Posted in Social Media

Deadline Approaching For Black Weblog Awards Nominations

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

July 25 at midnight is the deadline to submit your nominations for the 2010 Black Weblog Awards. The awards were created by Maurice Cherry, owner of Atlanta-based firm 3eighteen Media.   He created the awards program in 2005  after seeing other Internet award vehicles not recognizing Black bloggers that he knew were doing phenomenal work and had a presence in the blogosphere.

So far, Cherry says, he’s received more than 10,000 nominations, and is experiencing its highestt web traffic ever (it usually triples or quadruples every year).  “I think the new website design and increased presence on social media networks has helped out with that a lot,” he says.  “This year, we also brought on a sponsorship director and an intern to help us do more with the tools we currently have, as well as seek out sponsorship dollars that we desperately need to keep the awards going and growing.”

Finalists will be announced on August 1, says Cherry.  “Winners are announced now on September 1. We have also kicked off a pledge campaign via Kickstarter to raise money for the 2011 Black Weblog Awards to finally have a live ceremony,” he says.  “We’re fortunate that the strategic partnerships we’ve made have helped us get one step closer to making this a reality.”

Below are my choices for blogs worthy to be nominated:

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Posted in Uncategorized

Nominations For The Black Weblog Awards Open June 1

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

Back on April 14, I did a two-part interview with Atlanta media entrepreneur Maurice Cherry.  Part one of the interview was on his creation of the Black Weblog Awards.  Now nominations for this year’s awards will open on June 1 and close July 25.

The award has 35 categories, so there are plenty of opportunities to find someone to nominate.  Have you been blogging consistently since Jan. 1, 2005? Then enter yourself for the Aaron Hawkins Award, which is chosen by a panel of judges.  Other categories include blog design, blog post series, cooking or food blog, fashion/beauty, group, micro, new blog, political/news, sports and travel, to name a few.  There’s also the Blog of the Year and Blog to Watch.

Allow me to indulge and call out some people I think should consider — strongly — submitting their own blogs for awards this year.  They are:

I hope you will all support these worthy awards that recognize the writing from people of color.  Did I miss any blogs? Let me know.

Posted in Uncategorized

Pssst-Wanna Build Your Own News Site?

By Benét J. Wilson, DJTF co-chair,

Online Managing Editor-Business Aviation, Aviation Week Group

There are those of us who like working for a news organization, despite the pessimistic outlook for the industry of journalism.  And then there are those who are just fed up with the pay cuts, furloughs and overall uncertainty that comes with staying with some news organizations.  Those people decide to strike out on their own.  And there are plenty of sites out there ready to help.

First up, the j-learning web site has a post called Newspaper in a Box, written by Mark Briggs, the author of Journalism 2.0.   Briggs walks you through the four major steps — Plan It, Build It, Present It and Promote It.   The good news is that most of the tools he suggests are either low-cost or free.

The Knight Digital Media Center’s Online Journalism Review blog offers up a checklist for students and mid-career beginnings.  Writer Robert Miles advises that those starting out use a blog as a platform, and recommends Blogger or WordPress.   He also offers advice for everything from creating a promotional channel to developing a rate card.

So you need some money to get this venture off the ground?  And would you like to see examples of what’s already being done out there?  Then check out the Knight Citizen News Network blog.  Under its New Media Makers Toolkit, you can download a PDF file with the complete tool kit.  It offers a DVD, funding sources and examples of established sites, including Voice of San Diego and PlanPhilly.

And last, but not least, the Zombie Journalism blog has a great post on the New Media How-to Roundup.  She offers tips and links to several sites, including using Tumblr or Posterous to tell narrative stories, a how-to on using maps from my favorite — the 10000 Words blog — and a Mashable primer on how to use Twitter.

Have you left the world of corporate journalism and do you plan or have you already started your own news web site?  Drop me an email at regaviationqueen AT yahoo DOT COM.  I’d love to do a story on what you’ve done.

Posted in Uncategorized

Transitioning from writing for print to writing for the web

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

The internet has dramatically changed journalism and chances are you’ve had to make the transition from writing for print to writing for the web – or, at least, you might be curious about it.

Good writing is good writing. But because the web is so immediate and because it widens your audience, it changes a few little details.

I’ve never worked for a wire service, but I’ve spent lots of years relying on the wires and reading them for my work. I think writing for the Internet is most like writing for the Associated Press (wire colleagues feel free to pipe in if you don’t agree — smile). Here’s why:

Stories are written, for the most part, in the inverted pyramid style. You’ll want your most important information at the top, winding down to the bottom, where you’ll put your least important information. This is because there are going to be many readers who might only see the first couple of graphs of your work. The homepages of websites often use programs that feature, say, only the headline and first two sentences of each news story. This might be all some harried person flying through a train station gets to see of your story. Try to sharpen your writing skills so that you can get the key elements into those first sentences. Save your lengthier anecdotal leads for print.

