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."