Megan Taylor

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

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Investigative Reporting Workshop for College Students

Clearly I graduated too early. I can’t apply for this class, but maybe you or someone you know can.

CampusCoverageProjectInvestigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), in partnership with Education Writers Association and the Student Press Law Center, is launching a program to share investigative reporting skills with college and university students that they can apply to covering campus issues.

Seventy-five students from around the country will be selected to receive full scholarships to participate in the Campus Coverage Project.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Use the Internet as an investigative reporting tool.
  • Read budget documents and find the stories that matter.
  • Prepare for tough interviews and come away with the information you need.
  • Analyze your school’s performance to see how it measures up.
  • Examine athletic programs—and their funding.
  • Use legal tools to pry open foundations, auxiliaries and other secretive campus institutions.
  • Examine issues on your campus in the context of national debates on higher education.

Qualified students are those with experience reporting for campus-related news outlets who have at least one year of coursework remaining.

Apply by Oct. 12, 2009 for a full scholarship to attend a three-day Campus Investigative Reporting Workshop and participate in a year-long program that offers ongoing training and opportunities to learn from top reporters from throughout the country. Space is limited.

For more details and an online application, go to www.ire.org/campus.

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Small community newspapers and the future of journalism

bronx-news-network-1

I live in the West Bronx area of New York City. The neighborhoods in this area are diverse, the history is complicated, and the stigma of the Bronx is strong.

There is no metro paper that covers these neighborhoods. The New York Times, Daily News, New York Post and Gothamist occasionally cover political and crime issues in the area, but no major paper is giving this group of communities a voice.

Instead, residents are given a voice in the small local papers that are part of the Bronx News Network. Rather than focusing on breaking news items and fighting over scoops, these papers work together. The Bronx News Network is a nonprofit organization founded by Mosholu Preservation Corporation and the Norwood News.

The Bronx News Network includes the Tremont Tribune, the Norwood News (for which I freelance), the Mott Haven Herald, the Mount Hope Monitor, the Hunts Point Express and the Highbridge Horizon.

None of these papers are dailies. They publish anywhere from every two weeks to once a month. But they still provide an important source of news and opinion to an under-served community. They have unimpressive websites and tiny offices. And they are surviving in a time when the news industry is in trouble. They will continue to survive, and not just because they are the only ones providing this service to this area.

Small community newspapers will be able to provide targeted advertising, the bane of the major metro.

They can react quickly to the changes in technology and society.

They live in the areas they write about.

I don’t want to say that tiny papers are the future of journalism, because the future for journalism will not be any one thing. The future will depend on each community, and how the community interacts with the producers of journalism.

I am saying that this model seems to be working really well for this particular community. And it’s important to look at what is working where, and see what can be applied in other areas.

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People talking about the Internet

First up is the “Us Now” documentary about online collaboration, and the kinds of things the Internet makes possible.

Us Now from Banyak Films on Vimeo. Buy the DVD here and for more information, extra clips and reviews please go to usnowfilm.com.

The raw footage of the interviews has also been released, which you can see on the Us Now site, including transcripts. Notable among the interviewees is Clay Shirky, who wrote about newspapers in March, talking about Ebbsfleet United, leadership and revolutions.

251962 Secondly, Cory Doctorow, advocate of the free, open Internet, had an interview on the Search Engine podcast for TVOntario. Everything Doctorow says is smart, so have a listen.

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New Washington Post Blog on Economic and Domestic Policy

The Washington Post launched a new blog yesterday, written by Ezra Klein.

That’s how the e-mail I got introduced it too. “a blog by Ezra Klein.” Pardon me, but who the @#$% is Ezra Klein?

Klein comes to The Post from The American Prospect, where he quickly built a dedicated following and became a widely recognized voice.

OK, nice credentials, but I still have no idea who this guy is.

Apparently he is going to write pretty extensively on “legislative issues at the top of the Obama administration’s agenda, including economic recovery, reviving the banking system, cap and trade, and health-care reform.”

Important stuff. Why didn’t you lead with that, instead of expecting me to recognize a by-line?

The blog itself is off to a pretty good start, even if Washington Post PR isn’t.

  • A section called “Think Tank” will be updated with articles, studies, and policy briefs.
  • Ezra Klein is on Twitter.
  • His blogroll links outside of Washington Post blogs.