Your story is constantly changing. If it’s a story about a sniper, your death toll might rise, the police will gradually release more information about the suspect, neighbors and coworkers will step forward to fill in the blanks about the suspect’s personality. If it’s a story about Supreme Court arguments, earlier versions will lay out all the players, what organizations they represent, what’s behind their thinking. A later story might feature the decision and how it’s going to change the landscape of some part of American culture. If you’re working for a newspaper website, the basis for your story will be what is published in the newspaper early that morning, but then, it will change and evolve throughout the day. Be flexible as your lead and even the theme of your story changes. Always force yourself to look ahead, anticipate what might be coming down the line and the direction in which any of these changes might take your story. This all will help you stay on your toes.

Outside of these considerations, here are some other issues to consider too when writing for the web:

Writing a good, compact lead is crucial. When you’re writing for print, you can afford to take the extra space further below your lead to explain why a reader should care about a particular item, or why it’s significant given the context of history or a string of events. In writing for the web, practice trying to get that element into your very first sentence. Here’s an example of a good lead by John Fritze of USA Today on a story about the advance of the health care bill:

Despite fierce Republican opposition and the lingering effects of a major Northeast snowstorm, Senate Democrats cleared a critical vote on a 10-year, $871 billion health care bill early this morning, steering the proposal toward approval on Christmas Eve.

Even someone who has not been following the movement of this legislation can figure out from this sentence that this was a major accomplishment because it happened “despite fierce Republican opposition,” that the bill itself is significant since it will affect Americans’ lives for 10 years, and can sense the drama in the negotiations as lawmakers, fresh from surviving a major snowstorm, prepare for a climactic vote on Christmas Eve. Even more importantly, it includes up-to-the minute developments on the bill’s advancement.

If you’re writing for a newspaper website, you’re probably monitoring what other sites are reporting. Fierce competition and the immediacy of the web might prompt you to try to be first at all costs. You’ll find that there are many sites out there in the race that might not use the standards for sourcing and verification that we might like. On the day that late Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio was reported to have suffered a brain hemorrhage, several news organizations reported that she had died, then had to retract that about a half hour later (she actually died later). News organizations had gotten the word from reputable Democratic officials who’d heard from Democratic leadership — certainly not shaky sources. But the incident showed just how careful we need to be in this world of immediate journalism in making sure our sources are the people who would know. These days, it’s more important than ever to resist the urge to rely on widely reported but unverified information. Only print what you’ve verified yourself.

And finally, it may bother you to think of the web in such formulaic ways, but this is the reality — people will use keywords to search for your story via search engines, and because of this, it’s best if you can get any of the obvious keywords in your headline and/or lead. Save the pithy, poetic headlines and leads for print. Even better, if you can be pithy, poetic AND manage to use the obvious keywords, you’ll have a winner.

Happy writing and happy holidays!

Posted in Uncategorized

Deciding Where, When and How to Post Content

By Benét J. Wilson, DJTF co-chair,

Online Managing Editor-Business Aviation, Aviation Week Group

I work for the Aviation Week group, where we have myriad platforms for our stories.  We have a weekly magazine, 2 monthly magazines, 2 weekly newsletters, 2 daily newsletters, a free web site, a premium paid web site and 8 blogs covering defense, aviation and aerospace.  We also have a photography gallery, a podcast channel and a video section.

That’s a lot of content to fill.  In the old days, I’d write a story for a specific medium, send it off to my editor and wait until it was published.  Not any more.   Now when I decide to do a story, I have to think about all the platforms it can fit into.  As an example, I do a feature for our weekly newsletter called “5 Good Questions.”  I now always ask extra questions and slice and dice it in the following ways:

  • Original story in the newsletter;
  • Short version for the Aviation Week Intelligence Network premium site;
  • 2-3 questions for the monthly magazine;
  • Photos submitted to the gallery;
  • Blog post with extra questions, including a quick podcast or video clip.

None of the pieces are exactly the same, so even if a subscriber has access to all our publications, they still find new information in each source, but the don’t lose the impact of the interview if they don’t go to all the sources.   For more insight, check out this post on the Wired Journalist network.

And Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted in Uncategorized

Hyperlocal, Targeted News Web Sites Continue to Grow

By Benét J. Wilson, DJTF co-chair,

Online Managing Editor-Business Aviation, Aviation Week Group

In my other blog, Musings of a New Media Maven, I have posted regularly the growth and potential — or not — of hyperlocal news blogs.  Last week, I did a post here about MarylandReporter.com, a news site and aggregator that will cover the state political/legislature beat.

And now we add two more players in the game.  First up is DNAInfo.com, which focuses on Manhattan local news.  It’s the brainchild of Joe Ricketts, founder of Ameritrade and a member of the family that now owns the Chicago Cubs.   Rickets says he used technology to take the financial services sector to the next level, and he wants to do the same to help distribute news, information, and advertising.  One of the contributing editors is Sree Sreenivasan,  dean of student affairs at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and a professor in the digital journalism program.  He is also co-founder and former president of the South Asian Journalists Association and speaks regularly on journalism and technology issues.  His seminars for media professionals on using social media and technology are always standing room only.

