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Briggs Ch. 11 March 9, 2011

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Although most of the Briggs book focuses on aspects of digital journalism that display its strengths versus print, this chapter acknowledges something both good and bad for aspiring journalists: while print was at one time the only real legitimate news source, there are countless news sites online and it’s much harder to compete for an audience than print in its heyday.

Here are some tactics one can use to increase readership:

Above all–good writing still prevails. Quality, relevant, in-depth content will not only attract the bots, but will capture new audiences as well.

Mike Starr - Getty Images

As a test, I did a Google News search on recently deceased Alice in Chains bassist Mike Starr to see which results were the most prominent. While the news of his death is clearly the biggest part of the story and probably what readers are most interested in, it’s interesting to note that only three of the top five entries (as of this writing) are reports of that while the other two are about fan reactions and comments from Starr’s fellow “Celebrity Rehab” cast members. Those two articles are both courtesy of MTV, which says quite a lot about their position in the blogosphere. Check out “Man in the Box” from Alice in Chains’ debut album, “Facelift.”

Briggs Ch. 10 March 8, 2011

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Early in this chapter, Briggs writes:

[M]any journalists (maybe most journalists) preferred news as a lecture. Only begrudgingly have they come around to the idea that a future in journalism means managing online communities and participating in various social networks.

It’s a pretty damning accusation but one that I’m unfortunately all too familiar with. When I first took a journalism class in high school, the teacher seemed downright ignorant of the shifting landscape–every single lesson was based on writing for newspapers. That was a mere six years ago, and admittedly things have changed rapidly since then but that resistance to change pretty much goes against everything journalism is about.

The idea of shifting into a conversation especially shouldn’t be too disconcerting–after all, newspapers have published and encouraged reader letters for decades. Of course, there was more discretion in that than automatically publishing what Doug Feaver calls,

anonymous, unmoderated, often appallingly inaccurate, sometimes profane, frequently off point and occasionally racist reader comments

The conversation moves beyond just comment sections–Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media can help readers share their thoughts, and as an added bonus, are often attached to their real identities. However, journalists cannot just sit back and wait for readers to pour in. There are several steps to creative effective conversation:

Once again, social networks are an effective way to complete all of these elements.

Briggs Ch. 7 March 1, 2011

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Everybody knows that links and video are advantages to online journalism that don’t exist in print, but people often neglect to acknowledge the value of audio as well. Audio offers many options for things that wouldn’t be practical or possible in video.

Words and quotes may be powerful on paper, but imagine how much stronger they would be heard directly from the source, with all the subtle tones and pauses present. Sometimes those can say even more than the actual words of the quote.

One of the biggest formats in which audio reporting has emerged in recent years is podcasting. Podcasts are typically almost like talk radio, only focused on a singular topic and scheduled on a semi-regular basis. I generally don’t follow podcasts, as I like to listen to music while I’m using the computer, but I do enjoy checking out the Hipsters United podcast about the Smashing Pumpkins. Once you grow accustomed to the commentators, it makes for a fun listen on a subject I (usually) enjoy hearing about. For people who might not be as interested in the 90s alt-rockers as I am, there are thousands of podcasts you can subscribe to on iTunes.

Any reporter that wishes to utilize audio will have to select a digital recorder. There are a couple of things to keep in mind when doing so:

Briggs Ch. 6 February 24, 2011

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The adage that a picture’s worth a thousand words has, alas, proven untrue whenever I try to submit a 1250-word paper to a professor with just a photograph and three paragraphs. But when it comes to online writing, not including pictures is a capital offense (and I’ll plead guilty to occasionally committing the crime).

A picture may not be literally worth a thousand words, but the difference between showing and telling is staggering. In print, perhaps a publisher might want to avoid the hefty amount of ink necessary to include a picture. That excuse doesn’t cut it online. Digital photography imposes little expense beyond the camera itself (which admittedly can be costly). However, that’s assuming you’re talking about photographs you’ve taken. Just like in print, any credible online publication will get permission from and credit any sources for its images.

This is not a digital camera. But it's under Creative Commons so there you go.

There are many benefits to digital photography that don’t apply to conventional cameras as seen on the left:

All that said, digital photography is simply a progression of a technology that already existed. You use the pictures in the same way one would utilize conventional photographs.

Briggs Ch. 5 February 22, 2011

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It may be getting repetitive at this point to say once again how crucial it is to implement technology into modern journalism, but it remains the vital takeaway point of the Briggs text. One aspect of this is mobile journalism. If cell phones allow people to receive calls and access their email anywhere at any time, why shouldn’t they also provide the news people want and need to know about? It can also help journalists find and cover breaking stories in ways that were impossible before.

