Archives for category: Blogging

UPDATED WITH MORE MAP LINKS

The Multimedia Journalism students are finding out how useful and straightforward Google Maps Engine is as an online storytelling tool. Each created a map of five places on a subject relevant to the topics of their blogs.

The maps are an interactive version of an old standby of static print infographics: the locator map. Locators have a simple ingredients list: Headline, chatter, base map, place labels, and descriptions accompanying each place label. The difference with Google Maps Engine is that you get the gift of interactivity: Users can see pointer boxes with names and descriptions pop up as they hover the cursor over a list of place names.

The five-place Google Maps assignment is appropriate as an introductory exercise in interactive mapping for beginning multimedia journalists for these reasons:

  • It challenges students to conceive of a piece they find interesting and (hopefully) that their readers will also find intriguing.
  • It requires that they do the kind of research that will be expected of them in the newsrooms that will hire them after graduation.
  • It gives them an opportunity to put to use what they learned in the step-by-step, in-class Google Maps tutorial, the Kansas City barbecue map. Hey, I’m a Kansas City boy, but some things translate well from the Midwest to the South, and barbecue is one of them. So we can almost all relate to the subject.

Here’s what the students cooked up this week:

Google Maps Engine is not hard to use, once you understand what it does and how it works. The technical questions are not difficult; the challenge, as I discovered when I sat in on the international hackathon session at Auburn University’s computer science program last fall, is figuring out a journalistic use for it.

Coders provide the conduit, and it is powerful work that they do. Journalists provide the ideas for content to flow through the conduit. Technical thinkers and journalistic thinkers complement each other. Especially now, we need each other.

I’m proud of how much my Multimedia Journalism students have built their technical skillsets while flexing their storytelling muscles these last 16 weeks. May they evangelize new media thinking in the newsrooms they join in the near future. They’re smart, they love storytelling, and they’ve demonstrated a capacity for problem solving and tenacity. Editors , directors and station managers, you need these young people. Hire them!

This one goes out to My Beloved Multimedia Journalism Students:

This is just to give you a gauge on your progress on the blogging portion of your grade. As you know from reading the syllabus, 30 percent of your grade in the course comes from your regularly posting items on your blog that are related to your blog topic.

Some of you have been creating killer content. Others haven’t been blogging much. You know who you are. So do I. Check yourself against the next several paragraphs to know what you need to do to earn the grade of your choice. Hey, it’s your grade; how well do you want to do?

If you have about 10 blog posts up at this point and they are substantial, you’re right on track. Keep it up at the current pace and you’ll lay down enough to ace this part of your final grade. (No, just a photo and one sentence are not enough to even qualify as a post for our purposes; see “What is enough content to be considered a complete post?” below for guidance.)

If you have about eight up, you’re a little behind an “A” pace and at this rate you’ll probably eke out a B if you continue at this pace.

If you have six or fewer, you’d better get a couple of posts up each week for the rest of the semester unless you just want to end up with the minimum of 10 posts for a C.

Five or fewer? There’s still time to turn things around, but you have backed yourself into a serious hole. Find stuff to write about that’s interesting and relevant to your topic. Repeat as necessary, which for you will be two or three a week till the end of April.

What is enough content to be considered a complete post? It’s not enough to just post a picture, a photo gallery, even an audio slideshow or a video, without providing a short introduction to what awaits the viewer if they click the link. You need a headline with good SEO principles applied, about 75 words of introduction to your photo/slideshow/gallery/video/what have you, and the content (either embedded in the post or linked to on a host server such as Google Drive, which everybody now knows how to do after the audio slideshow assignment). Multimedia means more than one kind of media. In most parts of the online world, you have to sell audiences on your content. Give them a reason to click the link! Just don’t do one of those Upworthy headlines, of which I am sick. When you tease to multimedia content, you are making a promise of what to expect. Be sure you don’t promise more than you can deliver.

We’re into the homestretch. I want to see you all get good grades, but you do have to earn them through your effort, skill, creativity and enterprise (not necessarily in that order).

In case you have misplaced your syllabus, these are the guidelines for grading the blog posts:

REGULAR BLOG POSTING: 30 PERCENT OF YOUR FINAL GRADE
The instructor will, from time to time, assign you to write a blog entry discussing online journalism and related topics. These will be identified as mandatory blog posts. Mandatory topics will be announced in class and posted on the class blog, located at mjfuhlhage.net/courses/multimedia-journalism-spring-2014/. Beyond that, you need to keep up a regular blog. “Regular” means “every week and a half or so.” In addition to mandatory blog posts, you’ll be shooting for 10 to 15 blog posts throughout the semester…

The key here is that you write something interesting and witty. It must be a professionally oriented blog. Your blog needs to be passionate and subjective and have feeling. There should be some primary source reporting. For examples of what I am looking for, check out http://unknowncity.wordpress.com/. You are expected to publish in your blog about once a week. If I see that you have dumped a lot of blog entries in the days before the semester ends, I will mark you down significantly. I will grade you on a minimum of 10 entries during the semester (note that this is a minimum; if you want an A, work it!) We will use WordPress, a free blogging platform …

You will do three kinds of posts for this course: Three mandatory focused, three mandatory critique, and at least four freestyle. Grammar, style, punctuation, and AP style all matter. Accuracy matters. Attribution (giving credit to others’ work, ideas, and quotes) matters. Here’s what I’m looking for from you:

Mandatory focused posts: Three of your posts will be on a topic of your choice relating to your topic area. These must be 300 to 500 words, with links to at least two websites.

Mandatory critique posts: Three of your posts will be journalistic critiques, each dissecting a journalistic/nonfiction audio story; a video story; and an interactive story or a data visualization. These will be 300 to 500 words, with links to the stories you critique. It’s up to you to pick the subject of your critique. These are the ingredients of a good critique: description of the content; link to the content; assessment of its content (use of human and document sources, whether and how it hooked your attention effectively, whether it was well organized); and assessment of its presentation (Was sound/video quality good? For data visualizations, were they usable?).