No word on how much he’ll interact with his readers, so I’ll withhold judgment on that point.

Oops, Ezra didn’t write his own About page:

ezraklein

Beatblogging.org has what Ezra needs to know to make his blog rock: Creating the perfect beatblog.

More about Ezra Klein:

Political Blogger Ezra Klein Joins The Washington Post (readwriteweb.com)

Ezra Klein to WaPo (outsidethebeltway.com)

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Visualizing the News

Article Skimmer

Article Skimmer

A while ago I wrote about the Article Skimmer interface that the New York Times had developed.


Times Wire

Times Wire

Those people just don’t quit – the Times Wire was recently launched to provide a constantly updating “river of news,” including pictures.


This comes in the wake of a few other news visualization updates:

Google News Timeline

Google News Timeline

Google’s News Timeline searches multiple data sources and places the results in chronological order, allowing the user to scroll, drag or click through the evolution of a topic.


Google News

Google News

Google News has also been redesigned, with more videos and photos on section pages and some clutter clean-up.


Old Newsmap

Old Newsmap

The Newsmap, by Marcos Weskamp, also received an update recently.


New in Newsmap, from the blog:

  • rectangularized treemap layout: To accommodate text properly, cells are as rectangular as possible, this there’s more room for headlines without chopping them off in several lines.
  • search as you type: try the new search on the top right, see how newsmap updates.
  • deep linking: you can now deep link to any state of the app. just try updating your view, and notice how the url changes. You can grab and share that url with anyone.
New Newsmap

New Newsmap

I really like these different ways of seeing news. They are each targeted toward a purpose: seeing the most recent news, seeing news from different sources or seeing news over time.

What other news visualizations are out there? Which do you prefer? Or, do you prefer to browse through news Web sites instead?

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More on packaged journalism

Thinking more about programming in journalism (not computer programming, the one we associate more with radio and television) I realized there are a few things news organizations are doing that are really similar to the concept of packaging news with an identity: blogs.

At most organizations, news blogs aren’t structured around an identity. Instead they are topical. Which could be better, in some ways, what I really hate about TV news is all the self-promoting, self-congratulatory anchors and show hosts. Sometimes, identity is a bad thing.

So I was poking around several news Web sites looking for good blogs, when I stumbled upon USA Today’s “communities.” The Community Center blog (keeping you apprised of conversations and opportunities on the site where readers are getting involved with USATODAY’s daily journalism) is a hub for the other blogs on the site, which look suspiciously like beatblogs to me.

Each blog has a designated author (or small group of authors) and appear to be updated several times a day.

But something bothers me. Which of these things is at all like the other?

    game-hunters-usatodaycom
  • technology-live-usatodaycom
  • cruise-log-usatodaycom

I really like the Interactivity blog – just wish it looked as nice as some of the others.

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The future of journalism in your pocket

A few days ago Mindy McAdams wrote a post about how she uses her iPhone and what that could mean for journalism.

Her questions for journalism:

  • If someone has all the videos and quality radio news she could ever find time to listen to (or watch) right in her pocket, how can anything even remotely like the newspaper compete with that? The newspaper as it was, in the heyday of the 30 percent profit margins, had something for everyone. Now the Internet-enabled phone provides that.
  • Will the traditional print news organization come up with programming, instead of random and disconnected stories? I don’t mean it has to be audio and video, but it would be something with an identity, like a show or a series. The closest thing I can think of that’s not radio is David Pogue — a brand unto himself.
  • Breaking news is a commodity — you’ll never pay the bills with that. Hard news is not always breaking news, but how should it be packaged or bundled — to adapt to the phone?

I’m not sure mobile phones have quite reached the level of “world in my pocket,” (speed, coverage, screen/keyboard sizes are still issues) but that’s not the point. If we [media organizations] sat around until the right phones were created, we’d be in even deeper poo than we already are. Realize right now that everyone will soon have an Internet-enabled phone (or similar pocket device) and the technology will keep pace with the demand.

Will the traditional print news organization come up with programming…?

Do traditional print news orgs still exist? Don’t they all have Web sites now? Aren’t they all scrabbling to save themselves online?

