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Archives: November 2010

Video: A day in the life of a journalist

by Mark S. Luckie

A video guide to life in and out of the newsroom:

Created with GoAnimate by yours truly and inspired by the Taiwanese news animations.

Proclaiming things "Dead" is dead

by Mark S. Luckie

Proclaiming things dead has become increasingly popular these days, especially for anything related to technology or media. And while whenever pundits declare something dead, it really means “it’s on the decline,” that hasn’t stopped hordes of writers from making hyperbolic statements about things being dead. Here’s a list of things are dead and done for:

Phone calls
Voice mail
Blogging (again)
Silicon Valley
The Kindle
Bill Cosby
Social Media
The dead
The web

It’s important to remember that while some of who live our lives online are surrounded by an influx of new technologies, there are many people who continue to use these technologies regularly even though the tech savvy may not. If the battle between airplanes and trains has taught us anything, it’s that nothing is really dead…it lives on through the people who continue to use them.

How newsrooms and journalists are using Storify

by Mark S. Luckie

Storify is a recently developed tool that allows users to aggregate Twitter messages, Facebook updates, online video and more into a aggregated chronology that contains links to the source material. Essentially, Storify makes collecting and displaying web content in a timeline format incredibly easy.

While my appreciation of Storify is no secret (Kevin Sablan recently constructed a Storified collection of my mentions of Storify), it really is because the potential the tool has to reinvent online storytelling. That, combined with its ease of use, makes it a great tool for journalists looking to elevate their online news coverage.

Many news organizations used Storify for midterm elections coverage, including The Detroit News, The Seattle Times, and PBS. The Washington Post used it to chronicle the Twitter messages from candidates who conceded or celebrated victory on the social network and also to monitor election day voting issues.


Seattle television station KIRO used it to collect fans’ reactions to the death of Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus. The timeline is a mix of tweets, photos and related video.


After Prince George County executive Jack B. Johnson was arrested based on allegations of corruption, chronicled the story’s spread through Twitter using Storify.


ONA attendee and fellow 10,000 Words blogger Kevin Loker used Storify to chronicle the people he met at the recent Online News Association conference.


Cooks Source, the now legendary magazine that subjected itself to the internet’s wrath after sniping online articles and publishing them under what an editor claimed as public domain, also got the Storify treatment. The many responses from a variety of online sources and social networks made it perfect for a Storify timeline.


Storify is in private beta right now, though invite codes are floating around the web. Follow Storify on Twitter to get latest updates on its availability. For even more ideas on how to use the tool, check out “10 Ways journalists can use Storify.”

Six must-have WordPress plugins for newsrooms

by Lauren M. Rabaino

Last year, the Online Journalism Blog brought you 85 plugins for blogging journalists. I’ve narrowed my own selection down to six plugins, not necessarily for individual journo-bloggers, but for any newsroom with an active WordPress install — whether it be a full site, or a niche blog.

1. WinerLinks

Paragraph-level permalinks should be natively built into the web, but since they’re not, WinerLinks is the interim solution. WinerLinks is a plugin that adds an anchor to the end of each paragraph, which serves as a permalink to that particular paragraph. You can see the concept in action on sites like Dave Winer’s Scripting News (the inspiration behind the plugin’s name) and PressThink. Even Om Malik is using the plugin on his personal blog.

If readers want to be able to reference a particular part of your post, they can point to the permalink. Later, if a writer wants to point back to a quote used by a specific person in a specific post, pointing directly the paragraph is brainless. The more context you can provide to your readers, the better.

Disclosure: The creation of this plugin partially unfolded on my personal blog after designing PressThink.

2. Matt’s Community Tags

You may remember Mark’s post last week about photo tagging as journalism’s next big social experiment. Well now you can manage your own photo tagging through a very early-release WordPress plugin created by Matt Mullenweg himself, called Matt’s Community Tags.

From the plugin description: “Very beta, in this version the intention is for this to allow a moderated community to assist in tagging primarily photographic content, image attachments and such.”

Hat tip to Automattic’s Andrew Spittle for pointing me to this one

3. EditFlow

EditFlow helps you streamline your editorial workflow within WordPress by expanding upon native WordPress features, turning WordPress into a comprehensive content management system for newsroom processes. For example, take a look at how the plugin lets you manipulate the simple statuses feature within WordPress:

Here are the full list of features:

  • Custom statuses
  • Editorial comments
  • Email notifications
  • Usergroups
  • Calendar
  • Editorial metadata
  • Story budget

Disclosure: I was involved with the organization that originally built this, but am pretty far removed now.

