February 22, 2019
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. Monday, February 25, as a comment to this post.
February 16, 2019
The next two weeks are all about visuals. In this first 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? Yes, photos are ONE possibility, but what are others? Skim around this list and identify some options you might be able to apply to making your blogging more visual.
- 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 an 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.
Your responses are due by 2 p.m. Tuesday, February 19 (I’ve extended this to account for your group blog assignment being due this weekend) as a comment to this post.
February 8, 2019
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 two sets of readings I’d like you to choose from:
First, read one of these:
Morgantown Problems (2013), Morgantown Nightlife (2017), or Transpo in the Mo (2018). These are three 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)
The Eclectic (2011)
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Morgantown (2011)
Graduation Preparation (2012)
A “J” in the Life (2012)
Mountaineers Connect (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)
Old & New in the Gold & Blue (2018)
Bleeding Blue and Gold (2018)
Wild and Weird (2018)
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. Monday, February 11.
February 1, 2019
This week is about all things Twitter, the platform where your thoughts are limited to
140 280 characters or less. We’ve got some neophytes in our class, so first, have a poke around in some of these how-to links:
Getting more into the realm of journalism and mass communication, skim through these suggestions and warnings:
And now for the important part. There’s a current debate over whether Twitter does more harm than good. Read (don’t skim these ones) these next two and see what you think:
In your response, I’d like you to respond specifically to these two viewpoints. Never tweet? ALWAYS tweet? Something in between? Give us some examples that illustrate your stance and why it’ll make the world (or at least journalism) better!
Before you go…
Finally (if you haven’t already) you need to get ON Twitter. You’ve got four things to do:
- Create an account if you don’t have one (or want to use a different one for class), and make sure it is public (not hidden).
- Follow at least 10 people and tweet at least five times. Try using some hashtags (#) and tag (@) some people (start with your classmates and me if you’re anxious).
- Follow me (@thebobthe) so I can follow you back.
- Tweet something useful to our class to our course hashtag #WVUblogJ
As always, post your response as a comment to this post (and finish your Twitter duties) by 11:59 p.m. Monday, February 4.
January 25, 2019
This week, we’ll be talking about connections, both the in-person links that create crowds and the digital ones that create, well, the Internet. Briggs talks specifically about “crowdsourcing” – what do you understand that term to mean? The term “the wisdom of crowds” was popularized by James Surowiecki, but it’s been around for a while. Some take issue with the idea that crowds actually have any particular wisdom; a crowd, after all is just a thrown rock away from a mob. Here’s a little tune on the subject from Nova:
Moving on to links and linking, consider some ideas from these posts:
You will need to post your response as a comment to this post no later than 11:59 p.m. Monday, Jan. 28. Keep it concise and relevant, and provide some useful examples!
January 18, 2019
This week, we’ll go back to where it all got started. As you learn to be a more effective online communicator, it helps to know more about where online communication came from. First: A video clip!
History of the Internet
After viewing that, skim one or more of these links (they’re meaty, reference-heavy sources, so just get an overview):
From the early internet, the road leads to the social Web, and that road is littered with the corpses of early efforts. Ever hear of Friendster? It’s arguably the first major social networking site … and it’s dead now. MySpace is still out there, populated by some hardcore oddballs, but it’s nothing like it once was. And we predict The Death Of Facebook pretty much every year. The argument has been made (seemingly every year) that social media as we know it is about to change. What do you think?
Is the Internet something invented by an individual? What’s a specific surprising event you found in the timelines? What do you think keeps a social media site alive, and what comes next? Remember, your response is due as a comment to this post no later than 11:59 p.m. on Monday, January 21.
January 11, 2019
How do I do these?
First, an overview of how these will typically work. I’ll put up a post here most every Thursday afternoon with some links to online readings in line with the week’s theme. You are required to post a response to these readings no later than 11:59 p.m. on Monday. You’ll post that response as a comment in reply to the week’s Read & Respond blog post (like this one).
Regarding length, there’s not a word count, but they should be long enough to address the question(s) and express a coherent thought (look at previous posts for examples). You don’t need to cite all the links, but you should reference a meaningful number of them. Be clear and concise (they’re only worth 2.5 points after all), but do cover your bases.
Now on with this week’s assignment!
As you work to develop your blog’s focus, consider a suggestion from Mark Briggs’ “Journalism Next“: “It’s not about you” (remember: “Nobody Cares”). What can you write about that gets beyond yourself and meaningfully adds to the ongoing conversation? How can you identify a community with issues that you can participate in and cover? See what examples you can draw from the links below to bolster your ideas.
Now read The Case Against News We Can Choose. This is a classic piece from 2010 by journalist Ted Koppel that gets into those filter bubble and “Daily Me” issues that persist today.
After that, pick a few blogs from this list. The content might not be your interest, but that’s not the point. Look at the structures: How do they use sources, and what kinds of sources do they use? How do they build their stories? How visible is the author’s opinion and voice? Are they single-authored or group blogs?
- Coal Tattoo (this WV blog has been dormant since mid-2018, but it’s still one of the best examples of covering a community and its issue, and its author, Ken Ward Jr., is a WVU alum! Check out his Twitter account)
- The New York Times’ blog directory (pick one or two)
- Talking Points Memo (politics)
- Deadspin (sports news without access, favor or discretion – feel free to explore the other Gizmodo blogs linked at the top instead)
- Footnoted (corporate filings, but don’t automatically skip for that reason – great example of mining a REALLY specific focus)
- DailyKos (VERY liberal and opinionated but also one of the oldest blogs still thriving today)
- SCOTUSblog (law blog about the Supreme Court and its decisions – they’re on Twitter too)
- AP Style Blog (fewer links and more expertise-driven than you’ll be doing in class, but notice how timely its posts are – their Twitter feed is often funny)
For your response, consider the questions above. I’d like you to identify some techniques from the blogs you’ve read and discuss how they could be applied to your first post. In addition, are there any other blogs you’d suggest? Be specific – even though may not have settled on a concept yet, write about some of the options you’re considering and suggest what you could do for a first post.
You will need to respond to these readings in a comment on this post no later than 11:59 p.m. Monday, January 14. A few things to make sure of:
- You’ll be posting from your WordPress account, so make sure you’re logged in! If your name isn’t clear from your username, please add it in to the post (so you can get credit).
- Remember that your first comments won’t show up until I approve them, so don’t panic (but feel free to email me if you’re concerned).
- Specifically address the readings, but don’t just summarize – build on them!