Archive for the ‘Multimedia’ 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 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.


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:

Follow me on Twitter: @jonathanhmayes

Data, Data Everywhere

My eyes and thumbs comb through medium after medium, prowling the Internet for the next sensational story, the latest updates from my friends, and the most cutting-edge scientific research.

TwitterTumblrFacebookPinterestInstagramSnapchatGoogle … Repeat.

It’s hard to imagine living in such an age where we don’t know about the forthcoming announcement of (yet another) Republican presidential nominee, or the release of Apple’s latest music makeover.  Even the things we don’t really want to know, we know –– just who was Hillary Clinton emailing during her Secretary of State term?  What Harry Potter house were all 486 of your friends on Facebook sorted into, according to BuzzFeed’s evaluation of your taste in Getty Images?

In an information age as overwhelming as our own, the amount of data at our fingertips can seem just as mind-numbing.  What do we do with all of this information, present-day journalists ask themselves?  How can we tell these stories, with so much info on, often, so little a scope?

‘Data journalism’ seems to be the term savvy storytellers are throwing around these days to combat our fear of information overload.  Their jobs are to mine the spreadsheets of the latest census in search of interesting data sets, or track down the frequency of drivers running a red light in Los Angeles, California –– and make it into something an audience wants to look at.

Digesting data, and how to showcase that data for consumers, is a booming business right now.  Even the New York Times published a letter on their Upshot blog this week, called “Death to ‘Data Journalism.’”

Why death to data journalism, you ask?

Because ‘data journalism’ is, really, a false reality.  A new-fangled term coined for another face of modern storytelling.

Just because journalists are administering newly compiled and accessible data to a public hungry for news doesn’t mean the objective changes.  The game is still the same: create engaging, intellectually stimulating content for readers and viewers everywhere.

The interviewees in this short video on data journalism have it right: data journalism will soon (and hopefully) become just plain, old journalism again, once readers have gotten accustomed to writers with this much access to information.

We will soon come to expect that our country’s journalists have the tenacity to sort through piles of records requests, along with getting that saucy quote from the mayor and the damning image of his ex-wife.  It’s all part of the package, and that makes the stakes that much higher.

It’s an exciting new age of journalism.  Higher expectations, but a higher reward from the public you serve.

So don’t be confused by terms like ‘data journalism,’ ‘print journalism,’ even ‘photojournalism.’  Because in the end, it’s all part of the story.

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

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

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.

MSNBC unveils Facebook shows

US Navy Secretary Ray Nabus is interviewed on MSNBC's Morning Joe program. The channel has launched 2 new Facebook shows and has plans to expand programs onto other social platforms. Photo: Official U.S. Navy Imagery/Flickr under CC license

US Navy Secretary Ray Nabus is interviewed on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program. The channel has launched 2 new Facebook shows and has plans to expand programs onto other social platforms.
Photo: Official U.S. Navy Imagery/Flickr under CC license

The cable network MSNBC has made available two programs exclusive to Facebook.

The first program, Sound Off, looks at a breaking news story for Facebook fans to discuss, while FacePalm looks at the day in weird news, according to a report from AdWeek’s Social Times.

The report adds that there are plans for MSNBC to make content for Twitter, Vine and Snapchat, in conjunction with the digital video distributor NowThis, part owned by NBC Universal, MSNBC’s parent company,  the report adds.

In an email to Net Worked, Diana Rocco, a spokeswoman for MSNBC, confirmed that Sound Off and FacePalm were available already on the network’s Facebook page, but declined to discuss a timeline for potential content on Twitter, Vine and Snapchat on the record. Plans for the items had been reported in an obtained memo from Phil Griffin, the network’s president, the report adds.

MSNBC is not the only news organization in the US that has news programs specific to Facebook. ABC unveiled last year its 2 minute feature called “The One Thing,” presented by the World News Tonight anchor David Muir, currently available on the program’s Facebook page. The last video, posted yesterday (at this writing) had over 27,000 views.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, blogs on social media and other items 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.

