Archive | February, 2012

Week 7 – Links

29 Feb

Links’ Awakening: The New Form of the Hyperlink

A link can help or hurt your story structure. The new job of an editor is to ensure that the links in an article fit into a bigger picture of nonlinear storytelling.

The simple use of links to other stories on the Web has evolved from a significant part of online journalism to a new form of the art. The root cause of this is legitimacy; links let the reader instantly reference your claims and help back up the content of your story because the reader knows that relevant information already exists. Used the right way, links can make a story much more efficient, both to write and to read.


Properly edited, links can excite your readers and move your content in new vibrant directions. But there’s a delicate balance to cut here. Spend too much time aggregating links and your readers may start to become bored with your lack of original content. As Salon discovered, this cuts both ways; reporters feel most at home doing original reporting, so it’s important to spice up your links and set them off with original content.

At the same time it’s important to also keep track of what you’re linking to. To best influence the kinds of links you have in your articles you should have some guidelines set up for your reporters and media editors. If you just have it so your site links to every link you mention, it can distract from your message and even undermine it by causing harm to your audience.

The Dossier

I did Google searches on Emily Burmaster and Rachel Rowan, my groupmates. I started with basic searches of both names. Aside from both women’s Google+ accounts, I was able to find several interesting sites.

Burmaster’s search surprisingly turned up a lot of social media links right away, including her WordPress blog, Quora account and LinkedIn profile. Clearly the social media expansion techniques for this class have some merit!

Rowan’s search was less productive; I was only able to find a PeekYou aggregation (with a link to her MySpace, which is private) on the initial search. Adding “florida” tightened things up a bit, but I still had to deal with Rachel Rowans from Jacksonville and other places in those results. I also found Rowan’s Quora page on this search.


Case Study 6

29 Feb

This story stank of bias in its original form. I did my best to clean it up.

To do this I focused on words like “suicidal”; it hasn’t been determined whether the woman was suicidal, so it’s no more fair to accuse her of that than it would be to outright call her a murderer. I feel like the reporter could be a fan of one of the dead musicians because the article is so skewed toward them. Yes, it is a tragedy that the men died, but I felt that the story was trying to make a bigger point about cosmic injustices or something. We’re journalists, not philosophers. The story should be written in such a way that the reader can draw his or her own conclusions.

The link at the end of the article (the blog post) was cut because I felt that the focus should have been on the dead men, not the woman. At the very least the paper should have linked directly to the model agency’s website, not the satirical, biased blog post at the link.

Chicago Murder Trial Begins for “Suicidal” Woman

Former Model Killed 3 Musicians With Car in Bid to End Her Life, Prosecutors Say

They probably never saw her coming.

It was July 14, 2005. Lunch hour in Chicago.

Three local musicians who worked day jobs together at an audio electronics company were stopped at a traffic light in a Honda Civic in a suburb north of the city.

At a speed authorities estimated at 70 miles per hour, a former model who police said was trying to kill herself ran three red lights and slammed them from behind in her red Mustang convertible.

Both cars went airborne on impact, witnesses said. Each landed crushed upside-down on the pavement.

The three men died. The woman walked away with a broken ankle. Her murder trial begins today.

“The one thing that would have brought this thing to closure would have been had she been successful in what she set out to do that day,” said Dave Meis, brother of victim Douglas Meis, referring to the alleged suicide attempt by an ex-model named Jeanette Sliwinski, then 23.

Sliwinski’s lawyers have denied that she was attempting suicide. Her current attorney did not return a call seeking comment on the case.

The crash brought Sliwinski internet infamy. Many blogs and Web sites have posted modeling pictures of Sliwinski since she was arrested.

Vampire Compile

26 Feb

Case Study 5

22 Feb

They Know, They Know, They Know … Or Do They?

(Or, if we don’t want to make a Drake joke…)

Keeping Headlines Relevant

The issue of how to write appropriate headlines is extremely relevant this week because to the Jeremy Lin controversy focused around ESPN, which has had to tiptoe around the phrase “chink in the armor” because it could be taken racially when relating to Lin. One man has lost his job at the company’s website after six years of work, and another has been suspended for a month despite having no history of touching on sensitive topics.

Blogging as I do about HBO’s “Eastbound and Down,” I’m reminded of a scene near the end of season 1 in which the main character is leaving the school where he’s been teaching. His rambling speech includes the following:

I was your knight in shining armor! And each of you were the chinks upon my armor! … You were all the chinks! Remember me, my chinks.

The scene in question is intended to be funny; the show’s a satire, the character’s been established as racially insensitive, and none of the people he’s talking to are Asian. I have to wonder if the editor who posted the headline was thinking of this, if he thought about it at all.

This represents a bigger problem for editors: When will headlines be taken out of context? The answer for any good editor should be to assume the answer to that is “whenever possible”. Sometimes the headline is shoddily inferred from evidence like “Falcons ‘won’t forget’ Brees airing it out late to break record.” Only one anonymous source on the Falcons had that opinion, so the article kind of makes something out of nothing.

