How do you tell a story that’s already been told?

SI-LogoSports Illustrated’s Thomas Lake recently did a Q and A with Poynter.

Lake talks about a lot of things throughout the process of the story. It’s a great look into what a reporter goes through. Lake, who is part of the premiere sports magazine in the country, was still denied access to Tebow time and again.

So, he started at the bottom. He pulled up a list of Tebow’s former teammates in college and ended up talking to his former roommate at Florida. This helped contribute about 4,000 words to what would be a 15,000 word, seven part story.

Eventually, Lake spoke to those in the Patriots organization when Tebow was a part of the team and was able to arrange an interview. Once released, it took him hours of negotiating to get a six minute interview face-to-face with the free agent quarterback.

It took him time to climb his way up the ladder when so few of Tebow’s inner circle wanted to avoid an interview.

I think this is a great inspiration to young writers who face challenges when assigned a story. In my job, I’m fortunate enough to choose my own story assignments, but in many ways that is something that is difficult, too.

I have to actively remember to challenge myself. I have two coaches who coach basketball and football at the same high school and they are brothers. I have considered doing a feature on them, perhaps a very in-depth one. But my editor said ‘good luck’.

The truth is that the two are not big “talkers” and might shoot down the idea immediately. But I need to try. This success story shows what the process can be like in the Big Leagues. Just because you see someone’s byline under a Sports Illustrated story doesn’t mean it wasn’t easy for them.

One other interesting thing that was mentioned in the article was the emphasis put on grammar. My grammar is not exemplary, although I would like it to be. This tidbit of information has reinforced that that is one of the areas I need to improve upon going forward in my journalism career.

All in all, a very interesting peak into the insight of what it’s like to be a real-life journalist. Something young writers should check out.SI-Logo

Instant Media: JFK

A new post recently went up on Media Bistro about what would have happened if JFK had been assassinated in 2013. Just Twitter alone has transformed the way news is digested. But sometimes it’s not always a good thing.

When the Boston Marathon bombings occurred, there was disorganized information trickling in from all kinds of sources. People did not know who was credible and who was not. This caused several to retweet people who were just tweeting to get reactions. It’s unfortunate how some people will never take situations seriously, but that’s how people are.

But Twitter was good, too. 50 years ago, cell phones weren’t around. But during the Boston Marathon bombings, a lot of cell phone usage was out due to heavy usage. This took many to Twitter using #SafeInBoston as a hashtag to let their loved ones know they were safe.

It’s incredible how much the world has changed since 1963. Live-tweeting. Updated websites. Live streaming video. They are all tools to correctly tell the story. However, it’s important to remember an ancient rule when dealing with breaking news. It is perhaps more important today than ever: Be right before being first.

What Newspapers Must Do to Get Their Fill of the Sports Pie

Pro-LeaguesWarren Packard of Thuuz Sports recently wrote a piece on the importance of sports content in America today. According to Packard, 71 percent of American men identify themselves as sports fans. Furthermore, sports programming reaches a larger market than music, movies and episodic combined.

Television companies are making billions of dollars off of this content. Sports sells newspapers, too as the saying goes. So, why are newspapers struggling so much if sports is dominating America’s culture more than ever before?

Multiple factors are in play here. First of all, it is difficult for newspapers to give readers truly exclusive content that they cannot get elsewhere for a much cheaper (or even free) price. For example, we have discussed the idea of having a paywall set up to hide specific sports content such as Packers Plus in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. However, other entities including ESPN Milwaukee, ESPN’s NFL Nation, FoxSportsWisconsin.com the Green Bay Press-Gazette (who also have a paywal), cover the Packers.

Another reason some newspapers might be struggling is because of the way blogging has added a new way to follow a team. Rather than pick up a newspaper to see how the Packers might be doing, fans could instead be tuning in by reading one of the many blogs on the blogosphere.

One thing that sports writers must learn is that while writing sports recaps, features and columns are all important, blog posts are equally important. If the newspaper covers a major college or professional sports team and does not have some sort of a blogging feature on the site, they are starving their readers of the content they want. Readers will digest it elsewhere, if the paper does not provide it. Twitter, Reddit and Facebook have provided easy ways to pick up a snippet of content.

For example, if a Green Bay Packers player has a recent commercial out (like Aaron Rodgers), fans might be interested to see a video clip of it prior or around its debut. But if a newspaper does not have a blog-like feature to insert little tidbits of content like this, it could be difficult to keep up with other competitors that utilize multimedia.

