Posts Tagged ‘innovation’

Point Taken and the new social media conversation

Carlos Watson moderates a debate on the American Dream from Point Taken, airing on PBS. (Photo: Meredith Nierman/WGBH)

Carlos Watson moderates a debate on the American Dream from Point Taken, airing on PBS. (Photo: Meredith Nierman/WGBH)

Social media has allowed us to do many things in journalism, from help tell a story and inform new audiences, to curate a conversation on various subjects. For WGBH, they have shown social media can do that and then some through the new program Point Taken.

Point Taken, a late-night, weekly debate on a current affairs topic, presented by Carlos Watson, premiered last night on PBS and is produced by the Boston based public media station. The subject was the future of the American Dream, and at the core of the conversation was social media, utilizing the hashtag #PointTakenPBS.

Yet, how social media was portrayed was different compared to most current affairs programs on television that discusses topical subjects. Tweets had appeared on screen, but also data of interaction was also present, indicating how many users were tweeting with the subject at that given time. It gave a visual complement to the discussion, allowing audiences to see a full lens of the conversation.

There was also the ability to vote on whether the American Dream was dead or alive, data which was shown on Twitter, as well as the ability to use polls to gain more insight into the thoughts of viewers.

However, the prevalence of social is not exclusive to a half hour broadcast. Other platforms had been used, including Facebook for engagement and interaction, as well as Snapchat, where through a filter audience members could record their thoughts on the subject being debated. Point Taken having a platform on Snapchat is part of a number of WGBH produced programs signing on to the platform, notably the current affairs documentary program Frontline and the science documentary program Nova.

In addition, the first episode is available to watch again (or to view if you missed last night’s airing) on Facebook, through PBS’ fan page.

The subjects will change from week to week, but one thing is for certain. WGBH and Point Taken have revolutionized how social media is used to curate a conversation, and has allowed new ways for public media as a whole to engage with younger audiences. It is a strategy that is inspired, and can go a long way in engaging new audiences and retaining current ones.

Tuesday was a win-win scenario for WGBH and for this industry, allowing not just for a discussion on the future of the American Dream, but also how social media can be used to enhance and innovate journalism, making it better for those curating the content, and, most importantly, those consuming it.

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.

How can the Engaging News Project help journalism?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.





Twitter Facebook Google Plus RSS Instagram Pinterest Pinterest LinkedIn

© Society of Professional Journalists. All rights reserved. Legal

Society of Professional Journalists
Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Center, 3909 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208
317/927-8000 | Fax: 317/920-4789 | Contact SPJ Headquarters | Employment Opportunities | Advertise with SPJ