Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Goodbye Daily Freeman, and thank you!

Today is my last day at the Daily Freeman. I can’t believe how fast the past few months have gone by.

I remember when I first started (January 25th, 2011) I was nervous, unsure, and always waiting for instruction. Along the way I became way less nervous, more confident in myself, and started to venture into my own projects and started looking at sites on my own rather than waiting for detailed instructions.

I went into this internship not knowing what to expect to learn from it.

When I first talked to Ivan Lajara on the phone towards the end of last semester, he talked with me about the transition the Daily Freeman and all other publications were making from print to digital media.

It was everything that I learned about in my classes; the end of print media is coming and everybody is trying to prepare themselves as best as they can.

Ivan told me that the internship would be focused on digital media and the tools that would be helpful and necessary to learn throughout this transition.

Upon arriving at the Daily Freeman for the semester, I learned that Ivan was a part of year-long project within the Journal Register Company called IdeaLab. During these twelve months, Ivan along with 17 other people would be experimenting with the latest technology and tools available to journalists.

Throughout my time here at the Daily Freeman, I was able to observe the JRC Chats that many of these participants took part in approximately every week. I also followed their twitter accounts and checked out some of their blogs, learning about what they were experimenting with.

I picked up the habit of checking the Nieman Journalism Website every Friday to read their week in review. The Nieman Journalism Website is a project developed and run by Harvard University that follows the advancements and tries to make sense of technology and how it affects journalism. The “Week in Review” written weekly by Mark Coddington, provides a summary of each weeks latest news, focusing on technology in journalism.

The main purpose of the internship is to discover, play with, consider, and share new tools that are easy and quick to use while maintaining relevance and success in the field of journalism.

I can go on forever about the different kinds of tools that I have played around with for hours on end trying to figure out how they could be used in the field of journalism and if it was even worth the precious time a reporter has to use it.

Slideshows were one of my favorite things to play around with because it was fun, easy (for the most part), and was full of pets (it was during the pet photo contest)! I learned that slideshows could in fact be used in the field of journalism as a supplement to almost any kind of story.

Maps were one of my least favorite tools to work with during my time here. I understand that maps are very important and useful to stories because they can put things into perspective for readers and it supplements a story well. However, making them was not exactly my forte and for me personally. The best part of making maps was when I was able to make a game out of maps…that was really cool!

Timelines are very important tools to use at a news organization. It is a way for readers to receive accurate information about a story in a different medium than that of a typical news story. My favorite timeline to make was with Dipity because it was an interactive timeline that readers can toy around with and click links to get to more information. Timelines play a key part in digital journalism because they interest the reader and provide a condensed version of the story.

Visualizations are also necessary to have when dealing with digital journalism. Readers want to see information in a form other than just text. If you are able to put together a graph. chart, table, or any other visual representation of the information you are delivering, then do it. There are a ton of really cool websites that I have experimented with that allow you to create these types of things quickly and easily.

I learned the importance of measuring metrics and what studying the analytics of your newspaper can do for an organization. Metrics provide answers to questions such as what kind of people are viewing your website, your stories, at what time, where they clicked the link from, how long are they staying on the page. By studying this information, you can see what is working and what is not working. It allows you to see the problem, and provides an opportunity for revision.

It seems as though social media is taking over the world and if you don’t jump on board, you are going to be left behind. That is why news organizations maintain social media accounts and are studying how best to operate them. During my internship I learned the best practices for a newsroom's twitter and facebook accounts. It seems silly but there is so much reason behind the small details in order to maintain a healthy relationship with your readers.

Those two tutorials were done in front of a small Flip camera and were live-streamed onto the internet. Live-streaming is something that news organizations should take advantage of when given the opportunity. Ustream is a great way to do this whether you are taping a tutorial, a press conference, a rally etc.

Cover it Live is another way to actively keep readers engaged in a topic of conversation. It allows a back and forth conversation, using twitter or the comment box provided to voice your opinion.

