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Archive for July, 2011

An editor asks by email a question I hear often as journalists address the challenges of digital journalism: “Is it better to be first, or be right?”

Three times recently, the editor said, his staff was beaten (not on breaking news), but the competition had major errors in its reports. “When we published, we got the stories right, though, again, not first,” the editor said.

I regard this as a false choice, but if you must present it that way, my answer is that you always want to be right. Accuracy is one of our highest values as journalists, and you don’t sacrifice accuracy for the sake of competition. (more…)

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We’re liveblogging about liveblogging again. My workshop this afternoon for the Morning Sun in Mount Pleasant, Mich., is about liveblogging.

 Liveblogging workshop

Here are some liveblogging examples from a 2009 workshop (some links are no longer live, but I will be using others today; I hope to post a fresher list of examples sometime soon).

And some liveblogging tips (also fairly old).

Here’s the liveblog from the last time I did this.

And here’s the curation of advice on sports liveblogging that I did earlier today.

I haven’t updated the slides much from these that I used in June:

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I am a frequent advocate of conversation rather than rules when it comes to guiding journalists in the ethical use of social media. But I give my enthusiastic support to Rules of the Road: Navigating the New Ethics of Local Journalism, released Wednesday by J-Lab and written by Scott Rosenberg.

My primary criticism of “Rules” is that the title isn’t accurate (which pleases me). This isn’t a collection of rules. It’s a conversation (and, I hope, a conversation-starter) about journalism ethics at the community level in the digital age. The misleading title might actually be a good thing, because it might attract the attention of the people who want rules, and draw them into the conversation. And thoughtful conversation about journalism ethics leads to good ethical decisions and practices.

I’ve already noted on this blog and in Quill how outdated the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics has become. While I maintain hope that SPJ will update the code, I am most interested in thoughtful conversations among journalists about how to apply ethics in the new situations of journalism. So I applaud J-Lab and Rosenberg for this contribution to the conversation. (more…)

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I led a discussion of sports liveblogging at the Oakland Press Tuesday. I asked on Twitter and facebook for some advice and examples. I got a few helpful responses, which I have collected here: (more…)

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The Trentonian used Twitter, Facebook, community bloggers and the newest big-name social tool for journalists, Google+, to cover a shooting at an apartment building Thursday.

I learned about the Trentonian’s excellent coverage while preparing for a Friday workshop at another Journal Register Co. newsroom, the News-Herald in Willoughby, Ohio. I quickly compiled an earlier version of this Storify account, pulling in tweets, news accounts and Facebook updates. But I didn’t know much about how the Trentonian staff did its outstanding work. I sent Interim Editor Joey Kulkin an email, asking him to send me a few paragraphs explaining how they had covered the story.

My workshop was about using social media in beat reporting and about curating social media content. In the questions during my presentation, a staff member asked how journalists could use Google+. I gave a pretty lame answer, saying that I had not had much time to dig into Plus and explore the possibilities. I said I had been impressed with Google Wave and saw considerable possibilities with it, especially after the Seattle Times used Wave in its Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the manhunt for a cop killer. I thought Google Buzz was lame from the first and never found it useful for journalists. I had played with Plus enough to think it would be useful, but not to talk knowledgeably yet about how you would use it.

Just four hours after my workshop, I learned that Google+ had actually been an essential tool in the Trentonian’s coverage of Thursday’s incident:

“Google+ is what gave us, and no one else, the key information,” Kulkin said in his email telling me how the Trentonian had covered the story. (more…)

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The news companies I have worked for have changed hands a lot of times. Often the change was bad news. Yesterday’s acquisition of the Journal Register Co. by Alden Global Capital is great news.

Since emerging from bankruptcy in August 2009, JRC has been owned by a variety of investors, our ownership future uncertain as the company turned around its performance and gained international prominence by aggressively pursuing a digital-first strategy. (more…)

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I’m a great fan of data visualization, and it’s not something I have done much of myself (I can make an Excel graph). So I will be interested to follow Visual.ly, a fascinating new project that showcases data visualization efforts (check out Golden Parachutes and the History of Location Technology) and promises to develop and offer some dataviz tools.

For now, I used its Twitterize tool to visualize my own Twitter use:

(more…)

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This will be a long post about storytelling in journalism. It starts with a story I wrote in 2000 that was never published. This was from a trip I made to Venezuela as a reporter for the Des Moines Register. In this version, I identify the Venezuelans I interviewed only by their first names. I used their full names in the version I submitted for publication then, but I don’t feel comfortable using their names a decade-plus later (though some are identified in the published story linked below). Other editing of my original draft is minor. I’ll discuss some current issues relating to storytelling in journalism after I finally publish this story.

Blanquita de Perez, Venezuela — Like the houses and buses and mountainsides, the language barrier stood no chance against La Tragedia.

Even a journalist who needed a Spanish-English dictionary to look up his own trade (periodista) could understand the stories I heard as Ramon took photographer Gary Fandel and me walking through this village on the edge of the devastated seaside resort of La Guaira on a Thursday morning in February.

No interpreter was available, but the wide swaths of mud and boulders we had seen on the bus ride along the coast beckoned. We needed a close look at this carnage, known here simply as La Tragedia, The Tragedy. (more…)

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What is the value of news judgment as a job skill today?

That was the question that arrived by email from someone I have never met (I think; we might have crossed paths at a conference or seminar), but have interacted with on Twitter and in comments on my blog. The email is below, edited slightly. I have changed the name of a person he mentioned, out of respect for that person’s privacy. In place of the name of my correspondent’s friend, I have used Jimmy Larson, the longtime, legendary (and deceased) news editor of the Des Moines Register. I think my correspondent is asking whether editors like Jimmy would have value in the journalism that lies ahead. (more…)

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I offer sincere congratulations and best wishes to Drew Davis, who is retiring after eight years as president of the American Press Institute.

When Drew scheduled an interview with me in February 2005, I presumed it was just a courtesy interview: he scheduled me for only an hour.

The interview came at my initiative. I heard through a friend at API that Drew was going to be hiring someone to direct “tailored programs” (customized training and consulting for specific organizations). I had been a discussion leader for four API seminars, but had never met Drew. I started going to API seminars before he took over as president. And when I was in Reston, Va., for a seminar, he was always traveling. And one of the seminars I helped with was in Pomona, Calif.

(more…)

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Journalists hate few things more than buzzwords. Many of us regard ourselves as guardians of the language (as if protecting the First Amendment and being watchdogs of the powerful weren’t enough guard duties). Buzzwords feel to many purists as some kind of assault on the language.

Washington Post ombudsman Patrick B. Pexton writes scornfully of my pursuit in his column today:

This is what “engagement” — the buzzword of media theorists and marketers — is all about. It’s using Twitter and Facebook to build a tribe or family of followers, even disciples, who will keep reading you.

I won’t try here to set Pexton straight on what engagement is all about, though my earlier post explaining community engagement might educate him a bit. What I want to address here is the widespread dismissal of new terminology by my fellow veteran journalists.

(more…)

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