Monday, August 13, 2007

the start of a conversation

Until this morning, I thought I was done with a story once it was posted to the Web.
Not so, says Mark Briggs of The News Tribune. That's only the mid-point because from that point on, the conversation begins.
His observations about readers being starved for information were powerful and insightful. They have me pondering how I can improve on my craft. I want to be a part of the conversation.
It's only the first day of the seminar. I have tons of notes to review and Web sites to visit. I only wish my colleagues were part of the experience. Here's what I take away from today's sessions:
  • Aim for the top five in your newspaper's Web site. It's no longer A1.
  • Go beyond explaining in your story-telling. Provide an experience for your readers. Engage them.
  • Readers are information starved.
  • The core tenets of journalism apply across all multimedia platform. All newsrooms need guidelines at this early stage.
  • The Web has a plethora of resources -- not to be mistaken with sources -- to enhance our reporting and speed up our research.
  • We are not the gatekeeper. We can be afraid of the new challenges or embrace them. I choose the latter.
  • Credibility will keep us afloat.

- Jenny Espino

Use it; don't lose it

Every day, newspapers and their Web sites publish tons of content that should be put in databases -- obits, births, marriages, sports and crime, Matthew Waite said. Data is under-used and under-explored on the Web. It's time to break the "we-publish-it-once" mentality and put into databases information that has a shelf-life and can be updated, the St. Petersburg Times investigative reporter said.

Waite showed the group a public-safety database that he has created. "Don't Walk Here" was created with information on pedestrian deaths from the federal government. The data, which is available nationwide, shows an astonishing concentration of pedestrian deaths along one highway in the Tampa Bay area.

- Kate Kennedy

Viva Nashvegas!

The last time I stepped foot in Nashville was four years ago. I earned my undergraduate degree at Vanderbilt University and here I am again doing more learning. The irony of all of this is that I considered transferring from Vandy my freshmen year because it doesn't offer a journalism program. Well, I didn't transfer and managed to become a journalist. I owe part of that to my Chips Quinn internship at The Detroit News in summer of 2001 and my many late nights spent at The Hustler, Vanderbilt's student newspaper.

I scanned the streets and landmarks during my cab ride from the airport. My eyes widened when I saw the downtown skyline and recognized restaurants I used to eat at as an undergraduate. I was surprised how happy and excited I felt to back in a place that never quite felt like home to me. I have often described my experienced my time in Nashville as "when I studied at Vanderbilt." Now, I'm thrilled to tell my seminar-mates where the closest Starbucks is and how my favorite sushi bar is only a few blocks away.

It's only a coincidence that the Freedom Forum established the First Amendment Center at my alma mater or that six years after participating in the Chips Quinn Scholars Program, I would once again receive training from the Freedom Forum. It's random, but it feels great to be in Nashville, a place I now recognize is one of my "homes."

~Blanca Torres

Who shot Seigenthaler's bio?

I have a confession to make. After listening to John Seigenthaler's great story about the dangers of Wikipedia at lunch today, the first thing I did was go to his Wikipedia page.
No pictures of Lee Harvey Oswald, Hitler or a drag queen today. I'll check back tomorrow. Hopefully, tomorrow no Wikipedia vandal changes the "facts" about John Seigenthaler's life.

- Erik Lacayo

"Here's Your Future"

"so bend your knees and bow your heads/save your babies/here’s your future."
The Thermals

I have to admit that this whole online thing has sent me through an emotional roller coaster.

One day, I'm scared that journalists and newspapers will become obsolete. The next, I'm giddy about learning to add digital elements to my stories. Usually, I am uneasy about not knowing if I will be out of work in the next few years.

Now, I'm thinking not knowing ain't so bad. It may actually be kind of liberating.

One speaker who helped me rethink this was Mark Briggs. I really liked that he described the current state of print media as an exciting time, and we journalists are on the cusp of something like a revolution. Granted, we're probably the nerdiest bunch in battle, but I like the idea of putting up a fight instead of going out with a whimper.