One thing I did on the last day was learn how to use the YouTube video editor. Videos are unbelievably useful and almost expected in this age of multi-media reporting. Being able to shoot and edit your own video to supplement a story to put on the web all within a limited time frame is something that is very valuable to news organizations. Here at the Daily Freeman, they have the program FinalCut and use it to edit videos and put on the web. However, FinalCut, as well as ProTools and Avid Media Composer take time; and journalists don’t have time. YouTube video editor is simple to use and takes almost no time at all to put together.

Besides learning all this technical, digital stuff, I also learned just from experiences and physically being in a newsroom.

I can tell as soon as I walk into the building what kind of day it is; sometimes the phones are ringing off the hook, people are yelling, and fax machines are buzzing. Other times it’s a much more relaxed atmosphere, people laughing, lots of quiet moments and some casual conversation. Physically being here has proven to me something that one of my college professors, Rob Miraldi said in class once. He said that being a journalist makes you an expert in something new everyday; and I have seen that just by observing and listening to the things going on around me.

I’ve also experienced some ethical issues that have come up in the newsroom. The first one that sticks out in my mind was when there was a reporter here who had saved a woman from jumping off of a bridge. He had kept this story to himself because he is a reporter and did not want to draw attention to himself. A few days after the incident, he casually mentioned it to another reporter who told him that that was a story that needed to be told. The ethical dilemma was that this man was a reporter for the paper... would it be ethical for the paper to write about him? This ethical dilemma resulted in an article being printed with his story in it. It received a lot of feedback, some positive but also a lot of negative feedback with people criticizing the paper for writing about and “glorifying” its own reporter. The defense for this decision was that yes both a news organization and a reporter must stay objective. However, there are exceptions when extraordinary circumstances unfold and a story develops. In this case, this story was about a man who saved a woman’s live. That was the story, and it didn’t matter if he was a reporter, a doctor, or a homeless man. It was still a story.

The second ethical issue I saw had to do with the Kingston murder trial. The Daily Freeman sent a reporter into the court room with an iPad and permission granted from the judge to “tweet” details of the case during the trial. For the most part, the rule in a courthouse is that there are no cameras, video cameras, or phones allowed to be used inside the court. Many people followed the court case via Cover it Live, which the reporter participated in by using twitter. The question remains: is this ethical? The Society of Professional Journalist’s Code of Ethics does not answer this question and so it is up in the air for many journalists. Many people question whether there is a real NEED for people to know those details in such a quick manner. Here at the Daily Freeman, this act was justified because of the fact that the trial was an open, public trial and that there are limited seats within the court house. The reporter was simply adding more seats the to court house by tweeting the details of the case to readers.

In conclusion to this final and ridiculously long blog post, I want to say that throughout my months here at the Daily Freeman I have learned more than I ever expected to when I walked through the front door of this newsroom. For the past three years I have been sitting in classrooms studying journalism, public relations, ethics, and practicing the skills my professors taught me. It was here at the Daily Freeman that all of this knowledge I have attained and the skills I learned about finally made perfect sense. I was able to see that I don’t just sit in a classroom for no reason. Although some of it may be useless, it does give you a backbone for when you go into the real world. I am so very grateful to have had this experience here at the Daily Freeman and to have learned all of these new skills that I will be able to take with me for the rest of my college experience and into the work place when I graduate.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Youtube Video Editor

When I came into the Daily Freeman today, I sat down to watch the tweets from the courthouse once again. Today the judge sentenced the two men convicted of murder to life in prison without parole.

Then I went onto Nieman Lab to look at "This Week in Review".

This week the hot topic was about the death of Osama bin Laden. In most of my classes at school, my professors have been asking us how we first found out about the death of Osama bin Laden. In all of my classes the majority of people said through twitter or facebook. The article in Nieman Lab this week talks about the spread of information through twitter.

The first man who tweeted about Osama bin Laden did not have a degree in journalism; yet, he had instantly become one of the most important journalists to American citizens at that moment. Twitter has become the fastest way to get news out there.

After doing some reading I was given a Flip camera to go out and shoot some stuff. I got in my car and starting driving around the city of Kingston. (I only know how to get to two places in Kingston: here, the Daily Freeman,and the Recreation Center) Therefore, I was a little lost. I ended up going down to the marina where the boats are docked.

