Archive for the ‘Workflow’ Category

Facebook, Snapchat and political journalism

Social media competition will be developing ahead of the 2016 election. (Image: Pixabay/CCP

Social media competition will be developing ahead of the 2016 election. (Image: Pixabay under CC license)

As media coverage continues to intensify of the campaigns for the 2016 presidential election, at the helm is social media, and how that will likely influence coverage. There are however new platforms in play compared to events in 2012, and there now appears to be a debate at play among platforms on engaging younger audiences in political coverage.

Earlier this month, a study from the Pew Research Center indicated social media, particularly Facebook, was the dominant platform when it came to young people consuming political news. 61 percent of them got news from the social network compared to 37 percent for local television.

The news of that poll came as the Los Angeles based Snapchat, a social network aimed at younger audiences which is still trying to find its footing, continues its work to hire journalists to shape coverage of the election on the platform. Earlier this year, it hired Peter Hamby, a Washington based correspondent at CNN, to become its head of news.

Both social networks are undergoing significant change when it comes to the broader relationship with social media and journalism. Facebook is doing tests on its Instant Articles initiative and whether users can respond to it, an initiative that may likely be at the center of engagement during the campaigns. Snapchat is also trying to establish an editorial strategy outside of its Discover feature launched in January, and while we are bereft of the facts surrounding it at present, it is looking to become a dominant player among millennials and election coverage, a remarkable rise for the network depending on what Hamby does.

Indeed, these are early days, and a winner of this debate between Facebook and Snapchat cannot be called yet. One thing is for certain, however. In the days, weeks and months ahead, while the candidates face off to be their party’s nomination for the seat in the Oval Office, two social networks will face off to be the preferred network for political engagement with millennials.

News organizations, in order to engage with younger audiences, must be ready to experiment to engage, or be left behind. This campaign will change not just the politics of the United States and how its seen internationally, but how it is covered. It is up to us, as journalists, how we’ll reply.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is a contributing blogger for Net Worked, and serves as Community Coordinator for SPJ. Veeneman also is Media Editor and a writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. Veeneman also contributes to The News Hub web site. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s unless otherwise indicated, 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.

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Is live streaming in Twitter’s future?

Twitter acquired the live video startup Periscope this week, according to reports. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons under CC license)

Twitter has acquired the live video start up Periscope, which could affect Twitter’s video presence and usage by journalists. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons under CC license)

News has emerged this week that Twitter has bought a start up that could expand how journalists use video on social media.

Periscope, a live streaming start up, was bought by the social network for $100 million. The deal closed last month, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal, but news of the deal emerged this week. Periscope is currently in beta mode and has not been released to the public.

The news of the deal comes over a week after Twitter unveiled a feature where video embedded on the platform can be embedded on a web site.

While the details are unclear as to the timing of Periscope’s release, this could be a potential new tool that could affect how journalists and news organizations use video, whether covering an event from the field or engaging audiences directly from the newsroom. This could also see an ability for Twitter to further engage potential users and could lead to an increase in user growth, a concern that investors have expressed to CEO Dick Costolo and management.

More developments are likely forthcoming, so keep your eyes peeled as Twitter’s latest acquisition may be one to watch as newsrooms look to make the best available resources of their social media strategy.

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

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Change your sorry tech habits — now

We live in awe of technology, demonstrated with each remarkable advance over the generations. From the cotton gin to the computer, the tools we contrive to enrich our lives have affected how we behave as well as how we work.

Then the awe fades and we begin behaving badly, treating our tools as toys, or worse, as trash. That’s because once the bloom is off our newest gadgets, we slip into boredom and let bad habits sprout. We allow gadgetry to supplant or interfere with things it shouldn’t, such as responsible behavior, and then we have the nerve to be disappointed with the results. Pretty soon, we’re itching for another innovation to come along and make us feel better about our ourselves and our devices when the one thing that really needs to change is … us.

So, start making that change now by:

Improving your passwords — For a couple of decades, technologists have implored us to use passwords that are roundly more complex than our pets’ names, or our maiden names, or our nicknames, or — for God’s sake — the word “password.” Yet we are well into the 21st century and still making bad choices when pretending to protect what little security we have left. Get creative with passwords now, before someone gets creative with your personal information soon.

Standing, or taking a walks — Among the latest in fear-provoking research is a study out of Australia that says too much sitting can shorten your lifespan by 40 percent. And why not? The research material abounds: we’re in cars, at workstations or in front of the TV much longer than we’re on our feet. Other studies show that inactivity leads to weight gain and potentially fatal blood clots. Do more strolling, less trolling, and add years to your life in the process.

