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Internet Social Skills

19 Apr

In the words of Mrs. Boucher (of the Waterboy) “I’m lacking in what you call the social skills,” at least in regard to the Internet. Facebook and Twitter aren’t too hard, simply because of how they’ve permeated popular culture. But what I had no knowledge of was the various other tools that journalists are using, such as Delicious, Storify, Politifact and a whole host of others.

Honestly, my opinion on most of them has been pretty well summed up through my various posts the past three months or so. There is some value in all of them, but ultimately I think they distract from the simple lack of quality writing. That being said, this the future of journalism and utilizing these tools will be how reporting is done from now on.

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Snapshots of Speech through Wordle

18 Apr

Wordle is an interesting website that provides a nice, simplified word usage analysis. I think it can be a very useful application for a quick overview of what words are being used the most in a given text/speech. I think the most practical application is for things like analyzing speeches by various political figures over time. For journalists it will come in most handy for analyzing rhetoric, especially for sites like PolitiFact.

In a quick study of Obama’s three State of the Union addresses you can see the words he favors. He has actually remained pretty consistent through the three addresses, focusing on words like “American,” “jobs,” and “new.” The focus on “jobs” has become a greater focus for Obama as the years have gone on, which tends to make sense given the state of the economy.

Overall though, there’s a fairly interesting opportunity to take a snapshot of a speech or text and synthesize it down to a graphic which can be easily comparable side by side.

How to Survive Journalism 2.0

18 Apr

Simple answer seems pretty obvious. Adapt to the world of the Internet, which means more entertainment, less information.  In fact, the argument made by Jonathan Stray is a pretty convincing one, especially in terms of framing the problem with media as being at fault for the downfall of itself. There’s only one issue, which is the fact that just because the news has been deemed boring by the public doesn’t mean that it’s now irrelevant.

Pandering to the audience has always been a a surefire way to dumb down the public, and a free media is a way to keep citizens free from tyranny; however, this system is failing. I’m not exactly sure how it’s going to be fixed, but there is something inherently wrong about the way that news is moving forward through the Internet. Traditional training for journalists usually requires stringent source and fact checking, as well as ethical dilemmas, which have been cast aside like print media as relics of the past. We cannot expect the old guards like Robert Peston to be around forever and develop ways to integrate the old standards of the media with new age delivery systems.

That comparison is unfortunately irrelevant because BBC can’t exactly be the model for moving forward though, because most media companies aren’t set up the same way. Being funded by the government allows the BBC to take some more risks as a news organization, but unlike a publicly funded organization like PBS in the U.S., the BBC is popular enough to draw attention to what they’re doing.

I honestly believe that no one knows what’s coming in terms of the future of journalism, but I think we fell off the well beaten path and headed for the high speed information highway without really considering the consequences.

Tweeting a Dead Horse

11 Apr

I’ve spend a lot of time conversing with my friends. In particular, we like to discuss our respectively bleak outlooks for our future careers. One of such friends is a junior architecture students, and he helped me form an analogy for what’s happening with journalism. Journalists are rapidly being replaced with the world of the Internet, bloggers and “citizen journalists.” Likewise, architecture majors face the worst unemployment rate among graduating college students. The comparison may seem abstract at first, but to clarify the comparison, let me point out that a huge reason why architects are being replaced are because civil engineers are cheaper and can create a product that is easily duplicated. Or as one YouTube user joked, the difference between architects and civil engineers is like comparing Macs and PCs.

Similarly, I think citizen journalists are replacing traditional print journalists, and for all the wrong reasons. Unfortunately, the trendy buzz word world of the Internet is what sells, and will eventually damn the art of journalism, left to the hashtags of Twitter and user produced videos.  Essentially, the argument being made in favor of social media is because it delivers access to sources previously untapped by mainstream media. The problem I have with this is that’s not really different than what an experience journalist does when they cull their sources that they’ve built a rapport with over time. Furthermore, there’s something to be said for professionalism and creating a quality product as opposed to just churning out copy. This is what is being forced through by the Internet, whether it be by Twitter users or journalists faced with deadline pressure who doesn’t have time to create the quality work they may’ve previously been capable of.

