Category Archives: Newsroom

We need to keep experimenting in journalism

This photo from the high school science class I really wish I'd taken.
This photo from the high school science class I really wish I’d taken.

Any good scientist will tell you that not all experiments succeed, but it’s important to keep at it.

It’s sad to hear that Digital First Media in the U.S. is closing its Thunderdome shop and selling some of its papers. There were a lot of quality journalists working on the team to centralize news for all DFM news properties.

Steve Buttry, one Thunderdome’s many talented journalists, has written this completely honest post on the demise of the project. In it he writes:

I knew the risks in 2011 when I went to work for a company owned by hedge funds. And I knew the risks in 2012 when I turned down an attractive offer from a family-owned newspaper company to stay with the company owned by hedge funds.

All this makes the j-school students I teach, the journalists of the future, nervous.

Continue reading We need to keep experimenting in journalism

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How to cultivate journalistaphobia

panic

Really, we’re friendly – and just calling with a few questions….

Any journalist who has tried to contact a federal government researcher/scientist/source  can tell you how frustrating an exercise it can be. There are delays, referrals to communications and then days can pass before a response.

Today, the government of Canada’s Department of Canadian Heritage sent this pamphlet out to its public servants – it’s unclear if others will follow.

Really, it makes media calls seem as fearful an experience as contracting Ebola.

Now this is a cool story form experiment

The BBC conducted an interesting experiment in story form yesterday:  A quick video report it labelled the #Instafax on its Instagram account.

This is smart in many ways, but mostly because it’s using the social network to share the report, and that it offers a quick news bite for those with short attention spans. (Of course, the Beeb directs followers to its main news site for those wanting more than a snack – sadly Instagram doesn’t allow users to hotlink.)

If you think about it, most Instagram users would be on their phone, and don’t have time to sit through a 2:00 report.

#Clever BBC, very smart.

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.

Continue reading Great multimedia journalism of 2013

Ingram: What journalists must do when information is everywhere

Photo by Flikr user LittleRae
Photo by Flikr user LittleRae

Journalists need to embrace their changing role as a trusted curator and aggregator of news, Mathew Ingram said at a recent Third Tuesday event in Ottawa.

Ingram said the theme of his talk on online journalism ‘what’s different? What’s the  same’ was really “the Good, the Bad, the Ugly.” He wanted to start with the bad because… well… the bad is pretty bad.

Speaking at a Byward Market pub, Ingram showed a graph of newspaper revenue, which he called “The cliff of despair.”

The money just isn’t there anywhere, and newspapers are making a mistake in going to readers for revenue.

The paywall, growing more and more common in North America, isn’t a solution, Ingram said. Paywalls are only a sandbag strategy, Ingram said. They don’t generate a lot of new revenue or readers. “Paywalls don’t help you innovate,” Ingram said.

Continue reading Ingram: What journalists must do when information is everywhere

Multimedia journalism is like sex in junior high: Garcia

Photo from Garcia's wikipedia page
Photo from Garcia’s wikipedia page

Media consultant Mario Garcia was at the Ottawa Citizen today to share his thoughts on a new wave in storytelling, in which four platforms (mobile, tablet, web and print) are considered at the conception of a story.

Thursday’s talk was a pared-down version of a course he’ll be teaching next term at the Columbia School of Journalism called ‘Storytelling in the age of the tablet.’

Multimedia storytelling is to be considered as a story is assigned, Garcia said, something all newsrooms should be doing, but they’re not, said Garcia.

“Multimedia is like sex in junior high,” Garcia said “Everybody says they’re doing it but nobody really is.”

Continue reading Multimedia journalism is like sex in junior high: Garcia

8 great reads on Bezos’ purchase of The Washington Post

Photo by flickr user vpickering
Photo by flickr user vpickering

Unless you’ve been under a rock, you’ve heard that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has bought the Washington Post for a cool $250 million.

In his letter to Post employees, Bezos wrote:

The Internet is transforming almost every element of the news business: shortening news cycles, eroding long-reliable revenue sources, and enabling new kinds of competition, some of which bear little or no news-gathering costs. There is no map, and charting a path ahead will not be easy. We will need to invent, which means we will need to experiment.”

Media analysts were stunned by this announcement. But they were quick to share their thoughts on the end of the Graham family’s reign on this newspaper empire.

