How to Learn Journalism Online

lecture notes on online journalism and how to write online journalism and how does online journalism work and how to start online journalism
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Dr.AldenCutts,United Kingdom,Teacher
Published Date:23-07-2017
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1 ONLINE JOURNALISM Prof. Richard Craig San Jose State University AJEEP 2 AJEEP Online Journalism Course Description This course is designed for the experienced journalism major who wishes to learn about multimedia reporting for the online medium. The course teaches reporters how to approach stories for posting on the Web using the strengths of the online venue. Newspaper, magazine, broadcast and photo majors will work together to produce multimedia packages for posting on the Internet. Editors from the different sequences will collaborate to produce an online portal containing content from each sequence. Course Goals and Student Learning Objectives Course Content Learning Outcomes Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to: LO1. Create news stories that are free of factual errors, style errors, errors of omission, spelling errors, punctuation and grammar errors, and usage errors; LO2. Conduct multiple-source interviews for news and feature stories; LO3. Know where and how to find and develop ideas for news and feature stories; LO4. Know how to locate and verify information for news and feature stories through the Internet and traditional sources; LO5. Learn and demonstrate how different multimedia features can enhance online storytelling; LO6. Produce news content using video, audio, photo and text; LO7. Use Web publishing software to create news story pages and index pages; LO8. Be self-critical in editing and evaluating your own work; LO9. Accept criticism from your instructor and respond to instructor’s suggestions; LO10. Develop ideas for publishable news or feature stories. Required Texts/Readings There is no assigned textbook for this class, but students will be expected to read news articles and other material posted on the class Web page. New material will be posted weekly. Assignments and Grading Policy Students in this class will work together on multimedia reporting projects, to be posted on the class Web site. The objective is for them to learn from each other as students with 3 different specialties work together. By the end of the semester each student should have produced video, audio, photo and text content for the site. Because multimedia stories are different than just a written story or video package, members of reporting teams for each story will need to work together to come up with a notion of how best to present their chosen topic. For each story, students will be assigned to work together in groups and given contact information. Each group will meet to discuss the elements that will best serve the story, then put together (1) a discussion of the chosen story and its main points, and (2) a visual outline of how it will appear online. These will be presented by one or more members of the group in class on the days noted in the schedule, with others in the class encouraged to offer suggestions. Please note that every student will be expected to present at least part of a story pitch at some time during the semester. Groups will be given a week or more to produce finished packages, and the packages will be given a collective grade. This class will include a few lectures and reading assignments, some lab instruction, and a lot of discussion. Since this is a production class with a great deal of work done in the classroom, regular class attendance and showing up on time are vital. Assignments are weighted as follows: • Student Life story: 25 percent (LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO6, LO7, LO10) • Controversy story: 25 percent (LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO6, LO7, LO10) • In-Depth story: 30 percent (LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO6, LO7, LO10) • In-class exercises: 10 percent (LO3, LO4, LO5, LO8, LO9, LO10) • Class participation: 10 percent (LO3, LO4, LO5, LO8, LO9, LO10) 4 Online Journalism / Course Schedule Schedule is subject to change; any changes will be announced a minimum of one week in advance, with students notified via e-mail. Class Date Topics, Readings, Assignments, Deadlines 1 Aug. 22 Online storytelling: The strengths of the online venue and each of its technologies In-class exercise: Choosing media for stories 2 Aug. 29 The basics of putting stories online; working in teams; story pitch Assignment: Campus life story 3 Sept. 5 Web resources and interviewing Campus life story due in class 4 Sept. 12 Writing, editing and presenting your story Assignment: Controversy story 5 Sept. 19 Video tips; sidebar stories; ethics and standards Controversy story due in class 6 Sept. 26 The in-depth story package Assignment: In-depth feature story October 3 Final In-Depth Story Package Presentation, 12:00-1:15 p.m. in regular classroom. 5 AJEEP Online Journalism Key Terms • Online Story Package – an online news story that uses multiple media (text, photos, video, audio, graphics) working together to tell a story. • Information Graphic (Infographic) – a visual representation (graphs, charts, timelines, etc.) used to make facts or concepts easier to understand. • Sidebar Story – a secondary article that accompanies a main story, usually focusing in more depth on a person or topic from the main story. • Supporting Text – text elements in an online story package that help explain or tie together multimedia elements. • Story Pitch – a brief presentation by a group in our class, discussing how they plan to pursue, report and present a story using a multimedia approach. • Search Operators – keystrokes and characters that allow online keyword searches to be more specific and productive. • Database – a collection of data (usually digital) organized so it can be easily accessed and sorted. • Hyperlink – a photo, graphic, piece of text or other HTML object formatted to allow users to click through to another document. • Rule of Thirds – a practice in shooting video that divides the frame into imaginary vertical and horizontal thirds, then lining subjects up along the points where those lines intersect. • Rendering – the process of converting a video project into a finished movie. • Authenticity – in journalism, conveying not just the facts of a situation, but the background and context behind those facts, to present a more complete picture of the story. • In-Depth Story – a piece of journalism that explains complex topics or provides previously unknown details of a subject to readers. 