We’re not at the beginning of the news revolution anymore. We’re in the middle, and the organizations that have made it this far are very different from what they were 10 years ago. The ones that make it through will be the ones who drop this “traditional print news organization” concept and think about what people are reading, watching, hearing, buying, doing, playing…

Hard news is not always breaking news, but how should it be packaged or bundled — to adapt to the phone?

packages

Mindy suggests that a packaged identities can be a part of this and I agree. After all, isn’t that what we’re doing by building personal brands and using social media? Isn’t that why you follow someone on Twitter or Facebook? Why you subscribe to a blogger’s RSS feed?

I hadn’t thought of this before, because I’ve been thinking more technically about how information can be packaged for multiple mediums.

But what if we break the media company identity down into a series of smaller, bite-sized packages?

Company branding is already being broken down to the individual level. Personal branding is all the rage. Will news packages be branded to the individual? Or be yet another subset of the company branding? Or will the individual brand dominate the other two?

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Newspapers vs. Public Relations: FIGHT!

I had a meeting recently with a PR company that I do occasional Web work for. They asked me to remove some content from their site, because they were approached by a lawyer representing several newspapers (New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post were named).

Apparently, these papers want PR companies to remove media placements from their Web sites in cases where the company had simply uploaded a PDF of the print product.

OK, yea, that’s totally not fair use. But why do you think they started doing that in the first place, rather than simply link to articles?

Oh yea…those damned paywalls.

PR companies have been doing this for years. Why do newspapers suddenly care?

Is it that more PR companies are getting their sites optimized for search engines?

Is it the $0.10 in ad revenue that the papers might be losing because someone looks at a PDF instead of going to the newspaper’s Web site?

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Scaring highschoolers about the future of journalism

On Wednesday evening I spoke to a group of five students who are taking part in the Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative.

I’ve mentioned BYJI here before, mostly begging for help with my public speaking anxiety.

To my surprise, the whole thing went pretty well. The kids were Web-savvy enough to have uploaded a few videos to YouTube, and knew of Twitter, though none are using it yet.

I talked about the “newspaper crisis” caused by lack of innovation, an old business model and the problems with advertising and paywalls. (The kids’ immediate reaction to paywalls: “That won’t work.” Out of the mouths…) I went over the basics of online journalism: blogs, social networks, multimedia. I also talked about citizen journalism a little bit, in terms of how everyone can have a voice in their communities, which is a big problem in the Bronx. They really liked the concepts of “Not Just a Number,” which I showed them, along with the Las Vegas Sun Web site.

One student asked me how he could learn to code, and I directed him to the W3Schools site. Another asked about the future of news on e-readers like the Kindle. And of course the final question was “Where are we going?”

Thanks to Mindy McAdams, Craig Lee, and Tracy Boyer for their advice and inspiration. I’ve uploaded a powerpoint presentation to Slideshare which I used as a guide for my presentation, although it was really more a conversation than a speech.

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Speaking at the Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative

Next week I will be speaking to the students of the West Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative about online journalism and the future of news.

The West Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative is a weekly program offered to sophomores, juniors or seniors from Bronx high schools.

Students will learn the fundamentals of writing, reporting, and photojournalism through classroom instruction but, more importantly, through hands-on reporting in their own neighborhoods. We will take them on field trips – including the newsroom of a daily newspaper. They will learn about community activism and civic responsibility, how their neighborhoods work (or don’t), who has power, who doesn’t and why.

I’m nervous, because I’m really horrible at public speaking. But also because I have no idea what these kids know.

What’s the level of computer/Internet proficiency? Do they have access to computers at home? Do they read news online, have blogs, read blogs?

James Fergusson, the program coordinator and Editor of the Mount Hope Monitor, has told me that they have not discussed online journalism in class.

I got some great advice from Mindy McAdams, who told me not to assume that the kids are technologically ignorant. Even if they don’t have computers at home, the public libraries offer free access.

She also suggested that I show “Not Just a Number” and “The Mac” as examples of stories told by people about their own communities.

I can probably spend a few minutes at first figuring out what they know without looking like a total hack. The problem is how to adjust what I want to say to their level. After beating college reporters over the head with the “good news” for two semesters, I’m not sure how to condense the message to half an hour.

Any advice? What should these high-schoolers know about online journalism? What do I tell them about the future of news?