And finally, there is the eternal question of whether the public is truly capable of deciding what news should be covered. Through Google Trends you can see what people are really interested in:

 

Media Ride-Along Report: Foodbeast

4 Apr

Foodbeast.com was created by Elie Ayrouth during his sophomore year at University of California-Irvine in ’07. He and his friends were big eaters and would refer to each other as “foodbeasts” when one of them would order an extravagant meal. He initially had his sights set on covering local food news on his blog. However, as he delved further into the “food culture,” he noticed he was on to something. There were not many other publications devoted solely to happenings regarding food. Ayrouth recalled that most people would get their food news through advertisements and brands’ websites. Foodbeast was a fresh way to neutrally report about all things food.

The blog has since expanded and is creating quite a stir among food lovers across the country. It boasts a homepage featuring the latest blog posts and many “channels” from which to choose to read from. Fast food, restaurants, sweets, food trucks, drinks, cravings, recipes, deals and products are among them. Essentially, the blog features any and all things related to food – from the extremely weird to the delicious.

The Foodbeast team consists of four partners – Ayrouth, Geoff Kutnick, Biz Dev and Rudy Chaney. The rest of the team is comprised of talented contributing writers from across the country.

Because of his background in web design, Ayrouth said it was pretty easy for him to develop the site. At first he didn’t want to put advertisements on the website because he “didn’t like the idea of cluttering what I felt was a simple interface.” As the site grew larger, particularly from exposure through sites like Buzzfeed.com, he decided to monetize the site using Google Adsense, as he felt it was the “most intuitive, unobtrusive way” for the site to start making money.

Aryouth also said that promoting the Foodbeast has come along pretty organically. They do not make it mandatory for their writers to promote their posts via social media; however, most of them wind up doing so anyway because they want exposure for their own articles, which in turn helps the site. They recently added a social media intern who’s job is to promote the featured posts on various social media other than the obvious ones like Facebook and Twitter.

Kutnick, content director for Foodbeast, uses his background in public relations and marketing to get access to promotional products, which the site then uses to make humorous videos.Several of the videos, which they feature on their own YouTube channel, have gone viral.

Aryouth plans on focusing on the video element of the site in the upcoming years. The website plans to continue posting videos to YouTube to develop their current web presence. Another big change for the site will be the development of a community-based project to get readers engaged with the stories.

Since the site is growing Aryouth plans to hire more editorial staff in the next year. It is important to him that they keep the quality of the stories up even as the number of stories they produce increases.

With its unique subject matter and lighthearted storytelling, Foodbeast has come up with a recipe for success. The growing site is gaining fame around the web with its combination of news, entertainment and food which has led  Aryouth to call his site the “TMZ of food.” Foodbeast is an excellent example of how to take something you are interested in and turn it into a profit. With hard work, savvy media skills and large appetites, Aryouth and team have created a true entrepreneurial journalism site.

Foodbeast presentation.

Storytelling through Storify

4 Apr

My story focused on the Trayvon Martin tragedy and subsequent controversy. Storify is a great way to gather different social media tool and aggregate them into one easy to navigate site. Using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and more to put together a balanced narrative is ideal for stories like the Trayvon Martin killing.

Facebook for Journalists

4 Apr

Facebook, like so many social media sites, is a new avenue for journalists. It’s a particularly useful way to gain access to sources that might otherwise be unreachable. As the social media giant is becoming used by a greater number of journalists, as well as competition from Twitter, Facebook is making concessions to help journalists gain access more easily.

The biggest problem with this new method of source gathering is that the ethics of the method is pretty unclear as of now. It can be kind of a difficult situation, as Facebook is a personal site, in most cases, yet has become so pervasive that it is also your professional face, which in turn may result in your firing, journalist and/or source alike.

Like most people who have seen the potential repercussions of Facebook, I have made my profile private, and refrain from posting about any of my jobs. Because my profile is public I don’t get much publicity out of promoting my blog on my Facebook page.