#RIPTwitter no more?

This was how Twitter founder and CEO Jack Dorsey reacted to #RIPTwitter.  The twitterverse was in uproar over reports that Twitter is planning to tweak its algorithm to make it more like Facebook, rather than in reverse chronological order as they are now.

At the Sydney Morning Herald,  Sarah Frier wrote, “The problem with the crowd: They seem to agree Twitter is flawed, but they don’t have a solution, and they don’t like change.”  So now Jack Dorsey is promising change without change, which pretty tough to finesse.

Other news:  the New York Times had better than expected results with 1.1 million digital subscribers, though print is continuing to decline.  They’ve announced another big newsroom strategy review, trying to figure out the way forward.  As Dean Baquet wrote in his memo to staff, 

“Experimenting with new forms of journalism and presentation has sparked tremendous creativity in the newsroom,” he wrote. “But in trying to balance the new and the old, reporters and editors are sometimes left exhausted and confused. Simply put, we keep turning things on — greater visual journalism, live news blogs, faster enterprise, podcasting, racing against an ever-growing list of new competitors on an expanding list of stories – without ever turning things off.”

There’s an interesting piece in Poynter about how the New York Times is resurfacing unused images in its archives to tell new stories.  It’s the perfect example of how evergreen content can be brought back to life again, and is being used at the Unpublished Black History project this month.  The picture below is one example, from the Newark riots, which cost 23 lives in 1967.


Neal Boenzi/New York Times


1)How Americans Get TV News At Home (Pew)                                                                                                                                2) In the Digital Era, What Does Watching TV Even Mean? (WSJ)

ASSIGNMENT:  Audio pieces should be posted to your blogs by Tuesday night at 9pm.

(Soundcloud c439mich@gmail.com, password: disruption)

Snapchat and #Sotu

Branden Harvey did the first ever Snapchat story from inside the White House, one of a select group of 20 instagrammers invited into the presidential digs.   But Wired writes – that despite having hundreds of thousands of followers who watch him as he goes shopping in ridiculous leggings or fills his mailbox with a 7-11 Slushies  – he’s actually really hard to find on Snapchat.

This points to a key problem with Snapchat: It’s really hard to find new things. This is a drag for users, particularly new users who are trying to figure out why the service is so popular. And it poses challenges for publishers, from Internet stars like Harvey to brands to legacy media companies, all of whom are anxious to crack Snapchat’s code and win the attention of its massive, youthful audience. More than 100 million users open Snapchat every day, says CEO and cofounder Evan Spiegel, and most of them are under 24 years old. And watch some 7 billion videos a day, according to Bloomberg.

The article argues that Snapchat is missing out on a major revenue generator in the form of promoted content, and that it hasn’t yet figured out what it wants to be.

But if Snapchat is comfortable relying on a ’90s media model for finding content on the service, the big question is whether it’s a media company or a tech company. Its $16 billion valuation would suggest investors, at least, believe it’s a tech company, with the ability to grow very large and use the data it collects to sell ads and new products. Media companies command smaller valuations. They stand out in the market for creating and distributing Zeitgeisty content themselves, not as makers of a new, innovative platform for others to do so.   So far, Snapchat is both.

But users don’t necessarily care.  There are over 100 million daily Snapchat users, including 60% of American smartphone users between the ages of 13 and 34.  Those facts were enough to push one of the highest profile Americans onto Snapchat the day before his big moment:  yes, the White House joined one day before the #sotu speech in order to “meet people where they are”.  Don’t expect any rainbow vomit selfies from the hippest administration ever, says the Huffington Post.  Do expect lots of Sunny and Bo. 

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 23.12.51

News organisations were busy using Snapchat too, for snap reactions to #sotu.


