Teaching Examples


Teaching journalism with blogs
November 30, 2006, 3:10 pm
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Printing a high school newspaper can be expensive. Is the alternative to have no school newspaper at all? I hope not!

Here’s an example of high school students using a group blog as their student newspaper: OldeSchoolNews.com.

Bud Hunt, an English teacher at Olde Columbine High School in Longmont, Colorado, said in an interview:

We have about 100 students in our school. I used to print 80 to 100 copies of the school newspaper and throw away 30 to 50 of them a month. Now we have about 4,000 visitors to our site every month from around the world. One of my favorite things is showing my students the statistics from the site and say, hey, look at where people are coming to us from. They realize very quickly that their writing is part of a larger fabric, and that’s huge.

I require upper-level college students to keep individual blogs for 12 weeks, posting twice a week for a grade. My class assignment is more about the act of blogging than Hunt’s group project, so you can compare them for two very different approaches.

A year ago, Slate editor Jacob Weisberg said every journalism student should be blogging “for lots of reasons.”

For examples, you could learn from a project completed by Jay Rosen’s students at NYU last March: The Best Blogging Newspapers in the U.S. They concluded that the Houston Chronicle has the best bunch of blogs among the 100 largest U.S. newspapers’ Web sites.

The Chronicle is not the most adventurous in what it blogs about … but the site does everything well, starting with its Blogs main page, which features — before you get to any staff blogging — a section called Chron.commons, “Blogs from our Readers.”

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Necessity of Web monkey work
November 30, 2006, 1:44 pm
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Lucas Grindley says cut-and-paste work in online newsrooms is important:

Tomorrow morning I’ll be waking up just before 4:30 a.m. to do some of that monkey work. And I contend it is legitimate journalism.

He’s right — headline writing, writing good summaries (to lure people into stories) and making sure all the story elements “are presented in a professional and usable way” are very important.

This link comes by way of Journalistopia, where a lively discussion earlier covered Web monkey jobs in journalism.

By the way, my 2004 edition of the AP Stylebook has these entries: Web, World Wide Web (but webcam, webcast, webmaster), Internet and online (no hyphen). There is no entry for Net.

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Get down with Flash video
November 30, 2006, 4:47 am
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Tom Green has followed up on his two excellent articles about Flash video: The Rise of Flash Video, Part 3 — and this time, he’s getting down to business!

What you need to play along:

  • QuickTime or Windows Movie Maker
  • Flash Professional 8
  • Flash 8 Video Encoder (you already have this if you have Flash 8 Pro)

Now, about encoding that video:

This … is what separates you from the YouTube neophytes. As I pointed out in part two of this series, it is not Flash video that sucks on YouTube, it is how the FLV was encoded that makes it such a bad experience.

The detail he provides about encoding is first-rate.

Here’s where I part ways with Green. He suggests that you use the FLVPlayback component found in the Flash Professional 8 Component library. I think it’s easier for first-timers to do it all in the Flash Video Encoder. I posted a PDF explaining this, so you can compare the two methods and choose the one you like.

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Does podcasting have a future?
November 29, 2006, 1:31 pm
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It may not seem promising when you learn that only 12 percent of Internet users have downloaded a podcast for later listening, according to research from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. But note that it doesn’t say “have listened to” — it says “have downloaded.” (I think many people listen online without downloading.)

Then compare that number, from an August 2006 survey, with a comparable finding of only 7 percent of Internet users who reported podcast downloading in Pew’s February-April 2006 survey.

Then I’m recognizing a significant increase. That got my attention.

The Pew data memo (PDF, 4 pages) about this is online.

However, few internet users are downloading podcasts with great frequency; in both surveys, just 1% report downloading a podcast on a typical day.

Men are more likely than women to report podcast downloading; 15% of online men say they have downloaded a podcast, compared with just 8% of online women. And those who have used the internet for six or more years are twice as likely as those who have been online three years or less to have downloaded a podcast (13% vs. 6%).

Podcast Alley lists more than 26,000 different podcasts, totaling more than 1 million episodes.

