Skills for journalists in print and digital media.

Archive for the ‘Multimedia’ Category

Rating database pages

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ASNE’s Freedom of Information Committee has been studying how newspapers  make data available to online readers. The new report, by Pete Weitzen and Nora Paul, offers good examples across the country and its own sortable database on good databases.

Weitzel and Paul spotlight “…a dozen database pages that impressed us and that we believe provide good models. We also highlight some of the more interesting, useful and unusual individual database features we came across, and point to several media sites that have done a particularly good job presenting open records resources and freedom of information links.”

Among the dozen examples are data pages at the Arizona Republic, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Roanoke Times, Sacramento Bee, St. Paul Pioneer Press — overall a good range of newspaper sizes and diverse communities.


Written by mroberts8

February 2, 2010 at 6:27 pm

Rating local news sites

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Tough to keep up with the comings and goings of local news sites.

Michelle McClellan at the Knight Digital Media Center is taking a shot by sorting through the long list kept by Knight Citizen News Network. Working through the list, she intends to measure sites “…against criteria that indicates they are primarily a news site that is updated regularly, are accessible and transparent to readers, and are working on a viable business model. We’re also looking at how these sites use social media and other interactivity to engage their users.”

She finds many start fine but then fade quickly. So far she’s rating good sites as “promising.” Her first selections range from sites staffed by professional journalists to residents reporting on themselves. Among them, the Voice of San Diego, Twin Cities Daily Planet, and The Rapidian (Grand Rapids, MI)

UPDATE: Second list of sites rated.

Written by mroberts8

January 28, 2010 at 4:55 pm

Realistic multimedia training

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Ellen Weiss, VP for News at National Public Radio, recently described lessons learned the past two years as NPR ramped up a more ambitious radio + online model.

High on her list:

Be realistic about how much multimedia you can handle and train for. Writing is multimedia when you are a broadcast organization.  NPR brought its training back to reality — away from video and to things people could take back to their jobs: how to take a good picture, what’s the mix of writing, blog writing, writing for the web vs. writing for print.

A key concept in developing effective workplace training is “…things people can take back to their jobs.” This should be a consideration in formulating a training plan (Weiss’ point here), in training design, and in the critical reinforcement that must follow training. Why?

Training plan: Start with a sense of where you want to end up. What kind of things do you want people to do, as opposed to know. Break it down by department or job description. A good plan should encompass what skills need to be taught and who needs to learn them for immediate use back on the job.

Training design: A common mistake is to cram too much into a single training session. With a focus on the job, craft each session by completing this sentence: By the end of this session, participants will be able to _____ (do what?) Keep in mind each session should not only demonstrate the skill, but give participants a change to practice and receive feedback. So even something as apparently simple as “…how to take a good picture..,” from Weiss’s comment above, may take several one-hour sessions to convey the step-by-step skills required back on the job.

Back on the job: In many industries, training effectiveness is measured in how much new skills transfer back to the job. A great training session is not enough. Managers need to plan on coaching and reinforcement to bring new skills into regular use. This can include shadowing, formal feedback, metrics on output, consistent praise for success. Training plants the seed for new skills, but on-the-job reinforcement nourishes and cements their use.

More on this topic: Training on the edge of change. How to build a training module.

Written by mroberts8

January 22, 2010 at 6:29 pm

Twitter news filters

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Hooked on Twitter as your own personal news wire? Here’s a nice roundup from Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits blog on apps and Web sites that allow you to filter out some of the noise and hone in on the news.

Perhaps of greatest interest to journalists is the site Muck Rack which offers a directory of working journalists on Twitter.

Written by mroberts8

January 5, 2010 at 4:37 pm

Covering communities, nurturing democracy

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Amy Gahan is writing an interesting series of weekly blog posts over at News Leadership 3.0 on how to put the ideas contained in a new report from the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in Democracy into action.

The report is titled, Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age, and is the work of 17 media, policy and community leaders whose purpose “…is to assess the information needs of communities, and recommend measures to help Americans better meet those needs.

In the introduction, they write:

The Knight Commission sees new thinking about news and information as a necessary step to sustaining democracy in the digital age. It thus follows in the footsteps of the 1940s Hutchins Commission and the Kerner and Carnegie Commissions of the 1960s.

