Read & Respond – Week 14

April 13, 2011

As mentioned in class, this week we’ll be visited by three spirits journalist and blogger Ken Ward of the Charleston Gazette. In preparation, you’ll read through Ken’s blog, Coal Tattoo, a widely read blog that’s been running since early 2009 (the Gazette hosts a variety of other blogs as well – I’m enjoying poring over Rich Ireland’s Beers to You, but that’s not required reading). You’ll need to go beyond the front page and check out the archives – what’s popular, what were the first posts like, and so on.

Any good blog (or publication, for that matter) needs a mission statement. Here’s Coal Tattoo’s:

This Charleston Gazette blog attempts to build on the newspaper’s longtime coverage of all things coal — with a focus on mountaintop removal, coal-mine safety and climate change.

Staff writer Ken Ward Jr., a native of Piedmont in Mineral County, W.Va., has covered the Appalachian coal industry for nearly 20 years.

(You can read more here)

Read through Coal Tattoo and think of some questions for Ken. Your response this week should address both the specific content of Coal Tattoo (WV and coal culture) and how the blog works beyond the content level (how frequent are the updates? how does it use things like photos, maps, tags, categories, and so on? what’s the voice? is it transparent in its reporting and dealing with readers?). Identify some comments and questions for Ken, and be prepared to follow these up in class – he may be reading.

Post those thoughts here by noon, Monday, April 18.

Free visual gadgets

April 6, 2011

I said I’d post this information from the lecture, so here you go. Many of these were drawn from this excellent post by Poynter. Remember your assignment: Each of you needs to put up at least one post using one of these tools by the end of the semester (preferably to your group blog). I call it an “assignment” because there’s not really a better word, but it’s not really hard work – if anything, getting into these should give you new ways to feed the beast.

In addition, here’s a link I just found (via Mindy McAdams) to a bunch of free infographics tools! You can make charts with Hohli, diagrams and flow charts with Creately, vector drawings and graphics with Inkscape, and lots more.

Knight News Challenge

April 5, 2011

We have spent this semester applying new tools to the news and exploring a number of innovations in communication. Now it’s your turn. You will submit an innovation project to the Knight News Challenge. This project “seek(s) innovations that use new or available technology to distribute content in local communities,” and it offers $5 million in awards. The rules are:

  1. Use digital, open-source technology.
  2. Distribute news in the public interest.
  3. Fit one of the four categories.

You do NOT need to be a technical maestro (but it helps if you can find one to work with). You just need an idea that meets the above criteria and a pitch for why it’s worth funding – the Knight money will cover development and promotion. Past entrants have incorporated SHORT video pitches – this is not required, but you might want to consider it.

Your proposal must fit one of the KNC’s four categories:

  1. Mobile:  Seeks projects that use mobile devices to produce, deliver, consume, share and otherwise engage with news. The category reflects the fact that the mobile phone, with 5 billion units in use, has become an important tool for news.
  2. Authenticity category: Looks for projects that help people better understand the reliability of news and information sources. We’re hoping to identify promising ideas for helping citizens negotiate our oft-chaotic media world. How can we help news users better evaluate the validity and trustworthiness of news and information? How can we better filter and assess the credibility of what we read and watch?
  3. Sustainability: Considers new economic models supporting news and information. New ways of conducting and consuming journalism may require new ways of paying for it. We’re open to ideas for generating revenue as well as ways to reduce costs.
  4. Community: Seeks groundbreaking technologies that support news and information specifically within defined geographic areas. This is designed to jump-start work on technologies and approaches that haven’t arrived yet. Unlike the first three categories, submissions in this area must be tested in a geographically designated community.


  • A writeup of your proposal. These are not long (a page or two) but must be detailed and fit the KNC criteria. See past proposals on the site for examples.
  • A presentation of your proposal. These, likewise, are not long – 5 to 10 minutes – and use of visual and digital techniques is STRONGLY encouraged. We’ll discuss these two weeks before the due date to help firm up your ideas.

Due dates:

  • Project rough drafts (one page): April 12
  • Final proposal and in-class presentations: April 26

Useful links: