Skills for journalists in print and digital media

Archive for the ‘Multimedia’ Category

Resources for data visualization skills

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Data visualization — the presentation of data in visual form — is becoming a bigger and bigger part of top online news sites. Tools and resources for those who want to improve their skills are also growing. Mindy McAdams offer a nice post with 10 she recommends, with a bonus link to a Quora discussion on the difference between data visualization and information graphics.

Cool recent example: a gravity map of the earth on

Previously: Google’s free data visualization tool.



Written by mroberts8

04/03/2011 at 5:44 pm

Building a news brand with social media

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Mandy Jenkins was a social media editor at until the hyper local news site decided to uninvent itself after only nine months and laid off the talent. Now she’s moving on to the Huffington Post. But on her way out, Mandy shared strategies for creating a strong news brand via Facebook and Twitter, and how news organizations can facilitate strong audience interaction with social media.

Both pieces are found on Mandy’s highly readable blog, Zombie Journalism.

Written by mroberts8

04/01/2011 at 2:54 am

Data visualization as “story”

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There are a lot of discussions about how best to present data effectively on a newspaper web site. One of the most intriguing of late, mentioned by Mindy McAdams in her Teaching Online Journalism blog, is this academic study from Edward Segel and Jeffrey Heer at Stanford University, titled, “Narrative Visualization: Telling Stories with Data.”

Segel and Heer set out to:

“…further our understanding of narrative visualization by analyzing and contrasting examples of visualizations with a story-telling component.We then generalize from these examples to identify salient design dimensions. In the process, we hope to clarify how narrative visualization differs from other storytelling forms, and how these differences introduce both opportunities and pitfalls for its narrative potential.”

Through a variety of good examples and their own analysis, one of their conclusions is the value of making data interactive, even in the context of a larger story. Let the story unfold, they say, but provide opportunities for readers to stop and work with the data.

“Generalizing across our examples, data stories appear to be most effective when they have constrained interaction at various checkpoints within a narrative, allowing the user to explore the data without veering too far from the intended narrative.”

One implication for multimedia story forms and training reporters and editors to plan them more effectively is to factor into a storyboard not only the right data to include, but how to make that data accessible and interactive in a way that does not interrupt the story.

Here is one example, a playful way to compare economic indicators among a set of cities that puts complex data in chart form for easy reference. It’s from a series on key economic indicators and what they say about the future of the Phoenix economy. The interactive chart was created using Adobe Flex.

Written by mroberts8

01/22/2011 at 1:04 pm

Interview skills: Share the destination with your subjects

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Lisa Mullins, chief anchor and senior producer for Public Radio International’s “The World,” recently talked about interview tactics and skills with Andre Pizer for the Nieman Storyboard. Mullins had a lot of good tips to share. But the best was about how to begin, how to give your interview subject a sense of where you wanted to go. Mullins explained:

“I tell them ahead of time what I might want. If we’re on deadline, and the person we’re going to be talking to is what we call a kind of ‘normal person,’ maybe part of a couple in Dublin who is talking to us about how the seismic financial cuts are affecting them personally, they may be reluctant, they may be shy, they may be reticent to reveal too much. If I say, ‘What I’d like to leave the audience with is an idea of what your life is like right now,’ then they will start telling me the information I need in the form of a story.”

That is one of those simple but rarely done parts of a great interview. Too many reporters feel they have to lead a subject down a path. Instead, engage the person in leading you down the path by taking the time before you begin to sketch where you would like to go, what you hope to write about, and, perhaps, how their story will likely affect readers. That also means a reporter, and hopefully their editor, have talked about the focus of the story ahead of time to make the most of each interview.

And this is not just great advice for broadcast or video pieces, but print as well.




Written by mroberts8

01/03/2011 at 9:30 pm

Beyond galleries to quality slideshow content

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Chadwick Matlin contributes to the growing set of forms and approaches when it comes to online slide shows. The random stream of images and dead end captions of basic photo galleries have given way to more structured slide shows that tell stories, convey complex information, and add great value and user traffic to new web sites.

Writing in the latest Columbia Journalism Review, Matlin sketches seven types of slide shows, including the “Listicle” and the “Essay.” Plus he’s enough of a realist to toss in the “Sex Show,” a form every web site manager and paranoid newspaper editor is well aware of, usually involving cheerleaders, fashion shows, nightclub parties, Miss Hooters contests, or some other variation on soft porn and high traffic. (What’s your version or war story on same?)

Readers like slide shows because they control the medium via clicks, the content can be powerful, and the topics are endless. Web site managers like them as each slide can represent one ad view. Done poorly (or cynically) and they will destroy your credibility. Done well they take digital news presention in new and interesting directions with minimal technical requirements and as showcases for traditional journalism skills — great images and tight writing.


Written by mroberts8

12/02/2010 at 1:38 am

Posted in Editing, Multimedia

Print perspective in the digital age

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Rem Rieder, writing in American Journalism Review, arrives late to the realization that traditional morning-after hard news stories seem stale in the wake of real-time online coverage hours earlier. He observes, correctly, that:

With instant access to information available for so many people, an old-school hard news story looks pretty silly the following morning. In a world where so much information is widely available in real time, it’s imperative for news organizations to provide added value: analysis, perspective, context, narrative. And to make it interesting. Otherwise, what’s the point?

That’s been the case for years now.

The alternative for newspapers is “continuous coverage,” meaning a stream of coverage from the first short online post on through a growing package of online news during the day to the next day’s print story or package that provides the analysis and perspective. For newspapers trying to remain the number one news source in their communities, this has been the game plan for some time.

To build this kind of approach into the culture of your newsroom, it is important to settle on a set of online approaches that everyone is familiar with and can turn to as news unfolds. This can include the basic tools and clear standards and practices as to how to use them. There is also an editorial function, an aggressive but still  measured approach to rolling out the news through the day online. Then, most importantly, it also means breaking off someone, or allowing the primary reporter the time, to report and write a print story that takes the basic news and explores impact and context.

Done well, continuous coverage provides readers with the emerging facts as news happens online and then provides the perspective and wrap-up the next morning in the paper and online.

Written by mroberts8

12/02/2010 at 1:23 am

Video for web vs. TV

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In a short but fascinating item and video interview on Beet.TV, Mary Hockaday, Head of the BBC Newsroom, sketched out a notion of video shot for the web taking on a “show and tell” format that would be different from video shot for  TV broadcast in the more familiar reporter stand-up / voiceover format. Hockaday sees an emerging format in which a reporter delivers more of an unscripted tour of the scene or situation.

She makes a good case, which then raises good questions about training reporters and videographers in this approach, including the art of improvising and how to anticipate the scope of the segment in the larger context of the web presentation.

Written by mroberts8

04/09/2010 at 6:05 pm