Archive | February, 2012

Aggregation and curation makes us more informed

29 Feb

Linking and curation is one of the strongest tools journalists posses today. It is a way to give readers all of the information they could possibly want to know. It also allows readers the freedom to choose what they look at and click on. If they already know the background on the information, they can simply skip over that link and keep reading the story. If they want to look at specific graphics that prove the point, though, they can choose to utilize the link conveniently placed in the story. This saves readers time in a hectic world and helps them sort through the vast amount of information on the expansive Web.

Linking and curation are also good practices because they require the writer to have comprehensive knowledge of the subject. While it sounds relatively simple to throw links into a story, there is an art to linking. In order to link to other web pages related to the topic, you have to be well-read on the topic. This makes for better stories.

Even large media outlets, like the New York Times and the Washington Post now regularly link to other sites. They are committed to offering great content to readers. Today, that means including aggregation and curation in stories.

I am more of a visual person, and I enjoy reading stories that are not in just plain linear form. Sometimes using aggregation can make a story shorter but at the same time more clear. It can help readers to better understand concepts, like this post does when it comes to aggregation.

CNN normally does a nice job of linking their stories. This story on Santorum does a nice job of linking and helping me understand the full picture. I haven’t been keeping up with the election recently, so I missed what this story is regarding. The story conveniently links me to background information, so I can catch up. I don’t have to waste any of my time searching aimlessly around the Internet looking for answers. They have been placed right in front of me.

By providing information right at people’s fingertips, I feel like the public will be more informed. I feel like a large part of being uninformed comes from lack of time, knowledge of where to look and initiative. People are lazy, so they will just forget taking the extra steps to learn about current events and their history. But, aggregation and curation cut out those middle steps for the reader. The information they want is presented right to them on a silver platter, making it much easier to access.

Google Search:

Dossier on my team members:

John Boothe:

Male

University of Florida Student, Class of 2012

Earning his B.S. , Journalism

Went to St. John Lutheran School

From Ocala, FL

Assistant Sports Editor at the Independent Florida Alligator

Currently lives in Gainesville, FL

Been a sports editor at the Patriot Press

Twitter name is @JJBoothe

Written articles for Alligator, like this one with the headline: “Hlaselo formally charged with first-degree felony sexual battery”

Email: jboothe@alligator.org

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jjboothe

Has Google Plus, Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook

Amber Thibodaux:

Gender: Female

University of Florida student

Couldn’t find her twitter or Facebook

Has a Quora account, MySpace, Google Plus

 

I had much more trouble finding things out about Amber than John. Many things instantly popped up regarding John when I simply typed in his name. Then, I found even more when I narrowed the search by putting his name in quotes and adding Gainesville, FL after it. I tried both strategies with Amber, but I still didn’t find a lot about her.

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Objectivity is always key

29 Feb

Here is my Case study

Vampire compile

27 Feb

Here is my compiled story.

Simplifying today’s information overload with topic pages

22 Feb

In today’s world, it is news overload. My phone constantly buzzes giving me new notifications. I’m constantly checking email, my social networks and my google reader to stay up to date. But, then add in daily activities, school work, socializing and so on and I can barely keep up with life let alone the day’s headlines. I know I am a journalism student, so I do try my best to stay informed. There is just so much information. Topic pages are an innovation, making new and old information on one specific topic readily available to readers. Instead of having to search all over the internet for every aspect pertaining to one topic, topic pages give it to you all at once. Why did no one think of this sooner? In this crazy information age, it simplifies the news overload and makes news easier to process.

While this is a relatively new practice, many sites have started creating topic pages and seen success. According to a post on the Content Strategies Blog, the New York Times is where topic pages began, and it has some of the best. Some say topic pages are similar to the concept of Wikipedia. The main idea is to present readers with comprehensive information, as well as context. Topic pages can and should include a summary, time line, important articles, multimedia and a list of related topics. Providing all of these resources in one space makes it much more convenient for the reader to attain knowledge on the topic. It provides a way for readers to catch up on past information they missed and also know what’s currently happening in regard to a certain topic.

Topic pages are beneficial in the fact that they have a longer shelf life than typical news stories and blasts. Since topic pages are made to be fully comprehensive, they will be a resource for readers for a long time. Topic pages are more easily searchable through search engines, so they will continue to pop up. Topic pages aren’t as timely as breaking news stories because they look at the big picture.

The idea really hit home when I thought about it like this. Think years ahead to some student who hears people talking about the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He wasn’t alive for them. He doesn’t know as much as other people who were. But, he is upset in hearing about the terrible event and wants to know more. Well, lucky for him he lives in the information age where topic pages exist. He could simply go to the New York Times topic page, the Reckoning, and get an expansive view. He could learn about the events leading to the attacks, the actual day, and even the aftermath. Everything he could want to know is there. Instead of scouring search engines for hours trying to sort through everything, he has all of the answers to his questions tied up in a neat little package.

