories can be in this digital age. While it is unclear if the Times plans similar ideas for other stories down the road, it is an indication that as the mediums that journalism are being disseminated through increase, the idea of how we tell stories will change, whether global in scope or local in nature, no matter the beat, even though the first priority is the immediate audience.

It also means that there will be more sources and web sites available for information, leaving news organizations to be creative when it comes to engagement strategies surrounding stories.

While the mediums themselves will be changing, one thing hasn’t — the mission of journalism, to inform, to engage, to stimulate, and to enlighten. Though we may need to be creative about how we do it in the near future, it is better than an alternative — a world without journalism.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

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.

A Moment for journalism

Twitter's roll-out of Moments to everyone provides significant opportunities for journalists and news organizations to engage with their audience. (Photo: Pixabay)

Twitter’s roll-out of Moments to everyone provides significant opportunities for journalists and news organizations to engage with their audience. (Photo: Pixabay)

It was announced last week that Twitter plans to roll out Moments, its program that features content from news organizations and others, to everyone. Introduced last October, it was designed to help engage users on the social network and to attract new users, something that chief executive Jack Dorsey has been trying to do since he took over as CEO from Dick Costolo last year.

Though Twitter says it will be made available to all within the next few months, the Nieman Lab at Harvard University notes the Moments that had been started by Allure Magazine, one of the brands selected by the Twitter media team. Indeed, with this news, there is the potential for news organizations to use Moments, whether its breaking stories or providing a wrap up on a comprehensive story, like the forthcoming presidential election.

The opportunity for this roll-out of Moments allows news organizations to further engage with audiences on Twitter, in addition to disseminating news and curating conversations surrounding a topic. Indeed, the Moments used by news organizations can allow Twitter to be a platform for users to get a quick digest of the news of the day, if they don’t have time to either watch a broadcast live or visit various news sites and read.

In addition, such a digest can also be a complement to live tweeting of any story in progress, giving reason for a user to stay on Twitter to see the world unfold through the signature 140 character statuses.

Yet, most of all, Moments can provide a new way to tell stories — to chronicle the events of the world and to present them in new ways. It allows for events like elections or other events, irrespective of beat, to be written in new ways, and to be made available to the public as a miniature resource, linking back to content within their organization.

Twitter’s decision to introduce Moments to everyone is a welcome for journalism on the platform, and will bring significant benefit to the engagement strategies of news organizations. It allows more focus for Twitter to be a platform for news, and for news organizations to push their offerings on the social network, as more and more users will spend time on the platform.

It also allows news organizations to encourage users to look at their other platforms, be it web or otherwise. Whether they will come is at their discretion, as this introduction may see Twitter as a competitor to other news sites for attention, whether its a local outlet or The New York Times, as more content is being produced.

Nevertheless, this ultimately gives journalists an opportunity to ponder the craft of storytelling, and to innovate for audiences. Whether it can be successful though will be found out…in a matter of mere Moments.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

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 need for journalism

Last night, John Oliver used humor to make a point about the future of this industry.

A portion of his HBO program Last Week Tonight was devoted to a look at journalism, and the future of newspapers, amidst the decline of advertising revenue. In a near 20 minute segment, Oliver examined the case for journalism, through a monologue and a satirical skit of the film Spotlight, and how the direction of newspapers and other aspects of the industry will dictate how journalism is conducted moving forward.

Yet, his quote towards the end before the filmed skit resonated the biggest challenge for journalism yet, and what will happen to the industry down the road if nothing is done about it.

“Sooner or later, we are either going to have to pay for journalism or we are all going to pay for it,” Oliver said.

Oliver’s monologue about paying for journalism reflects a generational divide, a generation accustomed to paying for news through newspapers versus a generation, through the internet and social media, accustomed to getting content for free, and reluctant to pay for it, exacerbated in this social media age.

I am a part of that latter generation. I am a 24 year old who has access to an abundance of information no matter the circumstance — anytime, anywhere, all for the low, low price of $0.00.

