Modern journalists: New media means new tools

Traditional reporting and writing skills will always be important for journalists. But as Patrick Thornton demonstrates on beatblogging.org,  journalists these days need to learn how to use other tools as well to succeed.   He writes about three beat reporters who use social media tools like Twitter and MySpace to help them be stronger beat reporters. Your assignment: Read his post and look at the blogs of the three reporters (Amber Smith, Nina SimonStephanie DePasquale,  he cites. In the comments section below, give me your thoughtful reaction to what you’ve read. How could you use these tools if you were actually assigned to the beat you have for class for a media outlet? What do you think of the reporters’ blogs? Did you see anything that might be helpful for you as you put together your online story? Your comments are due no later than the beginning of class Thursday, April 2.

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13 Responses to Modern journalists: New media means new tools

  1. William Whited says:

    Amber Smith, Nina Simon and Stephanie DePasquale’s blogs and Twitter posts are fast tools for simple communication. To me, online media’s overall demand is growing, with more people reading stories online than picking up a physical newspaper.

    Today’s youth appear to want short, choppy bites of information and writers to hustle them out as fast as they can tap a QWERTY keyboard or cell phone keypad.

    I feel online media like these are an advantage to the shift in the quick type of news demanded. To better serve readers, more newspapers appear to stop printing physical copies and take their sections online.

    The article presented speaks truth about future journalism. After all, I may find myself buying an expensive cell phone just to keep up with contacts and post my current location.

    To me, pictures speak louder than words, especially digital video. To record a band, do an on-the-spot interview or update existing stories from instantly-posted videos is the way to go.

    I would rather work in new media than be chained to traditional newspaper writing or editing. Tradition dies by the second.

    To do this, I will have to sign up for accounts with MySpace, Twitter and other communications and promotions services I used to ignore.

    These articles help me visualize the type and lengths of content general readers are looking for, especially for doing my online story.

    Despite online stories being less formal and having choppy writing, I am interested in churning out super short stories that keep readers’ attention.

    I like traditional news writing, but in the words of President Barack Obama, it’s time for a change.

    In this case, a media change. I do hope my spell checking program doesn’t get in the way of short, choppy writing. I’ll do my best to adapt. I suppose this means the privacy of my life will fly out the window soon.

  2. Sara McCue says:

    Obviously one of the things that stood out most about the blogs was the use of links. I thought the usage worked better for some pages than it did for others.

    I was particularly fond of Stephanie DePasquale’s use of links. On the side of her page, she offered readers the option to read about clubs, ticket prices and other music-related items. There were dozens of links on her pages, but none of them seemed unnecessary. I think the careful usage of links will be helpful for my online story. Many credible health organizations have Web sites that would serve as useful links to a health and medicine blog. Simply putting those on the side of a story may be helpful to readers.

    Video tools might also be useful for a health beat. If doctors or other people working in the health field would be willing to do filmed interviews, giving that option to readers would be innovative. In the same manner, a podcast would be helpful. It allows readers to take the information with them without being tied down to their computers.

    Finally, I particularly enjoyed the fact that Amber Smith actually responded to readers who commented on her blog. I think responses make readers feel connected and will keep them coming back to the blog. If I were writing a health blog for this class, I would make it a point to respond to people who left comments.

    I think each blog was unique and had something different to offer. Although I don’t like every aspect of blogs, the interactivity and user-friendly nature of the pages can make them more appealing than traditional news outlets.

  3. Kiah Haslett says:

    I liked the three examples of reporters using social media like blogs and Twitter to provide readers with information that doesn’t necessarily warrant a story. I also thought it Smith using her blog to field potential sources was a good idea. I’ve also seen Post financial columnist/reporter Michelle Singletary make an excellent use of her blog/e-mail to interact with readers and find sources.
    I think Simon’s use of Twitter was pretty efficient, given that I actually checked out one of the links. Even though she’s not a reporter, her use of the site is a practical way reporters could use it.
    The Thorton article made an excellent point about how DePasquale’s experience in broadcast and radio media only help her communicate with her audience more efficiently. I really liked her blog and her use of links.

    I’m actually trying my hand at blogging right now. I write about financial stories in the news and explain financial topics and events to readers. The blog is attached to the DN’s Web site. On my blog, I use links to send readers to stories I like or provide background information. I compile and can then hide a lot of information that way.
    I’m still baffled and a little scared of Twitter. And I think the layout of the sites will help me as I write my Web article.