If newspapers want a piece of the pie of the great big sports world, the only way they should charge a paywall for their sports content if its worth paying extra for. Just because some uninteresting sports writers are blabbing about the team on a podcast does not mean it’s worth paying for. This is a common misconception in my eyes. Just because a writer is doing a video, does not mean it is worth watching. The multimedia needs to be crisply produced and provide analysis that is perhaps not a part of the written media. But it also should provide more than that. Podcast shows should have regular things writers can expect.

One of my favorite podcasts is done by ESPN’s fantasy football team, titled Fantasy Focus. They do a great job of balancing humor with analysis, letting their personalities show and have certain segments that listeners can expect to hear in each show and on certain days.

Emotion and Journalism: An uneasy mixture

Advancing the story recently had a nice blurb pertaining to several things I think deem worthy of mention for today’s journalists.

The first thing that Pinkston brings up is the fact that journalists need coping when dealing with a traumatic event. Personally, I can connect to this. Last year in the Royal Purple, I wrote a story about Shaymus Guinn, the son of the head men’s soccer coach at UW-Whitewater. Unfortunately, Shaymus succumbed to a three-year fight with Ewing’s Sarcoma. He was twelve years old. I was sports editor at the time, and my first thought was to pass it on to one of my writers.

I was scared to take on such an important story. It was a cowardly first instinct and I was ashamed of it. While it was my first impulse, I also knew I wouldn’t trust another soul with getting this story right. Since Shaymus had passed just weeks prior to us running the story, it was a very sensitive matter. I approached coach Guinn about it, and he agreed to do an interview. For hours I poured over every bit of information I could find on Shaymus and who he was. I wanted to be ready for this interview.

Many times my interviews for the Royal Purple would take up to 15 minutes, this one took 45. When the interview was finished, I still remember the words that Coach Guinn said to me, “Do it right, do right by him.” Those words were so powerful. I spent the weekend thinking, writing, drafting my story. I’ll admit that I was so moved by the incredible story itself…at the person Shaymus was, that at one point I burst into tears. There was just too much emotion lying there.

I finally finished my story and was proud. It felt perfect. Members of our staff told me later that they shed tears reading it. While I was glad I could pass on Shaymus’ story to others–and that they were as moved as I was, I only cared about one critic. Tony Guinn told me that it was a beautiful tribute. I was elated.

While the journey through such an emotional story was difficult, I was lucky to have a network of friends and family to talk to about the process. However, I think that writing emotional stories can be difficult at times. Like Pinkston said, it’s easier to try to remove yourself emotionally. However, I find when writing a feature story, versus more of a hard news story, you can get lost easier in the thickness of emotion because of your goal to make the reader feel.

Tweets provide instant reaction

Recently in Dallas, reporters were banned from the beginning of a town hall meeting that civilians were allowed to attend. It’s long been known that journalists have the right to be wherever the general public is permitted. However, Twitter sounded the alarm and let the reporters attend the meeting.

Locally, a similar outcry from Twitter helped spurn change. Milwaukee Hamilton forward Kevon Looney, who is one of the top high school basketball players in the country, was scheduled to an

nounce his college choice at noon on Thursday, Oct. 31. However, the morning of his decision, something that had been planned for months, Milwaukee Public Schools officials decided to nix the assembly.

Milwaukee Hamilton senior forward Kevon Looney

Milwaukee Hamilton senior forward Kevon Looney

This created a wave of outcry and confusion from Twitter. Why had they waited so long to announce that they had an issue with the announcement? 540 ESPN in Milwaukee quickly reached out to Looney (while he was at school by the way) and scheduled him to announce his decision at 2 p.m. But then MPS, amid outcry on Twitter, changed their minds and rescheduled the decision for 1 p.m. It’s still unclear why MPS made such a decision to cancel it in the first place, but the instantaneous reaction from people on Twitter led them to change their minds.

Twitter provides a way for people to send information instantly, but it also provides a platform to react instantly. This quick reaction was a way for people to invoke change both in Dallas and Milwaukee.

Retweeting that? Double-check first

Advancing the Story posted an interesting post today that fits in perfectly with what we have been discussing in class the past week.

The site gives a Top-5 list of the best practices for user-generated content. While journalism today is gearing more and more to a user-generated content mixture, it’s also possible to get too overlook rules that are important to keep in mind.

The first thing that comes to mind is Twitter. Many who have Twitter accounts retweet things without thinking. I’ll give an example. Adrian Wojnarowski of Y! is known to be the top basketball insider on the web. Whenever he reports something, he’s always right. Not only is he always accurate but he’s almost always first. It’s more important to be right, than first. And for Wojnarowski, he’s batting 1.000 for accuracy (sorry about using a baseball metaphor for a basketball story…I think there’s a rule on that…). On Twitter, it’s easy for a fake account to trick someone.