4. Feedback by Paragraph

Although this plugin could use some updates, it’d be useful for a newsroom or blog to experiment with. Similar to WinerLinks paragraph-level breakdown, Feedback by Paragraph allows users to give comments at the paragraph level. Adapted from NewsMixer, it adds a new level of accountability and could be an interesting way to view reader sentiment toward a story based on how much feedback is given to each paragraph (for example, a point of controversy or an error would could be obviously called out simply by the mass amount of comments associated with a certain part of a story).

From the plugin website, it’s great for:

  • Leaving corrections and clarifications on any blog
  • On a news site or blog you can let your users suggest other areas of interest and investigation.
  • Document annotation – each post could be a chapter of a book or document.

5. Assignment Desk

Assignment Desk,an open source project out of NYU, was created specifically for news organizations using WordPress as their primary content management system. Rather than being only an internal tool like EditFlow, Assignment Desk makes community engagement an intergated part of the editorial workflow.

Assignment Desk overview from Matt Diaz on Vimeo.

From the plugin description: “Once story ideas have been approved, Assignment Desk allows users to participate in the reporting of a particular story. An editor may assign specific roles (e.g. photographer, writer) to the user as well as limit those eligible to contribute by user type (e.g. first time contributor, regular contributor, professional journalist).

The plugin allows community members to submit tips or story ideas to the news organization, and volunteer to help with the story in various ways, while preserving editorial oversight.”

6. Custom Metadata Manager

From a creator of Edit Flow comes yet another way to structure your data within WordPress: Custom Metadata Manager. This plugin allows you to create custom metadata fields to go with different post types. So, for example, you could create a “movie” post type with fields like “release date” and “rating” or a “sports” post type with fields like “location” and “score.”

From the plugin description: “The goal of this plugin is to help you rapidply build familiar, intuitive interfaces for your users in a very WordPress-native way.”

How they did it: The New York Times' budget interactive

by Ethan Klapper

The buzz this weekend in the online journalism world was about an interactive created by The New York Times, “Budget Puzzle: You Fix the Budget.” The puzzle was an online companion to a story by Times reporter David Leonhardt in Sunday’s Week in Review section. The feature has been very popular on Twitter.

“It’s one of the most tweeted graphics we’ve ever had,” said Kevin Quealy, a Times graphics editor.

The game allows users to explore various options (spending cuts and tax increases) to close the U.S. budget gaps projected for 2015 and 2030.

In an interview with 10,000 Words, Quealy stressed the overall simplicity of the project.

While the graphs at the top of the page showing how much money a user saved were created in Flash, the rest of it was just basic HTML, Javascript and CSS, Quealy said. Even the graphs at the top of the page would have been created in HTML had there been more time.

“The technology behind it isn’t terribly advanced,” he said. “It works in IE6.”

Leonhardt worked on the research aspect of the project for some time. Quealy’s role, as an interface designer, began on Tuesday.

“We had to work really fast,” he said. “I probably had literally 20 mockups for the way it might work.”

During the design process, which included work during the wee hours of Saturday morning, Quealy said he had to strike a balance between the interactive being too simple (and boring) and being too complex (and game-like, for something that’s a serious topic).

One of Quealy’s design tests is whether or not his parents would be able to understand how to use the interactive. If they could understand it, then it’s usable.

“At the end of the day, I think we really chose the right format, which is just the table,” he said. “It’s very simple and easy to use.”

Under the hood, the different choices of budget cuts and spending increases a user can select are checked with Javascript. Nothing is stored in a database.

To facilitate the sharing of a user’s results, a variable called “choices” is appended to the URL. This variable tells the Javascript which tax cuts and spending increases to display. A user then has the option to post the results to Twitter, by interacting with the service’s Tweet Button, which Quealy noted is partially why the interactive is so popular on Twitter.

The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, he said.

“We thought people would like it, but we’ve had incredible response,” Quealy said. “We had like 500 letters yesterday. We normally get like eight.”

The puzzle works as smoothly as it does because of the teamwork that went into creating it, Quealy said. In addition to Quealy and Leonhardt, Shan Carter, Matthew Ericson and Bill Marsh worked on its development.

At the end of the day, though, Quealy said it’s all about the content.

“My overarching advice for a project like this is the thing we do really well in this case is let the content speak for itself,” he said. “We didn’t try to make it too flashy or we weren’t trying to show off our technical expertise … This content, the results of [Leonhardt's] findings, that’s what’s really important about this. How can we really showcase that?”