In a similar vein, the “Obama has a big problem with white women” headline should’ve been rewritten as “white women have a big problem with Obama.” While this still only reflects one claim made in the article’s source survey, it at least might’ve made the editor see how ridiculous it looked.

In a perfect world, every editor would be able to show his or her headlines to a third party for out-of-context analysis before every story was published. But the fact is that we as journalists don’t have that kind 0f time to be going back and forth, which is why it’s more imperative for editors to have solid judgement.

Week 6 – Topic Pages

22 Feb

Staying on Point with Your Topics

Topic pages are the next step in online journalism. They represent a step up from a site’s search page: sets of articles and content directed around a who, what, when, why or how. Content managers are inspired to create topic pages by watching what users are searching for.

The simplest topic pages start out with searches of sites, either by curious users or outside search engines. From there, editors can refine the site to display the filtered content based on tags or certain recurring words, going from a jumbled flow of information to a more refined stream. The ultimate goal is to improve the results page to the point that the users and search engines make it their point of reference (bringing in more search traffic and advertisers); the best and easiest way to do this is by giving readers in-depth context on the story or topic.

Naturally, there’s a point where the topic page has to evolve past a “search results page” to maximize SEO. This is where the curation skills of editors and designers come into play. As with all good journalism, it’s important to try to be first on a topic, but if you take a little extra time and make sure you have the best-quality site, you’ll be rewarded.

Some of the best topic pages are those linked to one set of stories or a narrow topic. The tighter your focus, the easier it is to create a more in-depth topic page. Consider the Arizona Republic’s BCS page. By creating a page for the investigative series the paper did on the bowl games, the Republic is able to draw in traffic from everyone searching about the BCS controversy. And by includeing relevant links to pages describing certain aspects of the BCS, like BCS conferences and the details of the cashflows that the series gets, the Republic avoids overwhelming the reader with a flood of detailed content while accurately showing what the site is about. The mention of the Fiesta Bowl controversy on the page also ensure that the series will pop up in “related” lists on search engines across the nation.

The Chauncey Bailey Project is another great example of a topic page evolving. With so many journalists working on the smae case they realized they needed an effective way of oirganizing their contributions online, and the site was born. The important elements are all there, like a feed to relevant stories, a “feature spot” for the group’s latest work, and a prominent “about” section to give the reader background and eliminate any notions of bias.

The narrow focus serves topic pages well, which leads to “evergreening” – keeping the topic’s writing current and relevant outside the newscycle. Robert Niles writes that the best way to keep your topic evergreen is to have a tight focus on one particular issue at a time. The fewer elements you have kicking around on your topic page the better, because this gives the journalists more time and energy to pursue specific issues and ideas in their stories.

This “niche” idea runs into the idea of “new journalism” previously discussed. While it can be confusing for some journalists, the idea is that with enough work these ideas will be fleshed out and you’ll have a site that will stay relevant as a reference point and lead to increased traffic long after the topic has faded. The Knight Digital Media Center freely admits that its model for great topic pages is Wikipedia, because as a frequently updated reference site it has well-established pages to handle a wide range of topics. It’s up to the editor to check the site’s traffic and stay on top of current events to anticipate what is going to need a focus, and when. The biggest key to success with topic pages is adaptability.

The prospect of creating a topic page may seem daunting. Fortunately, Delicious here to help. Delicious is a feed-based site that’s very useful for content management . It allows us to compact lists of relevant articles and sources into small, easier-to-manage links. So instead of showing you

  • a
  • boring
  • list
  • of’
  • links
  • about
  • UF

I can display them in stack form. The stack is essentially its own topic page, which makes Delicious an extremely useful resource in the quest for aggregation. The feed form, aesthetically speaking, just looks better than a link or a set of links.

Week 5 – Story Ideas

15 Feb

Journalism continues to change and evolve. As it does, so do the ways in which journalists get their stories. Nothing is more important in the new age than the Internet. The ease of the Web lets newshounds switch from hard to soft news with a click.

Idea #1: Syrian Student Reactions

Syria continues its bombing campaign of Homs in an attempt to quell its rebellion. It would be good to get a local reaction on this story because it’s so far away. Talk to professors of Arabic Studies and Arab-American students about what’s going on, whether they know anyone who is still in the country, etc. If the paper can find someone locally with family who they haven’t been able to contact, consider getting a picture or two from inside their house for online. Also consider reading the updates from the U.S. Embassy to get familiar.

Idea #2: The Strange Case of Jeremy Lin

Lin, the star basketball player for the New York Knicks, seemingly came out of nowhere to take the sports world by storm – his latest accomplishment was a game-winning shot on Tuesday. Reactions to his success show some parallels with Tim Tebow’s rise in popularity. Talk to Gator athletics and the College of H&HP about the reactions different athletes have to beg-league pressure. Consider a graphic comparing various famous players from smaller schools (ex. Marques Colston of the New Orleans Saints, who went to Hofstra) who have also had success.

Case Study 4

15 Feb

Google Alerts

I picked a couple different alerts for my feed. I like to be updated on stuff around town, so I went with Gainesville and UF, but I’m also looking forward to a new video game next month, hence Mass Effect 3. “Eastbound & Down” is the TV show that inspired my blog.