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

10 observations from my 14-day social media break up

For 14 days, this was my social media avatar.
For 14 days, this was my social media avatar.

Those who know me know my relationship with social media tends towards the addiction end of the scale. At the very least it wasn’t normal.

It’s not normal to wake up at 4 a.m., go to the bathroom and check your twitter feed before returning to bed. (Or before heading out for an early-morning run.)

It may have been kismet that I read Baratunde Thurston’s piece for Fast Company on leaving the internet for 25 days shortly before my own summer vacation began. This, I thought, is something I should/could do.

I wasn’t ready to give up the internet. I am a news lover, after all.

I did cut off all social media, allowed myself to check my gmail twice a day only, closed down my work email (after telling my bosses they could reach me on my cell or at my gmail account), and relied completely on my mobile browsers on my phone and iPad for news.

My phone became a mobile browser, camera and of course… a phone.

I went through various stages of grief during my break,  and noted the following observations:

Continue reading 10 observations from my 14-day social media break up

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.



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.”

Time for an NNA upgrade

For the record, this is not what the NNA looks like. It’s a framed plaque.

Gird yourself, I’m about to attack a Canadian journalism institution: The National Newspaper Awards.

It has taken me a couple of weeks to write this post. No, scratch that. This has been years in the making.

I need to begin by stating that I recognize the importance of the NNAs – some have dubbed them “Canada’s Pulitzer Prize” (this kind of identifying through comparison with our American neighbours makes me cringe.)

Three of my colleagues were recognized for their journalistic excellence at this year’s NNAs, an achievement that has made everyone in the newsroom proud.

But journalistic excellence doesn’t occur solely in print form.

Continue reading Time for an NNA upgrade

The Michener Deacon Fellowship

Receiving the Michener-Deacon Fellowship from Canada's Governor General David Johnston. Photo: Jean Levac/Ottawa Citizen

In June 2012, I was named the first-ever recipient of the Michener-Deacon Fellowship for journalism education by the Michener Foundation.

The Michener Awards annually recognize journalism excellence in the name of public service in Canada. It was a huge honour to receive this Fellowship, which was presented on behalf of the Foundation by Governor General David Johnston.

Continue reading The Michener Deacon Fellowship

Boston Marathon bombing coverage by CNN and John King

On Wednesday, CNN’s John King reported that a ‘dark-skinned male’ had been indentified, then arrested in connection with the Boston Marathon bombings.

But over the next 90 minutes, King’s credibility – and the credibility of CNN – took a major hit.

I created this storify of how the race to be first, and the decision to report information from anonymous sources on live cable news affected CNN’s coverage and credibility in the days after the attack.

Read the Storify here (sorry, WordPress won’t let me embed it – grrrr)