Read & Respond week 8: More Images

September 27, 2018

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 data (we’ll focus on data more intently a few weeks from now), typically in terms of where, when and how much of something compares to something else. Graphics you’re likely familiar with include 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?

Lastly, as we segue into a focus on data, check out Google’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 this with your personal or group blog?

Remember, your responses are due by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, September 30, as a comment to this post. There’s no Briggs this week, so just focus on your thoughts on these graphics readings.


Group Blog Teams (fall 2018)

September 24, 2018

Sorting for your fall 2018 group blog teams is now complete! I went through your existing blogs and the comments you left on last week’s assignment to sort you by complementary interests, styles, and so on. The more detail you provided, the better a fit I was likely to find. Today in class, you will meet in your groups to solidify your concepts and start identifying stories.

Group 1: NAME TK

  • Kenna Richards
  • Alexis Piatkowski
  • Megan Irwin
  • Dan Walsh

Group 2: NAME TK

  • Marshall Kesterson
  • AJ Barnes
  • Brooke Hawthorne
  • Aaron Host
  • Christine Robinson

Group 3: NAME TK

  • Katie Forcade
  • Patrick Kotnik
  • Xavier Leroy
  • Olivia VanHorn

Group 4: NAME TK

  • Erica Young
  • Brie Autry
  • Alex Balog
  • Taylor Brown
  • Te’a DiNapoli

 

Group Blog Planning Assignment #2

In today’s class, you’ll be meeting to work out the initial details of whatever it is you’ll be doing for the final five weeks of the semester. On Monday, Oct. 1, your group will present its concept to the class along with several specific story pitches. As a group, you will print and submit the following as a (stapled) six-page packet:

  • Page 1: The title of your blog and a detailed description
  • Pages 2-5: One page from each member with SIX short story pitches. These must be complete sentences. The stories you pitch should be specific, explain why we should care and suggest several potential sources with contact information.
  • Page 6: A tentative posting schedule (Monday-Thursday) for the final five weeks of the semester.

All this material can be changed, but you must have it in hand at the START of Monday’s class (or the group will receive a deduction). I recommend collaborating together in Google Docs so you don’t all have to be together at the same time. NOTE: Don’t create an actual blog on WordPress yet – that comes later.


Read & Respond week 7: Images

September 20, 2018

The next two weeks are all about visuals, and in this 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? In Briggs’ chapter on visual storytelling, think about his advice and note the example experts he gives. 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:

  • First, a must-read: How 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 that 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.

Apps:

GIFs:

Remember, your responses are due by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, September 23, as a comment to this post.


Assignment #5: Blog-a-Day Week!

September 19, 2018

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 sprints, but this week will be a 5K. Beginning on Monday, Sept. 24, you will post something EVERY day to your personal blog for a week (Monday-Friday) between regular blogging hours of 10-4. 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 posts, 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.
  • Scoring (10 pts total): Your Thursday (Sept. 27) post counts for your required weekly post (5 pts each) and is NOT part of the assignment. The remaining four posts are worth 2.5 pts each (10 total). Same-day and late posts receive NO credit, so make sure they’re up on time!

DUE: Every day from Monday, Sept. 24 – Sunday, Sept. 28 (five posts in all)

So that’s it. Daunting, but I promise you’ll survive and learn some new skills. THIS is what a full-time blogger does. 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!


Group Blogs: Pitching Your Ideas

September 17, 2018

For the final third of the semester (weeks 11-15), you will be creating, promoting and maintaining focused group blogs. In preparation, and to identify similar interests, each of you will propose a group blog concept and a list of potential stories. I’ll use these to determine group assignments, which we’ll finalize in class. Use the group blogs you reviewed in this week’s read & respond to identify ideas you think will work (and those you think NEED work).

Post a comment (to this post) with a pitch for a group blog concept by 10 a.m. Wednesday, September 19. This must contain the following:

  • A one-paragraph description of a group blog concept focused on some aspect of Morgantown life (no activities calendar blogs!). Other regions (e.g., West Virginia; other cities) can also be your focus as long as you’re able to cover them.
  • A tentative title for this blog concept
  • At least FIVE story ideas. Use complete sentences and address why this story matters. For example: “A few years back, downtown Morgantown saw an explosion of eCigarette shops, but today many of these have closed. Is vaping on its way out?” Include at least two potential sources for each!

We’ll go through these comments in our next class. By the end of class, you must post comments to TWO concepts that you’d be interested in contributing to (more than two is fine), and let the creator know what you’d bring to the table. This will determine who you’ll be working with for the last five weeks of the semester, so make your best case!


Read & Respond week 6: Group Blogs Past

September 13, 2018

In preparation for your group blogs (into which you’ll be sorted this week), you’ll be taking a look into the past. There’s no Briggs chapter for this week; instead, you’ll take a leisurely read through what has come before. Read the following:

First, read one of these:

Morgantown Problems (2013) or Morgantown Nightlife (2017). These are two of the most engaged group blogs produced in this class, and I want everyone to have a look (especially Morgantown Problems’ Panera post and its resulting comment thread).