I’ve compiled some of the most interesting thoughts here:

Continue reading 8 great reads on Bezos’ purchase of The Washington Post

How to ‘wow’ during a newsroom internship interview

At a job interview
You don’t have to feel like this (Photo credit: Arroz y Asado)

Recently I was contacted by a candidate who had been short-listed for the Ottawa Citizen’s year-long internship opportunities.

(Note: all our interns are paid positions. Understatement: This has become a hot topic recently.)

(Also to note: If you’re entering the newsroom as an intern this summer or fall, here are a few tips I blogged about last year.)

Okay, enough notes, back to the point of this post…

I’m not on the hiring committee for these positions, but I was impressed that this candidate was doing his homework and felt comfortable reaching out to me. This was, after all, the kind of ‘cold call’ he’d be required to do on the job should he be hired.

This person’s questions were simple, but direct: how had past candidates ‘wowed’ me in interviews? And what about the top interns, what sets them apart?

Continue reading How to ‘wow’ during a newsroom internship interview

When journalists don’t know math: Exhibit A

A while ago, I wrote about the importance of knowing simple arithmetic, how I taught math in a second-year fundamentals of reporting course at Carleton University’s journalism school.

In that blog post, I wrote that simple mathematical errors can damage credibility and lead a reader to lose focus on the whole report. 

A perfect example was today’s report from CBC Ottawa on its analysis of police salaries in the city. The oval highlights are mine.

 

math2

Please tell me you can spot the error.

 (Note: Since I grabbed this shot of the error, CBC has corrected the error.)

Newsana: Who do you trust to tell you what’s important?

Trust is what many traditional news organizations use to promote their relevance, stating they are a trusted brand to cut through the noise.

The pitch goes something like this: ‘We are a trusted brand, we have been a part of the community for x years… We will continue to tell you what you need to know.’

Toronto startup Newsana (think of it as a nirvana for news junkies) places its trust in the hands of its community of virtual editors.

Newsana is a nirvana for news junkies, curated by news junkies, co-founder Ben Peterson explained in an interview from his Kensington office.

To become a Newsana member, there is a rigorous application process where candidates are verified as actual people with credible social media accounts and a general interest in news. (Peterson said the goal is to weed out trolls and create a community of the most engaged news readers.)

Once a member of the Newsana’s community, contributors/editors have free access to ‘pitch’ links to stories in their choice of five of Newsana’s 40 sections (ie social media, future of news, Canadian politics, etc.).

Why access to only five? Peterson said this ensures community editors focus on areas they know best.

Links to stories are not just posted to Newsana’s site, they are annotated by members. Community Editors making the pitch must give a brief intro to the piece, this may also include editorial comment.

Why submit/share/pitch to Newsana? Other editors can vote on your story, which will elevate it on Newsana’s site, thus giving an editor more credibility, and increasing their standing in the Newsana community.

The Newsana team. Peterson is “the tall guy in the back.”

Pandering to a journalist’s ego and competitiveness is a clever move – I was skeptical until I pitched a story on the senate in Canadian politics section and saw it – and consequently my Newsana rep – elevate.

Naturally this made me want to pitch more stories to the Newsana community of about 1,500 members.

Peterson said he knows this isn’t a large community – yet – but as the site is just in beta, he is confident it will grow.

There are a couple of issues with Newsana: first, it’s only as strong as its members.

Also Newsana’s biggest competitors are the more established, traditional larger social media networks like Twitter, Reddit and Facebook.

How Newsana differs from these competitors are by its “quality” community news curators, Peterson said. These aren’t just old high school pals.

“Our audience is news junkies. These are people who read the news, comment on news… They want the best, highest quality journalism.”

“At the end of the day, people have to figure out where to allocate their time,” Peterson said.

As with all startups, Newsana is focused on establishing a sustainable business model as it builds.

The goal is to build an active, informed community and monetize around that, Peterson said.

Newsana is exploring native-branded content, which might include custom content in one of Newsana’s sections; Premium elements for paying subscribers/editors; and story sponsorship (As an example, Peterson said readers might find the top five innovation stories sponsored by IBM.)

Without a marketing budget, this small start up is relying on what Peterson refers to as the ‘viral co-efficient,’ with members telling their friends about it, and getting the word out.

“Our biggest challenge is to cut through the noise, and make people aware of what we’re doing.”