Archive for the ‘Journalism Education’ Category


Tips on Writing a Digital Story

With society becoming more digitalized, journalists  too must adapt to the changes, along with how create a story in the digital age.

With society becoming more digitalized, journalists too must adapt to the changes, along with how create a story in the digital age.


“The social media aspect was something that was just not there five years ago,” said Nick Komjati a student studying to become a sports reporter at the EW Scripps School of Journalism, which is a part of Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

With print newspaper readership and sales declining at a rapid pace, and social media consumption skyrocketing, students and professional journalists alike are now learning how to write, film and produce stories in the newly digitalized format.

Brett Atwood, the director of integrated communication at Washington State University, posted a lecture titled “Multimedia Reporting”. Here are some of the main points of the lecture and how some big tech companies are helping journalists with this change.

Before discussing how to write a digital story, it’s important to understand what web journalism is, and how it differs from print journalism. “Web Journalism” consists of breaking news, links of credible sources, along with social media integration and reader interactivity.

Unlike print journalism, journalists have many more freedoms, in terms of writing and crafting a story in the digitalized format. Some of these differences include stories that are read or presented in a non-linear fashion and the writer has unlimited space to write the story. With the unlimited space, reporters can now break up longer stories into chunks and during breaking news situations, stories can now be updated quickly, with the latest information. Also, reporters now have the option to embed polls and slideshows, along with audio and video pieces that are relevant to their story, to help readers better comprehend what they’re reading.

So how can you write a the perfect digital story that’s both appealing and informative?

Links

Links can be a very important factor in your story as it can show readers where you got your information, whether that be a report or a study from another site, but there are a few components you need to remember when utilizing links within your story. First, don’t overdo it on links, for it can possibly completely redirect readers from your story and the site on which it was published. By doing so, you will not only lose readership on your story, but your publisher’s site will lose its revenue from ads. Also, use only quality links and beware of the integrity of the site you’re linking to for it may contain hidden spyware or illegal content, even if it pertains to your story.

Headlines

As in any story, the headline is more critical than ever. It can help determine how or if your story gets indexed on keyword searches on Google or any other internet browser. It also serves as a tease to persuade the reader to continue to read your story.

Social Media

Just like many other businesses utilizing social media to help promote their brand or their services, social media is critical for discovery and distribution of your reporting. It can also be used to help research topics and roundup sources. With social media sites being the number one source for breaking news sources, it helps draw people to view your story.

Huge tech giants are also helping aid journalist in enhancing their online stories. Services such as Google News Lab, Facebook Media and Twitter for News all alow you to embed widgets and add ons to your reporting to help with the apperance and user interactivty in your story.

Enhancing a Digital Story Even More

By embedding photo galleries and slideshows into your stories, it helps give your readers a clearer picture into what’s occurring in your story. Soundslides and Slideshare are both great and user-friendly software with which to start.

Cutline Captions

When using photographs in a story it’s always important to remember to include a cutline caption in every photograph used, so the reader can understand why that particular photo is significant to the story. When labeling a photograph it’s helpful to remember the who, what, when, where, why and how the photo was taken.

With technology constantly changing and evolving, Atwood says online journalists need to know how to write, shoot and record. “Be prepared to do it all, including audio, video editing and maybe even some light coding,” he said.

Watch Bred Atwood’s full Multimedia lecture here:

Examples of interactive articles:

http://www.nytimes.com/newsgraphics/2013/07/21/silk-road/

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/22/business/in-climbing-income-ladder-location-matters.html?_r=0

http://www.nytimes.com/projects/2012/snow-fall/#/?part=tunnel-creek

http://www.dtelepathy.com/blog/inspiration/20-examples-of-long-form-content-with-great-ux-design

Follow me on Twitter: @jonathanhmayes

Transparency for All

I wake up anxious every day, just to find out what Obama will be doing in the afternoon.

Okay, that’s not entirely true.  Perhaps my enthusiasm for The New York Times Now newsletter has got me a little carried away.

The era of digital journalism is upon us, where we consumers can uncover the president’s whereabouts, the history of Pac Man, and the leaked merger of two media companies before their employees even hear of the negotiations –– all at the tap of a screen and the stroke of a thumb.

It seems that everything is and can be known, while nothing is secret or sacred for long.  With trust comes a yearning for greater transparency, a transparency that was once denied by all.

