You are currently browsing the monthly Archive for March, 2011.

BJ Koubaroulis, founder of Synthesis Media Productions, visited our class on March 31 to discuss the importance of video to enhance journalistic stories.

Koubaroulis graduated from George Mason University in 2004 and eventually became a sports writer for The Washington Post. He emphasized that he fell in love with following high school level sports as opposed to following college level or professional level sports.

“[High school level sports] is where you get the most access and get the most real people — people who really enjoy what they’re doing, and it’s not for the money,” Koubaroulis said.

He recommended that students first start working at a small newspaper organization so that they have the opportunity to learn what kind of stories they like and don’t like to cover, and so that they can learn to make mistakes. In Koubaroulis’s opinion, it is better to make mistakes at smaller organizations rather than larger ones.

Koubaroulis became a superstar at The Washington Post in 2010 when he posted a story about a student’s homeless odyssey.’ His story stood out amongst others because he added video to his text.

Video gave me the clout to demand more space for a story,” said Koubaroulis.

Nowadays, the use of video and other multimedia platforms have become very important for journalists, therefore young writers should start learning how to produce various multimedia platforms in order to catch readers’ and potential employers’ attention. Koubaroulis’ young interns at Synthesis Media Productions actually produce multimedia packages within 2 hours of covering a story!

“Media companies want to hire people that can do the job of 5 people,” Koubaroulis said. “Do radio, television, video and learn how to use the web — learn all if it!… If you’re not going to change, you’re just going to get left behind. Do all of it, and don’t limit yourself.”

Student journalists need to be able to multi-task and produce stories that contain video, audio and user-participation platforms in order to be valuable. Student journalists can no longer just be a writer because any other person out there can be a writer, but it is difficult to replace a writer when he or she can perform so many other functions.

Koubaroulis said that there are 4 things every student journalist needs, which are:

  1. A camera
  2. A computer
  3. A microphone
  4. The desire to work hard

While technology is very important these days, Koubaroulis warned students to not rely too heavily on media.

“Love it,” Koubaroulis said, “but don’t count on it.”

Mark Potts, journalist and digital pioneer, visited our class this afternoon to share his opinions about online journalism.

“We have not fully taken advantage of what the medium can give us on the Internet or Web,” Potts said.

One way we can take advantage of the Internet is by the use of “crowd-sourcing.” Crowd-sourcing is a way of interacting with audiences to learn about new stories so that journalists can cover them with a different angle.

Another way of taking advantage of the Internet is by turning to Wikipedia. Potts said that Wikipedia is a fantastic news site in which the general public can turn to to see amazing collections of stories that are compiled by journalist citizens.

Below are a few sites that Potts mentioned and expressed his feelings about.

Baristanet + other hyper local sites

  • “A very interesting model for trying to get news back into the neighborhood.”


  • “It’s so local that it’s only important to a couple thousand people… If you live there, then it’s going to be important to you.”


  • “Do what you do, and link to the best.”
  • “People blogging about the community generally do not do it for the money… It’s a very different motivation. It’s not about money, but they do it for the respect of their community.”

Five Thirty Eight Blog + Computational Journalism

  • Nate Silver, the creator of FiveThirtyEight, a blog about election forecasts for the New York Times, “went from zero to being a Top 20 news site in 6 months!”
  • Analyzing available data can turn into a great story


  • “What he [Julian Assange] is doing is very much journalistic… What he did and what the Pentagon Papers did in the 70s was almost exactly the same. You got a whole pile of documents and decided what to make public. You make not like what he decided to make public, but you might not like what the New York Times makes public either.”


  • Twitter is too much noise. It’s nothing but noise… There’s no business model for that at all. I tweet for publicity – that’s the only reason… You find that Twitter burnout is unbelievable… I want good signal, I don’t want a lot of noise.”


  • The most important tool in the last 5 years is not Twitter, but it’s a phone. No questions asked.”