It is worth investing in subscriptions to papers like The New York Times, for it will bring significant long-term benefits. (Photo: Haxorjoe/Wikimedia Commons)

It is worth investing in subscriptions to papers like The New York Times, for it will bring significant long-term benefits. (Photo: Haxorjoe/Wikimedia Commons)

Yet, compared to my peers, I am willing to invest in that content. Every day, a newspaper arrives at my house — The Wall Street Journal Monday through Saturday, and the Chicago Tribune on Sunday. But on the same token, I also look at sites that are either paywalled or have their content for free — from The Guardian to The New York Times, the BBC to Reuters and NPR, and periodically — The New Yorker. I also will find content linked either from Twitter or Facebook. I also have a digital subscription to the Journal that ties in with the newspaper subscription.

I read to stay informed of the world around me and to keep up with trends — I read the Journal, the Guardian and others because an informed and educated public is beneficial for our society, and for democracy, something journalism can give. It is something that I am not afraid to pay for.

Those in this industry enter it and seek work in it because we believe in the fundamental principles for which it is associated. We subscribe to its ideas and its values align with our own. We believe in the cause for an informed public and an enhanced civil discourse — that those in power must be held to account, that the work we do together can do the most good.

I believe in the role journalism has in our world, and the role information and education can have in making the lives of others better. I can’t imagine a circumstance where the world is bereft of journalism, which is why its worth supporting and paying for.

It is important for all of us to invest in journalism, for your investment now will result in a significant investment down the road, in the education and knowledge that comes from the pages, in print and online, about your world and your life. That alone has more benefits than seeing a video of a raccoon cat time and time again.

So, subscribe to journalism. Support my friends and colleagues who believe in making the world better, and invest in democracy. Trust me, it’s worth every penny.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

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.

A transparent Facebook

Facebook should appoint a public editor for the interests of not just news organizations, but audiences. (Photo: Pixabay)

Facebook should appoint a public editor for the interests of not just news organizations, but audiences. (Photo: Pixabay)

It has become a common theme for Facebook in the past few weeks. Another day comes, and with it comes another change to its algorithm.

The most recent change came this week, when the social network announced its plans to combat clickbait by examining headlines of articles. Some types of headlines would be considered clickbait, including, according to a blog post on its corporate web site, those headlines that are misleading or withhold specific aspects of information.

Quoted in The New York Times, Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s vice president for product management, which oversees the News Feed, said the change was made with users’ interests in mind.

“We want publishers to post content that people care about, and we think people care about headlines that are much more straightforward,” Mosseri said.

This had raised some concerns with publishers, as well as additional concerns that they did not have insight into the decision making behind the algorithm changes, according to the Times report.

Mosseri said that he met regularly with publishers to discuss such changes, and that Facebook would be more transparent about its changes. Indeed, while transparency is all well and good, more needs to be done for a platform that has a significant influence in the relationship between consumer and news organization.

Earlier this year, I wrote a post for this blog advocating a public editor post be created within Facebook, a post that would, according to New York based journalism professor Jeff Jarvis, not edit per se, but be a voice for the public. I renew that advocacy with this post.

A creation of such a role (or perhaps multiple roles), similar to what is being done at organizations like the Times and at The Guardian, would ensure Facebook be truly transparent.

Indeed, the SPJ Code of Ethics, where under the section “Be Accountable and Transparent,” calls for a conversation about news coverage, content and journalistic practices. Even though Facebook itself is not a conventional media company, the rule should apply to them, considering the influence it has on the dissemination of information to users, as well as engagement strategies in various newsrooms.

As such, a creation of a public editor role would, in my view, support this call, and allow Facebook to be honest with not just its audience, but publishers as well, and allow for a full conversation about what role the social network can have in the future of this industry. With this role, we can understand the algorithm changes better, have our say on the changes, and help make the algorithm beneficial for the people who we serve — our audience.

While the same can be said for Twitter, Google and other platforms, having Facebook create a public editor role would be significant in the world of social media journalism, and perhaps others can follow their lead.

The idea and the call is there. The decision on whether a public editor role should be created, however, is solely in Mark Zuckerberg’s court.

Your move, Facebook.

Editor’s note: This post was amended at 4:04pm CT on August 7 to add that The Guardian also has the post of a global readers editor.

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.

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