Teaching Examples

Warning: You will be Googled
October 31, 2006, 12:59 pm
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Anyone looking for a job today needs to understand that he or she will be investigated before being hired. For any savvy editor — print, broadcast or online — that means a Google search on your name. A survey by CareerBuilder tells us the results:

Of those hiring managers who used Internet search engines to research job candidates, 51 percent did not hire the person based on what they found. Of those who used social networking sites to research candidates, the majority (63 percent) did not hire the person based on what they found.

The first step to managing your online reputation is to Google yourself. And use some other search engines too, while you’re at it. Use your nickname, use your middle initial or not, and make sure that you don’t see any compromising information.

Consider setting up a page for yourself at claimID (it’s free and it’s easy). Learn about the OpenID specifications. Read more about this stuff at if:book (the blog of the Institute for the Future of the Book).

Here’s my claimID page, for example.

You might also want to buy a domain name and put your resume online. If you use your full name as the HTML title for the page, after a few weeks that page should come up first when someone Googles you. See an example — that linked text in the search results? It is the HTML title of the Web page.

I don’t want to go into detail about what I find when I Google students. In some cases, it’s awful. I also look them up on Facebook and MySpace. It may be that an editor wouldn’t reject you over a few drunken party photos. But what about that photo of you at a political rally, holding a sign in the air? Your integrity as a journalist immediately comes into question. I’m not inventing this — editors have told me so.

It’s not just about sex, drugs and alcohol. If your politics — of any stripe — are on display, that might be considered a breach of your ability to take a reasonably objective stance in your reporting.

It could cost you a nice job.

So Google yourself today. Before you send out those resumes.

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4 things you can do right now to "clue in" to online
October 30, 2006, 12:42 pm
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Paul Conley went to Folio: Show and helped the magazine editors and publishers in finding their way through the online, digital world:

Most folks seemed most interested in basic, how-to information about content-management systems, multimedia software and writing for the Web.

No problem with that — you’ve got to start somewhere! Here are his top tips:

  • Best cheap thing to do right now (spend $40 on Soundslides)
  • Most fun way to understand online communities (join Second Life)
  • Quickest way to learn RSS and become a better reporter at the same time (sign up for Bloglines)
  • Best subject for a debate back in the newsroom (Creative Commons)

It’s a great list. I wish I’d thought of it first!

One of the biggest mistakes that news people make, I think, is they stay too much inside their own field. They go to journalism Web sites. They read other journalists. They spend their online life too much with online journalism. They need to “go abroad” more and see what non-journalists and non-journalism sites are doing and talking about and getting excited about.

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More great advice for news organizations
October 30, 2006, 12:31 pm
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Shane Richmond of the London Telegraph wrote a pair of very good posts earlier this month. In the second, which also has some excellent comments attached, he provided these suggestions for how media organizations can prepare for the future:

1. Remain relevant by: (a) Serving all your audiences; (b) Trusting your specialists (people on staff who know a lot about their subjects and can explain these to non-specialists); (c) Building personalities: “make sure YOUR writers are the voices people want to hear. Some of your writers will be names already; the others need to be built into names”; (d) Being first — or at least fast; and (e) Creating communities.

2. Make money (more about how to do this in his earlier post).

3. Maintain ownership (for example, “identify the biggest threat to your business and pursue it yourself”; and “develop some kind of licensing system for content”). Ha, if only the newspapers had paid attention to their outdated classified advertising systems back in 1995, when their online staffs urged them to do so!

Enough with the hand-wringing and the throwing stuff up against the wall to “see what sticks.” It’s high time for the news organizations to make short- and long-term goals that realistically account for the continued growth of online and digital media.

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The insidious effects of advertising
October 29, 2006, 2:01 pm
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Alex Halavais was talking about Wikipedia when he wrote this, but I couldn’t help thinking of small citizen journalism (or community journalism) Web sites:

The point behind advertising is to persuade consumers to behave in a way that they wouldn’t otherwise behave. The expense is justified by the profit they can draw from these changes in behaviors. That’s why companies might be willing to buy (the idea that they would be “donating” is disingenuous) ad space on a site that has drawn attention as a credible source of information. The only currency Wikipedia has is its credibility, and frankly this is not as shored up as it might be. Accepting advertising might well produce a significant short-term profit, but it would be at the expense of the goose laying the eggs.

So consider a very small Web site or blog that covers the news in a small community. To stay afloat, the publisher accepts ads from local businesses. Yet we all know how that works with print newspapers in small towns — the business then has a stranglehold on the contents of the newspaper.

I can imagine the angry phone call: “Bob, if you publish that story about my husband’s drunk driving arrest, I’m going to pull my full-page ad for the grocery store!”

Now, if Bob the publisher has scruples, he will publish the story anyway. But if Bob has to pay someone this week, he can’t afford to lose that ad.

