Megan Taylor

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

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Newspaper curmudgeon talking points

This is amazing. Must memorize. Where did I hide my index cards?

• Comments are worthless vitriol and they degrade the work of journalists.

• Never link to your competitors, you’re just giving them traffic!

• Social media is a fad. Investing in it now will be a waste of time and money when it all goes bottom-up.

• A blog is not a tool for journalism, it is for people in robes writing about their cats.

• Citizen journalists suck. They’re biased! They have opinions and everything. Act like they own politics.

From:

The ultimate guide to newspaper curmudgeon talking points — Eat Sleep Publish.

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New project: Borrowers Betrayed

A week ago, I was assigned the task of building the story package for a series on mortgage fraud. This had been in the works at The Miami Herald for quite some time, and the investigative team was finally ready.

When we found out that Congress was working on legislation relevant to the series, the package was fast-tracked. I had one week to build this thing.

It launched yesterday morning and if I do say so myself, it’s wicked cool. We have profiles and documentation for 4 major offenders, a flash graphic, a couple of static graphics, a slide show and a video, in addition to all the stories.

I even got a credit line in the footer!

I learned a lot about coding fast – quick and dirty sounds good, but it pays to take just a few extra minutes to do it right. It was also a good team experience. It’s so much harder to put things together when no one know what anyone else is doing, it almost justifies meetings! (Except that’s why we have instant messenger and Twitter.)

And guys, I forgive you the millions of revisions and changes. Everything turned out great.

Check out how they did the story.

So what’s next? I have a bunch of different projects on my plate, but I’ll give you a few hints: Video, Flash, ActionScript 3, XML, Twitter, database, Django, Python. Not another word! You can’t drag it out of me!

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The Alligator rockin’ at 10,000 Words

Mark Luckie at 10,000 Words isn’t “just a blogger,” he’s a print journalist gone online. Luckie has been looking at college journalism this week, and The Independent Florida Alligator got some awesome mentions:

Online Student Journalism: Best of the Best

1. The Independent Florida Alligator, University of Florida
The Alligator is hands down the best online student newspaper and rivals the pros in its news coverage and use of multimedia elements. Just listing the stellar components that make up the site warrant its own individual post. The Alligator’s standout features are the Gainesville
Explorer , a look at the surrounding city using video and audio slideshows, the use of Google Maps mashups to illustrate problems like apartment overcrowding and rising gas prices, and its 11 blogsthat cover pretty much every spectrum of news. Admittedly The Alligator works on a larger scale than most student newspapers, but it is nevertheless an exceptional example of the possibility of online student journalism.

What a payoff for all the hard work we’ve done!

Online Student Journalism: Outstanding Use of Multimedia or Social Networking

7. Twitter, The Independent Florida Alligator, University of Florida

It seems everyone is Twitteringthese days, but The Alligator is one of very few student newspapers doing so. The site uses twitterfeed to broadcast news stories and links, almost 2,500 of which have been sent since The Alligator began using the service.

Personally, I think we should have gotten more mention of our amazing multimedia, but at least my Twitter obsession has been justified.

Online Student Journalism: Best Site Design

4. The Independent Florida Alligator, University of Florida

The Alligator is an incredible example of the potential greatness of an online student newspaper. Its black and white design makes the fine journalism happening on the site look even better. Sections and stories are easily scannable and the site’s headlines are large enough to catch the eye. The Alligator also makes great use of its footer — a contrasting black to
the rest of the page — something that is rare in online student paper design.

That’s so totally what we were going for!

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Twitter update

Well, my obsession with Twitter has been pretty well satisfied by now.

I’ve gotten the feed printed onto my desktop with Geektool, set up keyword tracking, followed a bunch of super cool journalism people, then meticulously tracked down every Twitter user in Gainesville and followed them as well. (Now that I’m leaving, should I un-follow them?) My tweets automagically go through to my Facebook status and I even set up my calendar and to do list on Twitter.

I use a combination of Twhirl, Google Talk and mobile updates to keep track of everything. And no, I’m not paying attention ALL the time.

I made a Twitter account for The Independent Florida Alligator and then made a page on the Web site where the “tweets” of those that follow the newspaper’s account will show up. The Alligator’s Twitter feed also includes weather conditions and updates from the University Police Department’s crime log (scraped with Dapper).

My initial obsession has been tempered by productivity problems and information overload. But I won’t stop using it. I’ll just have to be a little more judicious.

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Project Updates: Django

After 2 frustrating months, I finally got Django up and running on my laptop. I could have had an easier time installing it on my Windoze machine, but I’m not home very much, so I wouldn’t have time to play with it.

