Blogging the ongoing evolution of Poynter Online.

Instant Messaging the News

By Ellyn Angelotti
Interactivity Editor and Adjunct Faculty

During the typical work day, you can find me and most of my Poynter colleagues on AIM (AOL Instant Messenger). When we work from home, AIM helps us to keep up with one another almost as if we were in the same building. We use AIM to write messages and video chat with each other to ask each other questions and collaborate on projects.

Using instant messaging to communicate with users is nothing new for news organizations. The Wall Street Journal (screen name: WSJ) has had a AIM news bot since 2003. My favorite WSJ feature is the stock quote retriever. See it in action in this IM exchange here:

In April, USA Today (screen name: USA Today) introduced its IM communication with users. When you send an IM to USA Today, you can choose to receive news alerts throughout the day via IMs of news headlines. This is what happens when users send an IM to USA Today:

The creator of AIM, AOL, has (to no surprise) maximized on delivering information to users via IM. Earlier this year when I found a few strange buddies on my buddy list, all it took was one google search of the mystery screen names to find out what was going on. In what the blogging community deemed a controversial move by AOL, the company injected a handful of promotional screen names into AIM users buddy lists (even one IM avatar, called McLovin12Four, to promote the movie SuperBad).

Here is an example of one of these news bots, Liv Greene (screen name: Liv Greene), an avatar who provides users with information about sustainability.

Besides creating an instant messaging account, news organizations and Web sites have found other ways to embrace the use of IM-ing to allow users to share stories and information.

  • As you can see in this story from, when AIM users click the running man icon, they can ping this story to their buddies.
  • Since the beginning of May, NewsKibitz has provided AIM members a venue to comment on stories using IM. AIM-ers can log into their accounts and chat about select news stories. However, with only seven stories (mostly on the weird side) to comment on (the last one was added May 9), the lasting impact of this project is questionable, yet inspirational. Click on the image below to see how NewsKibitz integrates IM users comments on this site.
  • In a more modest adoption (in that, it is only available to a limited number of people who communicate weather messages to the public), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is experimenting with the use of IM to communicate during severe weather events. Last September, NOAA released a detailed description of the IM service they provide.
The document articulated that its purpose for using IM is to provide the National Weather Service with a “quick, efficient means of exchanging hydrometeorological information with media partners, emergency management officials, and other members of the hazard response community.” They are collecting feedback from those who participate in the experiment.

Considering the effectiveness in using instant messaging as a quick and simple communications system, we want to extend this form of communication beyond Poynter and interact with our users through their chat windows.

We now have an AIM account for Poynter. It’s poynterinstitute. If you use AIM, you can add us to your buddy list and contact us directly with quick journalism-related questions.

But what happens if we are away from the computer and you have a question? We found a free service called AlwaysOn that serves as our virtual AIM secretary. When we are logged off AIM, users can leave us a message and we will receive it the next time we log on.

So here is what you see when you IM us when we’re away:

And when we log back on, this is what we see:

How do you (or a news organization) set up an AIM account?
1.Set up an AIM account.
Sign up and select a screen name on the site. It will walk you through the process of creating this free account.

2. Choose a IM application. You can download the AIM application from the AIM Web site. If you are on a Mac, your computer should have the iChat application (Extra perk: If you have a built-in video camera you can video chat with other AIM users. With the Leopard operating system you can share your screen with a buddy or see your buddy’s screen).

3. Add buddies. Ask your colleagues if they are on IM. If you’re a Facebook user, many people display their IM screen name on their profile.

4. Check out tools like AlwaysOn or look into creating your own news bot.

How could news organizations use instant messaging to communicate with users? Share your ideas by posting a comment. Read more


Find Sites Al is Diggin’ on

By Mallary Tenore
Poynter Naughton Fellow

In the left rail of his Morning Meeting column, Al Tompkins links to sites that he’s “diggin,’” or finds interesting. The sites highlight compelling multimedia projects, reporting resources and new tools for journalists.
To help make this resource more useful for Al’s Morning Meeting readers, we are now saving all of the sites to our Poynter page. For a full list of the sites, visit’s_diggin’_sites. We will continue to update the page as Al adds new links to the rail in his column.   

