Archive | February, 2012

Hyperlinks: another tool for your journalistic tool box

28 Feb

With online journalism comes unexplored areas of journalism. One of these areas is the world of hyperlinking. Including hyperlinks in on line articles has many advantages, like bringing readers more information, but it also has many disadvantages. When using hyperlinks, journalists have to be very careful how they use them.

Including links provide readers with more background information on the topic at hand. This is particularly useful when updating an old article with new information. Instead of trying to recap everything that has happened in the situation so far, you can just link readers back to past stories. Link also provide more depth in an article. Instead of having to be written in a linear fashion, articles online can be written in a web form. Just because a story is short, doesn’t mean it’s shallow. Hyperlinks help to keep stories short and simple while also supplying sufficient background information. Hyperlinks can also help solve the short attention span problem journalists run into with online journalism. Instead of just staring at a giant block of text, journalism now becomes more interactive and entertaining. It has the potential to hold the reader’s attention span for a longer period of time.

Another positive attribute of including links in online stories is that it allows journalists to show the readers both sides of a controversial topic. It’s important to keep your story bias free as a journalist so sometimes it becomes difficult to properly shine light on both sides of certain issuers. Links to other article or sites can help solve this problem without having to make your article confusing and lengthy.

On the other hand, journalists have to be very careful when using links. They can make a story confusing and readers often don’t click on every link in your article. Or if readers do click on every link, it’s likely they will be led off on a tangent through the Internet and forget to come back to where they started, your article, to finish reading.

Most importantly, journalists need to be extremely careful they know what they’re linking to. Hyperlinks should not be thrown haphazardly through an article, but instead carefully read and thought through.It looks sloppy and doesn’t add to the reader’s experience. Some articles may not be what they sound like and may confuse readers more. Some news organizations use a computer to automatically form links whenever an address is typed in. This is very dangerous, as the Miami Herald learned the hard way. Overall, when using links, remember to check them thoroughly and keep your article clean.

As journalists, we need to get over the idea that by linking to other organizations, we’re going to send our readers to competitors. We should be too proud to use each other for help. We all are working together to bring the readers accurate and full news. Linking to each other helps us do our job fully. Even though some organizations don’t encourage hyperlinks– in fact some discourage it –we should embrace the tool to enhance our articles.

Team Dossier

Sara Solano

For Sara, there was a lot of links on a big variety of topics about her. She has a website, a twitter and videos on youtube. I had to rake through all of these to find the pieces that are really interesting and relevant. I also specified Gainesville to narrow down my search.

http://plaza.ufl.edu/sara.solano/index.html

http://www.facebook.com/sara.solano

https://twitter.com/#!/saraisswell

https://plus.google.com/117694487903395952349/posts

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/sara-solano/19/379/661

Marissa Prieto

For Marissa, I didn’t even specify Gainesville and I found a lot less on her. She doesn’t have as much of an online presence as Sara. Or she doesn’t have such an accessible online presence. I did find that Marissa also had a blog that I could find by just searching her name. When I looked into this blog, I found this was actually her blog for JOU4202.

http://www.facebook.com/people/Marissa-Prieto/772802188

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/marissa-prieto/40/575/11

http://marissaprieto.wordpress.com/

“Suicidal Blonde” and other extra details

28 Feb

Chicago Murder Trial Begins for Former Model

When editing this story about a “suicidal blonde,” I noticed a lot of problems with it. Right off the bat, I saw that the headline was “Chicago Murder Trial Begins for Suicidal Blond.” I had a couple problems with this headline. First of all, blond should be blonde since she’s a woman. But even more importantly, I don’t think “suicidal blonde” is an appropriate headline for this piece. The fact that she is suicidal is relevant to the article but I don’t think the fact that she is blonde is a relevant part of the story.

It’s important not to focus on  extraneous details when there are other important facts that need to be put in the headline. In this instance, the fact that she’s a former model seems to be more important than the color of her hair.

The journalist also waited to mention the model’s identity until the end of the article. I moved it up to the beginning and tightened up the lead. Other than that, I just cleaned up the writing and grammar. Some of the sentences were choppy and confusing. I cleaned up the copy as well as I could without losing the details or the flow of the story.

Vampires, zombies and creatures of the night

24 Feb

Professor uses science to disprove existence of vampires, zombies

The Internet supplies journalists with organizational opportunities

21 Feb

With the introduction of the Internet, journalists have been handed a nearly unlimited supply of new tools. Another one of these tools is something called a topic page. Topic pages help news organizations organize their articles and topics. Their goal is to provide both a broad overview and a detailed analysis of any topic the searcher wants to learn more about. At its core, a topic page is basically a wikipedia page for news. Many large papers, including the New York Times are already employing these tools.