  4. Cassandra Thomas says:

    The newest form of “modern” journalism obviously has both its quirks and it perks. I think blogs still have a long way in coming before they hit mainstream journamlism. I was a big fan of DePasquale’s blog because she had interesting information, links, and blogged everyday. I think the latter of these three is the most important. I think the worst thing a journalist can do is set up a blog site and then only update once every two weeks. It shows readers that you either don’t care about your subject or don’t know enough to talk about it.

    I think DePasquale did a good job of explaining what her thoughts, reactions, and contact info. Obviously the addition of links and video made her blog much more interesting to readers. Although I must admit that I tend not to watch any video links unless they automatically (and might I add quite annoyingly) pop up in a page. As far as the other two blogs, I really disliked Simon’s because it was very confusing and excessively choppy. Smith provided her readers with an interactive activity that would draw them into the blog. However, I do have a problem with reporters getting sources off the internet. Sources can lie whether they are in person or online. It is, however, much more difficult to lie when you can actually see and talk to someone.

    I don’t think that the use of Facebook, Twitter, or any form of blog would be useful in my beat area for a very long time. Farmers and ranchers, for the most part, are of an older generation that has a hard time checking their email let alone interacting on a blog. I think once the agricultural community becomes acquainted with this technology, it will be a valuable tool. I have to admit, though, I think it will be a very, very long time in coming.

  5. Rob McLean says:

    The Internet’s tools like Twitter, blogging and digital video would be useful when covering a legislative hearing on a heated issue.

    I attended the death penalty hearings earlier this session and the ability to post a play-by-play of the event would be interesting. It would be truly up to the minute reporting.

    Smith’s blog is excellent. She doesn’t stray from her beat and she posts regularly. Her posts are short and keep people’s attention. This is the most important part of writing for an online audience.

    Both the paragraphs and the story itself need to be concise enough to convey the points, but also to keep a contemporary audience’s short attention span.
    All these blogs have links within the story and include photos.

    De Pasquale, as Thornton noted, embedded video into her entries. Video is the best way to keep an audience’s attention, especially if it’s shot and edited by a person who understands the medium.

    Nina Simon’s twitter and blog merger is interesting. She’s using it like a journalists, alerting people to new Web/blog posts.

    I would use Simon’s strategy if I were working for a news organization. Post blog articles with pictures and short articles, and then use twitter to bolster that—and let those who follow me know what’s new on the blog.

    Once the audience knows what’s new on the blog, I’ll keep their attention with short entries bolstered by photos and video. That’s how these sites work best.
    Take the death penalty hearing as an example.

    Twitter something like “Emotions run the gamut at death penalty hearings” followed by a link to the blog.

    Then write a short article explaining who testified, their connection to the death penalty and what they told the Legislature’s judiciary committee.

    Insert photos of those subjects testifying before the committee; perhaps include a video response from someone after testifying.

  6. Brittney Schuessler says:

    As a senior, about to enter the real world, I’m realizing the need to adapt to the evolution of the journalism industry more and more. The article by Patrick Thornton made me want to set up an account on Twitter, which I did, and update my blog, which I did.

    Nina Simon uses Twitter to get the word about Museums and her various experiences with them. Since my beat is economy and business, I could “follow” as it is called on twitter, businesses that have accounts to receive immediate updates on what’s going on with them. I can also “follow” specific people or accounts that send out frequent updates related to the economy. I can get story ideas off Twitter and find potential sources on Twitter.

    I can also communicate with people I may not have had the opportunity to talk to otherwise. For example, people like Ashton Kutcher are on Twitter. I think the social networking site is the only way many of Kutcher’s fans will ever know his thoughts. This site could also encourage the growth of his fan base.

    Amber Smith uses a blog to communicate and get immediate feedback regarding health and topics related to running. In her blog she asks readers to submit their “rewards” for running. This allows her to get answers and ideas from numerous people directly and instantly.

    Her blog is similar to what the Lincoln Journal Star does on its website. The Journal Star asks its readers to submit their thoughts, responses and ideas at the end of stories. For example, on a story, posted April 1, about UNL’s new child care center over ten readers posted a comment before the end of the day. For example, one person complained about the cost of the new center saying, “I guess I was expecting something a little more viable. The price even with UNL discount is more than we’re currently paying at a relatively high-end center. And yeah, the no summer coverage is just silly. Maybe they could offer discounts for letting the Early Childhood Development department do research on the babies.”
    Her comment about the center’s prices was among others. The responses could spur story ideas.

