Saturday, December 29, 2007


Howard Owens lays down a challenge of 11 objectives for non-wired journalists in 2008. He'll award a $100 Amazon gift certificate to anyone who meets the goals.
Other j-bloggers have joined the chorus, including Mindy McAdams and Amy Gahran.
The most important goal, in my view: Start using RSS.
As Mindy McAdams says, "I am continually shocked when I meet journalists who say they don’t read blogs. It’s inconceivable."
Indeed. But before RSS, I found keeping up with voluminous postings daunting. RSS is efficient, fast and easy. It's so important that I'd recommend RSS classes on company time for all newsroom staffers, particularly department heads and above.
This goal is not about anyone feeling stupid or out of touch. I know a technically savvy staffer with his own blogs who is just learning about RSS and pingbacks and all that stuff. He's learning now, because he knows that keeping up with what's online is crucial to his career.
The challenge from Owens launched many questions and online comments. How much company time should be spent learning and teaching this stuff? Is spending two hours a week on Youtube really worth it? (I'd say no). Should people who take their own time to learn this stuff somehow be compensated beyond those who only spend company time? Does everyone have to know all of this stuff, or can groups and organizations use the power of their size to specialize? Will the challenge launch a thousand blogs, adding to the noise level with no extra light?
Despite all the important questions, I repeat: Everyone in a news organization should know how to use RSS.
In addition, I'd add: editors and reporters should know how to follow a Twitter feed. They should know how to shoot a picture with a digital camera and upload it to a blog -- before a news event requires that they do so. Reporters should monitor Facebook and be able to judge story value beyond, "Well, there's a Facebook group about it."
Anyone who would like to experiment with posting to a blog and uploading a photo is welcome here at Innovate This. See Andria or Rich for how to get started.
And yes, those who learn this stuff should be rewarded. An Amazon gift certificate will in no way compensate for the time. But a continuing career will.

Who is reading the sports print section?

Free new research from focus groups of young readers in the Pittsburgh area is available from the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State. Click on "Newspaper Sports Sections Face Readership Challenges."
Not much interest in NASCAR there, but still some interesting findings:
"All participants said they look to the Web as their primary source of sports news and information, with nearly all listing it as a major media news and sports source. Group participants listed ease-of-use and access to computers as the main reason why they go to the Internet."
The research includes information about what women want from sports as well.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Drop-in for guests

Some J-bloggers have launched a blog carnival. Blog carnivals have been around for awhile, and they represent some interesting ideas. I can't help but think of Charlotte's crazy, out-of-control Carnevil, though, when I hear that word.
So here's another idea. Not sure whether it'll fly, but it's worth a shot. I'd love to host a holiday drop-in, with no end time, for anyone who'd like to share innovative, positive ideas here.
It could be a post about how you learned a new skill, since many of us are working on that now. Or I'd love to hear from a blogger who has built a strong community, and how she did it. I'd love to hear how it feels to reinvent yourself while reinventing journalism.
I'm happy to edit and do technical posting, and I bet Rich would be too. This place is public, so a second set of eyes is a good idea.
Some of our team members have other stuff going on now, so help is welcome.
Interested? Let me or Rich know. My neighbor-dog, who is waiting for a walk, appreciates it.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Ouch. Copy editor alum nails us.

Fred nails us about the stars and bars.
But I like his headline.
The telling detail: The story to which he refers likely did not go through our copy desk, even though it appeared on our website.
Update: Not true, says the copy editor who edited the story originally. It did go through our desk, and the copy editor stumbled across the "stars and bars" phrase but didn't check it with other sources, he wrote with chagrin in a note.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Dead deer, live puppies and the regionals

An ode of appreciation to all who work with regional publications.

I dipped into a little live production yesterday while hiding in the CCI war room. I resized some kid pictures and also resized a puppy who needed a home.
It was the the only "cute" moment of my day, soliciting an out-loud "awww" from my colleagues.
That's the secret of regional work, and we can become immune to too many puppies, reader-submitted Christmas cards and cute kids after awhile. Walk away for a bit and come back, and you realize the emotional appeal of those sections. Leslie said the human highlight of her day yesterday was judging reader-submitted Christmas card entries, for the main paper.
Steve Yelvington posted back in March about the importance of asking readers to share their pictures of their dead deer and big fish and how many papers are doing it wrong.
"The typical suburban operation is uninspired and under-resourced, staffed by editors who are just going through the motions and reporters who are either at the very beginning or the very end of their careers. The zones are far too large. To fill columns and get pages down to the plateroom, editors pick up stories from adjacent zones.
Boring. Lifeless. No people you know. No dead deer."

Well, not in Charlotte. We'll never have enough staffers, of course, but we are doing many things right.
We're lucky to have staffers who understand that community good will and strong ties are important if we want trust and sources when we need to ask hard questions and do hard stories. It's not just about advertising.
Yelvington quoted Mary Lou Montgomery, who edits the Morris-owned Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post, who changed the way her paper handled such news when she realized the paper was losing touch with readers. Before the change, she said about her paper:

We don’t do dead deer. (We do in Charlotte, but we try to avoid putting dead deer next to cute kids).
We don’t use Polaroid pictures. (No, but we do use digital family snapshots).
We don’t print long lists of names, such as those attending a reunion. (We do in Charlotte, but we often don't boldface the names).
We don’t use pictures without accompanying names. (Well, uh, sometimes we do).
We stopped inviting pictures of the first mushroom finds of the year. (We do odd vegetables, even in the main features section).
We stopped taking pictures of the pee-wee league ball players. (Right, but we run readers' team snapshots.)
We started downplaying the beauty pageants and baby contests. (We do the debutantes, and sometimes the young women are our colleagues' children).
We stopped printing happy birthday pictures of children as part of the news package. (Never have done them. Should we?)
We stopped paying correspondents to submit “chicken dinner” news. (Well, "pay" might not be the right word).
We stopped taking pictures of newly elected club officers. (We run reader snapshots).
We stopped describing wedding gowns. (You have us there).

So amid all the buzz about "new" citizen journalism and engaging readers, we can say we've been doing some things right. For a long time. As we slog through voluminous Scrapbook files, we should remember the work is about keeping community ties strong, so we can do the big stories with credibility and trust, with our community members understanding we care about their whole lives.
Sometimes innovation is about recognizing traditional work with continuing value in a fast-changing world. Thanks to all who slog in regionals.

Cute puppies courtesy of doxieone.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Word, if I may

OK, I'm not sure this technically counts as an innovation, but I liked it as a way to add interactivity of sorts to ye olde fiber media. At the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the copy desk chooses a word of the day and features that word on the bottom of 1A, its definition and a refer to the page where it appears.

And, the feature seems to have some high-placed fans. From the paper's Words to the Wise blog:

"A Word," a copy-desk-generated feature that runs on A1 of the newspaper and in installments on this blog, has a highly placed fan in Milwaukee. Mayor Tom Barrett recently ran into Journal Sentinel Editor Marty Kaiser and told him this story:
In the Barrett household, the first of his four children to find the newspaper's word of the day in the paper gets a dollar. A teenager pooh-poohed the idea, until a younger sibling piped up that he'd earned $19 in the last few weeks.