Changing chairs — When we sit, we don’t do that properly, either. Part of the blame lies with our poor posture, another part lies in the one-size-fits-all workstations employers impose on staffs. Work can be stressful enough; why compound it with sorry seating? The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers suggestions for improving workplace comfort. Study these to create the optimum working environment at home, and make suggestions to your employer’s human resources department about replicating that environment at the office.

Taking better care of your equipment — Face it, computers and tablets are not appliances; they require somewhat more care and attention than the average bagel toaster. That includes:

  • System updates, to improve performance and security. Do these at least once a week.
  • Software backups, to prevent loss of critical data. Do this daily.
  • Battery optimization, to improve power-source performance. This involves running batteries all the way down, after their first use, before charging them all the way up again.
  • Cleaning and dusting, to reduce strain on components. Even solid-state devices such as cell phones require regular cleaning to prevent dust and grit from damaging their connectors, and to prevent germs from causing you grief.

Putting it all away — There are numerous optimum places to use gadgetry. Your car and your bed are not among them. For the sake of safety, avoid texting or talking on the phone while driving. And for the sake of sanity, set the phone or the tablet on the nightstand and leave them there. No amount of technology compensates for lack of sleep.

David Sheets is a sports content editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and, and president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at, on Twitter at @DKSheets, or on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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Start here when conducting a background check

This may be difficult for budding journalists to believe, but there was a time when shoe leather was a reporter’s best research tool.

Every pertinent document sat in a file viewable only in person, unless a dependable source slipped it in the mail as a favor. And news editors were suspicious of journalists who spent too much time on the phone or loitering in the news room; they believed gathering news meant getting out of the office and returning only when it was time to write.

Of course, it’s still a good idea to go where the news is; however, a majority of the document searches formerly conducted by rooting through a dusty filing cabinet somewhere can be done at reporters’ desks — or if they’re truly savvy, on their smart phones.

But where to start? The Web has a wealth of valuable digital data tangled in it, yet the extent of that data is daunting. Thus, new and veteran journalists alike look at the lot of it, their eyes glaze, their palms turn sweaty and potentially good stories are bypassed for easier fare, all because the Internet intimidated them.

Relax. Just like building a house starts with a plan, so too does digital research. Once the seed of a story idea becomes clear, reporters need to settle on a strategy for making it grow: figure out what questions must be asked and where to go for answers.

For help with answers when researching people, try these websites:

* Naturally, start with Google. The “advanced search” feature can be particularly useful. But don’t forget other engines such as BingDogpileTwingine and Yahoo. Also, the site Zoominfo pairs people with their relationship to businesses.

FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter of course are great for examining a person’s online presence. Other interactivity monitors are 123peopleIcerocketPiplSamepoint and WhosTalkin.

BirthDatabase matches people by birth date.

Zabasearch is a free people-finder searchable by name and phone number. For a fee, the site also will run a background check on a person. Another site, WhitePages, also searches by phone number.

Portico compiles numerous websites containing public information. It’s a good place for quick link searches on such subjects as real estate holdings, aircraft and boat registrations, even horse ownership. Additionally, BRB Publications lists links to public records by state and by county. And Coordinated Legal Technologies can help trace a person’s corporate trail.

* For court records and criminal information, try the National Center for State Courts the pay sitePACER, the national sex-offender registry, and the criminal history site CriminalSearches.

David Sheets is a sports content editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and, and president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at, on Twitter at @DKSheets, or on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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Social media marketing tools for journalists

In the widening world of electronic journalism, it’s not enough to report the news; reporters and editors are coming to the difficult realization that they must market it as well. This is due in large thanks to decreasing interest in static print media and the corresponding growth of the hit-driven culture that is online publishing, which unlike the print environment demands audiences be pinched and tweaked every waking minute to keep news stories fresh and memorable in their minds and to ensure they’ll click back to fresher stories later.

Add to this the rise of social media, a one-on-one engagement with information seekers and attention-getters, and the expansion of mobile computing through smart phones and tablet devices, and the effort to reach one’s community becomes a relentless task as news-gathering, more than ever, becomes a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week, no-need-for-a-desk-or-office enterprise.

It’s tiring just to think about it.

