Read & Respond week 10: Data Tools

October 17, 2019

This week’s readings will be more skills-focused than usual. We’ve been tinkering with Google tools throughout the semester, but now I want you to actual undergo some training of your own. The Google News Initiative provides targeted packages of (short) training modules for a variety of its tools. You’re going to head to its training center and complete at least three of its training modules.

Note: I’m asking you to complete modules, not entire courses! For example, the “Fundamentals” course involves 13 lessons and takes about 111 minutes – that’s not what I’m asking you to do! Instead, you might select the five-minute “Google Alerts” lesson from within Fundamentals as one of your three.

Once complete, you’ll write up a comment that lists the three modules you completed and what you got out of the lesson. For the main part of your comment, tell us some specific ways you could apply the skills from each to your personal or group blog (or any journalism and mass communication project). Details matter, so spell this out!

Remember, your responses are due by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20, as a comment to this post.

Personal Post

You’ve already received this week’s assignment, but just as a reminder, your post needs to involve location in some meaningful way, and it must include a Google map you’ve designed (full details here and our mapping how-to guide here). All the usual requirements apply:
  • At least three links (more is better) to meaningful content. This means news stories, relevant posts, and substantive material, NOT to homepages (e.g., or general sites (e.g.,
  • At least three content links: Images, video, social media posts, etc.

You’ll put this one up on Thursday, October 24 any time between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Assignment #7: Make a Map

October 16, 2019

This assignment builds on what we learned about Google Maps in this week’s class. You’re going to apply that to your personal blog by writing a post that incorporates a map of your own creation. That means the post needs to incorporate a “where” component in some meaningful way: Locations of key events, places to find a thing, cities where a performer has played, and so on.

For the assignment, you will:

  • Write a post for your personal blog with a clear location component. Your blog post will be graded like a typical post (10 pts) and counts for this week’s post. It should hit all the usual marks for content, links, depth, and overall quality.
  • Create a Google Map that adds to the story in your post in some meaningful way. This will be graded independently of the post (10 pts), but it must be relevant!
    • The map should have a least FIVE useful data points (that’s the minimum, so it’s worth the minimum grade).
    • Use the guide on our course blog to make sure it’s set to a useful default view (we probably don’t need to see the whole world)
    • To improve your score, include useful information in your selection of pins, use of labels and colors, photos, etc.

You will post the map as part of your weekly personal post on Thursday, October 24 any time between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

How-To: Making and Embedding Google Maps

October 16, 2019

Today we’re making maps! At the bottom of this how-to, you’ll see a sample map of our own beloved Evansdale Crossing, made by following these very steps. Follow along and create your own!

Making the map

  1. Sign in to Google and go to
  2. Click the menu icon to the left of the search bar (it looks like three horizontal lines) and select “Your Places” from the drop-down menu, then click “MAPS”
  3. Select “Create Map” (at the very bottom of the left bar)
  4. In the new window, click “Untitled map” to give it a title and description
  5. Add places: Search a place address, click the marker, and select “+ Add to map” in its pop-up window
  6. Make changes by clicking a placed marker:
    1. Edit (the pencil icon) lets you change the title and description of a place. You can also add links () with HTML.
    2. Style (the paint bucket icon) lets you change the color and design of map markers. You can also upload your own designs, if you’re fancy.
    3. Add Image or Video (the camera icon) lets you … well, I think you can figure that one out.
    4. You can also add points of your own by selecting the “Add marker” icon (under the search bar) and clicking to place new map markers.
  7. Add lines and shapes
    1. Click the line/shape button and click points – double-click to finish
    2. Can name/describe your lines and polygons (shapes) in the same way as map markers.
    3. Style:
      1. Click lines to change color and thickness
      2. Click polygons to change color, border thickness, and transparency.
  8. Trash an element by selecting it and clicking the trashcan in its window

Adding group members

  1. Click “share” in top left menu
  2. Under “Invite collaborators,” add email addresses
  3. Choose what they can do: “Can view” or “Can edit”

Embed the map in your blog

  1. Click “share” and change settings from Private to “Public on the Web” (this allows any reader of your blog to see it), then click Done.
  2. Placing the map:
    1. Position the map how you want it to appear on your blog
    2. Click the three dots next to your map’s name in the top left menu > Select “Set default view”
    3. Click them again and select “Embed on my site”
      1. The code should look like this: “iframe src=”” width=”640″ height=”480″ “
      2. [note: There will also be pointy brackets like this around it, but I’ve left them out so WordPress doesn’t think I’m trying to embed a map here!]
    4. Paste the resultant line of code directly into a WordPress blog post and preview to see if it looks the way you want it.

