Monthly Archives: March 2012

New media grows up by changing old guards

The news Chris Hughes scooped up the long-suffering political magazine The New Republic earlier this month took me by surprise. Not so much that Hughes – Mark Zuckerberg’s old Harvard roommate and one of Facebook’s founders – spent money on a company peddling a print product, but that The New Republic was still around. Quite simply, I’d forgotten about the magazine in the first place.

It’s always flown under the radar, but The New Republic has long been the reading of liberal politicians – and few others.

Already, Hughes is making his mark. Today, The New Republic’s staff announced it was disassembling part of its paywall.

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Old habits die hard

Here’s the news peg: The Boston Globe this morning announced something that sounds much more interesting than it actually is. Their new ePaper sounds like the best of both worlds, seeing the print version the same way on your iPad as in your hands as a newspaper.

To be fair, if I were still working for a newspaper, I’d love this announcement. The time and energy and sweat I’ve spent laying out pages, only to have Quark XPress self-destruct before you’ve hit save, is essentially vindicated now that my blood and tears are now available for the anti-print crowd to see on their techie devices. And I understand there is a market for such things as the ePaper, especially at publications that treat their website and Internet presence as an afterthought.

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Non-profit investigative reporting sites do one thing, do it well

Kristen Lombardi at Dan Kennedy's Reinventing the News class, March 22

Investigative reporters are probably seen by accountants and others who stare at spreadsheets as big money losers. It’s not totally unwarranted. A daily newspaper is pretty much in the business of writing daily news, and investigative stories take months, if not years, to report. That means investigative reporters aren’t exactly turning over stories quickly.

Kristen Lombardi works for the Center for Public Integrity, a non-profit site started decades ago by an ex-“60 Minutes” reporter who was “frustrated by commericail media and an inability to do deep-digging investigative projects,” she said.

“Much of my work at the center has been what you’d call an investigation hidden in plain sight,” Lombardi said. “It’s not as if these stories weren’t out there for mainsteam reporters to seize upon. Nobody, I think, had the time or resources to deal with them.”

Lombardi, who is a 2011-12 Nieman Foundation fellow, said she came to the center after taking a buyout from the Village Voice. Out of a job, she said she didn’t want to go back to daily assignment reporting and wanted to work at an online publication, seeing that as “being ahead of the curve.”

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Final project: How college newspapers manage their online presence

My final project will compare at least two college newspapers in the Boston area and evaluate their online presence. This will take into consideration a website, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts and the frequency all of these platforms are updated and maintained.

I’ve chosen the Daily Free Press, BU’s independent student newspaper, and plan to speak with Managing Editor Tim Healey and, if possible, Editor in Chief Chelsea Diana. The Daily Free Press is significant among Boston student papers because it’s long been independent from the university’s resources, something I think greatly affects editorial processes and what’s possible with editorial content that can be regulated by administrators.

That’s also why I’ve chosen to interview the editor at the Berkeley Beacon, Emerson College’s newspaper. Editor in chief Alexander Kaufman was behind the team that changed their website to an advanced HTML 5 platform, which is similar to what other major newspapers are using on their websites. The Beacon is independent as well, but it’s a weekly paper serving a much smaller campus. Their coverage during the Boston Blackout last week though was thorough, I thought, and a good example of covering a breaking story in a timely manner that would have wide appeal among their audience.

Based on my research so far, I’ve left the door open to add another paper or student-run media organization as an example. I already monitor their respective Twitter handles and plan to pay close attention to their social media platforms during my reporting process.

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10 is a scary number when it comes to paywalls

With all of the discussion in the last year or so about them, you could probably write a blog just on paywalls.

It’s already been a year since The New York Times instated its paywall on online readers, limiting readers to 20 articles a month unless they paid up for home delivery or a digital subscription. Or if they just found a way to circumvent the paid journalism guards, which proved pretty easy to do if you follow the Times on Twitter or Facebook.

But I finally caved in a few months ago and bought a digital subscription, mostly because I’d go on to NYTimes.com looking for a specific story and then get distracted and click-happy when I saw other stories I hadn’t seen on Twitter. In one sitting, 10 clicks could be gone.

Ten clicks is all non-subscribers are going to get from now on, since the NY Times has made it just that more difficult for cheapskates to scale the paywall. And 10 really isn’t that many, especially if they get any smarter about making clicks from social media count.

In just 10 days, I slammed into the Los Angeles Times’ new paywall. It felt like I hit it head first and I might have let out a few choice expletives in the middle of a Starbucks. I read the LA Times frequently for California-centric stories the NY Times doesn’t do well, or at all. And their paywall counts what you click on through social media. If they cut their free article limit to 10, I’ll be out of free clicks in a couple of days.

Twenty clicks got me through most of the month on the NY Times. Fifteen clearly wasn’t enough at the LA Times. Now 10? That’s going to make scaling the paywall tricky. Looks like I need to get some extra jobs to pay for online subscriptions.

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Historic Boston site: Faneuil Hall

It turns out the seventh-most popular tourist destination in the world is essentially a shopping mall and a food court. Yes, Faneuil Hall, where you can also buy clothes from a number of chain stores or overpriced keychains that say “Boston” on them, was the most visited spot in Boston in 2011. (It also ranks third among Foursquare check-ins in 2011, if that matters.)

