Whitney Mathews


Beginner’s guide to using Photoshop in your newsroom

As an online editor at the Lawrence Journal World, part of my job is to constantly expand and adjust my skill set. I’m always looking for new tricks or technologies to learn and use in our news coverage. Until recently, my Photoshop skills were pretty poor. I could crop or make minor size adjustments to images, but found myself frustrated if I wanted to do something more advanced.

Rather than rely on someone else, I started taking online classes through a local community college and have used my new skills on a daily basis. Here are a few of the tips I’ve found most helpful when it comes to editing and adding images online. (For reference, I’m working in CS5. If you’re working in a different version, some of the options may not be available.)


Crop to exact sizes
It’s common for photos to need to fit a specific size in your CMS so that they don’t end up stretched or squished, or throw off the page display. Read more
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8 must-have iPhone & Android apps for covering breaking news

At the Lawrence Journal World, we recently outfitted our reporters with iPhone 4s — a move that has yielded multiple advantages.

Having been an iPhone owner for years, I’ve compiled a list of apps for reporters and bloggers to download and briefly explained how to use them. Each one of these has proven helpful in my own work as a journalist and in our newsroom as a whole when covering breaking news.

Twitter for iPhone
This is a must-have. You can add multiple accounts, so reporters can live tweet events from both your news account and their personal account. It’s also a good contact tool.

5-0 Radio Police Scanner
An instant police scanner (with tens of thousands of feeds) anywhere you go. If you’re on the way to cover breaking news, you can listen to scanner traffic on your phone while you drive. Read more

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How to use fun (and free) data visualization tools for online storytelling

Some stories can be tough to visualize and make interactive on the Web. Many times, they involve boring data sets that are difficult to read, or aren’t visually stimulating enough for video or photos.

Here are a few fun, free visualization tools that you can use with a variety of data sets:

Wordle.net

Wordle takes chunks of text and transforms them into colorful word maps. Its website describes what it does best:

“Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.”

Wordle also removes words like “the,” “and,” “of” and “a” to showcase the meat of a text document. Read more

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How to effectively use Facebook mentions to engage users, share content

Facebook is a “walled garden”; its users value their privacy settings, and you can only see the information that they allow you to access. Despite these restrictions, there are still ways to reach new communities — you just have to get creative with the tools available to you as an individual Facebook user.

Facebook Mentions are the fraternal twin to Twitter’s @mention feature. Next time you update your status on Facebook, type @ followed by the first few letters of a friend’s name. A drop-down menu appears, allowing you to select the friend. When you publish that status, the Facebook mention links to that person’s profile and lands on his or her wall and newsfeed.

If you’re tagging reporters or sources, it may help to ask them first if you can tag them on Facebook. Some people like to keep their personal profiles separate from work or the public, and you don’t want to overstep your bounds. Read more

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How to organize & promote your news organization’s social networks

Social networks present new tools for exchanging information with your audience. But how can you help your audience know where to find you? Rather than rely on search, many news organizations are now using public directories to list their social media accounts. It’s a must-have if your news organization is going social (and it should be).

The point of a social media directory is to make information more accessible. Having one means users can easily find, friend and/or follow any or all of your accounts, but creating and maintaining a directory comes with challenges and commitment.

Major publications such as The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune have accounts for dozens of topics. Even my employer, a smaller organization that serves northeast Kansas, has more than 100 active social media accounts for news brands, beats, reporters and editors on networks that include Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Gowalla, Flickr and YouTube. Read more

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How to lessen social media security risks from third-party apps

How much time has gone by since you joined Twitter? How about Facebook?

According to WhenDidYouJoinTwitter.com, my Twitter birthday is April 26, 2008. Since that day, I’ve sent out more than 9,600 tweets and gained over 1,700 followers. I’ve also allowed multiple third-party applications (such as TweetDeck, TwitPic and Seesmic) access to my account.

iStockphoto

There are a variety of reasons why I give these apps access to my account information. Maybe I’m testing a new product, posting a photo from my phone, or tweeting a link directly from a website. I often allow access without thinking twice.

But this can be risky. Apps all have access to different amounts of personal data. And as these applications add users, their databases grow and become targets for hackers. Bottom line: The more applications you use, the larger your security risk.

Companies often access your personal information via quiz and polling applications on social media sites, for instance. Read more

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5 Twitter tips for the TV anchor (or anyone)

KMBC-TV anchor Kris Ketz — who was recently named one of “Local TV’s Top Tweeters” by Broadcasting & Cable magazine — has come up with some effective tips for using Twitter as a TV anchor. I talked with him about his top five:

1. Be consistent

If you’re going to have a Twitter account, you should use it on a daily basis — at least during working hours. Just like your audience members can rely on you to be on the air, they should be able to rely on your tweets for information.

If your account identifies you as a member of your news organization, that makes you a social media representative for not only news content but for your company.

Ketz says it’s important to know what your audience wants and to be consistent in your offerings. “If people are following you then chose to stay with you,” he said, “that’s a good sign you’re on the right path.”

Since the publication of Broadcasting & Cable list, Ketz’s Twitter following has grown to more than 4,000. Read more

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How to use Twitter hashtags: Everything you want to know but were afraid to ask

A hashtag is two things: a label and a filter. Using a hashtag in your tweets is like flagging them as relevant to a specific topic — the topic being the hashtag. By searching for a specific label, users filter out any unwanted information from their streams.

Example: While “Lost” was still on (*moment of silence*) I set up a search on my Twitter client for the #LOST hashtag. Then I was able monitor the stream of content labeled with that hashtag for news, blogs, tips and links about the show.

Where do hashtags come from?

People create hashtags to help organize and promote tweets about a specific topic.

Example: At the (Lawrence, Kan.) Journal World, we started using the hashtag #FFLawrence for Final Fridays — a community art event on the last Friday of the month in Lawrence. We had live tweets along with our Google map.

Jessica Schilling, our social media coordinator, said the Journal-World used the hashtag #FFLawrence because the community was already adopting it. Read more

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