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Archives: January 2010

How news media are covering the same-sex marriage debate

News media are using multimedia and interactivity to track same-sex marriage and the stories of gay men and women across the U.S. One of the most common ways online news sites are the debate is using maps that visualize where same-sex marriage or civil unions are legal. CNN and NPR have created two such maps (pictured below) that readers can click or hover over to read more about the each state’s position on the issue.


The L.A. Times also has a similar map and, in addition, has an adjacent timeline that plots landmark moments in the same-sex marriage and corresponds with the map.

The New Republic, like many other news sites, produced a slideshow that illustrates various points in the chronology of same-sex marriage.

CNN has invited couples of all sexualities to tell their own stories and submit video using iReport. The result is sort of a like niche YouTube that contains video dedicated to a specific topic.

GOOD Magazine took a unique approach to the debate by creating a flat graphic/flow chart that visualizes key arguments made for and against same-sex marriage.

Finally, KQED and The California Report have created a blog dedicated to the ongoing Prop 8 debate happening in California. The blog contains regular updates about what’s happening inside the court and includes quotes from witnesses and outside observers.

Also on 10,000 Words:

8 Interactive online projects that educate and captivate
Post-Inauguration Wrap Up: High-tech coverage of the tech president
10 Inspirational New York Times multimedia and interactive features

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5 Ways to improve your writing and concentration

1. Eliminate distractions

Whether you are in a crowded newsroom, a noisy café, or just easily distracted there are online tools that will help you concentrate on your writing. Ommwriter, free downloadable software available for Macs, allows you to write in a meditative space. All you see when you use the program is your words and a serene background. You can also try DarkCopy, an online tool that allows for distraction-free writing.

2. Write down ideas when you have them

Everyone has that moment when they have a brilliant idea but, because they didn’t write it down, cannot recall it later. Don’t let this happen to you again by keeping a notepad with you at all times. If carrying a spiral notebook or reporter’s notepad isn’t really your style, check out the variety of cool notepads available including the Moleskine notebook, the Notepod, and AquaNotes, which are designed for use in the shower.

3. Use a better spell checker

No spell check is completely foolproof, but you can rest a little easier if you use After the Deadline, an advanced spell checker that is miles above Microsoft Word or any other tool. AtD not only checks for normal spelling and grammar, but also checks the style of your writing, whether you use active or passive voice, how your sentences flow, and — most importantly — whether you used the right word (e.g. “right” instead of “write”).

4. Tame the web

“Being a good writer is 3% talent and 97% not being distracted by the internet.” If that’s true, then eliminate online distractions by temporarily blocking the sites that distract you from your work. You can use web browser extensions like LeechBlock for Firefox or StayFocusd for Chrome that let you list time-wasting sites and how long they should be blocked. This way, even if you are tempted to play an online game or check Facebook, you won’t actually be able to.

5. Use natural remedies

Even before the internet, writers used natural remedies to help improve their concentration and memory. Foods like oatmeal, blueberries, yogurt, and coffee can help keep your mind clear and your focus on your work.

Flickr photo by Saucy Salad

Also on 10,000 Words:

8 Online tools to help improve your writing
How to stay interested in blogging
10 Essential iPhone apps for bloggers and reporters

Get out of the newsroom and into the community

When I started my first journalism job at a medium-sized newspaper, I was surprised by how many reporters rarely left their desks to do their work. It wasn’t that they were lazy or not producing stories — they just did their reporting over the phone. Now that e-mail, Google, and other internet technologies are a permanent fixture in newsrooms, many more journalists are doing their work from the comfort of their chairs.

This is why I was excited when California Watch, the investigative reporting team for which I serve as a multimedia producer, announced the “Open Newsroom.” For one day, the California Watch team is hitting the streets in neighborhoods around the state and inviting readers to come chat with us, share ideas, or just share a cup of coffee.

The idea was born out of necessity — the team is transitioning to a new work space — but I personally love the idea of going into the community and inviting readers to meet us face-to-face. Journalists are already doing this somewhat using social networks like Twitter to interact with readers, but nothing beats in-person interaction.

Shortly after I discovered my colleagues at my first newsroom were conducting most of their reporting over the phone, I was introduced to the concept of “parachute journalism,” or visiting a community only to cover a story and then leaving shortly after. Journalists should avoid parachuting into communities and should whenever possible get out of the newsrooms and meet the people in the communities they cover.

As for me, you can catch me at the Starbucks at 2224 Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley from 1 to 4 p.m. on Thursday, January 19. Drop by and say hello and let’s see if we can’t make journalism a little more awesome.

How news media are covering Haiti using multimedia, social networks

After a natural disaster like the recent earthquake in Haiti, news organizations often have just hours to put together produce multimedia and interactive elements in addition to text stories. Web Journalist Blog, in collaboration with 10,000 Words, has put together a list of maps, graphics, slideshows, interactive content and social networking efforts coordinated by mainstream news media to report the damage in Haiti. You can find even more examples, as well as ways you can donate to relief efforts, in this Digiphile post.

Also on 10,000 Words:

Do you have a multimedia emergency plan?

How to quickly track natural disasters online

News media and college students: A match made in heaven?

In what seems to be a growing trend, colleges and universities are pairing with traditional news media to cover underserved communities and populate hyperlocal news sites. The New York Times recently announced that it will partner with The City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism to cover areas of Brooklyn. The UC Berkeley School of Journalism has partnered with several news organizations, including a notable partnership with financier Warren Hellman and public radio station KQED to form a non-profit online news operation. You can read about similar partnerships here, here, here and here.

The trend raises the question: are media organizations using college journalism students to fill the gap of traditional reporting and better serve local communities or are students being used as cheap labor?

It is worth noting that college journalism students are often bright and talented young journalists looking to hone their skills in an academic environment. Some students, especially those in graduate programs, often have substantial experience in the newsroom or have worked previously as a full-time journalist. The partnerships can benefit both the students who gain practical experience and news media who can expand the reach of the newsroom.

But are news organizations avoiding paying full or part-time reporters in favor of tapping the skills of students who only require academic credit rather than financial compensation? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Also on 10,000 Words:

How to make the most of your journalism internship
Just what are they teaching future journalists?
How online college newspapers are using multimedia and social networking
Journalism Grads: 30 Things You Should Do This Summer