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Archive for April 2012

Social Media Report: O’Dome Overload

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When I first started O’Dome Overload, I tried to promote the blog to other sportswriters at the Alligator to see if anyone wanted to contribute to the site or had any pointers. A major facet to the success of other sports blogs I’ve run across this year is that they have a diversified voice in the content that’s produced, so readers don’t get tired of viewing the same opinion over again. While I couldn’t recruit any other writers to latch on before the end of the semester, I think just vocalizing that I was starting a blog to other people on the beat helped garner more views.

My main goal with O’Dome Overload was to promote the Alligator’s sports section as much as possible and try to drive hits from my blog to the paper’s site. Hopefully, most of the views I’ve gotten within the last couple months have lured people into also checking out Alligator.org.

The social media promotion I tried was mostly on Facebook. A former Alligator writer who also runs a WordPress blog on Gators sports publicizes his new posts mostly that way as well, which allows for instant feedback from friends in the Facebook comments section. Although Twitter would be a good tool to use as well to promote my blog, I’m still a somewhat infrequent visitor to the site and usually narrow my presence to posting breaking news.

 

 

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Written by jboothe

April 19, 2012 at 5:10 pm

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Word Games

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Case Study 10

When comparing the president’s last three State of the Union addresses the first things that stick out of course on the Wordles are the common key words: America, Americans and jobs.

With the financial mess the president inherited, I don’t think there’s any surprise that calming unemployment worries has been a major facet of each of his speeches. Looking through some of the other larger words like “businesses” in the 2009 address and “energy” in 2012 can give a hint at what his domestic policy was focusing on during that time.

The one thing I was surprised about was the lack of foreign policy keywords. In three speeches I found only one “Afghan” and no mentions of “Iraq,” “war,” “conflict,” “troops,” etc.

Wordle can be a useful visual element when trying to breakdown lengthy bodies of script to their essence. Frequently when writers do stories on speeches they throw out number counts like, “The president said ‘economy’ 40 times.” While that phrasing might be effective, I think Wordle can add another visual layer to a story by showing rather than telling a reader.

President Obama’s Speech Wordles

2012 State of the Union

2011 State of the Union

2010 State of the Union

Written by jboothe

April 18, 2012 at 7:52 pm

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Getting lost in the news

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Every student these days knows how studying or classes can be put off for seemingly hours by the draw and lure of social networking and blogs.

In essence, sites like Facebook, Twitter and Wikipedia offer unimpeded looks at information a person would only get in bits and pieces during a normal day.

Facebook, in my opinion, feels like people watching in the mall or school on steroids. Perusing Twitter is like getting an all-access pass to thousands of text messages from anyone in the world. And Wikipedia provides a foundation starting point for just any question I have about the past or today’s world.

Each of these sites provides links that can make the information gathering process seemingly endless.

A person can very get lost – as journalist Jonathan Stray points out – in consuming and enjoying their desired reading.

Unfortunately, I can’t recall a moment in the last several years where I’ve stayed on the New York Times’ website, CNN.com or even Alligator.org for hours on end at one sitting.

One reason for this – again first mentioned by Stray – is that traditional news sites do not allow the user to tailor his or her own information. They still feel restrictive and forceful unlike social media where I can friend or follow the informative outlets that I want to hear from.

Today’s upcoming journalists aren’t focused on one way to deliver news and neither should the sites they work for.

One way to get around this might be something along the lines of what StumbleUpon does. As a semi-random search engine, StumbleUpon first asks users what their interests are, and then only brings up sites that fit accordingly to those interests.

If a news site could ask the same questions about what an individual reader was looking for on the site and have that information prepared on the home site, then it could encourage further reading.

While it would be difficult for most newspaper sites to provide an all-inclusive foundation of local information like Wikipedia, it’s not challenging to put together topic pages on issues affecting the community and stories that perhaps go viral.

Written by jboothe

April 18, 2012 at 7:45 pm

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Publications burning themselves by firing reporters for Twitter slip-ups

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It’s a shame to think that journalists are losing their jobs over their interactions on social media sites.

A couple weeks ago I sat down for an interview with a prospective writer at the Alligator and she told me the reason she was having to move to another job was because she was just fired for something she tweeted.

