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Online journalism

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Online journalism 101
Online journalism 101
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Online journalism

  1. 1. Prepared by Mark Grabowski
  2. 2. Why it matters • The Internet is the #1 news source. But there’s great competition for eyeballs and web traffic. These days, even copy editors need to be their own entrepreneurs and promote their newspaper’s content online. There’s no point in having a great website if no one knows about it.
  3. 3. We’ll cover • Writing Web Friendly Headlines • Writing for the Web • Social Media • Embedding third party content • Other Web-related advice
  4. 4. Hint: it’s different than writing for print Writing Web-Friendly Headlines
  5. 5. Overview • For each new WordPress post, you will be prompted to provide a headline or title. Titles are as important as content. • Print headlines don’t always translate well on the Web. Much news site Web traffic is driven by search engines, so copy editors have to think differently about Web headlines. • When you write a headline for the Web, think about what you would look for if you were doing a Google search. Often that means cute and clever don’t work. So, don't use puns, metaphors or wordplay.
  6. 6. 1. Write clear headlines • Instead you might need to be more literal. You definitely want the key words in your headline. And you don’t want to rely on art or graphics to explain your headline. Titles should be dead-clear. • Again, think about a person typing search terms into Google. Your choice of keywords in the post title is of paramount importance to the findability of the post itself. Every word counts.
  7. 7. 2. Keep it short and sweet • Stick to 5-7 words. Research shows online users scan stories rather than read it in its entirety. They’re impatient so keeping stories and their headlines short is the way to go. • Evidence suggests that Google pays greatest attention to the first 60 characters of any headline and many RSS feeds cut the headline off after this too.
  8. 8. 3. Make sure it can stand on its own • While print headlines only appear in the one place (duh), online headlines will show up everywhere on your website in links, search bars etc. so it must travel well on its own. It also must work in a variety of platforms not just the original news organization website (consider RSS, twitter, Facebook).
  9. 9. 4. Must make sense without context • Online users should be able to read the headline and understand exactly what the story is going to be about. This means taking into account the global reach of your story and not relying on the users’ assumed knowledge, images or the rest of the story for it to make sense. This is probably why the ‘punny’ headlines so often seen in print fall flat in an online environment.
  10. 10. 5. Be clear and concise • A no-brainer really as it’s one of the basics of newswriting but it becomes even more vital in an online environment when you’re trying to make it easier for the impatient online user. This means use a verb and simple, active words.
  11. 11. 6. Write for search engines • Search engine optimization basically means you must anticipate the key words people are going to type into Google and put them in your headline. Pages that have the most matches will turn up higher in the search engine results. The higher up in the list, the more likely your story gets hits.
  12. 12. 7. Deliver what you promise • Rather than write some exciting (and perhaps misleading) headline, there needs to be a degree of predictability so users will know whether they will like the article before they click. People do not return to sites that promise something they do not deliver.
  13. 13. Bad for Web: Not SEO friendly and misleading. If you were to search for this story online, you’d surely include the word “walrus.” If you heard about this story from a friend, would you Google words like “fat,” “mustachioed” or “orphan” to find it?
  14. 14. Clever wordplay, but a bit too esoteric for online. A better headline is found in the URL slug: Stern to Step Down as N.B.A. Commissioner in ’14. That headline tells you everything except the “why.” The “why” is the reason to click through and read the story. SEO terms Stern and NBA are ones that will bring up this story.
  15. 15. GOOD: This headline is strong in that it uses active voice, does not mislead, and contains several SEO-friendly words including "D.C. Sniper" and "Lee Boyd Malvo." However, it is a bit long. Can you rewrite it to improve it?
  16. 16. World's Best Headlines: BBC News • For several years, I've been very impressed with BBC News headlines, both on the main BBC homepage and on its dedicated news page. Most sites routinely violate headline guidelines, but BBC editors consistently do an awesome job. • Have a look for yourself: bbc.com. Visit the site daily for a week and try to apply some of the BBC editors' discipline to your own headlines.
  17. 17. BBC’s website • The average headline consumed a mere 5 words and 34 characters. The amount of meaning they squeezed into this brief space is incredible: every word works hard for its living • Each headline conveys the gist of the story on its own, without requiring you to click. Even better, each gives you a very good idea of what you'll get if you do click and lets you judge — with a high degree of confidence — whether you'll be interested in the full article. As a result, you won't waste clicks.
  18. 18. Your assignment • Look at the newspaper front pages posted on the back wall. Find a few print headlines that you don’t think would work on the Web. Cite the print headline (tell me what it is, where you saw it and what the story was about), and tell me how you would rewrite it for the Web.