Sites to Visit

  • Tubeify: a music program that uses the Billboards database – look at the Billboards charts and travel through time with music
  • Google Flu Trends: Google searches for flu-related words (cough, sneeze) and puts the data on a map of the world
  • Newsmap: kind of like a tag cloud; story titles are color-coded by type and size (depending on how important the story is)
  • Map of the Market: a map of how stocks are doing at a very quick glance

Kevin Anderson, a journalist for Al Jazeera-English, chatted with us via Skype today from Doha, Qatar.

Anderson started out as a newspaper journalist and gradually moved onto online journalism. He was BBC’s first online journalist outside of the U.K. and was also the Washington correspondent for the BBC website. In 2010, Anderson took what he calls a “leap of faith” and joined Al Jazeera-English.

“The work I‘m doing now is as exciting, if not more exciting, than the work I’ve done in the past,” Anderson said.

He believes that Al Jazeera-English is doing something that no other news organization has done before: covering the Middle East from the Middle East.

“In the past, the Middle East has been covered by the West, and the purpose [of Al Jazeera-English] is to cover the Middle East from the Middle East,” Anderson said. “It’s definitely coming with a radical point of view… and it’s a fascinating point of view. You’ll see things from Al Jazeera that you won’t see anywhere else.”

The current trend in journalism that Anderson is talking about allows people to be their own witnesses and tell their own stories. Anderson thinks that the trend in social media gives the voiceless a voice.

“We are just the beginning of a very fascinating, exciting time in history,” Anderson said. “We’re entering a fascinating time, and how we navigate that will be incredibly interesting, both as citizens and journalists.”

Aside from discussing his thoughts on journalism in the Middle East, Anderson provided tips for journalism students.

Advice #1: Take the initiative NOW.

Set up a blog, start writing, start taking pictures, start doing multimedia storytelling,” Anderson said. “If you’ve got a mobile phone, just take pictures and capture sounds… It’s going to make that first job or that first internship so much easier because you can walk through that door and show that  you didn’t wait to take the initiative.”

Advice #2: Audio is extremely important.

“It’s one of the things that people forget the most… people are pretty forgiving about shaky video these days… what they won’t forgive is sound.”

Remember, 70 % of video is audio.

Advice #3: Don’t forget to weave a story together.

Storify is amazing – it tells stories through pictures, Tweets and Facebook comments by the audience. However, journalists need to remember that they must help in making sense of the contributions from the audience.

“It is still important to have the narrative to weave the story together,” Anderson said.

Advice #4: Network journalism requires journalists to be social.

It is not enough to just build a website. Journalists must “make sure the content is available and take it to where people are congregating online,” according to Anderson.

Journalists are responsible for “using networks to find faces and add faces to journalism” and for “taking journalism to places where people are at online and engaging them on the sites.”

Advice #5: Look back and smile.

It is a tough time in journalism, but journalists must start somewhere, even if you end up at small papers, television stations and/or websites.

“You’ll look back on them [your past experiences] and think they were the best, most exciting times of your lives,” Anderson said. “Don’t work about where you start because it doesn’t determine where you’ll end up!”

Steve Buttry, Director of Community Engagement at TBD visited our class on Tuesday, March 22. He showed us a lot of great interactive sites that can be used by electronic journalists. Check out some of the links below – the stories are interesting, but the way each story is told is even more amazing!

13 Seconds in August: The 35W Bridge Collapse

  • It’s one story, made up of dozens of personal stories!
  • What can you hear? News reports, 911 calls, interviews, ambulance sirens, press conferences, police radio traffic with dispatch
  • What can you see? A combination of graphics and photographs showing the whole bridge that collapsed August 2007
  • PRO: You can start the story wherever you want – it’s a self-guided tour

As a writer in traditional journalism, you have control. But in digital storytelling, we’re sharing more control.” – Steve Buttry

Parksburg Tornado: The Aftermath

  • It consists of before, after and present pictures of homes in Parksburg, Iowa
  • A story unfolds with simple mugshots of flattened homes and footages of surveillance video cameras when the tornado occurred

You can see how a simple map and a different way about thinking about storytelling can become a different vehicle for storytelling.” – Steve Buttry

The Rise and Disappearance of Southeast Louisiana

  • It’s a reporting about what has happened to Louisiana’s land in the past

I’m a good writer, but there is no way that I could write a paragraph about the way Louisiana’s land is disappear the way the map tells the story.” – Steve Buttry

Accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant

  • An interactive map that unfolds the disaster Japan is currently facing
  • Viewers have full control of what they want to see on the map by sliding the screen back and forth

Again, you have to give up some control for the users.” – Steve Buttry

Obama’s Inaugural Address

  • An image of the inauguration
  • Can find and identify people

It’s not one picture, but thousands taken with a Gigapan camera.” – Steve Buttry

Steve Buttry’s Tips and Memorable Quotes

  • “Journalists should learn some of the tools (Flash, HTML) to make their stories better.”
  • “Shifting into the unfamiliar digital territory was a little scary, but it was also exciting as hell!”
  • “You’re not going to grown or develop new skills without being uncomfortable.”
  • “It [Twitter] made me get to the point faster… It made me a better writer.”
  • “Always be curious… If a question occurs to you, ask somebody – even if you don’t speak the same language. Someone around you will help you… Ask the question, no matter how difficult it may be.”
  • “My best rule in journalism is to never say ‘No’ for somebody else.”
  • “Don’t let obstacles become excuses.”
  • “I’d rather be beaten on something that is true than spread rumors.”

Jim Iovino, managing editor for NBC Washington, is visiting our COMM 361 class today.

Iovino graduated from Penn State with a major in Communications. He first started work in the newspaper industry, jumped to television, and is now doing online journalism.

He graduated from Penn State University with a major in communications. He started working in the newspaper industry, jumped to television and is now doing online journalism.

Online journalism is important because breaking news travels fast, according to Iovino.

“We break a lot of stories on websites now,” Invino said. “We want to be the first one out there with the story so that we can say, ‘we were the first ones with the story.'”

Being the first one to break a story is important, but Iovino also noted that finding an angle is critical.

“Finding an angle shows that you are not going out there and just repeating what someone else has said,” Iovino said. “Viewers will go back to you because they appreciate that.”

An example of a man who finds interesting angles is general assignment reporter Pat Collins, who also works for NBC Washington. Take a look at his Sandwich Girl story.

“Pat Collins is an incredible reporter because he can get people to say something interesting, say something fun, say something that they would never say to anyone else,” Iovino said. “Whatever story he goes on, he finds an interesting angle that no one else gets.”

Collins also interacts with viewers by making vYou videos. With vYou, Collins is able to talk one-on-one with his audience, which allows him to build a relationship with them. Forming a relationship with his audience is important, because when he goes out to gather information, people within the community feel more comfortable going up to him and giving him tips or leads on stories.

VYou has helped NBC Washington be part of the community because it lets the audience know that they are there for them, and that the audience can help them with news as well, according to Iovino.

Aside from journalistic tips, Iovino also showed us some of the newer projects NBC Washington has been working on and/or is part of. See below.

  • The Feast: focuses on restaurants, shopping, plays, music venues, bars
  • Capital Game Blog: stories and videos about athletes in the video
  • Partnership with American University: out-of-the-box stories/ideas created by American University students
  • The 20: finds the most influential people on Twitter in the Washington, D.C. area (allows people to have voice, give them a platform to speak to people

A lot of NBC Washington’s projects consist of short videos about a story. People love to see short, raw, compressive footage, according to Iovino.

“If the video is the best part of your story and that’s what you think people are going to want to see, then that’s what you should focus on and really give them,” Iovino said. “Just let them know what they are going to see, and then let the video run itself. Why would we spend our time to write a whole big thing about this video if it can speak for itself?”

Aside from videos, what’s next for online journalism within the next few years? Mobile, mobile, mobile, according to Iovino.

“Websites as they look today may not look the same as they will two years from now,” Iovino said. “People want their info wherever they are, and they’ll get it somehow, whether if they get it from you or someone else.”

Our project’s goal is to recover NAMI Northern Virginia history and present it interactively. We will conduct interviews with past board members, do research about the institution and gather information about its history. We will be using different online platforms to organize and present the information.

