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Posts Tagged ‘wjchat’
12 Feb

#wjchat: Five years of thank you

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instagram-wjchat

It’s crazy to think that every Wednesday for the past five years, the Web/Digital community has come together for 90 minutes on Twitter to talk about their craft, sharing their knowledge and experiences.

The most important thing I cherish about #wjchat is the community.

I am grateful to be a part of it.

The next important thing I cherish is the incredible team of volunteers who, over the years, make this weekly miracle happen, often from behind the scenes.

Your past and current team #wjchat crew members are:

(I hope to god I haven’t left anyone off the list… if so, please contact me!)

And, of course, there are countless people who have supported our weekly efforts along the way.

Thank you to each and every one of you. Here’s to five more years and temporary tattoos that are a bitch to take off!

Note: You can read about the making of #wjchat here: http://blog.webjournalist.org/2010/02/27/the-birth-of-wjchat/

08 Sep

My work featured in CJR – twice!

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Columbia Journalism Review logoI’m really proud to share that two of my projects were featured in the Columbia Journalism Review – in both print and online.

While you can read the article online, I strongly recommend you check out the latest issue of the print magazine, which focuses on The Future of Media (this minute, at least).

In it you’ll find a two-page spread about my Tech & Tools project, where a Mad Men version of myself showcases some of my favorite apps. Below is a screenshot of an early proof, but go get the magazine!

Coincidentally, a few days later, CJR also decided to write a piece for its site exploring Twitter chats: Building a community 140 characters at a time.

While others are mentioned, #wjchat was prominently featured. For those that may not know, Twitter chats are virtual meetups held around a hashtag to discuss a topic. #wjchat is on Web Journalism and is a chat I created with four others in February 2012.

It’s crazy to think that this weekly miracle has been happening for two-and-a-half years!

12 Mar

My proof, my metrics, my ROI on Social Media: #WJCHAT

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It happens on occasion (okay, with this friend it happens a lot), but I battle with a friend over Social Media’s role in our lives and relationships.

I’m not a fan of the outsider, knee jerk reactions to Social Media that say we are getting dumber, we can’t focus and we are so lonely.

All those things may be happening, but it’s not because of Social Media… not solely anyway. These are, in fact, the same claims that have been preached about with every new development ranging from radio, TV and, I believe, even books.

So, I’m not a fan of those re-occurring, blame-the-newest-thing-for-our-bad-thing argument.

Nor am I a blinded super fan of Social Media… there’s crap out there (lots of it) and “gurus” making money by ripping people off.

I am, however, a fan of the true connections that have been made possible because of platforms like Twitter and Facebook. These platforms are just the latest evolutionary step from mail to telegram to telephone to Internet to e-mail, etc.

And, as you may have guessed, I am a SUPER fan of communities like #WJCHAT, that support and educate each other by harnessing these platforms.

The two-year anniversary of our little community was in February and, in my hopes to gets some attention to it, I asked a couple journalism sites to do a write up on us. To be honest, I didn’t really make a hard pitch.

Naturally, as good journos, the question led to why… but more importantly, what has #WJCHAT done? Where’s the proof?

I don’t have those metrics.

While we often talk about analytics, ROI and such, for me, I don’t really care about those when it comes to #WJCHAT.

All I care about is that people know that they are not alone in their struggle to find their place in journalism, that they are getting educated on how to improve journalism and that they are sharing their knowledge and experiences so we collectively “save” journalism.

My latest reminder of this was today’s ONA featured member piece on Tauhid Chappell.

I remember Chappell popping into the #WJCHAT stream and meeting him IRL at an ONA event. But I didn’t know that our little community played a role in his journalistic development… but it was enough that he felt compelled to mentioned #WJCHAT in his profile piece.

That is my proof. He is my metric.

Tonight I will be meeting “strangers” for the first time IRL at our now annual #WJCHAT meetup at SXSW.

I will be seeing old friends and making new ones (once we get over the awkward oh-yeah-I-know-you moment after we connect the avatar or handle to the face and name).

That is my proof. They are my metric.

Do you know that I have only met, maybe, half of the people who volunteer each week to run #WJCHAT. Never meet them outside of email, a collaborative document or Twitter chat.

These folks are my colleagues. They are my friends. They, too, are my proof… my metric.

Everyone in this diverse community is my argument proving that Social Media is an undeniably positive element in our modern lives.

And, my goal when Twitter life and real life merges later today, is to be present with this community of friends… and, on occasion, awkwardly look at my phone to see if I need to tweet out something.