We also post related sites to our Diversity at Work column to the Poynter page. You can find these sites at Read more


Monday, June 02, 2008

Join a Hunt for Quality ‘Media and Politics’ Stories

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Now that the election primary season is over and the national conventions are weeks away, journalists have time to do more than simply follow breaking news from the campaign trail.

We now have time to evaluate it.

The week of June 13, The Poynter Institute is teaming up with PolitiFact (a project of Poynter’s St. Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly) and NewsTrust to review the media’s political coverage. We hope to find the best journalism on the topic of “Media and Politics.”

Here is your chance to review the journalistic coverage you are consuming. For the next week, we’d like to encourage you to participate in our news hunt by signing up for NewsTrust. Each day you can review and/or submit two or three stories or videos you find online.

Throughout the week you can also view the top-rated “Media and Politics” stories reviewed by NewsTrust users. (Here’s the RSS feed if you want to add it to your reader). To the left of this text, you’ll see a widget featuring a constantly updated report of the three articles NewsTrust users rated best in their reviews.

Displayed in the widget (which you can embed on your own blog or Web site), you can see:

  • The article title
  • Where the article was published
  • When it was published
  • The type of content (news analysis, opinion, press release, etc.)
  • A brief user summary of or commentary on the article
  • How many stars users have awarded to it (and its average rating)
  • A link to other reviews
  • A direct link to the review page for you to review it yourself

Here is an example of what a basic story review looks like. Click on the image to start the news hunt and review your first story:

Poynter’s interest in quality journalism, PolitiFact’s search for truth in the presidential campaigns, combine with NewsTrust’s functionality to rate online content for its quality, will help identify some of the best practices in political coverage this primary season. We need your help, though.

Join us on the news hunt and, for the next week, help us review our industry’s work. Next week, we’ll report back what we find.

Additional resources

Read more


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Watch Walter Reed Seminars with Anne Hull and David Maraniss

We streamed and recorded two programs Tuesday about The Washington Post‘s investigation of Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Our guests were Anne Hull, one of the two reporters who worked on the Pulitzer Prize-winning stories, and her editor David Maraniss.

In the first video, an evening talk open to the public, Poynter’s Bob Steele leads Hull and Maraniss through a thoughtful discussion of the Walter Reed project, war coverage in general and differences between the Iraq and Vietnam wars.

In the second video, a session called “Inside the Walter Reed Investigation,” Hull and Maraniss answer questions about the project from journalists attending the “Covering War at Home” conference.

Both videos are about an hour and a half long. Enjoy, and post your comments in the feedback area.

The Story of Our Time: A Community Conversation on Covering the War at Home

Note: To play the video, press the circular “refresh” button, which will restart the stream.

Inside the Walter Reed Investigation

Note: To play the video, press the circular “refresh” button, which will restart the stream.

Read more


Monday, Apr. 14, 2008

How to Create Facebook Applications

By Ellyn Angelotti
Interactivity Editor

Since I added the New York Times News Quiz Facebook Application to my Facebook page last fall, I have been envisioning what kind of Poynter Facebook Application we might create. But even with my basic HTML and programming skills, I cowered when I looked at the source code of a Facebook Application.

Until last week. We now have a Facebook Application that enables Facebook users to access Romenesko’s latest news from their profile page on Facebook.

How I did it
I’ve been checking out how news organizations create and utilize Facebook applications. A couple of weeks ago, I found some inspiration when I opened the San Jose Mercury News’ “Rethinking the Merc” application (the last post to this blog was in March). When clicked on the “About” page, I saw this:

Could I really make a Facebook Application in merely a few clicks?

I went to the Widgetbox Web site and saw I could make a Facebook Application based on RSS widgets. I thought, “I can do this.” (We created an iGoogle page of widgets based on Poynter content last summer.)

Widgetbox walks you through the process of making a widget. After you’ve created a widget in Widgetbox, log in to your Facebook account and Widgetbox walks you through the process of creating a Facebook application. Once you have five users, you can submit your application to the Facebook gallery for other Facebook users to find.

