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Archives: May 2008

What do your users think of you?

We’d like to think our users/readers/viewers see us as great pillars of journalism, but a quick tour of Brand Tags reveals this isn’t always so. The site asks visitors to play word association with some world-famous brands, including Microsoft, Pontiac and Jagermeister.

There are a large number of media companies represented on the site. Here are the words, sorted by popularity, that users most often associated with the brands:

Newsweek

(pictured at right)
magazine, news, boring, newspaper, paper, information, old, liberal, informative, time, weekly, politics, biased, conservative, tabloid, american, business, news magazine, dull, crap

CNN

news, tv, biased, liberal, lies, boring, cnn, propaganda, information, bias, ted turner, american, atlanta, crap, james earl jones, liars, turner, war, lie, anderson cooper

Oprah

fat, black, women, oprah, boring, tv, bitch, rich, annoying, harpo, money, woman, cult, talk show, lame, o, stupid, overrated, power, talk

ESPN

sports, boring, sportscenter, tv, jocks, fast, football, men, espn, american, jock, news, lame, guys, gay, sports center, nothing, sports channel, sports tv, hockey

New York Times

news, newspaper, liberal, paper, old, smart, serious, crossword, reliable, classic, boring, information, biased, quality, intelligent, trustworthy, good, established, journalism, informative

Financial Times

money, newspaper, boring, pink, news, serious, business, british, paper, economy, stuffy, magazine, london, dull, informative, old, wall street, reliable, quality

NBC

tv, peacock, news, television, 30 rock, friends, the office, old, funny, boring, office, seinfeld, rainbow, gay, network, heroes, nbc, comedy, american, conan

The Los Angeles Times

news, newspaper, paper, old, liberal, read, new york times, la, reliable, boring, american, official, classic, gothic, newspapers, hollywood, lies, crap, apple, smog

PBS

boring, tv, educational, public, sesame street, smart, education, people, free, quality, kids, television, intelligent, nova, liberal, learning, good, old, pbs, documentary

Brand identity is important so if users do see us as boring (which seems to be a common thread amongst many of the brands), then we have a problem on our hands.

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On the nightstand: Books on journalism and multimedia

I have a stack of books on my nightstand just waiting to be read, including Tanner Stranksy’s Find Your Inner Ugly Betty: 25 Career Lessons for Young Professionals Inspired by TV Shows and Not In My Family: AIDS in the African American Community, edited by Gil L. Robertson IV. But not surprisingly most of the books to be read are about journalism and/or new media. Here are the books I plan to read as soon as I find time to crack them open.

Audition: A Memoir

Barbara Walters

Never mind the titillating affair with the senator, the countless crying celebrities and the incessant plugging of the book on Babs’ daytime show The View, I am most interested in reading this book on the plight of one the first female nightly news anchors. My point of reference for the golden age of newsmaking is the movie Anchorman, so I look forward to reading a fresh and insightful take on how broadcast newsrooms functioned in their heyday.

The Future of the Internet–And How to Stop It

Jonathan Zittrain

I honestly bought this book on the title alone. But as I read blurbs and reviews of the book I purchased, I realized Zittrain’s discussion of the ubiquity of the internet and its eventual downward spiral made me feel guilty for staring noncommittally at its cover every night. A part of the reason I don’t get to read as many books as I would like to is because of the internet. The irony of taking time away from browsing the internet to read a book about the internet is not lost on me.

Making Online News: The Ethnography of New Media Production

Edited by Chris Paterson and David Domingo

The most recent addition to my collection of unread literature, I was intrigued by its description on Amazon: “This book investigates the production of online news [and] how it differs from traditional media production.” That’s preaching to the converted, but I’m always looking for new arguments to show the last few holdouts the light that is new media journalism.

And two classics worth re-reading:

We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People

Dan Gillmor
(preview available online)

I was first handed this book while taking a new media course at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and was none to pleased to have yet another thing to read. But as I sat on the BART train I became so enraptured on this history of multimedia journalism that I nearly missed my stop…twice. We the Media is well-researched without being condescending or heavy, which makes it a great read for any journalist. When people ask why I don’t write a book on multimedia journalism, I usually reply that Dan Gillmor has done such a great job that it would be hard to top.

Flash Journalism: How to Create Multimedia News Packages

Mindy McAdams
(preview available online)

One of the first books I was ever recommended as a budding multimedia journalist was McAdams’ Flash Journalism. And because no one told me Flash would be such a major part of my work life, I was sincerely glad I read it. Much like 10,000 words, the book is fundamental for journalists who are looking to transition into the technical side of the field, but are worried they don’t have the necessary skills. Most importantly the book focuses on storytelling, which is the foundation for any good news story, Flash or not.

If you’re considering publishing your own book, but don’t quite have a publishing deal, consider self-publishing with Wordclay or just start writing! Here’s an additional hint: What do many of the aforementioned books have in common? Colons! So be sure to include one in your book’s title for good luck.