But I digress.  The site breaks down Manhattan by neighborhoods and subjects.  Looking at the beta site, it seems like DNAInfo is doing a pretty good job of offering a good mix of news for those who live in the borough.  For example, one of the front-page stories is entitled “NYPD Arrests Most Wanted Criminal in North Carolina.”  It’s an interesting story for Manhattan, and it only appeared in one other newspaper — the Rocky Mountain Telegraph.  The site has a Twitter account and a Facebook fan page, potentially expanding its reach.   The effort appears to have deep pockets in Ricketts but no advertising that I can see so far, so it will be interesting to see how this site will grow — and thrive — going forward.

Next is the Texas Tribune, which calls itself “a non-profit, nonpartisan public media organization” whose  “mission is to promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, politics, government, and other matters of statewide concern.”  The online publication and blog covers all things Texas, including the legislature, political parties, universities and state departments, among other things.

The site also has a group of heavy hitters backing it — the chairman is Austin-based  venture capitalist John Thornton who believes in public media; editor-in-chief/CEO Evan Smith was the editor of Texas Monthly magazine for 18 years; and managing editor Ross Ramsey, formerly owner and  editor of Texas Weekly, a newsletter on politics and government.  The list of reporters and contributors reads like a who’s who of Texas media outlets, and it has the prerequisite social media presence, with blogs, Twitter and Facebook accounts and a YouTube channel.

The principals say their site is a supplement to, not a replacement for local newspapers.   “The reason we started the Trib is not because your local paper doesn’t believe in journalism in the public interest. It does, and it produces as much as it can. But in this severely depressed economy, human and financial resources are not as plentiful as they once were. So papers have had to make hard choices. In the end, most of them have eliminated people and pages, and as a result, coverage of policy and politics has been cut way back. This has created a substantive void.”

And this mindset is illustrated in a Nov. 8 profile of the Texas Tribune done by the New York Times.  While media outlets around the country were responding to the shootings at Ft. Hood on Thursday, the Tribune instead lead with stories on the 50 highest-paid state employees and a local elected official who had switched parties.  Why?  “It wasn’t our story. Should we have just been one more news organization rushing to Fort Hood? I don’t think so,” reporter Matt Stiles told the Times.

The Texas Tribune has already raised $3.6 million in capital.  It will not take advertising, instead focusing on underwriters, similar to what’s done on public radio and television.  It is also soliciting its readers for donations to become founding members of the online publication.  The principals think the Texas Tribune is the future of journalism.  “But what we think doesn’t matter. If you and hundreds of thousands of people like you support this noble experiment, it will be.”

And last, but certainly not least, Digital Journalism Task Force member Dr. Michelle Ferrier has done part one of a review on her blog, Digital Content Architects, of CommunityQ, a web site that can be used by local newspapers to create hyperlocal sites and citizen journalism platforms.  Ferrier used CommunityQ to create and host the now defunct MyTopiaCafe.com, a hyperlocal site covering Florida’s Volusia and Flagler counties.  You can read Ferrier’s post-mortem on her site here.  She’s asking for your comments.

Posted in Uncategorized

MarylandReporter.com Takes on the State House Beat

By Benet J. Wilson

My local NPR station here in Baltimore, WYPR, has a morning program called Maryland Morning (scroll down for the story).  The station uses the 9-10 hour to highlight local stories in Baltimore and across the state.  Today’s first guest was 2 gentlemen who have started the MarylandReporter.com Web site.  The site was designed to ensure that coverage of the state legislature continues as newspapers, including the Baltimore Sun, slash jobs and cut coverage.

Founder Len Lazarick was the Baltimore Examiner State House bureau chief before the newspaper folded.  And he hired Andy Rosen, former State House reporter for The Daily Record in Baltimore, as his associate editor.  The start-up, which officially launched today, was funded partially through a $100,000 grant from The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.

A report released this year by The American Journalism Review at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism “found 355 newspaper staff reporters covering the state capitols full-time,” down more than 30 percent from the 524 counted in 2003, the last year ARJ did a census.

The pair will run the site as an aggregator, offering links to all statehouse coverage.  They will also write original content that will be free for any publications to use.  The Web site is registered as a nonprofit corporation  and has applied for 501(c)(3) status with the Internal Revenue Service.

It will be interesting to see how this experiment works and whether the operation can be sustained.  If you’re developing your own non-profit organizations looking to begin or expand journalism programs, or want to become an investigative reporter, the Franklin Center has more information here.

On another note, the National Association of Black Journalists is holding a two-day membership sale Nov. 4-5.  You can get a new membership or renew it and save $15 in all categories except Lifetime Membership.   Click here to take advantage of this great opportunity.