Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Using the Web to supercharge concert reviews

I really enjoyed Kat Cameron's review of Dada Life on this morning, but it made me think about how much better concert reviews can be when they're published on the Web.

The review itself does what it needs to do: lets readers know what the concert was like, how the crowd reacted, what songs were played, etc. Kat did a nice job of putting the reader inside the Senator during the concert.

Here are some ways a Web version could have been a better experience for readers:

• Include a sound clip from Dada Life's website by adding a link to the review.
The rowdy crowd sang along and danced in unison to hits like “Rolling Stones T-Shirt,” “Do the Dada” and the duo’s remix of Duck Sauce’s “Big Bad Wolf.”
• Explain some of the music terms for readers unfamiliar with them (like me).
Dubstep and drum and bass producer 12th Planet performed an hour-long set to warm up the crowd before Dada Life. The Los Angeles producer played a variety of genres in his set, from trap to electro, dubstyle to DnB. His set was anything but ordinary.
• Add a photo (or a video, if you can get permission from the promoter)  that shows what the review describes:
A LED wall the length of the stage played videos of cartoons dancing to the music and occasionally displayed lyrics for a sing-a-long vibe.
• Do interviews with an iPhone or portable video camera on the sidewalk after the show asking  concertgoers for 10-15 second reviews. Post the best five or six to via YouTube.

• Post a concert photo on The Orion Facebook page during the show asking for mini-reviews from those attending: "Did you go to tonight's Dada Life concert at The Senator? What did you think?"

• Post the full review hours (instead of days) after the concert is over. Refer readers to the snapshot video reviews and the Facebook comments. Enable comments.

This is all a lot more work, but it's also a lot more fun for the writer. Pushing interactivity will boost the audience for both the review and the website, and readers will start looking for reviews on once they know how much extra effort is going into the reviews.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Digital-first coverage of the governor's visit

 The Orion's coverage of Gov. Jerry Brown's appearance on campus yesterday was textbook digital-first journalism, and I'm guessing the effort will continue with tomorrow's print edition of the paper.

Remember the news diamond I wrote about last week? The Orion staff followed it to a T. Here's what happened...

On Thursday, Editor-in Chief Kacey Gardner tweeted that a visit was in the wind and invited readers to follow theorion_news on Twitter.
The next day, theorion_news confirmed time and place: Monday outside the Student Services Center.
As the event got under way, Paul Smeltzer, Quinn Western, Pedro Quintana, Lauren Beaven and Jake Martin (some of them doing an assignment for their Internet Newspapers and Magazine class) started posting details.
The coverage included descriptions of the preliminaries and Brown surrogates, quotations from the governor's speech and photos from the event, all posted in real time.

Within an hour after Brown packed his speech and left the podium, Quinn Western posted a story on that was accompanied by a Frank Rebelo photo. 

This morning's webcast included a vo/sot of the governor's appearance with a clip from the speech itself.
It's a good guess that a story about the speech, with a fuller explanation of what Prop 30 will or won't do for student pocketbooks, will appear in Wednesday's paper.

If the opinion staff stays true to form, an opinion piece written off news of the visit will grace the opinion pages on Wednesday.

More to come?
I'll be interested to see if readers respond to the coverage. Students have a lot at stake with Prop 30, potentially including money back on tuition, but the campus get-out-the-vote effort and campaigning for the ballot measure have been sparse. We'll have to see if increased visibility because of coverage in The Orion generates some heat.

The paper, to this point at least, did a great job covering the governor's campaign visit.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Stanford Daily: No more email interviews

"Effective immediately, The Stanford Daily will no longer conduct news interviews via email."

We talked about this briefly a few Wednesdays ago. Here's a link to the Daily editor's explanation for the new policy:

Definitely worth reading...and discussing.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Sorting out platforms: The Orion App

The Orion will have one more way to deliver news, information and advertising to its readers a little later this semester. The paper has contracted with iCampusTimes to provide a mobile platform, the version of the paper and website that phone and tablet users will see.

