Archive for the ‘Writing for the web’ Category


Tempted with fabrication? Write a novel.

Some say the cardinal sin of journalism is plagiarism, but me? I say it’s fabrication.

I won’t deny that plagiarism, even self-plagiarism, is stealing, deceptive, and unethical – but at least the information you swiped is true (unless the person you stole from is, in fact, a liar, which complicates matters even further).

In a journalism lecture this week, we watched the 2003 film “Shattered Glass,” a movie about the infamous journalist-gone-rogue Stephen Glass from The New Republic. Now, I hear, he’s attempted to reshape his life by becoming a fiction author (something he should have pursued in the first place) and trying to earn a law degree. Some guy.

Besides getting lost in Hayden Christensen’s eyes (Oh Anakin, you’re my only hope), I was struck by the nerve of Glass – befriending the newsroom, enticing every one of his colleagues into a web of lies, lies, lies – only to find out that he’d been making up stories all along.

And you bought that.

Which gets into a whole other ethical debate of fact-checking and the perils of speedy journalism. While, yes, the fact-checking system is setup to detect minor spelling errors and consistency mistakes, it’s not designed (nor should it be) for those who write with deceit.

But still, why cut out that vital defense between writer and reader? I’d argue that fact-checkers should be the last to go – not the first – from the newsroom. We’ve seen one too many times a reporter taking liberties, knowing full well that his or her writing will not be checked for error or valid fact.

The speed at which journalism has accelerated to can also become a temptation for those writing on a tight budget. If it’s just you and your keyboard – and an hour till deadline – who can stop you from fabricating quotes, people, and therefore truths?

Fabrication cuts right to the bone of journalism – the heart of the craft. Journalists pride themselves on being truth-seekers and will often sacrifice time, money, and sometimes even their lives to get a story out into our information age.

Those journalists who fabricate stories seemingly spit in the face of those battling fatigue, jail time, and exile for the sake of democratic free speech. Think about THAT the next time you’re tempted to insert fiction into your nut graf.

At the end of all this, if you’re still enticed by made-up stories? Become a novelist…just don’t be a journalist.

Bethany N. Bella is studying journalism, anthropology, and geography 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.

Clickbait vs. Long-form: What Do Readers Want?

I hardly ever click through on ‘clickbait’ – but that’s just me.

Maybe it’s because I know the tactic well, having studied the art of a compelling, click-driven tweet in my journalism classes at Ohio University. Or maybe it’s because all these “9 things you never knew about leaving guacamole in the refrigerator” articles are starting to wear me down, as a news consumer.

Where are the stories that make me think? Where are the articles so long they blur the line between news and novella? Where is the journalism that’s journalism – and not cute GIFS of cats rolling around in confetti?

And I’m not the only one wondering.  

According to a recent article published on Re/Code – a fabulous, media-focused news source, I might add – Internet wanderers are starting to flock towards long-form, speciality content instead of the assumed clickbait publishers think we want.

A report from BuzzSumo, referenced in the article, claims that long-form articles (3,000–10,000 words) have a significantly higher share-rate than short-form articles (less than 1,000 words).

The author of the article, Joe Hyrkin (CEO of Issuu), also notes how the Internet has successfully fueled a “niche market” of information, where news consumers of varying age and interests find their own corner of the online world and like to linger there awhile.

“Clearly, vibrant subcultures are gaining major momentum online and offline,” Hyrkin writes. “The members of these communities crave content that is relevant, thoughtful and teaches them something new. They are hungry for content that dives deep and adds to their sophisticated knowledge base. For enthusiasts, ‘snackable’ is not enough.”

While, yes, I am one of those news consumers who prefers the long, in-depth review of a particular issue I’m interested in, I have a few hesitations about this “death of snackable content” claim.

Going back to the BuzzSumo survey: Since when did sharing clickbait prove whether you were reading clickbait? While posting a BuzzFeed quiz result is a nice addition to your Facebook feed every once in awhile, I’d wager that most people are selective about their clickbait share choices.