I'd think a logical next step could be a contest that asks readers to write the best sentence using all seven words from the previous week.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Conversations with readers

Here's another pointer to the Google Group discussion thread about Rethinking the Merc. Rich mentioned earlier; it's worth another shoutout as an example of newspaper employees engaging readers in a dialog, beyond a controlled Q&A.

Click on the most active discussion, comparing the Merc to the L.A. Times. Readers said they want more about the Venezuelan election, which played on Page 2 of The Observer. I bet our audience had similar thoughts.

Another example: The Meck Deck has thoughtful posts about gentrification in my neck of the woods, spinning off Victoria Cherry's story Thursday. I couldn't find her story quickly on our web site (admittedly, big news pushed down old stuff quickly), and I sure couldn't find thoughtful reader comments. The Meck Deck reaction to her story (with a link to the original story) had top billing at Outside.In for Charlotte.

The Meck Deck commenters look familiar, from the old threads at Mary Newsom's blog. Giving them space and reason to talk on our site adds to the value of our place. I hope they come back.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Humanity, generosity, change

Excerpts from a Rebecca Blood interview with Trine-Maria Kristensen, a Danish blogger and expert on social media. H/T to Deb Aikat's online UNC class:

"How do you think blogs can be used by businesses? Why is this important?

Humanization. "...Relationships are not build with brands but with people. We can forgive people — we can't forgive brands."

Generosity: "Generosity. Individuals inside the organization telling customers what they know. Not in order to get something back but to show that they are "large" in the good sense. (In Denmark "to be large" means that you share a lot, and are generous with your time, knowledge, fairness.)
This is important because the more knowledge you give away the more you get back. If knowledge is internal and hidden it is worthless. Mutual generosity is the glue in strong relationships."

Change. A company can use the feedback from a blog to actually change something. Or they can use the blog to talk openly about change, problems, dilemmas, difficulties or things that are just not good enough. This is important because in order to understand and embrace change we need information and to talk to someone we trust."

Trine-Maria's blog is here, but most of it's in Danish. If anyone finds an online translator for full web pages from Danish to English, please share.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Spreading the toys around

(aka If Google News can do it, why can't we?)
Kris Kringle: I keep track of the toy market pretty closely. Does that surprise you so? ... Macy's sending people to other stores? The only important thing is to make the children happy. Who sells the toy doesn't make any difference. Don't you feel that way? -- "Miracle on 34th Street"
Ro pointed me to a feature on El Nuevo Herald's Venezuela page. If you scroll down a bit, you'll see a NewsGator widget that features updating links to relevant content from other sites (such as the NY Times and Yahoo News).

Such a feature allows news sites to get Google (and Yahoo) at its own game. Plus, a quick tour of NewsGator's site shows a number of options for creating widgets that would, say, list top stories. If I'm a Charlotte blogger, or MySpace user or even a corporate site based in the area, you bet I'd consider adding some sort of customizable widget to my site.


Saturday, December 1, 2007

A New Deal for journalism

What would happen if John Steinbeck, Arthur Miller and Dorothea Lange were looking for work today?

Can you imagine Fortune magazine sending James Agee and Walker Evans to the South for eight weeks nowadays to report a story that never published in the magazine?

What would happen if we had a New Deal or Federal Writers Project for journalism now? What would happen if we had a program modeled after Teach For America for journalism?

If you have ideas, I'd love to hear them for a class project at Global Vue.

Photo courtesy of Dorothea Lange dot org.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Reporting within "walled gardens"

A reporter has entered the hallowed halls of College Confidential to seek out students willing to talk anonymously.

The reporter wants to talk to students about college application questions regarding school discipline and convictions. I don't know whether he's also seeking out people on Facebook groups.

Is this innovative cyber-reporting? Is this invasion of a walled garden where students feel as if they're safe posting anonymous (or pseudo-anonymous) comments? Is the reporter setting himself up for a fall seeking anonymous information at a place where sock puppets sometimes visit?

To the site's credit and the reporter's credit: The reporter apparently contacted a moderator, who posted this, in part:

"While we have verified that this is a legitimate LA Times request, we always suggest caution when divulging personal information."

Monday, November 26, 2007

Notes from the Intertubes

  • The latest in photo manipulation: content-aware resizing. And I thought Photoshop's rubber stamp tool was cool...

  • Over at VisEds, Robb Montgomery and David Dunkley Gyimah post a clip on what it takes to be an "interactive multimedia video journalist." Whatever you want to call it, it's a pretty cool clip (imagine a news segment produced by the director of "Se7en." Much different from anything you'd see each night on the TV news. But is something like this feasible in a world filled with deadlines?

  • Given that we're in the midst of a redesign, I'm surprised there hasn't been more discussion here (or even in my nook of the newsroom) about how the Merc is going about its redesign. I like the idea that they're trying to make things transparent, opening up the discussions, etc. I'm not sure I like the three-section idea they're going with. But desperate times do call for desperate measures. What do y'all think?

  • Finally, I'm not sure who to credit, but there's a pretty cool (and helpful) Google Maps mashup of Mecklenburg's missing people. Wonder if we could use these sorts of features as a springboard to a full-out crime map a la Raleigh or Chicago. Now, we need to get advertisers on board to sponsor these sorts of Web features. With all the investment we've made in video, why do we still not have ads accompanying the videos? I'd much rather watch those than have to deal with one of those accordion ads that floats down from the top of a page, or from that annoying guy who pops up at the bottom of the home page and starts talking to me.

Meet the editor

The editor over at is answering readers' questions this week -- er, rather, the editor of the Times' Web newsroom. Whatever. It'll be interesting to see what kind of things she goes into.
Fiona Spruill (right), a graduate of Duke University, joined in 1999 as an intern and has served as a business and international news producer; a night editor; an editor of the site's home page, most notably on Sept. 11, 2001; associate editor; and deputy editor in charge of the features sections. She became editor of the Web newsroom in July 2006.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Travel and learn vicariously

A challenge over the next few days: Walk away from boring football on that other screen and go read the personal journals of some traveling Charlotte Observer folks. These are personal sites not affiliated with The Observer. You'll get lots of inside baseball but also travel vicariously.

From Cambridge
Mary Newsom is in Cambridge, Massachusetts, writing about her Nieman time. She's getting to hang out with people like Tom Fiedler, former editor of the Miami Herald, and she's continuing to study urban design and transportation while walking to class. Her husband, Frank Barrows, former m.e. at The Observer, is studying sports statistics (surprise, surprise). And daughter Maggie is Live Journaling (surprise, surprise), and jealous that her mom gets to read "Pride and Prejudice" for class.