To me this is a priceless resource. It could help people with school projects, research, creating arguments, studying, writing or simply just being informed. For example, I am interested in ballet but only recently. I have developed this intense passion for the art, and I am particularly fascinated with the New York City Ballet. I want to educate myself to deepen my appreciation. Instead of simply going to the New York City Ballet’s website and poking around, I can instead go to the New York Times’ topic page on the New York City Ballet. This instantly gives me so much more information right at my fingertips. I can see highlights from the archives, articles, the list of dancers, the company’s history and even videos. It would take me so much longer to research that all on my own.

I’m glad someone thought of topic pages. As a journalist and person, I know this will simplify my life. Topic pages bring a sense of order to an online world that can sometimes seem like chaos.

Here is my Delicious bookmark. Journalists could use this tool to sort through and keep up with online information. Delicious is a tool that could help weed through all of the irrelevant information and just keep track of what they want to know about. Then, if they have to write a story on a specific topic and need to do more background or general research, they could simply search in their Delicious. This would save journalists a lot of time when working on stories.

Brees’ record isn’t tainted by how he earned it but by reporters’ accounts

21 Feb

The NFL article on Drew Brees breaking the single-season passing yards record exemplifies the fact that editors cannot simply edit for grammar and spelling errors. Editors must also edit for content, clarity, accuracy and bias.

The NFL story is poor journalism. The story headline and main point are based on a CBS sports online article they link to. The CBS article is not a good concrete basis for a story. It basically takes the opinion of one unnamed Falcons player and assumes that his opinion is the consensus of the entire team. The article bases its whole argument on that one point. It is also full of speculation. The CBS story reports that the Falcons coach did congratulate Brees and quotes the coach’s congratulatory words. But, the writer then goes on to speculate and says, “Smith wouldn’t say anything negative about the decision to go for it, but his body language during the drive said it all.” How does he know that the coach didn’t actually mean it when he congratulated Brees? This is not responsible journalism. Perhaps if this was a blog, the writer could assume, brainstorm ideas, express his opinions and complain. But, this was a news story. His comments and speculation undermine his credit as an objective journalist. It was as if the writer already knew what he thought before he wrote or interviewed anyone. Then, he found one anonymous player whose quote would support his opinion and ignored all of the other information. This doesn’t make for very credible and reliable journalism.

The NFL story was then written using the unreliable, biased story written by CBS as a source. It links to the CBS story to back it up. But, if the editors of the NFL story had taken the time to actually read the CBS story, they would have realized it was not a good story to use as a base and reference. Both stories should have focused more on the actual news event, which was Brees breaking the record. An objective account of the game with more information on statistics would have been a reputable story to publish. The Washington Post does a nice job of reporting on the event.

I am not a huge sports fan, but I do know what running up the score means. There has been debate over whether it is alright or unsportsmanlike to score as many points as you can by the end of the game, even if your team is already winning by a large margin. There is disagreement on the issue, as illustrated perfectly in a perfectpractice.net article on running up the score. On the one hand there is the opinion that it is only a game, and the players should play their hearts out. On the other hand, some believe that running up the score is unnecessary and disrespectful to the other team.

I tend to have the mindset that it is just a game. A team should try to score as many points possible. After all, it isn’t hurting anyone. But no matter where one lands on the issue, one thing is for sure. If you are writing a news article on the matter, report on the news and save your opinion for heated debates with your sports buddies. Those opinions have no place in the news room or in the news article, unless you’re working in the opinion section of course.

Brilliance is born in journalistic enterprise

15 Feb

I agree that the best reporters are those that generate their own original story ideas. Reporters will be more invested right from the start if the story idea is theirs. Having an assignment thrown at you by an editor makes reporting on the story seem like a daunting task. If you formulate the idea, it is only natural you will be more interested and excited about it. I know I am inclined to put more effort into one of my original story ideas because I feel more invested in them. Typically, if I come up with the idea, it has something to do with a topic that interests me. On the whole, I am likely to do a better job.

For example, this past summer I had an internship at the UF Health Science Center Office of News and Communications. Now, I am a journalism major, and the medical field has never interested me. But, it was a good, paid internship that allowed me to get hands-on field experience, so I happily took it. I liked being paid to write stories, but some of the topics I was assigned at first bored me. My editor assigned me to write on things like a dentistry shadowing day and a profile on a research professor. These topics didn’t exactly exude passion from me, but I did my very best to write good stories. My editor gave me praise for my work, and yet I searched for ways to make my job more entertaining. I finally decided the answer was to come up with my own story ideas before my editor could assign me just any story. It was the best decision I made that summer.