Then, skim at least TWO other previous group blogs from this list:

Move-in Morgantown (2010)

MountainEats (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)

Morgantown Man Cave (2013)

Meet Me in the Mountain State (2015)

A Gentleman’s Guide to Morgantown (2015)

Wild But Not So Wonderful (2015)

Humans of Morgantown (2016 spring)

Morgantown Matters (2016 spring)

Morgantown Underground (2016 spring)

The New Motown (2016 spring)

Business of Morgantown (2016 fall)

Morgantown Notes (2016 fall)

Mountaineer Munchies (2016 fall)

Conserve the Wild and Wonderful (2017)

Morgantown Diversity (2017)

WVU Women’s Health (2017)

Your response will focus on the blogs (one from the first group and two others) 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? Your response is due as a comment to this post by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, September 16.


Assignment #4: Twitter Scavenger Hunt!

September 12, 2018

It’s time! Every year, our class takes to the streets for a Twitter scavenger hunt. Thus far, many of you have probably only used Twitter for personal posting, but it’s a powerful tool for reporting and newsgathering, and the best way to learn about this is to do it. For the remainder of class today (Wednesday, September 12), you’re heading out into the world in teams of two (at least one of you needs a phone with the Twitter app) to find 10 things. You’ll need to complete the bulk of this assignment by the end of class.

IMPORTANT: To count, each tweet MUST include:

  • A photo
  • The number you are doing (e.g., 1. Joe Smith: “I love WVU”) – Without these, I can’t guess which entry you’re checking off (which means no credit)!
  • The hashtag: #WVUblogJ

So a sample tweet might look like this:

“3. Prof. Biggins (Econ): It’s made protesting easier, but also more identifiable. #WVUblogJ”

Restrictions: No College of Media students, and please don’t all mob the same professor. No more than half can come from the same building, so don’t just hang around Evansdale Crossing or the Rec Center – try heading downtown!

FIRST!

Each member of your team must post an introductory tweet with a photo of your team so readers (and I) know what to expect. Don’t forget the course hashtag!

And now … the list!

  1. School spirit: Photo and quote from someone (not you or your partner) revealing school or civic spirit (what that means is up to you).
  2. Eating Up: Photo and quote from someone (not you or your partner) at a restaurant, coffee shop or bar on or near campus. Why do they eat here?
  3. Professor on the street. Photo and quote from a professor on campus. Ask them what role they think social media plays in our society today. Be sure you include the professor’s title and department.
  4. Student on the street. Photo and quote from a student (not you or your partner). Ask them where they get their news and if they use social media to keep up on the news. Be sure you include their year in school and major.
  5. Academic excellence. Photo and quote that reveals (you are going to have to be creative) how our university contributes to cutting edge research and/or learning.
  6. Scenic spot. Photo of a distinctive scenic spot on or near campus.
    • 2016 rule: No photos of Woodburn Hall. We get it! It’s in all the brochures!
    • 2017 rule: No photos from the top of Evansdale Crossing. It’s very pretty, but I’ve seen enough of it.
  7. Little-known fact. Photo and detail of something you think many people might not know about your school or campus or city.
  8. Fanatic fans – Photo/quote from somebody asking for their take on NC State cancelling this weekend’s game against WVU due to Hurricane Florence.
  9. Extracurricular extravaganza: Photo and quote/detail that exemplify some of the huge variety of clubs, organizations, etc. available to students at our university.
  10. WVU Weird: Photo and detail of the strangest thing you can find in WVU or Morgantown. See if you can out-weird your classmates!

Extra Credit? Sure, why not? Add something beyond the standard requirements above, and I’ll consider an extra point or so. It should be clearly above and beyond the norm, and determining what constitutes “extra” is solely at my discretion.

DUE: You need to make most of your 10 tweets during our regular class time of 10-11:15a (one or two stragglers are acceptable), and your team must be done by 1p today. You’re expected to use class time to work on this, so if there’s a long delay to your start, it will affect your grade.

A Few Tips:

  • Think like a reporter. Have an eagle eye for the interesting, the important, the relevant, the unique, and the immediate. Double check your facts.
  • Think like a public relations professional. Show other people what’s cool about WVU.
  • Think like a storyteller. You may only have 280 characters in each tweet (actually less, once you subtract numbers, links and hashtags), but you can say a lot in a few words or using an image.
  • You may use more than one Tweet for each of the items below. Don’t overdo it, though, and don’t forget the #WVUblogJ hashtag for each!
  • 280 characters isn’t much. Try using other apps and tactics to allow you to say more.

This is going to seem a little strange to some of you, but the goal is to reveal to you the journalistic applications of Twitter. You need to be an observer, a reporter, and you can’t be afraid to accost people on the street for their opinions. You’ll provide perspective and voice, and you’ll tell a larger audience something about your subject (WVU, in this case) – make sure you’re thinking of them!