  19. 19. Write tightly Omit all unnecessary words. Web journalists can’t waste words, even though they don’t really have limits. It’s hard to read much text on a computer screen. You can’t afford to bury the lead online. Tell readers quickly what the story is about and why they should keep reading – or else they won’t. Also, use active verbs. Passive verbs bore readers. Bored readers leave. Avoid redundancy. One thing to remember is that the absence of space limitations online should not be viewed as an invitation to ramble on about things.
  20. 20. Editing the story’s body: What comes after the headline
  21. 21. Use short paragraphs • A 150-word paragraph looks pretty long on a Web page. Long paragraphs send a signal to the reader: This will require effort. The writer expected you to have a lot of spare time. Sit down and read awhile. Short paragraphs send a different message: “I'm easy! This won't take long at all! Read me!” Also, consider using bullets and numbered lists when possible.
  22. 22. Use hyperlinks • Hyperlinks allow the writer to provide a wealth of related information to the reader, opening gateways to source documents, related stories, multimedia enhancements and much more. • A link must give the reader a reasonable expectation of what she will get when she clicks. Linked phrases such as "click here" or "Web page" do not provide helpful information, so avoid them. Integrate the text of your story posts with relevant links.
  23. 23. Don’t get stuck in the past • Don’t just think of our website as an online copy of our traditional, print newspaper product. There’s a reason the Internet has become the #1 source of news – ahead of traditional media, like newspapers, TV and radio. Because it allows journalists to tell stories in ways they can’t in other mediums. So, our content should combine text with multimedia elements, such as photos, video, audio and hyperlinks.
  24. 24. Use non-textual elements Bring your story to life. Engage with your readers and give them something they can't get in print. With images, charts, graphs, video, etc. Even different font sizes and colors. Newspaper stories limit you. They’re usually one dimensional, with just text. The Web allows you to incorporate all kinds of different ways to tell a story, not just through words. Think about those other visual, non-textual elements before you write your story, not after. Try to include at least one non-textual element in every WordPress post.
  25. 25. Update site regularly • If you just update the website when a new issue is produced, readers will forget about your site and stop coming back. You need to feed their appetites. In this 24-7 media cycle, if you don’t, someone else will and they’ll go elsewhere for their news. The best news sites are updated multiple times a day. • All your posts need not be substantive. For example, you may post an interesting photo gallery or short blurb.
  26. 26. Provide up-to-date info There are time constraints with traditional media. Many student newspapers, for example, are published biweekly, therefore reporters have to write their stories well in advance of when they actually get published. In Web journalism, you don’t face those same time constraints. Publication is immediate. This is a big reason why the Internet is a superior medium for journalism and why carbon copies of things you may write for the newspaper won't work well. So, if you’re covering a event, write an online story about it ASAP. Don’t wait to publish your blog post until a week later, when it’s old news. If you’re writing about a sports team, include the most recent stats and results.
  27. 27. Respect copyright law U.S. copyright law does apply to ALL IMAGES you see on the Web, on any Web page. So it is absolutely NOT okay to copy an image (photo or otherwise) from somewhere online and use it in your blog. It is still NOT okay if you add a link to the original and/or a photo credit line. Those do NOT constitute permission from the owner of the photo. In fact, the U.S. Copyright Office bluntly says: “Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.” The image does NOT need to have a copyright symbol or a copyright notice to enjoy this protection. All published works are automatically protected by this law — and that includes ALL images online.
  28. 28. People are often interested in content that their friends recommend or post links to on social media. Having social media referrals will also ensure your newspaper’s website is one of the top results when people do searches on Google. That’s because Google announced in 2012 that social media referrals will be an important factor in their search engine algorithm. Why it matters?
  29. 29. Twitter is most important platform right now • Twitter is a social network focused on interests rather than on friends, where users create brief posts of 140 characters or less. Twitter users can follow and view updates from other users (similar to subscribing to a site’s RSS feed), send public or semi- private replies or have private conversations with other users. Users can also search the entire network in real-time for interesting topics or breaking news, organize their streams with “hash tags” and lists, and even add photos or video to their posts.
  30. 30. Why it’s better than Facebook • Info on Twitter is much more public than info on Facebook. Since people don’t have to follow or friend you just so you can see the content they post, journalists find Twitter a much better way to track down sources, dig up more information on stories, crowdsource content, get questions answered, push out quick news blasts, and to take the pulse of a community or topic.
  31. 31. Why Journalists Need It • As an instant way to break news, Twitter has changed the journalistic landscape. • Reporters are using the social media platform to find sources & story ideas, enhance their regular coverage, engage readers, build their audience & more. • Here are a few key best practices that can help you as a copy editor…
  32. 32. 1. Determine News Agenda • Twitter can be used to crowdsource headlines and news judgment decisions. • See what’s trending on Twitter, what people in your community are talking about.
