Maps on news Web sites: An overview

The Online Journalism Blog offers a great primer on using maps effectively on online news sites. The post discusses the advantages of maps:

  • They provide an easy way to grasp a story at a glance
  • They allow users to drill down to relevant information local to them very quickly
  • Maps can be created very easily, and added to relatively easily by non-journalists
  • Maps draw on structured data, making them a very useful way to present data such as schools tables, crime statistics or petrol prices
  • They can be automated, updating in response to real-time information

The post also discusses the many types and uses of maps. It’s a great resource and inspiration for students.

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Free resource: Reporter’s Guide to Multimedia Proficiency

Noted journalism educator Mindy McAdams has collected 15 of her blog posts on multimedia journalism into the “Reporter’s Guide to Multimedia Proficiency.” The free 42-page PDF document is available in English and Spanish and is “fully linked and usable online in most Web browsers, or in Adobe Reader, or in Preview on the Mac OS.” Invaluable for the next generation of journalists!

Newspaper survival tips stress multiplatform reporting

In “12 Things Newspapers Should Do to Survive,” Vadim Lavrusik offers a range of suggestions for “what newspapers should be considering in order to survive and evolve with today’s technology-driven, short-attention-span world.” At the top of his list is “Putting web first and reporting from multiple platforms.” He explains:

Reporters need to focus on primarily gathering information and how to present that information in multiple formats: websites, mobile platforms, social networks and finally print.

The reason? Technology is changing the way people consume news, and though many are still getting their news through traditional print outlets, many others are shifting to get their news through various media, such as television, mobile phones, and the web.

Other tips focus on creating community, integrating real-time reporting and creating content for mobile devices. A good read with lots to get class discussions rolling.

Abandoned blogs and one-Tweet wonders

Debate rages about how “sticky” social media are. While it’s one thing for the average person to abandon a blog or Twitter account after an entry or two, that’s a practice that journalists should not emulate.

Writing in Salon.com, John Swansburg and Jeremy Singer-Vine look at the phenomenon of Orphaned Tweets:

After examining some 300,000 Twitter accounts, a Harvard Business School professor reported last week that 10 percent of the service’s users account for more than 90 percent of tweets. The study dovetails with recent analysis by the media research firm Nielsen asserting that 60 percent of Twitter users do not return from one month to the next. Both findings suggest that, thus far, Twitter has been considerably better at signing up users than keeping them.

Meanwhile, the same thing happens in the blogosphere, as Douglas Quenqua notes in “Blogs Falling in an Empty Forest.” He writes:

According to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream — or at least an ambition — unfulfilled.

Judging from conversations with retired bloggers, many of the orphans were cast aside by people who had assumed that once they started blogging, the world would beat a path to their digital door.

The take-away lesson for journalists here is that persistence and engaging writing are the only ways to make your blog or Twitter feed a success.

Hostage situation raises question of withholding information

The EditorsWeblog considers the question of when news media might be right to withhold information from their audiences. The case in question concerned a New York Times reporter, his driver and another reporter who were taken hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan. The blog reports that “Thanks to the efforts of New York Times executive editor Bill Keller, for seven months news of the kidnapping did not enter the public domain. Fellow newspapers understood that lives were at stake and nobody was willing to compromise Rohde’s safety by breaking the media silence. In addition, the Times attempted to keep information about the kidnappings from their reporter’s page on Wikipedia:

Within days of [David] Rohde’s abduction, attempts were made to edit Rohde’s Wiki page with the news and so it was that a virtual tug of war began between the NYT and the online encyclopaedia. For seven months, unidentified individuals tried to update Rohde’s entry with the information only to have this erased. Eventually, a joint effort involving Catherine J. Mathis, chief spokeswoman for the NYT and Wikipedia CEO Jimmy Wales, among others, led to a temporary freeze of Rohde’s page, making editing impossible. No sooner was the function reinstated that new efforts were made to add the details.

The blog asks an important question about the Times’ efforts:

The media blackout that took place is probably to be credited for delivering Rohde to safety, but what does it say about the media’s lack of partiality? Keller and his colleagues thought long and hard about their options, ultimately concluding that a hostage as currency is worth less without the exposure. Yet, did this decision represent a disservice to other reporters in the region? Were their lives at risk because of NYT’s choice to look after one man? A reasoned answer is that if news organisations were able to keep the news from spreading, they were very likely able to inform colleagues on a need-to-know basis, particularly if any employees were operating in the same area without risking any leaks.

Of more concern is the inconsistency of news outlets when it comes to dealing with kidnappings when a terrorist organisation is at the helm, as the Poynter Institute’s Bob Steele points out: “Would a news organization apply different standards in the case of a government diplomat or a business executive or a tourist than they would one of their own?” asks the ethics instructor. Invariably the answer seems to be yes, insofar as non-media hostages make the headlines, although often with the support of the relevant families. In this particular case, the NYT made the best decision it was able to under the circumstances and perhaps saved their man in the process. After all, a human life is always worth more than a newspaper’s quest to remain impartial.

Washington Post unveils new mobile site

The Washington Post goes mobileThe Wall Street Journal reports that The Washington Post has started a new mobile version of its Web site. The Journal notes that “Besides extending the Post’s core areas of coverage onto a new platform, the new mobile site is designed for maximum utility for locals, with customized information on things like public transportation, weather and entertainment. Post executives say ‘in the very near future’ the mobile site will let readers make restaurant reservations, buy movie tickets and get real-time traffic routes.” The site does not look like much on a computer screen, but works well on the much smaller real estate of an iPhone or BlackBerry.border

YouTube starts Reporter’s Center channel

In yet one more sign that journalists no longer have a monopoly on gathering and distributing the news, YouTube has started a Reporter’s Center channel. According to the channel

The YouTube Reporters’ Center is a new resource to help you learn more about how to report the news. It features some of the nation’s top journalists and news organizations sharing instructional videos with tips and advice for better reporting. If you have experiences on reporting the news yourself and would like to share your tips, feel free to submit them for inclusion on this page.

(Thanks to Stacy Spaulding for the link!)