The benefits topic pages provide journalists are countless. A big advantage is search engine optimization. Being included in a topic page allows an article to move up higher on Google’s search. As a result, more traffic is directed to a particular article or newspaper. This includes small newspapers as well. That helps them to be on the same level as the New York Times or the Washington Post, at least on some levels. On the other side of the token, topic pages allow the searcher to access more information. Now with a simple search, readers have more context right at their finger tips.

In addition to these, the news becomes more reader friendly. Most topic pages list each article with a small summary next to them. It allows readers to cover more news by only getting bite-sized pieces of articles they don’t care about. These topic pages also allow stories to be linked to for a lot longer than before. Any future searches can be directed back to current articles long after the newspapers are thrown away.

Topic papers are an important part of newspapers transitioning into a digital future. Studies show that more than half of the traffic on a website is due to Google searches. That alone shows how important SEO and moving up on Google searches are. They also allow more traffic to archives. The Internet gives journalists virtually unlimited space to use for archives. Topic pages have the potential to resurrect old articles in the archives.

Another similar idea is that of Evergreen pages, suggested by Robert Niles. Evergreen pages are similar but are focused on a particular area of the theme. Niles suggests instead of reporting on sports, you should instead write specifically about something like officiating in the World Cup. Another example of Evergreen pages are investigating the BCS system instead of just reporting on college football. You could also consider writing about the world after Sept. 11 or the characters in the city as opposed to the normal articles about New York.

Another tool journalists should take advantage of is a site called Delicious. I made a stack and tracked the tag “sports.” As a journalist, I could use this tracked tag on delicious to gauge the interest in a topic and then look further to get a more detailed analysis about what my readers are interested in. I could also potentially use this to publicize my blog or paper by listing it with particular tracked tags.

The importance of headlines

21 Feb

Headlines can make or break an article. They can draw in the reader. They can keep people with little time in the know with the news. They can supply late night talk show hosts with material.

As journalists, we all know that the most important part of our job is to bring the reader accurate news. It’s not our job to form their opinions for them or to mislead them. This is why we have to be especially careful when writing headlines. A lot of things can be taken out of context or misinterpreted.

This happened to the players of the Atlanta Falcons when one of their teammates made some comments about Drew Brees. An “unnamed teammate” criticized Brees and his coach, Sean Payton, for running up the score in a game against them just so Brees could break a record. In this situation, it’s not fair to write the headline “Falcons ‘won’t forget’ Brees airing it out late to break record.” Especially since this was the comment of just one of the players on the team. The article even mentions other Falcons players congratulated Brees and Payton. I don’t think the journalist should have written this headline knowing his article didn’t back it up.

At the same time, we must be sure not take what people say out of context or twist the headline to make it more interesting. Sometimes to desire for an interesting story can overtake our basic journalistic instincts and duties. Fox News is guilty of doing this in regards to Obama. The headline of this article, Obama has big problem with white women, is clearly misleading, almost to the point where I wonder if it was designed to be this way.

A simple Google search will bring up plenty of headlines that have been misinterpreted. Some change the meaning of the article completely while others are twisted to simply trick the reader into reading more. Among them all, there are sites dedicated to compile sloppily written headlines that have funny double meanings. All of these things prove the importance of being very careful with our words as journalists, especially in the most noticeable part of the newspaper: the headline.

A changing world creates opportunity for journalists

15 Feb

It is becoming more and more apparent that times are changing for journalists. New technology and new generations are changing the media. Subtle changes have already taken place. Before we know it, the media world is going to be completely different, from how we find stories to where we get sources. New journalists entering the news world need to be ready to adapt to these changes and learn how to stand out in a new world of journalism. There are a couple of ways to accomplish this.

First of all, we live in an age where journalists really need to be coming up with their own story ideas. While it’s true that editors do still hand out assignments, coming up with their own ideas allow journalists to stand out among their peers. Any journalist who takes the initiative to pitch their own ideas to their editors is sure to impress. Also, journalists who just accept the stories their editors assign usually complain that they get stuck with the boring or mundane stories. If a journalist is really passionate about a topic or story idea, chances are other people are too. The journalist should go ahead and pitch the idea to his or her editor.

There are plenty of places to look for story ideas to get ahead. Everywhere you look in everyday life has the potential to contain a story. There are lists of places you go every day where you can find hundreds of story ideas. Just keep your eyes peeled and your journalist cap on as you go through normal activities. Story ideas are hiding in the grocery store, at the bank and even in school or church newsletters.