In the Twitter feed, the first two things you see are the avatar and the name. Both can easily be copied. While a Twitter handle is impossible to duplicate since there can only be one. Anyone can make an account with the name as Adrian Wojnarowski and his avatar as the photo.

However, they can’t use his handle: @WojYahooNBA. But Twitter’s feed makes it hard to see the handle and easier the name and avatar. Thus, there have been various fake trades made by fake Woj accounts that have been retweeted by NBA players and sports writers. Blockbuster trades have been RT’d time and again by fake Woj accounts that are not verified like his is, but instead at first glance seem legit.

Advancing the Story’s first rule of  “Job one is to get it right” ties in with this example. Some say that RT’s aren’t endorsements, but if you are retweeting a tweet from Adrian Wojnarowski, more likely than not you are trying to relay that information to your followers.

Thus, if you retweet a fake account, you will be upset. Don’t retweet anything until you click on the actual account to ensure that it’s verified or the account you thought it was. This is especially true if you are retweeting someone else’s retweet, as that might mean you don’t follow this person. In other words, people who see the Woj tweet, assume it’s him because they know they don’t follow any fake Woj accounts, but if it had been retweeted by someone they follow, then that complicates the merit of that strategy. A good rule of thumb is to just check

. twitter

 

The Washington Post’s Bold Move

It seems that there is yet another website trying to make a splash in online content.

The Washington Post is launching its viral site called Know More.

At first glance, the site appears to be a mix of the mash-up blog Reddit and the online magazine Flipboard.

Jim Romenesko quoted Post co-editor in his recent post on Know More.

A great graph about inequality might lead to a fascinating think tank report readers would have never otherwise discovered, much less known they wanted to read. A heartbreaking quote might bring them to a long-form story they would have otherwise passed over. It’s a new way for The Washington Post to publish. And it’s a new way for our readers to learn.

-Ezra Klein, co-editor Washington Post

It sounds as though the Post might be onto something. As a content user, it reminds me of the related videos feature on YouTube. It’s a simple idea: after watching a video YouTube suggests other videos for the user to check out next. It only makes sense that a website use an advanced method of linking, suggesting or nudging their visitors to continue to learn about the subject.

It’s a bold idea, but I think The Post is going to do well with this venture. The whole idea is based on keeping users on the site longer, thus allowing to rake in more revenue from advertising as the rates would increase based on time spent on site.

The key is the audience. Who will utilize this site? I think it’s going to be younger readers who discover this tool. Unlike The Dallas Morning News’ attempt to gain readers by paying for a visual experience, this is free and is an interactive way to gather information that young people are used to.

I for one, will be a frequent visitor to the site. I think it’s only a matter of time until other large news sites follow The Post’s lead.

Paying for Design: A new look for the Dallas Morning News

The Dallas Morning News is ditching its pay wall for a new look.

The News plans to have the same URL, dallasnews.com, but two separate user experiences. The first experience is completely free but has more advertising than the other option, which starts at $11.96 per month.

The premium option will focus on a sleeker design and will include premium features, but have the same content as the free site. Specifically, the premium site will have in addition to a better design, fewer ads, more personalization and a loyalty program.

paywall

Users will be able to digest free content on The News’ site for the first time since 2011. But if they want to avoid ads, it will cost them.

The News is gambling that users who use tablets, smart phones and other media devices in addition to computers to view their content, will find the site more visually appealing. This begs the question, how important is design to users?

It’s been proven before that a design can effect how long an user spends on a site, but will users consciously pay for a better visual experience? One smart move The News made is making the premium site free to subscribers of the print product, in hopes that they can bridge the gap between the two entities.

I have my doubts that users will willingly pay for a better visual experience. While newspapers are judged by their readers for their layout, content is the number one reason people visit news sites. Personally, I would not pay more money for a visual newspaper experience. I don’t see the difference of the premium site and an online magazine. Magazines are known for their craftsmanship and artsy feel. They are as pleasing to look at as they are to read. While newspapers are supposed to have crisp layouts, they are, first and foremost, for the content they possess.

It’s great that The News is trying to be innovative. However, I think they are going too far off the chart of what their entity is: a newspaper. While they might be successful in attracting new readers, who like visual experiences that they might find in an online magazine, they might also be in danger of alienating readers who don’t want bells and whistles, just the news.

One thing is for certain, media junkies will keep an eye on The News’ polished, yet unfamiliar, new look.

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