But in the digital age the stakes are even higher. Technological, economic and behavioral changes are dramatically altering how Americans communicate. Communications systems no longer run along the lines of local communities, and the gap in access to digital tools and skills is wide and troubling.

The Commission seeks to start a national discussion – leading to real action. Its aims are to maximize the availability and flow of credible local information; to enhance access and capacity to use the new tools of knowledge and exchange; and to encourage people to engage with information and each other within their geographic communities.

Amy’s weekly posts so far:

Community info building blocks: What do you already have?

Teamwork: Collaborating to build a community dashboard

Civic topic pages: Boost local traffic, democracy

Government 2.0: What’s in it for local news?

Making key government documents easier to find, understand

Tips for seeking local news funding from community foundations

Volunteering widget: Basic gateway to civic engagement

Future of Media Project: FCC wants your views by March 8

Written by mroberts8

December 31, 2009 at 5:24 pm

Making the most of multimedia content

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Time Inc. is about to release an e-reader tablet tailored for its stable of magazines. The impressive video demonstration from Sports Illustrated shows off versatile navigation, color images, and even live video.

As high-tech news readers become more common, there is greater pressure placed on the skills and decisions involved in producing multimedia content. This is where systems and methodology are essential.

First among skills is still the critical thinking needed to spot opportunities, frame content, and quickly decide on the best medium for the content. Along the way some standard practices, systems, and strategies emerge.

For starters, try thinking through potential multimedia content to find the best match between medium, form, and content.

–Time: Consider how quickly the content needs to go up, and what is then the best medium  to present the story or information.

— ROI: The amount of effort and resources required to produce versus amount of time it will be relevant content on the Web or reader. Cost versus shelf life.

— Interactivity: Does the content provide a good opportunity for a medium that involves interaction (i.e. clicking through a slide show; polls or quizzes; Flash presentation). Users are drawn and spend more time with content that offers high-quality interaction.

As time goes on and you experience missteps as well as successes, deconstruct the successes to find the elemental makings of good standards and practices that enable you to repeat success. This is one part of successful change management.

Written by mroberts8

December 11, 2009 at 6:41 pm

SEO for reporters and editors

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Search engine optimization (SEO) — the process of improving the volume or quality of traffic to a web site from search engines — for newsroom folks is about building “site authority” (an ongoing profile of reliable quality) and optimizing content as its posted. For reporters and editors that involves the use of keywords related to the content, keywords people will likely use to search for an article.

Few readers “read” a web site like a newspaper, starting on the homepage and paging back to what they want to read. They search, and most (about 70%) search on Google. So the goal is to have stories appear on the first page of a Google search.

The use of keywords in headlines is probably not a new concept in most newsrooms, as its always been part of good print headline writing as well. After attending some recent training in SEO, I came away with a much better understanding of the power of keywords in stories.

There has long been a sense in news writing that repetition is bad. So typical news stories tend to use a variety of terms about the same thing. Here in Phoenix, we might write about the Phoenix real estate market, or the metropolitan Phoenix home market, or the Valley housing market (off the area’s nickname, Valley of the Sun) — all in the same story. This kind of thing happens in news, sports, business and feature writing all the time.

SEO results are better when there is one consistent term that anchors the headline and appears in the opening paragraphs of the story. And a term that contains words a reader is most likely to use in a search. Hearing this in the SEO program, I realized we needed to discuss keywords central to our primary beats and develop an awareness and discipline in using them in the opening sections of a story (about the first 250 words). And we also need to step away from that conventional approach of not repeating terms.

I’ve always felt repetition is a good thing in long or complex stories when readers need all the help they can get to keep central themes and players straight. And now there seems to be a good reason to apply the same care at the start of a story to help more people find it on the web.

As a training or workflow development exercise, an explanation of how keywords affect searches, followed by a discussion and choices on core keywords, could be a quick, simple way for newsroom staff to play a part in an overall SEO strategy.

And check out Google’s free Keyword Tool that allows you to type in a word or phrase and see what other words are most likely to be used in such a search. Web page managers use it to help design the headings and other labels on a web page. Reporters and editors might find it helps with the brainstorming about the best keyword phrases on their respective beats.

Written by mroberts8

December 4, 2009 at 5:30 pm