Instead of fearing this competition with online (bloggers, citizen sites, etc.), I like knowing that journalists still offer a viable product, just in a different way.

As Briggs said, "The rules haven't changed. It's just that now, the game is different."

- Marquita Brown

And we're off!!!!!!

We're not even done with the first full day and it has already been an eye-opening experience at the Online and Multimedia Reporting Seminar.

Mark Briggs from The News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash. got us started and he made some key points including the fact that the "audience is data obese but information starved."

Al Tompkins from the Poynter Institute and author of 'Al's Morning Meeting' gave the group an arsenal of sites to use as far as searching for information. The days of just using Yahoo search or Google will be a distant memory once I get back to the newsroom. And the old adage of "Don't believe everything you see or hear" in a newspaper, TV newscast or even a magazine's cover really came to light.

It's always good to hear and see the well-respected John Seigenthaler talk about any topic as he did during lunch about his battle with Wikipedia.

Amy Eisman (pictured) from American University later brought up solid points on what makes a good Web package and the types of trends which will interest readers and keep them coming back for more.
There's already a plate full of information at my domain and I have to make room for the week's remainder.

-- Jonathan Babalola, Noblesville (Ind.) Daily Times

The truth is in the viewfinder

Every once in a while an editor will say something like, "Can't you jazz that up a little?"

Of course it's about 7:30 p.m. when that question crops up. Separated by a cubicle wall, they can't see the roll of my eyes as I desperately search my mind for the hint of color I missed the first time I wrote the lede.

Often they are right. It needs something and we work hard together to find the true note that will help it soar.

Today I've learned that its also easy to lose accuracy in video when reporters try to give more "oomph" to their pieces.

Coming from print, I had imagined sprucing up shots with cool music and fun transitions-- you know, something to give my images and subjects more atmosphere. But as Al Tompkins of The Poynter Institute pointed out, while the story could be considered true, you could lose context and worst of all: accuracy.

With Tompkin's coaching, I learned to ask myself an important question when I get started in the video editing realm: "Is this what I saw through the viewfinder?"

-Kelly Cuculiansky
The Daytona Beach News-Journal

The art of writing headlines.

I'm constantly thinking about headlines and how I can make them short, snappy and accurate.

I've had some experience doing it -- I was the copy chief during my college days and my job right now involves posting stories directly to the Web site and writing the headlines.

I've found that headline-writing doesn't get any easier and really is an art form. I'm always in awe of copy editors and editors who can come up with amazing headlines.

I've yet to write a headline that I'd proudly show off to my grandkids.


-- Nancy Yang

That's cool, Al!!

It's just after 3:30 in the afternoon and we're well into our online training.

Al Tompkins just finished leading us in a very interactive (and brief) lesson/discussion concerning online video ethics. Great stuff, considering when I started working as a primarily online reporter for the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, SD, last August, the editors there pretty much threw a digital video camera in my hands and said, "Have at it!" The concept of newspapers producing online videos was a new one, even a year ago, and the Argus was happy they could even pull it off, albeit without any kind of guidelines, save for knowing terms like "wide angle," "b-roll," and "don't zoom."

That's what I got out of Tompkins' lesson - the Argus Leader, and I'm sure most newsrooms across the country - need to establish guidelines and ethical policies specifically for the online mediums of video, audio, photo stories, etc., that we're now using on a daily basis. I mean, I've shot tons of videos where we throw music to the shots - music that wasn't in the background to begin with. Or we fade in and out. Whatever. It's up to the individual newsrooms to decide what basic journalism principles we want to apply to our new online landscapes.

--- Jonnie Taté Finn

Excellent start

As someone who works the night shift, I braced myself for today's 8:30 a.m. start. More than seven hours later, I'm still wide awake, enjoying the speakers and loads of information I've heard so far.

