Archives for posts with tag: social media

I hadn’t paid much attention to the New York Times‘ Times Insider features until I checked out NYTimes.com this morning over coffee. I enjoyed it a lot, and I’ll be a regular. But the Times may not be getting maximum value out of its Story Behind the Story posts just yet.

The latest is on how Managing Editor Dean Baquet decided to play the death of Gabriel García Márquez, the master of magical realism who died this week at the age of 87. Baquet had to decide whether to run a straight obituary, which he had in hand already, or go with the culture editor’s recommendation to run an appraisal of the great Colombian novelist’s impact that was still being written at the time. Making decisions with incomplete information is part of the daily news editor’s routine.

One neat thing about the Times Insider articles is that they can draw attention to pieces readers may have overlooked earlier in the week. That said, why doesn’t the Times include links the articles discussed? Perhaps it was an oversight. Linking to them can give old stories fresh legs, encourage readers to join the conversation in the comments section, and perhaps give day-old stories fresh legs by encouraging online users to post links to them on Facebook and Twitter (or, to get a little meta, comment about them on our own blogs).

I’m glad Times Insider is providing this window into news decision making. Journalism teachers can use installments as tools to develop their students’ soft skills.

But about the price: I have to say that to me, the $10.25-per-week subscription price is a bit steep considering  you could buy four copies of the print edition for that. I’m not sure that I would get the same out of Insider as I do from four daily papers. I sure can’t see paying $500 a year for the premium edition. To me, that’s two car payments. But maybe that pricing isn’t designed for people like me. Who is the Times’ target market for this?

Still, If you’re a regular digital subscriber like me, the occasional Story Behind the Story post is available to you for nothing extra. That’s plenty for me.

Big Bill Morganfield listens to a student's question March 3 at Auburn University's Harbert College of Business, where he discussed the music business with several dozen students, professors and blues fans from the Auburn community.

Big Bill Morganfield listens to a student’s question March 3 at Auburn University’s Harbert College of Business, where he discussed the music business with several dozen students, professors and blues fans from the Auburn community.

Big Bill Morganfield isn’t just any bluesman. He’s the son of Muddy Waters, aka McKinley Morganfield, and an Auburn University alumnus.* And he’s well aware that as much as the blues is an art form and a yearning, it’s a business.

That business includes using the tools of the Web and Web 2.0  to reach out. I sat in on his rap session with business students, professors from a variety of disciplines, and blues lovers from the Auburn community tonight at Auburn’s Harbert College of Business. His main messages were about loving what you do, protecting your ability to continue making money off doing it, and being genuine in all phases of your work.

You have to have a good team to work with. That includes the sidemen he picks out, the lawyer who protects his intellectual property rights (he said he’d looked at so many Digital Millennium Copyright Act cease-and-desist forms that he couldn’t even count them anymore), and a publicist.

His communication effort includes a pretty killer website where he controls the narrative about himself, keeps people up to date on what he’s up to, and sells his own music for download or ordering for delivery via snail mail. And he told me after his speaking gig tonight, as he walked out of the building while I finished up some tweets about him, that his publicist had sold him on the power of social media.

Of course, you have to have content that’s worth promoting. Morganfield knows this.

“A lot of people make the mistake of chasing after the dollars,” he said. “When you do that, if they’re blowing away from you and you go after them, you’re only going to get a few. What you want to do is go after the dollars blowing toward you. The way to do that is to get so good, they have to pay you.”

One last note: The last time I bought a blues album was just last summer, but I must admit it could now be classified as an oldie: John Lee Hooker’s “The Healer.” The last one before that was Ali Farkha Toure and Ry Cooder’s collaboration “Talking Timbuktu.” Before that, it was probably R. L. Burnside’s “A Ass Pocket of Whiskey.” But I’m certain the next one will be by Big Bill Morganfield.

*I’m proud to say he got his bachelor’s from Auburn in communication, though I can’t claim to have played a part in that since 1) I wasn’t here then and 2) I don’t think the journalism program and the communication program had yet merged. It’s also very cool that he got a bachelor’s degree in English from the Tuskegee Institute, just down the road a good piece.

