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Teaching Online Journalism

Smarter(3): A list for journalism students

Each Sunday, I post links to three (and only three) articles that are informative about, or pointing the way to, the future in journalism. Previous posts can be found here. There is also a Tumblr for this series, named Smarter.

Photo: More maths today, by Flickr user stuartpilbrow

How I faced my fears and learned to be good at math. Matt Waite used to be a reporter at a big Florida newspaper; now he’s a journalism professor. He writes code and is well known for giving fun and profanity-laced training sessions about investigative reporting. However, like many journalists, Waite always considered himself to be bad at math. When he took an undergrad math placement exam at the university where he now teaches, his score put him into a remedial math class. This article shows us what happened next — and why saying you are “bad at math” is — well, just stupid.

Takeaways: Today’s journalism requires journalists to be good at math. Becoming good at math does not require special talents or brilliance. If you’ve ever said, “I’m bad at math,” probably you just weren’t doing it right. This is a deficit you can fix, and Waite explains how.

Chart: Pew Research Center

News Use across Social Media Platforms. The title of this Pew Research Center post might be dull, but the information certainly is not: About half of all Facebook and Twitter users get news on those sites, but on Pinterest, almost no one uses it to get news. Most YouTube and LinkedIn users also report that they do NOT get news from those sites. (These data seem to contradict a report posted here last week, which said Pinterest is the No. 2 driver of traffic to “publishers.” That report, however, did not focus on “news.”) Several interesting graphics enhance this post from Pew.

Takeaways: A news organization needs to know how people are using different social media platforms. It’s not enough to know which platform has the most activity or the most users — those stats might not be relevant to sharing news. Even if young people are leaving Facebook, lots of older people are still enthusiastic about it. (Check out the chart titled “Profile of the Social Media News Consumer” for data about age groups and news use.)

Illustration: Jeff Bezos as a paperboy

The Data-Driven Future of Journalism. This article is NOT about telling stories with data. Instead, longtime editor Owen Thomas looks at how other industries use data about customers to refine and improve products — and asks why journalism businesses fail to pay proper attention to what the audience is reading, viewing, commenting on, and sharing. This is not a data-heavy story — instead, it presents a simple argument in favor of listening to the audience and learning what people like — and why.

Takeaways:  Audience analysis and metrics are not (only) for the business office — editors and journalists need these too. Tallying pageviews (“the crudest possible approximation of the interaction between a writer and a reader”) is only the tip of the iceberg. We have sophisticated tools now (but we’re not using them) to find out why people read a story, how they found it, what they thought about it.

I’d love to know what you think. Are these three items new to you? Did they make you think? Did you learn something? Tell me via Twitter or Facebook or here, in the comments.


Categories: ideas, teaching


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