It looks more impressive to your audience or friend group if you share a thoughtful, long-form piece (even if you didn’t actually read it all the way through), instead of sharing every “Which Disney Princess Are You?” clickbait quiz you took.

And another observation, made by one of my brilliant journalism professors – and one I happen to agree with. Think of the motives of Hyrkin and why he might be making this argument about the death of clickbait content.

Issuu is an online magazine publisher’s platform, and magazine pieces are typically long-form features. Of course Hyrkin would be arguing (and hoping) for long-form content to be “in.” His company and livelihood depends on it!

Overall, I’m encouraged to hear that clickbait may be on the downward spiral, and niche, hobbyist-driven content may be on the rise. How refreshing would my Twitter feed be, without the constant threat of clickbait material, forever lurking in my timeline?

As the Internet redefines my generation’s “reading for pleasure,” I just hope it saves some long-form links for me.

Bethany N. Bella is studying journalism, anthropology, and geography 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.

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.

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.

The New Mobile: News For the Next Gen

The art of storytelling and the consumption of news are both timeless human habits, so I wouldn’t worry too much about the journalist’s craft disappearing into the ether, just yet.

What journalists should be monitoring (and monitoring very closely) is the method of news consumption and how that news is translated to a mass audience on a day-to-day basis.

Before the printed word, oral declarations and one-to-one conversations were the only mediums for audiences to internalize the news.  And after newspapers and pamphlets came about, the print method didn’t last forever, either – it was overcome by online news and the proliferation of the Internet at the end of the last century.  Now, mobile is to web as web was once to print.

News organizations have been scrambling to jump aboard the mobile train, for fear of losing yet another audience population practically programmed to tap-tap-tap away on their smartphones all the livelong day.

But will the mobile fever last, or will it disintegrate before companies like Apple and Samsung have a chance to engineer smartphones large enough to comfortably read articles online, while also allowing for other mobile transactions like phone calls and text messaging to take place? (Is such an invention even humanly possible?)

I had an interesting conversation about this mobile trend with Meghan Louttit, a multimedia editor at The New York Times, this past week at the Online News Association at Ohio University student group meeting.

Meghan suggested that her peer group is actually taking this trend in reverse – that the print editions of books and newspapers have become a novelty item, a vintage collectible of sorts that shouldn’t be counted out of the market so soon.

I was genuinely surprised.  Who would have thought that millennials in their twenties and thirties are starting to subscribe to the Sunday Times, when they should (in theory) be exclusively devoted to digital updates and alerts?

Maybe this is a small trend that will eventually fade into the LED-screen sunset, but it was an interesting trend to consider, nonetheless. (I believe one of my journalism professors in attendance assured me that I would have to pry his Kindle away from his cold, dead hands).

I’d like to issue a response on this notion: Will print news make a rebound, or will mobile phones and tablets continue to issue a new wave of technological news consumption?  Are you a devoted Apple consumer (iPad, iPad Mini), or have you branched out with a Windows or Kindle Fire tablet?  Have you transitioned to reading the news only on your phone, or do you prefer reading articles on the web (or the old-fashioned print way)?  Does this method of consumption change when you read fiction?

Email me responses at bethanynbella@yahoo.com or tweet them to me @bethanynbella.  I’m curious to know if I should (finally) invest in a tablet, and if so, which one.  Or should I stick it out and wait to subscribe to my local newspaper – when I start making an income of my own, that is.

I look forward to your replies.

Bethany N. Bella is studying at Strategic Communications and Environmental Political Science 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.

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.

The Kansan and student journalism in the digital age

The Chi Omega Fountain at the University of Kansas. Its student newspaper, the University Daily Kansan, has embraced a digital first model.  (Photo: InaMaka/Wikimedia Commons under CC)

The Chi Omega Fountain at the University of Kansas. Its student newspaper, the University Daily Kansan, has embraced a digital first model.
(Photo: InaMaka/Wikimedia Commons under CC)

In this Net Worked guest post, Emma LeGault and Brian Hillix of the University Daily Kansan student newspaper at the University of Kansas reflect on their decision to go digital first and what student media will be in the digital age.