    Stephanie De Pasquale also uses a blog to be an effective journalist. She uses photos and creates many links in her blog- something we should do in our online stories that are due next week.

  7. Liz Gasaway says:

    If I were actually a religion reporter, I don’t think, necessarily that twitter or a normal blog would be that much of a boon. Something like Amber Smith’s blog, where you ask input from readers would be better than something like twitter, something that would open up a conversation between others, because anything else could seem a little biased towards one religion or the other, or me just spouting off my opinion, something that isn’t conducive to credibility on the religion beat.

    The reporters’ blogs were cool, actually. I never really know how twitter is supposed to be used, and Simon uses it here to her best advantage. Of course, it is always interesting to see what others do with networking sites, and, for the upcoming online story, I think I’ll take away the links idea. Those are a great way to spread a lot of information that you might not have, but others might. You do that bit of work for the readers and I think it shows. If I were a real paper, I would maybe set up a link for an e-mail address where people can send in their own spring break stories or something like that.

    Stephanie De Pasquale’s blog in particular manages to convey a lot of information on her beat in a relatively compact blog. It is a sure bet that her more avid readers would read more on the internet than in the paper, as more young people would probably be interested in her coverage of the local music scene.

  8. Nate Pohlen says:

    One thing I really liked about Stephanie De Pasquale is that she serves as an advertiser for local musicians by playing their music on her blog, but because of that she also gets information before other reporters, which is a brilliant idea to me.

    For my beat, it would be good to learn how to shoot and edit video like De Pasquale, to have more than one dimension to my stories. The best blogs I visit are the ones with articles, links to videos, podcasts and music.

    It’s also important that De Pasquale and Amber Smith respond to her readers’ comments, because sometimes journalists think they are larger than life and separate themselves from the rest of society. In reality, we should engage our readers because people would rather visit a blog of someone who associates himself or herself with the actual community.

    And like Smith, the more we connect ourselves with the community, the easier it is to find sources. Now, instead of going out on the streets and searching for an informed person to interview, we can put a note on a blog and have dozens of people respond instantly. The more traffic we can draw to our blogs, the less work required for stories.

    All three of these modern journalists understand that print journalism is fading and multimedia journalism is growing all the time. Just when we think we’ve got this MySpace and Facebook thing figured out, Twitter comes along. It’s important for us to keep updated, because readers expect journalists to be informed and knowledgeable, which is a great responsibility.

    Something I learned from looking at the blogs and would imitate is to include extra information that doesn’t appear in a print story. Using quotes that didn’t make the newspaper story, for example, in a blog post is a cool way to make readers visit the blog after reading the paper. People like to hear voices from others on topics of interest, not just the journalist’s voice.

  9. Allyson Felt says:

    In reading Patrick Thornton’s article, I noticed his points about how journalists need to be multifaceted when it comes to their reporting skills. They must be able to have blogs, shoot video and provide pictures as needed. Now more than ever, readers are on the Internet and wanting details about news stories every minute. Any reporter, like Stephanie De Pasquale, Nina Simon and Amber Smith, is an asset to any paper with the amount of versatility they offer.

    However, it is important to point out, journalists can’t let the Internet and all its tools distract them from doing good reporting. I am very worried that as getting the news becomes more casual, more reporters will stop using the techniques they have been learned over the years and become lazy.

    As Thornton pointed out, asking readers a question on a blog is a great way to get them to participate and give feedback. This does not mean the reporter doesn’t have to do any real reporting and can use the feedback from the blog alone.

    Also, what does blogging mean to the future of news? Will it inadvertently allow more opinions to be slipped into articles by the journalists? Will articles as we know them today soon be read only on blogs? All I know is that journalists need to be careful. Blogs are a wonderful tool of journalism and every journalist should embrace them. Journalists must remember they are still writing newsworthy and factual information, not yellow journalism “bl-articles”.

  10. Adam Ziegler says:

    Patrick Thornton’s post on how journalists are taking advantage of the Internet presented some innovative uses of the Internet. Each person he talked about has found a really interesting new way to use the Internet for journalism, and they’re all taking things a step beyond what most people are doing with the Web,

    One thing I really liked about all these blogs was the use of links. Amber Smith’s blog had at least two links in every post, which is may more than you’d get in a traditional story, and helps the reader get more information about the story. Rather than just summarize past events, linking allows readers to find the original story the reporter is referring too and get the whole story without taking up extra space recapping it in the new story.

