Posted in Education, journalism

Carnival Of Journalism: Creating Student News Organizations

Regular readers of this blog know that once a month, I used to write a post for the Carnival of Journalism.  For the uninitiated, a group of us, journalism geek types, get together monthly and write about the same topic, directed by a different host each time.

However, life got in the way of Carnival creator David Cohn, the founder of Spot.Us, a nonprofit that helped pioneer community funded reporting and current director of news for Circa. That meant the Carnival went away.  But last month, a note went out on our Carnival listserve, and, long story short, it’s back.

This month, our host is Patrick Thornton, described by Cohn as the journalism iconoclast.  The question is this: Student news organizations have traditionally existed to give students experience before entering the workforce. The kinds of journalism jobs and journalism companies have changed considerably in the past 10 years, and most student news organizations are set up to mimic traditional print or broadcast news outlets. How would you set up a student news organization in 2013, or how could an existing college news organization modernize itself?

Grambling State University is a historically black college and university (HBCU) located in Grambling, La. The university recently made national news after firing Gramblinite online editor David Lankster Sr. and suspending opinions editor Kimberly Monroe. Both played key roles in stories about how the university’s football team forfeited a game over its deteriorating practice facility. Tracie Powell, co-chair of the National Association of Black Journalists’ Digital Journalism Task Force and owner of the  allDigitocracy blog had excellent coverage of the story here

So as the self-appointed Editrix and student advisor of the Gramblinite, I will use it as my guinea pig and answer the question of how an existing college news organization can modernize itself. I’m going to assume going in that I have all the money I need to make these changes.

The first thing I would do would be to make the student newspaper independent from the university, similar to what’s done at college newspapers including the University of Maryland-College Park’s Diamondback, Penn State’s The Daily Collegian and The Daily Californian at the University of California-Berkeley. School administrations have much less control and less of an ability to pressure students covering news as an independent publication.

Second, I’d shell out major bucks to buy new equipment, including computers, iPhones, iPads, video and still cameras, editing software and whatever else it takes and provide training to students that would allow them to deliver the news accurately.

Third, I would get rid of the Gramblinite’s print publication. Even at my advanced age, I don’t read print publications anymore. And schools, including Baltimore’s Morgan State University (another HBCU) and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee have done it. My reading is done on my iPad and iPhone. Students these days get almost all of their news online, so go where your customers are.  I’d build a dynamic website that is easily viewed across all digital platforms. I’d include video, audio, photos, graphics, comments and social media.

And speaking of platforms, the fourth thing I’d do is get rid of separate media. No more radio news, television news, print news and magazine news on campus. I would make one converged newsroom to allow students to gain skills across all platforms, and disperse the news accordingly, using rolling  deadlines.

Fifth, I’d require all students working in the converged newsroom to create their own portfolio websites where they could house all of their stories in one place. So by the time graduation comes, they won’t be scrambling at the last minute to put one together.

Sixth, I’d create an independent advisory board made up of students, a faculty member from the communications/journalism school and alumni who are working in the field to guide students. I would also pay stipends to the editor in chief, the managing editor and the webmaster for the newspaper, because this is hard work, and they deserve to get a check for it.

I’d  then offer training at the beginning of each semester to let new students know what’s expected and remind existing students what is still expected. Then I’d let them go and write the stories they want to write, knowing they are free from university pressure and have a strong group backing them.

You can check out my past NABJDigital Carnival posts here.  See what my other fellow Carnivalers have to say here. And if you’re interested in joining us, please let me know. We’d love to have you!

Posted in Innovation, journalism, Technology

Carnival Of Journalism: What Emerging Technology Or Digital Trend Will Upend Journalism Next?

By Benét J. Wilson, DJTF chair & freelance aviation journalist/blogger

Photo by Cecilia Teodomira Márquez, via Flickr

It’s been awhile since I’ve had time to post on the Carnival of Journalism, and I’ve missed it. For the uninitiated, once a month a group of us journalism geek types get together and write about the same topic, directed by a different host each time.