Thank you for being part of this community. < cheesy >It’s been a positive element in my life.< /cheesy >

07 Jan

Digital + Diversity: What does your newsroom reflect?

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NOTE: Originally ran on Online Journalism Review: http://www.ojr.org/ojr/people/webjournalist/201101/1926/

If you ask a Web journalist what the newest, important tool a news organization needs to embrace today, they’d probably say Social Media. They’re right, it’s not a fad.

If you were to ask them to make a prediction or guess where the future of technology is headed, chances are they’d say mobile. Smart phones are getting smarter, smaller and cheaper. (And, one day Verizon will carry the iPhone – I believe!)

If you were to ask me what one element newsrooms need to embrace, outside of technology, my answer is a simple one: diversity. Can we make that a New Year’s resolution?

I’m not talking about being politically correct. I’m talking about having diverse experiences and points of views that shape and literally define what is news.

I believe that the lack of diversity – gender, age, religion, sexual-orientation, socioeconomic background, politics, bus riders, cyclists, video game addicts, etc. as well as ethnicity – in our newsrooms in all roles, especially leadership ones, is one of the main causes of lower circulation and loss of general reader/viewer engagement.

Again, I’m not talking about being politically correct. I’m just saying if we are not made of all our communities, how are we expected to relate and be relevant to all those communities?

Let me give you an example:
One of my early Web specials I did in my career was the 20th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic. I was representing SFGate.com as I sat around the table with print reporters and editors. You have to understand, the San Francisco Chronicle was crucial in the news coverage twenty years before with the incredible work by Randy Shilts.

These people were professionals and I was still the relatively new kid working with that new medium.

But as they spoke, I noticed that all the stories were about gay, white males. No one talked about that the fastest growing HIV/AIDS demographic was straight, black females.

They were the pros. I was just a punk kid.

Staying quiet is one of my biggest regrets in my career. I swore no matter how awkward or uncomfortable, I had to always speak up.

That chair I was sitting in wasn’t just for me. It was for all the communities I was a part of… and all the others that I wasn’t, but weren’t at the table. I have to rep everyone. You know, that voiceless thing.

Here’s another example:
Do you remember when someone tried to reinstate the draft back in 2003? I was sitting at the morning news meeting as the draft talks began to heat up and we started brainstorming on how to cover the story.

In a room of incredibly talented and experienced journalists, the angles included talking to teachers, parents, Vietnam vets, recruiters … but I was shocked that well into the discussion I had to raise my hand and mention, how about talking to high schoolers?

The room forgot to include the demographic that was going to be most affected by the draft.

But the lack of diversity in newsrooms isn’t new. Women have been battling the glass ceiling for decades and studies, like the one from ASNE, have shown a depressing lack of ethic diversity for years.

So, why am I bringing it up?

Let me give you another example:
In a recent PEW study, it found that African-Americans and Latinos “are more than twice as likely to use Twitter as are white internet users.”

In several not-so-recent studies, they found that Latinos are ahead of the curve in embracing mobile devices and its behavior. They are more likely to text message, download music, play games and access social networking.

Yet, how come there isn’t a reflection of that diversity in those Web journalism jobs? While there is a lack of diversity in newsrooms, why is there even more so on the Web side?

The digital divide? Sure, but not the one you are thinking. Those studies show “minorities” are on the advanced side of the divide and others are behind.

Diversity, and the possible lack there of, was raised as a concern after the recent invitation-only Newsfoo submit.

At last year’s SXSWi panel about the future of news it was all white men.

Look, I’m not saying that your ethnicity or gender or whatever is a requirement to do a better job for any of these tasks.

What I am saying is that if we don’t reflect our communities – both on- and off-line – we’re doomed. If we don’t listen to others outside of our own, individual communities we’ve missed the point of journalism.

This isn’t about hiring “us” over “them” … this is about how all off us strengthen journalism by reflecting our diverse communities through relevant coverage … and that the coverage is shaped by those that make up the newsroom.

That’s the premise of hyperlocal journalism, isn’t it? That a local or insider would know what is more relevant to their community rather than an outsider.

So, why can’t we overcome this challenge? It’s 2011.

PBS’ MediaShift recently held a Twitter chat on media diversity.

Thankfully, it’s on people’s minds again.

I routinely get asked for names of diverse candidates to apply for Web journo jobs… but here’s the thing, while I know plenty of reporters, editors photographers, etc., my network of diverse Web journos isn’t as strong as it should.

