Archive for July, 2012

I love the variety and serendipity of Twitter’s timeline. Whenever I check my timeline, I see the news, commentary, humor and complaints of the moment from the nearly 2,500 people that I follow.

But the variety and serendipity that I love can quickly become the chaos that makes Twitter confusing and time-consuming — and thus useless — to a busy beat reporter.

Reporters, even if they enjoy the free flow of the timeline, should use Twitter lists, saved searches, alerts and/or columns in a service such as TweetDeck or HootSuite so they can more efficiently and more reliably find the tweets that are most useful to them.

One more important way to organize Twitter is to check your “mentions” regularly. On Twitter.com, click “connect” at the top of the page, and it will let you see only tweets that mention you (or you can click the tab to see all your interactions – retweets, new followers and people who have favorited your tweets, in addition to mentions). This helps you see quickly when people are replying to your tweets or otherwise mentioning you. (more…)

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Jeff Edelstein

I have long thought that journalists are too timid about telling stories in the first person. I noted a year ago that one of the best stories of my career was not published because it was a first-person account.

Columnists get away with writing in the first person, and I’m glad my colleague Jeff Edelstein of the Trentonian had the courage and honesty to tell the story of falling asleep at the wheel with his son in the car.

I hope other journalists with powerful personal stories to tell don’t let our reticence about first-person journalism keep them from telling the stories. And when they tell them, I hope our editors have the good sense to publish them. What are some other outstanding examples of first-person journalism? I’d be happy to share some links here.

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Just a quick post to call your attention to John Paton’s blunt but accurate appraisal of the Advance Publications’ cutbacks in staff and print frequency.

As has been extensively chronicled (including by me), Advance cut the staff of the New Orleans Times-Picayune and cut the newspaper back from daily publication to three times a week.

John acknowledges that Advance handled the whole move poorly, chewing up a lot of goodwill. But, he says, “I support them because their industry is my industry and it will not survive without dramatic, difficult and bloody change.”

If you don’t think the news business is in a fight for survival, read Rick Edmonds’ piece on how the Washington Post, one of journalism’s most iconic organizations, is faring. Read how much value newspapers’ print advertising has lost in the past six years.

I think and hope John (my boss; yeah, this looks like sucking up, but he’s right) is making the right moves to help Digital First Media and the news business find the path to a prosperous future. I hope Advance’s moves work successfully. And I hope the Post finds its path to success.

Yesterday’s news produced and delivered at high cost in print is not a business model that will survive.

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Every reporter should be a frequent user of Twitter’s advanced search function.

I spent some time on the phone recently with a veteran reporter wanting some help in using Twitter effectively as a reporter. I’ve published lots of Twitter tips for journalists before and compiled resources for journalists using Twitter. Those extensive lists might be a little overwhelming, though, if you’re just getting started in Twitter and lacking confidence.

I’m going to take a different approach now, explaining one Twitter tip at a time, suggesting that reporters master a different tool or technique each week (or so; no promise that I’ll be able to hold to a weekly schedule).

We’ll start with Twitter’s search tools. Twitter’s basic search just added some new features, and I encourage journalists to check out its new features, including the ability to search the tweets of the people you follow. But advanced search has more useful features, especially for local news reporters.

Perhaps the most useful feature of advanced search is the ability to filter searches by location. Toward the bottom of the search form is a window, that says “near this place.” When you start filling in the name of a place, a distance tool appears with a pull-down menu that lets you set a narrow or wide radius for your search: as fine as 1 kilometer or as broad as 1,000 miles. (more…)

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On the Fourth of July, I feel compelled to note that big government plays a glorious role in our country’s rich history.

I don’t venture into politics often here, because my focus is on journalism and media issues. But this is an area where our media’s practiced neutrality — which Jay Rosen calls the View from Nowhere — ill serves our readers and our country.

For all of my adult life, I have heard conservative politicians who wrap themselves in the flag rail against our government, ignorant or ignoring the fact that the flag itself stands for a system of big government. (more…)

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June’s traffic underscored a blogging lesson I learned a long time ago: You need to produce fresh content to keep people coming back.

Through the first 20 days of the month, I was on pace to approach or pass my all-time record of more than 31,000 views, set in April. I wrote only two more posts the rest of the month and didn’t quite reach 25,000 views. It was my fourth-best month ever, on the strength of the 15 posts I wrote in the first 19 days of the month.

At least that’s the way it looks according to my monthly stats from WordPress. However, something has happened to significantly boost the syndicated views on my blog. I don’t know whether I’ve had a huge boost in RSS syndication or if WordPress has done something to boost syndicated readership (I’ve checked in WordPress forums and haven’t seen an explanation). In a quirk of WordPress stats, figures for individual stories show syndicated views, but total monthly stats include only on-site views.

For instance, my best-read May post, about copy editing, has had 5,623 total views: 5,163 on-site and 460 by syndication. This was a fairly typical pattern for most of the time I’ve had this blog: several times’ more on-site views than syndicated views, with most of the syndicated views coming in the first four days and the first day’s syndicated views being the largest total. Which makes sense, with people reading my posts in their RSS readers soon after I post. (more…)

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