Archive for November, 2009

Crowdsourcing our blogroll: Suggest your favorite journalism blogs

All right, folks. It’s finally time to re-do our blogroll. If you know of any journalism-related blogs we should add, please suggest them as comments on this blog post.

Thank you!

- Daniel B. Honigman

7 comments November 24th, 2009

Lessons from FiveThirtyEight: How One Wonky Guy Kept Me Up At Night

(Guest post by travel writer Sheila Scarborough.)

Chicago-based Nate Silver, a baseball statistician and analyst with Baseball Prospectus, was ticked off about politics.

As a data-driven guy who appreciated precision, the sloppy use of political polling information drove him crazy. From his perspective, there didn’t seem to be a site that really dove into poll data analysis in a relatively balanced and knowledgeable fashion.

What do you do when you’re one smart person with a vision and enthusiasm? You launch your own butt-kicking Web site. Let’s talk about the power of his site and the lessons that both old and new media can draw from its success in the 2008 elections (538 is the number of votes in the Electoral College.)

I’m not a political journalist, only a news junkie citizen, but FiveThirtyEight kept me enthralled during the election. I would stay up past one o’clock in the morning, repeatedly hitting Refresh on my laptop screen so that I wouldn’t miss a single thing that Nate and his team posted.

What was so compelling?

  • Quality and depth of Nate’s information. Almost all of the mainstream media US maps predicted individual state election outcomes simply by coloring the state red or blue. Only FiveThirtyEight had minute color gradations (light pink to dark red, for example, indicating how much a state was predicted to go for Senator McCain.) Only FiveThirtyEight maps accurately portrayed the two states that split their electoral votes: Maine and Nebraska. Silver even showed a blue box around Omaha (the Second Congressional District) surrounded by red-tinted Nebraska, because the Obama campaign worked that area very hard to try to win its one Electoral College vote (and they did win it.) I loved this sort of detail. Lesson: Don’t dumb down your information. We’d prefer the full story.
  • Human interest narratives that also predicted election outcomes. Only on FiveThirtyEight did a tiny team of guys travel to multiple states to interview and accompany ground workers in both the Obama and McCain headquarters. Over and over, from Troy, Ohio to Grand Junction, Colorado to a damning photo in Florida’s Panhandle, it was obvious from their digging and persistent reporting that the Big Mo was in the Obama camp and not with McCain. I never saw this sort of detailed ground campaign storytelling anywhere else. Lesson: Show us what’s going on by telling gripping stories, even when those stories are buried in relatively obscure towns that no one else is talking about. We want to know.
  • A lively, engaged community makes a Web site even more powerful. I rarely saw such interesting readers and commenters as I did on FiveThirtyEight. Sure, there were the usual trolls and yellers, but there were a lot more people who were thoughtful and impassioned about the unfolding political process. Some got pushy, wanting to know why the latest daily Rasmussen poll analysis wasn’t up by a certain time. Others were concerned that Nate was still posting information at 3 am as the election neared its end. I began to recognize certain commenter names and would smile or groan based on what I knew to expect from them.Lesson: It’s not only about detailed data, or interesting stories – it’s also about the people who come to the site, hang out and chat.

One baseball stats nut who loved well-presented polling data. One bare-bones Web site. A couple more people running around in a car doing interviews across the country. Insanely detailed analytical posts about voters with dense explanatory graphics (my math teacher husband told me that they were “rectangular coordinate system scatter plots.”) That was it…that’s all that FiveThirtyEight had going for it, but they kept me up nights with “just” that.

What can your media organization do to keep readers up at night, hitting “Refresh” and trying to figure out how to read a scatter plot? Which reporters have that kind of passion and drive, and what can the organization do to help fuel their fire?

Sheila Scarborough is a writer specializing in travel, the social Web and NHRA drag racing. She’s also the co-founder of Tourism Currents: social media training for tourism professionals.

6 comments November 24th, 2009

Use Twitter lists to build your personal news brand

NOTE: I originally posted a version of this on the Personal Branding Blog.

For reporters on the social web, the strength of their personal brand can gain them readers or, more importantly, sources. Twitter lists are just one way you can introduce people to your work and get that one source you need to follow you on Twitter. (Of course, you can always pick up the phone and call them, but that’s besides the point.)