6 AJEEP: Online Journalism, Lecture 1 (ALL NOTES TO THE INSTRUCTOR WILL BE IN UPPERCASE LETTERS.) Introduction This class is designed for advanced journalism students who have learned how to write and report news articles but now want to learn how to create story packages for the Internet. This might not immediately sound difficult, but online reporting involves more than just the traditional skills of gathering information, interviewing people and writing a story. The Internet allows for so many different kinds of news content – text, photos, video, information graphics, etc. – that reporters are increasingly expected to use multiple types of content to tell their stories. Using multiple media – literally, “multimedia” – allows reporters to create story packages that can appeal to different audiences and engage readers in exciting and effective ways. It’s important to immediately note that this class is different from many other classes you may have taken before. Most classes focus on a single topic or skill, or perhaps a group of them that have clear connections to one another. Given the multifaceted nature of online journalism, however, this class by necessity teaches elements of different skills that must be brought together. You must not only learn how to create different kinds of content, but also something larger – how to conceptualize story packages from the beginning, and tailor your reporting to make the assorted elements of those packages most effective. You must also learn at least the basics of how to post stories online and design Web pages. You must also learn to work in teams – most effective story packages in professional journalism are created by more than one person, and the division of labor is an important step in each project within this class. The goal is to have you all perform different tasks across projects, giving you experience in producing different kinds of content. 7 Online Story Packages At this early point, it’s important to define what we mean by an “online story package.” This is not simply a news article that’s been uploaded to a Web site with perhaps a single photo accompanying it. A story package is an online story that uses multiple media working together to tell a story. A package should contain at least one text story (possibly also one or more short sidebar stories), and multiple additional elements. These can include individual photos or photo galleries, one or more pieces of video or audio, one or more information graphics, or anything else that goes beyond words to help make a story more complete. (SEE FIGS. 1A-5) A few terms mentioned above may also need to be defined. A sidebar story is a secondary article that accompanies a main story, usually focusing in more depth on a person or topic from the main story. These are common in online story packages because they provide additional detail that might not fit into a print publication. An information graphic (often referred to as an “infographic”) is a drawing, chart or other visual representation used to make facts or concepts easier to understand. Infographics can include graphs, charts, timelines and many other formats, and are generally used to visually represent data, locations, comparisons and changes over time. As computers became common in newsrooms in the 1980s and ’90s, these became popular in print publications. In online news, however, such graphics can be made interactive and include animations, video and other engaging functions. As we move forward, if there are other terms you’re not familiar with, please raise your hand and let me know. It’s important that you understand each element along the way. One thing that you should know right away is that unlike some other types of news reporting, creating online story packages takes a lot of time. You can quickly put together online materials for a breaking story, but to create a fully integrated package is labor-intensive, especially when first learning how to do it. This is why the best of these packages are often done in the wake of a major event, or when covering a person or issue in which timeliness isn’t a major element. That means this 8 class will rarely if ever focus on breaking news, but rather on more of a newsmagazine approach – giving readers a thorough, in-depth, well-researched look at a story. A factor that makes creating multimedia story packages challenging is that unlike many traditional forms of news, there is no single “template” for creating them. Traditional print news articles have evolved over many decades into certain styles and approaches, as have TV and radio reports. Yet perhaps due to the multifaceted nature of online media and its newness to the news business, as well as the fact that new reporting and presentation technologies are constantly being introduced, there are relatively few structures or guidelines for creating effective online story packages. In such a vaguely-defined field, it’s hard to know where to start, but the good news is that the lack of set standards means you can be creative and try to tell your stories in new and interesting ways. (TO CLASS) What are some different ways to tell stories online? (DISCUSS) Types of Multimedia Content A key point from the start is familiarizing yourself with the strengths of the different types of media content you can use online, and the types of stories that lend themselves to certain media elements. The goal is to get you to react to story ideas by instinctively determining which kinds of media will most effectively help them tell the story engagingly and fully. Text stories. When we think of “writing a story,” this is what usually comes to mind. But how should text stories be used best within the structure of a multimedia package? Many effective packages have a