When Everyone’s a Publisher, Who Will ‘Convene’ The Public?

Last week, Richard Hart of MDC, Inc., kindly came to speak to my Public Affairs Reporting for New Media class. He led us through an illuminating conversation about the nonprofit’s recently released report on the Triangle’s “Disconnected Youth.” (PDF)

At the end, I raised this question: If government is already publishing a lot of raw data online, and if organizations like MDC are already put together in-depth, relatively objective analyses of public policy issues like this, then what does he — as a former journalist and the nonprofit’s communication director — think is the role for journalists? How do we fit in to his overall communication strategy for this report, I wondered.

That was a good question, Hart said. He noted that his primary focus now, after an initial and relatively small media hit, was convening small groups of influential and interested area leaders from various sectors to discuss how to implement some of MDC’s recommendations.

That made me wonder: Should journalists be doing that? Presuming we think that the subject of high school dropouts is an issue that is relevant and important for our audience, how much effort should news organizations be putting in to creating conversation around content that is created elsewhere? Should journalists be conveners?

Continue reading “When Everyone’s a Publisher, Who Will ‘Convene’ The Public?”

Why Do We Need a CMS?

A bit of career advice for anyone in an online news organization: Never get roped in to leading the creation of your site’s new content management system. Yes, you may realize that the business rules that underly the CMS will determine who has the power to make decisions in your newsroom, but CMS projects are like storming the beach at Normandy — even if it’s successful, many involved in the operation will not survive.

With that optimistic image fresh in your mind, let’s look at what CMSs do and why your news organization needs one.

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Why Journalists Need to Know HTML

I’ve written in a previous post that journalism students should be taught HTML as a way of helping them understand the concept of separating content from formatting. But I ran in to another perfect example today of why even journalists who are working in a CMS and working primarily with text need to know some basic HTML.

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Viral News: The Distributed Watercooler

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, journalists are loath to do anything they think would make them “seem like a pimp.” The problem with their hesitancy is that it too often means that important news stories get buried beneath entertaining ones and the public discourse is diminished.

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IT Fluency for Journalists

Dan Gillmor’s recent blog post about the future of journalism education — particularly collegiate schools of journalism — is highlighting once again what is perhaps the most popular debate in our field. The question revolves basically around this: How much technology do journalists need to know? Continue reading “IT Fluency for Journalists”

Budget Cuts Begin to Hurt

After extolling the virtues in post after post of UNC’s computer based training as a wonderful resource that’s free to every student, the University announced today that it would be shutting the site down on Feb. 28.

The move was done “in order to achieve the level of budget cuts currently mandated.”

The full announcement and address to send letters after the jump.

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How to Report for New Media

Online Exercise: Write an FAQ

FAQs are a good way to introduce students to online news writing and editing for three reasons.

The key to good FAQs — of course — is to formulate a good set of questions. A good question is at the start of all good reporting. And to formulate a good set of questions, the FAQ writer needs to have a very good sense of his or her audience. There are a few questions to consider when thinking about writing an FAQ.

  • Who is the audience?
  • What would they already need to know to get value out of this FAQ?
  • What search terms would they use to find this FAQ?
  • How would they use the information they find on the FAQ

Consider those questions and see if you can answer them for each of these examples of online FAQs that employ different styles. Continue reading “Online Exercise: Write an FAQ”