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.