The biggest difference between the new version and the old Orion app will be possibilities for ad revenue (advertisers will be able to put coupons on an Offers page that students will redeem by taking their phones into the business), but the app will also provide opportunities for reporting the news.

From left: The Offers page, what an Offer page looks like, the home page for news, a single story page and a section page with a list of current stories. (iCampusTimes screenshot).

The app interface can accept both RSS feeds and html links, so just about any content the news department can dream up, the app can deliver to readers' Apple and Android phones. The interface emphasizes editorial art, so it should be more attractive than the old Orion interface. ------------>

Kelsy Jehle, the paper's business manager, has suggested a beefed-up calendar should be a top priority for the app. That would be a great idea. A page for what's happening today on campus would be another good use for one of the 12 app home-page buttons.

I'd also nominate the daily webscast as a button, along with four existing sections of news, sports, features and opinion. I'd add a fifth: entertainment. A multimedia button might help the staff pick up the pace on providing more videos and narrated slideshows. And at some point, news and sports reporters could even use an application like Qik to stream live video from events to user's phones.

Some college papers using iCampusTimes have buttons for their Facebook and Twitter feeds, which is worth considering. I also like the idea of other services: Chico and campus maps, bus schedules, etc. I just learned about a new virtual community bulletin board service, mimiboard, that could generate more involvement from users, especially campus clubs and other groups.

If you have other ideas about how to use the new app, share them here or talk with Editor-in-Chief Kacey Gardner. And be sure to download the app when it's ready!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Webcast rough edges

I've noticed some rough edges on the webcast lately that might be growing pains or just experimentation. In any case, some suggestions:
• The deployment of dual anchors doesn't seem to be working very well. The framing is difficult because the camera's wide angle isn't wide enough to make it possible to fill the frame, so the resulting shot has too much air up top.
• There actually aren't enough words for two anchors, so it feels as if they're competing for the few lines of script that are available. The back-and-forth between anchors we see on professional TV isn't as easy as it looks and takes a lot of practice to sound natural.
• The framing for two anchors seems to require that the camera be pulled back far enough so the table in front of the anchors is visible. That makes for an unconventional and unprofessional look, especially when the anchors are leaning on their hands and elbows, raising their shoulders up around their necks. 
• The two-shot to one-shot transitions in the two-anchor set aren't smooth. The camera should actually move to reframe the one-shot at a different angle (if you're going to stay with dual anchors). The framing needs to be adjusted so the change doesn't feel like a jump-cut.
• The new temperature ranges in the weather segment are too much information for a graphic. I'd suggest going back to single highs and lows for each day.
• It sounds as if the producer or editor has stopped equalizing the sound between clips (listen to the anchor pitching to Jon on Thursday). That's an important step that shouldn't be skipped.
• A truncated version of the Thursday webcast was put up instead of the completed broadcast (this was fixed later). And it looks like a whole webcast was missed this week, as well. Someone should be watching each webcast from front to back and making sure the correct file is uploaded to YouTube.

The staff has been doing a great job of covering breaking news the past couple of weeks and keeping home page fresh. I hope they'll keep working on the technical stuff while staying strong on the reporting work.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Trouble with FERPA and HIPAA?

In a recent response to a question on one of the listservs I follow, Student Press Law Center Executive Director Frank LoMonte made it perfectly clear that student journalists are not restricted by these two federal laws. Further, he wrote, university officials in California who attempt to stop student reporters in our state from reporting by citing one of these laws is likely breaking the law themselves.

The original question concerned the rights of a photographer who was yelled at for taking a photo of a student athlete being put on a stretcher outside her college's health center.

