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Archives: April 2008

How online college newspapers are using multimedia and social networking

The Daily Collegian’s police/fire map

The Daily Collegian (Penn State) has mashed up the local police blotter with a Google map to great effect. The map is an interactive look at crime in the area, something that most online papers, both on the university and mainstream level, have yet to create.

The Daily Kansan’s “Free For All”

Major news outlets take notice: The Daily Kansan is letting users say whatever they want, without filter. Its “Free For All” feature is an extension of its Facebook application and the result is like a public Twitter feed full of rants, ravings and random hookups. The best comments are taken from the site and printed in the paper.

The Arbiter’s video channel

The Boise State University Arbiter’s video page beats other video channels — even those that exclusively produce original content — because it is well-organized and fits right in with the rest of the site. The site supplements its original video coverage and interviews with Reuters’ videos and the two blend seamlessly.

The Stanford Daily’s mobile site

Pretty much every college student has a cell phone and The Stanford Daily has taken notice. The student paper makes its content available to those who would rather pick up a phone than a newspaper. The Daily makes use of the mobile service Mozeo which allows the paper send mobile updates to its subscribers.

The State Hornet’s YouTube channel

The State Hornet at California State University, Sacramento has a lot of great content, but one of its standout features is its YouTube channel which has almost 50 videos and thousands of views. The content of the videos varies widely from interviews to performances to news footage. Another great feature from the Hornet is “Eat Me or Not” where Sac State students give their take on the best and worst restaurants the area has to offer. Other college media publications offer dining guides on their respective sites, but The State Hornet best incorporates its readers into the reviews.

The State News’ interactive features

Very few college newspapers are creating interactive features and even fewer do them as well as The State News at Michigan State University. “Thrift Store Fashion,” an investigative piece that gave five students $20 to pick out a cool outfit, is not only well reported but well edited and designed. Equally impressive is “Get Ready to Tailgate,” an audio exploration of some of MSU’s biggest fans.

The Independent Florida Alligator’s Twitter feed

It seems everyone is Twittering these days, but The Alligator at the University of Florida is one of very few student newspapers doing so. The site uses twitterfeed to broadcast news stories and links, almost 2,500 of which have been sent since The Alligator began using the service.

The GW Hatchet’s newspaper location map

Sometimes it takes a little bit of effort and searching to find a student newspaper on campus. The Hatchet makes it easier with an online Google Map of locations where the print edition can be found near George Washington University. Color-coded markers signify locations where papers are delivered by hand, by the paper’s printing company or are available on news boxes.’s cross-publication multimedia has so many videos, audio slideshows and photos available that it can be daunting — so much so that, because everything is on one page, the site is liable to crash your browser. Nevertheless, the site’s many multimedia offerings, along with the coverage by on-campus media outlets TV2 News and Black Squirrel Radio, proves there really is no excuse not to know whats happening on the Kent State campus.

Also on 10,000 Words

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College Newspapers: Outstanding online design
Online College Newspapers: 4 Common design mistakes

College Newspapers: Outstanding online design

Most student newspapers are indeed a rehash of the print product but there are a select few that go above and beyond. It’s worth noting the remarkable number of schools relying on the templates provided by College Publisher. It’s still up in the air whether this is a good or bad thing, but there is something to be said about individuality and creativity. Good design isn’t expensive, it just takes some effort and ingenuity. Here are the sites that are breaking out of the mold:

The University Daily Kansan, University of Kansas

At first glance, The Kansan doesn’t look like a student newspaper site at all. Rather, it looks like many other professional media outlets, which is actually its strength. It’s use of the color blue and scrolling news headlines, coupled with its unobtrusive advertisements and navigation make it stand out as more mature than any of its peers.

The Independent Florida Alligator, University of Florida

The Alligator is an incredible example of the potential greatness of an online student newspaper. Its black and white design makes the fine journalism happening on the site look even better. Sections and stories are easily scannable and the site’s headlines are large enough to catch the eye. The Alligator also makes great use of its footer — a contrasting black to the rest of the page — something that is rare in online student paper design.

The Dartmouth, Dartmouth College is serene, like reading the news on a lazy Sunday regardless of the day of the week. Every section is featured prominently with an image or graphic, including the paper’s print efforts. Equally impressive are the site’s archives in which the attention to detail given to each issue is most evident.

Marquette Tribune, Marquette University

The Marquette Tribune’s use of strong, eye-catching typography together with its blue/tan/peach color combo makes it the standout design of any online college newspaper. The design incorporates a bit of whimsy and is reminiscent of the fictional Daily Planet, but still captures the seriousness of a mainstream publication. Most importantly, the site has a one-of-a-kind look and brand that is unmatched among student newspapers and the web in general.

Also on 10,000 Words

What does a great college newspaper site look like?
How online college newspapers are using multimedia
Online College Newspapers: 4 Common design mistakes

5 Tips for working outside of the office

Working in the multimedia or online section sometimes means being able to work from a laptop outside of the office, from home or on the road. Here are some tips to facilitate a good workflow when working away from the office:

Look for the nearest coffee shop

If you’re on the road a lot, chances are there is a Starbucks or three near you (that goes double if you’re in Seattle). Say what you want about their coffee but their wireless internet access is very reliable. It’s worth investing in a monthly plan if you plan to use it a lot (that is until the free version kicks in everywhere). T-Mobile Hotspot wi-fi is available at coffeehouses and airports across the nation. If you’re not down with Starbucks, you can also use the free wi-fi at Panera Bread or any other locale by using an online wi-fi finder.