  33. 33. Discover Breaking News • Twitter often breaks news before mainstream media can report it. Therefore, journalists must follow Twitter in much the same way crime reporters follow the police scanner. • Significant recent news events that were first announced on Twitter include: 1. The Boston Marathon Bombings 2. The Royal Wedding Announcement 3. Whitney Houston’s Death 4. The Hudson River Plane Crash 5. The 2008 China Earthquake
  34. 34. • Twitter can be a powerful tool for finding story ideas and keeping up with news about your beat. If you’re a food critic, follow food bloggers and restaurants in your area. If you’re a sports reporter, follow local coaches and athletes — who have been known to break news on Twitter. • Doing so can help you stay updated on what your sources are saying, while increasing your chances of finding story ideas 2. Find story ideas to assign
  35. 35. For example, recently…
  36. 36. 3. Find sources • Find & capture reaction. Twitter is a great tool for seeing how people are reacting to news. Sometimes, reporters will capture people’s reactions in my stories.
  37. 37. • Find experts and local sources. Twitter’s basic search tool is good for searching key words, but let’s say you want to find out what people in your local community are tweeting. You can refine your search by using Twitter’s advanced search page, which lets you search by location. By typing in your location and a key word, you can find related tweets anywhere between 1 mile and 1,000 miles of that location. (There’s an option for choosing the radius.)
  38. 38. • If you find local people you want to interview, follow up with them on Twitter and ask them to send you a Direct Message with their contact information. • Twitter is a solid starting point. It doesn’t replace traditional shoe-leather reporting; it just helps you find sources you may not have otherwise come across. It’s up to you to follow up with the sources you find and, when appropriate, interview them.
  39. 39. • Research through crowdsourcing. Twitter is great for soliciting help with projects, especially when you’re strapped for time. • For example, investigative reporter Wendy Norris used Twitter to seek help with an investigation in response to anecdotal reports that pharmacies across Colorado were locking up condoms and therefore making them less accessible.
  40. 40. • Instead of doing all the reporting on her own, she tweeted: “Heading to the grocery/drug store this week? Join fun, stealth crowdsourcing project. No disguise needed. DM me if you’re in Colorado.” • This tweet, a Facebook post and an email led Norris to recruit 17 volunteers. The volunteers went to 64 stores in one week to find out whether condoms were locked up. They found that 63 of the stores sold condoms, and most made them readily available. With the volunteers’ help, Norris disproved the rumors in the community.
  41. 41. 4. Build your audience As a journalist, it’s your job to spread the word. So be sure to use links in your posts. Twitter found that journalists get 100% more active engagement when a URL is included.
  42. 42. Use #hashtags • Hashtags can increase engagement with other Twitter users by almost 100% for journalists and 50% for news organizations. Using hashtags is also a great way to report or follow breaking news. When you include hashtags in your Tweets, your Tweets become more visible and you have a better chance of attracting followers.
  43. 43. For example, Fox News (@FoxNews) uses hashtags to identify the subject of its tweets and to join the wider conversation on Twitter about that person, place, thing or event.
  44. 44. @cite your sources Including Twitter handles of the reporter who authored a story and the sources mentioned in the story can also help increase engagement.
  45. 45. For Example In this Tweet, The Guardian ( @guardian) includes the Twitter handles of journalist Emma Brockes ( @emmabrockes) and Julia Kozerski (@juliakozerski), the subject of the article.
  46. 46. Talk to readers • Thanks to the Web, readers can interact easily with news outlets. They want to be engaged. Pose questions on Twitter. Respond to people who follow you on Twitter or who retweet your posts.
  47. 47. 5. New Trend • Increasingly, when journalists now write headlines for the web or for social media, they specify the medium or format involved. They shout VIDEO and AUDIO in caps at the start of the tweet or post; MAPPED or INFOGRAPHIC; INTERVIEW or LIVEBLOG. • Sometimes the medium or format is implied more subtly, with a call to action: we urge users to ‘Watch’, ‘See’ and ‘Listen’. But we also invite them to ‘Join’, ‘Meet’ and ‘Find out’.
  48. 48. • Why do we do this? Part of it is that we recognize that the medium is something special; that users often make a choice based on the medium itself. • But I think putting the medium/format front and center is about more than just user preference: it’s about abundance and scarcity. • In a market of information abundance, of copy-and-paste reporting and opinion-as- journalism any content with an original element is unusual.