On Feb. 4, the University Daily Kansan announced it will print two days per week instead of four, beginning in fall 2015. A desire to be digital-first and capitalize on an industry movement was at the heart of the decision.

Once we announced the decision, the general response was positive. While many were sad to see the change, they understood why it was necessary.

The response from former Kansan alumni, however, was not as encouraging. Some said they don’t think the switch to digital news will adequately prepare students for future jobs in journalism, saying that working under pressure on deadlines nights was invaluable. Others said the flexibility of being digital will make us complacent with stories.

More than anything, it seems they are rooted in the tradition of the print product. The Kansan has been the student voice for 110 years, and for as long as they can remember, we’ve printed the paper at least four times per week. They hold fond memories of working for — and reading — The Kansan this way.

We thought former students — many who are professional journalists — would understand the decision, because they were a part of the continually changing culture of digital journalism not so long ago.

That being said, a student media organization should never do something just because it has been done that way in the past. Journalists must continue to ask questions and adapt when necessary. If not, we become disconnected to our audience and what it needs from us. Today’s student journalists should always be thinking ahead to the future and how to best connect with their audience. They shouldn’t fear change, but welcome it.

From an advertising perspective, The Kansan’s decision makes sense. Clients want their ads to appear in editions that preview and recap the weekend, and our Monday and Thursday editions are fuller. With fewer clients wanting to advertise mid-week, turning a profit for those papers has become increasingly difficult. By not printing and distributing papers two days a week, we will have more money for new and improved technology such as cameras, servers and computers. We imagine newspapers across the country experience this, too.

At The Kansan, we take pride in preparing our student workers for careers in journalism and business. Our journalists are slowly understanding that their job goes beyond doing a little research, completing a couple interviews and writing a 500-word story. With the focus on digital content, they will learn to cover breaking news, update stories, post on social media and take pictures and video — skills that employers are looking for in a job candidate.

With a focus on digital content, we can tell a better story. Journalists can now incorporate photos, galleries, videos, Vines, social media posts, polls and other digital elements in a story. Articles with only words are becoming a thing of the past, and we’re learning that, too.

Timeliness will become a bigger priority. Instead of a midnight deadline for the print product, the deadline is right now. In the past, our readers might not have seen certain content until it was in print the next morning. Now, the news can reach our audience instantly. By posting articles immediately, reporters will be forced to be more accurate. Without a three-stage editing process, the importance of fact-checking is more critical than ever.

We know that this is a major change. Many of our students pick up the paper on a daily basis, whether it is to glance at the headlines, complete the puzzles, look at the free-for-alls or read a story or two. Whether they pick up a paper every day or not, there’s a sense of comfort knowing that The Kansan is there.

Some may be worried that we’re declining, fading or even dying. We’re not going anywhere. Instead, we’re changing, adapting and evolving.

The Kansan will still cover news that affects KU students — we will still be the student voice. The information will just be communicated in a different way, one that will better connect us to our readers.

We are behind this 100 percent. All we ask is that our readers and supporters join us, and watch what happens next. The Kansan will not disappoint.

Emma LeGault is the Special Projects Editor of The University Daily Kansan, the student newspaper of the University of Kansas. Brian Hillix is the Editor-in-Chief of the Kansan. You can interact with LeGault and Hillix on Twitter.

Digital Journalism takes a big step forward

SPJ DigitalFrom typewriters to Twitter, technology has shaped and reshaped journalism. Only now, the technology is coming faster than we can master it.

In the span of a lifetime, hot type gave way to cold type, which in turn sank beneath a wave of websites and blogs and social media apps. Today, we have come to think that two-year-old tech is obsolete, and that new news can become old news before readers reach the last sentence.

Moreover, we’ve entered an age when, thanks to rapidly evolving technology, the practice of journalism is no longer restricted to journalists.

