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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SNDBoston: Making Data Webby

with Adrian Holovaty! This is the highlight for me, since my background is more programming and I’m defenitely a huge geek. Seeing Adrian speak was the deciding factor in coming to SND.

How to take data and make it efficient in terms of how the hypertext is laid out. Example: Wikipedia = Serendipity

Journalists are essentially collectors of data.

Rant #1 No serendipity in online journalism. Bullshit!
Data browseability: people want it and expect it. (IMDB, Amazon.com)

Serendipity increases stickiness and usefulness.

It all starts with structure. Have a structured list of data (facts) like an Excel spreadsheet. Journalists take clean data and turn it into a story. Computer programs can’t read the story. News orgs have the infrastructure to collect data, edit and verify the data and get the data to people. But they don’t leverage the data!

Lesson #1 Structure your data
Everything has structure. Sports. Obits. Even photos: subject, photographer, where, when, camera, size, colors (Flickr)

After the structure, the easy part.

Lesson #2 Give your data “the treatment”
Example: crime data
Step 1: lists fields (date, time, type, address, location, arrests, case number)
Step 2: key concepts (what data is useful? date, time, type, address, location)
Step 3: make breakdowns (list all possible values for each field)
Step 4: make list pages (pages for each value in each field)
Step 5: detail pages (pages for each crime)

Things to note
– Permalinks for concepts (distinct URL) linkability/bookmarkability
– SEO
– Serendipity

Example sites: chicagocrime.org, Faces of the Fallen, Video Game Reviews, Mixed Messages.

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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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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.

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Semester Update

Well, we’re a month into the semester now, and I’ve got a good grip on what each of my classes is trying to teach me.

Intro to Photographic Journalism is going very well. I still have to remind myself what settings (white balance, ISO, shutter speed, aperture) to mess with in order to make the photos come out as I imagine them, but my focus and composition are improving.

We have an interesting case study assignment for Ethics, otherwise the class is much like a philosophy course. I wish the class was smaller, say 15 people instead of 80-something. A good friend of mine is a philosophy major with a special interest in ethics, so I’m looking forward to some juicy discussions.

Reporting and Writing for the Web is giving me trouble in terms of the format and content of the course. Our first project is to do a Soundslides package, which while important for the students in the class with no previous multimedia experience to learn, is hard for me to sit still for after building an audio slide show in Flash by hand when I took Advanced Online Media Production. The end result of our work this semester is to create one big package.

Finally, Advanced Interactive Media Reporting is the most confusing and frustrating course, although it has gotten much better. Some of the students feel that the course should be teaching specific skills, as opposed to working towards a product: a converged newsroom. We’ve gone back and forth and around and around for the last few weeks, but I believe we have gotten past some of that.

I’m feeling fairly confident in my skill set as a result of the classes I’ve been taking. My weak spot right now is video, and I know absolutely nothing about databases. But these should be corrected before I graduate in the Spring. I’m looking forward to deciding which aspect of online journalism I really want to focus on.

I found this checklist in my archives somewhere, but have no idea where it originated (Bryan, is this you again?). A lot of these things we aren’t doing or are just starting at The Alligator with our three-week-old CMS, but I thought a run-through the list now will make it that much more impressive when I check again in a few months.

Is your web team able to flex work hours, responsibilities and skills?

My team rocks! We have been putting in all kinds of crazy hours to get our new CMS running smoothly and get new articles up each day. We are an assorted bunch with varying skill sets, so we can handle just about anything that gets thrown our way.

Do you need freelancers or others in the newsroom that can sit in and help publish the massive stream of content you’ll have?
(I really shouldn’t need to say this in August 2007 but…) Is your newsroom logistically ready to file and edit for the web before print?

I really wish we had some more hands around the office. The Web site is up before the papers hit the streets each morning, but only just. I wish we could be updating all day, but as a student-run paper, it is difficult to work around classes and other schedules. This is an area we need to work really hard in.

