Archive for October, 2013

Update: The Reporter-Herald in Loveland, Colo., wins the fall engagement contest with its Vietnam veterans project (which I’ve moved to the top of the listing below).

The Reporter-Herald took second in our Valentine’s Day engagement project, but will win a bigger box of candy this year. Second-place in fall engagement goes to the Berkshire Eagle for its scary photo both (moved to second in the listing below).

The Reporter-Herald won 105 votes (41 percent), well ahead of the Eagle at 88 votes and 34 percent. The Daily Freeman and Marin Independent Journal tied for third place with 21 votes each.

Congratulations to Jessica Benes and her colleagues. The candy will go out today.

Halloween is a good day to launch voting for the best fall engagement project at Digital First Media.

Early in October, I sought nominations. Now it’s your turn to vote for the best. Please read all the nominations, then come back up to vote.

Some of them have been edited slightly, mostly because they referred to events that were upcoming but have now passed. I have asked the nominators for updates where appropriate. I have included the updates I received, and will add others if I receive them. (And, if I’ve missed an entry, please let me know right away!)

I should make one point clear before you vote: The entries didn’t have to be specifically fall-themed (Halloween, leaves, elections, football, etc.). If you engaged your community this fall, your project is eligible. So go ahead and vote (and encourage your colleagues and community to vote). I will close the voting Monday night and announce the winner on Tuesday. I’ll send a Priority Mail box stuffed with Halloween candy to the winning newsroom.

The nominees are posted below, first those submitted in the comments on my first blog post, in the order I received them, then those submitted through a DFM Google group, then one submitted by email:


Reporter Herald stories about Vietnam veterans

Jessica Benes’ nomination:

The Associated Veteran’s Club in Loveland is honoring Vietnam Vets this Veteran’s Day, welcoming them home since the Vietnam War was not a pleasant war to be part of. I am writing a weekly series on Vietnam vets, highlighting a few local ones, and inviting the community to call a Google Voice number and leave messages of thanks to Vietnam vets. Those calls will be posted online with photos and transcribed in the paper for a Veteran’s Day story.

This will be our Sunday package on Nov. 10. So the big story will be Nov. 10 rather than Nov. 11. Here are some links following. In addition, I’ve been adding a Storify slideshow of Tout videos and quotes to each story, adding to the Storify as I complete another vet story.



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Jim VandeHei, mug shot linked from Politico

Jim VandeHei, CEO of Politico, told his staff in a memo Monday about the culture he wants in the organization.

I won’t go into detail about the specific points in the memo, except to say that I largely agree with what he wrote. But my point here is to say that you should write something like that for your newsroom.

If you’re an employee, you can agree or disagree with Jim about the culture he wants for Politico, and you can debate how well the organization achieves the culture. But you understand the culture he wants. You want the same sort of clarity in your organization about what the boss wants.

Maybe you shouldn’t write about culture. Maybe you should write about workflow or ethics or your vision for the future of your organization. But you should write. (more…)

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What’s the biggest opportunity for news providers in the future?

The Reynolds Journalism Institute’s Futures Lab asked me at the Online News Association. I answered (if you wonder why TV people wear makeup, check out my large, red, shiny forehead):

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Journalism students today should learn some computer code. More important, they should get a glimpse of the value for themselves and their newsrooms of greater computer literacy.

A post on The Atlantic yesterday by global editor Olga Khazan unleashed a lengthy and vigorous discussion yesterday on Twitter about the value — or lack of value — of requiring students to learn computer programming. I considered — and briefly started — curating the discussion, but it was a heavy volume and I was enjoying a day off. Even so, I retweeted a sampling of the discussion. Check my Twitter feed for yesterday, and you’ll get a taste, if you missed it. Mindy McAdams Storified a bunch of the discussion (though she missed a couple late-night threads I was involved in).

I won’t try to summarize Khazan’s argument here, except to say that she dismissed the value of coding for most journalists:

If you want to be a reporter, learning code will not help. It will only waste time that you should have been using to write freelance articles or do internships—the real factors that lead to these increasingly scarce positions.

She couldn’t be more wrong. And I say this as someone who knows little coding. I took a web design class in the 1990s but forgot most of it. I can cut and paste embed codes or other snippets of code and sometimes I can find or fix a problem in the HTML version of a post. But one of the most glaring holes in my skill set is my ignorance of coding. Filling that gap is on my someday list, but my somedays have been too rare and my list too long.

If you’re a journalism student, fill that gap now, even if you want to be a reporter (or whatever you want to be). If you’re on a journalism school curriculum committee, insist that your students fill that gap.

Here are six reasons why J-schools should teach students to code: (more…)

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Video helped tell the story of the 1971 Farragut state championship, but I couldn't use the video in this 1996 story.

Video helped tell the story of the 1971 Farragut state championship, but I couldn’t use the video in this 1996 story.

Sometimes I ponder how I might do the memorable stories of my career differently today, using digital tools.

Today I’m starting an occasional series of blog posts that will revisit some of those stories, sharing that musing as well as discussing some other journalism lessons and techniques that those stories illustrate.

I’ll start with an easy example. This story involved a video, but I wrote it in 1996, before news sites could post video. In those dial-up days, no one had the bandwidth to show or watch video online.

