Best Practices: Journalism Education


10 ways to prevent plagiarism, fabrication at college newspapers (and in any newsroom)

Multiple news organizations have recently found themselves in the middle of plagiarism and fabrication scandals — NPR, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, Time, CNN and The Boston Globe to name a few.

Last week, Penn State’s student newspaper The Daily Collegian suspended a writer for plagiarizing and fabricating quotes by Sue Paterno, the widow of former coach Joe Paterno. This was the paper’s second plagiarism case this year, and it marks the third time that a college newspaper has made headlines for plagiarism and fabrication in the past month. (In September, Arizona State University’s State Press and Columbia University’s Daily Spectator both revealed that students there had plagiarized.)

The incidents made me think about the particular challenges that student journalists face, and the steps that college newspapers can take to help them. I talked with editors-in-chief and media advisers from eight colleges and universities to find out what strategies they’ve developed to help prevent plagiarism and fabrication and where they fall short.

Define plagiarism/fabrication

It’s easy to assume that students should know what constitutes plagiarism and fabrication, but that’s not always the case. Many of the students writing for college newspapers — particularly underclassmen and students at colleges without J-schools — have never had previous journalism experience.

“A lot of student journalists don’t understand what qualifies as plagiarism simply because they haven’t written enough articles or read enough to grasp what it is,” Yasmeen Abutaleb, editor-in-chief of the University of Maryland’s student newspaper, The Diamondback, said via email. “I also think student journalists don’t understand that they should be striving to confirm and get facts themselves, rather than taking them from another news source — which could easily lead to plagiarism. And a lot of it stems from not understanding how to properly attribute.” Some students, Abutaleb noted, use information from other stories rather than doing their own reporting.

Talking with students about plagiarism and fabrication before an incident occurs is key. It’s also smart for advisers and editors-in-chief to talk with student journalists about “patchwriting.”

This practice, which tends to be more common than plagiarism, involves relying heavily on source material and changing it only slightly by rearranging phrases and changing tenses. A recent study shows the practice is especially prevalent among college students.

“The college newsroom is fraught with peril. Many students arrive without a clue of what it takes to create original work,” said Poynter Faculty Member Kelly McBride, who recently wrote about patchwriting. “It’s actually crazy how little support we give student journalists compared to what we expect.”

Set clear expectations

To help prevent plagiarism and fabrication, college newspapers need to be upfront with students about the consequences they’ll face.

“At our new staff orientation, one of the very first things we tell people is that fabrication and plagiarism won’t be tolerated and you won’t be able to continue to work here if you do it,” Erica Beshears Perel, newsroom adviser to the University of North Carolina’s Daily Tar Heel, said by phone.

David Swartzlander, journalism department chairman and assistant professor at Doane College in Nebraska, tells students that he’ll fail them and pursue the possibility of getting them suspended from the college if they plagiarize or fabricate. Many of his students write stories for both his class and the student newspaper The Doane Owl.

Swartzlander, who is also the adviser of The Doane Owl and president of the College Media Association, enacted these strict consequences after one of his students fabricated a quote and attributed it to a local judge.

“The story hit page one of our paper and the judge was furious, to put it mildly. He had a right to be,” Swartzlander said via email. “My error, though was to allow that student to stay in the class and to keep submitting work. After that story, he was ostracized by the editors. … The student felt horrible, and I realized then that it would have been better for all involved had I removed him from that class, if not the school. You live and learn.”

Offer training to writers and editors

After The Daily Collegian had its first brush with plagiarism earlier this year, it began offering a training session about plagiarism. The session is part of the paper’s “Candidate Program” — a training program that all new staffers are required to participate in before they’re assigned to a beat.

The paper’s adviser, Jim Rodenbush, leads the session and teaches students how to properly cite sources, handle press releases, work from the transcript of a press conference they didn’t attend, and more.

“Right now, the training is only administered to incoming staff members and people who are in leadership positions who would disseminate the information they learn to their staff,” Editor-in-Chief Casey McDermott said by phone. “One of the things we’re looking at doing is establishing this session for all staffers who fall in between.”

Though helpful, training doesn’t always prevent plagiarism. The student who plagiarized and fabricated the Paterno quotes, McDermott said, had taken the training course.

Some school newspapers, such as The Ball State Daily News and The Tufts Daily, don’t offer any formal training on plagiarism prevention. “At the beginning of the year, we talk about how you need more than one source on a story and that if someone says something you don’t change it and you attribute the quote. That’s about all we talk about with staffers,” said Benjamin Dashley, editor-in-chief of The Ball State Daily News. “The minimal training is also rooted in the fact that we have such a high rate of turnover because we can only pay a small amount of our members.”