I got some footage and tried to talk to two different people but got shot down twice =( so I gave up and just took footage of objects.

When I came back to the Daily Freeman I set up a youtube account and used the Youtube Video Editor to start putting together some clips.

The youtube video editor allows you to cut, rotate, brighten or dim, and add music to clips. It also allows you to add musics and transitions. A great thing about the video editor is that it has an option to stabilize your video. If your video is a little shaky, youtube will straighten it out for you.

This is the video that I started to put together using the editor. It does look pretty cool so far, considering I had pretty bad footage and am not good at editing. It is really easy to do, doesn't take much time and it looks good, even though I'm not finished.

In school I am learning how to use Avid, which is terribly complex, confusing, and time consuming. For a newsroom, especially a small newsroom where everybody has 3 different jobs, editing on a complex program is not very effective. The youtube editor is definitely something to consider!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Web Tools for Journalists in the Digital Age of Journalism

The time today has passed ridiculously quickly because I have been working on one thing for the past four hours. I put together a chart of all the online tools/websites I have tried out over the course of my internship here at the Daily Freeman.

Here is a copy of what I created, uploaded using Scribd:

Web Tools for Journalists in the Digital Age of Journalism

Here is another form of the same document using DocumentCloud:
Please note that in the DocumentCloud viewer, you can not click the links.

It took a while to put this chart together because I had worked with so many different tools over a good amount of time that I forgot about some of them and had to go back and play around with it again. Now, I feel as though I have a good understanding of all of these tools and have laid them out on the table for journalists looking for tools to use in digital journalism.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Scribd vs. DocumentCloud

Today, I learned about a new tool called DocumentCloud. DocumentCloud is a tool that is very similar to Scribd. It is a site that allows you to upload documents into a viewer window so that you can embed it onto your website/blog.

This is an example of a map uploaded to Scribd:
Ulster County Legislature Map 4-27-11

As you can see Scribd allows you to view a document as is, full screen,or gives you the option to zoom in and out. It also allows you to download or share the document.

Now take a look at a map that was put into DocumentCloud:

DocumentCloud allows you to view the document as is, in full screen, or you can zoom in and out as you please. It also gives you the option of what you want to view; the actual document, the notes that were implemented, or the text format of the document.

The main difference between Scribd and DocumentCloud is that in DocumentCloud you can insert notes or annotations into the document. This is something that is not an option with Scribd.

For the purpose of testing out this tool, I used a map of Ulster County that shows the latest redistricting plan. Please acknowledge that I was simply trying to test out this tool, so the information may not be accurate.

I was able to highlight an area of the document that I wanted to comment on. When a viewer clicks on it, a notes tab pops up with the highlighted portion of the document. You can also insert a link into the pop-up box as well. It is more interactive than Scribd and allows for input on the document.

As great as DocumentCloud is, there are some drawbacks as well. DocumentCloud is only accessible for newspaper organizations and you need to get permission from an editor to use it. Scribd on the other hand, is available to anybody who signs up for an account.

As I said earlier, Scribd allows anybody to copy the embed code and share the document with others. DocumentCloud does not. If the creator chooses to make the document public, then only people who have an account can view the document, but they can not share.

I can definitely see DocumentCloud being extremely useful to a news organization. Many major news organizations such as The New York Times, Las Vegas Sun, PBS, L.A. Times, etc already use DocumentCloud.

Here is a link to examples of how they use the tool.

I created this document using Steve Buttry's suggestions for updating the SPJ Code of Ethics. He posted on his blog things he would add, and questions some of the clauses that are already implemented. I turned his suggestions into more of a interactive visual aid.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Maps, tools, and allergies!

I want to start off by saying how absolutely BEAUTIFUL it is out today. Finally, a day that belongs in April. It is unfortunate that just as the beautiful weather comes along, I am dying of allergies and am at risk to catching the flu and stomach viruses that are floating around New Paltz.

However, I did have a lot of fun today playing with UMapper. Last week I started looking at the cool kinds of maps that can be created from Umapper. Today, I made two interactive maps that are actually GAMES! So much fun!