Freestyle posts: At least four of your posts need to be briefer posts (75 to 200 words) on a topic of your choice relating to your topic area. You may report your own original content, or you may comment on others’ journalistic work (and you must always link to that work). As an alternative, you may use Storify.com to curate shared and sharable online content and embed or link to it on your blog.

Keep the blog posts coming. Regular posting is the way you build a following and boost your blog’s position in search results.

Best,
Dr. Fuhlhage

One of the greatest things about blogging on WordPress.com is that it costs nothing unless you want to buy a preminum theme or extra storage space in the cloud. One pitfall is that its architecture is set up to really, really like using single jpegs, tiffs, docs and the like but it doesn’t work with folders full of files. That’s problematic for SoundSlides creators. Solution: Post about your SoundSlide and link to Google Drive.

A turn-of-the-century mp3 player.

A turn-of-the-century mp3 player.

Of course, if you’re a student or university employee, you have space available on your drive. But I’ve never played with that space and I’m much more of a storytelling and journalism guy than a tech guy, so even with a lot of coaching I was about to tear my hair out. But I know that the folks at Google make it ridiculously simple to do things that would have required all-nighters and copious quantities of caffeine to produce back when I was an undergrad. And as it happens, Fortunately, I ran across this great post over at the Journo Tech blog called “Using Google Drive as a Web Host.”

Really, this is a brilliant solution. It’s cheap, it’s easy, and I get to keep all my hair now. As a sample, I’ve posted a quick-and-dirty slideshow I created using SoundSlides to merge photos of magazine covers from a research project about a magazine I’ve come to think of as the antebellum South’s version of The Economist: De Bow’s Review. It’s nothing fancy: just 11 photos of covers of the magazine from just before the Civil War. I shot the photos at the Special Collections and Archives section at Ralph B. Draughon Library at Auburn University last summer for an article that’s just been published this week by American Journalism. As for the music, a scratchy turn-of-the-twentieth-century recording of the Neapolitan Trio performing Stephen Foster’s “My Old Kentucky Home,” that one’s used under Creative Commons License. I obtained it at Free Music Archive, which is an outstanding resource for historical music that is so old it has passed out of copyright and into the public domain. Word to my students: You can get into big legal trouble if you violate copyright. There are so many who have pirated downloaded music that it’s hard for the recording industry to keep up with all of them, so its default position often seems to be to simply give up. But as a content creator online, you are MUCH more visible to them. As in, when you link to their stuff, it’s like Frodo putting on the One Ring and attracting the gaze of Sauron. So be careful what you use, because you might get a cease-and-desist letter (at best) or a hefty bill (at worst).

If you’re interested in Old South journalism history, you might want to give it a look here. It’s titled “Brave Old Spaniards and Indolent Mexicans: J. Ross Browne, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, and the Social Construction of Off-Whiteness in the 1860s.

Just a side note to my brothers and sisters in the world of journalism and mass communication history: Soundslides is not that complicated to master. You could easily record your own narration about your research project to accompany the slides, or you can tuck the information that would go into your narration down into the captions and let the music serve to create a feel for the time period. Yeah, I know. If you’re like me, you have a stack of papers to grade and a research agenda to pursue. But multimedia has power to make what we do accessible to people who might otherwise not pay much attention.

I’ve already distributed this assignment via class email, but here it is online as well. Your assignment is to critique two audio slideshows that inspire you. Your post must meet each of the following requirements to receive full credit:

  1. They must be relevant to your blog topic.
  2. They must have captions on all photos.
  3. Provide their titles. In the titles, link to them using inline links. Don’t just type the URL in your post. It’s unprofessional.
  4. Identify the people who created them. Include the name of their news organizations.
  5. Briefly describe and critique their content. How well do they synchronize sound with pictures? Is each image onscreen long enough for you to “read” the image? Or are they up for too short of a time? How well are the captions written? Use “Writing photo cutlines (aka captions).pdf” as your guide to good captions.
  6. Briefly explain the journalistic value in their content.
  7. Explain what you find inspiring about them.
  8. Ask your readers a question related to the content in one or more of the slideshows you identify.
  9. Assign categories and tags to your post.

Deadline: Post by 5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 24. Email link to your post mjf0009@auburn.edu

Example of the kind of slideshow I want you to write about:
The Girl in the Window: Danielle, 6, was rescued from unfathomable living conditions. Can the love and care of her adoptive family compensate for a lifetime of neglect? An audio slideshow by the Tampa Bay Tribune.

Some good places to find audio slideshows to critique:
New York Times Multimedia/Photos page online: The Times has wonderful examples of audio wedded to beautiful photography with excellent captions. But be careful what you pick here; lots of simple slideshows with just photos and captions live here. For this assignment, please remember that you must critique slideshows that have audio tracks as well as captions for each photo. A Google advanced search can help you find that.*

National Geographic: I’ve written it before and I’ll write it again: This is the gold standard for technically excellent and vibrant photography.

Online News Association Social Shares: Top Audio/Photo Slideshows:  It’s only appropriate to tap the wisdom of a very wise ONA crowd to locate the best multimedia journalism content online. If you go here, for this assignment, be sure to pick a photo slideshow. Do not pick video to write about; video will be the subject of your third mandatory critique blog post.

Jedi search tip for finding audio slideshows: You can also do the following search in Google to narrow the search results to nothing but audio slideshows on a given site by searching for the exact phrase “audio slideshow” and the word “site” followed by a colon and a url. Example of what to type in the Google search window: “audio slideshow” site:www.nytimes.com

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