This month’s question is one I’m asked regularly — what is the next big thing that will upend journalism?

And I’m going to tell the truth — I haven’t the foggiest idea.  My collision with emerging technology and digital trends began in March 2006, when my then-employer told us we were embracing a digital future. I jumped in feet first, trying out new things like my daughter changes her shoes.

So that gave me an idea on how to tackle this topic.  I decided to jump back to 2006 — the beginning of my transformation from an old-school print journalist (I began my career using a typewriter) to a multimedia amazon — to see what tools and technologies were being touted to journalists.

  • Flock, touted as the “ultimate blogging tool for journalists” – this was a web browser that was touted as being designed specifically for social media and Web 2.0 applications.
  • Writely, a web-based word processor that eventually morphed into Google Docs.
  • PodZinger, which used speech recognition technology that could turn podcast audio into searchable text, according to TechCrunch.
  • Co.mments, an online tool designed to allow users to track online comments.
  • Furl, a free service that allowed users to store copies of web pages then search them and share results later.

I could go on, but you get my point.  How many of you actually used some of these tools? How many of you even remember these tools?  Most of them are either gone or have morphed into other tools or merged with other companies. Which brings me back to my original point — I have no idea what the next technology or trend is around the corner for journalists, but I can’t wait to see what it is!

Posted in journalism, multimedia journalist, News

Carnival of Journalism: Online Video-I’m Not Feeling It

By Benét J. Wilson, chair, National Association of Black Journalists’ Digital Journalism Task Force & Online Managing Editor-Business Aviation, Aviation Week

Whenever I hear the term video in the newsroom, a picture forms in my mind of me, a broadcast journalism senior at American University (Go AU!), swimming in Sony Betamax video tape (just Google “Betamax,” kids).   I was always causing the Betamax video editing deck to chew up tapes, causing my professors to think I was cursed.

That, along with a bad internship at a local D.C. television (among other things), was enough to make me abandon my plans to be a video producer/editor and run to print journalism back in 1985.  I was happy knowing the worst thing that could happen to me as a print journalist was a leaky ink pen.

Fast forward to 2006, when the digital world — including video — hit me right in the face. But it was OK.  Growing up all over the world as an Air Force brat made me nimble and quickly able to adapt to any and all new situations.

So I embraced the digital world with gusto.  I started one of Aviation Week’s first blogs (the dearly departed Towers and Tarmacs). I harkened back to my days at AU’s campus radio station, WAMU-AM, and learned how to edit and produce podcasts.  I bought my own still camera, shot and posted more than 7,000 aviation/airline photos on my Flickr account, many of which have graced the pages of Aviation Week magazine and  I oversee three AvWeek Twitter accounts (@AviationWeek, @AvWeekBenet and @AvWeekTweets) and am one of three administrators of the Aviation Week Facebook fan page.  I’m always trying out the latest tools and toys on my iPhone.

But when it comes to video, I hit the brick wall.  My company uses it on our website, but usually only in conjunction with major events, like the Paris Air Show or the first delivery of the Boeing 787.  We have two portable video studios, and we were offered video training, but most of us aren’t doing it.

It comes down to two questions: one, is there enough demand — by viewers and sponsors/advertisers — to justify the expense of creating and posting videos; and two, is there enough time in the day for our editors to learn how to shoot video and use Final Cut Pro to produce packages that are good enough to go up on the web?

I have taken video workshops at many NABJ conventions and spent a week down at the Poynter Institute for a really great week-long video storytelling program.  But video still confounds me, and I think we’re still trying to figure out its role on our website.  We’ll see what the future brings.

Posted in Innovation, journalism, Social Media, Technology

Carnival of Journalism: How Journalists Are Using Google+

By Ms. Benét J. Wilson, DJTF chairman, Online Managing Editor-Business Aviation, Aviation Week Group

I was excited when I saw this month’s topic for the Carnival of Journalism.  So excited, that I decided to write this post even though I’m on vacation!!  We all know about Google+, which is being touted as the next new social/new media tool.  I was among those who queried my Twitter users to get an invite to take it for a whirl.

