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Archives: April 2011

5 Tips To Help You Live Tweet A Speech

Live tweeting is quickly becoming a favorite way for news organizations to cover speeches and other events. It allows people at their desks in an office environment to follow an event without having to turn on a livestream or a TV. With college commencement season around the corner, here are some tips to help you live tweet like a pro!

1. Get An Advance Copy Of The Speech, If Possible (And In Digital Form)

Your life will go from taking frantic dictation to simply copying, pasting and making minor revisions to the speech as it is delivered. Depending on how much time you have with the advance text, give it a glance, skim or read it and think of what parts of the speech would be good for Twitter. Which leads us to our next tip…
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3 Social Media Skills They Should Teach In Journalism School

Photo Credit: Vaidotas2007 on Flickr

I won’t make broad statements that journalism schools are failing in some way when it comes to incorporating social media into their curriculum.

I know that many are making great strides to marry the two. Plus I’ve been out of journalism school for a few years, and around the time I left is when social media was really starting to kick off, so I don’t have first-hand knowledge of what is and is not happening.

So instead, I want to share three social media skills that I believe should be part of any journalism school’s curriculum, if it isn’t already.

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Use Search Operators To Find Stories, Sources and Documents Online

There are billions of websites on the Internet. But finding the one you need or want isn’t always easy. Thanks to the glut of content farms and spam blogs, the legitimate, useful and smaller sites are often pushed down further in the results, meaning you have to wade through hundreds or more wrong links to find the one. That’s where search operators come in. Using a few carefully crafted phrases and punctuation marks can mean the difference between 10,000,000 hits that are hit-or-miss and 100 hits that are tailored to your actual need.

There are some great guides already online with the advanced operator terms to know and how to quickly find what you want. Here’s one for Google and one for Bing. Below, I’ll highlight just a few of these that I’ve specifically found helpful as a journalist. Also, keep in mind if remembering the often less intuitive search terms isn’t feasible, you can always click on the “Advanced Search” link (Google link; Bing link) and it will guide you through formatting these searches. There are dozens of other phrases and operators to play around with. So take a look at those pages and see what works for you and what unusual ways you can find information or sources.


This is perhaps the most useful search operator to remember. It allows you to narrow your search down only to links coming from your page.

Want to see what 10,000 Words has written about the Flip video camera? Search for “ flip camera” If you wanted to see what anyone on MediaBistro wrote about it, use the same phrase only drop the 10000words from the site, “ flip camera” You can be as narrow or broad as you like. This is most useful when you want to find specific information on a specific organization’s website, such as searching a name on the city, county, school district, court, etc. page. A great idea is to combine this operator with the name of someone you need an unlisted e-mail address or phone number for, as it might be posted somewhere you can’t find but search engines have indexed, or try searching a school website for the phrase SSN or Social Security Number or final grades to see if there’s any information posted that shouldn’t be. That could be a story itself!


This narrows the search to only links of this file type. Useful if you know what you’re looking for is contained in a PDF or Excel file, for example, or if you’re trolling for information that may be outdated and no longer available, or that shouldn’t have been uploaded to begin with. It’s as easy as typing “filetype:pdf” or “filetype:jpg” or “filetype:xls” with a few key words. You could use similar tactics to find cell phone numbers (often stored in excel files xls or xlsx) or mug shots (jpg).

Combine filetype and site operators with the name of an individual being sued to see if there’s a PDF version of the probable cause affidavit on the website of a local law enforcement agency. Or look for databases/spreadsheets of information, such as unmarried partners from the census, as I did in the example. Bonus points for combining the site: and filetype: operators as such: “ filetype:xls unmarried

“quote marks” + contains:

Including words in quotes in most search engines limits your searches only to that exact phrase. Searching for Meranda Watling or "Meranda Watling" yields different results, with the more restricted ones returning fewer hits. This is especially useful when, as in my name, there is an unusual spelling that the search engine may attempt to autocorrect. In Google, adding a +before the word with no space tells it to search for that exact word. In Bing, the word contains:before the word serves a similar function when combined with other phrases. (In Google, the minus sign serves the opposite purpose: It excludes pages with that word.) There are different variations and a change of one punctuation mark can yield different results, so fiddle around with your phrasing to find what you’re looking for.

Applications Open for ONA MJ Bear Fellowships

Online News AssociationThe Online News Association, an organization dedicated to journalism innovation online, is currently accepting applications for their 2011 MJ Bear Fellowship Program for early-career digital journalists. The fellowship is named in honor of ONA founding board member Mary Jane “MJ” Bear, whose career included roles at Microsoft’s MSN portals, MSN International, NPR, and American University.

According to ONA, the MJ Bear Fellowships will help identify and celebrate young digital journalists working independently or for a company or organization who have demonstrated that they deserve support for their efforts and/or vision, either through professional experimentation, research, or other projects. This is the inaugural year for the fellowships, and the search committee will select three journalists (two in the US or Canada or one internationally). Selected fellows will receive a personal ONA mentor for six months, a full year’s membership with ONA, and registration, travel, accomodations and recognition at the 2011 Online News Association Conference & Awards Banquet (ONA11) in Boston, Sept. 22-24.

Eligible journalists must be age 23-30 (as of Sept. 22, 2011), fluent in English, and must not be full-time students. The deadline to apply for the MJ Bear Fellowship is Monday, May 30, 2011, 11:59 p.m. ET. For more information about the MJ Bear Fellowships, please visit the Fellowship’s website.

Fellows will be announced in July 2011.

How To Get The Most Out Of Your iPhone As A Reporting Tool

Increasingly, iPhones are becoming a credible, convenient and reliable tool for journalists –both amateur and professional– to use in the field. Mobile reporting was even the topic of a UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism course taught by Jeremy Rue to help journalists learn how to get the most out of reporting from a mobile device.

Will Sullivan at the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri also put together an incredible guide which outlines the various hardware and applications every journalist should have — definitely a recommended read. (Update 4/16: this post originally stated, incorrectly, that Will Sullivan’s guide was a project out of UC Berkeley. In fact, the funding, support and resources for his mobile tools guide came from RJI where he is a 2010-2011 fellow studying mobile and tablet development).

But that’s not what I’m writing about here. Aside from the must-have apps, these are some practical tips and tricks — the dirty, simple basics for day-to-day reporting — that can help you get the most out of your iPhone as a reporting tool. Read more