Here's LoMonte's reply:
It is flat-out impossible for a student media organization to violate either FERPA or HIPAA, period, end of story. 
HIPAA applies only to two people: (1) your health care provider and (2) your health insurance provider. And HIPAA applies only to information that you gather in that capacity — information that is shared with you in confidence because you are a health care provider or an insurer. Unless the photographer also does appendectomies on the side, that person is not covered by HIPAA at all, and can freely share any health information that they learn through news-gathering, e.g., being in a public place when a person is put into an ambulance. What you look like lying on a stretcher is not a piece of confidential medial information — it's a publicly observable fact. So that one is just frivolous. 
FERPA applies only to information that comes out of a confidential student record that is maintained in university files. Again, what you look like lying on a stretcher is not confidential information gleaned from files maintained by your university. Anything that is public observable, or that you obtain with the student's consent, or that you gather through your own reporting, is your information to use as you see fit and is not FERPA information, ever.  
Any college that tries to restrain the publication of information by student media under HIPAA or FERPA is acting in bad faith and is in violation of the California Education Code, which protects both the public-university and private-university media. At a public institution, restraining what a student news outlet publishes would also be a violation of the First Amendment. If anyone is being given the FERPA excuse or the HIPAA excuse, SPLC wants to hear about it, so please let us know.
Frank D. LoMonte, Esq.
Executive Director - Student Press Law Center
(703) 807-1904, ext. 121

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sorting out platforms: News - Part 2

Where today's digital-first news comes together is sometimes called a converged newsroom. News organizations have reorganized themselves to make sure reporters, photographers, artists and videographers are producing content tailor-made for their websites, newscasts, newspapers and social media and that it arrives there in a timely way.

I've seen two approaches to convergence that I like a lot.

The Corsair at Pensacola State in Florida has been organized into five teams:
Enterprise Projects - in-depth, multi-source projects on issues mostly for the print paper
Community Conversation - blogs, editorials, social media, letters to the editor
Student Life - entertainment and lifestyle reporting
Multimedia - video, photo, graphics
Continuous News - breaking news for the web and the print paper

The continuous news team has assigned shifts, so there's always someone available to write a breaking story for the eCorsair, the paper's website. Those stories can also be rewritten as briefs for the weekly newspaper or become story ideas for other teams. Sports coverage and the calendar are both assigned to this team.

This structure's strength is making the eCorsair the primary focus of three teams (continuous news, community conversation and multimedia), which generate fresh content daily for the website and helps the paper continue that coverage into its newspaper. It requires a strong editor who can direct coverage and make good decisions about how to deploy the paper's resources.

The BBC newsroom takes a little different approachThere, all the stories from traditional reporters land on a central desk where editors direct them into live reporting and social media before they're aired on traditional TV and radio platforms.. All reporters, for example, are required to file something short and suitable for the Web whenever they file any sort of story, which keeps the BBC website constantly updated with breaking stories.

The BBC's central desk editors need to be more nimble than directive, recognizing what's important to the digital platforms and pushing news there but not really dictating traditional coverage. So the BBC scoops itself all the time and sees benefit to its traditional broadcasts from the immediate exposure online and on social media.

Either of these approaches could work for The Orion as it refocuses itself to be a digital-first newsroom.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sorting out platforms: News - Part 1

The most complicated decisions about where to put what in the age of digital publishing have to do with news. Do you use it to make the most money? Do you use it to get the most clicks?  Do you get as much of it as you can to the widest possible audience as a public service? What's the best way to use each delivery platform?

Even starting to answer those questions turns developing a digital news strategy into a combination of contradictions.

I discovered Paul Bradshaw's news diamond a couple of years ago, and generally like the approach behind it.

And here it is, operationalized:

(Bradshaw write much more about this and has a recent update in the form of an ebook.)