From Cuernavaca
Reporter Deborah Hirsch is writing and posting photos about her time as a Rotary International scholar.
Blow some stereotypes by reading about Yom Kippur in Mexico. She's using Wordpress and posting lots of photos (hint, hint, Mary). She's also occasionally sending dispatches to Observer blog Enterese Charlotte, like a report with photos on the recent floods.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Local calendars: Our neighbors want them

As the busy holiday and art seasons approach, and as the political year of 2008 nears, our neighbors are crying out for decent social calendar tools.
Someone, or several someones, will figure out the right tools, and then steal our ads or find another way to make money from it, if we're not there first.
I could include many links of what some papers are doing, but the reality seems to be no one has it right yet. Let's keep looking and sharing.
If we share information, we can evolve faster.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Style note: Sign of the times

"Let's follow most business usage and make writedown one word, without a hyphen. That's an exception to our style dictionary."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Headsup: The Curmudgeon

What a treat it is to wander into Fred Vultee's "Headsup: The Blog." He's a world-class curmudgeon, and his blog posts have heds (not heads) like these:

Horse gone. Lock barn.

Shut up, Grandma. You too, AP.

Want proof? Go to seminary

Keep opinion to self

Of fallacies and mushroom clouds

Fred worked at The Observer on the copy desk and national desk a bazillion years ago, and Roger Mikeal calls him one of the best copy editors he's ever known. He teaches at Wayne State now, and taught many young journalists while working on degrees at Missouri. Amy Fiscus and Adam Isaguirre were among his students.

And Fred still reads The Observer, with a well-intentioned curmudgeon's eye. He's worth reading, because he's skewering editing us from afar. For free. And nothing is holding his sarcasm back.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Sneak a peek into class

Amazing insight, links and research are coming out of a class at UNC on the global implications of new technology.
A diverse group of classmates is talking about Facebook, privacy, online defamation, Mexican politics, computers in schools, the funding of journalism, access for those with visual disabilities and all kinds of interesting stuff.
Free learning! Start anywhere and follow the class links.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A journalist hero is something to be

"I’m tired of talking about and worrying about the future of journalism. It’s time to help make the future. Directly. Hands on. Starting today."
--Matt Waite

Matt might not want the term "hero," but I couldn't resist the reference to a John Lennon song, updated by Green Day, with 2.5 million views on YouTube. (Update, Dec. 3: A link to the video originally appeared here, but then gave a "We're sorry, this video is no longer available" message. Apologies. If you like, let Youtube know that permalinks would be better than ones that expire).

"Role model" might work better. Matt's up for a Knight grant to build a way for tiny papers to deal with the Internet more easily. He's one of the people behind Politifact in St. Pete.

Visit and learn.

It's not just about advancing your career or keeping your job. It's about using all the available tools in order to make a difference.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Blogging from the beach

Myrtle Beach Sun-Times editor Trisha O'Connor is blogging.
In fact, she's been blogging since April.
I knew Trisha long ago, when she worked at The Observer and was a single mom with two teenage girls. Her ability to balance life and her dedication to journalism were inspiring. She loved to share the gossip in the hall outside the newsroom.
And she kept Mike Weinstein in check.
Check her blog out -- she has some posts with community response about anonymous postings, whether the community wants video and other questions for the new times.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Blogging from Ifra Newsplex

Randy Covington, the director of Ifra Newsplex at the University of South Carolina, is blogging at In a recent post, he examines the role of Facebook in coverage of the Ocean Isle Beach fire.

Newsplex also has a revamped Web site.

h/t Doug Fisher

Monday, October 29, 2007

Bike versus car (And you can too!)

Apologies to Mr. Colbert on the title.

Wonderful visual presentation of bike-car wrecks from The Oregonian.

We could do it in Charlotte and Raleigh, with information at sites like this one and this one and this one.

I spent about two minutes at the last one and made the (not so pretty) chart shown here. The hard part: The crash data site says, "For a detailed review of crashes in specific locations (e.g., corridors or certain intersections within a community), it will be necessary to obtain such information at the local level."

But it's possible.

Here's another example of mashing up publicly available information to make it useful for readers, from Marc Matteo with McClatchy in California.

Utopian ideas: Foundations could give rewards or grants to creators of such projects so they can take the time to write project "cookbooks" for other papers. Or foundations could fund time for local reporters and graphic artists to develop their own projects, without eviscerating slim newspaper staffs. The ideas are spinning off Ed Wasserman's critique of Propublica.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Reader submissions from activists

When should news organizations display reader-submitted photos from activists? When should we link to outside websites affiliated with specific causes? Can we institute some common policies that approach visuals, words and links the same way?
How can we find the time to research any conflicts of interest from readers making submissions and check their credentials? Should we?
And what can we learn from how such activist sites are using technology?

The Rainforest Action Network targeted Bank of America in Charlotte for an action Tuesday, with protesters climbing one of our city's ubiquitous cranes, dangling precariously after posting a large banner that made great visuals. The Charlotte Observer's online staff smartly solicited readers for photos and video of the very public event, likely increasing hits by making a slideshow to accompany a story.

The story did not link to the Rainforest Action Network's website, which explains in detail why it is targeting Bank of America. In the past, such a link would likely be seen as crossing over the boundaries of reporting and publicity.

However, on the visual end of things, we included a photo by Luke Smith of RAN in our slideshow of reader-submited photos. It was one of the better photos, silhouetting the banner and crane against a cloudy, pink-tinged sky. Very similar photos -- if not the same ones -- are posted on the RAN's Flickr group, shot by ranflickr. (One of them is on this post, under a Creative Commons license). It's unclear how much Photoshopping went on to enhance the sunrise, if any.

Other reader-submitted photos did not identify whether contributors had affiliation with the network.

So the questions remain: When is it right to link to an outside site that is seeking publicity? When is it right to include visuals submitted by readers with an agenda? How do we determine whether those readers even have an agenda when we have limited resources?

I don't know the answers; I do know that policy should be clear and apply in a logical way to words, links and visuals.

Many readers are submitting amazing fire photos from California. Our policies should be clear for such catastrophic events in the future as well. Can we make sure we avoid any unintended consequences, such as volunteer firefighters getting sidetracked by gathering photos and videos? How can we make sure submissions aren't Photoshopped beyond our internal policies? Should we care?

What else can we learn? I'm awestruck by activists' use of the Internet to distribute visual PDF documents to support their causes, map their plans and build their networks. I hope we've marked Nov. 16 and 17 on our newsroom calendars to be on alert to more publicity-seeking RAN events, since they're telling us about their plans on their website. I hope we talk about about policies on covering such events in advance.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Why does enterprise software stink?

Khoi Vinh, designer director for, asks an important question about why enterprise software is so hard to use. Newsroom production systems aren't his only target -- payroll and HR systems get their share of blame.

In part, he asks:
"What is it about the world of enterprise software that routinely produces such inelegant user experiences? Presumably, IT managers are enthusiasts of technology and the Internet as much as designers, if not more so. It’s understandable that they may fail to explicitly grasp the design principles that inform good interfaces, but surely that same exposure should make them aware that the software they’re buying and rolling out is not as easy to use, right?"