Learning from the Traffic
We wanted to use this application to learn more about the best vehicles to drive traffic to Poynter Online using a Facebook application.

I tracked two groups of Facebook users:

1. “Unique Adds” -The number of people who have added the Romenesko application to their Facebook page.
2. “Fans” — those who say they like the application.

Here was the strategy we pursued and what happened as a result:

Action: Thursday, April 10, I created the application and told my colleagues about the application.
Result: The next day, there were 16 fans without any promotion other than Facebook friends seeing other friends add the application to their page.

Action: Friday, April 11 at 2 p.m., I posted an update to the Poynter Facebook group.
Result: By the next morning, Saturday, the first statistics for how many people had added the application became available. Thirty-six Facebook users added Romenesko to their page Friday, 23 added the application on Saturday and 56 more Sunday. By Monday morning, 80 users had become fans of the App.

Action: Monday, April 14 I posted a link to the Journalists and Facebook group that includes 7,466 Facebook members.
Result: Seventy-one Facebook users added the application between Monday morning and Tuesday morning. Fifteen more people became fans of the application.

Action: Tuesday, April 15 I added a Facebook badge and link to the application on Romenesko’s column on
Result: The number of users who added the application reached its highest point Wednesday morning with 102 adding. By Thursday morning 73 more users added the application. In this time 22 users became fans of the application.

Action: On the afternoon of Thursday, April 17 Colleen Eddy, the Career Center director, and I created a Facebook ad promoting the Romenesko Facebook application.
Result: Thursday and Friday, 89 people added the application. In this same time period, there were 15 new fans of the application.

View this graph visualizing the number of Facebook users who have added the Romenesko Facebook application to their page:

We saw the largest number of Facebook users add the application after we added the Facebook badge to the Romenesko page on Poynter Online.

The graph below shows the number of Facebook users who have become new fans of the Romenesko Facebook application each day since it’s launch:

We saw the greatest number of new fans 48 hours after we first introduced the application. I think this is because the people we made the application available to first were some of the Facebook users who are loyal Poynter users (and many Poynter employees).

What Needs Work
There are a couple of things that are not perfect. For example, I haven’t found a way to control the ads Facebook places above the application I create. We were less than impressed with some of the ads displayed (see an example of the less-than-desirable ads below):

Also, when someone adds my application to their page, they add a “badge” to their page. They are still one click away from the feed. Once they click the badge then they can access the Romenesko column feed.

My former Scripps colleague, Brian Bruce, has also created a Facebook application for, a site for those interested in remodeling their homes. HIs application aggregates these resources and allows Facebook users to access them from their Facebook page and share them with others. Read more


Friday, Mar. 28, 2008

Design is Done, Coding Under Way

By Jeremy Gilbert,
Managing Editor, Innovation & Poynter Online Redesign Project Leader

The design work is done.

The seventh version of Poynter Online has entered its final phase of development.

Incorporating months of feedback and several major iterations, we delivered design mockups last week to our programming team at DataGlyphics, Inc. We created mock-ups of major site areas, including the homepage, linked below, with each mock-up detailing how that part of the site will work.

Feedback from users and colleagues led to the final design. You’ll notice the final design still focuses on our most timely items, just as the initial design did, but in a vertical list instead of a horizontal scroll — as you recommended.

As we shared more of our prototyping process, you asked for more readable type and clearer headline hierarchies — which we worked on. When we discussed our ideas for journalism-focused social-networking, you told us how you wanted niche groups — and we are working to make that happen.

These final design mock-ups show both what the site will look like and how it will work. Our functionality document — along with a style guide listing type sizes, colors and weights — will guide the developers as they build the new site.

The navigation area below provides an illustration of this approach. It shows Most Recent Articles, one of a number of new ways users will be able to sort content on the redesigned site. The functionality document describes this feature:

1.1.1 Most Recent Articles displays the five most recent items posted as articles or blog entries in the Poynter publishing system. It does not include feedback comments or anything posted to Poynter Groups. Clicking More Recent Articles displays 10 additional items, selected in reverse chronology as are the first five showing out front.
Display convention:
  • Article headline (limit to two lines with ellipsis as required)
  • Time, month, day, year
Most Recent Articles Functionality

This kind of detailed information helps our programmers translate Photoshop images into dynamically functioning Web pages. You can see more of the new site and some of its expected functionality.