To do this, you must create an account and go to "create map". Then you will have to create a title and description for your map, as well as choose which type of map you would like to use.

Then you click the tab "Templates" which is next to Edit Info. This is where you will choose what kind of map you want to make. In this case I chose "GeoDart Game" because I wanted to create an interactive game.

Next you use the tools on the right hand side of the screen to create your map. You use the hand symbol to move the map around. You use the pink icon to place your point down on the map. If you can't find a specific place you are looking for you have use the search bar.

When you place your cursor over a set point a box with come up that gives you some options:Info Window Content, Marker Appearance, Reposition Marker,Date/Time,or Remove Marker.

Click on "Info Window Content" and you will see a pop-up. For the Geo-Dart Game, you must post your question into the description box and place the answer into the title box. IT also gives you the option of inserting a link or audio into it.

When you are all done placing your points and inserting the information, click the big blue button on the right hand side that says save. Then go to the top and click "View Map". And there you have it.

Here are the two that I did today:

U.S. State License Plate Slogans

What to do in Staten Island:

I did the Staten Island one first because I did not have to look up any street names, landmarks, or information. I knew where everything was because I am familiar with the location so it was extremely easy for me to create this map. It took maybe ten minutes, probably less to put it together because I did not have to do any research. The second one I did was the license plate slogans. This one took a lot longer because there were a lot more points and I had to look up the information in order to ask the question.

I think that this would be cool and very engaging to people on the web. I think that it can be useful for some stories as a visual aid, and a fun thing to keep them on the page with the story. If the creator is familiar with the information and location that they are using it takes almost no time and effort to put it together.

After I did that,I did a lot of reading and researching. I kept a tab open with a Poynter live chat about "What skills do journalists need to effectively engage audiences?".

Chrys Wu, an established journalist answered questions about when to post tweets, how to engage an audience on facebook,and how to crowdsource effectively. The chat was almost like a summary of this blog as well as an overview of the detailed JRC chats.

I took a look at Health Indicators Warehouse hoping to be able to download information as an excel document and then be able to upload it to other tools in order to create charts and diagrams. This however, did not work as well as I would have liked it to, mainly because no matter how I saved the files and tried to change the format they were in, the documents were not compatible with the programs I was using. so that was a fail, sadly.

I posted last week about the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics and how it needs to be updated. I wanted to see how things were going with the debate on this topic an was pleased to see that it is becoming somewhat of a hot topic among journalists (which I think it needs to be). There are now multiple links on the website with articles written by established journalists on their opinions. If you are at all interested in the field of journalism I suggest you take a look at the debates.

SPJ also has a site called the Journalist's Toolbox. This site contains tons of links that can be used a resources for journalists. Although I have not been able to go through all of them yet, I have found a few that may have some good stuff for online journalism.

Tools for News is literally just a page with multiple lists of links that are categorized into: Audio, Blogging, Data Scraping, Data Visualization, Databases, Design, Feed Readers, FTP, Legal Guides, Maps, Networks and Associations, and Other. From there you can look at other tools that may be useful to you and also see what other people think about them.

Daytum is one of the tools I found and have been looking at and am trying to figure out how it could be useful to journalism. This is a video that shows the basics of the tool:

Daytum Screencast: Categories from Daytum on Vimeo.

Although the video makes this tool seem trivial (it was literally tracking somebody's food intake), I think it may come in handy for a story that is being developed over a long period of time. Maybe a story that requires taking your own data in order to produce a story.

Woobox is a site that allows you to create contests, coupons, giveaways,etc to your audience. At first I thought this would be cool because it allows you to do this on social media sites such as facebook and twitter,which have strict regulations on this sort of thing. However, it is not FREE. So, nevermind. But it is kind of cool.

Lastly, I found Flare which is a data visualization tool. It looks AWSEOME. I didn't have enough time today to play around with it but I did look at some of the tutorials. There are not video tutorials which is sort of a disappointment; however, the text looks detailed and includes sample codes to insert. I'm going to have to try it out next time!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Vuvox and UMapper!