For the full article and comments from design heavyweights, go to

I know a fine once-upon-a-time designer who is now a big-time IT manager. Is it hard to remember principles of design when dealing with vendors and budgets? Or are there no simpler, secure choices? What can we do to make it better?

Real-world illustration:
Adrian Holovaty, database wizard, is using his Knight Foundation grant to launch cool new things with a team of two database people, one people person and one amazing "interaction" designer, Wilson Miner. Some folks talk about Holovaty's work without recognizing Miner's contributions. They shouldn't.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Idea lab launches

Media Shift, PBS and money from the Knight Foundation help launch a new idea incubator at MediaShift Idea Lab.

The site looks like it will be a great place for examining how to support and find quality, objective journalism online. Its focus is on the process and the questions -- other newly announced sites like ProPublica and The Center for Independent Media say they'll provide the journalism. Almost all of the new ventures have some form of foundation money, except for a new private effort, MinnPost, in Minneapolis.

It feels as if we're entering a new stage. Hold on tight.
(And yes, I'm cross-posting here and in a class blog. Extra credit in class never hurts.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Carolina wins SNDies

UNC's photojournalism program gets honored through the SNDies online multimedia journalism again.
Mindy McAdams has the headlines and links. UNC's dean of the j-school, Dr. Jean Folkerts, visited The Observer recently and expressed a wish that the great work from the program would have a wider audience. So go visit.

Technology leaders 90 percent male? Please...

On women and technology: Can we please get a grip? I don't know exactly how many women are in's list of Top 50 agenda setters for technology, but at first glance it looks like about four.
Any credibility the list had with me evaporated after seeing those numbers.
If someone thinks that 90 percent of the people setting the technology agenda are men, they are out of touch with a large part of the audience and customers.
Broaden the vision.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Deadline nears for money for innovation

Come on, y'all.
The deadline for the Knight News Challenge is Oct. 15.
Someone's asking for $800,000 to do what is already being done at Urban Planet with maps on proposed developments.
Someone else is asking for $90,000 to build RSS feeds for a network of youth activism bloggers.
Someone else -- the techie behind Politifact in St. Pete -- is asking for money to build a free-for-five-years content management system for small-town newspapers. That's my favorite idea so far.
They're giving away money for ideas. Disclaimer: I'm not in this fray. I have a kid to launch into college in 2008. If you know someone with a great idea and who is ready to gamble, urge them to take a leap of faith. We'll all benefit.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Tags bring traffic

Visits to a Wordpress class blog skyrocketed when I tagged a post "Google ads." I couldn't understand what was going on until classmate and co-worker Leslie Wilkinson helped me navigate through some of Wordpress' tagging search.
We're in an online class together through the University of North Carolina's journalism school, which offers a certificate in technology and communication.
Leslie wrote a post about the Wordpress features at her class blog. Pardon our self-absorption: we're learning, learning, learning.
A reciprocal link from a smart blog about cognitive psychology helped too.
The event shows the need to provide taxonomy and tags to the zillions of bytes of information we're pouring into the Internet bucket. People seek organization and structure in the world, and we benefit through increased traffic if we help people find our stuff.
As we go forward, I hope reporters and photographers -- the stuff generators -- realize the potential of giving their work some organization and tagging from the beginning, and we spread the work. Taxonomy isn't just for librarians and copy editors anymore.
More later as we continue to learn and play tag. We promise not to tag everything with the G-word.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Anonymous postings harmful?

Another fun tidbit from the APME meeting blog:
More than 60% of the editors surveyed said it would be harmful to good journalism to invite users to participate without using their real identities; only 43% of the readers surveyed said it would be harmful.

Is it a safety issue? Is it a credibility issue? Is it a civility issue? Panelists weigh in.

More praise for Fort Myers

The Fort Myers (Fla.) News-Press, which seems to be an incubator for new ideas at Gannett, won APME's first Innovator of the Year award for its "culture of innovation." This is the paper that has mobile journalists armed with laptops, audio recorders and wireless Web connections out patrolling neighborhoods for "hyperlocal" news. The paper also earned a lot of buzz (on this blog and elsewhere) for its crowdsourced story on sewer problems.

I like the idea of both these things -- allowing community members to get involved with investigating a story and unleashing reporters from their desks. But, man, it seems Fort Myers is getting a lot of traction from one story a year ago and a lot of ribbon-cutting stories. (Have you heard of other crowdsourcing success stories? Know of any people who admit to being devoted readers of hyperlocal news?)

Am I being too cynical?

(Oh, the other finalists for the APME award: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle. The AJC was nominated for its newsroom overhaul. The D&C got the nod for its RocDocs, which gives online users access to data, maps and investigative reports assembled by the newspaper.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Map this, the local edition

I thought it only appropriate to point out the use of Google Maps today on today's story about a fatal shooting in Dilworth.

Details TK.

Brick walls, brain drain and dreams

You know those days when you read the comic "Dilbert" and you could swear Scott Adams has a spy in your office?
Many journalists might have felt that way when reading Alan Mutter at "Reflections of a Newsosaur." He wrote about the brain drain that traditional newspapers face as young journalists get frustrated with the pace of change.
The comments tell the story: Several anonymous postings say, "Yeah, that's my shop."
Add some perspective and seek the positive: The post has 10 comments, two of which I recognize, one of which I respect. Many other journalists are out there, quietly working to be the change.
What the elders and managers need to remember: Brick walls can drive talent away. Many young people have never experienced the frustrating lack of success that can sometimes accompany work in a corporation.
Then the elders need to do what dying professor Randy Pausch did in his "Last Lecture." Give perspective and help others fulfill their dreams. The short WSJ version of the Pausch lecture is here; if you want the nine-minute version, search YouTube.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

What readers want

Jim McBee of SmartNews, formerly of Bluffton, used LinkedIn to ask contacts how they would improve their hometown paper. I believe he plans to share his research at SND Boston in just a few days.
Read about it and more at his new blog, Lamentations. And check out his links, including The Blogslot. The j-blog world is mighty crowded, but Jim has interesting perspectives, and is trying to change journalism in nearby Fayetteville, so he's worth watching.
I'm linking permanently under journalism links.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Putting newspapers on the map

From a story in the U.K.-based Press Gazette:
From the eating habits of herons to homicides in Los Angeles, newspapers are using Google Maps to accompany stories, to get readers involved in reporting those stories and to document events in real time online. ...

The Grantham Journal is using a map to track a rogue heron that has taken a fancy to the town’s pond life. Readers and journalists plot the heron’s whereabouts.

The LA Times has a map documenting every murder on its patch. It is possible to filter the map using various parameters from cause of death to age and race. The map links to photos and comments, and readers can subscribe to customised RSS feeds from the map. ...

There are flight-tracking maps, weather trackers and a blog, Google Maps Mania, dedicated to documenting useful and unusual ways in which the technology is used, including a map that traces the actual locations used in the famous car chase through the streets of San Francisco in the film Bullit. ...