Our project will be constructed around an interactive timeline. We’ll be using dipity to create it. We’re planning to use YouTube to post our videos, but they also will be linked to the timelime. We will use batchgeo to create a Google map, and point the locations and programs offered by NAMI Northern Virginia. The map will be linked to the timeline. Slideshows, scanned documents and other images will also be linked. We will use social media to disseminate the information we produce, and to reach out to NAMI Northern Virginia’s already established audience on Facebook.

I will be interviewing prior and current NAMI NoVA employees, editing the Website and assisting Ryan and/or Keon with the timeline and/or video editing (time permitting).

I have very strong interviewing and AP Style editing skills, but hope to learn more technological skills by working with Ryan and/or Keon.

So far, I have found different media consent forms for the project, and am waiting for approval from Jeanne Comeau.

Click on the following link to see our story board: NAMI-_History_(Multimedia_Project)

How do journalists compete in a large media market?

“Your title tag and description are your first impression to attract potential audience” said Monica Wright. “You capture new online readership by setting yourself apart with useful and engaging tags.”

Building an audience online also includes:

  • tracking your content
  • web analytics
  • search engine optimization (SEO)
  • effective headline writing for the Web
  • distribution through social media

What should you be tracking? Anything that is able to be tracked! Start by using the baker’s dozen list below:

  • total news stories per day
  • news stories by topic or section
  • total blog posts per day
  • blog posts by specific blog
  • slide shows per week
  • video stories per week
  • podcasts or other audio stories
  • news updates
  • breaking news e-mail alerts
  • SMS or other mobile network alerts
  • e-mail news letters that are not sent automatically
  • Twitter, Facebook or other social network posts
  • user-generated content

By using web analytics, you will be able to track your audiences in order to learn what your audience is consuming. Web analytics softwares allow you to identify key data points, such as:

  • pageviews
  • visits and unique visitors compared
  • engagement and referrers

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) assist in driving more audience to ideas that people are excited about. SEO’s perform three main functions:

  • spiders and robots: small computer programs that are sent out by search engines line Google and Bing to “crawl” the Internet and track and record the information found on Web pages
  • indexing: take the information sent from the spiders and robots and build large database files with references to all the content connected to the right links
  • queries: takes the keywords you’ve searched to look in the index for the most relevant results — it then returns and presents those results on Web pages for you to explore

When creating a headline, be sure to write for readers and robots. In order to make headlines better:

  • use keywords
  • user conversational language
  • don’t be afraid to inject a little attitude

Social media is great at distributing information to many channels. Mark Briggs suggests:

The future of journalism means managing online communities and participating in various social networks,” said Mark Briggs. One of the greatest challenges facing journalists now is how to manage and leverage news conversation in social media networks.

The problem with news as a conversation is that participants are rarely as constructive or respectful as journalists and other readers would like. There are either too many conversations for news organizations to manage, or there are too few comments that generate actual conversation around the news.

While some journalists shy away from the interactiveness of reader comments, Doug Feaver, creator of the dot.comments blog, suggests that “comments provide a forum for readers to complain about what they see as unfairness or inaccuracy in an article, to talk to each other and to bloviate.”

Feaver makes a great argument – news conversation does have wonderful benefits, such as:

  • they provide transparency on the reporting process
  • they enable an immediate feedback loop
  • they spread awareness of news coverage through word-of-mouth marketing

News conversation allows more tips to be discovered and more links to be shared, according to BeatBlogging‘s Patrick Thornton. Knowledgable users can provide journalists with tips, links additional insight or even clarify a post.

Journalists should make news participatory so that audiences can contribute to news and information by suppling additional:

  • photos
  • videos
  • event lists (on calendar sites)
  • edits (on wiki sites)
  • message board posts
  • blog posts
  • votes and recommendations
  • promotin on other social media sites (ex: Digg and SumbleUpon)

There is the 1-10-100 rule for participatory online community sites that states:

  • 1% of the user community actual create content
  • 10% of the user community will synthesize the content by posting comments, e-mailing links to friends, authoring blog posts on separate sites and linking back to it, etc.
  • 100% of the user community will benefit from the actions of the first two groups

Journalists should be responsible for keeping all news conversations accurate and ethical. They can do this by:

  • setting guidelines for participants
  • monitoring offensive postings
  • knowing their legal responsibilities
  • correcting errors

Former Senator George Allen (R-Va.), who announced that he will be running for his old seat in the 2012 Senate race, met with C-SPAN’s Steve Scully to discuss federal and state spending.