I got on in July, created a few circles…then did nothing.  I’d read updates, but didn’t feel comfortable actually using Google+, which I found a bit confusing in the beginning.

But then I found an interesting use — live blogging an event.  From Aug. 3-7, the National Association of Black Journalists held its annual convention in Philadelphia.  On Aug. 2, NABJ’s board of directors was meeting.  We’ve had some issues we’ ve been dealing with, including our break from UNITY: Journalists of Color. I, along with other members, have had some issues in the past with how things were communicated.

Back in January, I attended the quarterly NABJ board meeting, which was in Washington, D.C., and I used Twitter to cover the meeting.  But about halfway through the proceedings, a board  member asked me to stop, because technically, the board meeting was open only to NABJ members.

I missed the April board meeting, but did attend the August meeting.  Again, I was trying to find a way to cover the meeting, but only include dues-paying members.  So I decided to give Google+ a try.  I created the circle NABJ 2011 and used this blog, Facebook and Twitter to let folks know I would be live blogging the meeting using Google+.

When people asked to join the circle, I used the NABJ website to make sure they were members.  I reminded folks on the day of the event and it was off to the races.

I found Google+ to be a great tool.  I could post as much — or as little — information as I wanted, not constrained by a 140-character limit.  Since it was live, folks could — and did — follow along in and out, but they could also go back to the stream later.  And they could post questions directly to the circle that I could answer in real time, or chase down a board member to get the proper answer.

I could see journalists using Google+ for a similar use, like covering a community or city council meeting.  The notes taken could be used as part of a summary blog post or even a story.  And the interactive feature can allow journalists to get questions from circle members they may not have thought of.

So my little experiment has caused me to take a closer look at Google+ to see the possibilities.  And I’m reading some great posts on how journalists do that, including: Prashant Rao’s Google+ For Journalists: A Primer; Mashable on 5 Ways Journalists Are Using Google+; and KOMU’s Jen Lee Reeves on 5 Reasons Why Journalists Should Play With Google+.

I look forward to following other journalists as they start using Google+ as a tool.  And watch this space as we take our own Google journey and share the results.

Posted in Education, journalism, multimedia journalist, Technology

Carnival of Journalism: What Tools Do You Use To Work Smarter?

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

I am one of those people who love the latest in tech tools, toys, apps and programs that help me do the business of journalism.  Every Friday on this blog, I share some of my favorites as part of the Fast Five series.

Which is why I began to drool when I saw the topic for this month’s Carnival of Journalism: “What are your life hacks, workflows, tips, tools, apps, websites, skills and techniques that allow you to work smarter and more effectively?“

That being said, I’ll narrow my list down to my top five:

  1. Twitter: this program (and its accompanying tools and apps) has become my number one tool to getting the job done.  I use it to post stories, find sources, get story ideas and crowdsource for information.  I use Echofone on my iPhone, UberSocial on my Blackberry and split between TweetDeck and HootSuite on my desktop.  And a bonus for me is both TweetDeck and HootSuite give me access to Facebook, which I don’t use as much as a professional tool.
  2. 10000 Words: this website is at the top of my Google Reader.  Ever since Mark Luckie started it up, it has been my go-to site to keep up with all the latest  in tips, tools, apps, websites specifically targeting journalism.
  3. iPhone 4: my dad bought me the 32 GB version for my birthday last year, and I thank him for it every time we speak.  I can update my WordPress blogs, shoot live video with Ustream, edit video with iMovie, access all my contacts using LinkedIn and Plaxo, take and send pretty good photos, record interviews/podcasts and post them on AudioBoo, I can check the AP Stylebook and upload to my YouTube channel. Oh – I can also make phone calls!
  4. A tie – The Digital Journalist’s Handbook by Mark Luckie and the No-Fear Guide to Multimedia, by Prof. Mindy McAdams: when I started on my road to multimedia nirvana, these two guides were extremely helpful.  Even today, I still look at them as inspirations.
  5. A pad and ink pen: amazingly enough, this is still a very effective tool for getting your stories.  I always have at least one pad and three ink pens on me at all times.

