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Teaching Online Journalism

Interactive exercise for journalism students

At the Vancouver Film School, students in the Digital Design program will “create an interactive journalism Flash project”:

This project begins by selecting a newspaper article that you want to make more meaningful to a target audience. Next, you’ll use the skills introduced to you in the User Experience and Interface Design courses to come up with a concept statement and storyboard. … Your design is meant to seduce the reader to click on the piece, to inform and educate your reader with more than content, but also with engaging interactivity that completes the experience. By offering your reader a greater sense of knowledge about the subject of the piece, your project will demonstrate that you have the ability to not only communicate through design, but also to captivate and educate an audience. [Source]

How cool is that? If only the same person also had training in journalism …

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Get me video — now!

Newsrooms that want a bunch of quick-and-dirty video from the street should check out the heap of information in this post from dailywireless.org (found via Unmediated).

It covers one-click video unloads from mobile phones, thanks to ShoZu; the $129 Pure Digital Point & Shoot Camcorder discussed here last week (available at your local Target store); and a whole library’s worth of links to related blog posts and articles.

This topic harks back to the day last month when a Fox News reporter used a Treo PDA phone to transmit live video:

Scott Wilder, a cameraman for the network, had been about 20 blocks away on another assignment when the [New York plane] crash occurred. Wilder ran uptown and reported live from the scene using a Palm Treo smart phone that uses the existing mobile network to transmit video to the Fox News control room. From there, Fox News sent it out live on TV to supplement other video being shot by local traffic helicopters.

Wilder’s work represents one of the first instances of a network using video captured via mobile phone camera live on the air. Fox News has experimented with the practice several times in recent weeks with CometVision, software designed by Ohio-based Comet Video Technologies.

Comet Video Technologies provides various services for portable video transmission.

If you really want a trashy cheap video camera, look here.

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Communicating serious stuff with fun animation

See how the giant private collections of personal data — about you, me and everyone else — really work in this very amusing Flash animation by the amazing Micah Laaker. (Check out his portfolio. What a guy!)

I have my grad students reading Washington Post reporter Robert O’Harrow’s book No Place to Hide right now, and we are all angry and outraged about the lack of protection for private citizens in the U.S. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch the cartoon! (And then read the book.)

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Data and Flash, made for each other

Kudos to USA Today for doing a great investigative story — complete with excellent information graphics (including this fabulous interactive chart) — about U.S. college football coaches and how much they get paid.

Are you sitting down?

$4.64 million. Okay, that’s only one coach — Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz.

My university pays our coach less than $500,000 a year in salary, but after all the add-ons and bonuses, his annual total exceeds $1.5 million!

USA Today has even provided PDFs for almost all of the coaches’ employment contracts. Now that is some awesome public records reporting!

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Al Jazeera English goes live after delays

Various reasons have been given for the repeated postponements. I like the Web site very much. But will I be able to get the new news network on my American cable system? Ha!

Update (Nov. 18): The more I think about this, the madder I get. I have numerous shopping channels on my cable line-up. Numerous sports channels. Why can’t I have this one additional news channel? What are the cable TV providers afraid of? Really, it’s a First Amendment issue. The cable providers (operating with huge benefits provided by the federal government) are blocking the citizens’ access to information. Now, some idiots might claim that Al Jazeera is “the Osama bin Laden network,” but those same idiots would tell you it’s okay to arrest people without charge and hold them without trial. That used to be considered un-American. So did censorship of news and information.

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Washington Post will not go gently

Sounds great to me:

We are re-directing newsroom staff and resources to our highest priority journalism in print and on the Web. In form, our priorities include original reporting, scoops, analysis, investigations and criticism. In content, they include politics, government accountability, economic policy and what our readers need to know about the world — plus local government, schools, transportation, public safety, development, immigrant communities, health care, sports, arts and entertainment.

That’s Len Downie, executive editor of The Washington Post. E&P has the memo.

Many journalists may wring their hands and fret about this. But it’s smart. A strategic — not merely reactionary — reorganization of resources would surely help most newspapers. Much of that reorganization absolutely must be targeted at the media people are actually using today — NOT the printed newspaper.

Look at this — it’s brilliant, and desperately overdue:

We will make more progress in presenting our coverage more effectively in news sections. We will take a new approach to story length, which remains an important challenge, despite the progress already made in some parts of the paper. We will soon publish story length guidelines for the staff, along with ways to adhere to them. Our goal is for the newspaper to be filled with stories of different sizes and forms — and to provide both reporters and editors the tools to better edit for length. Our philosophy will be that every story must earn its length, so readers will want to read and finish more stories.

That made me want to jump out of my chair and applaud. Len is no dummy. Far from it.

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Reasons to continue this blog

Sometime last night, this blog experienced visit No. 20,000, according to Site Meter. Thanks to all the readers old and new.

I started this blog on Dec. 20, 2005. I put the Site Meter counter on this blog on April 03, 2006. At that time, I was very happy anytime I got more than 50 visitors in one day. Lately the number of daily visitors is about 200.

I mention this not to brag, of course — there are blogs out there with 10,000 visitors a day! — but rather to encourage those, like my students, who have a new and toddling little blog. It can be disheartening to see how few people come to your site, but building an audience takes time.

Click for full-size graphic
In Dave Sifry’s State of the Blogosphere report for October 2006, Sifry explained how blogs gain authority over time. It’s valuable food for thought for anyone who wants to start a blog, or who has started one and is wondering whether to keep going.

First, Technorati measures a blog’s authority by how many other blogs link to it (which splogs, or spam blogs, worked hard to exploit, but Technorati’s programmers are fighting that battle pretty effectively now). This is sort like Google’s PageRank system.

The chart above shows four clusters of authority, from lowest to highest, in the Technorati system. One interesting point is that blogs with greater authority have been online longer (the yellow column) — however, the length of time online is very similar for the two lowest groupings. We’re talking 228-260 days, or roughly eight months, for the two lower clusters.

So if your blog is younger than eight months, don’t expect it to have much authority yet!

Blogs in the second cluster have an average age of 455 days, and blogs in the cluster with the highest authority average 530 days in age.

The other very interesting finding: Blogs with higher authority tend to have a higher frequency of posting. That is, blogs in the highest authority cluster having an average of close to two posts per day, or 53 per month. The second group: Half that often. Posting frequency declines to 18 per month in the third group and 12 per month in the fourth.

What this says about blogs that attract more attention is that such blogs are: (a) well-established; that is, have existed for more than one year; and (b) are updated often with new posts — more than once a day, on average.

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