His basic ideas address the many ways digital news is gathered, published and used by the audience. Here's an example of how it might work on an Orion story:

The Chico Police Department issues a press release that says sexual assaults have increased dramatically over the past two years.
An editor opens the email that contains the news release and posts a Tweet: Police say sexual assaults up dramatically in Chico. More later at
A reporter is assigned to the story and does some initial interviews with the police to find out why the department issued the release and what's behind the increase. She writes a 100-word story for the website, which is posted as soon as it's edited.
The daily webscast staff hits the street and interviews young women about how safe they feel walking home from Chico bars. They use the interviews in a package about the increase for the next morning's newscast.
The Orion Facebook and Twitter accounts promote the webscast and website stories.
The reporter continues to research the story, finding specific examples of assaults, looking for a pattern (they're almost all after bar close, happen downtown and involve young women), interviewing victims, sexual assault counselors, etc., for a print story. The editor, in the meantime, meets with the art director, photo editor, copy editor, etc., to develop a map and chart that can run with the story.
The multimedia editor and the person working on the map figure out a way to make it interactive and post it on the website. The update is posted on Twitter and Facebook.
The opinion page staff decides it's an issue worth commenting on and writes an editorial.
The story and editorial are published in the newspaper. Twitter and Facebook promote both. Continuing coverage on the Web is promoted at the end of the print story.
In the meantime, visitors to the website have been leaving comments. It's clear from what they write that a lot of assaults aren't reported for various reasons.
A blogger who writes about public safety or life in Chico or city government writes a post that puts the news in context: Chico has fewer police officers patrolling downtown than it did three years ago or bar patrons in Santa Barbara have organized a buddy system to help each other get home safely.
Letters to the editor are sent to the newspaper about the sexual assault story. They're used as the foundation for follow-up reporting that results in a poll about after-closing safety, a web story about strategies for keeping safe, an interview with the mayor about the level of public safety in Chico, etc. Of course, they're published in the next issue of the paper.
The Orion Facebook page asks fans and friends to offer their stories about assaults or close calls. The paper develops its own database of crimes and near crimes that becomes an interactive map of dangerous places, suspect descriptions, arrests, etc.

Next time: How to organize a newsroom to cover a story in all these different ways.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

For posterity: What a clean Orion office looks like

The Orion staff did a wonderful job of cleaning up Plumas 001 for Chico Preview Day, which included tours of the newspaper office. Just wanted to document the effort. (Did not take a photo of the coffee-cup graveyard, better known as the darkroom sink.) Click to enlarge.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Mobile journalism

Just watched this YouTube clip about a mobile journalism training project in Australia. Worth a look.

No reason mobile journalism shouldn't be happening at The Orion.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sorting out platforms: Opinion

People hate reading long swaths of text online, so why would the longest articles in the newspaper--the opinion columns--be posted to a publication's website?

I think this one is easy: They shouldn't be.

Columns and editorials are great candidates for being available only in the print edition of the newspaper. Even though they're often written off the news, they're seldom so timely that posting to the Web is an advantage. So, I'd make well-written columns a good reason for readers to pick up The Orion on Wednesdays.

A good replacement would be subject-specific blogs. A student-government blog, for example, could be a wonderful way for the A.S. beat reporter to keep visitors to up to date on what the organization is doing. These are often things that don't warrant a full story in print. Finding something to write about a few times a week would also make time spent on the beat worthwhile for the reporter and would probably lead to more and better print stories about A.S.

Lots of other ideas come to mind: the police blotter (this could duplicate what the paper already does or pick something out-of-the-ordinary out of the police reports for 100-word-treatment), student club news (with lots of names in bold), politics, a person-on-campus vlog, an overheard-on-campus humor blog. 

Reader opinion is trickier. When I ran my own hyperlocal blog, I decided to push all reader responses to my Facebook page where people would be identified in some meaningful way and associated with their opinions. One of the things that ruined the StarTribune website for me was the garbage some people would post on stories that had to do with people of color, gay people, President Obama and all the other potential targets of hate. Because they could hide behind their anonymity, they said anything and everything they'd never say in public. 

I'm not generally a fan, though, of pushing website traffic to Facebook to help Mark Zuckerberg and his stockholders get rich. I am a fan of making it easy for readers to become part of the campus conversation through their newspaper, even those who won't take the trouble to write an actual letter. So, I'm still thinking about an ideal solution.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sorting out platforms: features

For me, features poses the biggest questions about fit in the digital age because it's such a squishy category. It's almost easier to talk about what it's not -- sports, news, entertainment, opinion -- than it is to define what it is. The StarTribune in Minneapolis doesn't have a section named Features. It assigns a topic to its soft news section each day: taste (food), home and garden, travel, health, style, relationships.