So, how do you get a Google Map on to a newspaper website? Well, you can simply create it and link out to it, as the Grantham Journal does, or you can embed the map into your website by copying the code the map generates. ...

It is technical, but once you understand the basics, it is essentially a copy and paste job. It is possible to include local search within your map, create “mapplets” – which means you can embed externally hosted applications – or overlay information such as road traffic, directions or, as The Daily Telegraph, Grantham Journal and LA Times examples illustrate, anything of very specific interest to your readers.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Busy, busy international web

Tim Johnson, Beijing bureau chief for McClatchy, talks about how Chinese website design is vastly busier than U.S. website design. He describes the "hot and noisy" design with a Chinese word, renao.
Interesting comparison, but I think he hasn't been watching what's been happening to mainstream media sites in the United States. We're all getting hot and noisy. Here's hoping we preserve (improve? create?) usability and findability, as local aggregator has. Some are saying it's the new Facebook.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Why we should post to YouTube

This video posted Monday by The Gainesville (Fla.) Sun of a student getting Tasered by police during an appearance by John Kerry made it into YouTube’s "most viewed" list by Tuesday.

The video, shot by a freelancer, was also used by several national news shows on television. Since the paper posted the video to its site, it has attracted more than 20,000 hits, compared with the average 1,000 hits per video (about 3,500 on football game days). But the real coup came from YouTube, where the video drew more than 840,000 hits.

"One of our managers sent it to YouTube," Executive Editor Jim Osteen said. "The thought there is — if it is on YouTube, it brings traffic to your site because it says it is from The Gainesville Sun. There is a certain strategy there."

The video shows how newspapers can use new media and the YouTube buzz. Through these channels, the name and story of the newspaper was reproduced nationwide within hours.

h/t: E&P and Editors Weblog

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Adgets (C'mon, you knew they were coming...)

The trend du jour: Interactive -- read: user-generated -- ads, or (I kid you not) Adgets.

From Business 2.0:
A Canadian firm NewspaperDirect is offering the Adget, a new kind of ad that allows online readers to interact with a business - make an appointment, book a restaurant table, even order a product - without ever leaving the newspaper site. Want to arrange a test-drive at a local dealership while browsing the sports section? The Adget can do it.

Uncluttered sustainability

(That's not what the picture shows).

Tech President gets the big prize of $10,000 from the 2007 Knight-Batten Awards. Bluffton Today, former employer of Jim McBee, gets a notable mention.
You can gain hope and learn lots from looking around at the other winners and notable entries.

And you can learn lots by looking at previous sites noted for their innovation, like Baristanet. That "community journalism" site has joined the ranks of online sites assaulting readers, like The Washington Post and the Gaston Gazette, which both took money from Ford Motor Company for a drop-down ad with video this morning. The ad hindered usability by covering up search boxes. (Please, Ford web crawlers: come to this blog and get a clue).

Look around at the sad evidence of a failed effort at BackFence, or what passes for news at YourHub. Keep your fingers crossed that places like Loudon Extra will make money and encourage local reporting.

Seek hope in Dan Gillmor's ideas for sustainability.

Grants can buy some time, but that time needs to be spent pounding on sustainability. It goes beyond newspapers and community blogs to public TV stations as well.

Take a moment to toast and visit sites like Davidsonnet, Under the Water Tower and the fledgling Ballantyne Daily.

Then keep thinking about the uncluttered sustainability of real, complicated, expensive story-telling, like The Morning Call's multimedia narrative about one homeless man named Earl.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Mr. Feeny, where are you?

There are reasons some Gen Y people love the '90s TV show, "Boy Meets World," beyond nostalgia. Give this clip one minute and 21 seconds of your time, and you'll see why.

Friday, September 14, 2007

African-American citizen journalists: "We are taking this into our own hands"

I'd love to hear what Mel Watt thinks about these guys, or what these guys think about Mel Watt. I can't wait to find out who gets the "Lawn Jockey awards."

Found this through a Youtube "citizen journalist" A.Man.I, who was linked in JOMC 713 class at UNC, props to student Amanda Carol Toler.
A.Man.I's website is called My Urban Report and has links to sites like Acting White and Afro-Netizen.

The bottom line: Can a citizen be a journalist? I wouldn't bet against this guy, and it's great that this kind of work can happen when the "name" journalism schools and student papers have inadequate minority numbers among students.

This guy certainly has more street cred than the following Fox TV station. While I applaud the efforts to reach out to the community, I can't help but think that the audience will feel that corporate media just wants content for free. We can steal the technique, but make sure it's mission-driven with the idea that we need help to cover all communities well.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

If your mother says she loves you....

...check it out. If your correspondent speaks with a French accent and says he graduated from the Sorbonne, check it out.

Will Bunch connects the dots about Alexis Debat, who apparently has conducted "fake interviews" with folks like Nancy Pelosi, Alan Greenspan, Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates and Kofi Annan.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Online Journalism Awards

The Online News Association has posted the list of this year's finalists. Lots of nods for breaking-news coverage of the Va. Tech shootings. (For my money's worth, the best online coverage came from a site not listed -- the Collegiate Times.)

The list of finalists, though, is a good source of ideas. (Loved the Freep's media-rich look at Aretha Franklin's "Respect.")

Grumpy truth-seeking about preps and video

More than a week after the end of Independence High's historic winning football streak, I sought video to embed here or share on Facebook.

Apparently, WBTV has a channel on Youtube. People can subscribe. They can leave comments and even get real live answers to their comments from real live people. OMG.

They didn't use audio and video of the actual game, so emotion and excitement are a bit lacking. With this report, they missed what former Observer Sports Editor Gary Schwab calls "The Moment."

So did we. We're moving ahead with talking heads video on preps, but without the visual and audio to capture the moment, how many hits are we actually drawing? And then getting to return?

Amateurs for the opposing team captured the audio and video, and displayed it on Youtube below. Warning: it's one minute and 15 seconds of jubilant fans shouting. Certainly captures emotion, though I get a glitch with 14 seconds remaining to play in the video.

Note: I can't embed video from our new video setup at, but I can email or Digg a video. Allentown (a Tribune site) has the email capability as well, but no embedding. Were we hoping for embedding capability with new video software? Should we just spend time and (very little) money on setting up our own Youtube channel and linking back to ourselves like WBTV?

Adding to grumpiness: In looking around, I see video ads in Charlotte for Lending Tree and Bojangles. Comparing Kansas City: They have intrusive, tacky, looping ads for car dealers, including ... they in no way compare to the elegance of the online French Peugeot ad I saw recently. And I sure hope those companies are paying, and not just giving us "reader contributed" videos to see what they can get for free.
Who is this "channel" and technology for?

Adding to grumpiness II: In looking around in Charlotte, I cannot find a trace of our good videos and stuff related to the history of school integration, even though we had an update Sunday. Only way to find it is to search for the writer, Tommy Tomlinson, and get a link off his stories. You have to know it's there, and who wrote the story, to be able to find it.

Friday, September 7, 2007

And now, a word from our sister paper

Similar to (but not as cool as) the Salt Lake preps site that Rich pointed out is the Kansas City Star's Varsity Zone.

