Posted in Social Media

A Year of NABJDigital Via Wordle

By Benét J. Wilson, DJTF co-chair, Online Managing Editor-Business Aviation, Aviation Week Group

For our last post of the year, I’ve created a Wordle word cloud of the most used tags in NABJDigital in 2010.  Happy New Year and enjoy!!

Posted in Education, multimedia journalist

Best of NABJDigital: Creating A “Hinge” Between Newsroom, Classroom

Editor’s note: we are off this week, so we’re re-posting our most popular columns.  This column, from contributor Bliss Davis, was originally published Aug. 18.

By Bliss Davis, Multimedia Journalist

I recently read an article about Allbritton Communications’ news website and their partnership with American University’s School of Communication for interns, and another between NYU, which will run The Local East Village, a hyperlocal news site for the New York Times.
While the concept of gaining professional experience or familiarizing yourself with a profession isn’t news, it is welcoming to hear news of programs like this gaining ground.  Even NABJ recently broadened its converged student media newsroom to include a bootcamp-like for high school students as well as those in higher education.   All of these programs have something in common — namely having digital media as either a forefront or major component of their partnerships.
Even with these progressive programs, there is a huge gap in how much journalism students (especially those still in high school) are exposed to professional media.  Besides journalism, one of my passions is moving forward with a steady gaze on what’s behind me–for the second half of my college experience I taught journalism at an inner city high school.  The school needed journalism teachers and through a special grant project I was brought in along with a few others.  My primary reason for doing so was being from the inner city myself, and remembering how my high school’s journalism program was canceled from funding issues.
The joint grant initiative was a meager project and I am barely in the professional journalism realm myself, but our efforts paid off.  With the help of professionals and professors, several in the class graduated with a working knowledge of multimedia and a desire to become journalists themselves.
It is much too premature to rave about joint programs of course, but hopefully they take off in other forms.  Besides helping raise general interest in the world, there is a growing interest in using non-traditional platforms.  After getting their newspaper down the class in the grant program wanted to publish a digital version as well.  While still in the works, it will be interesting to see what they come up with in the coming school year.
Taking the focus away from the students, the only way for these hinge programs to continue to be successful depends on professionals who already know the ropes.  None if these programs  function without the help of someone already familiar with the industry and can only work with pros willing to get their hands dirty.
Posted in Social Media Correspondent, TwitterNewsChat

Tweet a Lead Using the Hashtag #TwitterNewsChat

Social Media in the Classroom

By Serbino Sandifer-Walker, DJTF V.P., Texas Southern University Professor,
TSU Student NewsFeed

One of the most important aspects of any news story is the lead.  It is often the most difficult for beginning news writers to learn to master.  It must be well-written, compelling and capture the reader’s attention.  The Poynter Institute’s Chip Scanlan said a good lead beckons, invites, informs, attracts and entices the reader.  If there is any poetry in journalism, Scanlan added, it would have to be in the lead. However, writing a lead that truly captivates a reader can be a daunting task, even for an experienced writer.

Because lead writing can be such a daunting task, I decided to step outside of the traditional classroom paradigm and use Twitter as a tool to teach students how to write leads.  The micro-blogging, social network has been an excellent platform for showing students how to use words effectively.  Twitter’s 140 character limitation has been a very good model to help students critically analyze how to structure the lead with precision and maximize storytelling in a few words.

The Process

Using the Hashtag #TwitterNewsChat, students posted leads daily during the semester. The Hashtag grouped the leads on Twitter into a real-time designated section and was required to be included in the Tweet [Twitter’s 140 character post].  See exhibit I.

The students’ leads were generated from stories that they covered on campus, community beats and current events. Some of those stories were about Texas Southern University’s NASA center, the theater department’s production of Westside Story and the School of Communication’s Intercultural Communication Conference and the midterm elections.

The students also developed enterprise stories.  The enterprise story was one in which the student cultivated from a specialized topic.  One such topic the students focused on during the semester was the Houston Area Women Center’s Sexual Assault Awareness campaign.    The center used social media like Twitter and Facebook to draw attention to the impact of sexual assaults and domestic violence in the Houston area and on college campuses. The students tweeted leads daily about the campaign. The tweets also included multimedia such as photos, radio wraparounds, television packages and links to web-ready stories [detailed story] that the students produced for their blogs.  The blogs provided an in-depth story of the tweeted topic.