  1. New York Times Innovation Report 
  2. Last Call
  3. Snowfall

ASSIGNMENT:  Write a 400-word post comparing the treatment of one story in the physical NYT with its online counterpart.   Pick a topic related to the beat that you have chosen.  What are the strengths and weaknesses of each presentation?  How long did you spend on each?  To what extent did the online story fulfil the aims as laid out in the Innovation report?  Please ensure you quote from the Innovation report in your blogpost.  What grade would you mark the NYT for reaching the aims set out in the Innovation Report based on your article?  (for Tuesday Jan 19 8pm)   NOTE: Physical newspapers can be found in the library or in the Comm studies foyer (5F North Quad).  Also in Starbucks.  The rubric is here

The beginning of the end for Page One? A Sign of the Times

download (36)

So central was Page One to the New York Times that a 2011 documentary about the Grey Lady was called just that. But no more.  The Times is continuing its unstoppable march to digital.  The system of pitching stories for Page One is now being replaced by a move to pitch stories for digital (“web, media, social and others yet to come”).   Poynter has the memo:

“These changes are intended to ensure that our digital platforms are much less tethered to print deadlines. We need to be posting more of our best stories not in the late evening, but when The Times’s digital readership is at its height:between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

This new system will, in particular, give us more flexibility in targeting readers on mobile (which now receives more than half of our traffic) and on platforms like Facebook (where we are rolling out new strategies for presenting our journalism).”

I hope you all enjoyed the Data Vis session.   Today I came across this visualization of China’s sneaky land reclamation efforts in the South China Sea.  It’s basically a more advanced version of what we learned to do.

Reading for Tuesday: What’s a Picture Worth? The Digital Disruption of Photojournalism (The Media Briefing)

Visual Journalism (Nieman Reports) in particular Photojournalism in the New Media Economy (NR) and Journey to a New Beginning (Ed Kashi)

Is Instagram’s Social Network Dumbing Down Photography (Poynter)

ASSIGNMENT: Watch a network TV newscast on ABC, NBC or CBS. In a blogpost analyse the choice of stories, the type of treatment given to them and your assessment of the role of network TV news in the digital era. (500 words by Tuesday 24th February).

And finally, because we’re talking visuals, here’s a bonus extra from this morning.  Stay warm!

Emojis in the New York Times :-0

So, the New York Times had a headline that used an emoji!  Twitter was ALL CAPS with excitement.

But not so fast!  The web version didn’t quite look the same.

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 21.06.00


Emoji are apparently fine for twitter, maybe not yet on the web.   In other journalism news, the BBC issued a big report on the Future of News.  And going back to the past, an extraordinary example of burying the story:  The Telegraph disclosed the existence of the Nazi gas chambers three whole years before Auschwitz was liberated…. but they “chose to report the ‘greatest massacre in the world’s history’ on page five of a six-page newspaper.’  The report ended up costing the life of the source, Szmul Zygielbojm, who committed suicide in despair at the indifference of the Allied governments.  His last letter is here.



If you don’t use social media, you’re dead













Thanks to Gerry Mullaney from the New York Times for coming to talk to the class.   His takeaways: if you don’t do social media, you’re dead.  Also, breathe a sigh of relief: the first two years out of college don’t count in terms of jobs.   Here is the Wall Street Journal piece he spoke about as a successful piece of audience engagement, and here’s the New York Times work that inspired it.   The Upshot blog is here.

Twitter assignments are due on Tuesday at 8am.  Don’t forget the #c439 hashtag.   And please post the tweets into your wordpress site so that they are easy for the class to see.   Also post your most retweeted or favourited tweet of the week. And remember – in today’s fast-moving media age, you are only one bad tweet away from the doormat, no matter how long you have worked at a company.   Point in case: CNN’s Jim Clancy, who left his job after 34 years at the network after a series of controversial twitter messages.  More background on his the people behind the twitter storm here.  But Nieman says, don’t try too hard to please Twitter.


Digital Media Ethics

Should Reddit be Blamed for Spreading a Smear (NYT)

Ten Ways Reporters Can use Twitter Before, After and During a Story (Poynter)

For Thursday Jan 29th, write a blogpost reviewing the NPR One app.  It needs to be downloaded on a mobile device. Then listen to one hour’s worth of material, play with tagging stories or skipping them to customise.  In your blogpost, please note the stories you heard, and the efficacy of customization.  Also the differences between listening to NPR through the app and a local station.  Is this a service you would consider using regularly ? What are its advantages and disadvantages?