You don’t necessarily have to be a certified multimedia ninja to break in as a reporter at a mainstream news organization. But you do need a basic level of digital and social media savvy, Sonya Sorich told the Auburn University Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists tonight. Sorich is audience engagement coordinator for the Ledger-Enquirer in Columbus, Ga., and writes the news site’s American Idol blog

Sorich has a pretty cool gig as a features reporter who specializes in driving traffic to the Ledger-Enquirer’s website and writing about entertainment and pop culture, including live-tweeting during TV shows. One recent example was last weekend’s Miss World competition. Her editors depend on her to write stories for online and print, to blog, to live tweet and offer up observations on daily occurrences on Twitter, to contribute to the paper’s Facebook presence.

Of course, the emphasis on digital-first, print-second journalism means that reporters are under consistent pressure to get good stories and information up on the website constantly. And the de-emphasis on copy editors’ role and numbers in the newsroom means that some tasks that the copy desk handled in the past now get done by reporters. At the Ledger-Enquirer, reporters all have the capability of posting stories at any time from any place without their going through an editor. To me, that emphasizes what I’ve long argued: In a world without copy editors dedicated to serving as the last line of defense, the role of copy editing training becomes more crucial than ever. Why? Because the industry demands that every reporter serve as his or her own editor.

I asked Sorich what digital and social media skills were expected of reporters breaking in at the Ledger-Enquirer. She offered this list:

  • Twitter: When her editors are hiring, they expect job candidates to have Twitter accounts and to be active on them. “When someone throws up 24 consecutive tweets because they just applied for a job, it’s pretty easy to look at their account and see they have a six-month gap since the last time they were active,” Sorich said. So you need to maintain a consistent Twitter presence and understand and do the basics, including posting a balance of personal observations and links to your own content and content that others have created.
  • Facebook: Yes, editors look to see if you’re on Facebook and understand how it functions because so many legacy media outfits that are going digital have established Facebook presences to reach out to the billion-and-counting users on that platform.
  • Smartphone and iPad skills: You need to know how to shoot video and photos with your phone and how to upload content to social sharing sites. What is meant by iPad skills? Well, for starters, you need to be able to use apps that a reporter would expect to use to find information and record it. That means knowing how to use audio recorder apps, be aware of the various public information apps such as police scanner apps (I like the Police Scanner Radio Scanner app, at least for major cities). Of course, having access to a mobile web browser is essential for getting background information on the fly. Sorich said a lot of papers are using Instagram, though McClatchy, the parent company of the Ledger-Enquirer, does not because of legal rights issues.
  • Search engine optimization: “You don’t have to take a whole class in it,” Sorich said, “but you should look to see how the best sites put together headlines to attract traffic.” To get a handle on what works and what does not, I recommend testing keywords using the Google AdWord Keyword Planner. The Ledger-Enquirer uses Omniture, but you can also use Facebook Insights and Google Trends to see what search terms are hot.
  • Basic html: No, you don’t have to be able to build a website from scratch using nothing but code. “That’s what a coder does. You don’t have to be a coder,” Sorich said. But you do need a basic understanding of what code does, how to boldface or italicize words and how to insert links. And you need to be able to look at your text, recognize when something looks a little off, and be able to troubleshoot it. That stuff is easily learned in about a day of tinkering with the visual and text views in WordPress.
  • Content Management Systems: I asked about this, and Sorich said not necessarily — at least you don’t necessarily need to know any single, specific one. But you do need to understand the logic of how CMSes work, how files are created and updated and categorized and tagged.

The new reality is one where every reporter must also think like a marketer and use digital tools that make your material easy for the kind of people who are interested in your stuff to find. That kind of thinking was anathema with a lot of old-school editors who were convinced that they knew exactly what everybody ought to hear, even if they didn’t necessarily know what they wanted to hear. The new media journalist must balance both.

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