Megan Taylor

front-end dev, volunteacher, news & data junkie, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant

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The Next Newsroom Conference

Yesterday was the first day of the Next Newsroom Conference, with keynote speakers and panels and all kinds of good discussion. Unfortunately, I missed the first couple of speakers, but Greg Linch totally has my back: check out his complete coverage of yesterday.

My notes from Randy Covington’s speech:
Newsplex:
Its not about formats or technology but on stories
cover stories across media
stories are better because of audio, video, community interactivity
we live in a mutli-media world
people are using media in diff ways

TRAINING

newsrooms will be different: no more assembly line
Edipresse – cubicles and open space 2002-2003

New roles for full media newsroom

Newsflow editor: story
directs coverage across formats and delivery services
integrates multiple products under unified editorial brand
service to a broad range of news consumers
multiskilled journalist: content
able to work in diff formats and do diff things (video, text, graphics, audio, photos and interactivity)
NOT EVERYONE NEEDS TO BE THIS – BUT – bring in MORE multiskilled people who like to shape and control their own work
news resourcer: context
informatics journalist/editor
apply news judgement with understand of informational landscape
cybrarian, not news librarian
google is not good enough
story builder: experience
one editor handles story for all mediums
combines roles of print copy editor and broadcast producer
convergence organizational models:
Tampa Tribune

Nordjyske – denmark was dying, needed to reinvent, created an all-news cable channel on model of old cnn news, dont need lots of people
NOW – free papers, local papers, the news channel, 2 radio stations and a web site with 248 jous
editors for each medium refine the content
editorial depts serve all media
NOT one size fits all
started charging for tours, jous all over were willing to pay
super desk: groups for diff mediums in open space with editorial mtg place in the center

Daily Telegraph – london
24-hr digital multimedia newsroom
story components integrated from the start
three job titles: reporter, editor, producer
hub and spoke system for organization of newsroom

I’ll come back later and clean up the formatting on that. After Covington there was a panel discussion responding to questions posed by the audience through Twitter. So I stopped taking notes and made my commentary there instead. I’ll round that up into something cohesive later today as well. But you can check out the continuing conversation on Twitter.

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Even a match is better than whistling in the dark

A lot of people tell me I’m really good at this Web stuff. Yea, I’m a geek. I love to program and play and diddle around with technology, especially if it can be made useful.

But I’ve really only had 2 years of this. I fell in love with journalism late in my sophomore year. I’m the managing editor for the Web site of a student-run paper and I’m making it all up as I go along.

OK, I spend hours every day scanning blogs, newspapers, Twitter and other Web sites learning as much as I can about this thing called online journalism. For me, there is no ivory.

But rarely do I get a chance to sit down with someone more experienced than I and discuss what I’m doing and how I should be doing it differently. (Maybe that’s a new direction to take this blog in?)

Last week, the Journalism Advisory Council sat down for lunch with us budding journos. It was a really cool experience.

I talked to one member about data potential for B2B magazines.

Another responded to my questions about the Web site by listing the things they do and then shoving me into a conversation with someone else.

I discussed eye-tracking studies and the difference between print and Web design, fairly eloquently for someone who can’t…well, I can design my way out of a paper bag, but it’s not one of my strengths.

Another member wanted to look at The Independent Florida Alligator’s Web site. My baby. No sooner had the site loaded than suggestions for improvements were being made.

Yes, we need to label our multimedia so that readers know what’s what. Yes, we should be publishing online as soon as we know something. Yes, I need to make Opinions, Sports and Avenue headlines as Web-friendly as the News heds have become. Yep, that event on the calendar shouldn’t be labeled TBA, it’s an all day event. Must fix the PHP.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

As soon as school is back in session, I’m going to find some unofficial guidance. The print managing editor and the editor go over the paper with one of the professors once a week. The Web site needs similar help. (Mindy, Dave, you up for this?) And I’m going to make sure the guidance continues, because one simple conversation can change so much.

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Applied Interactive Newspapers

The online capstone course, Applied Interactive Newspapers, is built to work like an internship.