Poynter’s McBride stressed the importance of training staffers — not just once a year but throughout the year.

“If I were a college newspaper editor or an adviser, I’d start out every year with a day of workshops that addressed the creative process, the writing process and ethical standards,” she said. “Then I’d have monthly staff meetings to review successes and failures.”

Seek teachable moments, let students know help is available

Even students who have gone through training may still need help with sourcing and attribution.

“Often, I will see freshmen quote the president of the United States in a [local story],” Swartzlander said. “I’ll turn to the writer to ask: ‘When did you interview the president?’ They’ll often give me a blank look and say they saw the interview on TV and quoted from it. And that’s where the teachable moment happens. But that’s not malicious.”

McDermott said The Daily Collegian editors encourage students to come to them for help. Her hope is that students will be less inclined to plagiarize or fabricate if they know they can turn to their editors when they have attribution questions or are worried about meeting their deadlines.

“If students are running into a roadblock, we want to make it clear to them that their editor is there to help them,” McDermott said. “In my experience, we have a really, really supportive network of people. That being said, it can still be intimidating as a younger staff member starting out. I was afraid to ask how to use the phone when I first started, so I can definitely understand why people by nature would be afraid to ask for help.”

Create sourcing notes, accuracy surveys

The Daily Tar Heel and The Daily Collegian both ask students to include sourcing notes with their stories. The notes include links to relevant articles that students cite, as well as links to bio pages that include sources’ names and titles. The notes, Perel said, make students think more carefully about where they’re getting information, and they make it easier for editors to verify facts.

The Doane Owl sends all sources an accuracy survey after stories have been published. The survey asks, “Was the story fair and accurate?” “Were your name and title correct?” and “Were you quoted/attributed accurately?”

“We send the sources PDFs of the paper so that they can re-read the story to refresh their memories, if need be, but we normally send out the surveys within a day or two of publication,” Swartzlander said. “They don’t catch all of the errors, but they collect their fair share. And, surprisingly, most of the sources respond that they believe the story was fairly and accurately written.”

Have multiple editors look at each story

Many of the college newspapers I spoke with have rigorous editing processes, I learned. At The Daily Collegian, at least five editors typically look over each story — two beat editors, the managing editor, a copy editor and a copy desk chief.

Stories that come in later in the evening, however, usually receive just two rounds of editing — from a copy editor and a copy desk chief. Even when five editors look at stories, though, mistakes and plagiarism can still slip through. The Paterno story with plagiarized quotes last week had gone through five rounds of edits, McDermott said.

The University of Maryland’s Diamondback also requires that each story go through multiple editors. A section editor first looks at the story, then it goes through three more sets of edits. Similarly, at The Daily Tar Heel, all stories are seen by at least four pairs of eyes. “Ideally it’s to prevent errors from getting into the paper,” Perel said, “but I think it would also make it much harder for plagiarized material to get by the editors.”

Involve students in the editing process

As part of its extensive editing process, The Daily Tar Heel requires student writers to sit through the first three rounds of edits.

“We find it to be very educational and a good experience for writers to go through those edits and learn from them,” Perel said. “And we don’t ever want to be in a situation where a writer wakes up the next morning and doesn’t recognize their story because the editors have changed it so much.”

During the editing process, Daily Tar Heel editors ask writers an important question: “How do you know this?” Other questions to ask: “How did the interview go?” and “What was the person you interviewed like?”

If student writers know they’re going to be asked about their interviews, they may be less likely to fabricate quotes or scenes.

Revise the newspaper’s ethics guidelines

Many of the editors I spoke with said their papers have ethics codes that include a line or two about plagiarism. The Daily Collegian’s code of ethics, for example, has a line that says: “Do not use anyone else’s work, idea or phrase without proper attribution.” Below that is a line about truthfulness: “Be accurate and truthful with your sources and your news content at all times.”

That’s pretty standard language for an ethics code, but it doesn’t address the complexities of plagiarism and fabrication, and doesn’t explain the consequences.

The Daily Cardinal, one of two student newspapers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is currently updating its code of ethics to make it more useful. “It is such a complex issue, and I think writers need to be aware of how easy it can be to accidentally plagiarize without even thinking about it,” Editor-in-Chief Scott Girard said via email.

One key to effective ethics guidelines is to keep them updated. They should be living, breathing documents that are available online, not antiquated codes that always stay the same.

Use plagiarism software

Susannah Nesmith, faculty adviser of Barry University’s student newspaper The Barry Buccaneer, runs all stories through plagiarism detection software called Copyscape. While most professional news organizations have stayed away from using such software, Nesmith said she thinks it’s a valuable tool.