Another option for story ideas is to find a national story and localize it. This is easy to do once you get the hang of it. There are even resources online to help you understand the process. Journalists can always consult a list of study-based stories for more ideas of how to localize.

In addition to coming up with their own story ideas to share with their bosses, journalists should utilize new tools the Internet offers. A lot of journalists hear this and immediately think of social networking sites or archives from other newspapers and organizations. But there is so much more out there.

There are a variety of classes open to journalists to help them improve their writing or reporting skills. Many of these classes are online and a lot of them are offered for free. One major site journalists can go to for this is the Poynter Institute. They offer training classes, tips and tricks from other journalists.

Finding sources online is another way for journalists to use the Internet to their advantage. The Internet is an excellent place for crowd sourcing, since millions of people all over the world can be reached instantly. Sites like Help a Reporter Out enable journalists to quickly and easily find just the sources they were looking for. A lot of sources can be found on Twitter, but it can be a nightmare to sort through Twitter on your own. Twitter database sites like Listorious help with that. By searching for a keyword here, any Twitter users related to that topic will pop up.

Finally, journalists can use other sites to help them with story ideas. Places like Reddit can be excellent resources for both story ideas and finding sources. Journalists can use the stories on Reddit, apply them to their community and write similar pieces catered to their audience instead.

If journalists keep their eyes open and remember to be a journalist 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, they will find that news is all around them.

Examples of Story Ideas

Valentine’s Day trend story

For this story, I would look and see if poor economy and the fact that the holiday is on a Tuesday have affected it at all.  As far as sources, I would talk to local people to see what their plans are for the holiday are. I also would talk to florists and restaurants see how business has been around Valentine’s Day. The article would be a fun piece so it probably wouldn’t be too long. Photos could include local florists, since flowers would make for a nice, colorful picture. If it were to go online, I could also include links to the sites of local places I’m talking about. I could also include ideas for saving on Valentine’s Day but still making it special.

USF Budget cuts affecting UF?

Currently, the state Senate has a proposal that would slash USF’s budget in half. I could take this article and localize it to Gainesville and UF. I could see if the proposal would affect UF at all and how it might in the future. For sources in this story, I would try and talk to people on both sides of the issue. I would hope to talk to someone in the Senate or related somehow and then I would talk to people at USF. Finally, I would talk to both students and faculty at UF and see how they feel about it. As far as photos, I would probably have to use some sort of pictures of Criser or other recognizable buildings on campus. If it were to go online, I would link it to the article about USF and include more information about their situation for people who are interested.

Google, Internet provide new tools for journalists

15 Feb

Some people complain that technology is bad for society. They say the Internet is going to cause us to lose our social skills over time. They say technology will be the downfall of the human race. But I think technology, especially the Internet, provides useful tools we should take advantage of to improve our lives. Especially as journalists, the Internet provides us with countless tools to help us do our jobs better. We can get information faster, spread information faster and access a larger group of people in one place. If we use these tools to our advantage, we can distinguish ourselves as individual journalists.

Google Alerts is an excellent example of journalists taking advantage of new technologies. In fact, many journalists use Google Alerts. But in the case of an article about Jim Morrison, one journalist thought outside the box when he set up his Google Alerts. Bloggers were writing to Florida’s governor, Charlie Christ, asking him to pardon Jim Morrison for an indecent exposure conviction from 1969. While most reporters had a Google Alert set up for Christ, they had it set to news only. Gary Fineout had his set to Web. His Google Alerts alerted him of the situation and he was able to move in quickly and get the story before anyone else. And in the end, it made for a really interesting story.

There are other similar tools out there available for journalists to use. Many blogging sites, like Tumblr, have tracked tags. These comb the sites for you and find any posts containing your key words, or tracked tags. Social networking sites are hotbeds of information. You still have to be careful you’re not picking up rumors, but these sites are great sources of information and people. Though most journalists are on Twitter and  Google+, there are plenty of other untapped resources like Instagram and Stumbleupon.

It’s important to think outside the box when you’re looking for news on the Internet. A lot of journalists have started utilizing the Internet in their work, so you need to make sure you are doing something unique. If you just have a Google Alert set up for Mitt Romney, you’ll get the news about Mitt Romney. But you won’t get it first and you’re going to get the exact same things every other journalist is getting.

So look for new social networking sites. Occasionally comb Google News for new topics. Look for new things that other journalists haven’t discovered yet and you’ll stand out as a resourceful journalist.