Read & Respond – Week 12

March 31, 2011

This week we’ll spend some time on audiovisual additions to your blog. Briggs addresses this in the week’s chapters – yes, that’s plural – 7 and 8. Respond in some decent detail about what he has to say (considering this is the last week of Briggs readings, try and give him a good send off).

As I’ve mentioned, next Tuesday I want all of you to attend Dave Cohn’s presentation (7p April 5 in Martin 205). In preparation, we’re going to stalk the hell out of him: Read his blog, follow his Twitter, check out his work with, and see what he’s up to at the Reynolds Journalism Institute (back at my alma mater, the University of Missouri). I’ll leave further investigation up to you, but keep it legal. In your response, tell us about what you expect from Dave and provide a few questions (which, of course, you’ll be asking him yourself next week).

Get ’em up by noon on Monday, April 4.

Read & Respond – Week 11

March 17, 2011

Nothing too strenuous for this read & respond. Mainly, read through the assigned Briggs chapter 6 on visual storytelling. Think about his advice and the example experts he gives. Many of you have been incorporating visuals in your work, so you seem to have a good understanding of the subject, but start to think about more creative forms of visual storytelling. How might your blogs tell a story that is more visual than text (and while “use lots of photos” is surely an answer, it’s not the ONLY answer).

Second, I’d like you to look at some photoblogs. What’s a photoblog? Find out for yourself. Cake Wrecks, which we discussed, is an example. Why? Post at least one (use an in-text link, not the URL, please) and tell us a bit about how it works.

Third, go poke around a bit in Tumblr. This site (and others like it) are becoming prominent examples of quick-hit, visual blogging. Actually, I’m not even sure if “blogging” is the right word for whatever Tumblr is, but it’ll suffice for now. This Huffington Post list of “33 Tumblrs you NEED to follow” might be a good place to explore. Maybe even create one yourself (although that’s not part of the assignment). It may not be your thing, but resist the urge to gripe’n’grumble and remember: Look past the content to what’s behind it. What ideas are here that we as journalists can use?

Finally, I’d like to share with you this gem from our spam filter:

“Throughout the great pattern of things you actually secure a B- just for effort and hard work. Exactly where you confused everybody was first on all the facts. As it is said, the devil is in the details… And that couldn’t be more accurate at this point. Having said that, allow me say to you just what exactly did do the job. The text is definitely pretty powerful and that is possibly the reason why I am taking an effort in order to opine. I do not really make it a regular habit of doing that. Next, while I can see a leaps in reasoning you come up with, I am not convinced of exactly how you seem to unite the ideas which help to make the conclusion. For the moment I will, no doubt subscribe to your point however hope in the foreseeable future you connect your dots better.” (from Zilvinas Juraska, posted 2011/03/14 at 4:46 am to our “About” page)

I guess there’s always room for improvement.

Remember, your responses are due by noon Monday, March 28 (after spring break) as a comment to this post.

Spring Break poll fun

March 15, 2011

Here’s how we embed the poll we’ve just created in a post. Just create a poll (in your left bar), then click the “Add poll” button above this window (the circle), paste in the short text, and voila!

Read & Respond – Week 10

March 9, 2011

Welcome to comment culture! We’ve been posting plenty of comments of our own, so you’ve got some familiarity with the process. Briggs (chapter 11) this week talks about building a digital audience, but what do we do with that audience when it starts responding? Consider this story from the University of Missouri (my alma mater) about a professor-student altercation – after reading the story, what happens in the comments? Why does something like this seem so familiar?

Comments are a part of today’s news. Consider this story about a judge suing a newspaper for linking her name to her comments. Several news organizations are rethinking anonymous comments for exactly this reason – look at this discussion from Slate. On the one hand, individuals may expect a level of personal privacy when they register as commenters; on the other, a county judge is an elected official held to a definite standard. How ethical was it to connect her with her anonymous words?