Faneuil Hall’s popularity among tourists is likely reinforced by its abundance of shops, but it doesn’t hurt that the area is located between both the historic North End and busy downtown. Faneuil Hall sits in a prime location.

“It’s probably because it’s part of the Freedom Trail,” Matthew Brearley, owner of the Brearley Collection store in Quincy Market, said. “There are a lot of international tourists who come here. During the summer we get a cruise ship every day. People come here because they want the full Boston experience.”

Brearley – whose shop sells framed photographs of historic Boston sites and Red Sox players, among other shots – said he gets traffic from people headed to TD Garden for a Celtics or Bruins game, which was happening on the evening I went. For locals, Faneuil Hall probably gets written off as a tourist trap. But on some off days, like a particularly nice Monday in March, it’s kind of a cool intersection of old buildings meeting new shops. Of course, it doesn’t hurt it’s easy to get far away from Faneuil Hall if the mass of tourists becomes too much to handle.

“Boston is a compact city,” Brearley said. “It’s not too far to get from here to Fenway (Park). And any tourism magazine will tell you this is a good place to stop if you want to see the city.”

Faneuil Hall:

  • Established in 1742, expanded to include Quincy Market in 1826
  • Marketplace located at intersection of Congress and North Streets
  • Marketplace Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; 12-6 p.m. Sunday
  • MBTA stops: Government Center, State, Haymarket
  • (617) 523-1300
  • www.faneuilhallmarketplace.com
  • Fun fact: Durgin Park, the oldest existing restaurant in Faneuil Hall, opened in 1826.

Flickr set on Faneuil Hall

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Maps are Journalism, too

Maps are one of the best examples of how to integrate technology with journalism. There’s nothing easier for the reader than to see exactly where news happens, without having to describe it in 100 or more words. Maps have traditionally been a standard type of infographic in newspapers, but now online maps can add so much more detail – especially in election coverage. Because this GOP nomination is being dragged out so long, it has consumed my attention.

Google’s map of elections: This is probably the best starting point for anyone looking for election results, and on nights such as Super Tuesday a week-and-a-bit ago, Google’s election maps are a great way to see how people voted in states quickly.

NYT Election Map: The New York Times does some of the best election night reporting, and I’m addicted to FiveThirtyEight. So combine this with maps that are actually a little sharper and better looking than Google’s and you have a pretty addicting set of state and national maps.

SeeClickFix – San Francisco Chronicle: SeeClickFix is popping up in a lot of places lately, but I think the Chronicle has done a good job of using it to help their geographically wide coverage area. Maps pinpointing little trouble spots such as potholes, and bigger issues of public safety, sound like a job for a hyperlocal site. While the Bay Area is plastered with these kinds of websites, SFGate.com has probably kept more than a few eyeballs on their site for neighborhood issues.

The continuing development of maps for interactive journalism can only be a good thing.

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I like what I like

Reporters from "His Girl Friday" (Wikimedia Commons)

I’ll admit, I didn’t really know where I was going when I started this blog. I love reading about the media, but am I qualified to be a writer about it? No, not really. Thank God for the Internet, then. And Media Decoder. I don’t know what I’d do without Brian Stelter and the gang who tell the country what we should be thinking about in terms of the media. Because, after all, it’s The New York Times. (Suck up time, over.)

I have to say, I’m most fascinated about what people tell us we should be using. People like the writers on Mashable’s Media site. They’re the reason I discovered Pinterest and have been ravaging my brain cells thinking of a way to work it into my life. And now, there’s Manterest, because we didn’t have enough social media platforms to think about already. But anyway, Mashable is a tech site and frankly, in the times of new media, I’m a better journalist for staying abreast of new platforms and techniques.

Keeping on the new media developments is Jeff Sonderman, the digital media fellow at Poynter Institute. Poynter is, to some extent, a journalist’s compass. It’s a constant source of information for those of us who are obsessed with the industry. Sonderman is one of the best signs that Poynter has accepted the realities of modern media. Just like Mashable, he’s on top of social media trends and trying to justify the use of them in news organizations. He’s more journalistic than Mashable, or my next source of information.

Gawker gets a reputation for being a trashy gossip blog. It’s well-earned, but that doesn’t mean it’s somehow beneath us all. I think it’s worth navigating its media section because of the way they call some media organizations out. Sometimes it’s petty, but sometimes it’s worth reading. And because of Gawker’s must-beat-everyone-else attitude, when I read something on their media section, it’s often the first time I’m hearing about it.

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Listen up

When was the last time you tuned into WRBB, Northeastern’s radio station? I haven’t, and I don’t even know what its frequency is off the top of my head. But if you find it online, you’ll see tons of sports and music. Clearly there’s demand among Huskies to be heard on the radio, whether on an FM radio or through the Internet.

In my video, I talk to WRBB General Manager James Maniscalso and two students eager to start their own shows and spread their music knowledge to Northeastern. They have a point: for music lovers, a radio show is a great way to discover new bands. Even if one of them says he’s prepared to feature some pretty weird stuff.

This was really the first video I shot and edited from start to finish by myself – and it was a pain. Much like photojournalism, it forces me to use different news muscles that are totally out of shape right now. I think I’ve been too used to breaking news reporting and thinking off the top of my head that I was unprepared for the amount of planning needed to make a good video. I know for next time now.

On the upside, video journalism is pretty cool and I remember how easy iMovie is – once you know where everything is. But you’ll see my learning experience if you click below.

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