There are 6 students in the class this semester. Each of us is responsible for pulling in 7 stories each week, from The New York Times or AP wire.

These stories are published on Newszine, the Interactive Media Lab’s news Web site.

Recently, in addition to the 7 stories, we were assigned a multimedia requirement. Each week, 2 Soundslides and 2 videos will be published to the site along with our stories, with labor divided among the staff.

It was my turn to do a video this week. I chose to do a video tutorial for using Soundslides. I wrote out my script and talked to my partner, Matt Gonzalez, about the shots. We set the camera up and also set the editing computer up for screen-casting.

Then I did my thing. I’m not particularly pleased with the outcome. I get massive stage fright as soon as the camera’s watching, even though I’m only on the screen for a few seconds.

But I learned a lot from this. I should have run through my actions a few times before I did it for the camera. It also could have done with a little more editing.

In any case, I’m learning a lot about video and editing, so by the time I graduate I should be pretty good at this.

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Less talk, more work

There’s a new trend in online journalism these days: Stop talking, and do it.

Stop trying to convert, stop making lists, stop fighting the print bias with words. Start doing things that will make the difference.


David Cohn
wrote:

I think the time for evangelizing is over. At this point if you are in a mainstream news organization and you don’t see the need for change, the battle is lost and I’m not going to spend time trying to convince you to change the culture in your newsroom. I will simply shake your hand, wish you an honest good luck and move on…If you want to see real change – don’t tell news room editors what to do – DO IT YOURSELF.

And Zac Echola, writing about Wired Journalists, wrote:

Something happened early this year in the media blogging world. We suddenly stopped talking about what we should be doing and started talking about what we are doing. We started talking about being the change we wish to see. It was at the same time a jarring change in tone and an exhilarating one.
Now is the time to be that catalyst for change in your news organization. No more talking about it. We’re doing it. And we want you to do it too.

Wired Journalists is a social networking site set up by Ryan Sholin, Howard Owens and Zac Echola after Owen’s post on getting wired.
In a very short amount of time, the site has gained over 300 members. It opens up discussions, not on why online journalism is important, but how to start doing it. Members are both newbies and established “wired” journalists.

I realized today that consciously or not, the “just do it” trend is affecting me, too. I spent a lot of time at The Independent Florida Alligator last semester trying to win over some very print-oriented editors. I spent a lot of time making lists of projects I wanted to start. Not that I didn’t get anything done; we made a lot of progress on getting our content management system working the way WE wanted it to work.

But this semester I’ve spent more time actually ticking projects off that list. I finally got the Gainesville Explorer project running. A multimedia stringer made a map of apartment complexes in Gainesville. Yea, that’s right, I have stringers. (I think we need to change this lingo, minion is a much cooler word.) I met with some of the business staff regarding the missing alumni page. I’ve gotten the editor and managing editor for print writing blog posts. All in just three weeks.

This is a hell of a lot more fun than fighting print bias and trying to get reporters to see the light.

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Things to learn at The Alligator

I’ve been working at The Independent Florida Alligator since the beginning of the summer. And I’ve learned a lot about the Web, news, multimedia, design, and programming.

Perhaps the most important area in which I’ve grown is how I deal with others on a day-to-day basis.

I have a pretty short fuse. I get frustrated easily, I have a big mouth, I love to complain. I curse at the computer regularly and will talk to anyone for hours about how much I despise our content management system. I spend way to much time in front of a computer, so I can be a little socially handicapped.

That’s no excuse. Coming from a manager, the people I work with don’t take all this as just blowing steam. It makes them more reluctant to work online. It keeps them from suggesting new projects because they don’t know how far we can push the limitations of the CMS.

So I’m learning, slowly, about diplomacy and silence and waiting until I’m alone to scream and tear my hair out. It’s really hard. But worth the effort. The less I kvetch, the more people wander past my desk and ask what I’m doing for such-and-such an article.

It’s important for online journalists to be visible and positive about what they do.

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SNDBoston: Storytelling in Print and Multimedia

Kelli Sullivan from the Los Angeles Times and Jenn Crandall of onBeing from the Washington Post.