Advanced map shaping

  1. Don’t like the shape of your map? Notice the details of that code:
    1. (this code comes from the map embedded in this post): iframe src=””; width=”640″ height=”480″
  2. See those “width” and “height” values? Right now it’s a horizontal rectangle, but you can change that! Try some different values to get the shape you want.

Here’s our map (in progress)!

Last semester’s map (for reference)

Read & Respond week 9: More Images

October 9, 2019

We’re not done with images yet! Last week we focused on photo; now we’re going to take a look at graphics. Graphics are ways to visualize information, typically in terms of where, when and how much of something compares to something else. You’re already familiar with many graphic types: maps, charts, timelines, tables, and diagrams.

There are lots of free graphic-making tools out there, at a variety of quality levels, but just because you can make charts doesn’t mean you can make them WELL (or that your readers will understand them).

It’s easy to think of graphics as being extras to the story, but a good graphic IS the story. Here’s a good example: Take this New York Times quiz and see what it tells you about yourself. Any surprises? This quiz and resultant map was the Times’ most popular story of 2013 (and it was created by an intern). Can you see why? There’s something compelling about a map that tells us something about our favorite subject – ourselves – and people started sharing this story with friends.

That shareability is why graphics, and charts in particular, are such popular subjects in online communication, but without being graphic-literate, it’s easy to make misleading charts. Have a look at these common chart errors – would you have spotted any of these without being warned?

As I’ve noted in class, an easy way to get some facility with data and visualization is through the Google News Initiative’s training links on data journalism. We’re frequently talking about analytics in class, so plunge into one or two of these 5-minute tutorials (I’d definitely do some tinkering on the Google Trends page – can you identify any interesting comparisons?). How could you incorporate what you’ve learned into your personal or group blog?

Remember, your responses are due by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 13, as a comment to this post.

Personal Post

You’ll be embroiled in Blog-a-Day Week next week, so I won’t give you any additional responsibilities. Make sure your Thursday post is your most robust of the week and follows the usual rules:
  • At least three links (more is better) to meaningful content. This means news stories, relevant posts, and substantive material, NOT to homepages (e.g., or general sites (e.g.,
  • At least three content links: Images, video, social media posts, etc.

You’ll put this one up on Thursday, October 17 any time between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., but don’t forget the other four posts due this week!

Group Blog Planning Assignment #3 – First Posts

October 7, 2019

First posts?? But I’m not ready!!

Take it easy – this is a planning assignment, after all. I’ve reviewed your proposal packets and emailed my feedback (I’ll return the prints in our next class), and for your next step, I want you to review those notes and pursue what seems like the most viable first post. You won’t be posting anything online yet, so consider this a rough draft.

You’ll need the following:

  • A coherent post. There might still be material to come, but it needs a beginning, middle and end. Don’t forget a compelling hed & lede!
  • Multiple content links. These must be a mix of in-text, media and social). This will probably be the biggest change from your personal blog posts – overall, these should be more richly sourced, so I don’t want to see a paragraph without at least one meaningful link.
  • Meaningful images. Use the strategies we’ve learned so far to bring in photography (yours or free-to-use), graphics (maps and – eventually – charts), screenshots, audio/video, etc.
  • A list of sources. Include this at the end. It should have TWO sections: Sources that are already in your post and sources you still need. We’ll take workshop time to fill in these gaps.

This post will be the first concrete draft of what your group’s blog will look like, but it will likely still have some growing to do. What would your imaginary reader think of it? What would make it better? It should be complete but doesn’t need to be the final version yet, so that should take some stress off.

