“Be a Swiss Army Knife”


That was the career advice from class guest Evan Smith from the Texas Tribune.   What did he mean?  “Have a whole bunch of tools: basic video shooting and editing skills, audio recording and editing skills, basic HTML coding skills, shooting photos etc etc.”  The other takeaway from him was to “open in New Haven”, by which he meant practise your skills in a smaller city before moving to a major media market.

Smith is the founder of the Texas Tribune, which he describes as “Politico plus Slate divided by Vox”, a non-profit which has raised $29m in five years, and now gets 45% of its funding from corporate sponsorship.   The Tribune discloses any relevant corporate sponsors at the end of each story to avoid the perception of conflict of interest, and Smith boasts this makes it “the most transparent news organization anywhere.”  Is this business model replicable anywhere outside Texas with its deep-pocketed millionaires and ambitious politicians?  Smith was asked the question, and managed to dodge giving a definitive answer.

In other big news, the father of blogging Andrew Sullivan is quitting.  He’s the man who pioneered a subscription model for personal blogs.  But he’s done.  In a note to his readers, he spelled out the reasons:

“I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again. I’m a human being before I am a writer; and a writer before I am a blogger, and although it’s been a joy and a privilege to have helped pioneer a genuinely new form of writing, I yearn for other, older forms. I want to read again, slowly, carefully. I want to absorb a difficult book and walk around in my own thoughts with it for a while. I want to have an idea and let it slowly take shape, rather than be instantly blogged.”

So he wants to return to pre-digital days and the “actual world”.  Twitter, predictably, was hyperbolic.

For Tuesday’s class, bring your phones, bring your laptops.  In a departure from the norm, we’re going to spend the class glued to both.  Though not wasting time on the internet.

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.



Am I over-tweeting?


From Todaymade.com/Julie Neidlinger


Am I over-tweeting?  Some tips on how to know are here.  (Tip: if you are live-tweeting your own twitter feed, then yes.) And for Twitter fans, today it added some new features, so you can group message and edit, shoot and post videos.  Or, according to Gizmodo, watch commercials: “This move is probably motivated, in part, by other platforms like Facebook and Instagram steadily adding video support in their timeline, and also to (obviously) gives companies the opportunity to flood the internet with their carefully crafted 30-second ads. So adding video for Twitter is a win-win, for all us—maybe not so much.”  Neil Patrick Harris was one of the first to make use of this, with his scoop here.


From Todaymade.com/Julie Neidlinger


Blogs of the week: Hub Humphrey for his behind-the-scenes live-tweeting of a gymnastics meet, complete with video. And do check out Ana Hauser live-tweeting her Tinder date.

Reading: 1) Texas Tribune

2) Shale Life (think about the differences with Snowfall)

3) The Texas Tribune is 5 Years old and Sustainable. Now What? (Nieman)

4) The Least Interesting Man in the World (Austin Magazine)

Look back at The Changing Revenue in American Journalism

ASSIGNMENT: 1) Prepare two questions for Evan Smith. Try to reference specific pieces of news reporting the Texas Tribune has done, or its business model

2) Download the NPR one app, and play for a bit with tagging, sharing and skipping stories so that your stream becomes personalised. Listen for half an hour, and write a radio review. I want to know how you rate the listening experience, including the type of stories offered, the efficacy of customization and whether it was an experience you would repeat.  (for Jan 29th, 9am)

Embedding Tweets

If you’re having trouble embedding tweets in WordPress, try the following.

1) Click on the time element of your tweet (ie 2m)  The tweet will appear by itself on screen.
2) Copy the URL.  Click in wordpress on ‘add media’ then  ‘insert from URL’  and paste the tweet’s URL in there.
3) The tweet should then be embedded in wordpress.
Also please note the following event on journalism and the art of storytelling this Tuesday at 330pm.10427350_10153019108621153_6988719854070985820_n

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.


Consuming News

Courtesy of AUD

Courtesy of AUD

How do we consume the news?  That’s the question we’ll be thinking about in the blogposts for Thursday’s class.   And that’s what’s obsessing news organisations, particularly the vexed issue of how millennials consume the new.   The Charlotte Observer has been testing one strategy – the Charlotte Five – a newsletter which also includes ‘Seinfeld Journalism’, or stuff that people talk about that isn’t really news.   Pew has a new study out which finds that, when it comes to social media sites, Facebook is still king.

Before Thursday’s class, please read the first 45 pages of Post-Industrial Journalism, and have a glance at this graphic. We will also discuss A New Consensus on the Future of News.




Pic courtesy of Lauren Cipriani/AP


Astonishing pictures from Paris, where 3.7 million people marched over the weekend in support of press freedom.  But guess who wasn’t there?  President Barack Obama didn’t turn up, nor Joe Biden, not even Secretary of State John Kerry.   For those decisions, the Obama administration has had a lot of flak, and now officials are admitting that might have been a mistake.


Pic from Yahoo news

In other news, guess what the word of the year was last year?   In fact, it was #BLACKLIVESMATTER.  It’s the first time there’s been a Most Notable Hashtag category, showing the influence of social media on language.

Please remember that tomorrow’s class is in the Mac lab on the 2nd floor of the Modern Languages building.   Make sure you have registered a wordpress site ahead of the class.   The reading for the class is The State of the News Overview and How Americans Get their News.

See you tomorrow!