All of this is why the Society of Professional Journalists has tried to evolve as well — it’s casting a wider net for freelance news gatherers and non-affiliated journalists, and revising its Code of Ethics to meet the needs of the new age.

And it’s expanding the Digital Journalism committee into a digital journalism community.

The new community, SPJ Digital, began unofficially last week but already has a Twitter account (@SPJDigital) and a presence on Google+. It debuts officially in September at EIJ in Nashville under the shrewd guidance of student journalist and editor Alex Veeneman.

Incoming SPJ president Dana Neuts says SPJ Digital’s mission is to “examine and raise awareness of current trends in social media, as well as digital innovations and the digital culture and their affect on the culture, craft and practice of journalism.”

In committee form, Digital Journalism has been chiefly a conduit for information on digital culture. Members met at SPJ’s annual convocation to discuss potential topics for Net Worked, as well as the Digital Media Toolbox and occasional features in Quill, and report on hot tech and trends worthy of special consideration by SPJ leadership.

As a community, SPJ Digital will keep the discussion going year round, encourage input and participation from digitally savvy citizens both inside and outside journalism, and help everyone see the blur of onrushing technology a little more clearly.

The mission is to “serve all members interested in the digital future of the industry as well as the profession,” Neuts said.

A new landing site for SPJ Digital on SPJ.org is in the works. Neuts and Veeneman invite those who are interested in joining the community to stay tuned for updates and registration information at @SPJDigital, Google+, and right here at Net Worked.

___________________

David Sheets is a freelance writer and editor, Region 7 director, and past-president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at dksheets@gmail.com, on Twitter at @DKSheets, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

 

 

 

Size doesn’t matter, but quality does

Journalists should all take note of the purchase, by Yahoo, of a 17-year-old Brit’s app for $30 million. The app, Summly surfs the Web for news content by keywords, then uses an algorithm to summarize those articles down to chunks that would be readable on small screens such as smartphones and tablets.

Nick D’Aloisio, who was born in 1996, two years after Yahoo was formed, launched the app in 2011 (he’s been creating iPhone apps since 2008) because he was frustrated having to read big articles on his small screen. Summly uses artificial intelligence and language processing programming to boil down text.

Once journalists get over their jealousy of a teenager getting the big bucks, they should think about what D’Aloisio has accomplished, and why.

For many news consumers, short, to-the-point communications is more useful on a day-to-day basis. They can sit back and enjoy the long enterprise stories on Sundays.
The foundational architecture of news writing – the “inverted pyramid” that puts the who, what, when, where and why at the top of an article is a model that’s still paramount. Busy readers can just scan the top of an article and “grok” what it’s about without diving deeper for details.

But in a world where people are increasingly connecting to the Web and getting their info on-the-go via smartphones and other mobile devices, we should all be more sensitive than ever to the elements of good writing and storytelling: the pacing of a narrative, the choice of words, the use of tools such as metaphors, similes and alliteration, and the rhythm of sentences that can be like music, ebbing and flowing melodically through the reader’s head, and the depth of a reporter’s knowledge and expertise in the subject all contribute to the quality of news. It’s how great writers separate themselves from mediocre ones.

And how journalism, which increasingly incorporates and relies on social media as another avenue for news content, separates itself from the clamor of social chatter.

In the end, not all news content needs to be in byte-sized chunks. There’s certainly a place for long narratives and 1,000, or 2,000 or even 6,000-word stories and more (last December’s fabulous New York Times “Snow Fall” multimedia package about a 2012 avalanche was 16,000 words, plus a lot of videos and interactive graphics).

Sure, the article’s going to be boiled down to “just the facts, ma’am” by Yahoo/Summly and probably a horde of other “summarizing engines” to come. But the original article, whether short or long, should be a pleasure to read in full.
That’s the value that journalism brings to society, which code and algorithms can’t.

Gil Asakawa is a journalist and blogger, and the Chair of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Digital Media Committee.

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