Archive | February, 2012

Limit Your Links

29 Feb

The Internet has had an undeniable impact on the way we work, play and think. It has also had a huge effect on journalism, and continues to be heralded as the “future of news” as print dies out. One of the most useful parts of the Internet is the ability to link between pages, as I have already demonstrated in the previous two sentences. Being able to jump between totally separate websites is what allows the Web to have some degree of credibility. However, in the span of just one paragraph, I’ve given you three other websites to peruse in addition to my own writing, which will drain even more time from your already shrinking time budget.

The lesson here being that links are a great tool, but they must be used either sparingly, or in a way that is consistently structured for the reader. For example, I try to use links to support any assertion I make, just as an interviewed source would be used in a traditional article. The other time to use links is to illustrate something, such as linking a Youtube video of a a band’s song to a review of them.

There are ethical considerations with linking as well. Writers have to be careful not to link to inappropriate sites. Also, links have broken down some of the barriers between competing news companies, but at there’s still plenty of controversy with linking in the form of aggregators. Like most things on the Internet, there’s a thin line between a great tool and an overused gimmick.

Dossiers

Shannon Dobel:

-She’s a senior journalism major at the University of Florida.

-She had two articles published in the Alligator.

-She’s the VP of Recruitment for Delta Phi Epsilon.

-She has a blog and a Twitter.

-Her parents own four condos in addition to their house (from the Broward County Property Appraiser site).

 

Megan McGarrell

-She’s a senior journalism major at UF.

-She has a blog.

-She writes for the Odyssey Online.

-She’s published three articles in the Alligator.

-She also had a blog through plaza.ufl as a freshman.

-She is a member of Phi Mu.

 

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Suicidal Blond

29 Feb

Edited Suicidal Blond Article

Vampires

26 Feb

Vampire Article

Cataloging the Madness: Topic Pages

22 Feb

I’m gonna change pace a little bit here and not rant about the Internet and the downfall of man. I actually do like the concept of topic pages. The reasoning for that is twofold: it provides some level of organization for the madness that is the Internet, and it pushes to build some kind of in-depth material on a medium that normally built on rapidly destroying our collective attention spans. Topic pages accomplish both the organization, as well as depth with a very intuitive process. By grouping a theme into one area, the reader can track a topic of their interest and do so on a website that they trust, instead of hunting all over the Web for answers.

The organizational aspect of topic pages is pretty basic. Websites have categorized topics via different tabs for a long time, but often there’s no efficient way to relate older stories to new ones on a given topic. Topic pages are a way to provide news as it comes in, but also put that news in context  giving a “bird’s eye view” of the subject. This is very important to me because it, in theory, could take the power away from SEO headlines that mislead readers, and put high quality articles at the top of readers’ searches.

The material that winds up on many topic pages are of much higher quality than a lot other articles out there. This goes double for ones that are trying to write “evergreen” topic pages, which attempt to cull material that stands up over time. Also, using digital content to enhance story telling has created some great topic pages.  This concept is also starting to bleed over into print. While it’s not uncommon to see a print publication attempt to imitate an online trend, in this situation it moves the focus to more in-depth, long lasting articles that take time to write and to read, which is a move in the right direction.

 

http://www.delicious.com/stacks/view/U8KWqH

Brees Breaks Record, Coach Doesn’t Regret Throwing Late

22 Feb

That would’ve been a better headline than what the NFL.com writer Dan Hanzus came up with. While mine could probably use some tweaks, it definitely gets more to the point of the story than the headlines on NFL.com and CBS. The stories really provide little evidence that the Falcons players were angered by the Saints throwing late in the game. Although it’s traditionally frowned on to throw late in the game when you’re up, but in the case of breaking records,  coaches have been known to alter their normal tendencies. All that being said, the point of comparing the CBS article and the NFL.com article is because they are news stories with headlines written to intentionally mislead the reader. Any writer knows that a story about a record being broken will get some hits from fans, but a story about a controversy as well is likely to get way more hits.

There is a definite ethical issue at play here, as a misleading headline, which can in itself be entertaining, ultimately violates reader trust. It is usually pretty obvious when a headline has been written to draw in readers but does not actually address they implied subject, which of course puts journalists, editors or anyone else who may be writing a headline in a very precarious position. Unfortunately, as newspapers are beginning to use pay per click models, or unique users, or whatever the case may be, there is an increasing trend to use misleading headlines. This allows the website to get the views they need to generate the revenue they need, but will alienate their readers in the long run.

In my opinion, this also has a trickle down effect, which trashes the credibility of journalists across all mediums, but it’s particularly low in online journalism. Furthermore, search engines will pull up headline like results for more than just news sites, including blogs, which can masquerade as journalism and utilize misleading headlines to an extremely damaging effect.

Story Ideas

15 Feb

1. The lineup for this summer’s Bonnaroo today, which confirmed most of the same bands that had been rumored to be playing after a poster leaked. The music festival takes place from June 7-10 in Manchester, Tennessee.

– The event is always huge for music fans, mostly because it distinguishes itself from other summer festivals with a more eclectic group of bands.

-Coverage of the event at this point should be a preview format and can include:

  • a link to the Spotify list made by the event sponsors that features the bands performing
  • an Infographic that compares the lineup to other summer festivals
  • YouTube videos that feature highlight performances from last year’s Bonnaroo.

 

2. According to a report from MSNBC, Sony increased prices on online albums for Whitney Houston less than 12 hours after the singer’s death.

-Houston’s death over the weekend was huge news, and not only in music, that overshadowed the Grammy’s.

  • To report on the story we can follow up with Sony executives and get reactions from fans.
  • Digital content can include YouTube videos of the singer, as well as the tribute performance at the Grammy’s by Jennifer Hudson.
  • Another Infographic would be useful if any similar stories can be pulled up about other price hikes on albums after a famous musicians death (ex. Michael Jackson, Les Paul, etc.)

Story Starters and the Wonders of the Web

15 Feb

Coming up with a good story idea can be really difficult. In fact, when students sign up for reporting they quickly learn to dread the weekly task of coming up with a story. In the past, reporters could get by just taking assignments from their editors, but that won’t likely be an option in the very near future. Though reporting professors love to tell you how it’s important to be enterprising, and that journalists who simply do assigned stories are a dime a dozen, I want to stress the importance of the good soldier.

Too often we’re told about how great it is to be an individual, which is why we all have our own Facebook page, Twitter, LinkedIn, email account, blogs and other outlets to express our unique selves. The problem with this glut of narcissism is that we’re starting to see a lack of people who will take orders and get the job done as it was assigned to them. Journalists nowadays love to enterprise, not for the sake of the story, but to help make themselves into a star writer.

All that said, I’ll take a break from my Internet bashing for now and recognize that it’s the perfect tool for finding story ideas. While we need less individualism and more team-minded employees, there’s no denying that some of the best works of journalism came from enterprise stories. The fear I have with the Internet, and using sources like Reddit, is how difficult it is to verify sources and information online.

So while story ideas can be initiated online, it will be important for aspiring journalists, old and new alike, to be more diligent than ever in their fact checking despite the fact that they’ll have less time to do it. As we move forward in this technological age, the great journalists of our era won’t be legends for their amazing writing, but rather for the obstacles they’ll have to overcome just to turn out a properly fact-checked article. And if the popular mindset is any indication, they will accomplish that feat applause free.