  49. 49. Assignment: Tweet • Remember those headlines you wrote for the web? Choose one and tweet it. Utilize the tips we discussed. This may require doing some research, such as locating Twitter handles for sources and reporters. Include our #DJNFTex15 hashtag, so I can easily track your tweets.
  50. 50. How to embed content into your online news stories
  51. 51. Embed content • Embedding content, such as individual tweets, can be a clever way of illustrating news from important (verified) sources. • Content must be public or it won’t display • It’s always a good idea to take a screenshot too, in case controversial posts from public figures mysteriously go missing… • Include a headline and caption or blurb. Don’t just post social media content without context.
  52. 52. Your assignment • Embed the following social media content into a WordPress post on our site… –Facebook post (requires plugin) –Tweet –AP video –Instagram photo
  53. 53. Storify
  54. 54. Your assignment • Create a Storify about a particular topic or event. Embed the Storify into a WordPress post.
  55. 55. More tips for copy editors doing online journalism Additional Advice
  56. 56. If you’re pressed for time… • Consider using a free social media syndication, such as Tweetfeed, which will automatically post your website’s latest headlines to various social media platforms.
  57. 57. Treat different social media platforms differently • Facebook and Twitter are not interchangeable. Twitter, for instance, works well with breaking news. Facebook users are more apt to click on posts with images. Understand the differences.
  58. 58. Quality counts • Although it’s true that you can easily and quickly fix mistakes online, readers notice sloppiness whether online or in print. • If you look at any mistake and look at the comments, you’ll find people who say it’s a very big deal. You can’t be cavalier about it. People get vocal if they think the level of editing has dropped.
  59. 59. Make one last read through your copy • As with print stories, once you think you’re done, whether you’re editing a blog post or posting a tweet, read it through yourself, not for rewriting or fact-checking (this comes after fact-checking). This final read is just for clarity, voice, spelling and grammar. For instance, in reading through this PowerPoint before publication, I caught a you’re in a paragraph that should be your.
  60. 60. Be ethical • Editing for ethics has always been important; good copy editors recognize and support this even as they edit for online. • “You don’t get a pass from ethics or common standards of accuracy and decency just because you’re writing fast for the Internet,” says John McIntyre, night content production manager and former copy desk chief at the Baltimore Sun. “The reader is entitled to know how you know what you say.” • McIntyre, a charter member and two-term president of ACES, emphasizes accuracy and verifying sources as primary ethics concepts for online editing. “Anything not from direct personal experience has to be sourced. And you have an obligation to check out your sources to make sure that you’re not, say, repeating something from the Onion (satire website) as a straight story, or from some wacko conspiracy site.”
  61. 61. When in doubt, go without • News may need to be posted quickly, but if there is any question about whether that news is accurate, don’t post it online.
  62. 62. Learn your newsroom’s policy on social media • One reason social media can be especially tricky for journalists is that unlike written stories, most social media posts don’t require advance approval from an editor. • A recent American Journalism Review survey found about half of newsrooms had specific policies on staff Twitter usage and the other half didn’t. Those that did not give reporters specific guidelines included outlets such as BuzzFeed, Gawker, The Wall Street Journal and The Baltimore Sun.
  63. 63. Policies vary • NPR says in its handbook: “You should conduct yourself in social media forums with an eye to how your behavior or comments might appear if we were called up to defend them as a news organization.”
  64. 64. Policies vary • The Seattle Times tells its reporters to “talk to an editor/social media team” if they think they’ve offended someone with an insensitive tweet. • The News & Record says “don’t say anything to a source, reader or acquaintance that would seem inappropriate if made in person, by email, face-to-face or when published in the News & Record, NewRecord.com or a competing publication”.
  65. 65. Create value: train others • Training is a great way to demonstrate your value in a Digital First newsroom. Copy editors should be teaching their colleagues and community bloggers the skills they have learned (and are learning). Lead a workshop in self- editing or in writing SEO headlines. That may seem counter-intuitive, like you are trying to help the newsroom get along without your copy-editing skills. But training demonstrates your value and underscores your expertise. If your newsroom is changing or doing away with copy-editing positions, the person who’s teaching editing skills is going to be a strong candidate for another position (and may seem almost indispensable).
  66. 66. Blog • Whether you do a lifestyle blog for your website about a hobby or blog on your own time for colleagues about copy-editing issues, blogging can help your career. A copy editor’s best work often goes unnoticed. Calling attention to a big mistake you caught is a great way to make enemies. Headlines don’t carry bylines. But a blog is yours. It’s your chance to stand out, show some personality and show your value as a digital journalist.
  67. 67. For Example Steve Buttry has established himself as a thought leader in copy editing and journalism thanks to his WordPress blog