After hearing from Mark Briggs of The News Tribune, I've decided to set up some RSS feeds when I get home to get more information faster.

This afternoon, Al Tompkins of The Poynter Institute had me thinking about ethics in online journalism and how video and audio can be manipulated and change the meaning of what actually happened.

I look forward to the rest of the sessions -- early mornings and all!

--Kendra Johnson

Seeing is not believing

Where did the booze and marijuana come from?

The prosecutor accused of driving under the influence in a Colorado newscast probably would like to know the same thing.

Anyone who has the privilege of hearing Poynter's broadcast/online guru Al Tompkins talk about ethics in an online world will never look at videos for television newscasts and newspapers in the same light after his very thought provoking discussion.

One of the videos Tompkins showed was that of a Colorado prosecutor who was accused of being under the influence when his car collided with another driver. The police did not file any charges against the prosecutor, drawing the ire of the driver, who alleged that the department was protecting him.

From the ominous music, to a mug shot of the prosecutor dug up from 1996, to file footage of empty beer cans and a bag of marijuana, this investigative piece was littered with altered and misleading images. The reporter also failed to get comment from the prosecutor (if she tried, it wasn't mentioned), making the story very one-sided.

We as journalists owe it to our audiences to be truthful and we really don't serve anyone when we alter footage to get a make the final product more compelling in order to boost ratings or drive Web traffic. It hurts our credibility and causes us to lose our audiences, not retain them.

- Erica Pippins

The "bridge" reporters

At dinner, two veteran journalists called me a term I'd never heard before. Mary Ann Hogan, a writing coach for Chips Quinn Scholars and Gene Policinski, vice president and the executive director of the First Amendment Center, said reporters 35 and younger are the "bridge reporters."
No, that's not literal. We don't inspect bridges.
Newspapers are in "uncertain times", they said. They are losing circulation and advertising, and frankly don't do a good job connecting to readers anymore. In other words, we're boring the hell out of people! But with that said there is a new movement in online media that could turn the tide and capture readers again.
And we are the generation learning to blog and post video stories online, by using multi-media to bridge the gap.
Julie Hubbard
Macon Telegraph

Just enough rope...

I really enjoyed the recent seminar about ethics when using multimedia. It made me think about what not to do, but unfortunately also opened me up to new possibilities. I am so multimedia illiterate that I didn't even know all of the stuff I could do with video.

I have to admit when watching the latest Al Tompkins seminar there were a couple of bad thoughts that went through my head.

"Cool, you mean you can edit audio like that?"
"Wow, that music really changes the mood, that could be fun."
"That car crash video I taped would look a lot cooler if I could just speed it up a bit..."

Well, at least I'm learning how bad these thoughts are now before I go into the field. Better to learn early than late.

But when I am shooting home video...

Maria St. Louis-Sanchez

Our standards

Print journalism has built its reputation over decades of history through muckracking, investigations and story upon story of reporting.
Over the last few years, the public's trust in our work has gradually faded, and we are being pushed to earn it once again, right back in the beginning, through online reporting.
The biggest mistake we can therefore make is to hold a different standard of ethics, fairness, accuracy and transparency for online reporting than we do for our printed product. If we double check our facts, our information, our spelling, our grammar and our sense of balance in print, why should our new online product be any different?
"You make your reputation over time. You lose it over night." - Al Tompkins, quoting his father.

Salvador Hernandez

Are you ready?

What do you get when you put together a well-trained journalist with a bunch of new information? Questions. A lot of questions, I believe. I've had plenty since the seminar began yesterday. I had questions about local news coverage after Steve Yelvington's session. I had questions this morning about jounalistic marketing--or "social capital," as it's called--after Mark Briggs session. And I questioned my whole purpose as a reporter after Al Tompkins' session (although, in a good way).