Exactly what to do with features has changed over the years, too, so that today's feature pages read and look more like magazine pages than what used to be called women's sections years ago. 

One thing is clear: As the pages have become more visual and less about text, they translate poorly to the Web. The best newspaper features pages take advantage of their section fronts to tell stories in bold, visual ways that are hard to duplicate on a traditional website page, like this cover from the University of Miami. >>>>>

So when it's time to talk about features on multiple platforms, it's a good idea to focus on what should always be the first question digital-age editors ask about a story: What's the best way to tell it? 

The I Love Miami Because.. feature could have been 15 inches of text with student mugshots scattered throughout, with a traditional intro that talked about why people like living in Florida's biggest city. Instead, the editors opted for a much more readable grid of photos with short quotes layered on top. No writer or editor's voice involved. Translated to the Web, this feature could have taken on other interesting and attractive forms: a slideshow or a soundslide show, video snippets edited into a clip with or without narration, a page of photos with captions or with audio accessible by clicking the faces. Readers could be invited to submit their own photos and quotations.

Being open to telling stories in different ways should be the future for features at The Orion. More than any other section, it will have opportunities to tell stories in different ways and the same story in different ways for print, web and mobile platforms and be able to cross-promote among them. For example, a story about a new restaurant downtown could:
• have a food review and a traditional feature about the new owner in print that refers to
• a video on the website of the interview that provided the quotes for the feature, and
• a slideshow of what the new place looks like.
The review could also move to Facebook and invite readers to leave their own first impressions of the food, atmosphere, prices, etc.
Those impressions could be put together for follow-up stories, also told in multiple ways. 

Exciting, isn't it?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sorting out platforms: Sports

A good model for going digital first has been The Orion sports department, which figured out early on that five days old wasn't the optimum vintage for a Wildcats game story.

Here's what Blake Mehigan and his staff have done:
• Reporters are assigned to cover games or matches and report scores and other major events during contests via Twitter. The posts appear instantly on the home page.
• With varying consistency, staffers write a longer game story for the website that's posted later the same day or the next.
• A wrap-up of weekend contests appears on one of the inside sports pages Wednesdays.
• The primary content of the Wednesday sports section has become season previews, features about lesser-known sports and athletic activities, columns and features about personalities. The section has presented several outstanding explanatory features that have combined graphics, photos and text.

Here's what sports could be doing better:
•  Photos and video from games have been almost non-existent this fall, a missed opportunity given how easy it is to post images--still and moving-- from the field on Facebook and Twitter.
• Game stories don't always get written the next day, and several haven't been posted until Monday or Tuesday, making them stale and defeating the whole purpose of posting to the Web.
• Slideshows and other alternative ways to tell stories online--a natural for sports--have also been scarce.
• Fans love to talk sports, but nothing has been done beyond making comments available on Facebook and to generate a conversation with the audience.
• Video has been completely missing, although the team doing the daily webcast has picked up the slack and now regularly reports upcoming games and scores and does interviews with players. More of what they're doing should be migrating onto the online sports section.

It's difficult to say what should change when the app launches later this semester. It makes sense that game coverage, especially live updates, would be part of what's available on smartphones. App users will be able to opt into accepting alerts, creating a new direct service for sports news. The app should also create pressure on reporters and editors to post game stories right after a contest is finished because will push the story to the apps immediately and automatically.

The experience for reporters and readers will be much closer to the kind of coverage viewers have come to expect from ESPN, only with a Chico State sports focus.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sorting out platforms: Arts coverage

The Orion editors will be meeting in coming weeks to decide how to best use each of the paper;'s content platforms. That wasn't a top priority when print-first meant the newspaper was published on Wednesday and the website was updated using that content.

But this year's advent of a daily webcast on's home page, robust Twitter and Facebook efforts, and the arrival soon of the new Orion phone and tablet app means what gets played where and when takes on new significance.

