Archive for October 25th, 2010
25 Oct

Tips and tools to innovate with during election night coverage

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NOTE: Originally ran on Online Journalism Review:

In our world, there is no better story that reflects the power and value of good journalism like an election.

Regardless of the medium, the stories from an election can include investigative pieces, people profiles, contextual stories, and, because politicians are so colorful, stories of the weird.

Put these under an umbrella of breaking news and see us do our thing.

The midterm elections are just around the corner and they have proven to live up to a newsy season. By now many of us have established a general plan for election night coverage.

But to help foster innovation and advancement in journalism, last’s week #wjchat, a weekly chat about Web journalism held through Twitter, had its first Elex Exchange where we shared ideas and tools to help with this year’s coverage.

Inspired by the chat, here’s a list taking advantage of the latest technology to help election.

TWITTER // reporting + distribution
It’s a basic tool that should be part of your daily journalism routine, but Twitter is still best tool for covering a real-time news event, especially when covering breaking news or election.

As written before, Twitter is the tool to help you find sources and trends in real-time. Either by zip code or by topics/keywords, make sure you are using and monitoring Twitter throughout the election. Use a Twitter-client like TweetDeck with predetermine searches that you occasionally check on.

The next basic minimum is to have a Twitter feed on your homepage specifically for the election coverage. No programming is required to create this widget, you just need to decide whether you want public tweets with a hashtag or you want to create a list of the accounts that will appear in the feed.

Either way, Twitter has got you covered with their ‘goodies.’ Make sure you take the time to customize the colors to have it match your site design.

If you haven’t yet, check to see if a hashtag or hashtags relating to your local races have been created by the community. If no one has, create them right away. If someone beat you to it, don’t worry and embrace them… but either way start using them NOW!

This simple act gives you a head start in becoming the lead authority on these races, in social media and beyond.

Take a page from the Pulitzer Prize winners for Breaking News,, and get in the habit of creating and using hashtags when covering all types of news.

FOURSQUARE // geolocation + distribution
This election season, news outlets should create ‘check-in’ places for polling locations in their town. The geolocation community is small but growing and will be checking in as they go to vote. Like a hashtag, if you don’t create a location, they will.

Become the leader in coverage by not only creating the locations but add a tip (Ex. Tip links to LAT story about Venice Beach fight) that links back to your site’s live, active, up-to-date election coverage.

Remember, by having these locations, you can also find potential sources as they check in to the venues.

USTREAM // live streaming
Who says TV broadcast gets to have all the fun with their live coverage. Okay, it may not be your idea of fun, but live streaming is a tool more newsrooms need to embrace. No expensive satellites required, services like Ustream allow you to do a live shot from your newsroom with a laptop and camera or from your smart phone.

Stream the candidates’ celebratory or concession speech election night live straight onto your homepage. It’s easy and it should be another standard tool in your journalistic toolbox.

CROWDMAP // crowdsource reporting + mapping
This tool comes from Sarah Day Owen, #wjchat colleague and Augusta Chronicle‘s Social Media Editor, who heard about it from the new hyperlocal site TDB in Washington D.C. She is hoping to experiment with this tool that takes crowdsourced information from cell phones, news and the web and maps them.

This application, originally built to crowdsource crisis information, begs to be used by news outlets, especially for something like election coverage. It’s free and pretty simple to setup… so you still have time to pull this off. Even if you don’t get participation from the community, get your reporters to file dispatches.

STICKYBITS // social media + user-generated content
I recently wrote about this tool and want news organizations to experiment with it, so here’s a second pitch.

Like Twitter’s hashtag or FourSquares’s digital makers, create your own barcode and literally post it at as many polling places in your town, asking a question (Ex.: What do you hope comes out of this election?) and a note encouraging them to download the stickybits app and upload their responses. See if you get people in your community adding election related “bits” – video, text, photos, audio, etc. – to your barcode.

IMAPFLICKR // user-generated photos + geolocation
Okay, so getting the community to download an app to scan a barcode then post a message is a sizable hurdle (I know, but try it anyway!), so here is a simpler tool that takes a Flickr feed and maps it.