We have yet to experience an age of fluid, free-for-all information in America as we encounter today.

Those inspirational posters in elementary schools across the country speak at least one truth: knowledge, I’ve come to learn, is power.  The masses are no longer deposited in darkness, shackled from the bitter underbelly of reality.  We can touch the truth, the stories from the “other side” –– if only we so choose.

I never appreciated how journalists have truly become the gatekeepers of society’s information until I thought about President Obama and his endless, ever-changing agenda.  If I didn’t have the thorough research, wit and intellect of journalists at the Times, I’d have absolutely no concept of the events occurring in Washington D.C., let alone with whom the president was having lunch.  I’d be clueless and unawares in my small hometown of Ohio (a state that nobody ever cares about until election season starts).

You see, I’d know the high school choir and band rosters for next school year, the best price for blueberries from the local groceries, that the house across the street is for sale.  But I wouldn’t have any concept of the tragedies in Nepal, have read BuzzFeed’s bulletproof resumé advice, or know that John Kerry broke his leg in Europe earlier this week.

I’d be left in blissful, mind-numbing ignorance, but I’d be none the wiser.

I read articles, I follow journalists because there is always something more for me to gain.  I marvel at how I will never, ever stop learning in this life, so long as I choose to keep exploring.

Journalists pave the path for discovery, for intrigue, for curiosity.  We are forever indebted to their services, their tireless effort to share with us, the audience, another glimpse of the world beyond our front door.

So next time you share a story with a friend –– a story that took place beyond your ivory tower town –– pause, and retweet a journalist.  You only know so much as your fellow human beings let you know, so support the journalists who tire away for your attention.  They’re doing this for you.

Bethany N. Bella is studying Journalism, Political Science and Environmental Studies at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Connect with her on Twitter @bethanynbella or browse her work at bethanybella.com

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

Learning from Chicago’s social runoff

Rahm Emanuel, who won re-election as Chicago mayor after the first runoff in city history. (Photo: danxoneil/Flickr under CC)

Rahm Emanuel, who won re-election as Chicago mayor after the first runoff in city history. (Photo: danxoneil/Flickr under CC)

On April 7, Rahm Emanuel was re-elected as the Mayor of Chicago in the first runoff for the office in the history of the city.

Emanuel, known to many as a Congressman and the former chief of staff to President Barack Obama, defeated Cook County commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, 56 percent to 44 percent. The runoff came after an election earlier in February where no candidate had reached a majority of votes.

As the runoff campaign took place, Twitter had become a hub for reporting on the campaign, and for Lauren Chooljian, the City Hall reporter for NPR station WBEZ, she wanted it to become a core tool in her telling the story of the campaign.

“Because there was so much interest in the runoff (we hadn’t been there before), I wanted to be as open and transparent as possible,” Chooljian said in a telephone interview, noting she wanted to do snapshots of the campaign, with views also from voters. “As the race was ebbing and flowing (days that some thought Garcia performed better or Emanuel performed better), I did snapshots and longer pieces. I was tweeting much more often too.”

With the large profile this had gotten not just in the city, but also nationally on a political scale, Twitter had become a new way to engage not only those interested, but also attract new audiences. Chooljian had been getting followers from RTs from WBEZ’s Twitter account as well as from other followers.

However, Chooljian says, the traditional on the ground reporting still played a central role.

“Face time still means the most to the Mayor and Garcia,” Chooljian said. “All the tweets in the world can’t do what showing up and doing reporting can do. It can move the stories out further and get people involved.  I have no idea how many people hear my stories, but some of my tweets can go all over the place. Twitter is a way to reach a different segment of our audience.”

Chooljian looked at the human aspect as well of the story, trying to build the longer story of the campaign and the affect on the people of the city, and with Twitter, Chooljian said it made a difference as far as audiences go. She will continue to share her stories as she did with the campaign, and will cover City Hall the same way – trying to find that human interest, as well as information that is necessary to know.

“When it’s a big talking point, I’ll tweet about it,” Chooljian said. “It gets the info out and engages new audiences. That is when Twitter becomes a new tool for us.”

Yet, the bottom line for all journalists, Chooljian says, is trust in your reporting from audiences, whether or not it is on social media.

“If they trust your reporting, they will trust your reporting however you give it to them.”

