When Everyone’s a Publisher, Who Will ‘Convene’ The Public?

Written by Ryan Thornburg February 22, 2009 6:39 pm EST No comments

Last week, Richard Hart of MDC, Inc., kindly came to speak to my Public Affairs Reporting for New Media class. He led us through an illuminating conversation about the nonprofit’s recently released report on the Triangle’s “Disconnected Youth.” (PDF)

At the end, I raised this question: If government is already publishing a lot of raw data online, and if organizations like MDC are already put together in-depth, relatively objective analyses of public policy issues like this, then what does he — as a former journalist and the nonprofit’s communication director — think is the role for journalists? How do we fit in to his overall communication strategy for this report, I wondered.

That was a good question, Hart said. He noted that his primary focus now, after an initial and relatively small media hit, was convening small groups of influential and interested area leaders from various sectors to discuss how to implement some of MDC’s recommendations.

That made me wonder: Should journalists be doing that? Presuming we think that the subject of high school dropouts is an issue that is relevant and important for our audience, how much effort should news organizations be putting in to creating conversation around content that is created elsewhere? Should journalists be conveners?

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Why Do We Need a CMS?

Written by Ryan Thornburg February 21, 2009 10:36 pm EST 2 comments

A bit of career advice for anyone in an online news organization: Never get roped in to leading the creation of your site’s new content management system. Yes, you may realize that the business rules that underly the CMS will determine who has the power to make decisions in your newsroom, but CMS projects are like storming the beach at Normandy — even if it’s successful, many involved in the operation will not survive.

With that optimistic image fresh in your mind, let’s look at what CMSs do and why your news organization needs one.

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Why Journalists Need to Know HTML

Written by Ryan Thornburg February 20, 2009 4:11 pm EST 1 comment

I’ve written in a previous post that journalism students should be taught HTML as a way of helping them understand the concept of separating content from formatting. But I ran in to another perfect example today of why even journalists who are working in a CMS and working primarily with text need to know some basic HTML.

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Viral News: The Distributed Watercooler

Written by Ryan Thornburg February 18, 2009 5:12 pm EST 2 comments

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, journalists are loath to do anything they think would make them “seem like a pimp.” The problem with their hesitancy is that it too often means that important news stories get buried beneath entertaining ones and the public discourse is diminished.

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New Media Rochambeau: Twitter-Facebook-Email

Written by Ryan Thornburg February 17, 2009 10:20 pm EST No comments

You want a look at the future of breaking news? This is it.

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How To Edit for Online & SEO

Written by Ryan Thornburg February 17, 2009 8:00 am EST No comments

One Pager Tip Sheet: Search Engine Optimization (PDF)

Lecture Slides

Editing Online News

View more presentations from ryan.thornburg. (tags: journalism tutorial)
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IT Fluency for Journalists

Written by Ryan Thornburg February 11, 2009 11:00 am EST No comments

Dan Gillmor’s recent blog post about the future of journalism education — particularly collegiate schools of journalism — is highlighting once again what is perhaps the most popular debate in our field. The question revolves basically around this: How much technology do journalists need to know?

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Budget Cuts Begin to Hurt

Written by Ryan Thornburg February 10, 2009 4:52 pm EST No comments

After extolling the virtues in post after post of UNC’s computer based training as a wonderful resource that’s free to every student, the University announced today that it would be shutting the site down on Feb. 28.

The move was done “in order to achieve the level of budget cuts currently mandated.”

The full announcement and address to send letters after the jump.

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How to Report for New Media

Written by Ryan Thornburg February 10, 2009 8:04 am EST 1 comment

Reporting for New Media in Six Easy Steps!

View more presentations from ryan.thornburg. (tags: journalism reporting)

Links Referenced in This Lecture:

  • Slide 3
    • Little Green Footballs
    • Powerline Blog
  • Slide 5
    • Sworn Statements by Abu Ghraib Detainees (washingtonpost.com)
    • The Fact Checker: Romney and Abortion (washingtonpost.com)
  • Slide 7
    • Bluffton Today
    • Live Online With Bob Kaiser (washingtonpost.com)
    • Wiki Scanner (wired.com)
    • GasBuddy.com
    • #ch-snow (Twitter.com)
    • Ushahidi.com
    • Veep-O-Matic (washingtonpost.com)
    • Consumer Consequences (American Public Media)
  • Slide 10
    • MarketWatch.com
    • War in Iraq (washingtonpost.com)
    • Times Topics (NYTimes.com)
  • Slide 14
    • Breaking News Blog (L.A. Times)
    • iReport of Va. Tech Shooting (CNN)
  • Additional Resources

    How to Report a News Story Online (Online Journalism Review)

    A Guide to ‘Crowdsourcing’ (Knight Citizen News Network)

    Multimedia Storytelling (Knight Digital Media Center)

MP3 Audio of the Lecture

Lecture: Reporting for online media

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Online Exercise: Write an FAQ

Written by Ryan Thornburg February 9, 2009 7:51 am EST 1 comment

FAQs are a good way to introduce students to online news writing and editing for three reasons.

  • It gets them thinking about conversational journalism.
  • It gets them writing shorter.
  • It gets them using links.

The key to good FAQs — of course — is to formulate a good set of questions. A good question is at the start of all good reporting. And to formulate a good set of questions, the FAQ writer needs to have a very good sense of his or her audience. There are a few questions to consider when thinking about writing an FAQ.

  • Who is the audience?
  • What would they already need to know to get value out of this FAQ?
  • What search terms would they use to find this FAQ?
  • How would they use the information they find on the FAQ

Consider those questions and see if you can answer them for each of these examples of online FAQs that employ different styles.

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What I'm reading

  • Writing from Video Exercise 1 hour ago
    These video writing and editing exercises are from the 4th Edition of the Broadcast News Handbook by Charlie Tuggle, Forrest Carr and Suzanne Hoffman.
  • News Corp. Donation Clouds Fox Coverage of Prop. 24 - NYTimes.com 2010/11/02
  • How to Count Items in a Filtered List in Excel 2010/10/25
  • Relational Databases - Example - Martin Baker 2010/10/16
  • MySQL :: MySQL 5.0 Reference Manual :: 10 Data Types 2010/10/16

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