I started opening my eyes on campus, listening to others and looking for anything that would make a good story. Finally, one day in my psychology class, I found a great idea for a story. A young girl, who was my age and a UF student, came to speak to our class about her battle with an eating disorder. She was a wonderful speaker. She shared so much with her class about her battle and even said she was working to open an Eating Disorders Anonymous group at UF in the fall. Until now, the community had been lacking one. Her struggle had inspired her to fill this void and help others with their eating disorders. With my reporting cap on, I saw a source who would be great to interview and a story with a news angle. I had always been fascinated by eating disorders and had previously taken a course specially on them. I was captivated by this girl and her story. I wanted to know more. I pitched the story to my editor, and she loved it. She was also impressed that I had taken it upon myself to come up with an original idea. I wrote the story, and it was published in the POST. It was one of the best stories I wrote during the internship because I was wholly invested in it. It had been all mine from the very beginning, and it was something I actually wanted to know more about. Working on that story was my favorite experience during my internship, and I think it had a lot to do with the fact that it was an idea I had generated. I had a certain sense of pride associate with that story, and I think it showed in the finished product.

Taking the initiative is what makes the difference. You have to go out and look for great stories. You can’t just expect them to fall into your lap. Today there is no excuse not to generate original ideas. With the Internet there are so many resources at your fingertips to help inspire a new idea. Of course, there are always the old reliable forms of scouring notices, bulletin boards, news stands and eavesdropping. But, journalists today should be using new online resources to their benefit. We will achieve the best results as, if we merge the old and new ways of creating stories. Some new sites, such as HARO and Listorious, provide excellent resources when trying to find reliable sources. Reporters are even becoming quite innovative today in creating story ideas. Some have started writing stories based on studies. It really is about using your resources to your advantage. The more leg work you do in conceptualizing your story, the better it will turn out.

Story Ideas:

1) The new TLC show ‘Sorority Girls’ premiered recently and caused a lot of uproar. The show, which follows five American sorority girls as they try to bring Greek life to the UK, offended many people. People were outraged and began using social media tools like Facebook and Twitter to protest. A petition was started to take the show off the air. People used their Facebook to advertise the petition and their disgust with the show. We could get reactions and opinions from women in sororities. What do they think the show says? Do they think the show is an accurate portrayal? We could try to talk to someone at TLC. I feel like this could be told online with visual story telling. It might be good to make a video with clips from the show and clips of different sources giving their opinions.

 

2) The impact of social media on Whitney Houston’s death- How did most people first hear the news? A study or research could be conducted to find out. My guess would be some type of social media. Facebook is where I first saw it. People made statuses honoring her and condemning her for drugging herself to death and leaving her young daughter. Do people think social media took away some reverence in dealing with the deceased star? Get reactions from people. Did the like seeing all of the talk about it on Facebook or do they think it’s inappropriate? We could get the opinion of a social media expert to comment. This could relate to the bigger picture of how social media is impacting and changing our world. This story could be told online in blog form, maybe with screenshots of different Facebook statuses and tweets.

Stay on the ball with Google Alerts

15 Feb

This off-beat story about Jim Morrison proves just how useful Google Alerts can be to journalists. This story is interesting, well written and unique. It doesn’t simply reword news that’s already been reported. This story is original. The reporter was able to present readers with this gem because he took the initiative to stay informed. He used Google Alerts to stay a step ahead.

However, he didn’t limit himself to only news alerts. He set up Google Alerts to receive Web alerts. Some could say he simply lucked out because he had the right settings, and the story just fell into his lap. Even though I do not know this reporter personally, I would argue that his settings we probably on Web because he was thinking like an innovative 21st century reporter. I would like to think he recognized that to be ahead today you need to recognize all media outlets as sources for potential news. The Web is where original ideas for news stories arise, not from other news sites. If you only get news alerts, you will only be getting what people have already written on. Web alerts will provide you with inspiration to have enterprise and create your own original ideas for stories. This is when the best stories are born.

Today there is so much information generated online in just one hour. It can be impossible to keep up, let alone keep up with everything published on one specific topic. The best in the field are those that use every possible resource to their advantage. Google Alerts is really helpful when you are trying to be an expert on a certain topic or stay on top of your beat.

For example, I set up Google Alerts recently to notify me on the topic of Pinterest, an online pinboard website that allows you to “organize and share things you love.” I am writing a blog on the topic and looking to find out what others are saying about the relatively new website. Google Alerts provides expansive knowledge on the topic and has given me ideas for my blog. It brings up stories that answer basic questions, such as what is Pinterest? It provides reading on how to navigate the site, its immense popularity and even recommendations on what boards to follow.

After my own personal experience with using Google Alerts, it is clear that this could be a useful tool for anyone but especially journalists.