But fear not, harried journalists; help is out there in the form of new and improving applications for iPhone, iPad and other portable devices that are replacing newsrooms as the central headquarters of reporting. This week, the site Social Media Examiner has published a list of 44 apps designed chiefly for Apple devices and intended to smooth the way toward easier information marketing. Some of the apps are personal in nature but the majority of the list constitutes a small library of easy, effective tools for information mavens of all kinds. Take a look and, if you haven’t heard of them already, feel free take a few out for a spin.

David Sheets is a sports content editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and, and president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at, on Twitter at @DKSheets, or on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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Writeboard: A free web tool that makes it easy to collaborate on a project

Working on a project with another reporter in another part of the country or maybe on the other side of your city?  No need to get together at the coffee shop or exchange long emails. Check out

The writeboards are web based text documents that you can use when you’re collaborating on a journalism project with other reporters.   If you have to add more information or edit what you have; it’s all done in one place. 

Here’s the bonus; it’s free


Rebecca Aguilar is an Emmy award winning reporter with 29 years of experience.  Most of her years have been in television news, but now she is a multimedia freelance reporter based in Dallas, Texas.   She is currently a board member with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

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Using Twitter to bring the reader into the courtroom

Most of us have covered more than one trial in our careers.  We go through the same steps–go to the trial, watch the players at work, write what is said and done in the courtroom and meet our deadline. 

Kate Dubinski

London Free Press reporter, Kate Dubinski took it one step further.  She recently used Twitter during a high profile case to give readers a play-by-play on what was going on during the trial. Here a few key points from an article she wrote for The Canadian Journalism Project. 

 1. She started with a few dozen followers and in the end had more than 1,000 followers on Twitter.

2. The newspaper had to assign two reporters to the case: One to tweet and the other to report it for the paper.

3.  Dubinski learned quickly how to prioritize information because she could only tweet 140 characters.

4.  She used links to Google images to show readers images of such things as the type of gun used in the crime.twitter

5.  She also used links to direct followers back to the London Free Press website.

6.  Dubinski also says some of the followers became sources who gave her background information.

 Here’s Kate Dubinski’s story Tweeting a Trial which can teach many of us another way to use Twitter and get more readers interested in our news coverage.

 Rebecca Aguilar is a multiple Emmy Award winner.  She’s has spent much of her 28 years in journalism in television, but is now a freelance multimedia/online reporter based in Dallas. She can be contacted at

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Tech tools to help you keep up with your FOIA requests

Reporters: Ever think of a record or document you’d like to get hold of and say to yourself, Wait — haven’t I already FOIA’ed that?

You’re not alone.

In response to a question that someone posed on the FOI-L listserv, let’s talk about some ways you can use technology to help you keep up with your records requests. We’ll look at some pros and cons of each approach.

The simple text file: The most basic way to do it is with a text file on your computer — or, on a shared folder on a server on your network, if you’re trying to share with co-workers or a team. Problem is, only one person can access that document at any one time — which could be a pain if you’re trying to share with a large group or your entire newsroom.

And, if your newsroom’s network is like any of the ones I’ve worked on, you can kiss goodbye the hope that anyone outside your building can ever access the document on the server — that cuts out your statehouse bureau, your guys at the cop shop, or any reporter who ever leaves the office with a laptop. Which is just about everyone these days.

Some better approaches:

Create a Google Doc. Google will let you create and share documents for free if you have a Google/Gmail account — create a word processing document and then “invite” your co-workers to share it. No, you aren’t sharing it with the whole world, just with the invitees. More than one person can be in the same Google Doc at a given time, and it’s easily accessible to people outside the office.

(I should also note: You don’t have to do your FOIA list as a word processing document. You can also store them as a spreadsheet file, with columns for date sent, agency FOIA’ed, description of document requested, status of request, contact person, etc.)

Create an intranet for your team/workgroup as a Google Site. Google also lets you create free sites that you can share with a limited number of invitees. You can create new “pages” in your site, including one using the “list” template, that will allow you to create columns and pull-down menus for the headers I listed above. You can also upload attachments, such as .doc or .pdf files of the actual requests, in case you need to review how you worded something.

Create a wiki, either for yourself or your team. No, setting up a small wiki doesn’t require any coding knowledge or server space — sites including Mindtouch’s Deki Wiki and PBWorks’ PBwiki will let you set up a wiki for a few users for free, which they host themselves and which you administrate entirely through their Web interface. (At my shop, Texas Watchdog in Houston, we have a Deki Wiki for FOIAs, as well as having a Google Site intranet.) The idea is that everyone goes to the wiki and updates it every time they file a FOIA request, giving an accurate reflection of what has been requested and where it is in the pipeline.