Vuvox is a tool that I have looked at already during my internship. The first time I tried Vuvox I used it to collect and display pictures for the pet photo contest.

This is the first thing I created:

As a viewer, you can zoom in on the images as well as play with them and move them around.

Today I tried to play around with another application within the program; I tried to make a collage. The tool that Vuvox offers for creating collages (which can be used as a timeline as well)is really, really cool. It is easy to use and allows you the freedom to be however creative you want to be.

You can cut out items from pictures to make it look like an image is popping out. You also choose your own background, whatever it may be. It allows you to place icons on your project that have a window with a link to more information, that pops up when you scroll over it.

You can take a look at mine:

Mine is unfinished so far because of the fact that this is very TIME-CONSUMING. It took me forever just to get this far because it is so tedious. You need to upload every picture, including backgrounds. You then have to cut out other pictures manually which can take some time. Also, I came across a few glitches when I placed the icons down for my viewers to click; some of them kept disappearing.

I can definitely see this application being used for journalism in different aspects. I think that for news stories, and maybe sports stories as well, this could be used as a timeline with pictures and videos embedded in it. It makes it more interesting, and more appealing to the eye. I can also see this tool being used for feature stories. You can fill it up with pictures, quotations, and links to relevant topics or stories.

Vuvox Collages is really an awesome tool and the product that you create looks great at the end, it just takes a very very long time to get there. And time is the one thing that journalists really don't have.

This is an example of an awesome Vuvox Collage that is featured on the website. It is about Woodstock but is in french (I was able to read most of it which I am impressed by!):

UMapper is another tool I took a look at today; although I did not spend nearly as much time as I would have liked with this tool because I was making a collage. However, from what I have seen on the website, UMapper allows you to create Maps with your choice of host map. It allos you to incorporate pictures and links, as well as aspects of Twitter.

I do plan on trying this tool out myself later today; however, sadly, I was not able to make my own map today. This is an example of one that was made by somebody else an featured on the UMapper website:

That's all I have for today. If you have some free time and want to play around with some tools that could be useful in journalism...I suggest you play with Vuvox =) Have a good weekend and a Happy Easter!

Friday, April 15, 2011

SPJ Code of Ethics

Ethics Code

As I stated in the post before this one, the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics has not been updated in the past fifteen years. And I think it is safe to say that technology has taken over in those years.

In November of last year, Steve Buttry, Director of Community Engagement at TBD, posted on his blog, his suggestions for updating the Code of Ethics.

He had many reasons,one of them being that technology has changed and needs guidelines that journalists can follow. In his suggestions, he implements social media into the pre-existing clauses. He simply updates old clauses to include detail about what do do when faced with documents,sources,links, etc from the internet.

Irwin Gratz has argued that the Code of Ethics does not need to change. His argument for this is that journalists and technology should conform to the codes that already exist.

The problem with this argument is that the codes are entirely way to vague to conform technology to them. There is no mention of the internet or the web, sources, images, documents, etc taken from the web.

The SPJ recently had a chat about updating the SPJ in which journalists expressed their concerns and suggestions for updating a new code. Here are some of the discussion points that were touched upon.

How do you cite a tweet? a blog? a status update? How do you give credit to a photo taken from Photobucket or Picassa?

There is no mention about whether or not reporters/journalist should keep their private social media accounts completely separate from their professional ones? Can they be linked together?

Links have become equivalent to a works cited page. It provides ethos and attribution to information and quotations. Yet there are no guidelines as to whether links should be required or how they should be used and presented.

Another thing that I am not sure about is whether or not compensation will be a problem. Do we need rules or guidelines that consider whether or not people are making money off of "hits" on the computer? What about paid advertisements, links, or reviews?

When is social media appropriate to use as a way to deliver information and news? When is it not? In a court room? a basketball game? a memorial? a press conference?

These are all open ended questions that journalists have no real,solid answers to. The SPJ Code of Ethics is in serious need of updates to accommodate new technology and vehicles for the spread of information and to give journalists some kind of guide to ethics. It doesn't need to be specific to social networking sites, but a general code of ethics for online journalism would be very useful.