Y’all, I’m a lifetime member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, board member of Online News Association, been to nearly every alphabet soup of conferences and I’m still struggling to diversify my Web journo network.

So what do we do about it? We need more solutions outside of forming another damn diversity committee.

The fact is, these diverse communities are already on the advance side of the tech divide… but they are not on the journalism side. Perhaps they aren’t aware of a journalism career as an option? Perhaps they don’t see themselves in our coverage? Perhaps they feel like there is no place at the table for them to help shape news?

Whatever it is, we need to do something. And I need some help in figuring this out.

In addition to being on the ONA board, I’m overseeing the all day workshops at the next conference, I’m co-program chair for UNITY 2012, I’m the New Media track coordinator for the NAHJ annual conference and I run #wjchat, a weekly Web journalism chat.

If we don’t invest in recruiting and training members of diverse groups to help us do and advanced journalism … we are royally screwed.

My New Year’s resolution is to harness my access and network to improve diversity across the board for Web journalism. But I need your help. I need your ideas.

More importantly, in your newsrooms, your communities (and those you are not a part of) need your help. Reach out, connect, participate, preach and downright fight to ensure your news org’s journalism reflects the diverse community it covers. Help it stay relevant.

15 Dec

Journalism of the Web, not just on it: Q&A with Jim Brady

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NOTE: Originally ran on Online Journalism Review: http://www.ojr.org/ojr/people/webjournalist/201012/1920/

In the Web journalism world, it is hard to find someone who has been more of a pioneer than Jim Brady. From being a print sports reporter to becoming the executive editor at Washingtonpost.com to, most recently, launching (then leaving) TBD.com as the general manager, his career path is a proven track record committed to exploring Web journalism.

Jim BradyFor this week’s post, I had the privilege to “talk” with Brady a few days after he was the guest host on #wjchat, a weekly Web journalism chat held through Twitter. There were a few questions we had to cut because of time and hope to ask and explore them here. [NOTE: Play back the raw interview here]

Can you tell me a little about your background? Mainly, what was your first Web journalism job? How did you start? What was the environment like at the time? The culture?

The first web job I had was in 1995. I’d been a sportswriter at The Washington Post for a while, and had always been interested in new media, as they called it back then. I had a Prodigy account, an AOL account and even an eWorld account. Loved the idea of getting information whenever and however I wanted, but there was no practical application for a journalist to work online in the early 1990s. But then The Post launched a subsidiary called Digital Ink, and I joined in April 1995 to help it launch The Post’s first online adventure. We were a channel on a dial-up proprietary system called AT&T Interchange, which launched in late 1995. But we jumped on the proprietary bandwagon right as the web took off, so we quickly shuttered our presence on Interchange and I was sports editor [for] the team that launched Washingtonpost.com in June 1996.

The culture was totally freewheeling and wide open, and none of the web-print newsroom tensions existed at that point because, frankly, very few people at the paper gave a crap about what we were doing. We had an amazing creative bunch of folks there at that time, and many of them are still in digital media. It was a blast.

You have an amazing Web journalist, pioneering career. Your last adventure was with the D.C., local start up TBD. Can you describe the news org for folks. And, the question on people’s minds, the reason why you left it?

The concept of TBD was to produce a local news operation that wasn’t just on the web, but OF the web. What that meant, in my view, was avoiding the trap of producing traditional journalistic forms and just throwing them up on the web. To truly be OF the web, you have to produce journalism in ways that works in that medium. Sometimes, that still means producing a traditional all-text narrative. But, more than that, it means truly engaging with your audience, which we did via very aggressive conversation and newsgathering done via social media, via live chats and by building a network of more than 200 local blogs and linking to them and selling advertising for many of them. Being of the web means linking to other sites, so that you can become the first stop for readers interested in a topic and expose them to multiple voices in a region. It means not viewing mobile at something you have to do to check a box, but truly making an effort to produce a mobile site that thinks about that kind of information someone would want when disconnected from a laptop or desktop. It means not viewing the web as just another platform. I hate the term “platform agnostic.” I think it’s totally backwards. Some content works on multiple platforms; most of it does not. So we tried to blend these elements — all of which had been done separately in other places — into a unique local blend. And the audience response and traffic suggests TBD is on to something. And many of the calls I’ve gotten about consulting are asking for guidance on how we built TBD, which suggests others see it as a viable model as well.