What, for example, should appear only on the website? Only on the mobile app? Anything?

Arts and entertainment coverage is a good candidate for reconsideration. Reducing the number of printed pages last year forced some content out of the paper newspaper and onto the website, and this year that's meant the Entertainment section has been Web-only content.

I'd like to suggest the website is the perfect place for entertainment features, previews and reviews. The web excels as a visual and aural storyteller, and most arts content appeals heavily to our senses of sight and hearing. Also, readers who are looking for something to do on Tuesday night (or Friday or Satuday) are less likely to pick up Wednesday's Orion to find it and more likely to turn to the Web.

Ideally, that means the team that works on the website plays to that strength, focusing on providing extensive coverage of arts and entertainment with a full range of storytelling tools (video, audio, slideshows, invitations to readers to add their own content). It should also mean playing arts coverage prominently on the home page instead of hiding it in the Arts section. And because arts coverage doesn't have a home in the paper newspaper, it should be easier to get writers to file interviews, reviews and other coverage in a timely way instead of waiting for the newspaper to come out ... writing and posting a review the night of a concert, for example.

A couple of other ideas:
- Invite readers to post their photos and comments immediately after and even during concerts and other events
- Make it a habit to phone artists a week before they appear on campus for a Q&A that can serve as a preview or do a video interview in person just before soundcheck and post it right away.
- Beef up the online calendar and reverse the order it appears on the home page so today's events are up top. Build a longer-range calendar exclusively for the website to help readers plan entertainment options and purchase tickets.
- Start new blogs for arts and entertainment to replace the paper-newspaper columnists on the home page, who can find a home on the website's opinion page.

If makes arts and entertainment its signature content, along with breaking news, it'll start attracting a loyal audience who visit the site daily to see what's new. It'll also attract arts and entertainment writers who want the same sort of play on the website that news reporters now enjoy in The Orion.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The new Orion app: Get ready!

The Orion has signed a contract with iCampusTimes for a new smartphone and tablet app that will give the paper a new web platform and set the stage for making more money.

The paper joins more than 30 other college publications, many of them dailies, under the iCampus umbrella. The new app:
• provides readers with a small-screen-friendly interface that makes navigating content easy
• lets the paper post news on the app simultaneously with or immediately through the app dashboard
• lets advertisers post digital coupons or deals in real time on a special Offers page that updates immediately and automatically
• has a couple of other advertising options (banners and home-screen tiles) that should be attractive to merchants who want access to students' phones
• will push information to phones and tablets if the user requests that service.

The Red and Black at the University of Georgia signed on to the same service earlier this fall. It's doing a good job of using the app's functionality (that's its home screen on the right), if you'd like to take a look.

Kelsy Jehle and her ad staff are gearing up to promote the new app and start signing advertisers to monthly contracts. Once the link to the app is available, I'm hoping everyone on the paper will aggressively encourage their friends to download it.

Kacey Gardner and the other news-side managers will be meeting in the next week to figure out how The Orion can add the new platform to the paper's publishing routine. If you have ideas for how best to make this happen, be sure to let her know.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The plagiarism problem

A student at the Penn State daily paper was recently suspended for plagiarism and inventing quotations for a story, something that happens occasionally on student papers across the country.  I'm not aware of incidents of plagiarism or fabrication at The Orion, but I think it's a good idea to make these journalistic deadly sins a topic of conversation so everyone on the staff understands just how serious they are.

Mallory Jean Tenore just posted a piece on The Poynter Institute's blog that surveys how several student dailies are dealing with plagiarism at the policy level and in the day-to-day bustle of producing their papers. It prompted me to take a look at The Orion's own policies and think about what I'm doing as adviser about the issue.

Here's what the handbook, which all staff members are required to read, says:

Plagiarism of Words, Art, Other

Plagiarism is prohibited and is illegal if the material is copyright protected. For the purposes of this code, plagiarism is defined as the word-for-word duplication of another person’s writing. A comparable prohibition applies to the use of graphics. Information obtained from a published work must be independently verified before it can be reported as a new, original story. Staffers who plagiarize are subject to disciplinary penalties, including possible termination from the staff and course failure.