I love all the stuff that has helped this old-school journalist make the transition and keep up (somewhat) with the kids.  But I always emphasize that while you can have all the tools in the world, they aren’t worth a pitcher of warm spit (hat tip to former FDR VP John Nance Garner) if you don’t have the basic writing/reporting/editing skills down pat.  So have fun with the toys, but don’t forget the skills that actually make you a journalist.

Posted in Education, journalism

Carnival of Journalism #FAIL: Step AWAY From The Spell Check, Kids!

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

When I saw the topic for this month’s Carnival of Journalism — a failure in your life (personal or professional) that has lessons — I felt myself cringe.   Because as soon as I saw the world “failure,” I knew immediately what I was going to write about.  And even though this happened at the beginning of my journalism career, some 25 years ago, my face still burns and I feel tears swell in the back of my eyes when I think about it.

Let’s go back to 1987.  I was working at my first job after earning my journalism degree from American University.  I was working for the Employment & Training Reporter, a weekly newsletter that covered federal, state and local job training efforts for economically disadvantaged people. The publication, based in Washington, D.C., was owned at the time by the Bureau of National Affairs (BNA), “the largest independent publisher of information and analysis products for professionals in business and government.”

We had just gotten IBM-PCs, upgrading from electric typewriters, which was a BIG deal (yes, kids, I know I’m dating myself).  Before the PCs, we used 5-sheet carbon paper to type our stories, and one sheet was always used for editing and proofreading.  And we always had another set of eyes checking things out.

But when the PCs arrived, I remember our managing editor breathlessly telling us that one function of the computer was that it had automatic spell check.  “What”,” we said. “The computer can check our spelling? Wow!”

So week three into the grand PC experiment, I wrote a story about the passage of a major bill that brought more funding to federal employment and training programs.  It was a pretty big deal (since President Reagan had been cutting programs left and right), and I was assigned to interview the legislators who pushed the bill through.

It was a thrilling assignment, because I got to interview one of my personal heroes, Rep. Augustus Hawkins (D-Calif.), an African-American politician who was a legend in civil rights and organized labor.  I wrote the story and sent it in.  But there was one problem — my headline.

It should have read “Legislators Applaud Passage of New Public Training Bill.”  But it actually read “Legislators Applaud Passage of New PUBIC Training Bill.”  See the difference?  Ouch!

Now, I wasn’t the only person that missed it as it went to press.  But I wrote the original headline and it was under my byline, so I had to take the hit.  Back then, once it went to the printer, that was it.  So as subscribers started receiving it, I started getting calls from industry friends and sources making jokes about the headline, most of which I can’t print in this fine family blog.

So to this very day, I print out my stories and read them — carefully.  Yes, I still use spell check, but it is never my last line of defense.  So there it is.  It was a #fail that still haunts me, but it’s also one that has helped shape me into a better journalist.

Posted in Conferences & Conventions, Education, Entrepreneur, Innovation, journalism, Technology

Carnival of Journalism #3: Improving The Reynolds Journalism Institute’s Reynolds Fellows Program

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

Yes, it’s that time again — step right up and join the Carnival of Journalism.  For the occasional reader, the carnival is the brainchild of  David Cohn, founder of Spot.Us and a current Reynolds Journalism Institute fellow.  Every month, a group of us is asked to blog about a specific topic.  He gave us two choices this month: after a five-year, $25 million investment, what would be the next step for the Knight Foundation to further its mission to drive innovation in journalism; or the Reynolds Fellowship is just 4 years old.  How would you shape the fellowship to drive innovation?

I’m going to tackle question two, because I think programs like the Reynolds Fellowship will be key in helping shape the ongoing innovation — and change — we’re seeing in the practice of journalism.