Ken Schwencke, whose help was instrumental in finally get Django to work, and I have been working through the tutorials on the Django project Web site. It’s time to buy some python programming books.

Ken is a few steps ahead of me, having already written a python script to parse a Twitter friends feed so it can be printed out in plan text. (We discovered GeekTool recently, and have been experimenting with getting all kinds of data printed to the desktop.)

I’m really excited about learning how to use Django and python to build new web projects.

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Falling in love with blogging again

Zac Echola reminded me yesterday what this blog is about and why I started it.

  • 1. A networking blog should be a living document of your professional self. You should stay focused on topics that matter to people who may hire you. You should start reading blogs from people in your field.
  • 2. When someone makes you think, you should think out loud on your site. Have a conversation with others. Email people questions. Chat with them on twitter. Get to know people. Working a blog isn’t much different than working a room at a conference. Stay focused.
  • 3. Show off your work. When you do something good, show it off. Don’t be bashful.
  • 4. SEO the crap out of yourself.
  • 5. Seize every opportunity you can.
  • 6. Always remember that there’s a real human being on the other side of the machine.

I’ve been really bad at updating lately, and I’m going to work hard to fix that, starting with a bunch of updates on what I’ve been doing lately. I think short posts are preferred, so I’ll split things up. Keep an eye out for stuff on Twitter, Google Maps, Django and more.

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Next Newsroom: Wrap-up

I spent Thursday and Friday at the NextNewsroom Conference at Duke University. Thanks to Chris O’Brien for coordinating a great discussion and helping college students attend.

My interest in the conference stemmed from a previous interest in exploring the idea of a “virtual newsroom.” I wrote a little about this before.

Due to some initial crazyness at the Gainesville airport, I was late to the show, so here are some links documenting what I missed:

Greg Linch posted the highlights of Chris O’Brien’s opening words and collected some excellent quotes from Saf Fahim’s keynote speech. I’ve been following Greg on Twitter and his blog for a while now, and it was awesome to finally meet him. We even collaborated on live-streaming and recording sessions on the second day. More about that later.

Byran Murley used Cover It Live to keep up on speeches the first day and sessions the second. Cover It Live looks like a sweet live-blogging tool.

I did make it in time for Randy Covington’s speech on “New Roles in the New Newsroom.” I posted my notes earlier, but the quick takeaway was that the current structure of the newsroom is an impediment to convergence and integration between mediums. As examples of alternative structures he pointed to London’s Daily Telegraph and the Tampa Bay Tribune.

Next there was a panel discussion with Robertson Barret, Sharon Behl Brooks, Christian Oliver, Rusty Coats and Keith Hanadel as moderator. The discussion was a little disappointing, I felt like they kept drifting into different arguments instead of responding to the questions and comments posed via Twitter.

There’s video from all this at Ustream.tv.

On Friday, the second day, Greg and I joined forces (and equipment) to live-stream video from the sessions we attended. We had some technical difficulties, but it was really fun!

Session 1: We went to a discussion facilitated by Brett Erikson, Kathy Stofer and Sharon Brooks on operating a converged newsroom in the context of student media. Check out the video.

Session 2: How can the newsroom management structure be reorganized? Led by Bryan Murley. Takeaway: The Web editor needs to be high up on that ladder. I’m gonna point you to Greg again, as his notes are better than mine for this session.

Session 3: How to change from old news culture to new – led by John North, Knoxville News Sentinel. If we had come up with any answers to this problem, we could make a looot of money.

Session 4: Balancing work and class, learning and innovation in college media, led by Kathleen Sullivan. Ustream was crashing no matter what I did, so I switched to Yahoo Live. Unfortunately, it doesn’t save video, just broadcasts it. :(

The best thing about this conference was that after breaking out for different sessions we all gathered back together to share what had been discussed in each group. I’ve never done this at a conference and I thought it was a great way to walk out with as much to think about as possible.

So, what is the next newsroom going to be like? We don’t really know. There are so many aspects to consider, from roles and structure to physical space to technology. I’m still trying to remember names, Web sites, and ideas, gathering all my notes off of napkins, stray paper and boarding passes.

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Today’s Next Newsroom Unconference

The sessions for this morning:

Session 1
1. What are the keys to successfully operating a converged newsroom, especially for student media?
Facilitators: Brett Erickson, Kathy Stofer, Sharon Brooks
2. How can design of space promote innovation in the newsroom?
Facilitator: John Keefe
3. What productivity tools can transform the newsroom?
Facilitator: Christian Oliver
4. What is the role of social networking in the newsroom?
Facilitator: Kara Andrade

I want to go to all of them!

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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.