Archive for October, 2011

I have been meaning to post more of my old workshop handouts from No Train, No Gain to this blog. Unfortunately, I was prompted to post this one and another, about cheating, by a plagiarism incident at the Middletown Press. I encourage all of my Journal Register Co. and MediaNews Group colleagues to read this. Attribution is one of journalism’s most serious issues. Plagiarism is inexcusable.

Attribution is the difference between research and plagiarism. Attribution gives stories credibility and perspective. It tells readers how we know what we know. It also slows stories down. Effective use of attribution is a matter both of journalism ethics and of strong writing.

How do you know that? Attribution is a key ingredient in any story’s credibility. Readers are entitled to know where we got our information. If we are citing official statistics gathered by a government agency, that tells the readers something. If we are citing the contentions of an interest group or a political partisan, that tells the readers something else. If we don’t attribute our information, readers rightly wonder how we know that.

When should we attribute? Attribute any time that attribution strengthens the credibility of a story. Attribute any time you are using someone else’s words. Attribute when you are reporting information gathered by other journalists. Attribute when you are not certain of facts. Attribute statements of opinion. When you wonder whether you should attribute, you probably should attribute in some fashion. (more…)


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I have been meaning to post more of my old workshop handouts from No Train, No Gain to this blog. Unfortunately, I was prompted to post this one and another, about attribution, by a plagiarism incident at the Middletown Press. I encourage all of my Journal Register Co. and MediaNews Group colleagues to read this. Attribution is one of journalism’s most serious issues. Plagiarism is inexcusable.

Scandals in newsrooms large and small have forced news organizations to apply the same skepticism to some staff members that they do to the institutions they cover. Journalists and newsrooms can no longer presume that every journalist understands that you don’t steal and you don’t make things up. A 2005 study by the Center for Academic Integrity found that 70 percent of college students admitted to cheating and 77 percent did not consider “cut and paste” plagiarism from the Internet a serious issue. Newspapers have to recognize that some of these students find jobs in newsrooms and need to learn standards of the field that should (but can’t) go without saying. (more…)

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Thanks to Justin Ellis of Nieman Lab for a thoughtful two-part analysis of Newspaper Next. He went into much more detail, with greater detachment, than I did in my look back five years later at N2.

What I would like to see now is an analysis of the innovative projects inspired by Newspaper Next.

In the first part of Ellis’ N2 analysis, he addressed whether N2 succeeded in transforming newspapers:

So did Newspaper Next succeed in its mission to reshape the industry? Not exactly.

We’re still in the thick of uncertain times in the news business, but invention has crept into certain corners. Newspaper companies are experimenting with apps, testing new platforms, and publishing niche products (online and in print) to reach audiences outside the daily newspaper. That’s all straight out of the Newspaper Next playbook — but it’s doubtful newspaper execs would have sat by idly if a report five years ago hadn’t told them to try to develop new products. Publishers, editors, executives, and other journalists involved in Newspaper Next say the project deserves credit for encouraging experimentation inside newspapers. But with all its reach and ambition, the project was stifled by economic factors, including the industry’s near extinction-level event in 2008 that saw massive losses in jobs and revenue. As much as Newspaper Next set out to give news companies the tools to transform, survival may have been a bigger and better motivator.

In the second part of Ellis’ analysis, he followed up on the seven demonstration projects covered in the first Newspaper Next report. The direct lasting results were not impressive: (more…)

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Twitter has succeeded in spite of itself.

As a concept, Twitter is brilliant, revolutionizing communication worldwide with its simple concept of sharing short messages. As a company, it continues to disappoint me with its mediocre technology and its poor customer service.

Readers of this blog know that I am an enthusiastic and tireless advocate for Twitter as a journalism tool. The Twitter category on my blog has more than 100 entries, the second most-used category on this blog.

Early in my days using Twitter (early 2008), the company had trouble keeping up with the growth of its service. The “fail whale” was a regular feature and a running joke among the tweeps.

We were patient, though, because we liked the service. You don’t see the whale as often, but I regularly get messages apologizing because tweets can’t load at that moment. They still fail; they just don’t show the whale. (more…)

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As I was live-tweeting an interview of Foursquare General Manager Evan Cohen Tuesday, Joey Kulkin asked a good question:

I promised an answer:

So here goes. Why do I “check in” every time I eat at a restaurant or attend an event (or even at each train stop as I roll home from New York tonight as I write this)? (more…)

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Thanks to Buffy Andrews for the invitation to write a guest post for her blog. I blogged with my advice that journalists should train themselves. I’m a big believer in the value of training for a news organization, and I am pleased that the Journal Register Co. is placing high importance on training as we pursue a Digital First strategy. But I say journalists should also train themselves, regardless of whether our bosses are providing training opportunities:

The benefits of teaching yourself go beyond the skill you just learned: You underscore your own responsibility for your professional growth; you are less intimidated the next time you encounter a new tool or technique you know you should learn; lessons stick better when you learn by doing.

