Read & Respond – Week 12

March 29, 2012

Here are some reasonably light visual readings for your return from spring break. Mainly, you need to read through the assigned Briggs chapter 6 on visual storytelling. Think about his advice and note the example experts he gives. Some of you have been incorporating visuals into your work from the start, others have come around to it, and a few are still pounding out mostly text articles each week. Use these readings as a way to start thinking 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. You’ve probably seen some photoblogs – post an example in your response (and use an in-text link, please – full URLs are so tacky).

A great home for this kind of thing is 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” is a good place to explore. 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, something that you’ll either get a kick out of or really hate: Memes. The meme is a basic cultural unit (much like the gene is a biological one). Like a virus, it lives to spread from carrier to carrier, mutating and adapting as it goes. Successful memes thrive, unsuccessful ones die out. Go to quickmeme (or your own favorite meme creator, if you have such a thing) and browse the current and most popular images. Then go to the Facebook WVU Memes page and scan back a few weeks/months (if you weren’t aware of this, I’m sorry/you’re welcome). Yes, Marshall and Pitt have their own meme pages, and the college meme trend is already showing signs of burning out, but take a look anyway. Resist the urge to say “this is dumb” (which it surely is), and consider what’s going on here. I won’t ask you to come up with a journalistic application for memes, but how might the kind of sharing and creativity going on here be useful in more valuable mass communication?

Remember, your responses are due by noon Monday, April 2 (after spring break) as a comment to this post.

Read & Respond – Week 11

March 15, 2012

In anticipation of next week’s visit from Ali Manzano, social media and engagement coordinator for the Oregonian, I want you to read some of that publication’s forays into, well, social media and engagement. Start with the Oregonian website (don’t forget the ownership discussion we had in class today – there’s also OregonLive, which is primarily Oregonian content but is still a separate entity). Just do some general sifting here. How do you see online and social media incorporated, whether on the site itself or in individual stories? How does a typical story incorporate links, comments, aggregation, and so on? Get a picture of the publication as a whole before moving on.

After taking this overview, have a look at some more prominent examples of how the Oregonian does its job (these are from my sparsely maintained media blog, where you can find several posts on my time at the Oregonian in summer 2011):

  • The Eat Tweet inspired recipe contest challenged readers to submit a full recipe in a single tweet (prizes were awarded for the best). I love the creativity this kind of “assignment” requires to meet the limitations of fitting a complex process into 140 characters (or less).
  • This Gigapans project photodocumented the crowd at the Portland Timbers home opener, then invited attendees to find and tag themselves in the image. To me, this seems like an idea that appeals to the same place as cutting out a picture of yourself and hanging it on the newspaper, except the picture is massive and detailed and the newspaper is visible everywhere (okay, it’s not a perfect analogy).
  • Many other projects weave elements like Tweets, location, and other kinds of reader feedback into seemingly traditional stories. Simple projects like weather mapping or responses to official proposals take on a different kind of life while being fundamentally recognizable to more traditional readers (and journalists) as well. It’s the same skills, but with a wealth of new tools.

Once that’s done, check out the Oregonian and OregonLive‘s (separate) Facebook pages. What kinds of things get posted on each? How do reader reactions (page & post likes, comments, etc.) differ, and why might this be? Over on Twitter, you can also have a look at the publication’s two lists of journalists: Oregonian staff members and Oregonian beats. Look through a few of these, especially the region-specific beats that are maintained by the rotating reporters that fill those beats – what’s the idea here?

We’ll push back the readings listed in the syllabus to account for the visit, so don’t worry about the Briggs chapter on visuals (for now). As usual, make your responses in a comment to this post by noon Monday, March 19. As NOT usual, come to class prepared to talk about what you’ve seen with Ali.

Group blogs are Go!

March 12, 2012

Here is your roster of course group blogs for 2012. They’ve been added to the right-hand blogroll (under “2. Group Blogs”), bumping previous blogs down into the realm of “4.Past Students.” They’re all new, so today they don’t consist of much more than a mission statement, but have a look at what’s to come.

#GradSchoolProblems: Five West Virginia University Students’ Guide to Graduate Study … and other complaints.

Mountaineers Connect: Building a community between Morgantown and WVU.

A “J” in the Life: A blog made for journalism students by journalism students at WVU.

Graduation Preparation: With stories about masters programs, internships, finding jobs, and more, we’re sure to be your number one spot to prepare you for before and after graduation.

Read & Respond week 10 – Comment Culture

March 8, 2012

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? Let’s get right into it with the worst of the worst: YouTube comments. Watch this seemingly harmless (and adorable) clip of President Obama calming a crying baby. Scroll down a hair to the top comments. Now take a deep breath and wade into the rest of the comment thread – try to get through a few pages, if you can. Yikes. Why does something like this seem so familiar?