The institute offers an eight-month fellowship for those looking to develop and study a “big” idea in journalism that will offer solutions for the future of our industry.  Fellows receive an $80,000 stipend and another $10,000  to cover living expenses, moving costs and insurance.  Fellows reside at the institute’s home in Columbia, Mo., from Sept. 1, 2011, through April 30, 2012 to collaborate with “some of the brightest minds in media.”

In a time of tumultuous and exhilarating change in journalism, what would you do with eight months, a generous living stipend and a chance to collaborate with some of the brightest minds in media today

I consider myself someone who tries to keep her finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the fields of training and innovation in our crazy industry, especially as co-chair of the National Association of Black Journalists’s Digital Journalism Task Force.  But I have to admit, I had never even heard of the fellowship until I learned about it in a random tweet late last year on the @NABJDigital Twitter account.

So I’m going to offer a new twist on my ongoing diversity theme.  I would encourage the Reynolds Journalism Institute to make more of an effort to attract more diverse fellows to the program in the widest sense of the word. 

The program has done a good job of including women, but I’ d love to see not only more people of color, but I’d also like to see folks including early career journalists, citizen journalists/news bloggers and entrepreneurs looking to improve journalism.

To this end, I would encourage the institute to tap past fellows and key staff members to leave the friendly confines of Columbia, Mo., and send them to events where there are gatherings of more diverse journalists, including organizations like NABJ, the South Asian Journalists Association, the Society of American Business Editors and Writers and even Blog World & New Media Expo.  Use these events to speak about the fellowship and why attendees should consider applying for it.

Many journalism organizations have events year round,  including webinars, one-day workshops and meet-ups that the institute could tap to get the message out about the fellowship.  And many more journalism organizations have blogs, magazines and eletters that the institute could use to tout the benefits of the fellowship and encourage folks to apply.

The Reynolds Journalism Institute’s website is a font of information on things including upcoming events and training.  I had no idea these resources were there, so staff should do more outreach to offer these resources to journalism schools and organizations as a way to not only get a foot in the door to reach potential fellows, but also to keep the institute’s mission front and center 365 days a year and serve as a training resource for those who don’t apply for the fellowship.

The Reynolds Journalism Institute is currently taking applications for its 2011-2012 class.  I encourage my fellow journalists with an idea that will offer solutions to keep our industry viable to consider applying.  I especially encourage those who normally don’t consider these types of programs to seriously look at what the institute has to offer. 

In aviation, pilots follow check lists covering takeoff, flight, before landing and after landing on each and every flight.  They take it seriously, and never treat it like a rote exercise, because the safety of passengers is at stake.

I urge the Reynolds Journalism Institute to create its own check list specifically to expand the diversity of the Reynolds Fellows program and make its programming more widely available to the journalism community.  The future of our industry depends on the efforts of the Reynolds Journalism Institute and other teaching organizations to prepare us all for rapid change.

Posted in Education, Innovation, journalism

Carnival of Journalism #2: Steps To Increase The Number Of News Sources

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

Last month, I had the pleasure of joining The Carnival of Journalism.  You can read my Jan. 25 post about it here.  Every month the group tackles a topic on improving and innovating in journalism.  This month’s topic asked us to post about the following question:  what steps can be taken to increase the number of news sources?

We were asked to address the question via the 15 recommendations made by The Knight Commission on the Information Needs of a Community in Democracy.  Heady stuff, huh?  If I decided to write on all the recommendations, we would have been reading (and I would have been writing) for weeks.


Multimedia Workshop at NABJ 2010 Conference Photo by Benet J. Wilson

So I decided to focus on recommendation #11: Expand local media initiatives to reflect the full reality of the communities they represent.  As a journalist of color, I have been very focused on ensuring that our industry understands the importance of having newsrooms that reflect the diversity of the communities they live in.  In the old days, media companies could pay lip service to ensuring that they covered all the news in their community, since they were the only game in town.


