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How Journalists Can Use Storify To Cover Any Type Of Meeting

Storify is one of the best tools out there to curate content. It has been used to cover everything from the Occupy movements to breaking news on the shooting at Virginia Tech to Alec Baldwin‘s dismissal from an American Airlines flight. In fact, Poynter recently had an article on the five types of stories that make good Storifys. But Storify has been underutilized when it comes to covering more mundane events, such as a school committee meeting.

Leave it to social media wonderman Sree Sreenivasan to solve the problem. On Dec. 1, Sreenivasan, Columbia Journalism School’s dean of student affairs, held an advanced social media workshop in New York City and then created a Storify of the event. While “Social Media One-Night Stand Dec 2011#cjsm” only covers the last two hours of the workshop, the Storify is a great example of how to use the tool to cover something that might not immediately lend itself to the platform.

“As a journalist, I like Storify’s ability to put together a story in a clear, logical manner and the flexibility for the user to decide whether to choose a chrono[logical] or topic/theme/section approach,” Sreenivasan said via email.

Here are some tips from Sreenivasan on how to use Storify to cover a meeting, workshop or similar event. (The whole Storify is embedded at the bottom of the post.)

Break the event/class into sections

One-night Stand is quite a long piece. Part of what makes Sreenivasan’s Storify easy to read, however, is that he divides it into different segments.  By divvying it up, the reader can easily peruse the Storify and pick which sections they want to read based on the header.

In this case, each section refers a different part of the workshop, like big picture thoughts, feedback and different tips for the social media tools discussed. There are also sections on online attendees and people’s comments to each other about the workshop.

“[T]he result is a series of sections that easily could have gone in any other order,” he said in his email. “For instance, if I had been in more of a PR mode, I could have moved the feedback section, with its generous comments, up to the top.”

You could do the same thing if you were covering a school committee meeting. Normally, those meetings have an agenda — this breaks your Storify into sections for you. Pick some of the more important points of the meeting — athletic fees, busing, school lunches — and use those to structure your piece.

Don’t worry about making a chronological timeline

It is important to note that the One-night Stand Storify is not ordered chronologically. This was done intentionally, Sreenivasan said.

“[F]or the One-night Stand, I was looking less to convey a timeline than to provide a quick sense of the highlights, useful takeaways, and a taste of the range of conversations going on among attendees and between attendees and the world at large,” Sreenivasan said.

You’ve already broken down the meeting or class into the most important parts. Now, organize them into what is most interesting.

Another way to think of it is this: When you are covering a three-hour long meeting, you don’t go back and write the story chronologically. You pick the most important parts and craft your story around those. Do the exact same with Storify.

It’s OK to include a lot of tweets

When you’re covering a school committee meeting or something like it, there may not be a lot of fancy pictures or other media to add to the Storify. Tweets may be what you are mainly adding to the Storify — and that is just fine. A majority of what’s posted in One-night Stand is tweets.

“Storify is the best way at the moment to deal with the firehose of tweets that can result if you have a lively, engaged audience,” Sreenivasan told me in his email.

Tweets give you a great sense of what other people, a.k.a your readers, are saying and thinking about the event. Are people upset with the town’s school superintendent and disagreeing with him on Twitter? Add that in. Or maybe your audience is asking a question. Include that. Sreenivasan, for example, starts out his Storify by posting someone’s tweet asking what the workshop was all about.

Don’t forget to give the meeting or event you’re attending a hashtag on Twitter and remind readers to use it. This will make finding tweets in Storify later on a lot easier. (Warning: As of now, Storify Twitter seems to have a limit on how far back you can go to retrieve tweets.)

Share examples you’ve seen or done in the comments section below or tweet us your thoughts at @10000words.

Have you used Storify to cover a meeting or class? Do you think this is a good use of the curation tool?


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