Twitter confirms acquisition of Periscope

Twitter officially confirmed today its acquisition of the live streaming app Periscope, which had closed in January for $100 million. Twitter’s Vice President for product, Kevin Weil, made the announcement via the social networking site.

As mentioned in Wednesday’s blog post, Twitter made the acquisition as Periscope continues testing in beta mode. It is unclear when it would be released to the public, but it could have implications on news organizations and their interaction with audiences on social media, as audience feedback is a strong component of the app, according to this report from the technology news web site TechCrunch. Comments can be posted on a stream, which would be seen by viewers of the stream and the broadcaster itself, the report adds.

The TechCrunch report adds that Periscope will be launched as a separate app from Twitter, with the ability to watch live and previously broadcast streams.

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.

This post was amended at 5:26 pm Central time to correct the date of the mentioned blog post.

GIF, JPEG, or PNG? Choose wisely

Taking Photos(Editor’s note: This post appears courtesy of Gateway Media Literacy Partners)

Seeing is believing, the saying goes. That phrase dates back to the 17th century, but it means more now than ever. Our image-driven culture places added value on what it can visualize at a glance versus what it can read. That’s why tweets are 35 percent more likely to be re-tweeted, Facebook posts are 85 percent more likely to be “liked,” and whole websites are 90 percent more memorable and clickable with meaningful images or graphics embedded in them.

Regardless, we tend to treat all visual content the same way no matter the source or purpose and have since the dawn of the browser-based Web 20 years ago. The result is an abundance of websites and social media loaded with images that appear blurry or ill-defined, that resolve too small or too large for the space allowed, or that hinder a browser’s ability to display a site quickly and effectively.

We never learned — or if we did, we keep forgetting — that digital image formats vary and each has a distinct, optimal purpose. Lacking an understanding of those purposes, we risk losing clicks, clients, and valuable attention.

So, resolve in 2015 to learn, remember, and properly use the three common image formats, denoted by their file extension names:

.GIF — It’s pronounced “jiff,” like the peanut butter, though some prefer “giff.” Either way, it stands for Graphics Interchange Format, and was developed by CompuServe in 1987 as a means of transferring space-hogging graphical files through slow connections such as. Animations, icons, line drawings, cartoons or any image with a limited color palette are better as GIFs because GIF permits certain colors to appear as transparencies instead of real pixels and can combine pixels of two colors into one to further reduce file size without diminishing image quality.

.JPEG (or .JPG) — This one, pronounced “jay-peg,” stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group, and as the name implies was developed chiefly for photographs. Created in 1986 by said group, JPEG is the standard file format programmed into most digital cameras and employs a complex algorithm to compress images for optimum Web display. Some image quality is lost during this compression; however, in order to simplify compression, JPEG robs from subtler tones the human eye has difficulty noticing yet preserves the more distinct differences between light and dark.

.PNG — Pronounced “ping,” the format with the full name Portable Graphics Network went to market in 1996 containing elements of both the .GIF and .JPEG formats. It was developed as an open-source substitute for .GIF and is optimal for working with complex graphical logos and large photographs that do not need much compression. However, PNG is relatively new and so its images may not display well or at all on older browsers.

Not all digital images are the same. Treating them as if they were leaves a bad impression with Web audiences. By being mindful of these formats and their principal purposes, you can rest assured that the first visual impression you make will be a good one.

Stop ignoring Instagram

BarsChristmas arrived early for Instagram. The photo- and video-sharing service announced this week that it reached a major milestone: 300 million monthly active members.

Not quite the audience of Facebook (over 1.4 billion), or Twitter (500 million tweets daily), but enough that journalists really ought to pay it more attention.

They don’t, or many of them don’t anyway, because Instagram still strikes senior scribes as a young people’s playground decorated with abundant square-shaped images of provocative selfies, tilted shots of half-eaten meals, and too many — way too many — artfully cropped portraits of people’s feet. Moreover, square images are rather confining for news photographers who prefer to see the world through a 4:3 aspect ratio.