Since the Bucaneer’s student editors started using Copyscape in 2009, they’ve only caught one plagiarized passage, which had been lifted from Wikipedia.

“I think just the fact that the editors use it, and tell every writer about it, reinforces the point that plagiarism will not be tolerated. They’re so serious about it; they check every story before the paper goes to the printer,” Nesmith said via email. “I haven’t seen a downside. It’s a tool, like spell-check.”

Determine how the paper’s adviser can help

The College Media Association holds two conventions and one summer workshop each year to train advisers on issues such as plagiarism and fabrication.

It’s important, Swartzlander noted, for advisers to be knowledgeable on these topics so they can help student journalists deal with ethical issues as they arise — and find ways to prevent them from occurring in the first place.

“Advisers can play a significant role,” he said, “by strongly suggesting to students involved with the media that stories contain a certain number of sources, by sending accuracy surveys on a regular basis, by providing training on these issues at the beginning — and during — the school year and by constantly reminding reporters and editors that their job as journalists is to verify information.”

Sidebar: Meet IvyGate, the scourge of Ivy League plagiarists Read more


What every young journalist should know about using Twitter

Young journalists have a lot to teach the rest of the industry about how to use social networking sites. They grew up with these sites, and many are eager to use them in the workplace.

But as a journalism educator, I’ve found that some students don’t take Twitter seriously enough; they don’t see it as a legitimate source for news or journalism, and they tweet whatever they want, not realizing the impact that tweets can have.

Twitter is taken very seriously at many different levels. The Secret Service, for example, responded to a high schooler’s tweet earlier this month after she made a reference to assassinating President Barack Obama. And last week, the Kansas Chiefs’ official Twitter account issued an apology after insulting a fan.

So how can professors best prepare their students for the Twittersphere? I spoke to four Twitter-savvy journalism professors for their tips.

Assume that everything you tweet is public, even from a private account.

Sue Robinson, associate professor at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says students have a level of comfort with Facebook and its privacy settings and therefore think they’re also “safe” when using Twitter. In a phone interview, she advised students to look into the future and ask themselves, “Can this get me into trouble 10 years from now?”

“Students just don’t believe anyone is paying attention to them on Twitter,” she said. “They think it doesn’t matter what they say. We need to change that mindset.”

Thomas Lieb, professor of journalism and new media at Towson University, says students need to stop and think before they tweet. “As with all social media, you need to remember that your tweets are public and they will be around a long, long time,” he said via email. “A poorly thought-out tweet can come back to haunt you just like all those drunken photos on Facebook can.”

Professors need to reinforce this idea that Twitter is a permanent record. “Even though Twitter feels fleeting, tweets can live on through retweets, screengrabs, etc.,” said Andy Bechtel, associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

In sum, don’t write anything that you wouldn’t want the police, a professor, editor, employer or your mother to see.

Tweet with a purpose & be professional.

Lieb says his main concern is that many journalism students don’t consider Twitter to be an important tool.

“Very few of my students at the junior or senior level come into class being active on Twitter. The ones who are active only see it as a private message service [to] use with close friends; they have accounts but don’t make them public,” he said. “I guess this lack of awareness can lead to problems: If you are not used to driving a car, chances are pretty good you’re going to make a mess of things when you hop behind the wheel.”

He says students need to “clearly define the purpose” of their Twitter account and write their tweets accordingly. Some journalists define the purpose of their account in their Twitter bios.

Bechtel says students should keep in mind that their Twitter account will generally be seen as reflective “of you and your organization. Be professional.”

This also means avoiding SMS language and rumors. As Robinson says, “Informal conversation is no excuse for sloppiness or passing on incorrect information.”

Add value with each tweet & see the bigger picture.

Leslie-Jean Thornton, associate professor at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, says students should also use Twitter to add value to their online identity and shouldn’t “waste a tweet.”

“Add value with every one of your tweets. Sometimes the value is revealing yourself as a nice, maybe even witty, person they’d like to be around. (Do this in small doses). Other times, you might add a comment to a link you’re forwarding or further a discussion in a meaningful way,” Thornton said via email. “Give as much information as you can. ‘New blog post’ is pretty useless. Giving a clue as to the post’s substance is meaningful even if the person doesn’t click through to the post.” It’s a good idea to tweet links to not just your own stories but to other stories you’re reading.

Thornton advises students — and faculty — to view Twitter as part of a bigger picture.

“It is so not about what you had for lunch or what color your nails are,” she said. “It’s all about developing a network and a beat.”

She says some students view Twitter as an isolated stream of random snippets and need to be shown how to use it as a global information network. She advises professors to use tools like Storify to help students realize the value of Twitter as a storytelling and verification tool.