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, blogs on social media’s role in journalism for Net Worked, and serves as Community Coordinator for SPJ. Veeneman also is Deputy Editor, Media Editor and a writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

Tablet or Traditional? News Consumption

One afternoon in my second semester at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, I grabbed a copy of the morning’s The New York Times, more on an impulse than as a conscious, consumer choice.

When you attend one of the top-ranked journalism schools in the country, reading and consuming news in the traditional sense (think thick, inky newspapers and ever-present CNN coverage) is standard – and addicting.

I was never a read-the-newspaper-every-day kind of person until I started rubbing elbows with other collegiate academics, most of whom keep a copy of the Times under their suit jackets, like an essential accessory.

Resorting to a classic case of peer pressure, I soon began plucking a Times from the shelf every day, skimming the headlines over morning coffee – you know, what ‘smart, news-engaged people’ do.

But then one morning, after having watched the documentary Page One: Inside the New York Times (2011) in my journalism class, I stared incredulously at my Times and thought, “Who have I become? A digital-age person caught in the mentality of a traditional news junkie, living in the past?”

It’s no secret: Print journalism is undergoing a massive revolution.

Some critics claim it’s dying. Either way, print journalism has suffered incredible losses in the past five years alone, thanks to a surge in online news consumption and mobile compatible content.

Page One took The New York Times as a case study in this traditional journalism dilemma – one of those elite print models that’s grappled with financial hardship and a rapidly evolving audience, all while the American technological age keeps plowing ahead.

I’ve been conditioned to think that a newspaper – real, heavy, ink-blotted paper – is the only respected or sophisticated method to consume daily news.

And yet, what was I getting out of this old model that my digital subscription to the Times couldn’t have provided as easily, or more conveniently?  Perceived intelligence or blind optimism?

I thought, if I only consume news through traditional mediums, and ignore digital media, I’m championing a sputtering art form.  Like supporting the Cleveland Browns, instead of finding another, more promising team to root for (my dad’s an ever-hopeful Browns fan, but I gave up on them years ago).

It’s time to face the facts: Newspapers aren’t the sole providers of news, anymore.

And I’m choosing to live in the future, and support the next wave of journalism distribution, with my smartphone, my laptop, and my thumbs.

For those who think (or desperately choose to believe) that the printed newspaper will ever dominate as the primary method of news consumption in the future? Join the digital wave, while you still can.

Bethany N. Bella is studying at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Connect with her on Twitter @bethanynbella or browse her work at bethanybella.com.

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

Personal Websites

Designing myself a website in high school wasn’t just some whimsical experiment I executed in my spare time – I did it solely to get into college.

For two years, I had been broadcasting weekly shows and writing monthly for the school newspaper. With this arsenal of clips stored in my computer’s hard drive, wasn’t I doing what every other student had done to get into an elite journalism school?   Not so.

During my freshman year at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, I’ve encountered a handful of upperclassmen journalists who have yet to create their own website.

These are students with a high profile in the newspaper, who’ve written weekly (if not daily) articles since their first or second year.

“Why haven’t you made your own website?” I asked them incredulously. I was met with shrugs; they never really gave me an answer.

Personal branding is all about being a self-advocate. In an age when journalism students are competing for the same jobs, the same internships, it can be tough to land that dream position when every other journalist has learned the same skills.

Writing a news story isn’t rocket science – in fact, a hard-news story functions more like a scientific formula, for those who haven’t taken an introductory journalism course. Plug and chug, as they say. A 30-word lede. A nut graf explanation. Some quotes, here and there, from reputable sources. End with a summary quote, or a call to action.

This systematic style means that just because you can write well doesn’t mean you’ll get, or deserve, the job.

Therefore, creating for yourself an online personal portfolio is crucial in establishing yourself as a marketable journalist. A journalist who takes pride in her work, who cares enough to share her skills with an ever-expanding online audience.

Having a website not only gives you a convenient, transportable portfolio (forget those days of carting around prized articles), but it also gives you a stake in the Internet, as well.

The World Wide Web has become the eyes and ears of the Information Age. Why not embrace it? Buy yourself a domain and give the Internet-trawlers something to talk about with your work. Let your friends and family know what kind of professional experience you’ve been up to in college (or even beyond, when you’ve lost touch and Facebook doesn’t suffice).

