Welcome to the class blog

We’re going to be talking about trends in journalism and about the pressures and problems that the industry faces. So I want to see each of you blogging about what you’re seeing in the field and in the news as it relates journalistic practices and the prospects for the future of the field. And I’ll expect lots of discussion, too, so be sure to comment on the posts of your classmates.

AP adds new social media guidelines

Today, the AP updated it is social media guidelines to include live-tweeting and an updating section on how to connect with newsmakers on social media, further cementing social media’s importance in the future of journalism.

In brief, live-tweeting of public news events is fine as long as it does not come before the news desk. You are also not supposed to publish exclusive material on Twitter before the wire publishes it first. 

Making contact with politicians, news-makers, and sources is OK as long as its on both sides of a controversial issue. 

The AP is also weary of re-tweeting as a sign of endorsement or expression of a personal opinion. 

How do these new guidelines negotiate the already entrenched branding of the AP with the emergence with new and potential hierarchically disruptive forms of media as Twitter? Are these guidelines just helpful tips for new reporters, or is there something more subtly attached to each guideline about the established order? 

Several items of interest

I bumped into several stories today about a range of issues in journalism. In case you haven’t seen these, check them out.

The first is a link to a column from Poynter about a Reuters editor who identified one of James Holmes’s classmates as a “person of interest” in the shootings at the theater in Aurora last Friday. What I find especially interesting is the discussion (through quoted material and some tweets) about how news organizations should treat Holmes in the coverage and the pledges being made by some to keep the focus on the victims. I understand the fact that the victims matter more — and some of the Dart Center work (you can find a link to the Dart Center in Caryn’s post, too), but as journalists can we really afford to ignore Holmes’s story? I think too many people still want to get some sense of what led up to his deadly rampage.

The second column, also from Poynter, provides some advice on reaching out to trauma victims via Twitter. Social media can be a valuable tool, but with only 140 characters to work with, it can be difficult to make the request for an interview compassionate. This column has some advice and examples of how to do it better.

Then there’s this story from Forbes about Ryan Holiday, head of marketing for American Apparel, who managed to get quoted in publications ranging from small blogs to The New York Times on topics ranging from winterizing your boat to collection vinyl records. He’s not an expert in any of those topics, but he pretended to be one and offered himself up to reporters in search of a quote. Once again, this speaks to the need to verify what your sources are telling you, including what they’re telling you about who they are.

Finally, here are some follow-up pieces to the story on political sources who are demanding that they get the chance to approve quotes as a condition of being interviewed for a story. I posted the original story last week, and now some news organizations are saying “no” to the quote-fixing demands. The NYT did a follow-up noting that the National Journal is banning the use of fixed quotes, McClatchy Newspapers has developed a similar policy, and On the Media has a short audio story about the controversy.

Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma

Since we were talking about interviewing trauma victims in last week’s class and since the Aurora shootings have been all over the news, I have been paying close attention to how reporters are interviewing victims of the shooting as well as the friends and family of those who died. I started looking for some online sources that could offer helpful interviewing tips, and I came across this site called the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. It’s a great resource. There are separate complete pages for interviewing victims of domestic violence, sexual violence, natural disaster, war and PTSD, as well as specific tips for interviewing children, veterans, and relatives of suicide and homicide victims. I took a look at the veterans page for my American Homecomings story, and its ideas for finding sources who are willing to talk was especially helpful. I found sources through Twitter (via @USParalympics) and through PR people for the Paralympics and Deptartment of Veterans Affairs.

A few valuable lessons I learned from the Dart Center website and my own experience interviewing for the American Homecomings project:
1. Allow more time than you think you need. I waited too long to start finding sources for my story, so that in the final days I was calling anyone and everyone I could think of because I was worried I wouldn’t have a big enough variety of voices. Thankfully, several people responded to me two days before my deadline, so I was able to actually speak with several veterans, coaches, trainers and therapists. Still, the experience would have been less stressful if I had started researching earlier. Especially for sensitive stories, I think people need some time to decide if they want to participate before they respond to the reporter. Two people responded to me after the story was published, so I will only be able to have them as sources if I do a follow-up. In addition to allowing time to find sources, I would recommend allowing more time than you think you need for interviews. Even if I didn’t have a lot of questions planned, most of my interviewees were really interested in telling their stories. I was late to my internship one day because an interview I thought would be 10 minutes was 40 — which was wonderful for my story, but also taught me a lesson about careful planning.