Beyond expectation of privacy, to what extent should commenters be free to say what they like? Consider places like Youtube and Amazon, which boast some of the worst comments on the Internet (although Youtube has recently changed its policy); this video of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, for example, had comments disabled “since many of them were hateful and racist.” Take a look at Gawker’s comment policy, which requires commenters to audition and privileges the comments of “starred” commenters. Is this too restrictive, or do you think they’re on the right track?

There’s also the question of identity. All of you have your own usernames with which you post to different sites. You might use the same name at multiple sites (for example, I show up as either “Aaaaaargh” and “The Bob The” in most places I go), you might have different identities in different places, or you might be one of the dreaded unregistered users. Read this Jeff Jarvis post on the role of identity – it’s not as simple as we tend to treat it. The more you use a name, the more history that name develops, allowing those who’ve never met you in the flesh to nonetheless know something about you, or at least about your persona. Your online identity(s) may not be identical to who you are at home, but to what extent are you responsible for it?

Finally, an important message about trolls:


What’s your identity (and do you only have one)? Are you a troll? How should comments run online – what would you like to see improved, and what should remain unregulated? Imagine a world where your group blog for this class is widely read (hey, it could happen) – how would you manage your comment section to freedom of speech with civility of discourse?

Remember to respond to these readings (including Briggs) in a comment to this post by noon on Monday, March 14. More importantly, come prepared to discuss these examples and, ideally, some of your own.

(Also, unrelated to comments, have a look at the #SWSWi tag this week. There’s a number of sessions you might benefit from vicariously participating in – check here for a useful list of highlights)

Here come the group blogs!

March 8, 2011

This week, our class group blogs begin! Run by four teams of 4-5, these blogs each have a focus and established beats, and the members are responsible for all administration, promotion, and general care and feeding of their online publication (you can read the original assignment here, if you’re that kind of person).

The first post of every blog is a mission statement identifying what to expect; several also do readers the courtesy of listing their bloggers’ beats as well as providing Facebook and Twitter information. You can check out each of these via our blogroll (under “2. Group Blogs”) or right below. If you like what you see, be sure to check back, follow the blogger, and basically do all those things that make social media, well, social.

The Blogs:

Scenic and Little-known WVU

March 4, 2011

Our Twitter scavenger hunt revealed a number of interesting finds around West Virginia University. To capitalize on this, the intrepid students of PrnJ 493A collaborated on this map of two of the most popular finds: Scenic spots (in blue) and Little-known facts (in green).

A little background: Using Google Maps’ “collaborate” option, each of the nine teams added their two points to a single map. The result is a data map produced in relatively little time by the reporting and mapmaking efforts of 20 people. Click around an learn a little something about our campus!

Read & Respond – Week 9

March 2, 2011

You’re busy. I know you’re busy. You’ve got a group blog to plan, a budget and mission statement to write, and Guilder to frame for it. You’re swamped. This week you’re reading Briggs Chapter 10, on the newsgathering conversation, but beyond that, I just want you to take a leisurely read through what has come before. Scan through the three group blogs from 2010 and see what you think. What do they do well? Poorly? What are your favorite posts, and which seem less useful? How clear are their focuses, and how well do they stick to them? Finally, and most importantly, what would you have done differently?

The blogs are:

Masticate Morgantown

Motown Entertainment

Move-in Morgantown

Be sure to at least touch on each of them in your response (although you may focus on one or two), and see how Briggs’ thoughts on conversation factor into the work you read. Your response is due as a comment to this post by noon, Monday, March 7.

Group Blog Assignment

March 1, 2011

Beginning this Sunday, March 6, and continuing through the end of the term, you’ll maintain a group blog that tackles a local and contemporary trend, topic, or theme in a “journalistic” way (see how to add multiple users here). This post describes the requirements, how you’ll be evaluated, and what’s due next week – oh yeah, and the group assignments.

For your group blog work, you will:

  1. Provide original content through your own reporting and analysis
  2. Connect with and engage your “community” of interest.

To complete this project, you’ll need to draw on the skills you’ve developed so far (as well as those to come) and work as a team. It’s up to your group to make sure everyone’s strengths are brought into play. The result should be not just an interesting conversation piece that flickers into existence for a few weeks, but a robust and engaging addition to your portfolio that will set you apart in the job market (feel free to look at past students’ work). Who knows – you might even want to continue updating it after class!