While little on the Web is ever really final, these mock-ups and our functionality list are complete — at least for Phase I of the redesign. We may make minor tweaks before launch, but any major changes will have to wait a while.

As the coding proceeds, we’ll be working on features for the new site. Until then we’ll keep you posted, and welcome your feedback. Read more


Tuesday, Mar. 18, 2008

BlogNetNews: Aggregating Journalism Blogs

By Ellyn Angelotti, Interactivity Editor and Adjunct Faculty
Dave Mastio, Editor of

According to Technorati, 175,000 new blogs are born every day. Bloggers post 18 new updates every second.

This overabundance of options can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve been working with BlogNetNews to create the Poynter blog network. We want to direct you to what we think are the most informative journalism blogs. And we also want to make it easy for you to share the Poynter blog network with others.

BlogNetNews has been around for about a year creating blogging communities based on topic, such as politics, and location. You can select any state (for example see Virginia’s page) and find a collection of blogs from that area. They are teaming up with news organizations like the Knoxville News Sentinel to create hyperlocal community blogs.

We created the Poynter blog network as a guide to journalism and media news blogs.The Poynter blog network is divided into eight sections:

1. Media News
2. Ethics & Diversity
3. Journalism Education & Training
4. Leadership & Management
5. Online & Multimedia
6. Reporting, Writing & Editing
7. TV & Radio
8. Visual Journalism

Blogs feeds in context
Each section aggregates excerpts from a variety of blogs and news feeds related to the topic.
In the center column, these posts are organized with the most recent information on the top of the page. When you want to read a full post, simply click on the headline and a new tab will open taking you to the site. When you want to read more from that blog or news source, click on the name of the site and you’ll get an index of its latest posts. You can also filter the content in the middle column to read content that is only news or only opinion.

Finding what’s important
In the left column of the site are a series of measures that organize blog posts by a variety of measures.

Looking for the news stories that are getting the most links? Check out Top News. Want to participate in ongoing debates and discussions? Follow the links in Hot Comments. Want to find the sites with the most new information? Follow the links in Most Active. Want to know what other Poynter readers are clicking on? Most Clicked is for you.

Here’s a more detailed explanation:
Top News: Most popular news stories from mainstream sources that Poynter blog network sites are linking to today. (What the blogs are talking about.)

Hot Comments: Poynter blog network posts with the most new comments according to their publicly available site feeds. (Where the blog community is talking.)

Most Linked: Poynter blog network blogs that have been linked by other network blogs the most this week. (The blogs that are leading the conversation.)

Most Clicked: The blog posts that Poynter readers click on most.

Most Active: Poynter blog network sites with the most new posts in the last 24 hours. (Where new conversations are starting.)

Each section in the Poynter blog network also includes a targeted search engine that tracks only the feeds in the section. Unlike a Google or a Technorati, human editors focus the search on the experts, the innovators and the news breakers. So, you won’t end up clicking through to a site that is a waste of time.

The blog network will come to you.
Every single page inside the Poynter blog network comes with its own feed. If you use a feed reader, you can stream the contents of any section and search results. Just click on the RSS link on the bottom left of the page or in your URL bar.

Feedcentral (located in the left rail) features an even more customized information or more customized delivery. Getting feeds about a single company or news industry issue delivered how you want – email, widget, standard feed, or optimized for mobile — is as simple as pointing and clicking while following a few simple steps.

We even have a couple of widgets to help you share this resource with your online community. The Poynter Blogwire displays the latest stories from each section. Also, the Poynter blog network search widget enables you search the Poynter Blog network from your own blog.

And take the Poynter Blog network with you on your mobile device using the BuzMob service (it’s in beta stage right now).

What blogs are we pulling content from?
Find our the blogs that we have included in the blog network in the right rail. Did we miss one? Submit a blog by clicking on the button located at the bottom of the right rail.