Another issue students covered was the 50th anniversary of Houston’s first sit-in. The anniversary program included a re-creation of the march civil rights leaders did on March 4, 1960.  The students not only tweeted leads before, during and after the event, they also tweeted photos and video about the program from their smartphones. See

Local and national Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds from organizations like the New York Times , USA Today , Washington Post , Houston Chronicle , CNN , NPR , ABC , CBS , NBC  and DIGG  were used as resources to help students understand the dynamics of writing an effective lead and using social media to tell the story.


The lead tweets [a post on Twitter] helped students to develop a keener understanding of quality content and the importance of concise writing.  This exercise heightened students’ awareness of current events from downtown Houston to Soweto, South Africa.  Equally important, it helped students to weigh the value of using a social media network as a reporting tool instead of a miscellaneous social forum.

This approach to writing leads established several important benchmarks.  First, student motivation improved. They were already using a multitude of social networks. My student demographic is majority African-American.  Twenty-six percent of Twitter users are black, according to a 2009 Pew study.   Requiring them to use Twitter as a writing tool empowered them to be more insightful and creative in structuring their sentences.  Academic skill levels and performances on writing tests improved. There was a keener understanding of the writing process.  Students also learned the importance of self-branding and professionalism.  They took great pride and ownership of the #TwitterNewsChat hashtag and viewed it as their own newsfeed.  As a result of this assignment, I now reference the students as social media correspondents [use social media networks to report the news].  Several of these correspondents will be tweeting leads [post to Twitter] throughout the holidays and the beginning of the year (@MeenyMinyMoe Ameena Rasheed, @lisamantha Samantha Vallejo, @Anomaly713 Kenneth Ware Jr.) Overall, a generation of technologically perceptive students was inspired to perform at higher levels by maximizing lead writing and storytelling in a succinct manner.

(See more details on writing leads using the #TwitterNewsChat hashtag #TwitterNewsChat Lead Writing Details)

Posted in journalism, multimedia journalist, Social Media

New Media/Socia Media/Multimedia: Where Is The Diversity?

By Benét J. Wilson, DJTF co-chair, Online Managing Editor-Business Aviation, Aviation Week Group

I was scrolling through my Google Reader earlier this month when I read this Dec. 8 post on Steve Buttry’s informative blog on multimedia.  He was writing about News Foo, an invitation-only event that was (as Steve wrote) a “stimulating and thoughtful interaction with creative and innovative journalists, entrepreneurs, digital thinkers and technology pioneers.”  The event was held at the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.  When I read Buttry’s post, my first question was “I wonder how many journalists of color were in attendance?”  You can see the list of attendees here.

I sent out some Tweets to people I would guess should have been invited.  A handful were, but chose not to attend for whatever reason.  But then this post from Retha Hill, director of the new media innovation lab at ASU – who did attend News Foo – offered more information.  And Hill asked the bigger question – why are new media conferences lacking in minorities?  That, in turn, led to a spirited live Twitter chat yesterday hosted by PBS Media Shift, which featured Doug Mitchell, chairman of NABJ’s Media Institute, among other things.  You can follow the chat at the #mediadiversity hash tag.  My big takeaway was one side saying “we don’t know where you new media journalists of color are” on one side and “here we are, but you ignore us” on the other.

Here at NABJDigital, we have worked hard to spotlight and champion journalists of color who we think are doing some interesting things on the new/social/multimedia side of the business.  Below are the ones we’ve done since starting this blog in October 2009.  If you know of others, PLEASE – let us know.!

Posted in journalism, multimedia journalist, Social Media

Best of NABJDigital: Separate But Equal: Juggling the Personal and Professional with Social Media

Editor’s note: we are off this week, so we’re re-posting our most popular columns.  This column was originally published March 1 by our treasurer, Melanie Eversley of USA Today.

By Melanie Eversley, Rewrite Reporter at USA Today, DJTF Treasurer

At first, it was a novelty.

You sent out your first “tweet” and your eight followers – including your best friend, your cousin Skip and two coworkers – learned you were “proud of making a successful bowl of guacamole.”

But in time, your use of social media blossomed. You sent out links via Facebook and Twitter to the latest postings from your blog and to the news stories you’d written for your employer’s website. You connected not only to dozens of relatives and every friend from elementary school on, but also to just as many business contacts.

So what do you do when you’ve grown to hundreds or even thousands of followers or “friends” from your personal and professional lives? Journalists, authors and writers advocated separate accounts for personal dealings and business or, if you’re going to mix it up, avoiding controversial or negative postings that can get you into trouble – especially if you work for a mainstream news organization that demands objectivity in your work.

Author, screenwriter and former Miami Herald journalist Tananarive Due is one of those whose friends and professional contacts are comingled. She says she is making it work for her.