Halavais has a good point about Wikipedia — and it applies to a whole lot more than just the world’s largest-ever free encyclopedia.

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Video ‘even less interactive than print’
October 29, 2006, 1:25 pm
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Sure, it’s a no-brainer when you pause to consider … but Paul Bradshaw made a good point about this:

… executives are missing a unique opportunity and picking the lazy option in opting for video instead of more innovative and engaging journalism forms.

… Video is, if anything, even less interactive than print. You cannot scan-read a video, you cannot skip to the last paragraph, or look for the intriguing subheading.

Part of the rush to video lies, I think, in the thrill of seeing the video you shot. It’s ridiculously satisfying to press the Play button and replay reality right there in that tiny window and think “I made this!”

But you know, you didn’t really make anything.

The camera made that.

After you put in a few hours of thoughtful editing, THEN you will have made something.

Video storytelling is hard work. For me, it’s a lot harder than writing. And it sure does take longer. If this were a video blog, I’d be proud if I could manage to make one post a week.

Sure, it’s easier for editors and storytellers who have been working in video for a couple of years. They work much, much faster than I do. But you know what? All but the best of them serve up Web video that would be 100 times better if it were shorter.

This goes back to what Bradshaw wrote about scanning and skipping. If you give me a 10-minute video on the Web, the only way I will ever watch it to the end is if I am tied down and forced to. I can’t keep my finger off the mouse button that long!

There are a few great tips related to this in the textbook I assign to my online journalism students, Online Journalism, by James C. Foust (from page 199):

  • Does the addition of video help tell the story to such an extent that it’s really worth the user’s time to wait for it to download and also spend the time to watch it?
  • Does it help them understand this story better than any other medium?
  • Does it add emotion or successfully convey an emotional element?
  • Is it unique — something the users have not seen before?

If you’re answering no to any of these questions, then I probably won’t watch your video online.

Update: Steve Yelvington commented: “The real revolution will be in video produced by the people formerly known as consumers.”

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More about Dallas Morning News video
October 28, 2006, 3:29 pm
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Cade White has added a new post to his ongoing project about newspaper photographers shooting video.

Today’s post features a video documenting Dallas Morning News photojournalist Rick Gershon shooting the third day of a roller coaster ride-a-thon at Six Flags over Texas. You might remember him as the 2004 College Photographer of the Year. In the video you get to see Rick work, but you also get to hear about the the DMN philosophy of video journalism.

I have posted about White’s project in this blog before — here, here and here. Check out all five of his posts about DMN video at his blog.

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A very solo journalist
October 28, 2006, 12:33 pm
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The one-woman news site I blogged about yesterday got its start because no one wanted to publish news about a town with only 430 residents.

As a student in an in-depth reporting course at the University of Florida, Cher Phillips completed a series of stories about the town where she lives, McIntosh, Florida. In spring 2006, she shopped the series around to local news organizations. They all sent her away.

Her instructor, an experienced newsman, assured her the stories were worth publishing. They talked about putting the series on a purpose-built Web site. In the end, Phillips set up a free blog on Blogger instead.

“Things the [town] council was putting forward were scaring people. They wanted to do things so quickly, they weren’t giving small-town folk a chance to keep up,” Phillips told me in an interview on Thursday.

“I had no method, no venue, for explaining this to people,” she added.

Phillips had taken an introductory Web course in the j-school but declares she is by no means an online expert.

Since starting the blog, the McIntosh Mirror, she has not missed a meeting of the town council. She wants to attend every code enforcement meeting too, but she’s not sure whether she can fit it in between her college courses and her full-time-job as a secretary in the university’s Center for Written & Oral Communications.

At the second town council meeting she attended, “it kind of all broke down” into arguments, she said. “It made me see a different side of McIntosh and made me want to look harder at it.”

Three members of the McIntosh council have resigned this year because of the ongoing issues in their town.

On her blog, Phillips takes care not to mix editorial comment with news reporting. Her method: Label each post in the headline, either “REPORT” or “EDITORIAL.” If someone from McIntosh asked her to post an essay or editorial comment as a stand-alone entry on her blog, she would do it, she said.

About 10 residents attend most town council meetings — usually the same 10 people. Sometimes Phillips is the only person in the audience.

At one meeting in June, though, about 75 people showed up to talk about what Phillips labeled “the Nazi ordinance.”

After that meeting, the blog really “got around,” Phillips said.

Phillips attended her first town council meeting in February 2006 on the advice of her instructor, John Marvel. She credits him in part for her knack for writing about public meetings in a professional, yet interesting, way. She also named Steve Orlando, her reporting lab instructor, as a mentor.

She cut her teeth as a public affairs reporter in 2001 as a staff writer at the Alligator, UF’s student-run daily. Then she was attending Santa Fe Community College, and the Alligator’s editor assigned her to cover SFCC’s search for a new president.

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