After breaking down that huge membership number into digestible bits, one can understand the bias. In 2013, Instagram’s own research showed that 80 percent of users were under age 24, and over half of that group had yet to finish college. Among all teens, 30 percent consider Instagram more important in their social media lives than Facebook or Twitter.

But social media platforms age like the people who use them and, one hopes, mature. Between June 2012 and June 2013, Instagram’s member base doubled despite near saturation of the youth market. Growth in urban areas outpaced that of suburban ones. And the increase in the number of users who make at least $50,000 annually exceeded the increase among those who didn’t.

Besides, 300 million is a very big number — big like an oversized sofa in an undersized apartment. And journalists who just figured out Facebook or who just joined Twitter and cringe at the idea of trying to bend their minds around yet another hulking piece of technology must understand this.

They need to get over it and focus on one important point: By being the social hub for such large number of people who journalists and media owners still struggle to reach, Instagram serves well as a site for tracking the trends, comparing the perspectives, and monitoring the moods of a valuable demographic.

So, try these tips for optimal use of Instagram:

Follow the hashtags — Like Twitter, Instagram makes use of hashtags (words or unspaced phrases with a # prefix) that turn simple terms into searchable metadata. Users can compile lists from tags such as #Ferguson and #Ebola to sift for relevant content. And like Twitter, hashtag results appear in real time, so the newest content appears in the stream first.

Depending on the frequency of posts, new content displaces old content quickly at the top of a feed, and Instagram’s search is not robust. For better searching, try using a service such as Gramfeed.

Explore communities — Large groups of Instagram users sharing similar interests often form communities around those interests, marked by single hashtags. Among the most popular communities are #ThingsOrganizedNeatly, #FollowMeTo, #Silhouettes, and Throwback Thursday (#tbt), which consists of users’ old photos posted on, well, Thursdays. (Note: Hashtags are not case-sensitive, but using upper case to show where the smushed words begin displays social courtesy.)

Check location settings — Instagram has a location service that lets users attach location tags, or geotags, to their photos. This is valuable during breaking news events; users can zoom in on the mapping feature to see who else has shot photos or video nearby and verify their locations.

Dear journalism student: Don’t worry, be happy

The School of Journalism at the University of Missouri, one of many schools that will welcome back students in the coming weeks. Photo - mojourcomm / Wikimedia Commons (CC)

The School of Journalism at the University of Missouri, one of many schools that will welcome back students in the coming weeks.
Photo – mojourcomm / Wikimedia Commons (CC)

It is an important question – a question where the opinion you get will be different every time it is asked, a question that has been asked a lot recently. But most of all, it is a question that may not be easy to answer at first, but allows a great debate and eye as to where this industry will go.

Where is journalism going?

It is a debate worth having, in an age where solutions to this particular question are being played out every day to address current topics, from the future of newspapers in the face of new directions in advertising, the future of news on television and radio, to the rise of the web and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter that have created new thinking on not just the language of journalism, but also the consumption of journalism, and the expectations the people we serve have of us in this tech savvy age.

Today, Margaret Sullivan, the public editor of The New York Times, wrote a post on her blog on the subject, based on her observations of that paper and that of her previous employer, The Buffalo News in New York state. Sullivan refers to an article by Phil Fairbanks of the News, in which the mayor had been seen as perhaps running a play to pay scheme with regard to real estate developers and their politics. Fairbanks had been looking into this, and kept asking the questions readers wanted to know about those in city government.

It is a similarity struck at the Times, where questions are asked of leaders in Washington and around the world, to try to give the readers the full story, and in an age of cutbacks on reporters, news organizations, and indeed observers of the industry like Sullivan, have been inquiring what this means for the state of reporting, and moreover, how the decline in reporting can be circumvented for the digital age, in order for it to be guaranteed to thrive.

Her post comes as the Tribune Company spins off its newspapers, including its flagship papers in Chicago and Los Angeles, and news that newsroom staff has declined approximately 30 percent since 2003, according to data from the American Society of News Editors cited by Sullivan.