2. Leave questions about traumatic events open-ended. Professor Skewes talked about this a little bit last Tuesday, and this strategy definitely saved my story. I interviewed two Paralympians, and since I had done my research, I knew a little bit about their stories. I was very nervous to interview them because I felt like my specific questions wouldn’t be able to get at the heart of the story, so I ended up going with the traditional “tell me a little bit about your story and how you got involved with ____ ” (in my case, adaptive sports). Thankfully, my two veteran interviewees were very willing to talk and were willing to discuss their accidents and their emotions with me. I had specific questions planned just in case the conversation started to die, but I don’t think I even asked most of them. Just by asking the simple tell-me-your-story question, the other questions I had and the issues I had hoped to talk about were answered.

3. Learn the culture and language of the topic as much as possible. I found it was helpful to know some military terms before starting interviews. When interviewing a veteran (and later, when writing my story), I made sure to have the background knowledge of what branch of the military the veteran served in, what was his rank, where and when he served, and, in the case of the Paralympians, the circumstances of the injury. To break the ice and relate a little bit, I often told the veterans I was from a Navy family (my dad is a retired commander). Many of my interviewees told me about the difficulty of returning to civilian life, so letting them know that I was familiar with the military lifestyle — even though I had not served — made a difference.
If you plan to report on violence or interview trauma victims at any point, the Dart Center website is an excellent one to bookmark. I’m grateful to have come across it, and I will certainly use it in the future!

The Journatic problem

For those of you who haven’t heard of Journatic — or about the scandal that has enveloped the news service — NPR did a great story that explains what’s been going on (and thanks to Jackie for sending along the link!), and Poynter has done several pieces on it, including this one from a few days ago. If you want to see what else Poynter has done, there are some links to “related stories” at the bottom of the Poynter column.

The story raises issues about journalistic credibility, particularly in a new media environment.

The CJR story on freelancing

The Ben Adler article on freelancing that I mentioned in class, which is in the current issue of Columbia Journalism Review, is available online. It’s worth reading … and Adler has a lot of good insights into what it’s like to cobble together a freelance career.

Also, I promised to send along a few links to online sites with useful tips for freelancers. Here are the ones that I thought had the most to offer, though there are lots of other sites that you might want to take a look at.

Daily Writing Tips, “20 Tips for Freelance Writers,” by Mark Nichol

GalleyCat, “NYT Magazine Editor Shares Tips for Freelance Writers,” by Jason Boog

Make a Living Writing, “The 20 Best Practical Tips for Freelance Writers

Poewar, “The Beginner’s Guide To Freelance Writing,” by Jenna Glatzer

If you find others that you think are really helpful, please post them!


5 things I like about Reeldirector (and a couple I don’t)

Here’s the link to my original blog I posted on my own site http://wp.me/p1P7zj-14

I’ve been trying to edit video in ridiculous places lately being so busy; in the car, at the movie theater (TED isn’t worth watching anyway). My friend and I have even planned to take our laptops to the Rockies vs Pittsburgh tomorrow if it doesn’t rain (no doubt we’ll become the subject of someone else’s blog then, we probably deserve to be made fun of).

That’s why I decided to try Reeldirector – a video editing app made for the iPhone. Here’s a few things I really liked about this app, and some I didn’t.

The app cost $1.99 from the iTunes store and took literally seconds to download.

User friendliness
It’s really intuitive, as soon as I opened the app I knew exactly where to go to do what (the + button to add video, the “T” to add text). It probably helped to have some familiarity with Mac video editing programs like iMovie.

Not skimping on the extra features
The text editor for example. There were about 60 different fonts to chose from (which I think may be more than iMovie?) I also like the overall clean modern look of text placed on screen. You also get placement options. You get 30 different options to transition between clips which is also huge for such a small device (in iMovie you only get 24 so on the whole this seems like more of a professional product).

Lots of import options for material
You can import movies and photo still images from the phone only (I doubt you would need to import from another device, otherwise wise why would you be editing on the phone). You can also grab music from iPod or record your own soundtrack. No upload from another video though.

Two drawbacks
My only criticism of this app for professional editing purposes is that you seem to only be able to trim in silent mode, whereas it really helps to be able to scroll through sound while you’re cutting so you’re not chopping out important pieces of information and editing to what you want to convey, especially important for news pieces. In addition, ot would be nice to have a very immediate easy to use social sharing function to post to Facebook, Twitter etc.