Tell stories with graphics (example: show how trailer sways occur, graphics in print, flash online; break stories up into sections for layout)
– instead of scattered graphics, use sequentially to tell story
– figure out goals of editors and find creative ways to achieve them
– work closely with photo editors
– keep communication flowing: make sure you have the space you need, communicate with Web people as you learn things

Edit ruthlessly: edit for redundancy, keep it simple, let photos help pace the story
Build on the unique aspects of the story
Are graphics accessible, do they forward the story?
Develop multiple versions if there is time
Can breaking design rules help the project?

Solicit feedback!! But maintain independence/objectivity.

Jenn Crandall is freaked out by not being a designer, too! She’s a still photographer and videographer.
Oh yes! My favorite OnBeing character, Gio Escalante. Cute little kids for the win.
Focus on the characters: clean design, make it all about the person.
Lots of questions about this project: editing, equipment, traffic and response, transfer to print (there is currently not a print version).

I’m beginning to understand and appreciate the “these are my designs” trend. I think it depends on how the lecturer explains the design. Thinking about how to take some of this layout stuff online. Also, how to work more closely with various editors to anticipate online projects. onBeing is a perfect example that newspapers need to provide more than what we normally define as news.

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SNDBoston: Multimedia, The Next Frontier

Brian Storm, founder of MediaStorm.

Bloodline: AIDS and family by Kristen Ashburn and Kinglsey’s Crossing by Olivier Jobard – good photojournalism can transate into cinematic (web) space, blending video, audio, text slides, infographics and photos.

Storm also showed the “Creep” Flash animation for Radiohead, an animated collage of life in Cuba, and, of course, Ivory Wars (in collaboration with National Geographic).

Newspapers think that video can save them, but photography is still a powerful medium. So get audio. Do audioslideshows.

Storm doesn’t believe in the “2-3 minute YouTube rule.”

Production and distribution costs are affordable and simple.

MediaStorm aggregates a bunch of different types of media, they are sponsored by The Washington Post, uses Brightcove for playback, relies on viral products (music, photos, video, books, podcasts etc), “reducing the friction.”

Can license projects to clients to premire content, media companies can bid. Media companies can also hire MediaStorm to produce specific content.

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SNDBoston: Elections Roundtable

Coverng elections is a serious design challenge: fairness, impartiality, dense content, BORING?! Designers can make the content interesting and visually appealing.

Paul Nelson, The virginia Pilot

– Work with ad vertising to ensure enough space
– Handle news based on value and not on previous coverage
– Get opinions from community (reaction pieces on debates, etc.)
– Create ways to make the good stuff stand out (local connections to issues, adwatch – are candidates telling the truth in ads?)
– At-a-glance info
– Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert
– illustrations, graphics, multimedia, embed from YouTube etc.
_ reefers to Web site
_ prepare multiple fronts

Dan Wasserman, Boston Globe

– Cartoons for election campaigns: has to fill the same size rectangle 4-5 times a week.

Eilliott Malkin, information architect, New York Times interactive

– 2004 election coverage: infographic reefer, liva data from AP
– 2006 coverage: modular inforgraphics, came up with structure 6 months in advance: results page for each section
– 2007: blog caucus, full column infographics, live data, results by various categories
– 2008: homepage, politics section front, blogs, election guide (evergreen), topic pages via nyt navigation and google searches (SEO), timelines

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Student Sessions at SNDBoston

After an introduction by Soctt Goldman, the President of SND, the first strudent session was led by Kenny Irby and Suzette Moyer regarding the relationship between photo and design. Irby works on visual journalism at Poynter, while Moyer is at The St. Pete Times.

Some notes:
Develop the vocabulary and philosophy for collaborative visual journalism.
respect each other
find the beauty in the work
be honest with each other
know when to step aside
show some emotion
explain the photo/design
don’t always do things the same way
take some risks
learn from each other

Irby pointed out that everyone in the newsroom is an “-er,” someone who does something. He also pointed out the more recent developments in photojournalism: audioslideshows and blended packages like Ivory Wars.