Of course, journalists need to keep a few things in mind:

My friend Brian Chan, former sports editor for Broadside, often does live blogs for games at his current school, UNC Charlotte. Basically, he watches the games and uses a laptop to provide constant updates as it’s happening. Since sports are a constant, shifting series of events, this is a great way for fans who can’t make the games to get a play-by-play of what goes down. Of course, in the case of Chan, you also have to sit through some occasional bad jokes, but having known him since sixth grade, I’m used to them by now.

Briggs Ch. 4 February 15, 2011

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In this Briggs chapter about microblogging, the first site that came to mind was Discographies, a clever Twitter feed that reviews a musician’s body of work in 140 characters. It’s a concept so simple, so appealing and frankly, so maddening that years of hard work and transformation can be boiled down to a few sentences. But that’s what journalism has to be these days.

It’s fair to say that our collective attention spans have reduced over time. It’s not our fault; it’s technology–there’s too much of it for us to focus on one thing anymore, unless it’s really captivating–or more importantly, really short.

But here’s where it all comes together. Remember that talk about open-sourced reporting in chapter 3? Your readers are not going to be giving you manifestos (and if they are, you probably should be forwarding their comments to the FBI). Their content will be brief because that’s what they are looking for.

Take a look at this story from EW.com. It reports that Aaron Sorkin will appear on the NBC hit “30 Rock” later this season. The story is pretty short, especially given the background information that makes this an especially intriguing event. Indeed, one has to venture to the comments section to be reminded of Sorkin’s “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” his dramatic venture that premiered the same year as “30 Rock” with essentially the same concept that initially triumphed over the creatively unstable Tina Fey show, then bombed as Fey’s picked up steam.

Without comments, the main draw of this story goes to waste. It’s a slight on EW’s part, but a credit to collaborative journalism.

Briggs Ch. 3 February 8, 2011

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As anyone can have their own blog, it’s only fitting that news itself has become a much more collaborative process given all the new technology that bridges the gap between citizens and the media elite. Even sites as prominent as CNN now rely heavily on readers submitting news stories and videos. This global sharing process, dubbed “crowdsourcing,” creates a more transparent news environment, so the cream rises to the top.

I don’t necessarily agree with the “everyone can be a journalist now” mentality–it takes a certain amount of skill and more than just finding news to qualify for that title in my view–but I do like this new collaborative attitude. With so many avenues of news and distractions, it makes perfect sense to connect with readers by involving them in the process.

Similarly, news organizations are utilizing a more open-sourced method of reporting that, while not entirely transparent, allows readers to have a more thorough part in the process, from providing news to commenting on it. Just about any YouTube comments page will showcase the dangers of allowing audiences to share their thoughts on content, but readers tend to appreciate the possibility of being heard.

Any organization that does not embrace collaborative publication will have difficulty maintaining reader interest. In our fame-obsessed culture, there’s nothing like seeing your name attributed to a story.

Briggs Summaries February 3, 2011

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Although print journalism is hardly the dominant force it once was, journalism is arguably thriving more strongly than ever. The Internet and cable networks have provided a goldmine of opportunity for budding journalists, but with it are new and ever-changing demands from audiences. A news site cannot simply get by on posting traditional news; it must utilize a multitude of formats to keep readers from clicking to the competition.

Chapter One

Setting up a blog might seem intimidating, as there are literally millions out there and it’s not easy to stand out. This chapter is an overview of the basic techniques to start a blog and the best ways to get the most out of blogs you read. You can subscribe to feeds and utilize all sorts of methods to transfer your own files online. The better informed you are about other online content, the more likely your blog will be a worthwhile visit for people.

This chapter dives heavily into the technical construction of web pages. Before you begin to even browse the Internet, you need to select a browser–I personally like Mozilla Firefox. From there, you have several ways to create the optimal Web experience:

Chapter Two

This chapter takes a look at why blogs surged into an important part of journalism and informs readers how to get their own blogs quickly on the right track. It’s important to create a unique, eye-pleasing design for your blog and to maintain the audience’s interest with frequent posts, interaction and an organized, authoritative setup.

It’s not enough anymore to be the first to report on a story–it’s all about the page views. Fortunately–or perhaps unfortunately–the success of a blog depends entirely on its author(s). If the content is strong, frequent and interesting to readers, a blogger should have no difficulty in keeping “return customers.” But the online audience is a fickle bunch, and if they find another source that delivers stories faster and in a more appealing manner, you’ll lose those readers.

Put the reader first at all times. Don’t waste words, use eye-catching ways to help readers scan and always provide plenty of links.