A personal website isn’t just a business card addition – it’s an investment in your future.

Bethany N. Bella is studying at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Connect with her on Twitter @bethanynbella or browse her work at bethanybella.com.

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

The future of women studying journalism

The School of Journalism at the University of Missouri. Indiana University's main campus in Bloomington, considered to be one of the most prestigious journalism schools in the US. Research shows an increase of women studying journalism compared to men. Photo - mojourcomm / Wikimedia Commons (CC)

The School of Journalism at the University of Missouri. Research shows an increase of women studying journalism compared to men.
Photo – mojourcomm / Wikimedia Commons (CC)

One of the items in modern journalism education that has been examined as of late is the rise of women studying journalism, and that despite more women studying the subject than their male counterparts, more of the jobs are going to men.

A recent blog post detailed research from Oxford University in the UK which indicated more women studied journalism compared to men in multiple countries, including the United States, yet most of the jobs were going to men.

More research had been done particularly on the angle of education in the US, and recent research from the University of Georgia, known as the Annual Survey of Journalism and Mass Communication Enrollment, indicated that approximately two-thirds of the student body pursuing undergraduate or graduate degrees in the field were women.

Yet with the concerns still out there on employment ratios and gender gaps, what does the future hold for women studying journalism, and what would the educational research indicate when transitioning to employment?

In an earlier blog post, Whitney Ashton, a senior at Pepperdine University, based outside Los Angeles, said there had been some changes in the digital age.

“It’s easy to look through the gendered lens that is sometimes presented on TV or get discouraged by the ratio of male to female bylines in newspapers, but online journalism and social media are new territory,” Ashton said. “The digital age has disrupted traditional journalism in many ways, and I think it also has the potential to change gender attitudes for women looking to break into the industry.”

Indiana University's flagship campus in Bloomington, considered to be one of the most prestigious journalism programs in the US. (Photo: McAnt/Wikimedia Commons under CC license)

Indiana University’s flagship campus in Bloomington, considered to be home to one of the most prestigious journalism programs in the US. (Photo: McAnt/Wikimedia Commons under CC license)

At Indiana University‘s flagship campus in Bloomington, senior journalism student Abby Llorico says the research from UGA is not surprising, and that you could walk down most hallways at Ernie Pyle Hall and not spot a single male student.

Llorico, reached by email, says something is missing.

“My honors program started with a few guys in it, but now it’s dwindled down to only 8 girls,” Llorico said. “It’s unfortunate in a learning environment because there’s definitely a perspective we’re missing.”

For the industry, Llorico says, many people associate the digital industry with social media, and perceptions are different.

“The digital world is seen by many people as a “social media” term, and many people think of social media as more of a ‘girl-thing,'” Llorico said. “I have never heard of a guy wanting to make a career out of social media. And while of course they do use the platform, for young people I would say that it’s more common for girls to keep up with their feeds and timelines than guys.”

Yet, on the subject of equality, Llorico says, gender is the easiest hurdle.

“I really think that’s the easiest hurdle we have to face in society, and I am a woman,” Llorico said. “We’ve cleared a lot of hurdles when it comes to how people think and now it’s just about making policy that catches up. As far as religion, race, nationality, and the like, I think that journalism is one sphere in which the generally more liberal mindset would help make equality more possible than in other fields.”

Llorico, who wants to be a TV news anchor when she finishes her studies, says it is imperative to understand the world and its various perspectives.

“There’s nothing more crucial in this world than understanding it,” Llorico said. “We owe it to one another to hear each other out and listen to voices, stories, and problems that are different than ours.”

For the moment, however, concerns about a gender gap are vast and appear in many schools in the US. In an interview with the USA Today College publication, Victoria Messina, a journalism major at the University of Florida, it may lead to concerns of employment down the road.

“If I put in the same amount of effort, and went to a really great journalism school, and did all of the same work as him and he got the job or the better story than me, then that would suck.”

Alex Veeneman is a Chicago based SPJ member who is chairman of SPJ Digital and the community coordinator for SPJ. Veeneman serves as Deputy Editor, Media Editor and contributing writer to Kettle Magazine, an online publication based in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

Ask Questions, Get Answers

You know the phrase, ‘Ask and you shall receive’?  No other advice rings truer for young journalists who are itching to get out in the business.