New York Times Failure…. In One Chart


From gigaom https://gigaom.com/2015/01/19/how-much-work-the-nyt-has-to-do-on-social-sharing-in-one-chart/

From gigaom

Interesting chart from Gigaom showing that the average Buzzfeed piece is shared almost 8000 times, compared to the New York Times, which garners ten times fewer shares.    The piece points out that it’s more instructive to look at the median; the figure for the NYT is just 11 shares.   Check out the second chart too, showing that 14% of Buzzfeed articles go viral (ie more than 10,000 shares.)


Shout-out for Blog of the Week to Maddie Kimble.

READING for Jan 22

The Revenue Picture for American Journalism and How it’s Changing (Pew)

The End of the Printed Newspaper (Clay Shirky)

False Idol (CJR)

ASSIGNMENT: Live-tweet an event, whether it be a speech, a sports match, a TV show or a demonstration.   Make sure you tweet at least 10 times. Then post the series of tweets to your wordpress site.  USE the #c439 hashtag!

Separately post the most retweeted or favourited tweet (for Jan 27 8am)

Selfie sticks and snapchat


Pic Bianca Bosker/Huffington Post

On Thursday, we’ll have a class guest, Gerry Mullany, the Asia editor for nytimes.com, where he runs the site’s coverage of Asia, assigning reporters, determining website play of stories and working to turn The Times’s Hong Kong-based Asia operation into a more digitally-focused enterprise. Previously, he served as The Times’s deputy politics editor for the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, running its daily coverage of the two races. A native New Yorker, he started on The Times’s metropolitan desk where he worked for more than a decade in various roles. He graduated from SUNY Binghamton with a history degree and studied political economy at the graduate level at Brooklyn College.

Before class, please look at his work, as well as read David Carr’s piece on the social media challenge for companies, where he explains how, “Many younger consumers have become mini-media companies themselves, madly distributing their own content on Vine, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat”.    For the sake of comparison, here’s a very enthusiastic New York Times story on Snapchat with a helpful video tutorial.

Approaching deadlines for:

Google journalism fellowship via the Nieman Lab (Jan 31st)

RTNDA Student Edward R Murrow awards (Feb 3rd)

University of Michigan-Pulitzer Center Student fellowship (Feb 9 2015)

On the application form found via the link, please pay special attention to the 250-word summary of the reporting project proposed and the budget.  Submit a hard copy to the Department of Communication Studies, 5370 North Quad, and an electronic copy to the Pulitzer Center at: studentfellows@pulitzercenter.org




The New York Times Wants to Know if You’ve had Dinner with Your Neighbours

The 'Race' Race mural, inspired by New York Times columns

The ‘Race’ Race mural, inspired by New York Times columns

On the subject of reader engagement, the above is a classroom mural inspired by Nick Kristof’s post-Ferguson columns, “When Whites Just Don’t Get It.”   Another example of reader engagement will be in the New York Times magazine, which is using the Times Reader Insight panel as guinea pigs for journalism.  It’s asking them questions such as whether you’ve had dinner with your neighbours, and “Let’s say you are at a party and people are talking about a particular book that everyone has read except for you. Do you admit you haven’t read it, or do you fake it?”  I’m curious to find out if NYT readers are dinner party frauds.

For Tuesday’s class, please spend some time looking at Snowfall, which we will discuss in class.   Also, read the leaked Innovation Report. In case you want to see them again, class slides are in the Ctools site, under yesterday’s date.

ASSIGNMENT: Write a 400-word post comparing the treatment of one story in the paper version of the NYT with its online counterpart.  You should make reference to the aims contained within the Innovation report, and assess to what extent the online presentation meets those criteria.  You should pick a story related to your beat.  What are the strengths and weaknesses of each presentation?  How long did you spend on each?  (for 8am, 20th Jan)

Notes: Please also ensure that you have a working twitter account before next class.  The updated syllabus is in Ctools.