What I love about this seminar so far is that the questioners (us, as journalists) are being questioned in ways we had never imagined before. And that's what journalism is all about. I'm seeing an underlying theme in all of the sessions so far: It's that, when you listen to your audience, you inevitably become a better journalist. And the audience is telling us, as journalists, to listen.

I know this only touches on the tip of the iceberg. But imagine what could happen if we all got out of our insular newsroom mindsets for just one moment and really, I mean, really paid close attention to what people were saying? This doesn't mean we haven't been doing our jobs. It does mean it's time to change. And I, for one, am joining the revolution.--Martin Ricard

Class ethical guidelines

Under the tutelage of Al Tompkins, the class set ethical guidelines for the use of images, audio and video on the Web:

  • Don't mislead.
  • Don't add; don't alter.
  • Don't lie.
  • Tell it like it is.
  • Clearly and prominently identify any change.
  • Explain the journalism value of alteration.
  • Explain relevancy of any change.
  • Universal standards apply to all work.
  • Be transparent.
- Kate Kennedy

Map of John Seigenthaler Center

Are you supposed to be attending or speaking at the Diversity Institute's Online and Multimedia Seminar? Here's a map to the Freedom Forum's John Seigenthaler Center in Nashville:

-- Kevin Abourezk

Tompkins' Talk: Part II

Al Tompkins is talking about the Foley sex scandal. This should be good!!!

Accuracy, truth and fairness

"You and what you're about represent the future of journalism -- the future of quality journalism," John Seigenthaler (at left) told the group today. Seigenthaler, founder of the First Amendment Center and a longtime journalist, shared his story of "Wikipedia and Me" -- how inaccurate biographical information was published on the online collaborative encyclopedia. Seigenthaler called journalism a continuing search for truth. He encouraged the group to ensure that the culture of online represents the values -- accuracy, truth and fairness -- that have guided print journalism.

"The only thing we have to sell," Al Tompkins said after Seigenthaler's presentation, "is truth telling." Tompkins of The Poynter Institute shared Web sites that can be used as reporting resources. But he cautioned the group about being careful when checking sites for sourcing. Use sites such as Facebook as a starting point. Sites should be used "as a clue, not an answer. There is no substitute for contacting the individual."

-- Kate Kennedy

Tompkins' Talk

Poynter's Al Tompkins shared a slew of cool sites to assist us in our investigative reporting. I'm really psyched to use these on deadline....

Briggs lights fire

Mark Briggs, author of "Journalism 2.0" just finished a presentation today (Aug. 13) at the Diversity Institute's Online and Multimedia Reporting Seminar being held this week in Nashville.

Mark is trying to start a fire. And maybe that's what newspapers need -- a swift kick in the rear to wake up to the exploding world of online and user-generated media.

His presentation focused heavily on the need for journalists to become aggregators of information. About how we need to begin tuning into the multitudes of blogs and other information centers on the Internet and how we need to become the "trusted center" for news consumers.

He suggested everyone in the audience begin creating RSS feeds, a new term for me personally.

Essentially, an RSS feed is an online search engine you create that synthesizes information according to particular topics. For example, if you're a courts reporter, you could start an RSS feed that provides headlines from news sources that link to stories about interesting court cases. He provided several examples of RSS feeds that journalists could use, including and

Mark talked much about how online advertising is rising meteorically, while newspaper advertising is on a fast downhill slope. Newspapers need to take advantage of this rise in online advertising by feeding consumers' hunger for reader-generated media.

Newspapers need to embrace the new media and begin "leaving core resources in commons, where they're free for people to build upon as they see fit." What does that mean? That means newspapers need to become forums. For example, many newspapers have found success in allowing readers to submit photos for everyone to see. By doing that, they are allowing readers to become creators of content.

Mark stressed the need for newspapers to stop being lecturers and start becoming discussion guides.

He offered a number of Web sites that he described as best examples, including and

He ended his presentation with a slide showing a man holding a flag, signifying revolution.

The fire must be lit, and Mark is the man to light it.

-- Kevin Abourezk