Do you have some sort of tools (forums, message boards or databases) for family/friend contacts if people are missing, databasing opening/closings or any other searchable, community information opportunities?

Nothing yet. There’s only three of us working full-time, hopefully we can get started on some really cool projects soon.

Do you have a breaking news blog ready at the flick of a switch?

Our new blogs should be up next week, and will include a breaking news section.

Does your site have an ‘armageddon’ design? (So that you can drop a package above the fold for massive news with huge images and headline fonts?)

The top story on our front page always has a big headline and a photo, so this doesn’t seem to be a problem.

Is all of your reporting staff skilled in editing and filing remotely for stories, photos, audio and video? Do they regularly do it? (Believe me, working tech support remotely can sometimes be more frustrating that not having any extra multimedia content from the scene.)

Nope. We can do it, but reporters have not been trained yet.

Is your workflow streamlined and standardized so that turning multimedia content quickly is easy?

I’ve been really excited when a reporter or photographer takes the initiative to grab video, audio, or photos. But then my team has to go in early to edit and put things together.

Have you explored the social media tools already available out there so that you can use to connect people with information?

We are working on a Facebook application as well as a Google gadget, but these are not available yet. We do have article tools for sharing with Facebook, Digg, etc.

What about social contributions to maps? What about social sharing of news tips? What about social sharing of photos, video, audio? How are you going to solicit, retain and manage all that social stuff? (An email account and one body probably won’t cut it.)

No, no, no, and I have no idea. But someday…

Even tech issues like, do you have the bandwidth available to handle getting slammed? What can you jettison in times of emergency to make your site move faster? (For instance, Roanoke, cut some of their ad serving during the Virginia Tech shootings to keep the site trudging on.) Have you talked among department leaders about this plan? Who’s mission control? Who’s below that? Is this plan written down somewhere and reviewed occasionally among all the staff?

I’ve never seen the site go down due to bandwidth, though we have been having some other problems with the servers. But minimizing if a rush occurred should be pretty easy. We don’t have any formal plan, my staff and I would make a judgment call and implement it.

So, this checklist makes us seem kinda pathetic. I wish I could give long, glowing, positive answers to every question. I hope that when I go back through at the end of this semester, I can at least stop saying, “Well, no, but we’re working on it.”

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Nikon’s Advertising

200 citizens of Georgetown, South Carolina received free D40 cameras from Nikon and a license to shoot.

Nikon used the pictures and the story to create a brilliant advertisement for the D40.

The pictures on display were taken by 8 amateurs, which is supposed to show that the D40 is a great camera in any body’s hands.
Along with profiles of the participants, which include multimedia, is a photo gallery that is comment-enabled.

The whole package almost feels like journalism. Blurring the lines much?

My peeve: the only reason I found this Web site is because I happened to actually watch a commercial. I only saw the commercial once. Why spend so much time on this project and then not scream the URL from every possible medium?

I just thought it was interesting for an advertisement to have such depth.

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Data visualization, or I want pretty pictures!

Edit: I forgot to include the all-important link.

Yesterday, MSNBC published a fantastic report on journalists who made campaign contributions from 2004 to 2007.

This is a huge deal, because the trust of the public in newspapers rests on the objectivity and transparency of the journalists.

But I feel almost as though MSNBC went out of its way to make me not want to read the entire article.

It is always a good idea to publish the findings of an investigation like this in plain English, so that if someone screwed up, it can be pointed out. But I got through the first five contributors before I thought “Well, these people suck,” and left the Web site.

Where’s my data visualization?

Not only do pretty graphics help me to understand the information better, I’ll stay on your Web site longer.

What they could have done:

  • Mug shots of each journalist with a hover feature.
  • Divide by the news outlet, when you scroll over a graphic for each one it offers a list you can click on to the details.
  • Show me how much money was given to each party.

I know that there is a lot of information here. 114 people, how much they donated, when, to whom, and comments. That’s hard to split up. But this is an important story. It really calls for a package of graphics, not just a long block of text.