Here are some easy things you can do to brand yourself through your Twitter lists:

  • Thank every person who lists you. While it may take only a second to add someone to a Twitter list, it also takes a second to notice that you’re on someone else’s list. If someone thinks you — and your content — add enough value to warrant addition to their contacts, thank the person who adds you. If you’re not following the person who added you, give them a follow and then, once they follow you back, DM them a quick thank-you note. That note will get you noticed, and it’s yet another opportunity to talk to people in your network, as well as a new reader and a potential source.
  • Follow lists compiled by people you’re looking to interview. One way you can get noticed is by following someone else’s list. Many lists have no followers, and if you can distinguish yourself by being the first follower of someone else’s list, not only does it distinguish you, but it gives you and that person something to talk about.In addition, if you follow someone else’s list, it gives you a frame of reference in which you can formulate questions that will garner better responses.
  • Create lists of people you meet offline. Some folks have thousands upon thousands of Twitter followers, most of whom they’ve never met before. As you meet people at conferences, events and talk to sources, you may want to add them to a list devoted to people you’ve met.  An easier way to do this could be to create a new list for each conference and event you attend. This way, your Twitter contacts will be organized for quick recall. (Don’t forget that you can always add people to multiple lists!)
  • Create lists to show how well-rounded you are. Some folks live, breathe and evangelize social media all day, every day, and quite often, their Twitter streams are filled with all sorts of social media-related blog posts, re-tweets and general observations.While this is great, it will cause their stream to be one-dimensional and, therefore, useless to most people who actually use Twitter. For metro reporters, create list of useful people to follow in your city or town. If you’re a business reporter, create a list of local businesses on Twitter. If you’re a sports reporter, find the local athletes in your town on Twitter, and add them. For restaurant reporters, create a list of local chefs and restaurateurs on Twitter.If you’re looking to connect with your audience on a more personal level, create a separate list about your interests. Create lists around your musical and/or artistic tastes. Show your readers that you’re a well-rounded person, and they’ll be more likely to follow you on Twitter.
  • Showcase your sources. When a story gets published, create a Twitter list of the sources you used, so that the story does not just end there. Link to the list after the story on the article web page. If you can, print the URL for the Twitter list in the paper. Enable your readers to follow the story after it’s completed.
  • Showcase your happy clients. For successful freelancers, whether their business grows depends in part on positive word of mouth. If you connect potential leads with your happy customers, you’ll find that there’s a good chance your business will grow.At the end of your projects, don’t just ask for a LinkedIn recommendation. If you do consistent, good work for a local newspaper, add your supervising editor to a Twitter list devoted to your references. Twitter is just another channel through which you can connect your clients with potential customers.

These are just some ways to grow your personal news brand through your Twitter lists. If I left anything out, please feel free to leave your suggestions as comments after this post!

- Daniel B. Honigman

18 comments November 16th, 2009

The Google Wave news community

If you are one of the lucky few who scored a Google Wave account, you’ve probably logged in, fumbled around a bit, probably were impressed by the instant nature of it — and you probably got annoyed relatively quickly at Wave’s slowness. If you have enough friends or colleagues who have invites, you might have gotten a peek at Wave’s potential as a collaboration tool.

For journalists, collaboration with the public on news events is the (Google) wave of the future. I wrote about Wave’s potential for journalism for Media Bullseye. If you don’t know what Wave is, here’s a good blog post that explains Wave, written by Omar Gallaga, a colleague of mine at the Statesman.

Having played around with Wave quite a bit, I was ready Tuesday to experiment a bit with Wave’s potential to report and discuss the news. So, I set up a new wave, called it “Austin News”, put out some ground rules and then publicized my experiment through Twitter. Within a few hours, we had more than 100 people talking (mostly) about local news in the wave.

I even embedded a poll to let people say whether they planned to vote on Election Day. Someone went in and edited my poll question to add “or have already voted” since the polls had been opened for a few hours by then:

In five hours, the Austin News wave generated about 70 individual comments, or “wavelets.” The wave overall was a bit slow, somewhat hard to follow and a little buggy. (I couldn’t get a photo to appear, and I think it is because I tried to upload too large of a photo, clogging the system.)

I did, however, see some great discussion; I posted a link to the Texas constitutional amendments that are up for a vote, and people immediately began discussing why anyone should care about them, which are the the most important ones and why. I dropped in topics a few times throughout the day, from the election to the launch of the Texas Tribune to some local economic news. I included links to our stories. People discussed each item as they came in.

There is potential here.

Waves get overloaded after about 50 wavelets, or messages, are added to a particular wave. I’m going to launch another wave tomorrow (a daily edition of waves, of sorts) to keep them from getting too overloaded. I imagine Google will speed this system up quite a bit before opening it up to the public.

It was the first of many experiments on Wave. I’m excited to see where it leads.

- Robert Quigley

If you have any questions, ideas or suggestions, please leave them as comments below!

15 comments November 3rd, 2009

Video: On the importance of content curation

Here’s a quick video I did for Bryan Person at LiveWorld when I was at the BlogWorld Expo 2009 (#bwe09). It’s geared mostly at brands curating their streams, but there are some ideas journalists can take away from it, I think.


- Daniel B. Honigman

Add comment November 2nd, 2009


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