Comments are a part of today’s news. There are multiple cases of news organizations being sued for content appearing in their comments, as well as this 2010 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. On the other side of the “NymWars” (warning: Wikipedia source), we’ve got the argument from commenting houses like Disqus that pseudonymous comments (e.g., BlogMastaB) actually tend to be better in quality! So what do you think? How important is it to connect individuals with their 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); video of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech at one time had comments disabled “since many of them were hateful and racist.” The New York Times recently changed its comment policy to reward “trusted commenters” and “improve the community experience.” 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 12. 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 on Twitter this week. There’s a number of sessions you might benefit from vicariously participating in – it’s just like being in Austin!)

And now … the Group Blog Project!

March 1, 2012

[NOTE: This post is a long one, but it spells out the group blog project you’ll be working on for the rest of the semester, so it’d be a good idea to read it all]

Beginning in two weeks (Monday, March 12) and continuing through the end of the term – that’s six weeks total – you’ll maintain a group blog that tackles a local and contemporary trend, topic, or theme in a “journalistic” way. You will:

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

This is a team project. 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, but a robust and engaging addition to your portfolio that will set you apart in the job market.

This is not a general interest assignment. You will avoid words such as “eclectic” and phrases such as “something for everyone.” Your task is to develop a clear focus on some specific topic of interest to a Morgantown-based community. If everyone does their own thing and there is no cohesive focus to the blog, you will do poorly.

There will be no restaurant reviews.

You will be judged on the frequency and quality of your posts, comments, and other demonstrable contributions to your online publication. In addition, if your teammates report you’ve become a significant asset (or weakness), that matters as well.

Weekly requirements:

  • Individual posts: Every person is expected to post at least once per week (that’s 4-5 posts from your group each week). Your groups must each arrange and follow a posting schedule to ensure regular updates throughout the week (Monday-Friday between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.). If you miss your deadlines, you will get lowered (or no) credit for that post.
  • Weekly budget: Every Sunday (beginning March 11), your group will email me a single budget for the current week and following week. It will include the following:
    • Current week: Which stories are you going to run, when (day, date & time), who will write each, and a brief description of each story.
    • Following week: Same information as above.
    • Longer term: Identify any big or longer-term stories you are pursuing. It’s okay if these are still shaping up, but this must be included.
    • Promotion: What will your group do this week to publicize your blog and connect to a larger community? (This means more than posting to Twitter)
  • Comments: You should be reading your group’s blog every day. You will make 5 meaningful comments per week (not all on the same day!), divided between your group blog, other class blogs, and some outside blogs of interest (which is good way of attracting like-minded bloggers to your site).
  • 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.

How You’re Evaluated:

Each Sunday (beginning March 18), each student will send me an e-mail memo with links to your posts and comments from the previous week. You’ll also include short updates on your experience from the past week and your blogging plans for the week ahead.

You’ll get a grade for each week’s worth of work (√, √+, √-), which includes your weekly post and any extra work you do (note this in your memo). If you like to think in terms of points, imagine that each week is worth 10 points that I score in roughly 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 each 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.

First due dates:

  • A list of five possible ideas for your first posts (from each student) – due in-class Tuesday, March 6
  • Create your group blog in WordPress and email me the link – due Friday, March 9
  • 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 11
  • Your group’s first post: A focused mission statement for your group’s blog – must be posted by Monday, March 12 (this is in addition to scheduled weekly posts)

Group Assignments

Group 1

  • Hunter Homistek
  • Erin Fitzwilliams
  • Michael Carvelli
  • Autumn Lonon
  • Joey Simson

Group 2

  • Marshal Carper
  • Matt Murphy
  • Candace Nelson
  • Greer Hughes
  • Anan Wan

Group 3

  • Matt Wolford
  • Sarah Cordonier
  • Breanne Hill
  • Katie Sloane

Group 4

  • Ben Scott
  • Matt Krauza
  • Ali Young
  • Mary Power

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

Read & Respond – Week 9

March 1, 2012

You’re all pretty busy at the moment, so this week’s reading will go in a different direction. 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 a few of the group blogs from the past few years and see what you think.

The blogs are:

Masticate Morgantown (2010)

Motown Entertainment (2010)

Move-in Morgantown (2010)

MountainEats (2011)

Mountaineer Life (2011)

The Eclectic (2011)

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Morgantown (2011)

Pick two of these blogs (ideally one from each year) and respond in depth (similar to how we critiqued each others’ personal blogs). What are they about? Is there a clear focus? What are some of their strongest posts? Weakest? Finally, and most importantly, what would you have done differently (and how does that influence your own group blog plans)?

Don’t forget to incorporate how Briggs’ thoughts and suggestions on conversation factor into the work you read. Do you see a conversation in the group blogs you’ve read, or are they just talking to themselves? Your response is due as a comment to this post by noon, Monday, March 5.