“Most of my friends are readers. Many of them are writers. There are also some family members, old friends and Hollywood contacts,” Due, who lives in the Los Angeles area, says of her activity on Facebook.

“These groups have very different interests, so I try to mix it up,” she says. “I post personal photos with my family, for example. I post silly thoughts, movies I’ve seen, or observations. That keeps it ‘real.’ “

Due uses Facebook to update followers on the progress of her writing, her books and movies being planned from her work, to draw followers to new entries on her website,, and her blog,, to promote events and to advertise writing coach services offered by her and her husband, Steven Barnes, at She also maintains a fan page on Facebook for Tennyson Hardwick, the star character of three of her mystery novels.

Due says Facebook is her most reliable tool for readers and potential clients, but she is still figuring out how best to use it and other social media. She uses a program called that helps her track exactly how many hits have come from Facebook.

What helps her keep her friends and followers blended is that she stays away from negative or potentially controversial postings, she says.

“I do political postings I care about, but not often,” Due explains. “I try to celebrate on my page as much as possible, i.e. a new 18-year-old writer I support.”

Others maintain separate personal and professional accounts.

Tiffany Alexander works for, and also is a children’s book author and blogger. She maintains separate personal and professional accounts on Facebook and Twitter, as well as a fan page on Facebook.

Alexander uses her professional accounts to educate readers about her characters and update them about publishing news and public appearances. The accounts also help her draw traffic to and, the website where customers can order her children’s books.

She also takes advantage of the privacy settings on Facebook that allow users to control who on Facebook or outside of Facebook can access information on their pages.

“There are a few coworkers in my personal network, but very few, and they are people I consider friends,” says Alexander, who lives in Atlanta.

“Actually, most people I work with are blocked from being able to access any of my personal information,” she continues. “My Facebook page won’t show up for them even if they search for me. If they want to connect with me, they can join my coworker network. They can access my fan page on Facebook and a few of them are fans.”

Author, activist, blogger and filmmaker Yasmin Shiraz uses Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn to keep followers abreast of film screenings and her speaking engagements, and to draw traffic to She says she keeps everything professional.

“Since I am in fact selling the Yasmin Shiraz brand, I remain true to it,” says Shiraz, who lives in the Washington, D.C., area. “I will admit that I’m not as opinionated on my LinkedIn account … As I learn more about social media, I feel that it’s important to remain true to my brand and so I’m intimately involved in every tweet, every post, every comment.”

Journalist and public relations specialist Greg Wright also is a huge proponent of keeping separate accounts for the personal and the professional.

Wright, who also lives in the Washington, D.C., area, is a senior public relations specialist for the National Association of Social Workers and maintains the organization’s blog, As a freelance writer, he also has written several pieces advising people how to use social media to their advantage. Wright uses Facebook and Twitter to send out links to freelance pieces he’s written for magazines or websites or for new blog postings.

He points out that people can use LinkedIn to position themselves as an expert in an area by addressing questions posted to the site and taking part in the discussion boards. He also is an advocate of the Facebook fan page, which is not difficult to set up, he said.

Wright cautions, however, that while social media might seem like a great new invention that can boost marketing, it’s important to keep it all in perspective.

“You shouldn’t overdo this and don’t be online all the time,” Wright advises. “It’s not the end all and be all, it is just a tool.”

Wright continues, “It does not replace getting on the phone and saying, ‘Hey, let’s go have a meal.’ Some people, the only way they socialize is on Facebook. They don’t even hang out. That’s how they basically interact. People are becoming more and more isolated.”


Posted in Education, journalism, multimedia journalist

Best of NABJDigital: It’s A New Game: Teaching The Next Generation Of Journalists

Editor’s note: we are off this week, so we’re re-posting our most popular columns.  This column was originally published Dec. 22, 2009.

By Serbino Sandifer-Walker, Texas Southern University Journalist and Journalism Professor, DJTF V.P.

Journalism professors must be willing to step out of their comfort zones and teach their students skills they will need to compete for 21st century job opportunities.  For over 10 years, I’ve been teaching students how to merge traditional storytelling with not so traditional technology.

In my online journalism course, I’ve pushed the envelope on how news stories are covered and presented.  Students not only learn journalistic reporting and writing techniques, they also learn how to integrate web-based technology, social media and video into the final piece.

For 15 weeks, I require the students to probe their topics thoroughly. I teach them how to use a variety of research tools including virtual libraries. Then they must go into the community and spend a considerable amount of time interviewing sources.  Once the reporting process is completed, the students write the stories.

Now the story must be written for a multimedia platform. This means students must incorporate Hypertext Mark-up Language and or web authoring software like Dreamweaver to deliver engaging content, dynamic images, audio and video to the Internet and other media platforms like smartsphones, DVDs, etc.

First, I teach them how to use hypertext markup language (HTML).  I provide them with a tutorial and walk them step-by-step on how to code.  The is one of the resources I use.

Next, I teach them how to use Dreamweaver, which is a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) program. Adobe TV is one of my resources. Click link

I also show them how to use Photoshop. Adobe TV is one of my resources. Click link

I also show them how to use the iPhone, traditional video cameras and digital audio recorders to capture dynamic images, video and audio.

Additionally, I introduce video editing programs like Final Cut Pro, Avid and Adobe Premiere.

It is a requirement for them to tweet daily using the hashtag #twitternewschat.

Of course, there is more; however, I will share that in the next post.

I know this is a weighty schedule; however, if you guide the students every step of the way, the results can be amazing.

These skills are absolutely necessary in this changing media landscape.  If they don’t learn them now, it may be impossible for them to make the cut in the future.

In the next post, I will share several j-student multimedia projects.

Posted in News

Many Fans Learn of Teena Marie’s Death on Twitter

By Serbino Sandfer-Walker DJTF V.P., Texas Southern University Journalism Professor, Multimedia Correspondent

Teena Marie, the soulful songstress also known as Lady T and the Ivory Queen of Soul, died Sunday and many fans learned of her death on Twitter after a post from R&B icon Ronald Isley.

Right before 7p.m. (CST) Isley tweeted [a Twitter post], “Just found out a friend, Tina Marie passed away. I really did [n]‘t expect to hear this. RIP. We will miss you much!”

Shortly after, Isley tweeted again, “Sorry guys, yes Teena Marie has passed away.”

That sent Teena Marie fans on Twitter in a tailspin. Many were shocked. Some of the tweets said, “I hope Twitter is not killing off Teena Marie.”

Others like @MyPurpleFantasy said, “I understand completely. Twitter is good for killing off celebs.”

Many of her fans just wanted to find out the truth.  “Reports conflicting on Teena Marie. Some celebs saying she passed & others saying it’s a rumor. Trying to confirm,”  @FirmMagazine tweeted.

Then multimedia journalist, TV One and CNN correspondent Roland Martin @rolandsmartin tweeted, “Mike Gardner, the manager of @msteenamarie, just told me that it is true: the legendary R&B singer has indeed died.”

At the same time, Philadelphia’s WDAS FM radio also confirmed Teena Marie’s death.

“We regret to inform you that Music Legend Teena Marie has died at the age of 54. Tributes and further details soon at,” @wdasfm tweeted.

 It was hard for fans to except that Teena Marie had passed. Twenty hours earlier, Teena Marie @MsTeenaMarie, who was an avid tweeter with 6,778 tweets, had wished her daughter Alia Rose also known as Rose LeBeau @RoseyDough happy birthday.

 “Nineteen years ago today, I was in Labor, bout 2 give birth to my Baby Girl! @RoseyDough I love u so much! More then you’ll ever know! Christmas10,” Teena Marie said in a December 24 Twitter post.

 Her last tweet was on December 25.

 “No I haven’t found it! What was the name of the Pope John Paul 2nd/Sarah Vaughan Project?“ Teena Marie tweeted one of her fans.

 For over 48 hours Teena Marie was one of the top trending items on Twitter.

Fans of her music were tweeting links to some of her videos on YouTube or her website. Songs like Portuguese Love, Square Biz, Casanova Brown and Ooh, La, La,La, were being introduced to the Twitter universe.

 She was lauded in the black community, especially, because of her distinct R&B vocals and keen understanding of black culture.  It wasn’t until her second album in 1980, Lady T, that fans learned she was white.  Barry Gordy, Motown head, said he didn’t put her picture on the first album, Wild and Peaceful in 1979, because he wanted her music to stand on its own merit. 

 R&B sensation Rick James mentored Teena Marie and collaborated with her on hits like Fire and Desire and I’m Just a Sucker for Your love.

 She was born Mary Christine Brockert in 1956.  She grew up in Santa Monica, Ca. and had a passion for soul music.

As one studies her tweets, it is clear R&B was woven in her DNA.

 On any given day you could find 20 or more tweets @MsTeenaMarie about the music she lived and loved to sing about.

 “Oh heaven must have sent you from above, heaven must have sent your precious love,” Teena Marie tweeted on December 22.

Teena Marie on Twitter