Case Study: Link Journalism With Publish2

I start every semester in my online news classes teaching students the fundamental concepts of HTML. Not primarily because I want them to know the technology, but because I want them to appreciate that for all the bells, whistles and buzzwords it is the lowly link that makes online journalism fundamentally different than offline journalism.

If journalism is a conversation, I tell them, the first key to being a good conversationalist is being a good listener. You’d never walk in to a party and just hijack the first conversation you come across. You listen, wait and figure out what you can add and how you can move the discussion. Putting this analogy in to practice with links from your site to another site is the first step in developing authentic conversational leadership.

After all, the man who invented the hyperlink also hypothesized this role for journalists.

This semester, we are putting this concept in to practice in the site we’re building for Public Affairs Reporting for New Media. Using Publish2, the students are getting to practice “link journalism.” The site is now live, and here’s how we’re starting to build it out.

The first step was to set up a newsgroup on Publish2. As students find resources on the Web, they bookmark them, add keyword tags and add their own commentary or questions about the resource.

From there, I used Publish2’s widgets and RSS feeds to pull the students’ links in to the Drupal CMS we are using to build the site. The links live in three places:

  • They live on the homepage, for now, under the heading of “Sites We’re Reading and Discussing”
  • They will be used to populate the “Resources” page for the duration of the project.
  • Finally, under the “Blogs” menu item you will see that each student has a place reserved for his or her blog that we’ll soon be starting. On those pages, I used each of the widgets associated with each of the students’ Publish2 links to populate a section on the right of the page called “Other Sites I’m Reading”

We’re meeting with our newspaper partners for the first time tomorrow, which will hopefully begin to allow us to expand our use of Publish2 in two more ways:

  • The Publish2 widgets and RSS feeds we are creating are freely available for re-publication on any other site. Papers such as the Chicago Tribune and New York Times are already using Publish2 to power some pages.
  • We hope that professional journalists will also begin to join our Publish2 Newsgroup and help us build a list of common resources and conversations about developing storylines around the low graduation rates that are becoming a state and national epidemic.
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