Archive for the ‘Workflow’ Category


Some cross border election advice

Caucuses in Iowa and New Hampshire take place today, with many reporters focusing on candidates and what the scene could be ahead of November's elections. (Photo: Flickr user tom.arthur under CC license)

Caucuses in Iowa and New Hampshire take place in a couple of weeks, with many reporters focusing on candidates and what the scene could be ahead of November’s elections. (Photo: Flickr user tom.arthur under CC license)

In a couple of weeks, in Iowa and New Hampshire, delegates from both the Democrats and the Republicans will begin the process that will formally confirm the nominees for both parties for the President of the United States, ahead of elections in November. That will culminate in July with both party conferences.

Along with the delegates will be plenty of reporters trying to make sense of this, what it means for specific candidates, and the whole of politics in the United States as a whole. Reporters will not only be looking after their specific platforms (be it print, web or broadcast) as well as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media networks.

The feeling is similar to that of the Canadian election, which took place last October and began in August after former Prime Minister Stephen Harper approached the country’s governor general, David Johnston, to call for the election. That election saw Justin Trudeau of the Liberal Party (and the son of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau) be given a majority in the House of Commons, taking the party from third place in polls to the top office in Canadian politics, based on the narrative that Canadians were ready for change after nearly a decade of leadership.

But at the helm of coverage (and indeed Trudeau’s strategy) was social media, and it was essential the night of the vote. Jessica Murphy, a freelance journalist based in the country’s capital, Ottawa, was at Trudeau headquarters the night of the vote, covering it for the British newspaper The Guardian.

In a telephone interview, Murphy said Trudeau’s election was profound, and that his personalities had contrasted with that of Harper, and his personality showed on social media, especially Twitter and Instagram.

“Canadians have known Trudeau for years,” Murphy said. “He was always known as a public figure. Trudeau could harness social media and his energy to talk to more of the population.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who had social media at the core of his election strategy. (Photo: Alex Guibord/Wikimedia Commons under CC)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who had social media at the core of his election strategy. (Photo: Alex Guibord/Wikimedia Commons under CC)

Murphy said social media had grown between 2011 and 2015, the timespan of the recent elections in the country.

“Social media grew up,” Murphy said. “If you’re covering it you can see it was a part of their strategy. Candidates were rolling that into the overall election strategy instead of a side note. Social media is essential in today’s communications.”

Murphy had made plans the night before the vote, and was producing content from photos to contributions to The Guardian’s live blog, in addition to posts on social media, tracking the results of the ridings and calls. It leads to a piece of advice she could give to her American counterparts who will be covering the election process.

Murphy first suggests to take lots of photos, saying they work well on Twitter and get the feeling of the room. The other advice Murphy suggests is to look up from the phone, and get the feel of the room by talking to people. What people say would help describe the environment.

“[You’re doing] the necessary social work as a journalist but [it] ensures you’re doing work as a journalist,” Murphy said.

Ultimately, Murphy says, its down to balance, something most journalists are still trying to get use to considering the constant evolution of technology. She says social media can be overused or underused, and its about the balance of maintaining that presence as well as adding the color and extra content to describe the room that won’t make it on to the traditional platform.

“It’s great but it can be all consuming and the echochamber,” Murphy said. “You can’t have the nose in the phone. You need to look around — its just about remembering to do both. Its a matter of balance. We are all still learning.”

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.

Editor’s note: This post was amended at 11:22am CT to reflect an error in the dates of the caucuses. This was amended now due to a technical error preventing an amendment earlier today.

Journalists, audiences and credibility on Twitter

Social media has evolved the news process, but Twitter has been shown to increase credibility. (Image: Pixabay/CC)

Social media has evolved the news process, but Twitter has been shown to increase credibility. (Image: Pixabay/CC)

Modern journalism has without a question been revolutionized by Twitter. A replica of a wire service, the social network allows users to keep up with the events of the world, and new ways for journalists and news organizations to tell those stories. Over the course of its near ten year existence, the social network’s presence has allowed journalists and news organizations to inform and engage with audiences in ways previously unimaginable.

New research has showcased the social network’s value in journalism. Researchers from Hope College and Lehigh University have shown that interaction with users by journalists can increase credibility and are rated more positively by users compared to those that use the social network to provide news and information.

So what does this say about how journalists approach Twitter? Anne Mostue, an anchor and reporter with Bloomberg Radio in Boston, in a telephone interview, said most journalists are aware of the study and the role interaction has, but says its down to time, balancing personal and professional matters, as well as attitudes about Twitter.

“Most people who choose to interact with journalists on social media are looking to get to know them in some way,” Mostue said. “In my experience, people don’t know how to get in touch with someone on the radio. Twitter is a great way to give me feedback.”

