Casey Frechette

Casey Frechette is a visiting assistant professor in the journalism and media studies department at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, a Web strategist and consultant with USFSP's Nelson Poynter Memorial Library, and an adjunct with The Poynter Institute. Casey teaches and writes about digital media and researches the role of technology in learning. Before joining the USF St. Petersburg, Casey was an interactive learning producer with Poynter’s News University, a leading online journalism and media training program. At Poynter, Casey worked with faculty and industry leaders to design and build custom training experiences for a community of 200,000 (and growing) online learners. Casey has over a decade of Web development and e-learning experience, specializing in PHP, MySQL and jQuery. He produced multimedia lessons for Navajo students at the University of New Mexico’s Technology and Education Center and DJed at KSEL in Portales, New Mexico. Casey has a master’s in media arts and computer science and a doctorate in organizational learning and instructional technology. His dissertation looks at the effects of animated characters in Web-based learning environments, and his research has appeared in peer-reviewed publications. His current research projects involve investigations into how online wisdom communities form and develop.


Technology in the hands

An introduction to newsroom programming technologies

Newsrooms around the country use code to expand their reporting, create alternative storytelling formats and engage audiences in new ways. Opportunities to enhance newsgathering and publishing with programming skills are significant and growing. So too are the calls to teach journalism students coding alongside writing, editing and reporting.

Many journalism schools recognize the value of technology training in their courses, but they face roadblocks when adding programming to their instruction. One fundamental challenge concerns what tools to focus on and when to teach them.

Journalists looking to improve their technical skill sets face similar issues. There’s no shortage of ways to learn code, but it may not be clear where to begin or how technologies fit together to make code-infused journalism possible.

To help address these issues, here’s a look at the most popular programming languages (and related tools) used by some of the newsrooms at the forefront of journalism and coding. Read more

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Lockedinfo2

15 things journalists (and everyone) need to know about digital security

In these days of NSA snooping, SEA hacking, corporate espionage and cyber fraud, everyone should have digital security top of mind.

If one of your accounts is compromised, you (and your employer) can lose credibility, financial security can be jeopardized and reputations put at risk. And when you’re handling sensitive information from sources, contacts and clients, livelihoods — sometimes even lives — are on the line.

Many organized, well-funded groups — competitors, criminals and governments — have a vested interest in getting at your data. As digital technologies become more pervasive, protecting the security of our information will only become more important.

Here’s the problem: It’s all too easy to get lax with security, and being safe often means sacrificing some convenience. Keeping data secure takes ongoing vigilance. It’s also not always clear where vulnerabilities lie and when your data — or your identity — might be in peril. Read more

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Writingcode

How learning to program can make you a better writer

Perhaps you’ve considered learning how to program. The benefits are enticing. You could create complex visualizations, process reams of public data from your local municipality or even create a Carlos Danger Name Generator.

As reporting and storytelling continue to converge with technology, the case for journalists learning to program gets stronger. For example, it might help in better understanding what’s possible in the digital realm, whether it’s contributing to a data visualization, interactive narrative or a new form of digital storytelling. Picking up some programming jargon can improve communication on multidisciplinary teams, and learning specific tools and processes can help reporters, visual journalists and others do more in their newsrooms.

On the other hand, some argue that pushing journalists to program erodes the value of specialization and puts unfair demands on folks who already are juggling many responsibilities. And the point gets made that involving more people with coding leads to more bad code. Read more

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responsivedesign

What journalists need to know about responsive design: tips, takeaways & best practices

Phones and tablets have created new ways for audiences to reach our work, but they’ve also made it much harder to design a website that works for all readers. A site that looks great on a laptop might be illegible on a phone, while a sleek design on a tablet might look simplistic on a desktop monitor.

To make sure everyone has a good experience, we might be tempted to build different sites — one for phones, another for tablets, and a third for laptop and desktop users.

That might have been a workable solution when there were just a few mobile-device sizes to account for, but what about the current media landscape with oversized phones, shrunken tablets and everything in between? Creating different sites for each possible configuration is a daunting prospect, especially when new form factors seem to pop up every day.

This is where responsive design comes in. Read more

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Smartphone with cloud of application icons

What journalists need to know about the difference between Web apps and native apps

Facebook’s recent unveiling of Home, a software suite for Android phones (and soon tablets), offered more evidence that apps rule the mobile world.

Just a few years ago, usage of apps lagged Web browsing within that world. But we now spend more than 80 percent of our mobile time with apps, according to Flurry Analytics, comScore and NetMarketShare data.