Just wanted to show that this type of thing is feasible on the McClatchy platform, autonomous as we may be. And perhaps most importantly, it calls for reader submissions right at the top, which is crucial for rounding out coverage of prep sports.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Widgets (I'm smelling a trend)

On the heels of our friends in Allentown, USA Today and The Washington Post are offering widgets to users.

USA Today's widgets can be added to a user's personal page, blog or social networking profile and display updates from the paper, while also generating ad revenue. Right now, the three they have all deal with travel -- updates on travel deals, airport and air travel news, and travel stories. But more are due soon, with news about pop culture, top headlines and celebrities.

The Post's widget lets users review media coverage and opinion writing on the presidential candidates and the major issues of the '08 campaign.

As The Editors Weblog notes, these easy-to-implement tools can be readily monetized (although USA Today's spokeswoman said no advertisers had signed up yet). Plus, they're good for building the brand.
"We're measuring how much traffic gets driven back to our site, but that's not the only metric," said Jim Brady, executive editor of "Having a cool widget on Facebook is a good thing for us, because it uses a small space to show off a feature that says you can get valuable info from"

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Historic "bloggers" and their training

I have many colleagues who feel that bloggers -- or Flickr freelance photographers -- are not "real" journalists with proper training. A question from a professor sent me on a quest to examine the training of journalists from history. Their stories make good fuel for discussion.

Information from Wikipedia, so remember to add a grain of salt. Can you think of others?

Ben Franklin: Candle maker's youngest son, 15th of 17. Attended primary school for two years, continued his education through voracious reading. Became apprentice to his brother, a printer, at age 12. Brother denied him the chance to write when he was 15, so Ben created a pseudonym disguised as a middle-aged widow and began writing letters to the editor. (Anonymous blogger). The letters were published and became the buzz in town. (He built an audience). When his brother discovered the ruse, Ben left his apprenticeship without permission and became a fugitive. (Not part of the establishment). He had to leave town and start all over in Philly. There, at age 21, he created a Meetup/philosophy group called Junto, which spawned many other similar groups in town. (Flickr and Meetup networking).
Surely would have had a blog.

Mark Twain: Started training as a printer's apprentice when he was 11. At 16, began work as a typesetter for his brother's paper (these guys back then would have to know how to spell). From age 18-22, worked as a typesetter in a variety of cities -- these jobs until the 1980s or so were often itinerant, traveling types of jobs. The people moved from town to town as they heard about better work and cheaper beer or mojitos. Traveled extensively. Had family money to do so.
Surely would have had a travel blog, with much opinion.

Ernest Hemingway: Six months at The Kansas City Star, after high school. Joined ambulance corps when he couldn't join military. Traveled.
Might have blogged, using microcontent, between fishing trips and mojitos.

Margaret Bourke-White: Plainfield High School in N.J. Father was a naturalist, engineer and inventor. Mom a homemaker. Studied herpetology at Columbia, where she developed an interest in photography. Married, divorced a year later. Attended several colleges -- Michigan, Purdue, Western Reserve (now Case Western?), Cornell, where she graduated and became an industrial photographer at Otis Steel. Two years later, became associate editor of Fortune, at age 25. One year later, became the first Western photographer allowed into the Soviet Union. Hired by Henry Luce as the first female photographer for "Life" magazine.
Probably would have had a "visual" blog or website, elegantly designed, if "Life" would let her.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The dangers of 'most e-mailed' lists

Over at, the list of stories that have been e-mailed the most is the "big kahuna, a significant driver of interest," Martin Nisenholtz, senior VP of digital operations, has said. (One site,, goes so far as to show readers the list of most e-mailed obituaries.) I love these sorts of features because, most times, I can find a really good read there without having to exert much effort actually looking. And, not coincidentally, the lists of "most e-mailed" and "most blogged" stories are usually the ones people are talking about later that day.

Such tools let editor- (or producer- ) driven sites to also allow readers some say in matters of news judgment, without turning the site over to them, as at such reader-ranked sites as

(And, in the news vs. hits category, I give you one of the most prominent stories at the moment on "Man (in California) charged with ransoming mother's cat.")

I've always found it interesting just how high plays national/international stories. Are people really coming to the site for this sort of information? Yes, the "Paris Hilton-esque" stories are usually among the most-read, but is that because people are clicking on them from Google or Yahoo? Is it because the "Today's Talk" section is among the most prominent on the page? (If you put the four top high school sports, or Panthers stories, or local biz stories in that spot, with a photo, would they get similarly high numbers of hits? Would that be better serving our readers than putting Paris and Lindsey up there?) Does making those sorts of stories -- stories that can be found on almost any news site -- so prominent make it harder to find our exclusive content?


I'm sure there's some sort of clever transition I should make here, but really, this whole post was just so I could share this story from the Onion about the terrible effects such "most read" lists can have:

"Your reputation is everything here at the Times, and if you want get known, you've got to deliver what readers want: differences between men and women, and photos of cats," national political reporter Adam Nagourney said. "I suppose I could be most e-mailed, too, if I sat in front of my computer all day making up cutesy names for government officials, like some redheaded Wednesday and Saturday columnists I know." ...

Executive editor Bill Keller said he believes that the Most E-Mailed list is causing "troubling" changes in the Times' editorial focus, as reporters increasingly neglect less attractive assignments.

"I've always encouraged our journalists to follow their instincts," Keller said. "But now I'm considering a more hands-on approach, especially since I've received no fewer than four 800-word pieces on 'man dates' in the past week alone."

Monday, September 3, 2007

We're all journalists now

"Journalism is an endeavor, not a job title; it is defined by activity, not by how one makes a living, or the quality of one's work. Although we are not all engaged in the practice of journalism, any one of us can be if we want to. In that respect, we're all journalists now."
--"We're All Journalists Now: The Transformation of the Press and Reshaping of the Law in the Internet Age," by Scott Gant, available to read online free at Google Books.

Dan Gillmor said the same thing in a Wired article with the same title three years ago. His book, "We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People," avoided the Us vs. Them arguments so prevalent these days.

The difference now: Gant's book sits on prominent shelves in major bookstores. Friends, neighbors, politicians, P.R. people and children of journalists understand that a major shift has occurred in the journalism force. We can all be spies on Stalkbook, otherwise known as Facebook, and we can all be journalists. It has to cause uncertainty among those who count on journalism for salaries, and for those who worry about who is being granted and denied access to news. See photographer Gary O'Brien's thoughts from the Minneapolis bridge story in an earlier posting by Leslie.

At the same time, as business and government make access more difficult for a dwindling number of professional journalists, it's heartening to know that others are accumulating skills. A firefighter with a camera might get a shot that the photographer from the paper is forbidden access to; employees of a contractor delivering soldiers' bodies from Iraq get shots heard around the world despite government rules. They lose their jobs, but tell the story.