As for why I left, despite the vision I just laid out, ownership of the company I worked for, Allbritton Communications, suggested we were out ahead of the audience and that we should scale back some of the aforementioned elements and focus on hiring more reporters and scaling back on the stuff I thought made us unique. We tried to find a middle ground, but in the end, there just wasn’t any. Both sides were pretty strong-willed in what they thought was right, and, as I told my friends, when you get into a significant dispute with the owner of a company, you’re always the one who ends up leaving. :-)

True. What do you make of the reactions about your departure? It seemed to be the talk of Web journalism, for better or worse.

Well, I think the fact so many people were so surprised suggests to me that they also thought we were doing something interesting, different and worth watching. Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot we were still struggling with, and the site launched with about half of what we originally envisioned. So we had a ways to go. But the reaction, the comments I’ve gotten and the desire for many others in media to get more details on what we were doing suggests there’s something there. And people should continue to keep an eye on TBD. Erik Wemple is a tremendous editor, Steve Chaggaris has done an amazing job leading the TV side of TBD and there’s a ton of talent there that will continue to do interesting things, assuming management doesn’t declaw the good ideas over the coming months.

You talked a little about it during #wjchat, but can you talk about what’s next for you. What are you looking for? You mentioned people want to talk to you about replicating TBD’s successes, is that the immediate future for you? What’s your dream gig, anyway?

Honestly, I don’t know at this point. Going to start consulting next week, and have a few gigs lined up, some longer term and some one-day jobs. But I want to be patient and wait for something that’s the perfect fit. I know what I don’t want to do, and that’s go back into a newsroom full-time and evangelize the web anymore. I freely admit to being tired of that particular part of working in legacy media. I have reached the point where, after 15 years, the burden of proof really needs to shift to those who have decided to keep their heads in the sand. I don’t think I should have to explain to journalists why they need to pay attention to the web; I think the companies they work for are owed an explanation by those folks as to why they’re not paying attention. To be fair, I think those folks are in the minority in newsrooms now, but many still holds positions of significant power, and getting the web and print or TV or radio to work together requires real effort from both sides, and that effort needs to start from the highest levels of a company. But if I can find a job where that’s not a key component, that’s great. But what’s most important to me in the next job is to replicate the startup feel that the folks at TBD had for a while. The ability to launch something new, with a talented staff you get to hire and supportive management, is something I want to do before I get out of the business. I felt like we were close to that at TBD, but didn’t quite get the complete support of management there, though Robert [Allbritton] deserves a lot of credit for having the guts to support the idea.

Why do you think that is… that makes leadership/management still not understand or value the Web and its opportunities/possibilities? And what advice, if any, do you have to those that are still in newsrooms fighting this good fight?

Well, let’s be honest: A lot of it has to do with revenue. The legacy businesses still drive a significant majority of the revenue. And no one is suggesting — as I often see ill-informed types write on Twitter — that most of us digital types want companies to shut down those businesses. We don’t, and they can’t. But you see places where 80 percent of the revenue is from a legacy business, and 90 percent of mindshare is going toward the legacy business. To me, to have an effective long view, companies should be spending half their mindshare trying to build a business model in the medium that is clearly going to the future of most of these companies. That’s the frustration. I think people get that the web is a huge part of the future, but for whatever reason, it’s still hard to get those folks to actually focus on it.

As for those still fighting the good fight, my advice is the same as its always been: To be successful getting newsrooms engaged in fighting on the web, you have to show them what they get out of it, other than an occasional pat on the back. Find a few pioneers in your newsroom who are willing to try anything, then make sure the rest of the newsroom knows about those successes, which inevitably appeals to the competitive nature of journalists. And do everything you can to make sure successes are celebrated at the highest levels of the company. One of my criticisms of the management at Allbritton is that they never got TBD and Channel 7 together to share an overall vision of why the entire project had been greenlit. You need air cover from management in cases where you’re trying something new. The mangers and staffers lower down in the org have to make the day-to-day work, but without public top-level management support, it makes the battles in the trenches much harder.

Can you briefly talk about how you got started with TBD. Did someone approach you? Did you pitch the idea to someone?

I met with Robert Allbritton when I was doing some consulting for Politico, and he asked me what I was interested in doing next, and I mentioned local as something — based on my experience at The Post – [that] seemed like a real opportunity. He was interested, so I went off for a few months and pulled together a business plan, a competitive analysis and a strategy for the site. He thought about it for a while, and decided to go ahead and do it, to which I owe him greatly.

