Read & Respond week 12 – Images

March 26, 2015

This week is all about visuals. In 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, and 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 – what are others? Skim around this list and identify some options you might be able to apply to making your blogging more visual.

Photos:

  • Some of you are photographers. Many of you aren’t. Here’s a crash course on using a point-and-shoot camera for your blog (from Mindy McAdams’ excellent Journalists’ Toolkit)
  • Photoblogs: These blog-like formats are focused 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.
  • Tumblr provides a resource for frictionless sharing of images. Check out some of 2014’s best.

Graphics:

  • Free graphic tools are everywhere. Here are 10 good ones.
  • Wolfram Alpha: Create an account and ask it a data-related question (e.g., “How long does it take to play Monopoly?“).
  • ManyEyes: This one might seem a little dense, but poke around for a bit. Look at the existing examples. Figure out how to upload your own data (past examples include things like data maps but also the full text of Grimm’s fairy tales).
  • Wordle: A simple tool for creating word clouds.

GIFs:

Sure, they’re short and silly, but journalists use them too. Is confining an idea to a seconds-long clip any stranger than limiting it to a 140-character tweet, or a six-second Vine?

Remember, your responses are due by 10 a.m. Monday, March 30, as a comment to this post.

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Read & Respond week 10: Promotion and Comment Culture

March 12, 2015

This week we’ll be talking about talking: How to get people talking about your work (promotion) and how to deal with those who are talking about it (commenters). The links you’ll be looking through touch on each of these areas. Lots of material here, so skim to the stuff that serves you.

Promotion

  • How do you promote your blog? Start with this list – we’ve already discussed several (commenting elsewhere; building long-term content). Pay particular attention to the Rule of 100.
  • Learn about SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Jeff Goins offers some tactics for writing SEO heds and posts, but beware – there can be a fine line between SEO and Clickbait.
  • (Then again, maybe it’s all Clickbait…)
  • Are you using Twitter as a tool or still just tweeting about mozzarella sticks with your buddies? If you just can’t adulterate your personal account, consider making a separate one to get your professional name out there.

Comments

Remember to respond to these readings (including Briggs) in a comment to this post by 10 a.m. on Monday, March 16. More importantly, come prepared to discuss these examples and, ideally, some of your own.


Your Group Blog Project

March 11, 2015

Beginning in two weeks (Monday, March 30) and continuing through the end of the term, you’ll create, maintain, and promote 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 requiring everyone’s strengths. The result should be a robust and engaging addition to your portfolio that will set you apart in the job market. If everyone does their own thing and there is no cohesive focus to the blog, you will do poorly.

Don’t. Just don’t.

There will be no restaurant, local entertainment, advice, or graduation-themed blogs. Unsourced lists are frowned upon. Do not use clichés such as “eclectic” or “something for everyone” – define a focus and an audience. Posting recipes will be cause for execution.

Weekly requirements:

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.

  • Individual posts: 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 (Monday-Friday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.). If you miss your deadlines, you will get lowered (or no) credit for that post.
  • Weekly budget: Every Sunday (beginning March 29), 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 which big or longer-term stories you are pursuing.
    • Promotion: What will your group do this week to publicize your blog and connect to a larger community? (This might involve posting to social media but should also involve HOW you post – experiment with time, wording, etc.)
  • Weekly memo: Each person will send this every Sunday (beginning April 5)
    • Post: Provide details and a link to your work.
    • Comments: 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). Link to these in your weekly memo.
    • 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 April 5), 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. I use this to grade your quality of work, so if you’ve done more than post, tell me about it!

 

You’ll get a grade for each week’s worth of work, which includes your weekly post, contribution to the group memo, and any extra work you do (note this in your memo). If you like to think in terms of points, imagine that I score in roughly the following way:

  • 40%: Content — Is it interesting? Relevant to your blog’s focus? Fresh?
  • 30%: Connection — Quality and relevance of the link(s) you included in the post
  • 30%: Mechanics — Grammar, spelling, punctuation and appropriate style
  • Bonus points! … for HTML, outside comments, etc.—beyond-the-call stuff. If you’re the editor-in-chief or have other special duties, let me know!

Because you’re each only expected to post once a week (more is allowed), I’ll expect the writing and ideas to be especially sharp – we’re not looking for long reviews. What matters more than the number of posts is the overall quality of the body of work.

First due dates:

  • A blog concept statement and list of five possible ideas for your first posts (from each student) – due as a single six-page packet in-class Monday, March 16
  • Your group blog’s URL and About page with a focused mission statement – must be posted (email the URL) by the start of class Wednesday, March 18
  • 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 29
  • Your group’s first post: Must be posted between 9a – 4p, Monday, March 30

Group Assignments

  • Group 1: Abdulaziz, Renata, Kristen, Lauren, Collen
  • Group 2: Carley, Sierra, Karly, Mike, Logan
  • Group 3: Chad, Alex, Paige, Sara, Tyler
  • Group 4: Dillon, Joe, Steven, Matt, Ryan

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 Dashboard, select “Users” from the left bar
  • Under “Invite New,” 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: Group Blogs Past

March 9, 2015

In preparation for your group blogs (to be announced in Wednesday’s class), you’ll be taking a look into the past. You’re reading Briggs Chapter 10, on the newsgathering conversation, and I want you to combine that with a leisurely read through what has come before. In addition to that, I want you to read TWO of the following:

1. Morgantown Problems (2013): This is one of the best group blogs produced in this class, and I want everyone to have a look (especially the Panera post and its resulting comment thread).

2. At least ONE of the other previous group blogs (see list):

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)

Graduation Preparation (2012)

A “J” in the Life (2012)

Mountaineers Connect (2012)

#gradschoolproblems (2012)

Almost Heaven Entertainment (2013)

Morgantown Man Cave (2013)

Your response will focus on the two blogs (Morgantown Problems and one other) and what they did. What are they about? Is there a clear focus? What are some of their strongest posts? Weakest? (yes, you have to pick one – be constructive) 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 10a, Wednesday, March 11 (later than usual due to Monday’s class being cancelled).