In 2005, four MBA students and their professor surveyed the field of podcasting and observed:

Given the ease with which podcasts can be created, the only true barrier to entry — or at least a barrier to generating a sizable listener base — is product differentiation. Given the ease with which podcasts can be subscribed to and discarded, consumers are only going to tolerate podcasts that appeal to them. This creates a challenge for new podcasters — how to differentiate their podcast from the thousands of others already on the Internet. Clearly focusing upon a niche area in which one has significant expertise is one means of doing this. However, as with traditional radio, insightfulness, entertainment, and creativity will be necessary to create audience interest and a listener base of any significant size.

This conclusion is backed up by Michael Geoghegan, creator of the “Podcast of the Year,” Grape Radio (it’s all about wine), whom JD Lasica interviewed recently (MPEG4 video, 10 minutes).

“Your knowledge is worth more than your audience.” By this, Geoghegan means that someone will pay you for the expertise you bring to the table, rather than for the size of the audience you are able to amass.

How to make money? Geoghegan suggests you “find one or two corporate clients” to “underwrite all of your podcasting, plus have enough left over to pay your mortgage.”

And finally, he urges you to “podcast your passion.” The only way to find success at this, he says, is to do podcasts about what you really love.

JD’s post says a little more and links to the video.

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Newspaper video, interactive graphics eligible for Pulitzer
November 28, 2006, 11:44 pm
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Newspapers may submit video and interactive graphics as part of their entries for the Pulitzer Prize, effective this year. The AP had the story (see The Washington Post’s copy) on Monday.

For the awards handed out earlier this year, online material was allowed as part of all entries for the first time but limited to written stories or still images in 13 of the 14 categories. The exception was the Public Service category, which has allowed material such as streaming video and databases since 1999.

Here’s what is new:

Entries for the 2007 Pulitzers may contain online material such as video, blogs, databases and interactive graphics for all print categories.

But for the photojournalism awards, still images are the only work allowed. Bummer. Lucky that NPPA started running a monthly contest for its members. You can see entries in video and slideshow categories now.

Props to Paul Conley and Angela Grant.

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Job evolution for online journalists
November 28, 2006, 1:11 pm
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It used to be that most of the “online” jobs in newspaper newsrooms were brain-numbing robot labor, cutting and pasting in the middle of the night, and not much more. “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness” indeed.

Here are highlights from an ad from a small group of newspapers in Pennsylvania:

Lancaster Newspapers Inc. seeks a journalist with experience in online publishing who is well-versed in developing story lines and comfortable working in a fast-paced, breaking news environment.

Responsibilities include: working closely with our editors to keep fresh content, from staff or wire services, flowing into our Web site.

Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree in journalism or related field preferred
  • Sound news judgment and web publishing skills
  • Ability to write sharp headlines and summaries, and perform basic copy editing in the process of publishing articles, photos, polls, audio/visual, and interactive content
  • Experience in Flash multi-media production a plus
  • Willingness to work nights and weekends

From JournalismJobs.com. Posted there Nov. 27.

I found this ad interesting because it almost sounds like robot work (“Come in at night and fix all the errors that a bad system introduces as it ‘automatically’ feeds our print stories onto the Web site.”) For heaven’s sake, it doesn’t even mention that the person ought to know Photoshop.

But then there’s that line about Flash. (Yes, I see that it’s called a “plus” and not a firm requirement.)

Probably what it means is that someone who says he or she knows Flash will get the job. And then there will be this strange Jekyll/Hyde existence in which the person has hours of robot work to slog through — and oh, by the way, could you build us some interactive multimedia stuff too?

This job ad is a far sight better than many; at least it doesn’t ask that the journalist also “know” six programming languages and how to edit video.

But I would like to suggest that there is a disconnect in the minds of newspaper managers who think that a journalist can be a headline writer, a copy editor, a fixer and tinkerer in words, and in his or her spare time (yeah, right) can whip up a few Flash packages for the Web site.

I suggest that if you want multimedia production, you hire a person to do that. The person might be a news graphics artist or a designer or a photographer. The person might even be — like me — a former copy editor. But the production of online content has to be the main part of that person’s job, not an afterthought when all the headlines have been written.

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Rob Curley’s plans for the D.C. area
November 28, 2006, 4:29 am
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Rob Curley, the guru of innovation in online journalism, talked with MarketWatch’s Frank Barnako (here’s the MP3) — summary and commentary at The Local Onliner. It’s a very good summary; I especially liked what Rob said about video.

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