The fiscal circumstances that have unfolded, not just within the past week but within the last few years, led to some pessimism on the outlook of the industry, from those in it, to those students completing degrees in the many colleges and universities across the country who are studying it (myself included).

As I prepared to finish my degree a few months ago, I asked myself questions about where journalism lies in the new digital culture of ours, and if indeed I would be able to land feet first in the industry without stumbling over. It was a worry I had, a worry, I will admit, I still have somewhat. But I realized I needn’t fear.

To paraphrase the quote from Mark Twain: “The reports of journalism’s death have been greatly exaggerated.”

In the next few weeks, schools will be back in session, and many a journalism student who will look to finish their degree and make a mark on the industry, will likely consider their future, and what it will be like, wondering, perhaps with worry, if a job can be secured at the end of the fourth year.

Journalism, in this new age of technology, has been presented with many opportunities, in the face of many risks. Journalism students will need to do more to stand out and make themselves known, instead of sitting still and thinking about that party Saturday night, from work on other web sites to networking, including on Twitter and LinkedIn.

However, and as Sullivan wrote in her post, there will always be journalism and a need for journalists, whatever the means, whether its behind a camera, or behind the computer.

“What matters is the journalism, not the medium,” Sullivan said. “It’s happening before our eyes, and while there’s clearly reason to worry, there’s reason to hope, too.”

It is my hope that those students who head back to school will remember this and remain confident of their efforts and their potential, but also to keep this in mind – the more time you put in, the better off you’ll be.

We will always need journalists. It may not be in the medium or environment you expect to be in, but know that you’ll always be needed, and that’s a promise. Don’t worry, be happy.

Alex Veeneman is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists based in Chicago. Veeneman also serves as Special Projects Editor and writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. The views in this post are his own. You can tweet him @alex_veeneman or email

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 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, on Twitter at @DKSheets, on Facebook and LinkedIn.




Snapchat snafu serves as an important reminder

Snapchat logoToday, many Snapchat users are no doubt gnawing their nails over the clothing-sparse selfies and booze-infused party pics they shared on assumptions of privacy. They’re wondering whether insulting memes and embarrassing explanations will result.

They’re probably kicking themselves over believing Snapchat was different from other social sites, and kicking themselves again for ignoring the reality of digital secrecy — that there really is no such thing.

On Thursday, Snapchat, the mobile messaging service that distinguished itself by guaranteeing all of its clients’ sharing was time-limited and disposable, agreed to settle Federal Communications Commission charges that it could not deliver on that guarantee. The settlement comes despite insinuations and accusations that the guarantee lacked legitimacy from the start.

As punishment, Snapchat must restate its privacy goals and live up to them while under federal surveillance for the next 10 years. No monetary penalty was announced, but in our fast-moving digital world the surveillance period is tantamount to living with a parole officer for two lifetimes, and trying to sneak past the guard could invite a fatal smack in the wallet.

Snapchat apologized in brief on its blog, alleging that some of the FTC’s charges were addressed well before Thursday’s announcement and concluding its mea culpa by saying, “We are devoted to promoting user privacy and giving Snapchatters control over how and with whom they communicate. That’s something we’ve always taken seriously and always will.”

But promises are made to be broken, and a tech startup’s erstwhile intent lacks armor against those who merely feign concern for anyone’s social well-being. The Snapchat snafu thus serves as yet another piquant reminder that a person’s secrets are best protected by their owners and not by anyone who’s capable of putting a dollar value on indiscretion.

And so, the reminders go out again, to journalists and non-journalists alike:

  • Don’t trust your privacy to anything digital.
  • Don’t consider any kind of social networking to be a secret conversation. Your first clue? It has the word “social” is its name.
  • Don’t talk to people online in ways you wouldn’t talk to them in person.
  • Don’t share digital data unsecured or unencoded.
  • Don’t think Snapchat’s apology amounts to an epilogue on this story.


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, on Twitter at @DKSheets, on Facebook and LinkedIn.


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