Robinson says students need to step back and look at Twitter’s multiplying effect: “It’s the network upon networks. Every tweet has followers on top of followers, which means that any tweet can have a volumizing effect.” And any tweet can go viral.

Don’t hog the Twitter stream.

Live tweeting poses particular problems for students (and anyone, really); their regular followers can feel spammed when they’re suddenly exposed to a stream of live tweets.

Thornton suggests that students let their followers know that they’ll be live tweeting. “It should be clear why you’re flooding Twitter with tweets,” she said. “If you can, give people who want to follow all those tweets a hashtag to follow.”

Bechtel agrees: “If you are going to tweet frequently from a live event, give your followers a heads-up with an introductory tweet. That way, they’ll be ready for a lot of tweets from you in a short period. (Example: “I’m at a social media workshop. I’ll pass along the best tips as I hear them.”)

When possible, write tweets that are shorter than 140 characters.

A general rule of thumb is to stay under the 140 character count to allow for retweets.

“If possible, also allow room for a comment or hashtag to be added,” Thornton said. “Don’t make the retweeter edit for space if it’s tight. Use an “&” for “and” if you have to, and write so the tweet is tight. Information trumps AP style so long as the message is clear and accurate.”

Tweeting, it turns out, can be a good exercise in learning how to write short — and well.

Roll the credits.

Lieb advises students to “give credit where credit is due.” This is also good journalism practice to show readers where you got your information from.

“Anytime you tweet something that was originally tweeted by someone you follow, acknowledge them by using (via @somebody) or (h/t @somebody). Even if you write a brand new tweet around the link, you wouldn’t have known about it if not for them,” Lieb said.

It’s also good practice to include “RTs are not endorsements” in your profile. And try to include retweets from both sides of the aisle if your tweets are any way political in nature.

Finally, be responsive.

It’s important to be respectful on Twitter — and responsive. Twitter, after all, is a great tool for engaging with your audience.

“Respond to followers in a timely, courteous way,” Bechtel said. “Twitter is a conversation, not a broadcast.” Read more

Bird words

How journalism educators can teach students to live-tweet campus events

Live tweeting is now a standard tool many journalists and news agencies use for breaking news. The Supreme Court’s healthcare ruling and the Freeh report on the Penn State scandal are recent examples in which Twitter was the first source of news, minute by minute.

My journalism students in the Diederich College of Communication regularly live tweet campus events at Marquette University in Milwaukee. The events have ranged from a presidential inauguration to guest lectures to NCAA basketball games. Each assignment includes a Storify component, that is, a mandate to curate related social media.

The students take to the task easy enough. They recognize it helps them focus on their writing; extend their journalism near and far; capture moments not normally found in news articles; and inform and engage alumni, students and others unable to attend the events.

My students and I are equally proud when our collective tweeting causes an event to trend regionally on Twitter. It’s happened for three occasions so far: the inauguration of the Rev. Scott Pilarz, S.J., as Marquette’s president in September, a lecture by Hall of Fame broadcaster Dick Enberg in February, and our college’s annual alumni awards ceremony in April.

From my perspective, having students live tweet is much better than merely having them write 500-word stories that only their instructor will read. Live tweets enable students to interact with their audience — and can act as notes for whatever stories they do end up writing.

Here are four tips on how to teach your students how to live tweet campus events.

First and foremost, focus on the fundamentals.

This might surprise some educators: Not every student is on Twitter. I require everyone in my class to have an account with a respectable handle based on one’s given name. I also have them read two spot-on articles by Mallary Tenore: “6 Ways Twitter Has Made Me a Better Writer” and “The 5 Types of Stories That Make Good Storifys.”

This will surprise few educators: Students will mostly tweet youthful banter unless told otherwise. Class-related tweets should include full sentences, have attribution when needed — and abide by AP style and correct grammar, spelling and punctuation. Ban your students from using long or uncomplimentary hashtags such as #aretheyserious or #icouldrantbutiwont. Each tweet must include a class hashtag (for example, #JOUR1550 or #loweclass) and the event’s main hashtag. Be sure to keep the hashtags short, given the 140 characters limit per tweet.

Good reporters research each assignment in advance. The same goes for live tweeting. Students should know before arriving all related hashtags and who among the event’s organizers and key participants have Twitter handles. (Twitter’s basic and advanced search functions are good places to start.) Using these things in tweets will help draw retweets and new followers.

Use class time to show students how it’s done.

