In response to Scott Pelley: responsibility trumps urgency

Scott Pelley

In Scott Pelley’s acceptance speech for the Fred friendly First Amendment Award, he discussed the detrimental effects journalists can face when they put the glory of being first to report, over the duty and responsibility of reporting the facts and reporting accurately.

One of the biggest factors contributing to this trend of irresponsible journalism is the use of social media as a source in news stories.

The use of social media in journalism is hotly debated and most journalists at some point have probably had this discussion in their newsroom by now. This relatively new medium gets a lot of heat for being the cause to gossip, controversy and falsity of fact, nut when used responsibly, I believe social media can be a great tool for journalists.

Not only does trending topic and social buzz help journalists see public opinion and understand what stories will attract readers, social media has the potential to work as an infinite source for story TIPS.

No, not that kind of tips. But if you feel so inclined to, feel free to send money. I accept cash, check, money order, raccoon pelts, and certain foreign coinage.

No, not that kind of tips. But if you feel so inclined to, feel free to send money. I accept cash, check, money order, raccoon pelts, and certain foreign coinage.

I capitalize the word TIPS for a reason. What journalists find on social media should never be reported as fact. A good journalist always questions their sources and this situation should be no different. As long as the situation is deemed appropriate (the source is not experiencing trauma, dealing loss of a lost one, etc.) then journalists should consider contacting someone as a potential source based on the knowledge they may have based on their post.

From there, a journalist should always double-check the information they are given and verify sources.

Speed of publishing a story is important because it effects the newsworthiness of the information, however, accuracy trumps all when it comes to journalism and in the long run, consistent accuracy will gain better reputation and more reader loyalty than being the first to break a story.

Washington Posts up

To my shock, the Washington Post surpassed the New York Times in online traffic. The breakdown of factors leading up to this are explained in this article from

New York Times is the bottom frog.

New York Times is the bottom frog.

The Washington Post is owned as of 2013 by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. It is no surprise that Bezos took the Post’s online presence and helped it for the better, but taking the lead over the Times is still above and beyond what I, and I’m sure many others, expected.

What the Post is doing right is taking strong action in social media and mobile presence. As the Internet gets bigger, the screens are getting smaller. The Times is held up by a strong tradition of reliable reporting and consistent design, but unfortunately, those standards are not going to transcend with the next generation of news consumers.

Building strong ties with young people is important for news sources. While it may not bring in huge numbers of hits right away, it will over time grow a loyalty that will give the people of the news source job security.

Interactive online graphic reveals comprehensive list of data breaches

So what I am about to discuss is pretty, as the kids say, cool.

David McCandless, a data journalist and information designer from London, created an interactive online graphic  that displays the world’s biggest data breaches from 2005 until October 2015.

"BUBBLES" -that one fish from Finding Nemo

“BUBBLES” -that one fish from Finding Nemo

This graphic was linked to a brief blog from the Online Journalism blog that briefly mentions the UK government’s current attempt “to force internet and telecomms service providers to store data on the internet and phone activity of every citizen.”

As an aspiring designer, I must say this graphic is seriously rad (professionalism is a trait I have clearly yet to develop). The most repetitive-head-banging-on-desk-inducing situation a designer ever has to experience is when a client hands you 500 words of copy and 7 years worth of data and asks you to put it in a space that is about the size of a business card, and emphasizes how it needs to be pretty and easy to read.

Actual footage of a designer after speaking to a client with unrealistic expectations.

Actual footage of a designer after speaking to a client with unrealistic expectations.

Designing data is a skill that only the best of the best can do well, and McCandless has nailed it with this graphic. It is visually appealing, easy to read, and the interactive aspect is very appealing to an online setting. One of the advantages online media has over print or broadcast is that the possibilities for direct interaction are endless, whether it be communicative interaction or graphic like we see here.

Even the most intelligent of humans are drawn to the most simple and mindless activities. Clicking around at bubbles is an incredible way to learn about something as boring as data breaches. Well done McCandless.

Flexible web design in journalism

As we are being graded on the evolution of our blog designs this week, I find it quite fitting to comment on a blog discussing flexible website design.

This post references the New York Times and their online adaptations after the recent attacks on Paris. Their normal two-column headlines were replaced with five-column headlines to accommodate the huge news story.

Having this much room for a headline is every editor's dream come true. It is our equivalent to Trump's immigration wall of bigotry.

Having this much room for a headline is every editor’s dream come true. It is our equivalent to Trump’s immigration wall of bigotry.

The New York Times have mastered the simple homepage design. The use of black and white in addition to the classic typefaces used are immediately recognizable as belonging to the Times, but also gives room for change, especially when the change is quick.

Breaking news cannot be predicted and news outlets have to have the ability to adapt when that news breaks. During the Paris attacks, nothing else was ,ore prominent and most of the people searching news outlets, were searching for this coverage. We give readers what they want and what is newsworthy. In this case, this was it.

Both of these front pages were modified in light of tragedy to accommodate a huge story. Newspapers rarely use such large photos or dedicate one page to one subject, but with huge news it is necessary to change.

In print, like in these two issues above, we have seen special editions for huge news stories or even holiday issues and special editions. That specialized touch gains loyalty with readers and it is important that that continues online. Leaving room for flexible website design is key for this reason.