You can read the rest over at Buffy’s World, but I’ll make one more point here: I was pleased to see Buffy reach out to start working with me before our bosses work out details of our new relationship. Buffy is an editor and social media coordinator at the York Daily Record, a news organization owned by MediaNews Group. Last month JRC and MediaNews reached agreement for a new JRC subsidiary, Digital First Media, to manage MediaNews. Bosses are working out exactly what that means, but Buffy could see that it meant that we’re colleagues now. She didn’t need to see the new org chart to send me a Twitter direct message, inviting me to write a guest post.

I admired the initiative and look forward to working with her and other MediaNews colleagues.

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An editor I have prodded to start engaging on Twitter is finding it fun and useful, “almost addicting.” But he said he said his local followers “remain disappointingly low.”

I don’t get hung up on the actual number of followers, but you are going to get better engagement if you can connect with local people who are interested in their community. That number makes a difference. The more local engaged followers you have, the more successful your efforts at crowdsourcing, content distribution and local conversation. My suggestions to the editor, edited slightly: (more…)

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I’m learning lessons about social media nearly every day. But I learned long ago that few things touch people like photos of animals. The two types of learning come together in this story of a mountain lion, a Maine coon cat and some smart journalists at the Denver Post using an array of social media tools.

In a couple of recent meetings, I have met and discussed community engagement with Post colleagues, gaining respect for their smart use of social media. We will be working together much more closely as the Journal Register Co. partnership with MediaNews progresses. In our initial meetings, I have seen multiple ways we could benefit from sharing our ideas and insights in both directions.

I’ll start that by sharing, through this post, a great example of using social media in multiple ways to bring some fun content into the site and then to bring attention to that content. What’s interesting is that the photo in question actually was submitted initially to a TV station’s website, and the station wasn’t making full use of it. Then the Post journalists tracked down the photographer, got more pictures from her, and multimedia magic ensued. (more…)

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Journalists like to keep their work secret, then make a big splash when they publish.

Of course, those big splashes are rare. Mostly we’re covering routine or well-known news, which there’s no reason to keep secret. Perhaps we’d make a splash — even a little one — more often if we were more open with the public, inviting people more openly to tip us to or contribute to potentially big stories.

Several Journal Register Co. newsrooms have recently started publishing their daily news budgets, inviting the public to contribute to the stories they are working on.


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Community engagement in a Digital First newsroom doesn’t mean sitting at a computer all the time. You also invite the public in to use your computers, drink your coffee and chat.

Journal Register Co. newsrooms are working to open our newsrooms in a variety of ways. Our Newsroom Cafe at the Register Citizen in Torrington, CT, has received the most attention, including being named Innovator of the Year last month by the Associated Press Managing Editors (video below). But other JRC newsrooms are working to invite bloggers and other community members into the buildings and to reach out into the community digitally and in person.

The Register Citizen’s move was prompted by a necessity to move out of its old building into a roomy former factory. Publisher Matt DeRienzo planned the layout of the new building to include the Newsroom Cafe, an area with computers and a microfilm machine for public access (with free printouts), a classroom and a lounge where community art could be displayed.

For some newsrooms, this is a great idea to copy or improve upon (as the Winnipeg Free Press did). Opening an area to the public is more challenging in other communities, where many of our newsrooms operate in old buildings and less-than-ideal locations. But each newsroom is working on direct public outreach in its own way.

This is the perfect illustration of something I say frequently: Community engagement is not a one-size-fits-all venture. Don’t try to replicate what the Register Citizen did. Find the right engagement path for your newsroom and your community.


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Most editors using Twitter should try to be more conversational. They use Twitter primarily to post headlines and links to their staff’s stories. Posting links is a valid use of Twitter, but if that’s all you’re doing, especially if you’re just posting headlines with the links, you’re just getting started.

Twitter has much greater value for improving your journalism and engaging with your community. As I’ve noted, too many newsroom leaders don’t use Twitter at all, but when they do, most start by sharing links to their staff’s stories. That’s a good start, but it’s just a start.

In my Twitter tips for journalists and my exhortation to editors to be active on Twitter, I encourage journalists to be more conversational. A group of Journal Register Co. editors asked me to elaborate this week, with some advice for what to tweet about and how. (more…)

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I’m sorry to see Brad Rourke and Cindy Cotte Griffiths call it quits with Rockville Central.

They served their community well with a lively forum for news and discussion. They were innovative, shifting their product from a website to a Facebook-only community. They were a delight to work with as one of the first members of the TBD Community Network.

And they’ve decided it is time for them to move on. In a joint announcement on their Facebook page, Brad and Cindy this morning said:

The simple fact is that it takes a great deal of energy and time to support the online community in the way we feel it deserves. We do not make money off of Rockville Central, and never intended to. It is a labor of love and devotion to Our Fair City. We don’t feel we can devote the kind of energy it deserves and so, rather than let it whither, we decided to make a clean end.


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