It’s the classic professors’ ploy: “Questions? Anybody have questions?” The professor implores, as he paces the floor. More often than not, the room answers with squeaky shoe-shuffling. Students, especially prideful college students, are reluctant to admit what they don’t know.

But journalists are the curious ones of the bunch–the ones that ask questions to strangers over the phone; the ones that seek out sources, data, and numbers on the Internet.  So why are we still afraid to ask questions, when we’re practically spoon-fed opportunities to do so?

The journalism profession is hands down a learn-on-the-job kind of trade–don’t expect a morning lecture to earn you the keys to the kingdom of ledes.  There’s only so much knowledge a reporter can gain from reading a textbook before she just has to pick up the phone herself.

And as inexperienced, young journalists coming into college–feeling free, confident, and sometimes a little cocky–we need all the help we can get.

My advice for journalists-in-training is to always ask questions.  Even when you’re sitting in an Anthropology lecture on Gender and Ethnicity, challenge yourself to ask the professor–a well-learned scholar, no doubt–a question about his or her experiences pertaining to the topic at hand.  I bet you’ll walk away from the lecture feeling more engaged and more likely to remember the material for an exam (yes, journalists still need to pass exams).

But don’t just ask questions in the classroom.

Find other journalists working in the field and kindly ask for their advice.  Even better, find a journalist (or two) already doing what it is you aspire to do, and ask them how they got there. Chances are, you’ll receive some smart, succinct advice and a new ally in this competitive field.

Journalists already love talking to strangers, and what journalist wouldn’t enjoy an email or two to give his own advice, for a change?

Trust me: The professionals out there? They were college journalists once, too–surviving on coffee and late night snacks while trying to write that perfect nut graf.  Stay one step ahead, and keep asking questions. Pretty soon, you’ll have yourself some answers.

Bethany N. Bella is a multimedia journalist studying at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Connect with her on Twitter @bnbjourno or browse her work at bethanybella.com.

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

Should Students Pursue Journalism?

A headline from HuffPost Media this week stopped me in my Twitter-prowling tracks: “Employment Rates Are Improving For Everyone But Journalism Majors.”

My first reaction was to cringe. I’ve always considered myself capable of well-reasoned decisions. Prone to follow the logical path, I have a reputation of calculated intelligence.

So why was the most important decision of my academic career – to pursue an undergraduate degree in journalism – singled out as a seemingly embarrassing career choice?

It’s true: the odds aren’t exactly in my favor when it comes to a predictable job market in journalism.

With the decline of print newspapers and the surge in freemium, online news models, journalists must now enter the market with a secured internship or a potential job offering in mind – or risk getting swallowed up in the sea of unemployment.

Journalists-in-training like me are learning not only the basics of inverted pyramid structure and AP Style nuances but also the importance of networking and social connections. Because no matter how well a journalist can write, the business has become a who-knows-who arena of opportunities.

Eat or be eaten, as they say.

But despite these unfavorable odds of security and market prospects in the field of journalism, I couldn’t be more firm in my resolve to continue my journalism education.

Journalists are the gatekeepers of information – independent seekers of truth.

We ask the questions bubbling inside the human head.  We are animals of curiosity with a desire to inform, to educate, and to entertain our audiences.  We don’t just tell you what you want to know, but we tell you what you need to know.

My advice to young journalists: decide for yourself if this profession is merely a hobby or a lifelong devotion.

If you’re looking for a passive, ‘9-to-5’ work schedule, I’d suggest taking a different path. Those guarantees aren’t likely to come in a typical journalism job description.

But if you value the ability of language to shape and transform a community, stick with it.  Dream up a destination. Carve out a goal. Give yourself a concrete reason for persisting in this evolving and unpredictable craft.

Take the responsibility of finding and discovering the truth of our world into your hands. Own it. Embrace it.

I am proud to call myself a truth-seeking journalist. What could be a more honorable job description than that?

Bethany N. Bella is a multimedia journalist studying at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Connect with her on Twitter @bnbjourno or browse her work at bethanybella.com

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

Embrace the Age of Social Media

Social media–or what I like to call a journalist’s savior.

When I decided junior year of high school to become an environmental journalist, I assumed I’d just be writing stories for tree huggers; I never thought one day I would need to be marketing myself on the Internet, too, in order to survive this job.

