Posts Tagged ‘Internet’

What’s your story?

Take time to develop your craft, for when a journalist is at their best, their audience is too. (Photo: Pixabay)

It’s Tuesday, the 8th, at just after 10 in the morning. At my desk, I prepare to make some phone calls to Britain for research for a story I’m working on. As I began that period of reading and conversations which spanned the next couple of hours, what I thought was a concrete story idea ended up having the beginning of Charles Dickens’ novel, A Tale of Two Cities, written all over it.

What was “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” became “It was the best of ideas, it was the worst of ideas.”

Yet, this wasn’t the only story that I had struggled with. I had been generally struggling to find the best story possible, in an age where content is king, and the desire to be first outranks the desire to be right and authentic.

We enter this industry not for the fame or the fortune, but with the goal that the stories that we tell will inform, educate and engage. We are fascinated by the role that journalism can have in our society, through the words that accompany it, irrespective of platform. We desire contribute in the hope that the work we do can be for the common good.

The drive and instinctive skills of a storyteller are things that never leave you. They are replicated in that idea you have for that piece you want to publish or that segment you want to broadcast. The world has its stories, and you want to tell them. As Dhruti Shah, the BBC journalist (who is a journalist that inspires me), put it over on the International Community blog: “You just never know when a story is going to unfold in front of you.”

There is potential in this age of the internet and social media for this storytelling to make a difference, but with that potential comes the other side – the increased competition not just for the story, but also the ability to tell stories that can have an impact.

Those feelings are summed up in the nagging questions at the back of your mind: “Are the stories I’m telling the best ones that I can tell? Is my work truly my best?”

Earlier this year, I wrote a column for SPJ’s Quill magazine on how the internet can help journalists get perspective on their careers, whether you’re an up and coming reporter or a professional trying to figure out your next steps. The same rule applies for storytelling, and the internet provides potential for you to gain that quintessential insight.

Here are some tips on how to best seek that advice to be the best storyteller you can be.

  • Engage with journalists who inspire you. You may work at different organizations or focus on different platforms, but the goals you have as journalists when all is said and done remain the same.
  • Ask for a conversation. If an email address or other contact details are listed, use those to arrange a conversation. If you’re on Twitter, send a simple tweet asking if they could follow you so you could direct message them about a conversation? Then, take it offline.
  • Tap into your own network. Whether its a friend or colleague, have a cup of coffee and a chat. Insights from within your own newsroom or outlet can even help get your creative juices flowing.
  • There is no such thing as a stupid question. Sometimes the simplest questions can be the most helpful.
  • Stay in touch. Don’t be afraid to ask questions in the future, and as a reminder – there is no such thing as a stupid question.

You may feel uneasy at first, but the time you take will without question be worthwhile in helping you be a better journalist and storyteller.

After all, when you are at your best, your audience will be at their best, too.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist who writes for publications in the US and the UK. He also serves on SPJ’s Ethics Committee. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

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.

For NBC, it’s more than just about Brian Williams

For NBC News, there is more to answer than the issue surrounding its star anchor, Brian Williams. (Photo: David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons under CC)

For NBC News, there is more to answer than the issue surrounding its star anchor, Brian Williams.
(Photo: David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons under CC)

Brian Williams has not had an easy year. The anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News was suspended without pay in February after concerns were raised about an account he gave of reporting during the Iraq War, saying a helicopter he had been in was shot down by rocket fire.

Since that occasion, investigations have been taking place within NBC about his reporting and the accounts he gave of other events, and it has emerged that 11 instances have occurred where Williams fabricated the accounts of covering certain events.

According to a report on the subject in the Washington Post, these instances include not just the situation in Iraq, but also the coverage of Israeli military action against the group Hezbollah in 2006, and the reporting of events at Cairo’s Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring political movement in 2011.

The report, the New York Times adds, is not due to make the conclusions on whether Williams will return from his suspension in August.

As this investigation, and indeed the debate continues on whether Williams will return to the network, there are wider questions to be answered regarding NBC’s own journalism ethics, and in an age where information and news can be accessed beyond the network’s flagship broadcasts, whether it can still remain a source people can confide in for information about the important events of the day.

In the mid-20th century, Americans relied on radio, newspapers, and the early days of television to be informed about the events. Personalities like Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite, and later Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer became household names, with viewers placing their trust with them and their respective programs to give an honest, forthright account of events, whether they were big or small, or whether they took place in your own backyard or half a world away.

NBC executives at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York hope audiences can continue to trust them for news. (Photo: djdave217/Flickr under CC)

NBC executives at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York hope audiences can continue to trust them for news and information. (Photo: djdave217/Flickr under CC)

The question of trust in journalism has changed since then to include the internet and the multitudes of social media platforms, notably Facebook and Twitter, and as these mediums evolve, so too has the journalism. News organizations recognize the value the internet has in getting the message out there to millions of users. For the vast majority of Americans, no longer does the half hour evening news program become the big news attraction—it becomes, for the broadcast networks, merely an extension of a multi-platform 24 hour journalistic operation.

It is this idea that raises the million dollar question, for the actions taken by NBC are not just about whether Brian Williams retains his job and office at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York come August, but whether consumers can come back to the offerings full circle—broadcast, web and social, after the fact.

That is a question that cannot be solved by a managerial shakeup, an internal inquiry, nor a change in person presenting the program, but rather the consumers themselves, and whether they will vote with their remotes or their computers or mobile devices in favor or against a network trying to ensure its feet touch the ground.

Therefore, for NBC, there is more at stake than just what to do with Brian Williams. It is whether it can still maintain its relationship with its audience, and keep doing what they were supposed to be doing in the first place, doing honest, forthright journalism, for the many, and not the few, no matter the platform.

Stay tuned for the answer.

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 Deputy Editor, Media Editor and a writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. Veeneman also blogs on social media and digital culture for the web site ChicagoNowYou 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.

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.


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