When pressed, the woman finally admitted she had placed quite a few profanity-laced personal tweets alongside her some of her work posts about UF sports. She was let go by her editor as soon as he saw the tweets because they were  supposedly unprofessional and in poor taste.

While I’ve heard about other reporters also being burned recently for not being savvy and intelligent users of social media, this case felt especially disappointing because the woman said she would never go on Twitter again and had permanently closed her account.

As Sree Sreenivasan, dean of student affairs at Columbia Journalism School, points out, social media “should fit into your work flow and your life flow.” Others have correctly pointed out that any breaking story that’s properly reported will probably originate on a social media site like Twitter.

The publications currently propagating a strict social media policy which cracks down on personal posting are extremely short-sighted. In essence, readers are flocking to Twitter and Facebook to find a more personal touch in their own news gathering. If they don’t agree with something in a story or want to raise another point, they have the ability to contribute by simply pressing the reply button.

Firing journalists for mistakes stemming from social media is hard for me to rationalize in most cases I read about. It seems that almost everyone using the sites are still trying to experiment with their uses anyway, so I would assume slip-ups and dumb choices are going to be made.

Any outlet that doesn’t realize this will have a lot of catching up to do over the next several years as their competition trends to an increasingly open and interactive newsroom.

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Digital / Social Media Tools: 

While I haven’t used Google Trends in probably the last six months to help with a story, I always enjoy plugging in a couple names to see what people are talking about more right now. Trends can be a great tool to gauge when readers are historically most interested in certain types of cyclical storylines as well. Google Correlate, however, is somewhat new to me but it appears to be a little more of a in-depth tool than Trends. For instance, if I was doing a story on a potential flu breakout in my town, I could go to Google Correlate to see when and where other people were searching for flu treatments.

For my Google Trends search I went with “Bobby Petrino” just to see how the coach’s firing last night spiked the overall searches of his name.

In Google Correlate, I searched NCAA expecting to get spikes at different periods of college sports scandals like the Reggie Bush USC case, Nevin Shapiro at Miami and most recently Bobby Petrino at Arkansas. Instead, the graph looked extremely repetitive each year around March signifying a huge jump in searches for the NCAA Tournament.

Written by jboothe

April 11, 2012 at 12:00 pm

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Media Ride-Along Report: Boise Guardian

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David R. Frazier, founder and sole proprietor of the Boise Guardian, is a man on a mission. The 66-year-old award-winning photographer and blogger founded the Guardian in 2005, out of what he called “necessity and frustration.” His objective is to give the residents of Boise a voice, while keeping the city honest. Although Frazier may be considered a thorn in the side of the city council, he has been successful in the courts and is raising political awareness in the community. Frazier has thus far sent half a dozen people to jail, had a court case named after him following a successful lawsuit and won a $3,000 award from the Sam Adams Alliance. His extensive knowledge of the federal constitution has enabled him to hold the city accountable to its laws and stipulations. For example, when the city announced it was going to build a $20 million police station with taxpayers’ dollars, Frazier pointed out that Idaho law first requires a vote of the people, unless the structure or measure is ordinary or necessary. Appearing as his own attorney, he fought the city and won. This victory earned him a fiery reputation and added credit to his name.On its website, the Guardian claims no affiliation with any religious group or political party. “If you value the rule of law, free speech, truth, honesty, and a voice in your government, the Guardian is your friend,” it reads. Frazier has no agenda, other than to raise awareness in his community. He is the only writer for the website and receives news tips from people at least once a day. Anonymity is OK with Frazier, but he checks every tip thoroughly before reporting on it. The same principle is applied to the comment section on his website, where false accusations or inaccurate information is deleted. Only constructive narratives that add substance to the story are permitted to remain.

The Guardian is currently run through donations only. Although the site has no ad revenue as of now, Frazier doesn’t rule out the possibility. “There’s always that potential of gaining advertising. We get between 1,500 and 2,500 hits per day that are unique visits, and the vast majority of those are educated people in the demographic,” he said.