Because of Tumblr blogs and Facebook status updates, tweets on Twitter and snaps on Snapchat, everyone in the digital age is now considered a storyteller–a title once earned only by those trained as professional journalists.

But now the lines have blurred:  Who can tell the news?  What is a credible news source?  Who can we trust for information?

Online journalism: it’s a relatively new term coined for the surge in digital readership, although I’d argue it’s both the present and the future of journalism as we know it.

And if you’re a journalist not active–or just a silent avatar–on Twitter and Facebook, you’re already irrelevant, lost in the fathoms of cyberspace and letting someone else tell your story.

I’m surprised that at this stage in the digital revolution there are still journalists who do not promote their own work–their livelihood–to readers online.

When I read an article from National Geographic or The New York Times, I expect to see who has written the article and find them on social media.

Maybe it’s a compulsive response as a nosy American, but I relish the opportunity to connect with the man or woman who has produced what I believe is a quality piece of news.

I want to know where they live, what they’re interested in, and what else they’ve written.

And just like me, your readers want to know the same thing about you as a journalist.

Accept the transparency of online journalism and embrace the curiosity of your readers.

Give them something to look at on social media. Show them you’re engaged in the digital age. Prove to them that you’re relevant, that you’re ‘tuned in’ to the information their thumbs so desperately crave. Give them a reason to trust in you as a credible news source.

And above all, give them a reason to return to you for future information.

Staying engaged with the current trends of American consumers–this is how you will survive and thrive as a journalist in the 21st century.

Bethany N. Bella is a multimedia journalist studying at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Connect with her on Twitter @bnbjourno or browse her work at bethanybella.com.

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

How can the Engaging News Project help journalism?

In this Net Worked guest post, Katie Steiner, an SPJ Digital member in Austin, Texas, looks at the role of the Engaging News Project and its work for journalism in the digital age.

The Engaging News Project at the University of Texas at Austin is working to help newsrooms in the new age of journalism. (Photo courtesy of Katie Steiner)

The Engaging News Project at the University of Texas at Austin is working to help newsrooms in the new age of journalism.
(Photo courtesy of Katie Steiner)

To say this is an interesting time in the news industry is an understatement. Incivility runs rampant in comment sections, leading a few newsrooms to remove comments all together. Some outlets are so driven by page views that they’ve traded in their democratic goals in favor of Kim Kardashian stories and puppy photo galleries. And overall, newsrooms are being asked to do more with fewer resources than ever before.

That is why the Engaging News Project launched. We’re a research group dedicated to helping newsrooms meet their business and journalistic goals. To do this, we test web-based strategies for informing audiences, promoting substantive discourse, and helping citizens to understand diverse views. At the same time, we analyze business outcomes, such as clicks and time on page.

One area of online engagement we have explored is online polls and quizzes. Polls are a popular way for news sites to engage with their visitors, but they have downsides. Specifically, some site visitors may believe that online poll results are accurate reflections of public opinion when, in fact, they are not. Further, the widespread use of entertainment-oriented polls may miss valuable opportunities to both entertain and educate.

Our research found that quizzes can be a positive alternative to polls, as they actually test readers’ knowledge while also keeping them on the page. To help make it simple for newsrooms to make quizzes for their sites, we have created a free online quiz tool. We invite you try out the tool by visiting this page of our website.

A hot topic in the news industry right now is comment sections, and what newsrooms should do with them. One possible solution we tested was to have journalists interact with commenters. Through our research, we found that civility improved when a reporter was present in the comment section.

When looking at comment sections, we noticed that many newsrooms use a “Like” button to allow readers to engage with the comments. But what do people do when they see a worthwhile comment that express a point of view with which they disagree? To remedy this, we created a “Respect” button. We found that people were more likely to click on comments expressing different political views when they had a “Respect” button to use, compare to when there was just a “Like.”

We’re fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with some fantastic journalists and news organizations for these projects – none of our research would be possible without their help. By partnering with newsrooms to test our strategies, we are able to get a better understanding of what works (and what doesn’t).

We’re always looking for new newsroom partnerships. At the very least, we would love to hear what you think we should be testing, or what you wish you could improve about your digital presence. We encourage you to contact us via our website.

Katie Steiner, an SPJ Digital member, is the Communication Associate for the Engaging News Project, based at the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life at the University of Texas at Austin. You can interact with the Project on Twitter here.

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