This is a story I’ve cited before in my blog (and I mentioned it in the chapter I wrote for the Verification Handbook that will be published soon by the European Journalism Centre). It was a story (a four-part series, actually, for the Omaha World-Herald), looking back 25 years at the Iowa state championship of the Farragut High School girls basketball team. (more…)

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I spent last week visiting four Digital First newsrooms in New England.

On Tuesday, I collaborated with several colleagues on an engagement workshop for Digital First colleagues in New England and New York.

Here are the slides that Mandy Jenkins, Ivan Lajara and I used in the workshop.

Laura Lofgren used this presentation on engaging through Facebook.

Mandy used these links in her presentations:

New Haven Register live events

Scribble Market


Berkshire Eagle sports page (to show sports SocialWire)

Berkshire Eagle SocialWire

These links relate to Ivan’s presentations:

Flickr map


Twitter Advanced Search

Google Images


Karma Decay

Curation in journalism

Google Glass and journalism

Ivan’s Google Glass posts curated on RebelMouse

Google Glass photos

Reddit AMA on Google Glass

Ivan’s Glassplainer Touts

Storify bookmarklet

Using the RebelMouse bookmarklet

Kelly Fincham’s Updated guide to Storify for journalists

Storify best practices

RebelMouse How-tos

Getting started on RebelMouse

DFMchat on RebelMouse and Storify

Earlier posts on this blog relating to topics we discussed in the engagement workshop:

What does community engagement mean?

Facebook news-feed changes mean newsrooms need new engagement strategies

Community fun drives Facebook engagement

‘Remember when?’ photos have great engagement potential

Don’t be selfish on Twitter; tweeting useful information is good business

Advice for building engagement through newsroom Twitter accounts

Links to all my #twutorial blog posts

Other workshops I did in the New England newsrooms related to these posts:

How a Digital First approach guides a journalist’s work

Make every word count

Strong from the start

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What is your newsroom doing to engage your community this month?

Fall offers a wide range of engagement opportunities:

  • Halloween is a time of fun for children and adults. You could invite people to submit photos or videos of costumes, then have community vote for the best costume (perhaps with awards in different categories: funny, scary, homemade, age groups, etc.). You could invite submissions for recipes for Halloween parties. You could map community haunted houses, Halloween events and lavishly decorated homes and yards.
  • Football provides engagement opportunities: seeking photos and videos from high school (or youth) games and/or from tailgate parties; fantasy leagues; predictions (high school, college and/or pro).
  • Maybe your local major league team is in the baseball post-season and you’re engaging around baseball. (more…)

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I’m going to be interested in watching the New Haven Register’s effort to engage the community in an always-running liveblog:

The blog is at asktheregister.com and the community can ask questions on the liveblog or on Twitter by using the hashtag #asktheregister.

Initial posts include the budget of stories the Register staff is working on today and an admission by Connecticut Editor Matt DeRienzo that the Register is weak today on planning to cover the local impact of the federal government shutdown.

The blog “will enable readers to provide feedback or ask questions about what or how we’re covering particular stories, or why we’re not covering something they deem important,” Matt said in a blog post announcing the blog.

I like the approach and hope it is successful in engaging the communities in and around New Haven in a discussion of local news and issues. Other newsrooms should watch as well and consider a similar liveblog if this is successful.

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I will be presenting a webinar on attribution and avoiding plagiarism several times in October for Digital First Media colleagues.

If you haven’t already taken the plagiarism quiz, please do so. I encourage journalists taking the webinar to read the ebook Telling the Truth and Nothing But as well as these blog posts:

I lifted (but attributed) most of this post on plagiarism

You can quote me on that: Advice on attribution for journalists

Our cheating culture: Plagiarism and fabrication are unacceptable in journalism

4 reasons why linking is good journalism; 2 reasons why linking is good business

Plagiarism and Fabrication Summit: Journalists need to use links to show our work

Journalism’s Summer of Sin marked by plagiarism, fabrication, obfuscation by Craig Silverman

How to handle plagiarism and fabrication allegations by Craig Silverman and Kelly McBride

Journalism has an originality problem, not a plagiarism problem by Kelly McBride

ACES moves forward with effort to fight plagiarism by Gerri Berendzen

Here are the slides for the webinar:

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This post continues a series on advice for new top editors in Digital First Media newsrooms.

A newsroom’s success is a blend of teamwork and individual excellence, so an editor must foster and reward both.

Here are important ways to encourage teamwork on your staff:

Pair staff members strategically. Keep staff members’ strengths and weaknesses in mind as you pair them on assignments that require more than one person. My editors at the Omaha World-Herald often paired me with less experienced reporters so they would learn from me (I learned from them, too, and I’m sure that happens even more today when you might pair a veteran with great journalism experience with a less-experienced reporter with strong digital skills).

Acknowledge the staff members’ skills as you’re discussing plans for their work together. For a quick story, you might divide the labor according to their strengths: This reporter will search social media for sources because social media is a strength of hers and that reporter is going to check with his excellent sources in law enforcement. But sometimes, especially for a longer-term story, you will want to be clear that you want them to work together in an aspect of the story, to ensure that the reporters learn from each other, rather than just leaning on each other. Specify that they work together on the data analysis, rather than letting the data expert handle that herself. Or they should work together on the video instead of giving that to the video whiz to handle the video himself. (more…)

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