main story that serves as the anchor, the central jumping-off point for readers that explains why they should be interested and conveys the basic information upon which the package is based. Often they are supported by sidebar stories, as noted above, which add depth and detail to an aspect of the main story. A question you might want to consider about adding sidebar stories, however, is whether they add more to a package than a piece of video or an infographic might. The 9 notion is that other types of content might be more engaging to readers. Of course, the question is just an extension of the larger issue of that kind of media work best for what kinds of content. Photos and video are known for conveying emotions, but text stories can do this as well, and also provide a much greater breadth of information. Text can be great for facts and figures if it’s used to clarify what might otherwise be difficult to understand. Text stories also lend themselves toward in-depth analysis of complex topics, providing background information, history of a topic and different sides of issues. We’ve already noted that often a text story is at the heart of a package, and part of the reason is that depth of information is text’s clear strength. Often the text story provides the background information that makes all the other elements make sense, introducing people, concepts and circumstances. It can also summarize and connect seemingly dissimilar material. The clarity and specificity of information in text stories is something that should never be overlooked. Video or audio interviews or photo galleries provide a type of rich information, but they can leave unanswered questions or unexplained concepts. Individual interviewees and photo subjects aren’t looking at the big picture in the way a skilled reporter or editor does. In many ways, text and editing are what make disparate pieces of media content work together to create a meaningful whole. It’s the element over which reporters and editors have most control within online story packages. Weaknesses of text stories are often best explained in comparison to other media. They can lack the drama of video and photos, and the instinctive connection of seeing the faces of the people involved. When television surpassed newspapers as the most popular news medium in America in the 1960s, these factors were widely cited. Yet when used in conjunction with the other media, text stories can wield great power. Figurative language can sometimes create a mental image that is as strong or even stronger than a visual image. 10 One way to look at text relative to other media – photos and video get attention, but text explains why they matter. (DISCUSS) Generally speaking, every online story package will contain at least one text story. The reason this section is called “text stories” is that text is useful within story packages in many other ways, which we’ll address a little later. Photos. Photos are another “traditional” type of media used in multimedia storytelling. Since today’s audiences have had access to visual media (TV, movies, games, etc.) throughout their lives, it’s widely believed that they respond best to anything that has visuals. This may be true, but the key is to understand that photos and other visual elements are to be used as tools to tell a story, not just as pretty pictures. Reporters often think of photos as simply supplements to text stories, but they need to recognize that photos can provide windows to empathy, fear, triumph and countless other human emotions in a way that text can’t. Story subjects that appeal to these emotions are almost always enhanced immensely by well-chosen photos. Even stories that are more fact-driven can benefit from photos that show the effects of those facts on people. They can give readers a sense of the location where the story takes place, which makes them ideal companions for all kinds of stories. Photos can also take interviewees in a story and turn them into something closer to characters in a drama. Putting a face to a name creates a more visceral connection between readers and interviewees, and encourages people to empathize with them. The same can be done with video, but photos often capture specific moments and facial expressions more clearly and effectively. The online venue adds an extra layer of value to photos, as whole galleries can be created and viewed. This gives photographers and editors a way to present a more complete visual look at a story, and also allows some creativity in creating the order in which photos are viewed. These are often formatted as slideshows, which can be clicked through by users and often contain captions. 11 Photos have their weaknesses – they’re great at spotlighting moments but weak at providing context, and sometimes technical problems with them get in the way of effective storytelling. These days, photos also no longer have the immediate credibility they once did, thanks to software that has made them easy to fake. Still, while text stories can provide detail and depth of information, photos can humanize that information. Facts and figures appeal to the mind, while photos often appeal to the heart. As a general rule, no story package is complete without photos used somewhere. Video. As noted earlier, today’s audiences have grown up with TV, movies and online video, so they may be drawn to video content more quickly than any other type of media. That doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for every story, however. Stories involving action naturally work well on video – it clearly lends itself to this more than any other medium. These can include stories about political or protest rallies, sporting events, speeches or anything else where the core of the story involves activity that can be filmed as it happens. Beyond this, video is also useful in some of the same ways as photos. The visual elements of photos are also present in video, but the two media have somewhat different strengths. Both video and photos are great for setting the scene at a location, but generally video gives a better overall picture while photos provide more detail. Conversely, photos capture facial expressions very well, but they can’t actually show kids playing or audiences cheering. Photos capture people’s emotions, but video allows you to hear them speak. Photos are better for moments, but video is better for processes – showing what an accident victim must do in rehab, or how a police officer patrols a beat. It has been argued that at least the central interviewee in any online story package should be interviewed on video so that readers can hear his/her voice and establish a more personal connection, and while this isn’t always possible it’s usually a good idea. It’s also true that young journalists tend to get carried away with wanting to shoot everything on video without thinking that it might not always be the best medium for a given purpose. 