Allen, who strongly believes that more decisions should be made by the people, said that the federal government should not be starting new programs while there is so much debt. In fact, he blames the federal government’s laws and regulations for our country’s “ballooning national debt.”

“The federal government needs to get it’s own house in order and begin to operate the way families and businesses do,” Allen said. “If there is no money coming in, then they need to stop spending.”

One way to increase revenue in the United States is by utilizing the abundant, plentiful coal resources within our own country. Approximately 41 percent of our trade deficit is due to the importation of oil, according to Allen. He recommends the federal government to allow states to explore off the coast so that we can keep the money and jobs at home.

“If the French can do it, so can Americans,” Allen said.

Students are now facing a different world from Reagan’s days, according to Allen.

“Our competition now is all of Europe,” Allen said. “They’re all over the world.

The method in competing with the rest of the world is through knowledge, according to Allen. Once we beat out the competition, we can “celebrate after victory!,” exclaimed Allen.

To view the conference, please visit:

Jon DeNunzio, user engagement editor at the Washington Post, visited out COMM 361 class on March 3 to discuss the value of integrating social media into journalism.

Why use social media?

  • Receive consumer feedback
  • Reach broad audiences
  • Increase interactivity; users/audiences want to be part of the news
  • It’s where the users are – cannot expect they’ll go to your main site
  • Assist journalist with reporting
  • Builds relationship with users; users/audiences want to be talked to and to talk back
  • It allows us to build relationship with users – want to talk to and talk back; can help bring trust back

Be social with users.

  • Run a poll (SurveyGizmo or Twiigs)
  • Pay attention to comments
  • Ask for ideas (AllOurIdeas)
  • Answer user questions
  • Use the knowledge of the crowd, aka “crowd-sourcing”

There are many ways to connect with users/audiences.

Why college students should care.

  • Very few people can contribute an idea about how they can really connect with users
  • Journalism is constantly changing, especially on the digital side

Audio is considered the invisible medium, but what journalists forget is that “sounds allow listeners to see with the best lens of all, the mind,” said best-selling author Jim Stovall.

Without text or visual images, audio can produce a rich experience.

Karin Hogh, a podcasting expert based in Denmark, said that “audio journalism has characteristics that can’t be matched by other forms of media,” which are:

  • presence
  • emotions
  • atmosphere

“Using these assets, you can communicate your ‘personal’ perception of the events and add many facets and also take advantage of audio as a background medium,” said Hogh.

Audio journalism is a quick and simple way to distribute information via podcasts, which feature one type of “show” with new episodes available either sporadically or at planned intervals. The use of podcasts help build loyal listeners.

All journalists really need in order to create full-featured sound segments are:

  • a microphone
  • a recorder
  • a free software

Brief audio reports can also be created through the use of a mobile phone. This allows news journalists to quickly and easily cover news breaking scenes.

To get started in creating podcasts, one must record interviews. It is important to:

  • write a script
  • warm up
  • choose your location
  • gather natural sound
  • prepare your subject(s)
  • watch what you say
  • mark the best spots
  • always, always, always keep it conversational!

Keep in mind that “the goal is to record with the highest quality possible and then edit the files before compressing the files to publish and distribute it online,” said Mark Briggs.

When editing, look for audio-editing programs that are:

  • easy to use
  • have the capability to export files in MP3 format

All audio clips should be in MP3 format because virtually any computer can play an MP3. Briggs suggests using programs such as Audacity and JetAudio.

Try to experiment with different techniques to bring even more life into your audio. Some techniques include:

  • fading: a gradual increase or decrease in level of the audio
  • cross-fading: a mix of fades with one track level increasing while another decreases
  • establishing music: use of song clips to set tone
  • segueing: smoothly transitioning from one track to another
  • transitioning: connecting different tracks in a way that is smooth and natural

Visit PodCastAwards to listen to some award-winning podcasts.