    Smith’s use of reader feedback was also really interesting. I’d never really thought about using the comments section of a blog as a way to find sources before, but it really is a great idea. Rather than just wander the streets hoping she could find runners to talk too, Smith was able to have the sources come to her using her blog, which saves a lot of time and also gets the readers more involved in the things they’re reading about.

    For the city government beat, Smith’s feedback idea could be especially helpful. If you ever needed public feedback on anything the mayor or city council was doing, you could just put up a post asking for it and allow the citizens to voice the praises or complaints there. Blogs and Twitter could also be used for live updates during council meetings, press conferences or other city events.

  11. Johnna Hjersman says:

    I am always impressed (and scared) by journalists who are able to so easily integrate technology with their work. It has been said over and over again that this is a skill necessary for current and aspiring journalists. The three professionals mentioned in Patrick Thornton’s blog, the Leaderboard, set a good example. Each is taking advantage of the largest forum available and doing a rather good job of it.
    Now, I have had access to the internet since I was in elementary school. I have had e-mail accounts since middle school. And I have been on social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook since high school. Yet even though I have seemingly grown up side-by-side with technology, I still feel very tech-illiterate. (I’ve never illegally downloaded music because I never knew/still don’t know how to.) I don’t surf around the internet searching for new and interesting sites, stumbling upon musicians’ Web pages or posting comments on hobby-themed discussion boards. Unless I am looking for something specific (show-times for movies, a recipe for peanut butter chicken), when I get on the internet, I check my e-mail, I check my Facebook, I check the news, and I’m done. I think I forget how much more is out there–beyond my own profile page–and how much I’m missing out on.
    Because of this, I feel like I’m part of the older generation of journalists, the ones who are having to figure out the internet and such just to stay alive. It doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m not a blogger. I’m not a Twitter-er. I’m simply a Survival Internet User. It meets my needs and I rarely use it beyond that. I think my 62-year-old father makes better use of browsing the internet than I do. (The other day, he sent me a link to a Web page focused on how to pick up a fallen motorcycle if you’re a 5’3″ish sized woman as well as a youtube video.)
    This is why journalists like Simon, Smith and De Pasquale are so impressive and scary to me. They have that one skill I lack–presence on the Web. This is, of course, not a permanent problem. I can get a Twitter account. I can start reading blogs. I can venture into the vast world of the World Wide Web. But even so, I think I will always feel like I am behind the learning curve as far as technology goes, even if I’m not.
    I just hope future employers never see this blog.

  12. Tawny Burmood says:

    Within the past year the shift from print to the Web has left journalists to realize we can’t just do one thing in journalism. In order to make it out in the journalism world we have to be the complete package.

    I thought it was inspiring to read that Stephanie De Pasquale couldn’t get a internship out of college with her lack of experience but how she ended up working with NPR which eventually led her to become a great “modern” journalist. I think journalism today will leave all of us aspiring journalists with several new opportunities that we never thought of.

    Technology is constantly changing and the way readers get information is changing. Some of the best ways to tell story is through different forms of multi-media. I think readers want to get short quick news, but also want it to be visually stimulating.

    For my online story I think these examples of blogging will help me out a lot after seeing how much I can do with links. As for my beat, environment and energy, using twitter or a blog would probably work out pretty well. Renewable energy is a big topic right now and I think it would get a lot of feedback from readers. Also it would allow me to tell the story in a different way, probably with a lot more information.

    Using blogs and social networks to get readers response is a great thing to do. But I do feel that a great journalist needs to go out and get the story and not just rely on the Web. I think the Web, in Amber Smith’s case, gives journalists the opportunity to have more sources come to them, but I don’t think journalists should use it as a crutch.

  13. Katie Steiner says:

    I think these are 3 good examples of reporters taking advantage of technology to share news from their beat faster, and also stay more connected to their readers. With all of these sites, readers were able to provide their feedback, and the reporter could respond to their comments. Plus, these blogs and Twitter seem like a good way to get story ideas from readers and find potential sources.

    I think for the Legislature beat, I would probably use Twitter as a way to stay connected to readers. With Twitter, I would be able to do regular updates on what was happening during each day’s session, as well as post links to the various bills being discussed. A blog could also work as it would let me go into more detail about what took place every day.

    Overall, I think blogs are a good way for reporters to stay connected to their audience and get their feedback. Plus, any medium that provides a reporter to get the news out faster is a good thing. However, I would hope that people would understand that these new media outlets should not replace our traditional forms of receiving news, such as newspapers and Web sites.

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