In other words, you can open up a Flickr account and have people submit photos from polling places and get them mapped. Like the Twitter feed, no programming is required and the biggest decision you have to make is whether or not you make this a public or staff driven feed.

PHOTOSYNTH // photo + crowdsourcing + magic
This tool, originally created by the University of Washington before it was purchased by Microsoft, is something I’ve been trying to push into newsrooms’ toolboxes for years. It finally made its mainstream debut with CNN’s “The Moment” in 2008, but hasn’t been used much in news since.

It may not work perfectly in this scenario, but I would remiss if I didn’t mention it. PhotoSynth takes a collection of photos – from different contributors – of one location and “stitches” them together to create a virtual experiment.

So, let’s say we’re at a candidate’s headquaters for the party… take a ton if photos of the scene, throw them into this program and post an experience like no other. It’s more powerful if you crowdsourced the images.

STORIFY // social media + curating (Invitation required)
The great thing about Twitter and other social media networks is the real-time stream of content that flows out of them, often like a fire hose of information. The bad thing about these tools is the content can get drowned out rather quickly. Storify, who’s creator we profiled recently, is a tool that let’s you build a story through social media elements, adding context and comments around elements from Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and more.

You create an article on their site, but you embed the created piece on yours. It’s in beta and there are a few limitations with it, but if you want to tell the story of how the election night was covered through social media, this is the tool to use.

Do you have a tool you plan to use? Have you experimented with these? What examples of great election coverage have you seen? Make sure you add your thoughts and experiences in the comments, before and after the election.

Robert Hernandez is a Web Journalism professor at USC Annenberg and co-creator of #wjchat, a weekly chat for Web Journalists held on Twitter. You can contact him by e-mail ( or through Twitter (@webjournalist). Yes, he’s a tech/journo geek.

25 Oct

Twenty-two reasons to vote for ONA board

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The list of candidates running for the Online News Association Board of Directors is nothing short of an all-star cast. I am fortunate to be among them, and no matter how the vote turns out, I’m going to be fortunate to be listed either among the “winners” or “losers.”

(In fact, if I don’t get one of the six available seats, I might start an alternative organization called The Extraordinary League of Web Journalists.)

The 22 reasons to vote

John Abell // New York Bureau Chief,
Jody Brannon // National Director, News21
Neil Budde // President, Chief Product Officer,
Laura Cochran // Content Manager, ContentOne, Gannett
Eric Easter // VP, Digital and Entertainment, Johnson Publishing
Micah Gelman // Executive Producer, U.S. Video, The Associated Press (AP)
Cory Haik // Deputy Editor, Universal News Desk, Washington Post
Joshua Hatch // Interactives Director, USA TODAY
Robert Hernandez / Assistant Professor of Professional Practice, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
Gary Kebbel // Dean, College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Katie King // Senior Product Manager, Portal and Partnerships, MSN UK
Rob King // Editor-in-Chief, ESPN Digital Media
Kirk LaPointe // Managing Editor, The Vancouver Sun
Michele McLellan // Consultant, Circuit Rider
Susan Mernit // Editor in Chief, Oakland Local
Ken Sands // Online Editor, Bloomberg
Eric Scherer // Director, Strategy and External Relations, Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Tiffany Shackelford // Practice Manager, Journalism and Publishing, Phase2 Technology
Ingrid Sturgis // Assistant Professor, Howard University
Will Sullivan // Donald W. Reynold Fellow, Reynolds Journalism Institu
Amy Webb // Principal Digital Media Consultant, Webbmedia Group
Jonathan Weber // Editor in Chief, The Bay Citizen

The list of elite journos should be reason enough to make sure you participate and vote, but this great organization continues to grow and needs strong, engaged leaders to guide it.

Please take the time to vote. The polls will open Oct. 29 and close Nov. 13. For more board election information go to:

It is going to be hard to pick only six… I’m not kidding. There are a lot more than six friends and colleagues I truly respect.

Here are a few thoughts on some of the candidates, in alphabetical order, that I’ve met or worked closely with or in one capacity or another.

