How to Plan an Online News Project

If I had to pick only one difference between the mindset of print and online journalists, it’s the way they plan. Online journalists are more likely to have to collaborate with a large group, they are often working on longer time horizons on products that has longer shelf-lives. They are dealing with lots of smaller moving pieces and have to try to get management approval using static words and images to represent a project that will have a lot of animation and user-driven customization.

So, if you want to work online doing something other than breaking news you have to learn how to plan. In my experience, any online project — from an election returns database to a deadline explainer on the capture of Saddam Hussein — needs six things:

  1. A product concept
  2. A storyboard
  3. Asset management
  4. A clear workflow
  5. A financial budget
  6. A testing and quality assurance procedure

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Site Critiques and Story Ideas

Our Public Affairs Reporting for New Media class is transitioning from the first to second phase of the semester, and I’ve blogged about it a bit more over at https://www.ibiblio.org/newsdesk/apples/sp09/blogs/ryan-thornburg

In the first phase, we’ve been cramming on learning more about the topic of dropouts in North Carolina and also cramming on learning the tools and techniques of online journalism. We’re now starting to think about some of our initial content creation.

In two blog posts, I summarize our critiques of other online news projects as well as our initial brainstorm of story ideas.

Bootcamp: Data Driven Journalism

So much of the training and retraining of journalists seems to be focused on getting them to be multimedia reporters, backpack journalists or one of the other buzzwords we use for collecting audio and visual content and presenting it online.

Multimedia is one of three things that make online journalism different from offline journalism, but the other two things — interactivity and user-control — depend largely on journalists understanding data driven journalism. This isn’t about numbers, but about structured data. Here’s a bootcamp that’s intended to introduce journalists to the tools and concepts of structured data and data driven journalism.

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If Wikipedia Says It Loves You, Check It Out

The idea of using social media to report a story is appalling to some journalists. They have a certain germophobia when it comes to the Internet. Because it is littered with rumor and lies, they never use it as a source for a story, they say. They’re right, of course. Social media like Twitter and Wikipedia are littered with rumor and lies, but so are most city halls and almost every other place journalists ply their trade.

Social media, I tell my students who have been scared away from it by other professors and editors, are like all sources — a great place to start and a lousy place to finish.

Armed with the same skepticism and curiosity with which I treat any other source, I try to teach students to stop worrying and love the hyperlink.

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