Ad blocks lead to cash blocks

AdBlock article

As I fumbled around feedly this afternoon, I found this article addressing how AdBlocks create problems for digital news sites.

We have talked about paywalls and using advertising to generate revenue, but I never thought about the issue of AdBlock software and how that throws a very large wrench into making money with online journalism.


Talk to the hand, ads.

Talk to the hand, ads.

I am 100% guilty of having a hot and passionate love affair with Adblock on Google Chrome. I always feel like a little rebel when I dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge away from pesky pop-ups or commercials during online television viewing.

That thrill of rebellion quickly goes away when I run into a website *cough* * *cough* *coughcoughhackcough* that has outsmarted the software and makes you disable it before you watching your favorite superheroes fight crime in Star and Central City… ya know, for a general example that may or may not pertain to my life.

This is a completely coincidental image...

This is a completely coincidental image…

As frustrating as it is, websites who avoid the AdBlock are really just trying to make the best business decisions for themselves, and I am sure I would do the same thing if I were running a news website, or perhaps a streaming service that provides the best television comic book series ever.

AdBlock is great as a viewer, but as far as for business, I must say, it’s probably gotta go.

My Top 10 Travel Destinations

Ashley’s Top 10

Colons in online headlines: optimizing SEO easily

As I scoured feedly this week, I came across a blog titled “Online Journalism Blog.” You could say I hit the jackpot of useful blog topics.

Actual footage from when I found the blog.

Actual footage from when I found the blog.


As I flipped through articles, I found one discussing SEO optimization in headlines. For those who have not completely given up for the semester, you should remember we had an entire week dedicated to this very topic and I felt it would be a great topic to blog about this week. After now two very relevant finds on feedly I felt like butter… I was on roll.

"Get off me," -Roll.

“Get off me,” -Roll.

This article labeled colons as the king of SEO optimization. It helps add more key words to your headline and keep the main words at the beginning of the headline- two important rules for SEO. The article gave a slew of examples of successful headlines involving colons which made it easier to understand different ways colons can be used.

After reading this, it became apparent to me that I am definitely more prone to click on a headline structured this way with a colon than one without. I think what makes it so appealing to readers is the amount of information it allows for. They can be a little lengthy, but I would rather read a little more in the headline and know I want to read about that topic, than waste my time reading an article that had a vague headline.

Headlines with colons I believe also help writers because it is easier to complete a thought. I can’t count how many times I have struggled writing headlines because the standard “something-did-something” structure of a headline does not make it easy to iterate the point of an article.

SEO is the ultimate goal for all online publishers and I firmly believe colons are an easy way to reach that goal.

Playing the journalism name game

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The New York Time’s After Deadline posted today discussing every journalist’s worst nightmare: spelling someone’s name wrong.

My junior year of high school I was one of four people who read off the name of the graduating seniors at that year’s graduation ceremony. At graduation rehearsal, everyone had a chance to hear us say their name and correct us if we were wrong, and correct us they did. People take their name very seriously and seeing or hearing it pronounced incorrectly can make them feel unimportant and ruin their day.

As journalists we have a commitment to accuracy and a simple task like checking the names of sources is the least we can do to preserve our reputation. As an editor it always feels like it takes centuries to get pages approved to print, so it is especially irritating when  you know through that lengthy process, nobody caught the misspelling. But the blame for something like that does not fall on one person, it is a group effort.

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It is easy as an editor to blame your writers and it is easy to make excuses like “I have a lot to do, copy editors should have caught that” or “writers should be trusted to get names right” but that needs to be avoided. Any published mistakes are on everyone’s shoulders and can only be used as a learning experience, not a way to point fingers and take out aggression.

The editing process is almost always stressful at some point, but it is important that everyone takes their time and does their job well despite ridiculous situations. It may feel like a waste of time to search every name, but that small annoyance will be easier to deal with than the annoyance of a lengthy email the next day ripping you a new one for your carelessness.

Good news for media wanting payment

YouTube Red

YouTube-logo-full_color (1)

YouTube executives came out today with the announcement of YouTube Red- a paid subscription that will allow users to see the same content that they have loved for years, completely ad free. The site will also include YouTube Originals which will consist of original content that can only be viewed with the $10 per month subscription.

Initially this idea seems to be absurd. As someone who grew up with the rise of YouTube, I remember when YouTube wasn’t crawling with ads, for free, and I feel a sense of nostalgia thinking about the times when the Internet was almost always free of cost. I can’t see myself ever paying for a website that I can already view for free, but I am not horribly bothered by advertising in the first place. I am the same person who bears through Spotify ads that try to convince me to pay for Spotify Premium constantly tells WordPress I do not want to bother with paying for an original domain name.

But as a journalist, seeing that YouTube Red is already anticipated to be successful is exciting because that means the culture of paying for Internet content is growing. The generations coming up who did not grow up with free YouTube will see things like this new service and will grow an acceptance and rationale for paying for online services. This means that hopefully these people will also want to pay for their news online, meaning that online journalism may one day actually pay my bills.

I can’t imagine a time where kids run home from school and instead of asking for money for the ice cream man, they ask for money to watch YouTube. But it seems like the ice cream men are fairly stable financially, so hopefully Internet sensations and journalists will turn out the same way. download

The race for the democratic nomination

Democratic nomination overview


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