The AP Stylebook app for mobile devices.

There are numerous apps out there that can benefit journalists. The list is quite expansive and ranges from apps that help with audio and video recording/editing/streaming (such as ReelDirector and UStream) to photography and photo editing (Photoshop Mobile) to blogging (WordPress Mobile). It was hard to focus on just one, which is why I posted the two lists that encompass all these helpful apps in my previous post. So, I decided to go a more traditional route and focus less on a cutting-edge technological app and more on something that supports the basic tenants of journalism. This app is the Digital AP Stylebook that is available for iPhones, iPads and iPod touches, BlackBerrys and Androids.

A rather simple app, yes, but as journalism students (and as journalists) we cant deny the importance of the AP Stylebook. In a world where journalists are increasingly mobile and reporting, writing, editing and producing work right on the scene, it may be inconvenient to lug around a hard copy of the AP Stylebook with you. In fact, I assume a lot of journalists leave the Stylebook on their desk when they go out in the field to report. With this app, you have all the information you need right on your mobile device, so creating stories in the field becomes much easier and your field writing will become much more reliable in terms of its adherence to AP style.

Also, I believe AP updates the app periodically as changes and revisions are made to the AP Stylebook, so unlike your hard copy book that remains static and can become outdated, the app will keep you at the forefront of AP style techniques.

The AP Stylebook app is straightforward. It isn’t a fancy journalistic app by any means. It does, however, help support the basic tenets of journalistic writing, so its importance is immense. A journalist who is producing work out in the field and/or on the go from mobile devices can benefit greatly from having this convenient app. You can quickly search for words and flip through the various categories – for some, this may make it a faster and easier alternative to the actual physical AP Stylebook. You can also add notes, create your own custom entries and bookmark more frequently visited listings.

I have not used the app myself, but after looking at the pictures it seems like the app’s interface is simple and would be quick and easy to navigate. In the Apple App Store, it costs $24.99. I personally have used the online version of the AP Stylebook for over a year now, and find it much more preferable to my hard copy  book. It just makes using the stylebook a faster process. If the app is anything like the online version, then it is a worthy product.

Great links for apps and mobile digitial tools for journalists.

This isn’t a post to focus on anything specific, but here are two links that contain compiled lists of “essential” apps and mobile digital tools for journalists. For the second link, the list of apps/tools is at the bottom of the page. There is a lot of good information here.






For anyone that uses more than one social media network (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) I think Hootesuite is a good option, especially for businesses. Hootsuite is a management tool that allows content, feeds, and profiles to be updated from one place. Instead of logging into Twitter to post your status and then logging into Facebook to update the status, all of them can be managed from one place (the Hootesuite dashboard). I don’t really have a need to Hootsuite myself, as I only use Facebook, but I recently set up Hootsuite for my job. I’m the marketing coordinator at Lakeshore Athletic Club (6,000+ memeber, 150,000 square foot health club and spa) and one thing we really struggle with is being able to reach all of our members for important communication items (schedules, closures, etc.) and marketing initiatives. We send out updates via our Twitter account, Facebook page, and Foursquare, but it can become a bit tedious to update each of them with the same message multiple times a day. Did I mention that there is a general club Twitter account plus one for our tennis program? There are also separate Facebook and Foursquare pages for the Spa. So really, it is unrealistic for anyone to spend the amount of time it would take to update each of these individually multiple times a day.

In comes Hootsuite. We opted for the most basic package (more cost for reporting and stats about click throughs, retweets, page views, etc.). We are able to input events and updates to be scheduled as far ahead of time as we’d like, by simply entering the message into one platform and letting Hootesuite take it from there. It has saved us a lot of work and a lot of time.

I’d be interested to hear feedback from someone that has used Hootsuite for their personal accounts rather than business. If you’re like me and only use one or two social media outlets, it seems unnecessary. But I can definitely see a blogger or journalist that has a large following being able to take advantage of some of the many features available with Hootsuite.

See it here: http://hootsuite.com/


The Telenav GPS Navigator App is great. As a bit of a navigation retard, I’m always looking for the easiest way to get and use directions. Now that I have an Andriod, I’m very happy to have stumbled upon this handy little app. It’s easy to install and use, the pictures are accurate, there are different views and colored paths to take and current traffic updates. It’s like google maps (which has never steered me wrong) in the palm of my hand. The only draw back I think is the map can take a little while to load all the way. But I primarily used the regular directions and didn’t get lost. Victorious am I!