Fabrication of Any Kind

The use of composite characters or imaginary situations or characters or quotes will not be allowed. Immediate termination and an “F” grade for the course are the penalties.

That seems pretty clear. The problem at Penn State and other papers isn't policy, though. It's prevention. What can reporters do to avoid doing the wrong thing? What can editors do to help them?

Like other papers, The Orion requires multiple sourcing when facts are presented in a story. That's a great first step, and it might have prevented the plagiarism and invention cited in the Poynter article... but maybe not.

Here are some further suggestions:
• When stories are assigned, editors should work with their writers to develop a list of potential sources. When it's time to edit the story, the list should be revisited and the reporter asked if he or she used any other sources and what they were.
• Make every effort to first-edit stories face to face. The convenience of editing by email is a poor substitute for the interaction of editing in person.
• The editor should make it a habit during editing to ask "who says?" whenever facts are presented in a story.
• Reporters should be asked to bring their notebooks and audio tapes to editing sessions so they and their editors can review quotations together.
• If information is taken from news releases, websites and emails, those should be reviewed during the editing session to make sure they're used correctly and attributed properly.
• Examples of plagiarism and fabrication in other papers and websites should be posted on a bulletin board in the office so reporters and editors understand in a concrete way what the terms mean and what the consequences are for violating the rules.

An editor's healthy skepticism about the accuracy of stories during editing might seem harsh to writers at first, but if it becomes a normal part of editing,  plagiarism and fabrication are much less likely to become a problem.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Becoming more interactive

I mentioned at Wednesday's critique that The Orion was doing a good job of sending readers to for additional information with refers at the end of stories, in one of the front page ears (the space either side of the flag) and elsewhere. At the end of her student-money column, Samantha Youngman often invites readers to send suggestions, and the big feature piece on Chico bucket lists this week invited students to Tweet their own lists to #chicobucketlists.

Getting readers to immediately do something with your content is at the heart of interactivity, one of the key differences between traditional media and the Web.  The link in the last sentence (to an interesting research paper about how people rate a website higher when it's more interactive) is the simplest way to  get readers interact with content. But there are richer applications worth exploring.

Here's a TED talk about using crowdsourcing to gather news. The speaker is a reporter for The Guardian in London.

A post on Twitter, Facebook or could similarly ask people in the community for help reporting stories for The Orion paper and website.

Asking the audience to help with story ideas is another way to get them involved. The Submit Your News module on the News Section page of the website is one way to do this.

Using Twitter and Facebook to ask more specifically for help -- asking followers which are the best bands in Chico, for example, could yield enough suggestions to get a story on local bands started or create a list for a continuing series of features about local musicians -- is a great way to expand the pool of story ideas beyond beat reporting.

There are lots of others ways to get the audience involved, and the more readers are involved the more positively they feel about newspaper.

So, I'm going to practice what I'm preaching here: If you have some other ideas for interactivity that The Orion or could implement, comment on this post. I'll pass your suggestions along to Editor-in-Chief Kacey Gardner.

Thursday, October 4, 2012 quick hits

Today, a little about a lot...

