Featured sites and expert advice for using the Web

Free Online Courses from the BBC

The BBC has one of the deepest training departments of any journalism organization in the world. Fortunately, thanks to the generosity of the BBC and British taxpayers, many of the BBC’s training courses are available free online for anyone to use.

The courses you’ll find here were originally designed for BBC. As a result, some of the modules contain specific references to BBC procedures, methods and services.

Nevertheless, they’re still useful, especially in a rapidly converging world. The radio courses, for example, are useful for anyone interesting in learning audio storytelling skills for podcasting.

The courses you’ll find on the site include:

You can expect more online material from the BBC in the future. Read more


Thursday, Feb. 08, 2007

Photoshop Alternatives

I am a fan of Adobe Photoshop, the powerful image-editing software that graphic designers love. But I find myself using it less often than I used to. In fact, my usage has fallen off dramatically. The main reason is that I find I often don’t need all the firepower it has to offer.

Most of the time, I am just doing some simple cropping and resizing of photos. To use Photoshop, which takes (what feels like) a long time to load, seems like overkill. Besides, I often need to do some image editing while I am away from my main office computer, the only one of my three computers that even has Photoshop on it. And the reason most of my computers don’t have the program is that, at $649, it’s too expensive. Even the much cheaper and less powerful Photoshop Elements, at $99, feels like overkill most of the time. Read more


Thursday, Jan. 25, 2007

Save This Tip, 2005

Time for the annual year-end roundup
of our favorite Web Tips. The idea is to put together a list of
the most useful tips, Web sites and columns from the past year so that
you can have them all in one place. You’ll find mine below. Jon Dube’s
favorites, in Part II of this column, are here.

A big thank you and season’s greetings to Poynter readers. We
rely on you for tips and feedback to do our work (speaking of readers,
please join the 100+ of them who are helping with the Web Tips Frappr
Project details below).

Here are my favorite tips.

Improve Your Work:

Read more

Tuesday, Jan. 09, 2007

Save This Tip!

We let 2006 slip by without doing our annual roundup of our most useful tips, Web sites and columns. To make amends for that, let’s start the year with some useful lists.


2005 editions of Save This Tip: Sree | Jon

2004 editions of Save This Tip: Sree | Jon

2003 editions of Save This Tip: Sree | Jon

Read all 300+ Web Tips since Sept. 2001.

Web Tips by e-mail:
Click here to receive (sent Tuesdays at noon)

Here are some of my more useful Web Tips columns:

Some of Jon’s picks:

Read more


Sunday, Dec. 17, 2006

24/7 Iraq News

A new site, IraqSlogger.com, offers Iraq news links, original reporting and opinion, and is aiming to be “the world’s premier Iraq-focused information source.”

The site, which officially launches this week, is run by former CNN news chief Eason Jordan and produced by a staff with experience in both journalism and the military. The site’s contributors include 50 Iraq-based correspondents, experts, and tipsters; it also includes reporters and Iraq analysts in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Jordan says he started the site because “news consumers deserve better — a one-stop source for serious, original, comprehensive Iraq-focused news and insight, with contributions from multiple perspectives and nationalities, including Iraqis.”

Among the features you’ll find on the site:

The name of the site, by the way, was inspired by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s reference to the Iraq war being a “long, hard slog.”

YOUR TURN: What Sites Do You Recommend? Read more


Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2006

Tracking Books

We’ve all heard about authors obsessed with the Amazon.com rankings of their books — some who go as far as temporarily manipulating the rankings by buying copies of their own books in bulk. But non-authors are often interested in book rankings, too (or else we wouldn’t have so many kinds of bestseller lists).

The standard Amazon rankings that are updated hourly are interesting, but not very useful. (Below you will find some links that have more information — including critiques — about the rankings themselves.)

I want to tell you today about TitleZ.com, a site I have been using to track books I am interested in. It takes Amazon’s rankings and tracks them over a longer period of time. Think of it as way to go beyond the bestsellers, to the slow sellers and the barely sellers. Here’s the description, from the site:

TitleZ provides:
  • Data: Instantly retrieve historic and current sales rankings from Amazon and create printable reports with 7-, 30-, 90-day and lifetime averages
  • Trends: Easily see how topics or titles perform over time; measure the competition; understand what’s hot
  • Insight: Improve decision-making; know what to publish and when

I use it to keep an eye on a dozen books or so, constantly adding and removing titles. Read more


Tuesday, Nov. 07, 2006

Guide to Poll Data Online

Several researchers have put together an excellent guide to the plethora of public opinion poll Web sites now online.

The guide is one journalists will find particularly useful, as it avoids unscientific online polls and those focused primarily on market research, and instead focuses on scientific, public opinion surveys.

The guide includes scores of links that will help you find everything from information about the basics of polls to major national and regional U.S. media polls to polling data from around the world.  

In addition to links to detailed survey data from such polling centers as Quinnipiac University, you’ll find gems like these:

  • The Gallup Poll Editors’ Blog: “This blog is written by Editor-in-Chief Frank Newport and the other editors at Gallup in order to comment and provide analysis on recent polls.
  • Mystery Pollster: “This blog, written by Mark Blumenthal, a Democratic pollster, is intended to demystify ‘the science and art of political polling.’ Blumenthal does an excellent job of explaining poll results and methodology.
Read more

Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2006

Sites We Read

I am often asked for a list of Web sites I read. I am equally curious about what some of my friends, colleagues and readers read, so I thought I would turn this into a group exercise. I will, starting today and in occasional future columns, describe a site I read multiple times every day. I will try to mix it up so there are both blogs and other kinds of sites. One thing you can be sure of: each is a site I read at least twice a day, unless I am on vacation or in a place without connectivity.

And I would like your help. If you know the site, please add your feedback, good or bad. In addition, please submit your must-read sites either via e-mail to me or in this feedback area attached this article.

To start us off:

RegretTheError.com: This is a blog of corrections compiled from around the media world. Read more


Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2006

Google News Archive Search

Google News has rapidly risen to be one of the most popular news sites on the Web, with more than 9.5 million unique visitors a month and not one journalist on staff. Now, it’s gotten even better.

Google News has indexed the full text of hundreds of thousands of articles going back 200 years and created a valuable new news archive search.

You can access the new Google News Archive Search directly at http://news.google.com/archivesearch

Using the site, you can search for people, events and issues from publications such as Time, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Guardian and The Washington Post, as well as news article databases such as Factiva, LexisNexis, Thomson Gale and HighBeam Research.

When you search, the site automatically creates a timeline of the results, sorting the articles by relevant time periods using computer algorithms and enabling you to get a quick historical overview. Read more


Thursday, June 15, 2006

LinkedIn, Anyone?


[After a summer hiatus, WebTips is back. Please send in your tips and

Like many journalists, I like to think that I am not just in the journalism business, but that I am also in the connecting business — helping various people find and connect with one another. These people can range from reporters looking for additional sources after they interview me, to students looking to be introduced to editors in certain news outlets, to random requests over the transom.

Connecting people, however, is a dicey game. Every time you connect a requester and a requestee (are these real words?), you are putting your own reputation on the line. If the requester asks to be connected to a certain kind of requestee and the person you connect him or her to isn’t appropriate, you have wasted the requester’s time. Similarly, for each connection you try to make of a requestee, you have to be sure it’s a worthwhile connection and that the requestee won’t end up irritated with you for sending along someone less than professional. Read more