Pump up the Beethoven

Classical music is great for improving memory and allows the mind to wander and be creative and also drowns out the noise in a less than quiet environment. Most classical pieces are also long, so there is more of an opportunity to get lost in the music. Start off with Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” or Andrea Bocelli’s “Con te Partiro” to get you in the mood for work.

Hold on to that thumb drive

USB thumb drives are great for transporting files between computers and are growing exponentially in disk size. But the little buggers are also very easy to lose, so its best to keep it on a keychain and make sure to keep a back up of all files you plan to transport on your computer.

Dress for success

If you’re not actually going into the office, its easy to throw on a pair of sweat pants and an old college t-shirt, but it doesn’t help to put you in a work mindframe. Putting on work clothes outside of the office helps maintain an attitude that, yes, there is work to be done.

Get outside!

Laptop owners aren’t limited to using coffee shops. Become one with nature and find a scenic, but shady park to work from. The foliage might just inspire your next great project. If you’re unfortunately still tethered to a cubicle, it’s time to discuss having a couple of out of the office days. You can only be so creative when surrounded by four walls.

Mobile blogging: Write on the go

The news happens fast and if you have equally fast fingers that news can be shared with the blogosphere immediately. Blogging from a mobile phone, or moblogging, is a great way to create news updates while working in the field or perhaps anywhere a bulky laptop wouldn’t be practical or permitted. There are a number of ways to make blogging on those tiny little keys a little easier.

Utterz lets users send any combination of text, photos, audio or video from a mobile phone and, using Utterz Connections, post to WordPress, Blogger, YouTube, TypePad, Twitter, MovableType and more. The site is an excellent way to send mobile messages or “utterz” to your blog or to yourself as a repository for notes. Messages can also easily edited and published directly from your mobile phone via

Blogger users can post blog items by email which can be published automatically or saved for later. Simply setup a unique email address on the Blogger site and the email subject will become the title of the post, the text body will become the post and image attachments will be tacked to the end. The end point of the post should be designated with #end so Blogger recognizes when the content ends. This is to ensure that the signature some email programs add to the end of outgoing emails doesn’t show up in the post. You can also send messages to which, through a quick setup process, will post directly to your blog.

Tech-savvy journalists or web administrators can setup WordPress so that blog posts can be sent by email. The instructions to set up mobile blogging are available here. By using the WPhone plugin, WordPress bloggers can access the site on a mobile phone. Users can also set up a mobile-friendly version of their WordPress blog by using a plugin that will automatically detect if the visitor is a mobile phone.

iPhone/iPod Touch owners can use Typepad’s mobile interface for blogging on the go. A similar system is available for users of Movable Type.

Finally, if you don’t plan on or don’t want to write full blog posts from your phone, you can also use Twitter as a way of sending short messages to the masses. There are a number of tools for integrating tweets into your blog like this one for Blogger and this one for WordPress.

Journalism then and now

Last night, while watching Citizen Kane, an excellent movie about the life of a fictitious newspaper publisher, my mind started to wonder. How much had the media industry changed since the early 1900s when the film was set? Call this post a Rorschach test of sorts. Here’s how I reacted to some of the choice lines in the movie.

Carter: We’re a morning newspaper, we’re practically closed for 12 hours a day.

Charles Foster Kane: That’s one of the things that going to have to be changed around here. The news goes on for 24 hours a day.

Carter: Mr. Kane, it’s impossible!

It seems the impossible has become possible. The web has extended daily newspaper coverage past the night shift reporter and into a literal 24-hour newsroom. News is no longer held overnight if it happens after deadline. Rather it’s online usually within minutes of its occurence. I’d say that’s pretty remarkable and a big step in journalism.

“I think it would be fun to run a newspaper.”

Probably not so much nowadays. With mass layoffs reorganizations happening in newsrooms across the country, I don’t envy today’s newspaper publishers and media executives. Newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations are all a business and that means some things have to be cut — something I wished I had been told as a budding journalist. Some say journalism is suffering because of corporate cutbacks, I say it is an opportunity for citizen journalists to pick up the slack.

“I don’t know how to run a newspaper Mr. Thatcher, I just try everything I can think of.”

As much as we try to pinpoint what will keep newspapers and other media outlets afloat, nobody really has come up with the one idea what will be the saving grace. All we know is that computers are involved somehow. But if you’ve been reading this blog for awhile you’ll know that multimedia isn’t just slideshows and embedded videos. There is such a range of types of journalism to choose from that we must try everything and see what sticks.

“We have no secrets from our readers.”

Yeah I think we do. Even with internal and external blogs and newsroom openness, most readers/viewers have no idea how journalism happens. I’d think that they’d be surprised how much communication takes place over the phone or through email rather than face to face. And how most of us are taking on this web thing begrudgingly or dutifully rather than optimistically (okay maybe they do know that). Still with more and more blogs covering the media industry, nothing stays secret for long.

“Even newspaper men have to sleep some time.”

I think the web and blogs stole our sleep. There are more avenues than ever for content to be published or broadcast which means losing sleep over what the next blog item will be about or what the next podcast will be. The upside is consumers are getting more bang for their buck out of journalists. The down side is we lose a little of our extra beauty rest.