Want to see your blog in the Poynter blog network? Send us a link. Read more


Monday, Mar. 17, 2008

Too Hot to Handle? See Diversity at Work

By Bill Mitchell
Director of Poynter Online

Some of the most interesting stories start out as ideas considered too hot to handle. They might offend someone. They might be misunderstood.  They might make people uncomfortable.

Stories about racial slurs, about sexual orientation, about affirmative action.

Those are the sorts of stories, among others, that we’ll be exploring in a new Poynter blog.

Building on the good work of former Poynter faculty member Aly Colón and others who powered the Journalism with a Difference column over the years, Naughton fellow Mallary Tenore has created the Diversity at Work
blog. (Thanks to Poynter Dean Keith Woods for coming up with the name.)

As we’ve done with Rick Edmonds’ Biz Blog (and as you’ll see soon in a couple of other upcoming new features), Diversity at Work reflects a new emphasis on timely, effective, engaging content that we aim to deliver with the new version of Poynter

Journalism with a Difference provided occasional essays
about diversity issues that often involved significant
reporting and editing; Diversity at Work will provide much
shorter and more frequent updates. They’ll still be
thoughtful, but might be limited to one or two thoughts,
and may focus more on questions than answers.

You’ll see more of the new design of the site next week. But we’re not waiting for the launch of the redesign to introduce Diversity at Work and other new stuff.

Matt Thompson, one of Mallary’s predecessors as Naughton Fellow and one of our advisers for the redesign, urged us to introduce new material gradually. As Poynter Online Editor Julie Moos points out, there’s only so much users can absorb at once. So we’re trying to ease users into our/their new world.

You can get involved with Diversity at Work now at Our plan is to do a soft launch later this week (adding to the right rail of the home page), and then look for a centerpiece to give Diversity at Work a more boisterous kick-off.

Be sure to take a look at some of the resources that Mallary has assembled on the left rail of the new blog, especially a customized page pegged to diversity topics. If you have ideas to improve Diversity at Work, please add them in the feedback area below or shoot Mallary an e-mail. Read more


Tuesday, Mar. 11, 2008

NewsTrust: Assessing Users’ Trust in the News

By Ellyn Angelotti
Interactivity Editor

Journalists have been able to tell if users Digg their work, or even if users think the stories news organizations write are, but now they can find out how much users trust the news they are producing.

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NewsTrust provides new ways for journalists to see what people are saying about their work. It features an additional layer of functionality that lets users review content for journalistic value.

For the next week The Poynter Institute will be teaming up with PolitiFact — a project of Poynter’s St. Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly — in a partnership with NewsTrust for an online news hunt for stories about Media & Politics. Before you jump in and start submitting and reviewing stories, here’s a debrief on the tools NewsTrust provides.

What is NewsTrust?
NewsTrust is a Web site that lets users evaluate news stories, journalists and news organizations. The site provides a process for enhancing feedback users give to journalists through a five-star rating system and textual feedback. Members get the opportunity to be editors, stirring discussion not on the story being told but rather about the journalism itself.

Since the fall of 2006, Fabrice Florin and a dozen or so advisers, including Poynter Online director Bill Mitchell, have guided the creation of a beta version of NewsTrust. Here are some of the site’s main features:

Stories for review
NewsTrust has 13 topic areas with a handful of subtopics within each group. Each of these areas has its own RSS feed and transplantable widgets. Within a topic area you can see “Top Rated” stories; “Stories for Review” (newly submitted stories that do not yet have enough reviews); and “Today’s Picks” (a dynamically-updated list of the stories with the most reviews and most recent reviews).

Member pages
Each user has a personal page that shares professional and personal information for greater transparency. This information makes it possible to sort and analyze reviews based on specific criteria, such as reviews by journalists with 10 or more years of experience. Member pages also aggregate story reviews from users and member ratings (other members’ rating to reviews).