• Great job of getting the announcement about a new CSU chancellor on the website this morning. That's being on top of the news!
• I really enjoyed the bucket list person-on-the-street interviews in Wednesday's webcast. Great idea to introduce it in a fun way so viewers know it's a feature.
• Quinn Western's edges were showing in Wednesday's 'cast -- might be time to rethink putting so much in front of a green screen. Compare that video to Jon Ortez's weather standup -- so much nicer to look at. Time to build a set? Reserve the newsroom between 6 and 6:30?
• Speaking of Jon... love his energy on camera!
• The Thursday weather video shows how much better shooting outdoor segments in the sunshine is than those shot in the shade or dappled sunlight. Keep that in mind when an outside shot is scheduled.
• Framing continues to be an issue for the anchor segments. I thought the framing last week (tighter on Quinn) was better.
• The interview segments outside of the newsroom have been a nice addition, but they could use a little tweaking. In Pedro's interview today, for example, the camera angle gives us Pedro's full face, but his subject is in profile. Should be the other way around.
• Can the order of Today's Events on the home page be reversed: newer posts at the top?
• To avoid a fade as a transition in video, shoot b-roll (cross-country runners for today's interview, for example) so you can cut away, continue the audio underneath, and then come back to the subject to finish.
• Are the music and arts reviews being promoted on the home page? I'm having trouble finding them. Because they don't appear in the paper and need to be fresh, they should be prime content for the website. Maybe a regular place in the photo rotator? Shouldn't be that hard to to get your own photo from the event or a promotional photo from the promoter.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Video sequences, video interviewing techniques

Lam Thuy Vo, a multimedia reporter for NPR's Planet Money show, and USC Professor Andrew Lih led probably the most helpful session I attended at the Online News Association Convention in San Francisco: the Fast Track Video Workshop.

They demonstrated a video sequence that's the template for the Web video on the BBC's website. Shot sequences, they said, are a sure-fire way to tell a visual story. They showed how easy it was by demonstrating the technique in front of a room full of people using volunteers from the audience.

Lih has turned the BBC Five-Shot sequence into a checklist that he makes his students take along when  they do video assignments.

He and Vo also demonstrated some do's and don'ts for Web video interviews. Lih has a checklist for that, too, and was good enough to share both with session attendees.

And now I'm sharing them with you:

Monday, October 1, 2012

Cleaning up the webcast scripts

Now that The Orion daily webcast has hit its stride in terms of format, it's time to start cleaning up the story presentation. Here are some tips about making the show sound as good as it looks:

Is it live or is it digitally recorded? We hear the expression "reporting live from..." wherever all the time on TV news, but what does that really mean? A live shot or a live report means the reporter is on camera in real time (the same time as the news broadcast), almost always at a location away from the newsroom. The pictures and sound are transmitted using a satellite truck (although now it's possible to do the same thing with services such as Qik and UStream) and beamed directly to the station. The anchor live in the studio and the reporter live in the field could appear to be having a conversation.

The nature of The Orion's webcast makes it impossible for anyone to be reporting live, so the reporters should avoid that phrase. Just say, for example: "This is Renee Crane reporting from Bidwell Park, where record crowds turned out for this year's Bidwell Bark Festival."

What day is it? Because the webcast is usually put together the night before it officially airs, it's important that the scripts reflect time based on the day of broadcast. So, if the story being reported or voiced is happening on Saturday but doesn't air until Monday, the reporters and anchors should avoid the word "today" and use the actual day it happened. If possible, write the beginning of the script to bring the story up to date, or use the anchor intro to do that. Today, for example, instead of starting the sports by saying: "Men's soccer played this weekend...," try instead: "The men's soccer team is now five and two in conference play after defeating...."  The rest of the report should (and did) report which games or matches were played on which days. (Quick note: It sounds better and makes more sense to say The men's soccer team.... not just men's soccer.)

What's that he said? - During almost every newscast, a few words or phrases get swallowed instead of spoken. Reporters need to remember to slow down and try to pronounce the beginning and ending sound of every word as clearly as possible. They shouldn't exaggerate the word endings (that's a different kind of bad), but they should finish saying one word before starting another.

And, finally, a related note...

Could you try that again? - Occasionally we'll hear a broadcaster stumble over a word or phrase, then recover and keep on speaking. But that should only happen when someone is reading live (during a live broadcast or broadcasting live from an event). If the story is being recorded (as all stories are on The Orion webcast), then a take with a mistake should be done over again until the script is read correctly. When you think about it, it's perfectly natural to make a mistake reading copy aloud, so having to record three or four takes of the same script should be a perfectly natural thing to expect. It only takes a couple of extra minutes, but the payoff is a professional-looking and -sounding news show.