Mostue joined Twitter a couple of years ago after joining public media station WGBH, at the encouragement of the station’s social media director. Mostue says she was attracted to Twitter for the ability to enhance public knowledge and contribute to discussions while saying little about things going on outside of her work.

However, Mostue says, journalists have to be careful on what they tweet, as Twitter has had an effect on audiences’ views of journalists. Mostue adds that when there is so much breaking news, users should not be distracted about events in one’s personal life.

“I don’t want to distract people with superficial information about my life,” Mostue said. “I have to be careful not to give too much of my personal opinion with the news I’m tweeting about. I hope what I tweet is useful or intelligent. It can be a very social platform, but it is more of a news platform than a social platform.”

Ultimately, Mostue says Twitter is another way to give audiences accurate content.

“For some its a time issue, they choose Facebook or Twitter, or don’t enjoy Twitter as much,” Mostue said. “But everyone knows that ideally as a journalist you’re thought of as a person who is approachable and giving you accurate content, and people appreciate your efforts to engage with them and give them relevant information 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 the SPJ blog network on British media issues and 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.

Stewart’s Journalism 101

Jon Stewart, who signs off tonight from Comedy Central's The Daily Show, influenced the modern media culture of America. (Photo: Martin Crook/Comedy Central)

Jon Stewart, who signs off tonight from Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, influenced the modern media culture of America, and had lessons for those in the media industry. (Photo: Martin Crook/Comedy Central)

He sat at that desk, and told us of what happened in the world that day. Not only did he make us laugh, but for some of the population, he informed.

When 11:30 Eastern time struck, as most people turned off or switched to Letterman, Kimmel or Fallon, he had done more than just talk about the news of the day. He influenced and engaged with the modern political and media culture of the United States, and left an important lesson for those who cover the news.

He is Jon Stewart, and tonight he will sit at that desk at The Daily Show for the last time after 16 years. Since taking over from Craig Kilborn in 1999, Stewart added his own personal spin on the program, that as the digital and social media age evolved, took off, influencing 21st century journalism, and also showing where it can improve.

Data from the Pew Research Center showed that 12 percent of Americans got their news from The Daily Show, similar to that of USA Today and The Huffington Post. Many of them were young people. Yet, in a 2010 study from Pew, 10 percent of Americans turned to the Daily Show for headlines, compared to 24 percent for views and 43 percent for entertainment.

But what Stewart was able to do was more than entertainment – he was able to shape journalism and educate about its future, as the 24 hour news cycle evolved and adapted from cable news, to the web and social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter. If the media was evolving, Jon Stewart would evolve with it.

The debate that Stewart contributed to focused on the standards to which reporting is conducted. As Thomas Kent, the standards editor at the Associated Press noted in an op-ed for The New York Times, that left many with questions.

“Mainstream American journalists have long valued keeping their own opinions out of their reporting, following the facts and letting them speak for themselves. Balance is valued, as is nuance,” Kent wrote. “But critics have called this school of impartial reporting outmoded. They believe journalists should declare their beliefs and then report the truth as they see it.”

Kent notes that while Stewart taught journalists how to appeal to new audiences, the principle of objectivity reigned.

“There is still enduring value to balanced, sober reporting of all sides of a story,” Kent said. “Mainstream journalism embraces a sense of professional humility; not everything has a simple, snappy answer. News commentary, especially acid commentary, is on the rise. It’s tough and straightforward and pulls important new audiences into public discussion. Jon Stewart was its master. But alongside commentary, citizens — and comedians — need the fundamentals: solid sources of fast, aggressive and balanced reporting.”

Jon Stewart allowed us to see ourselves as journalists in a different light, to remind us of what is important in journalism, and how to make subjects interesting to new audiences. The news cycle will continue to evolve as new technology develops, but the lesson that Stewart leaves is that people, especially young people, care about the news. They care about the truth. How it is delivered will change their engagement and attitude. As its said in the SPJ’s Ethics code, “seek truth and report it.”

While commentary aides discussion, reporting provides its roots, and only objective, impartial reporting can do that. Education is at the heart of all good journalism, and if Jon Stewart taught us anything, its that, and it is a principle we must abide by, not just for ourselves, but for our audience, no matter what platform we write or broadcast on.

We don’t enter this profession for the money. We enter this profession because we care about the people. We want to help them live better lives, and it all starts with education, something no one can place a price tag on.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is a contributing blogger to Net Worked and SPJ’s community coordinator. He is also Co-Student Life 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 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.

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.

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.

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 STLtoday.com, and president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at dsheets@post-dispatch.com, on Twitter at @DKSheets, or on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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 STLtoday.com, and president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at dsheets@post-dispatch.com, on Twitter at @DKSheets, or on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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 STLtoday.com, and president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at dsheets@post-dispatch.com, on Twitter at @DKSheets, or on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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 Writeboard.com

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.

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 aguilar.thereporter@yahoo.com

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