Because of time, we had to cut out some audience questions from #wjchat … I’d like to ask you a couple of them here. The first one is from Saleem Khan (@saleemkhan): If you were launching a news startup today [@TBD-scale and bootstrapped] what would you do differently?

First one is obviously [to] pick a niche. (Although we did that at TBD as well, though it was a big niche called “local”). As for what I’d do differently, I think the first part is to have a sales force with deep digital backgrounds. That was the original plan at TBD, and we hired some talented people with digital chops. But the company changed the structure before launch, and all those folks were put under the TV sales structure, and all soon left. I think that was a mistake. The TV sales forces did a pretty good job of selling the site once it launched, but we struggled to get traction in any sales area outside straight CPM-based display, and I don’t think that’s enough to support the site long term. That’s why we had the blog network and wanted to focus on selling geo-targeted ads and maybe even get into providing some self-serve tools for smaller local advertisers. But we didn’t get anywhere with those, and do think some other revenue streams will be needed. So my biggest piece of advice is to hire people who know the medium in which you’re living.

The next question comes from Sarah Fidelibus (@verbalcupcake): What startups have particularly impressed you? What have they’ve gotten “right”? Who has a biz model that you think is working well? Examples? What are they doing right, and how so? (These were two separate tweets from Sarah.)

I think there are different types of startups that have impressed me, and in different niches. On the news side, I do like what many of the non-profits are doing. I think ProPublica does phenomenal work on the investigative and data sides, and it’s been interesting to track local startups like MinnPost, Texas Tribune, Voice of San Diego and Bay Citizen. I also find myself fascinated by location-based services like Twitter and Gowalla. I am not quite sure how they tie into local journalism yet, but there’s an answer there, which [is] why I check in just about everywhere on FourSquare. I think that’s the only way to really learn about these things. I am also really interested in what SB Nation is doing here in DC. They’ve done a great job of aggregating strong voices throughout the world of sports, telling stories in a more fun and more open way than most sports sites, and they seemed to have managed to tap into the community nature of sports that even an amazing site like ESPN can’t quite go at as hard, because they have so much stuff from their various platforms to promote.

As for the business models, I think we’d all agree there [isn’t] a massive list of new news sites that are making a ton of profit at this point. Honestly, that’s part of the reason the TBD idea seemed so interesting for me to pursue: I think, even if we figure out how we best evolve journalistically to the web, it won’t much matter if we don’t get the business side figured out. And as someone pointed out during the wjchat the other night, I think the business side is farther behind in figuring out the web than the newsrooms are. But neither side is where it needs to be yet.

Agreed. The last crowdsoured question comes from Andy Boyle (@andymboyle): I heard you very much dislike the “web producer” title of people. Or so you said at Nebraska. Tell us more?

Yeah, not a big fan of that title, but only because I don’t think a lot of people in legacy newsrooms know what the hell it means. As a result, I think sometimes web producers are treated like technical people and not the journalists that they almost always are. So you hear stories where a web producer is handed a headline and blurb to post by a newspaper staffer because that person doesn’t realize the producer actually can do that task as well. There are a lot of titles on web teams that don’t always explain what someone actually does. Sad that issue still exists, but I do expect that, over time, titles will flatten out and everyone will understand what everyone else does. But, sadly, we don’t seem to be there yet. I think, what it really comes down to is that, as long as people understand your skillset and what you do, you can give them the title of the “king of the universe” if you want. Understanding who someone is ends up being far more important than what they’re called.

Titles certainly have been somewhat of a joke in the Web journalism world. I was feeling good about my “Director” title until I met a “Senior Director.” But putting those labels aside, how do you describe your skills… how do you describe what you do in journalism? Meaning, I’m a journalist… more specifically a Web journalist. But, I’ve been describing what I do as being more like a Mad Scientist for journalism. A guy that bridges tech and journalism for the advancement of storytelling/journalism. How would you/do you describe what you do?

I am a journalist who speaks multiple “languages,” if you will. I understand the differences between platforms. I am a journalist who advocates assessing a story first, and then determining the best tools to tell it effectively, as opposed to going into a story knowing it’ll be text or video or photos, etc. But it’s a good question. I’ve never really boiled it down to a sentence. I guess I’d call myself a journalist who has found his true home in digital, but still rents a house in other media.

