Category Archives: Growing up digital

Great multimedia journalism of 2013

snowfallWe’ve come a long way since Snowfall, baby.

The New York Times’ massive multimedia project went live in December, 2012 and set the tone for an amazing 12 months of online journalism.

Yes, I know, we’re about a week into 2014, but it’s worth looking at some of the great multimedia journalism from 2013.

Looking at some of these amazing examples of online journalism, it’s exciting to think about the continued evolution of online storytelling.

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Out of disruption, comes media innovation


Quit your job in a traditional newsroom, and go it alone to innovate in journalism … or work within existing newsrooms, which have the most money to try new things.

These were the two messages that emerged from the Canadian Journalism Foundation’s panel on media innovation on Thursday night, in a talk entitled “Journalism, Disrupted: How to create media innovation.”

The panel was comprised of three disruptors: Michael De Monte, who left a top-level job at CTV and CHUM to found Scribblelive, a live blogging tool that has completely disrupted the workflow of a newsroom; Zach Seward, former social media editor and reporter at The Wall Street Journal, now the senior editor of Quartz, a global business news venture by Atlantic Media Company; and David Skok, Director of Digital News at (yes a traditional newsroom but wait for it…) and Nieman Fellow who co-authored with Clayton Christiensen Breaking News: Mastering the Art of Disruptive Innovation in Journalism.

Marissa Nelson, acting director of digital media for CBC News moderated the panel.

Seward argued that innovation in journalism comes more easily when operations are in startup mode. Quartz was an example of this – he intentionally set operations up in New York while the Atlantic is based in Washington D.C., removing any geographical connection to the traditional media.

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Audio reporting tools of the trade: then and now

Note the 3-metre cord on the microphone, which was designed for karaoke.
Note the 3-metre cord on the microphone, which was designed for karaoke. I wound it up and held extra cord together with a hair elastic. Very technical.

This is an I-love-technology piece, gird yourselves accordingly.

Fourteen years ago, as a journalism student, I recorded a lot of audio.

This set up (pictured left),  included the latest technology: a smallish cassette recorder, and a giant ice-cream-cone-shaped microphone.

I was set. I recorded ‘tape’ of interviews for assignments, and eventually did a 30-minute radio documentary about women journalists working on Parliament Hill from 1966 – 1996. (Note to self: Find and digitize, some big names on there).

In my first year of  journalism school, we were taught to edit tape using an Ampex, razors and tape.  I’m not making this up.

Mary McGuire, my radio professor back then,  tweeted  a pic of the actual Ampex I worked on:


Later, ‘new technology’ was brought in, and we were taught digital editing.  (Cue angels singing, as I was never very handy with razors and tape.)

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Beat reporting in the digital age

Hours before their website won the Knight Award for Public Service at the 2012 Online Journalism Awards, DC Homicide Watch’s Laura and Chris Amico said it’s important to not get lost in the technology and remember that the purpose to tell a story.

Though it’s a massive database detailing every homicide from incident to sentencing (or cold case status) in Washington DC, their site’s logo echoes this sentiment:

‘Mark every death. Remember every victim. Follow every case.’

When building the site, Chris and Laura said they were aware that though the deaths were an organizing principle, or their beat,  the focus had to be on storytelling and community building.

“Beats are built for and around a community, with a clear understanding of who a beat is for, and what it’s about,” said Chris Amico.

The DC Homicide Watch founders talked about beats during a session they hosted with Politico’s Juana Summers  at this year’s ONA conference.

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Video: What if you were interviewed by your 12-year-old self?

Twenty years ago, Jeremiah McDonald made a VHS tape, interviewing his future self.

With some clever editing and writing, he sat down with his tween self, and answered some hard questions.

It’s a great video, and while clever, illustrates the importance of maintaining a curiosity about people… even if you think you know them.

Now I ask you – what would you have asked yourself when you were a 12 year old?

(I probably would have asked me what it was like to not have braces)

Booze, Twitter and what people really want out of a tweet

A friend of mine, recently promoted to an executive-level position, asked if I could help her with Twitter.

“I’ve been told I need to twit,” she said.

It’s extremely (if dangerously so) easy, I told her, and I offered up this gem: don’t drink and tweet.

Indeed, when Jeff Jarvis was in Ottawa last fall promoting his book Public Parts and advocating for publicness, he spoke of an incident where he did just that.

After a few glasses of wine, he was watching a TV report on the debt ceiling, and he tweeted this:

One of Jarvis’ followers suggest he use the hashtag ‘#fuckyouwashington’ and things took off – a week later more than 100,000 people were using the hash tag. (Jarvis has a hilarious account of the incident, and a data visualization of the flurry of #fuckyouwashington tweets)

But at his Ottawa talk, Jarvis said that while the flurry of the hash tag was interesting and exciting, he wasn’t sure twitter was the right place to go after a drink or two.

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Why reporters can’t be replaced by robots and algorithms

This blog post was not written by a robot. Nor is it the result of a fancy algorithm.

But it could have been,  Narrative Science would probably argue. The 30-person, Chicago-based company has created an algorithm that is generating text.

From the company website:

Narrative Science helps companies leverage their data by creating easy to use, consistent narrative reporting – automatically through our proprietary artificial intelligence technology platform.

We also help publishers who are faced with the constant challenge of keeping up with the speed, scale and cost demands of content creation. We offer an innovative and cost-effective solution that allows publishers to cover topics that can’t otherwise be covered due to operational or cost constraints.

It “trains computers to write news stories Steven Levy described in his Wired piece:

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Using Facebook and Google to run a student newsroom

I teach a second-year ‘Fundamentals of Reporting’ class at Carleton University’s j-school –  but often I’m learning just as much from the students.

These past three weeks, we’ve been running ‘newsroom days’ – students come in with a story, and then head out for the day to chase another, putting out a publication at 5 p.m. The class is large enough that we actually put out two publications at the end of the day, with students alternating roles between Managing Editor or desker and reporter.

This year, Facebook and Google played key roles in putting out our student publications at the end of the day.

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Journalism, by the numbers

Today, I am giving the students in my second-year journalism class a math test.

When I told the students in this lab – which is mostly a “journalism boot camp”, focusing on interview skills, background research, focusing a lead, writing a strong feature story with an emphasis on CP style – they were shocked.

“But we went into journalism because we aren’t any good at math,” one student said.

Indeed, many of us did, I answered. But journalism is not a refuge from math, numbers are everywhere. And if you’re wrong on your math in a story, it’s as detrimental to your credibility as misquoting someone, or being wrong on the basic facts of a story.

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