You can also try notebook-type storing solutions such as Evernote, which offers free accounts with a maximum monthly upload limit (pay users get more storage), Springnote or even Google Notebook — which still works, even though Google says it’s stopped active development on it.

Again, multiple people can access these repositories at once, and they’re easily accessible to people outside your office, as long as they have an Internet connection. (The caveat: These are only helpful if people take the time to update them with info about their newly filed FOIAs. If that doesn’t happen, well … that’s a human error, not the computer.)

So, how do you keep up with your FOIA requests?

Jennifer Peebles is deputy editor of Texas Watchdog, a nonprofit news site in Houston, and yes, she sends a lot of FOIA requests. Contact her at or on Twitter: @jpeebles.

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Try it: Windows Live Writer for blog publishing

A funny thing happened when I was learning all about WordPress this month at their WordCamp in New York City: I stumbled upon a new Windows desktop application available for download that was created to make blogging easier.

As WordCamp attendees stampeded to an SEO workshop, I attended a Live Writer (beta) presentation by Dani Diaz, a Microsoft developer out of Philadelphia.

The first question Dani posed to the audience was: “How many of you time-out of your online session and lose your material when you are blogging?” My hand shot up.

With WYSIWYG authoring, Live Writer allows bloggers to create posts on their desktop with all the capabilities of blogging software. The settings allow users to transfer posts from Live Writer to major blogging software accounts, fully formatted to that software. That is, you can set Live Writer, for instance, to WordPress, Blogger, TypePad, etc., formatting and when you have completed your post, just send the whole thing over and it will be posted to your account. You can do this with countless blogging accounts by adjusting the Live Writer settings to tell the post where to go.

Here’s how the company explains it on their blog:

Windows Live Writer is a desktop application that makes it easier to compose compelling blog posts using Windows Live Spaces or your current blog service.

Blogging has turned the web into a two-way communications medium. Our goal in creating Writer is to help make blogging more powerful, intuitive, and fun for everyone.

Among the features:

  • integrate text and multi-media to the working Live Writer page
  • integrate live links. Frequently-used links recur automatically as you type them.
  • set publishing schedules. (This one was popular with the crowd)

Live Writer was also built for full compatibility with Windows Live application.

Jessica Durkin is a member of the SPJ Digital Media Commmittee, the Region 3 director for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and is a big advocate of entrepreneurial journalism. Jessica is based in Scranton, PA. She started to track online comunity news start-ups. She’s @jessdrkn.

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Waiting for the (Google) Wave to wash over me

It takes two to tango. It also takes two to Wave.

As my blog-colleague here at Net Worked Amanda Maurer wrote recently, Google Wave is out and the invites are going around. I lucked into one and I’ve messed around a little bit with it.

Wave integrates elements of e-mail (er, Gmail), instant messaging, chat and interactive documents. It looks very, very cool.

I think Google Wave has the potential to revolutionize how large newsrooms large and small share information. It could create the ultimate collaboration system that opens the creative process to everyone involved in producing the daily news report — reporters, editors, designers, copy editors, photographers and Web producers.

The problem is, reporters, editors, designers, copy editors, photographers and Web people aren’t on Google Wave. At least not in my newsroom. Indeed, not in most newsrooms I know of. Not yet, at least.

I only know 3 people on Google Wave, and, while they’re fine folks, I don’t work with any of them. So I can’t tell you for certain whether Google Wave is really as cool a newsroom collaboration tool as I think it might be. I’ve never had to share a story or a presentation or a spreadsheet with any of my three contacts on Google Wave. Or haggle with them over a headline while the copy desk chief looms over my desk, smoke spewing from his ears, and says, “We have to have that story NOW!”

And it’s not just me. I sense there are a bunch of folks out there who got Google Wave invites but, because they don’t have any other contacts on Wave (or any other contacts they care to Wave at/with), they sit and look at their monitors and think, “What the heck do I do with this dang thing?”

I asked one of my digital sherpas, Dwight Silverman of the Houston Chronicle, when will other people I know get on Google Wave? He could not offer me much consolation, saying Google is slowly rolling out the invites. Darn.

If I can ever use Google Wave in a real, rubber-hits-the-road newsroom environment, I’ll put it through its paces and see if it’s really as cool and as barrier-breaking a collaboration tool as I think it could be. When I do that, I’ll offer a full report here. Until then, all you’ll get from me is the sound of one hand Waving.

Jennifer Peebles is deputy editor of Texas Watchdog in Houston, Texas. She’s @jpeebles on Twitter and Please Wave at her. She’s lonely.

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