Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Picture this

Just a brief note to remind you of the Polling Place Photo Project at Whether you can vote in Boston or not, I really encourage you to participate in this experiment in pro/am citizen journalism. I'm going to give it a try. Although I can't find a list of polling places online, I did find a search engine that will give you the polling place for any address in Massachusetts. Or you can call the Boston Election Department at 617-635-3767. But that seems so old-fashioned.

I hope to show what a few of you uploaded in class next Wednesday.

As we also discussed, you can search for photos and other creative works that you can use in your blogs at Creative Commons. This is an innovative way for copyright-holders to let members of the public know that they can re-use their work as long as they follow certain rules.

Finally, here is the Oregonian presentation on Lovelle Svart's life and death that Eleni Himaras shared with us today. And here is the F-Stop Journal, part of BU's Daily Free Press, which Jessica Torrez-Riley demonstrated last Wednesday.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Some more blogging tips

I caught up with your blogs earlier today. Most of you are posting some very good items with lots of links. I've noticed that many of you are having minor issues with AP style and basic formatting. Here are a few things that come up with some regularity:
  • You should always capitalize the names of political parties: the Democratic Party, Republicans and the like.
  • The Internet is always capitalized.
  • Web site is two words, with a capital "W," according to AP style.
Also, I'm still seeing some posts with no spaces between paragraphs, which make them hard to read. Just hit the return key twice after each graf rather than once.

Watch your links. You should always check them either in the Blogger preview window or after you post. Remember, you can always go back and edit your post. I've run into a few links that don't work. The easiest way to form a link is to copy it from the address bar and then paste it into the Blogger link box.

Work on getting some art into your posts if you're not already doing so. Search Google Images. There are some copyright issues that we need to be aware of, which we'll talk about soon. But a lot of what you'll find is public domain.

Example: If you want a photo of President Bush, enter "George W. Bush" in Google Images. The first few images you'll find are of his official government portrait, which you are free to use. You'll often find that that's the case.

An important part of blogging is the give-and-take between you and your readers. By next week, I would like to see all of you post at least one comment on one of your classmates' blogs.

Scratching a niche

The Washington Post Co., which already owns the politics-and-culture webzine Slate, has unveiled another niche online publication. The Root, aimed at African-Americans and co-founded with Henry Louis Gates Jr., is a high-quality attempt to blend journalism and geneology, according to this story in the New York Times. It's a way for the Post to pull in new readers who might not be interested in the newspaper, and it's a smart strategy.

The multimedia journalist

I want to call your attention to a post I put up on Media Nation last night. It's about a longtime print reporter and editor at a local weekly who's embraced multimedia journalism. This isn't just the future of community newspapers — it's the present. I did it in the form of a how-to, complete with Flickr slideshow and audio interview. We'll be talking about it in class today, but if you get a chance to check it out beforehand, you should.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Following up Wednesday's class

Here is the link to the White House News Photographers Association's contest winners, including Travis Fox's multimedia package for WashingtonPost .com on the crisis in Darfur. You should also take a look at Adrian Holovaty's

Over in the "External Links" sidebar I've added Jeff Jarvis' Buzz Machine blog and Snipshot, the online photo-editing program that I demonstrated yesterday. You should definitely sample Buzz Machine. Jarvis is one of the most widely quoted observers of the new-media scene. His writing style tends to be somewhat unhinged, but he's a fun read and he knows what he's talking about.

I want to take another shot at explaining the purpose of editing images before uploading them, especially images that you find on the Web. As I said, Blogger will resize these images for you. But by editing them, you can accomplish two things: (1) you can crop them so that they look exactly the way you'd like; and (2) you can reduce the file size, so that they'll load quickly for readers.

Whether you use Snipshot or an image-editing program of your own, I find that 400 pixels is a good width for a photo that is going to take up the full column on your blog; 300 pixels works pretty well for a horizontal image if you're going to wrap text around it (the image above is exactly 300 pixels); and 200 pixels is generally OK for a vertical with text wrapped around it. But you should experiment. Make sure you save it as a JPEG file so it will be as compressed as possible.

What makes for a good blog post? It really can be anything. Most of your posts ought to point to some content that you find interesting, offering a link, an excerpt of the content and your own commentary. The best posts pull together several different pieces of content, allowing you to draw connections that wouldn't have occurred to the reader on her own.

But please notice that I said "most," not "all." An occasional personal essay is fine. And on-the-ground journalism is something I always encourage. If you go see a speaker, write it up, making sure to find worthwhile links to enhance your report. Take a photo with your cell phone and add it. If you can shoot a short video of something, you can upload it to YouTube and embed it in your blog.