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SNDBoston: my tentative schedule

For my 21st birthday (which was a month and a half ago now) my mother promised to buy me a Blackberry Pearl as soon as I qualified for the T-Mobile discount, which would be sometime in October. Well, October is here. This means, that despite not having a laptop, and my MacBook Pro not being delivered in time, I should be able to blog my way through SNDBoston (Society of News Design conference).

So, this is my tentative plan:

On Thursday, I’ll be attending the Student Sessions, which promise advice but are a little vague on structure and content.

Friday

9:30 am You can judge a book by its cover
Described by USA Today as “the closest thing to a rock star in graphic design today,” Chip Kidd revolutionized book design. Kidd shows how to tell and sell stories using conceptual thinking, visual puns, and found images.

11 am Brainstorming workshop: design
Inspiring examples and practical tips for fresh approaches to design. Robert Newman (Fortune, Real Simple, Vibe, Entertainment Weekly) and Kate Elazegui (art director, New York magazine).

And at this point I’m conflicted. At 2pm, there are two fantastic looking sessions:

Roundtable: The elections
Print and online designers, graphics artists, and picture editors discuss fresh ways to cover the upcoming elections. Panel includes Elliott Malkin (nytimes.com), Paul Nelson (Design Director, The Virginian Pilot), and Dan Wasserman, editorial cartoonist for The Boston Globe.

and

It’s the little things
Recent innovations in presenting stock tables, sports agate, and other small information. The panel includes Dennis Brack (The Washington Post) and typographer Matthew Carter.

Input anyone? Onward, then.

3:15 pm Multimedia, the next frontier
The next place for great design and photojournalism is multimedia argues Brian Storm founder of MediaStorm and former head of multimedia for MSNBC.

Oh, poppycock, more conflicts:

Brainstorming workshop: graphics
Inspiring examples and practical tips for fresh approaches to infographics Archie Tse (New York Times) and Javier Zarracina (The Boston Globe).

or

Typography roundtable
A discussion on trends from readability to revivals with typographers Matthew Carter and David Berlow.

And Friday ends with

6 pm ‘Helvetica, The Movie’
It’s the 50th anniversary of the typeface you love—or love to hate. Director Gary Hustwit’s documentary has been drawing rave reviews on the film festival circuit. The Chicago Tribune enthused that the film “sharpens your eye in general and makes connections between form and content, and between art and life.”

Saturday

9:30 am Reinventing The Guardian
Mark Porter, creative director of one the 2005 SND World’s Best-Designed newspapers on reinventing the print and online versions of one of Britain’s leading newspapers.

11 am The future is now
A look at new and emerging technologies from The New York Times R&D team. Interface designer Nick Bilton and futurist-in-residence Michael Rogers demonstrate the handheld Times Reader and discuss interactive newspaper technologies in development.

This conflicting sessions thing is really obnoxious. I need a time machine!

2 pm Reinventing page one
Long the most traditional page of the paper, panelists Jeff Hindenach (San Jose Mercury News), Gayle Grin (National Post, Canada) and Søren Nyeland (SND 2006 World’s Best-Designed Newspaper Politiken, Denmark) show how to build memorable fronts with photography, graphics, teasers and a strong design voice.

or

2pm Storytelling in print and multimedia
Jenn Crandall (washingtonpost.com’s onBeing) project and Kelli Sullivan (Los Angeles Times projects including the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Altered Oceans“) show how words and images can be combined to create compelling narratives.

At 3:15 I’ll be having my portfolio reviewed. I’m really nervous about this because this Web site is in dire need of a redesign (which I’m working on) and I can’t really print out a lot of my work.

The (for me) icing on all this newsy cake is a session at 4:45 with Adrian Holovaty.

Making data webby
Adrian Holovaty of washingtonpost.com shares philosophy and strategies for making data browsable online. He’ll touch on several of his past projects, including chicagocrime.org and Faces of the Fallen.

I’m working on a couple of database projects this semester and probably will be working with Django next semester, so I’m looking forward to satisfying my fetish for the geekier side of journalism.