The amateurs will make many missteps. We all have. But it makes me wish for a "master journalist" designation, much like many communities have master gardeners. In exchange for further training, the master gardeners volunteer by spreading their knowledge in the community. Each one, teach one.

About the photo: The photo is from Flickr, and is of Maurits Burgers, a vlogger with and also a beta tester for Joost. He has an interesting video of a Flickr meetup in the Hague, Amsterdam, in the top 10 videos at his site. It's called "1st haags bakkie," poorly translated as "first CB-set in the Hague."

Thursday, August 30, 2007

'We're no longer a daily newspaper'

"We're a 24-hour information center." So says the managing editor of the News-Press in Fort Myers, Fla., a Gannett paper that adopted the "Information Center" approach early on.

A lot of the things we have in the works here -- most notably the "universal desk" -- bear strong resemblance to what's going on in Gannett. (Insert ominous music here.)

The ME shared some of the lessons she learned during their transition:

  • Communicate often. Managers must tell employees that change is coming, even before managers know exactly what the changes will be.

  • Expect turmoil as newsroom resources are redeployed. Expect some resignations, and expect staff to express uncertainty of the results. Quality may suffer during the transition, but it will return.

  • Be flexible. Great ideas will come from unlikely sources. Capitalize on opportunities. And don't be afraid to make adjustments.

  • Train managers to manage the change and to manage staff in their new roles. Train staff on the new equipment, technology and processes they will be using. Ask what they need, and ease their fears that they will be left behind.

  • Encourage and reward innovative ideas, and celebrate successes. Host monthly progress parties that celebrate changes accomplished during the month.

Also of note in this Inland Press story, the paper's vice president of human resources offers some advice to help staffers transition from the old model to the 24-hour, Web-centric newsroom organization.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

More launches for preps sports

Chris Krewson (no relation) and the crew at The Allentown Morning Call are soft-launching "Varsity."
Here's a sample school page.
I get a big "Site Warning" when I go there from work, which in the past has been related to a Flickr embedded widget at other sites. Unsure how many banks/schools?/military users get the same thing because of internal network security controls.
The paper is part of the massive Tribune network. Chicago's also launching a similar site here. And Orlando is here with a "Site Warning" under a video heading for me at work.
No games in Allentown yet, but stay tuned. Check it Saturday, or early next week.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

LinkedIn vs. Facebook

Some comparison thoughts, inspired by questions from Charles Apple of the Virginian-Pilot, as journalists explore social networking tools.

I recall trying to explain LinkedIn to a well-educated, very busy college teacher and mom. She bought in to the idea after I said you don't have to do anything, just show up.

That's the beauty of LinkedIn; you don't have to DO anything; just come to the party. Friends will find you. Some really good long-term friends might take weeks to accept your LinkedIn request, but eventually, they buy in. Some of these folks might be your most interesting friends, who actually have lives and don't stare at a screen any more than they have to.

Facebook feels different. It has so many bells and whistles that you feel as if you have to DO something. Of course, you don't have to buy into the hype; you can just show up, hang out, and sooner or later its functionality might lure you in.

Facebook LOOKS different. People will judge you by the appearance of your friends. Recently I checked out the friends of a person promoting a conference.
White male. White male. White male. White male.
I get a good idea what the conference will be like.

Think about it. REALLY think about yourself, and who you're hanging out with. I suspect few of us non-white-male folks want to be tokens, but we do judge others by the diversity of their friends. And the visual power of Facebook amplifies that.

(Self-analysis disclaimer and plea: All my white male friends, please don't take this personally. And I admit that the social divide of the entire pool of people on Facebook might skew results. It skews mine. I claim extra credit, as a FB friend said, for having friends with pets as their personal photos. And maybe Simpson characters).

Over the years, I've enjoyed analyzing the faces we publish in our regional publications of the young All-Star Scholars in our public schools. In some regions, their diversity has exploded. Non-white, non-male young people are succeeding academically. Especially non-male (and don't get me off on a tangent about maintaining gender balance in colleges....).

A group of faces tells us viscerally, quickly, emotionally, what's going on in that group. Facebook has the power to help us ponder what that says about ourselves.

Ideas on Facebook and business from Scott Karp:

The problem of friends.

Facebook for business.

Friday, August 24, 2007

A little relief

Stress relief from Adrian Holovaty, a programmer formerly of The Washington Post and now balancing life with a Knight grant.
He has 600 subscribers to his YouTube acoustic guitar channel here.
He's still writing code sometimes, which you can read about here.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

New preps site lets readers get in the game

Talk about giving Web readers what they want... The Salt Lake Tribune has unveiled a bold new site that focuses on local high school sports. The site makes it easy for readers to find the most relevant content quickly, and it looks pretty darn cool. (Note the iTunes-style reflecting graphics.)

Readers can localize the site to their favorite sport, school or team. Eventually, it will feature reader-submitted photos and stories, in addition to staff content. I particularly liked the prominent "GameTracker" feature. (Something we could easily emulate...)More on the site here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Rating newspaper Web sites

On the heels of its recent report on how well U.S. newspapers are incorporating current thinking on usability and Web 2.0 features into their sites, The Bivings Report has ranked the top U.S. newspaper sites.

No real surprises in the top 3 — NY Times, Washington Post and USA Today — but I found some of the other choices interesting.

4. Houston Chronicle
Houston Chronicle
"We like the non-newspaperish feeling that this homepage exudes. It’s significantly different from any other newspaper site. offers its users interactive features such as comments and blogs, has a great RSS system made available right on the homepage, and looks good while doing it."

Knoxville (Tenn.) News Sentinel
Knoxville News Sentinel

"I’m not sure a newspaper website could look any better than this one. When we talk about de-cluttering sites and making them look “clean”, this is what we mean."

Some of the commonalities of the sites mentioned:

  • An easy-to-navigate site that isn't too cluttered.
  • Incorporation (and prominent display) of "Web 2.0" features that allow users to contribute content to the site — blogs, photos, comments, networking.
  • Database applications — voter's guides, crime maps, congressional vote databases, etc.
  • Strong presence of multimedia.
(Also, with the exception of the NYT and USA Today, each of the sites has a horizontal navbar at the top of each page rather than just one down the left side of the page.)

None of these elements are particularly eye-opening in and of themselves — they're all features we've been mentioning here for months, and most are features that non-newspaper sites have incorporated for years now — but they're good examples of the types of features sites are using to tell stories and invite reader participation in ways not possible with the printed product.

And they're ways to address some of the key challenges, listed in last month's Bivings Report study, facing newspaper Web sites:
  • Lengthening the amount of time users spend on newspaper Web sites.
  • Expanding the purpose behind newspaper Web site visits.
  • Converting page views and stickiness into revenue.
  • Improving advertiser incentives for purchasing online ads on newspaper Web sites.
(If these aren't already some of the explicit goals of, they should be.)