Jody Brannon // National Director, News21
Jody BrannonI first met Jody at UNITY ’04 in D.C. as someone who volunteered to help run the student online project. She was the Executive Producer for USA Today at the time and I was impressed with her commitment to diversity. I continue to be impressed with her commitment to Online Journalism, as she has been a mentor to many and now taking on leading the innovative program News21. We’ve had lots of conversations about the state of Web journalism, often with a beer in our hands.

Laura Cochran // Content Manager, ContentOne, Gannett
Laura CochranI have known Laura more through Twitter and her active participation in ONADC rather than in person. She’s got proven track record of being a Web journalist and a history of helping the organization, most recently on conference committee.

Cory Haik // Deputy Editor, Universal News Desk, Washington Post
Cory HaikThe moment I met Cory, when she was interviewing for a position at, I knew she was my Web journalism soul mate. Yes, she is my friend. Yes, she is like family. But, don’t be mistaken, this woman is a Web journalism powerhouse rockin’ heels. While fun and infectious, she is committed to advancing Web journalism and ONA. I’ve seen her commitment to the organization firsthand, including coordinating the conference’s Multimedia Learning Lab and most recently run the “parachute” training across the country.

Y’all, if you don’t vote for her, you’re actually hurting the organization.

Joshua Hatch // Interactives Director, USA TODAY
Joshua HatchJosh Hatch is an incredibly smart (and smart-ass) Web journo. Our paths first crossed years ago when he presented during the National Association of Hispanic Journalists conference, in which I was organizing the New Media workshops. I couldn’t attend his session, but heard it was a hit. We met up again in Birmingham – as part of the training Cory organized. We had dinner and started talking about our views on Web journalism … and I realized the dude gets it. He actually pitched an idea I was contemplating back to me. So, naturally, I thought the guy was a genius. He has been committed to the organization for some time as well, playing an active role in coordinating this year’s program.

Ken Sands // Online Editor, Bloomberg
Ken SandsI’ll be blunt, Ken reminds me of that slightly crazy uncle that is brilliant, without bragging about it. I first met him over the phone in 2003, when I was hoping to strike up a partnership between and, which had just created an amazing Iraq War casualties database. Without hesitation he was more than happy to share his site’s work with a “competitor.” I am not sure my bosses would have been as giving as he was… and has proven to be. Like Jody, he’s played mentor to many, and been innovative along the way.

Tiffany Shackelford // Practice Manager, Journalism and Publishing, Phase2 Technology
Tiffany ShackelfordTiffany is simply awesome. I met her at my first ONA conference Toronto 2008, I believe. She is blunt, hilarious and committed to Web journalism and the organization. Like others I mentioned, she’s got a history helping the organization and is one of the driving forces that makes ONADC so great. I am also her +1 at the next meetup.

Will Sullivan // Donald W. Reynold Fellow, Reynolds Journalism Institute
Will SullivanWhile is handle (Journerdism) and photo alone should get your vote, Will is one of those amazing journos that’s engaged, innovative and passionate about Web journalism. And he has fun doing it. I know journalism will be okay, as long as leaders listen to people like him. In addition to being a host on #wjchat, I am working with him and a few others on a side project and appreciate his knowledge and experience.

Amy Webb // Principal Digital Media Consultant, Webbmedia Group
Amy WebbShe’s a force. Constantly innovating, she’s been an incredible presence on the ONA board, not to mention her famous session during the conference. She and her company have been actively doing their part in offering training to journos, including doing a few workshops for NAHJ.

Oh yeah, vote for Robert Hernandez
I’m going to be selfish, even though there are other amazing people, to say that I hope you vote for me for one of those six seats. I hope my track record has shown that I am committed to advancing Web journalism, have successfully served on a national board and organized a variety of training workshops.

All I can say, like those listed above and the other candidates, I care about Web journalism and advancing it and believe ONA is the organization that will lead the way.

Whether you vote for me or not, it’s incredibly important that you help shape the future of this vital organization and vote. The polls will open Oct. 29 and close Nov. 13. All ONA members in good standing as of Oct. 15, 2010, are eligible to vote. Elected board members will be announced to the public Nov. 20.

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