12 One problem with video is that editing and processing it can take a lot of time. If you want to put together TV news-style video stories with titles, transitions and the like, the process can take many hours to complete, with hours of training leading up to that. If the result is something that tells a story well, the effort is probably worth it. Sometimes, though, students get so caught up in producing a three-minute video that it eats up more of their time than all their other writing and reporting tasks combined. One alternative is to post raw video of interviews or spot news. Surveys in recent years have shown that this is increasingly popular with readers, perhaps resonating with audiences weaned on so-called “reality TV.” While this means you lose some control over what the audience might see or hear – sometimes including embarrassing comments, shaky images or other elements that might seem unprofessional – it eliminates or drastically reduces the time spent editing video. As with photos, video is not especially good at conveying detailed information or complex issues, and it can create an illusion of reality while omitting important material that isn’t in camera range. Video should not be considered an absolute necessity for all story packages – plenty of successful pieces have gone without it – but if you choose not to use it for a particular package, you should explain your reasons why. Infographics. This technology is often underrated and underused, but can be very effective if done well. Infographics can combine the strengths of other elements – the engaging visuals of photos and video and the facts and details of text – into something uniquely informative. Because they’re relatively rare, audiences often find them eye-catching and end up learning as much from them as anything else within a package. (SEE FIGS. 6-8) Charts and graphs have been used in news reports for many decades, but today’s infographics allow a range of creativity and complexity that make them truly different from any other news element. Instead of writing a history of a given company or institution, you can create graphically rich timelines featuring photos and key facts from across time. Rather than simply writing about a 13 school budget, they can create a pie chart to show how the money from student fees is divided up and spent at the university level. Or they can create a map of where campus construction will soon begin, with affected areas and dates provided. The key to effective infographics lies in taking something complex and using a visual apparatus to make it simple and easy to understand. Some people take to this right away but many do not, so it’s important to start simple and work toward greater complexity. Often groups will brainstorm ideas for infographics, but assign one student to actually create them. (In the professional ranks, interactive infographics are sometimes created using Flash or HTML5, allowing readers to click through to reveal content, but it is not expected that you will rise to this level in one semester.) You’re welcome to create infographics, but they should really only be used when they will add something unique to a package. Supporting text. This might not seem important, but it’s something that can tie the elements of a story package together into a cohesive whole. Too often students neglect to provide captions, photo/video credits, names of people pictured, even headlines that would help readers connect the sometimes disparate elements of a package. The formatting of these elements varies dramatically, and by necessity some of them will have to be defined based on the layout of the site on which they appear and the type of content they supplement. Students often get so caught up in creating their multimedia elements that they lose sight of the little finishing touches that help readers identify and connect those elements into a true package. Summary and student exercise (TO INSTRUCTORS: THIS SEEMS LIKE A LOT OF MATERIAL FOR STUDENTS TO DIGEST, BUT KEEP IN MIND THAT THEY’RE FAMILIAR WITH MOST IF NOT ALL OF THESE TYPES OF MEDIA. YOU’RE MERELY MAKING THEM THINK ABOUT THE FACETS OF THOSE MEDIA THAT SET THEM APART FROM THE OTHERS. BY BREAKING DOWN TYPES OF MEDIA INTO THE FUNCTIONS THEY PERFORM BEST, 14 YOU’RE SETTING STUDENTS UP TO UNDERSTAND THE PROCESS OF IDENTIFYING WHICH STORY ELEMENTS LEND THEMSELVES BEST TO WHICH MEDIA. (A USEFUL EXERCISE AT THE END OF THIS UNIT IS TO PRESENT STUDENTS WITH SEVERAL STORY SUMMARIES FROM RECENT LOCAL, NATIONAL OR INTERNATIONAL NEWS, THEN ASK THEM TO WRITE UP WHICH TYPES OF MEDIA THEY WOULD USE TO TELL THESE STORIES, AND WHY. THESE CAN BE TURNED IN VIA E-MAIL OR LEFT AT YOUR OFFICE BY THE END OF THE DAY OF CLASS. I RECOMMEND THAT THIS ASSIGNMENT BE UNGRADED, BUT THAT THE INSTRUCTOR MAKE SOME COMMENTS ON EACH ASSIGNMENT AND RETURN IT TO THE STUDENT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. THE MOST COMMON STUDENT RESPONSES CAN BE DISCUSSED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE NEXT CLASS AS A LEAD-IN TO THE DAY’S TOPIC.)15 Fig. 1A. Top of New York Times Olympic 100-Meter Sprint Story Package 16 Fig. 1B. Bottom of New York Times Olympic 100-Meter Sprint Story Package 17 Fig. 2A. First page of AZCentral.com polygamous sect escape story package 18 Fig. 2B. Second page of AZCentral.com polygamous sect escape story package 19 Fig. 3. NOLA.com BP oil spill story package 20 Fig. 4A. Minneapolis Star-Tribune bridge collapse package intro

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