Ha! Well said, sir. I have so many more questions to ask… but we are running out of time. Let me ask you one final question that I’ve been asking journos for the last few months. In your career, you’ve had your ups and your downs… not to sound to negative, but as Web journos we get frustrated… but any way you look at it, we’re still here trying. Why? Why do you stay in this business? What keeps you going and fighting and evolving? Why are you a journalist?

Well, as to the question of why, I saw “All the President’s Men” in the theater with my parents when I was seven, and am probably still one of the only kids who always thought it was a cooler movie than “Star Wars.” So I fell in love with journalism at that point. But in the early years of my career, I started getting really interested in technology as well, and damn near almost quit the business in 1992 to go get a computer science degree. So the last 15 years of my life have been wonderful, as I’ve gotten the chance to mix two real passions. As for why it’s important to keep pushing, it’s trite and simple: The journalism business — and I use the word business intentionally — is in trouble, and journalism remains a crucial piece of our democracy and I fear for its future. Even though the money isn’t where it needs to be on the digital side, I find it thrilling to be aboard the ship that [is] going to eventually be the rescue ship. So that, to me, is where I find the excitement and desire to charge on. Having said that, I’m at a point now where I’d rather go off and build a whole new digital ship and leave the evangelizing to others. I’m starting to believe the future of journalism may well be a whole host of shiny brand-new ships as opposed to the repainted ships of old. I expect the major media companies of today to be around going forward, but they’re going to have to survive against a whole host of new competitors.

Well, I never thought I’d see a sentence that [would compare] both “All the President’s Men” and “Star Wars” … perhaps one can argue that Woodward and Bernstein were the Luke and Han for newspapers in their day.

I always said that the character of Darth Vader had nothing on Ben Bradlee in that movie. He was a much cooler cat, if you ask me.

Ha! Well, thank you Jim for taking the time. I really appreciate it.

My pleasure. Thanks for the great questions, and for hosting wjchat the other night. Fun times.

I’m glad you enjoyed it!

25 Oct

Tips and tools to innovate with during election night coverage

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NOTE: Originally ran on Online Journalism Review: http://www.ojr.org/ojr/people/webjournalist/201010/1900/

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, seattletimes.com, 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 (r.hernandez@usc.edu) or through Twitter (@webjournalist). Yes, he’s a tech/journo geek.

27 Feb

DIY and passion give birth to #wjchat

NOTE: This piece is also running on OJR: The Online Journalism Review

For me, it began with a snarky tweet: #journchat Bad name, good PR.

Apparently that tweet touched a nerve and prompted Web journalists to come out of the Twitterverse to express agreement.

Before I continue, let me define two things:

  • #journchat is a Twitter chat that is “an ongoing conversation between journalists, bloggers and PR folks” held weekly on Twitter. Created by @PRsarahevans, the first Twitter chat was held Monday, November 24, 2008. While it has “journalism” in the name, it skews heavily toward public relations.
  • A Twitter chat essentially is a regularly held chat, usually weekly, on a specific topic… tied together through a hashtag. A group of Twitterers gather and talk about whatever… blogging, book editing, etc.

Moments after that snarky tweet went out the hunger for Web journalists to network and learn from each other was apparent.

It makes sense.

We’re a community that is constantly evolving, struggling to find the “right” solution for our unique situations… from inside our newsrooms… often alone. Many of us have met at conferences or through social networking, but never regularly.

It was that passionate need mixed with the DIY-spirit of the web that got @lilgirlbigvoice @killbutton @kimbui and myself together to create #jchat within five hours from meeting each other the first time.

While I had known P. Kim Bui from the past, I had just met Bethany Waggoner and Amira Dughri during the Feb. 1 journchat. Soon, our group grew and included Kate Gardiner (@kategardiner) and Robin Phillips (@RobinJP) among others.

We worked out the details for the debut chat first through Google Wave, but moved to the more stable Etherpad. We selected a topic, drafted some questions and volunteered our first guest moderator… which turned out to be me.

After finding that the @jchat Twitter account was taken and essentially dead, we changed the name to @wjchat. We also launched the blog site.

Through the power of our networks we promoted the inaugural chat that launched Wed., Feb 10, 2010. You can read the first transcription here.

We’re now three chats in and, dare I say it, the weekly conversation is a success.

It’s been my honor and privilege to see how this idea has been embraced by the community. For me, this is just another example of the power of the Web and the value of social media.

I encourage you all to join us this, and hopefully every, Wednesday at 5PM PST as we, together, go through these unprecedented changes in our industry… learning from each other, supporting each other and building our community.

π