Each member is ranked and given a member level based on five criteria:
  1. Activity on the site (how many stories a member has reviewed)
  2. Experience in journalism (self-reported)
  3. Ratings from other members
  4. Transparency of the member’s shared information
  5. Validation: NewsTrust checks a member’s validity by verifying basic information and examples of expertise and bias

News Organization pages
Each news organization that has had an article reviewed by NewsTrust members has a profile page with information about the organization (with a little help from Wikipedia); stories from that news organization that are up for review; and an organization’s user rating. Members determine the organization’s political tendencies and its rating, including how much users trust that news source. On their profile page users can tag the organization’s stories based on content and quality and find out more about the organization, including which platform it produces content for, what types of stories it posts (blogs, reports, editorial, etc.), and the authors that have been reviewed.

News hunts
NewsTrust teams up with online publications to “find the best journalism on a certain topic” through an online search. Throughout the week, the NewsTrust community and the selected online publication(s) community submit and review stories using NewsTrust. The NewsTrust team tracks how many stories are submitted (from a cross-section of sources) and shares the top rated stories and key findings on its blog.

How could Poynter use NewsTrust?
Many Poynter faculty and staff have already joined NewsTrust and made suggestions for improvements for future development. During a recent staff meeting we walked through the story review process as a group.

We are also partnering with NewsTrust and PolitiFact to host a news hunt on the topic of “Media & Politics.” During this week-long online event, Poynter and PolitiFact users can sign up for NewsTrust and submit links they find or review stories that fall into the subject area of “Media & Politics.” At the end of the week, we will share the stories with the highest rating (and journalistic value based on NewsTrust criteria) from the articles that are submitted.

In the future, we may post a bookmarklet at the end of our stories, enabling Poynter Online users to easily review stories from our site.

How could journalists use NewsTrust?
– To get feedback. If journalists want feedback about a story, they can post a link to NewsTrust in the “Stories for Review” section. When you post a story “for review,” the NewsTrust community will do just that.

– To find examples of good journalism. If a journalist is looking for credible sources or stories on a given topic, NewsTrust is one option that brings together content on a variety of topics.

How do I get started using NewsTrust?

Visit this sign-up page. It will walk you through the sign-up process. You can then visit the “News from Poynter” page or find stories on your own to review.

Want to review a story? The NewsTrust staff walks you through the process in this video tutorial.

After you have a chance to try out NewTrust, let us know what you think about the site.
* How do you think NewsTrust’s function differs from other online rating sites, such as Digg?
* If your work were to be reviewed on NewsTrust, what kind of feedback would help improve your work as journalist? Read more


Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2008

SuperVision: Jill Geisler’s New Blog for Leaders

Today we launched SuperVision, a new leadership column written by Jill Geisler, head of Poynter’s Leadership and Management Group. This blog is an evolution of the Leading Lines column. The main difference:  SuperVision will deliver more frequent posts, often featuring video.  Jill will offer quick tips and observations on leadership issues in the news, along with video illustrations.

Readers and viewers of SuperVision will find:

  • Hot topics with Jill’s take on real-life leadership scenarios in newsrooms and beyond.
  • Cool tips provide useful, at-a-glance ideas for managers, often with links to longer readings.
  • Help! Answers to questions submitted by those who manage — or are managed.
  • Leadership at Poynter with links to  upcoming Poynter leadership seminars.
  • Distance Learning through NewsU leadership courses led by Jill: Difficult Coversations and Lousy Listeners.
  • Leaders as Readers featuring book recommendations for leadership and management issues.

SuperVision is a natural next step for Jill, who is as comfortable on camera as she is teaching or writing.  “At its best,” she says, “SuperVision will be a mini-channel of daily information for newsroom managers.  I’m trying to weave my broadcast journalism skills with my love of leadership teaching.”

In bringing multimedia to her blog, Jill learned how to add basic HTML and upload photos to Poynter’s content management system. She also helped create the resources in blog’s left rail. 

“I wanted to put myself in the shoes of many of the journalists in newsrooms today,” she said.  “Learning new skills isn’t always easy, especially when you’ve never been technically adept.  Believe me, I’m not. So be patient with me, but realize that if I can do it — anyone can!”

Send Jill your leadership questions and challenges, and she’ll see you on SuperVision. Read more