Although blogs are generally written with more attitude and opinion than news stories, stick to your journalistic standards. Get the spelling right, especially of people's names. Follow AP style. When you are applying for a job, you want your blog to make a positive statement about your qualifications.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Image uploading and editing

Here are a couple of photos of our class. Today we are learning a bit about how to upload photos to We are also experimenting with, a free, online image-editing program.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Profile of Michael Yon

The New York Times today has a profile of Michael Yon, the best-known and most respected of the so-called war bloggers. The money quote:
[H]e created a niche outlet that is better reported than most blogs, and more opinionated than most news reporting, with enough first-hand observation, clarity and skepticism to put many professional journalists to shame.
You can find Yon's blog here.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Your blogs are now linked

I've added your blogs to the right-hand sidebar, so please have a look. If you're having trouble getting started, read what some of your classmates are doing. It's far more important that you start blogging than wait to come up with the perfect subject.

If you run across something interesting in a newspaper or magazine, online or on television, write about it. Use Google to find links. It might take you a couple of weeks to find a subject that you want to keep returning to. But once you get in the blogging flow, you'll find that it comes more easily.

I've also subscribed to all your blogs with my RSS aggregator, so I'll know whenever you've posted anything new.

One thing you ought to do is spend a little time spiffing up your sidebar with links and other content. I'd like to see all of you add a link to this blog. That way, it will be easy for us to navigate back and jump off to other student blogs.

Finally, I've created a separate section called "Course documents." You'll find our Syllabus and Online Reading List, as well as the PowerPoint slides on "The Six Circles of Web Journalism." You might want to download it, because you'll find links to everything I demonstrated in class.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Facebook founder on "60 Minutes"

Mark Zuckerberg, the 23-year-old founder of Facebook, was profiled Sunday on the CBS News program "60 Minutes." Here's a clip:

More than anything, reporter Leslie Stahl seemed impressed with Zuckerberg's age. Tech columnist Kara Swisher also appeared, criticizing Zuckerberg for a recent Facebook advertising program that he had to abandon in the face of protests.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Setting up our blogs

Hope everyone is dug out from yesterday's snow storm. It wasn't a big deal, but the timing would have made for a miserable commute.

Tomorrow we'll be setting up our blogs. If you already have one, you can repurpose it for this class. I'm going to be demonstrating how to set up a blog with Blogger, but you can use anything you like. Probably the most viable alternative is Each is free and easy to get started with.

I still don't have a good feel for how many people we're ultimately going to have in our class. If you're one of the folks whom I've asked to bring a wireless laptop every day, tomorrow will be a must.

I also hope you've begun reading "Journalism 2.0," by Mark Briggs. It really is a terrific resource. Every young journalist — and every old journalist — needs to understand the tools Briggs describes, and his book will give you an introduction to many of the themes we'll be talking about this semester. I've added a link to Briggs' blog at right.

Although "Journalism 2.0" is a free PDF, you might find it's worth moving onto a flash drive and bringing to Gnomon Copy for a printout. I find that PDFs are hard to read on screen — maybe you do, too.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

New journalism, old politics

Given how badly the mainstream media performed during the past week in predicting — and virtually celebrating — the demise of Hillary Clinton, here are a couple of alternatives.

The first is Purple States, a citizen-journalism initiative in which ordinary people are traveling the country to interview presidential candidates, as well as actual voters, about their concerns and how the political system can address them. Here's a story on Purple States that appeared recently in the New Haven Independent, in itself an interesting new-media entity.

Where are the jobs in such a venture? Behind the camera. Although the citizens are the stars of Purple States, in fact, a heavy dose of professional journalism is needed to generate fully edited video reports and to help frame the stories in ways that are worthwhile for viewers. Purple States is a good example of pro-am collaboration.

The second is Political Lunch, a very different idea compared to Purple States. Political Lunch is a project put together by two young, entrepreneurial journalists who are carving out a niche for themselves outside the traditional media.

The site was featured in a Jan. 5 story in the New York Times on the expanding market for short videos that people can watch at noontime while they're eating lunch at their desks. Unlike Purple States, Political Lunch could be criticized for being as superficial as the mainstream media to which it is an alternative. But it's a good demonstration of the kinds of opportunities that are open to young journalists willing to try something new.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Beyond "EPIC 2015"

Brendan Gupta passes along "Prometeus: The Future of Media." Definitely worth a look.

Though it's not as news-oriented as "EPIC 2015," it's a little more up-to-date — and a lot more out there.

Friday, January 4, 2008

The magic wand

Steve Outing has a good column in Editor & Publisher in which he asks news-industry people: "If I had a magic wand with me today, what would you have me do with it to solve one or more of your company's problems?"

As you'll see, the answers revolve around blogging, social networking and the notion of journalists as facilitators of an ongoing conversation. (Via Romenesko.)