But with the advent of the Internet and all the tools that allow people to gather, report, write and disseminate the news, the power of the traditional media has been diluted somewhat.  We see an explosion of hyperlocal news sites, like Oakland Local, DNAInfo, my home-town Baltimore Brew, West Seattle Blog and CTNewsJunkie as long-established newspapers cut their local coverage as budgets shrink.  The deeper these sites dig, the more likely they are to cover the news that is of interest to a specific community.

But groups are now trying to fill the gap in news that is of specific interest to minority communities.  Some of my favorites are Greater Fulton News, which covers the African-American community in Richmond, Va.; Minneapolis-based Twin Cities Daily Planet, which says it was created to close the digital divide and help citizens empower themselves with media; Dallas South, created to promote positive images of African-Americans in order to combat the negative images portrayed in the popular media; and Oakland, Calif.-based shades magazine, which covers and highlights the concerns, issues and stories of all women of color (my NABJDigital profile of shades is here).

These news websites use a mix of staff writers, bloggers, citizen journalists and community contributions to disseminate the news to their audience.  I met Mary Turck, the editor of the Twin Cities Daily Planet at last year’s New Media Women
Entrepreneurs Summit
(NMWE). One of the women at our table asked her how she made news assignments.  Her answer? “The community tells us and they are encouraged to write the story for the website,” she said.  The front page of the website has an appeal for citizen journalists and includes a list of stories that need to be written, giving the power of the media directly to the community that wants — and needs — it.

Back in May 2008, Jan Schaffer, executive director of J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism (which also oversees NMWE), gave the 32nd annual Ruhl Lecture at the University of Oregon on the topic Participatory Media: Challenges to the Conventions of Journalism.  Part of her lecture illustrates beautifully not only the question on increasing news sources, but the relevance of the Knight Commission’s 11th recommendation:

“I believe that news organizations need to construct the hubs that will enable ordinary people with passions and expertise to commit acts of news and information. Call them – random (or not so random) – acts of journalism, if you will.  News organizations need to be on a constant lookout for the best of these efforts, trawling the blogosphere, hyperlocal news sites, nonprofits, advocacy groups, journalism schools and neighborhood listservs. Your goal is to give a megaphone to those with responsible momentum, recruit them to be part of your network, impart some core journalism values -– and even help support them with micro-grants.”

We see initiatives like NMWE and the J-Lab’s New Voices grant programs that help fund news initiatives in minority communities.  New Voices gave a grant to Baltimore-based Morgan State University in 2010 to create  the MoJo Lab, where students  serve as mobile digital journalists, using video and audio podcasts, to focus on community issues in Northeast Baltimore.  So here’s hoping — by hook or by crook — that communities continue to become a part of a media that has tended to neglect them in the past.

Posted in Education, journalism

Join The Carnival Of Journalism!

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

Editor’s note: The Digital Journalism Task Force is joining with Knowledgewebb for a FREE webinar: 10 Steps to a Tech-Savvy You on Jan. 26 2-2:45 pm EST.  This webinar will outline the 10 steps — and critical websites, social networks and gear — to help you become more tech savvy. You’ll get complete notes as well as a primer on how to manage information overload.  The webinar is free, but you must register to attend.

I am a big fan of Google Reader, thanks to Mark Luckie of the 10000 Words blog.  My Reader is broken down into different folders on the topics I like to cover.  One of my must-read blogs is Digi Dave, written by David Cohn, founder of Spot.Us and a Reynolds Journalism Institute fellow.  The Digi Dave blog’s tag line is Journalism is a Process, Not a Product.  He blogs extensively about new media and beyond.

Cohn earlier this month re-started the Carnival of Journalism (I joined), which asks people to blog about a specific topic.  This month’s topic, with posts due Jan. 21, was on The changing role of Universities for the information needs of a community.  You can see the complete roundup of posts here.  And below are links to some of my favorite posts from this topic. Enjoy!

If you want to continue to follow the conversation, check out the #jcarn hashtag on Twitter.