Journalism runs in Frazier’s blood. “I’m an old newspaper guy. Third generation and my grandfather and father were both newspaper people and editors.” He has freelanced for the New York Times and Time magazine, among others, and he also worked for the local Boise newspaper from 1968-1973. Now, though, his “hobby” is The Guardian, written to fill the void of the local “legacy” media. “With the cutbacks in newsrooms, nobody covers anything anymore unless it’s handed to them on a platter,” Frazier said. However, he has no intention of replacing the day-to-day local newspaper. Instead, he points out and publishes the ills of the city. Lawmakers and city councilmen are held responsible for their actions while on Frazier’s watch. His job, in his own words, is “to be the name, the Guardian, to let people know when something’s crooked and where it’s bad.”

Written by jboothe

April 5, 2012 at 4:39 pm

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Onward Mistake

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Up until January of this year, Onward State owned the visage of a cool, hip student-run news outlet that used social media better than the ancient, 112-year-old campus newspaper The Daily Collegian.

Onward operated in a true virtual newsroom and even received tips on stories and sources via Twitter. The blog was lauded for showing how smart use of the Internet can put a small staff on par with much larger newspapers.

Watch out Collegian. These guys are the future!

Perhaps, I should clarify. These guys are the future unemployed.

Of course using the Internet and social media sites have become an integral part of being a journalist, but relying too heavily on them will ALWAYS make a reporter sloppy. It’s just too easy not to be.

Back in January when I first head about Onward mistakenly reporting Joe Paterno’s death, I was appalled and really hoping the incident wouldn’t become a black eye on student journalists everywhere.

After reading several of Onward’s retractions and mea culpas, it became clear to me that I can never sit behind a desk or my computer when reporting on anything big enough to print. If you are going to say someone has died, then you better be at the hospital or getting a source’s words recorded so you, as a journalist, aren’t the only one accountable.

There are a lot of current industry voices who would love to see all of us reporting the quick and easy way like Onward State. To do so would mean there’s a clear push by the next generation of journalists to transform newspapers into primarily online news outlets.

While that might be inevitable, I hope the process continues to be painful and slow.

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Columbia Journalism Review: This site detailing new online news startups was a big help to find one of the media ride-along sites that my group ultimately chose, The Boise Guardian. The database is pretty comprehensive in letting the user search for sites from all across the country. It also narrows the results by the scale of the outlet and what type of coverage it’s giving.

Facebook assignment: Journalists can use Facebook in a variety of ways to both disperse and garner information for stories. While Facebook limits a person’s friend outreach to 5,000 people, journalists can make public pages to expand their presence even further. These can come in handy for tips on stories and interaction with other reporters who may be working on similar projects. One idea that would be interesting to pursue for either a single journalist or larger news company is to turn their “news” feed into a true stream of news that highlights all of an individual’s work. I’ve done that a couple times with my blog to get some hits after a new post, but consistent posting in the news feed could really help expand a journalist’s brand.

Read my #Storify story: “UF basketball player allegedly steals a taco” http://sfy.co/lqc

Written by jboothe

April 4, 2012 at 4:47 pm

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What makes a person a person?

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Case Study 9:

Back in January 2008, major newspapers across the country had to make a judgment call on how to delicately tread the line of reporting and making a statement on the abortion debate.

While the story in question pertained to a 57-year-old Indian man who set fire to an Oak Forest, Ill., apartment killing his pregnant daughter, son-in-law, grandson and his daughter’s unborn child.

Most headlines including those of the Chicago Tribune and New York Times put the death count at three, as most newspapers go by the stylebook definition that an unborn fetus is not yet a person.

Two days after the story ran, the ombudsman for the Tribune said the paper was showing bias by not increasing the number dead in the headline to four. But a Chicago media critic later pointed out that the Trib was just following the standard protocol in the case and that doing anything different would be, in fact, showing bias.

If I were the editor in this case, sure, the easy route would be to go with what the stylebook says and keep the death count at three. However, simply in the interest of the story and a powerful headline, I think including that the woman was pregnant could appease everyone.

For the Tribune headline perhaps: “Grandfather charged in blaze that killed pregnant daughter, son-in-law and 3-year-old grandson”

It’s a little more lengthy and wordy, but I think it is also more powerful to put the relationship of the people involved in the headline. Also, you escape having to include a number in the headline of those dead.

Written by jboothe

April 4, 2012 at 4:47 pm

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