ETA: Just purchased a copy of Multimedia Journal by Richard Koci Hernandez, which was suggested by a friend this morning. The pile of books is growing, but I think its focus on exercises to stimulate the multimedia process is something that’s been missing from store shelves.

How to write headlines that sizzle

It’s hard enough to write the perfect headline for online stories, but it’s even harder to avoid recycling news clichés. And now that the Web 2.0 world has given readers a space to critique news writing, the pressure is on even more.


Every reporter and media manager should take a look at Kill The Cliché, if only to avoid tired phrases that only journalists perpetuate. Hall of famers like “officials say,” “allegedly,” and “death toll” are tracked and tallied to illustrate how clearly overused some of these terms are. The site also tracks some of the top cliché-writing journalists at several major newspapers (The Boston Globe, New York Times, USA Today, Washington Post, Financial Times and Los Angeles Times). Jill Drew of the Washington Post leads the pack with an astounding 187 total clichés.

Trevor Crook has sage advice for creating great headlines, especially in his posts 8 Different Types of Headlines Which Sell and Headlines Suck!… 12 Kick Ass Rules To Creating Headlines Which Sell. His advice, in a nutshell, is to create attention-grabbing headlines that are engaging, but not annoying.

One of the best pieces of advice for creating headlines and nut grafs is to simply tell what the story is about aloud to another person. In that same vein, One Sentence asks its users to submit true stories that are — you guessed it — one sentence long. The site is great for inspiring encapsulation or abbreviated anecdotes.

Additional headline-writing resources can be found at ACES’ website. For inspiration rather than education, pick up a copy of Headless Body in Topless Bar, a very funny and captivating collection of headlines from The New York Post.

How to select the right font every time

Ninety-five percent of web design is actually typography, according to Information Architects. If that’s true then it’s time to take a second look at fonts.

Many media companies have their own signature typefaces like Bloomberg‘s bold sans-serif font, sometimes used in all caps, or CNN‘s black-on-white sans-serif font that differs from the font used in its trademark outlined logo. On the other hand, a large number of newspapers like The Boston Globe and The New York Times use a variation of the old-school traditional gothic font in both their print and online banners.

Despite the availability of thousands of fonts to choose from, there are only a few that are web-safe, or will appear correctly on the majority of modern computers. These include Times/Times New Roman, Arial, Helvetica, Palatino, Garamond, Tahoma and Verdana.

Others like IMPACT and Comic Sans are also common among most computer operating systems, but are rarely seen in a professional online news setting. Visit Font Tester for a complete list of web-safe fonts.

To visualize which fonts are already installed on your computer, check out Font Picker, a handy online tool will display them side by side. If you have the option to use newer, fancier fonts, you can download a huge selection for free at sites like urbanfonts.com or dafont.com. Both offer custom previews of the font before they are downloaded.

It’s easy to spend hours searching for the perfect font for a particular project. Therefore, it is helpful to have an idea of the font before beginning the search. If you still can’t find the font you’re looking for and have the creativity and a little bit of time, try using FontStruct to create your own custom font.


Also on 10,000 Words:

10 Reasons why online news sites suck
What color is the news? How to pick the right colors for your site
How to design for a computer other than your own

Multimedia projects that bring the world to life

It’s a complex world out there…a world that is better explained through multimedia. The following projects capture what could have been belabored or excessively long print stories and turned them into visually arresting online works.

“Who has the Nuclear Weapons?” isn’t the first expository video from GOOD Magazine, but it may be one of the best. The magazine explains who is controlling the world’s nuclear weapons in a video that is a cross between Sesame Street and a Nine Inch Nails music video with a little Michael Moore thrown in for good measure. Most importantly, the magazine presents facts in a visual, easy to digest way.

Non-profit organization Just Vision documents the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through an interactive timeline, which is itself made of interviews with the people who lived/are living through it. The project mixes personal and historical events to provide a multi-faceted view of the conflict.

Flight and Expulsion from new media designer Christian Behrens is an interactive map that shows the flight patterns of refugees around the world based on UN statistics. The Flash map has some technical issues (tiny hit states), but is a sobering way visualization of where the incredible number of refugees are fleeing.

The BBC’s History of Stonehenge is a computer-simulated time lapse video of one the world’s most mysterious structures. The video delineates the position and degradation of the monument over thousands of years.

The Discovery Channel online’s Volcano Explorer is a bit of creative genius — after learning about the fire-breathing mountains, users can adjust viscosity and gas levels to create their own virtual volcano and watch it erupt. It’s definitely a step up from the baking soda and vinegar models made in grade school.

Ironic Sans’ 60 Seconds series is proof that sometimes the news is happening right in front of us, if we take a moment to look. Each video spotlights a slice of life or nature in just a minute. There is something serene and American Beauty-esque about videos like 60 Seconds in the Life of Summer, 60 Seconds in the Life of an Aquarium or even 60 Seconds in the Life of a Fly. The videos are proof that you don’t have to go far to find great ideas for multimedia.

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