Which newspaper sites would you list among your top 10?

h/t to Charles Apple for the link.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Atlanta, OC and alt-papers

Couple points from my morning RSS reads:

1. Atlanta's launching a free, P.M. Broadsheet that will be home delivered to non-subscribers, Charles Apple of VisualEditors reports. "Evening Edge is designed to provide busy people with help in planning their evenings and weekends. It provides ideas and recipes for quick dinners, guidance on what to do with (or without) kids in the evening — including spending quality time with their plasma TVs — weekend car trips, parenting tips, shopping opportunities and more. It replaces the more narrowly focused Thursday Buyer’s Edge.

2. Romenesko and the OC Business section report that the Orange County Register will cease publication on its 70,000 circulation, youth-oriented tabloid, SqueezeOC, and turn the content into a web only product, beginning Aug. 31. The Freedom veep for specialty media said, “It is a young adult audience and, generally, the first place they go for information - for things to go and do – is to the Internet as opposed to a print product."

Friday, August 10, 2007

More Bridge Observations

I'm posting this one for Tommy Tomlinson:

"Hey y'all,
Howard Weaver actually has a good idea on his blog about how to do a project on crumbling infrastructure in our community, with the aid of readers who take photos of bad bridges and such. This would be a really cool experiment for us.
Back to leslie: Richmond did a similar idea right after the collapse, where you could go to their site and find bridges in your neighborhood. I don't remember it being searchable, but maybe I'm just not looking in the right spots.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

We should be thinking hard about the recent bridge collapse, and all the news coverage that came out of it from non-traditional sources, plus Will Sullivan's musings.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Flickr and the MN bridge, part ii

I sent a few of the photo editors the link to the bridge collapse slideshow on Flickr. Gary O'Brien, photo editor and tech guru, had an interesting take on the photos. While I was completely amazed by the quality of the photos that were posted by average joes, he pointed out that there may have been issues around media access. Gary wrote:
"Judging from their surroundings and the taglines, I'm guessing the majority of these weren't taken by citizen-journalists. I think this is mostly the work of a couple of firefighters, first responders or their friends - someone who has access to places the media isn't allowed.

This is increasingly a problem across the country - often, media photographers (as we know from past experience) are harrassed, while non-journalists are left alone or even allowed special access. A recent local example is the funerals of the two slain policemen - a fire department photographer had prime access, even to the point of creating a distraction to the mourners, while I was 300 yards away. We never saw those photos, nor did the public. ...

It makes me uncomfortable that we're now cut out of the equation in these situations and the best photos from the event are being made and edited by non-journalists who are public servants or their friends. They have a dog in the hunt - we won't see anything but what they choose.

I would like to see the work trained professionals could have done given this level of access. So would the rest of the world. "

Citizen Journalism and the MN Bridge

Good summary from on the citizen journalism that was going on around the collapse of the Minneapolis bridge.

  • Twitter was a very quick way for people to keep track of loved ones immediately after the collapse.
  • Citizen journalists were surprisingly competent, both with quality and volume of reports and with the quality of photos and video. That's not to say that there wasn't bad stuff. There was.
  • Photos are the best example of what the public can do. Check out Flickr (more on that in another post. A photo editor had some interesting perspective on those photos).
  • "The eyewitness blog posts, the on-the-scene photography, and even the handheld and cell phone videos complete with their jerky motion and blurry, overcompressed images, all contribute far better than the mainstream media, to giving you a more accurate sense of being there."

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Flickr and MN Bridge photos

I can't seem to look at enough photos of the bridge collapse in Minneapolis. When I looked at the Star Tribune site late Wednesday night, there weren't a whole lot of reader submitted photos or stories. Today's a different story. Not as many on the Strib or sites, but Flickr's seeing all kinds of reader submissions.

Check out the Flickr slideshow.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Tribune and synergy

Very long article from the December/January issue of AJR details what synergy and centralization meant at the Tribune. Some of the stuff they've been talking about, like standardized design of websites, seems to be hitting reality, and folks at Visual Editors are discussing it.

The AJR article also deals with calendar listings online, a la Event Tracker, and centralized and decentralized efforts.
Advice on the AJR article: scroll down to the first large W dropcap, and start reading there.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Defining design

Start with a look at Apple's product design evolution.
Then visit Core 77, and read about how to define the word "design."

The short version:

Good designers share these intangible skills, useful for cross-functional teams:
1. Interpretation: Many designers are multi-lingual in different fields, they are fluent in consumer trends, marketing, manufacturing, and technology.
2. Tangibility: Many firms are plagued by 'smart talkers' who sound good in meetings, but get bogged down in abstract complexities. Designers are good at 'making it real.'
3. Synthesis: Not only do designers specialize in being generalists, they tend to be good at making new connections, pulling together threads from different fields and integrating them into a new whole.
4. Resolution: Good designers are smart at turning knowledge into action—they solve problems, resolve tensions, draw tangible and practical conclusions, and hit deadlines. Designers (and copy editors, I might add) live by real world limits.

Advice, for designers and all:
1. Adopt an agile perspective
2. Spot gaps
3. Make new connections
4. Teach yourself
5. Expand the industry.

"There is no one future waiting to happen," Gary Hamel said, "the future is something you create, not something that happens to you."

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Political links added

Tech President and Open Congress are pretty interesting, in a geeky sort of way.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Backfence, from the horse's mouth, and LoudounExtra, from a resident

Mark Potts, the founder of Backfence, gives lessons for the next generation of hyperlocal websites.

As a counterpoint, it's worth visiting Loudoun Extra and reading Scott Karp's take on it. He lives there, and is one of the many online pundits these days telling us how to do our jobs. But he lives there, so his perspective is intriguing.

If you're like me, you might be a bit tired of "experts" focusing on the kind of work we do every day. (Have blog, will opine). Cutting through the noise to get to the knowledge isn't easy. I hope these links help.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Harry Potter and the Driver of Traffic

So "The Naked City's" transformation into the Potterblog has been highly successful, and I'm loving the content.
Reminds me of one cynical definition of a leader: Find out where the crowd is going, get in front of it, and say, "Follow me!"
In this case, I love where the crowd is going.
But as we focus on driving traffic, the old journalism ethics still apply: Just getting out in front of the crowd and giving them what they want can skew our coverage. One comment at the potterblog reflects this, but with bitterness.
"Congrats, Mary. You've gone from an active blog with 90+ posts discussing important issues that affect those who live and love Charlotte to one of hundreds of blogs that blather on about a book.
Is this part of the 'dumbing down' that the Observer (and most of McClatchy media) is doing? You know, more articles on paris Hilton and big pictures of kids and puppies that readers send in rather than good reporting on stories that affect people?
The results on your blog speak volumes for McClatchy/Observer's approach. You used to get 50+ posts and now you get 10...maybe."

Group psychology: It's intriguing that the potterblog draws more traffic, fewer comments. Some of the posters who regularly argued back and forth at the blog are upset that the conversation has gone elsewhere, but indications in the past were that many lurkers at the blog declined to enter the posting fray. What are the group dynamics of this? Is it a male/female thing sometimes? An age thing? How does a blogger engage the quiet readers and get them to post? Should a blogger even worry about that, as long as the traffic is coming?