DUE: You will need to bring TWO printed copies to class on Monday, Oct. 14 – one to mark up and one to hand in.

Assignment #6: Blog-a-Day Week!

October 7, 2019

After blogging for several weeks, you should have a feel for what works, what doesn’t, and how to plan your attack. So far you’ve been doing 5Ks, but this week will be a marathon. Beginning on Monday, Oct. 14, you will post something EVERY day to your personal blog for a week (Monday-Friday) between regular blogging hours of 10a-4p. This will not be easy, but you can do it, and at the end you’ll have a newfound respect for those who do this every week.

Some rules and tips:

  • The first rule of Blog-a-Day Week is: We do NOT talk about Blog-a-Day Week! This means no posting about how hard it is to post every day (or other such metacommentary).
  • Likewise, no posting about how you don’t know what to post. Use the skills from previous challenges, ideas from your blogroll, synthesis and explainer posts, Twitter analytics, Google Trends, comments from other students … ANYTHING that leads to a substantive post!
  • As always, good posts will have rich content (links, videos, images, maps, etc.) and be connective. Now might be the time to check out that “Add Poll” button up at the top of your New Post window.
  • Try themes and multi-day posts! Instead of thinking up multiple unrelated posts, consider how you might cover ONE story or issue over multiple days.
  • Use our previous assignments! Build posts around explainers, synthesis, Twitter and social media conversation, Google Trends and other analytics … anything to help you keep things going!

Scoring (10 pts total): Your Thursday (Oct. 17) post counts for your required weekly post (10 pts) and is NOT part of the assignment. The remaining four posts are worth 2.5 pts each (10 total) – these posts don’t need to be as substantial as your Thursday post, but they still should be coherent, compelling, and have a beginning, middle and end. Same-day and late posts receive NO credit, so make sure they’re up on time!

DUE: Every weekday from Monday, Oct. 14 to Friday, Oct. 18 (five posts in all)

So that’s it. Daunting, but I promise you’ll survive and learn some new skills. Remember: THIS is what full-time bloggers and social media managers do! I strongly recommend writing a few posts in advance to keep from going insane. You might also want to check out the National Blog Posting Month website for advice and support – don’t go it alone!

Read & Respond week 8: Images

October 3, 2019

The next two weeks are all about visuals. In this first one, we’ll tackle photos. Some of you have been incorporating visuals into your work from the start while others have yet to do so. Regardless of your use of visuals so far, how might your blogs tell a story that is more visual than textual? Yes, photos are ONE possibility, but what are others? Skim around this list and identify some options you might be able to apply to making your blogging more visual.


  • First, a must-readHow to use photos LEGALLY on your blog. There’s a great graphic “Can I Use That Picture?” guide at this post from The Visual Guy.
  • Rather than guess about whether to use an image, consider using (and joining) Creative Commons, which lets you contribute and use a variety of works on the creators’ terms.
  • Photoblogs: Some blogs focus specifically on image sharing. Sites like Cake Wrecks hit big a few years back, but there are more serious efforts like the Boston Globe’s The Big Picture. There’s a whole bunch more to skim (150+) at this list.



That’s a lot of links, so focus on some from each area and skim the rest. Has your image use been at all … problematic? What can you do to improve your game going forward? Your responses are due by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6 as a comment to this post.

Personal Post

Write a blog post incorporating at least three images from the legal, publicly available sources listed above. This is a practice I expect to see in all posts going forward, so if this week’s reading showed you that you’ve been using images unethically (or worse), go forth and sin no more! As always, the overall post must be relevant to your personal blog concept and must include:
  • At least three links (more is better) to meaningful content. This means news stories, relevant posts, and substantive material, NOT to homepages (e.g., or general sites (e.g.,
  • At least three content links: Images, video, social media posts, etc.

Since we’ll be out for Fall Break on Thursday, you can post this one any day from Monday, Oct. 7 to Thursday, October 10 any time between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. (please wait until after Monday’s class though – we’ll be covering good image use in there!).