That means news publishers need to prioritize app development when crafting their mobile strategies, as Tom Rosenstiel noted in a recent Poynter.org article summarizing comScore research. But when it comes to developing those apps, publishers have at least two options:

1. Native apps run alongside the browser. They’re built with tools specific to the device’s platform (usually Android or iOS), give a publisher prominent placement on a user’s home screen, and benefit from a raft of sophisticated features.

2. Web apps run within the browser. They’re built with a collection of advanced Web technologies — but, like native apps, emphasize utility over content. Read more

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Magnifying Glass - Web Design

What journalists need to know about Web design

Fifty milliseconds. That’s how quickly visitors can form strong, long-lasting impressions about your news or information website. But they aren’t sizing up the quality of your content or the sophistication of your code. They’re making nearly instantaneous, mostly subconscious judgments about how your work has been designed.

Those assessments can lead to very conscious — and consequential — conclusions about the merits of your page, product or platform. Bad graphic design can damage perceptions about your credibility. It can make your content harder to understand and render your work less appealing.

The visual Web

The Web is a visual medium. It didn’t start that way, back when HTML truly was all about marking up text. Over the years, though, the options for shaping the appearance of a Web page have grown more plentiful and sophisticated.

Now, of course, Web producers have a wide range of design tools at their disposal. Read more

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interview

What journalists need to know about interviewing for video

Interviews are a cornerstone of video storytelling because they provide emotion, content and structure, especially in documentary-style stories with little or no narration. Good interviews make for good videos.

Fortunately, most of what you’ve learned about interviewing applies to video. Open-ended questions produce revealing answers. Good follow-up questions create deeper insights. Long and double-barreled questions confuse subjects, or give them an easy out. And good listening can lead to answers with more detail and depth.

As in print, the video interview is a key reporting tool. But it’s also an essential part of the presentation. Footage of subjects discussing their lives, work and expertise is the engine that drives a video story forward.

That’s why it’s important to consider a range of factors when interviewing for video. Good questions aren’t enough, no matter how compelling the answers.

The success of your stories will hinge largely on the quality of video and audio you capture for your interviews. Read more

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What journalists need to know about digital video editing

Digital camcorders, DSLRs and digital audio recorders have revolutionized video production. It’s now possible to get higher quality footage for less money than ever before. But, advances in hardware don’t tell the whole story. Equally important have been improvements in video software — the tools used to edit, process and publish video.

At the center of this software ecosystem is the digital editing program. This is the software that helps transform footage into stories. It’s the tool that structures disparate clips into logical sequences. And it’s the best way to polish footage and pull together many assets — video, images, voice overs, on-location audio, titles, animations and more.

Why should journalists learn about editing video? After all, video editing is about technology and production techniques. There is a technical side to video editing, but there’s also an opportunity to extend storytelling deeper into the production process. Many of the decisions made in the editing phase have a big impact on stories.
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How wireframing can help journalists plan & communicate ideas

Among the technology-based skills worth journalists’ consideration, wireframing merits a closer look.

Wireframes are rudimentary visual depictions of ideas. They can be created with specialized software or nothing more than a pen and the back of a napkin. Web pages, mobile app screens and information graphics are all suitable wireframe subjects.

Despite their visual nature, though, wireframes aren’t about design, at least not completely. They don’t typically convey information about color or typography. And they don’t specify how gradients, textures, shadows and other effects should be implemented.

Instead, wireframes express how elements should be positioned relative to one another. They convey the importance of elements, oftentimes establishing a sense of hierarchy. Usually, wireframes convey basic information about white space, and the portions of a page or screen. They’re more about visual communication than design.

In practice, wireframes usually take the form of a set of boxes and other simple shapes, each representing a region in a larger layout. Read more

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How journalists can improve video stories with shot sequences

Good video stories need strong individual shots. Great video stories present those shots in a sequence that complements the parts and creates a much greater whole.

Shooting and editing effective sequences are essential video storytelling skills. Shot sequences can enhance cohesion, help communicate more information in less time and create an overall sense of purpose.

In video storytelling, a sequence is simply a series of shots that works together to show an action unfolding. Shot sequences are ubiquitous — most shots in most stories are part of a larger sequence. That’s because they’re a foundational storytelling tool in a medium that’s not only visual but also depicts the passage of time.

Benefits of shot sequences

Shot sequences offer three main benefits:

Shot sequences promote continuity. When audiences see a disparate collection of images that don’t seem to fit together, they often experience a sense of disorientation. They’re pushed away from, rather than pulled in to, the story. Read more

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