Even though this is a team project, though, you’ll be graded individually. This will be judged on the frequency and quality of your posts, comments, and other demonstrable contributions to your online publication.


  • Posting frequency: Every person is expected to post at least once per week. Your groups must each arrange and follow a posting schedule to ensure regular updates throughout the week. You will have a posting deadline—if you don’t meet it, you will not get credit for that post.
  • Weekly budget: Every Sunday (beginning March 6), your group will email me a budget for the current week and following week. Your budget will include the following:
  1. Current week: Which stories are you going to run, when (day, date & time), who will write each, and a brief description of each story.
  2. Following week: May be a little more loose, but should still include the above information.
  3. Longer term: Identify any bigger or longer-term stories you are pursuing.
  4. Promotion: What will your group do this week to publicize your blog? What will you be doing to connect to a larger community?
  • Comments: You should be reading your group’s blog every day. I expect you to make 5 meaningful comments per week (not all on the same day!). These should be divided between your group blog and some outside blogs of interest (which is good way of attracting like-minded bloggers to your site). Be sure your comments are meaningful!
  • Added Value: A plain-text post adds only one level to the conversation. That’s not enough. I expect to see you using your skills with links, images, maps, audio, wikis, and more, as well as integrating the site and its promotion into other social media like Facebook and Twitter.
  • Site Add-ons: This includes extras and widgets like blogroll, RSS feeds, etc. Everyone does at least one.

How You’re Evaluated:

Each Sunday (beginning March 13), you will (individually) send me an e-mail memo that includes links to your posts and comments that week (I’ll show you how you can link to specific comments). In that memo, I’d also like to hear a short update on your experience from the past week and your blogging plans for the week ahead—plus any questions or concerns you’d like me to address.

You’ll get a grade for each week’s worth of blog posts (√, √+, √-), rather than a grade for each post individually. If you like to think in terms of points, imagine that each post is worth 10 points and that I would score in the following way:

* 4 pts: Content — Is it interesting? relevant to your blog’s focus? fresh?

* 3 pts: Links — Quality and relevance of the link(s) you included in the post

* 3 pts: Mechanics — Grammar, spelling, punctuation and appropriate style

* Bonus points! … for HTML, outside comments, etc.—beyond-the-call stuff.

Because you’re only expected to post once a week, I’ll expect the writing and ideas to be especially sharp – we’re not looking for long reviews. If you’d rather post more frequent quick hits, rather than two “meaty” posts, I’m open to that. What matters more than the number of posts is the overall quality of the body of work.

Bottom line: Be passionate about blogging. Learn from your mistakes. Just have fun in the process. And you’ll be fine.

Due next week:

  • Create your group blog in WordPress and email me the link – due Friday, March 4
  • Your group’s first budget: Email me this list of topics and dates for your first two weeks of postings (see above for explanation). It’s your first week, so this may change, but it must be thorough and complete – due Sunday, March 9
  • Your group’s first post: A focused mission statement for your group’s blog – due Monday, March 7

One more thing:

In addition to creating a blog, you’ll need to add all your group’s members as authors (you may all be administrators or just choose one member for this role). Follow these steps:

  1. In your Dashboard, select “Users” from the left bar
  2. Under “Add User from Community,” enter the new user’s preferred email address
  3. Choose the new user’s role (contributor, administrator, editor, or author)
  4. Click “Add user”

Group Assignments

Group 1

  • Kirk Auvil
  • Toni Cekada
  • Aaron Geiger
  • Keri Gero
  • Alex Wiederspiel

Group 2

  • Jazz Clark
  • Corey Preece
  • Andrea Sauer
  • Shannon Teets
  • Eric Waddon

Group 3

  • Devanne DiBacco
  • Rodney Lamp
  • Sebouh Majarian
  • Shay Maunz
  • Kristen Wishon

Group 4

  • Lindsay Cobb
  • Deepa Fadnis
  • Melanie Hoffman
  • Derek Rudolph
  • Jonathan Vickers