One class period is sufficient for introducing students to live tweeting. But how can they practice without causing a ruckus on Twitter? Just use YouTube and Microsoft Word. First, show them this 10-minute video of Earl Spencer’s amazing eulogy for his sister, Princess Diana. Then, tell them to open a new document on a computer and, as the video plays again, type everything they hear, just as if writing a story for class or the campus newspaper.

Next, have a student at one end of the room recite the first sentence or two captured. Each classmate follows suit — one or two sentences at a time — until reaching the room’s other end. Repeat the process until the video’s last words are relayed. Teach that while it’s unlikely they will all report the same things, no one should miss any key moments, and the more attributed quotes the better. Stress that their offerings should be relevant, accurate, interesting and timely.

Now for the good part. Have students select the first sentence or two with their cursor, and then go to Tools, then Word Count, in the Word menu above, and note the number of characters with spaces. Of course, 140 is the magic number. Then affirm #Earl #Spencer #eulogy #funeral #princess, etc., as hashtags.

Now have them create as many tweets as possible within the same document — editing as necessary — with the event hashtag, #Diana, and class hashtag in each one. Repeat the student-to-student routine, making sure each new tweet moves the story along.

Make the first experience worthwhile & set goals moving forward.

Many live-tweeting opportunities — large and small — exist on any college campus. Take the class for its first foray en masse to a journalism-related lecture by a distinguished guest speaker. The students will appreciate doing it together. Also, you’ll get to see their mistakes and correct immediately.

After the first class assignment, I require each student to live tweet a campus event once before midterms and then another before finals; both must have an accompanying Storify. I must approve each choice beforehand, mostly to ensure there’s a journalistic value.

Students from my class live tweeting the inauguration of the Rev. Scott Pilarz as Marquette’s president in September. Photo by Victor Jacobo.

Each student should send at least 12 to 16 tweets per assignment; many will tweet more. This bears repeating: Poorly written tweets (AP style and spelling matter!) and those without the class and event hashtags don’t count.

Again, stress that basic reporting habits apply to live tweeting. That includes arriving extra early for a good seat. Draft related fun-fact tweets in advance. Tweeting during lulls is encouraged. So, too, is tweeting photos of speakers, the audience, signage, protesters, etc. Writing quotes and statements on paper first is OK to help avoid mistakes. Keeping pace is ideal. But, remember, focus on quality, not quantity.

Continue encouraging your students.

This effort will have its haters. Some will ask why the students are using their cell phones or laptops. “Are they texting? Are they on Facebook?” Some will fear that tweeting diminishes their intended experience. I teach: “Welcome to journalism. Many times someone won’t want you there. Be respectful. Be mindful of what you tweet. Be sure to tell a good story. Have fun.”

By live tweeting campus events, you and your students will develop fans. Your institution’s public relations office will tout them. Student groups will email you in hopes that their events will get play on Twitter. My dean helped ensure my classes tweeted from the awards ceremony. Also, my students are live tweeting and using Storify at their summer internships.

Finally, beseech your students to make sure their mobile devices are fully charged beforehand. In the real world, editors and followers will accept no excuses for missing the story.

For more about live tweeting campus events, see my related blog posts at and or email me at
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10 tips for teaching journalists how to effectively use social media

When I first wrote about Twitter in September 2007, I got emails from journalists who said I was highlighting a tool that would never have journalistic application.

A lot has changed since then.

There’s now a greater willingness to embrace Twitter and other social media tools — or to at least see their potential. As more tools emerge, we need to be open to teaching others how to use them and how to integrate them into our workflow.

I’ve put together some tips for teaching social media based on teaching I’ve done here at Poynter. While the tips are mostly geared toward journalism educators, journalists who are coaching their colleagues may also find them useful.

1. Do some homework ahead of time.
Teaching social media can be especially challenging when you’re presenting to a group of journalists with varying levels of social media experience. There are those who use social media effectively on a daily basis, those who don’t use it at all, and a whole lot of people in between. Asking questions prior to your session can help you determine which category participants fall into: beginner, intermediate or advanced. I typically ask three main questions via email:

  • About how often do you use social media for your reporting?
  • Which social media tools do you use the most?
  • Is there a particular tool you want to learn more about?

These questions will give you a better sense of how to frame your session.

2. Know where you’ll be teaching.
I once agreed to teach a session, only to find out that the room I was teaching in didn’t have Internet access. That taught me to inquire about my teaching space sooner than later. If you haven’t already been in the room where you’ll be teaching, make sure you’ll have what you need ahead of time — a wireless password, a projector screen, etc. If possible, request a room with computers that participants can use during the session.

3. Learn the backstory.
When preparing examples, try to talk to the people involved so you can find out the backstory and share it. Like the way a reporter is using Pinterest? Ask her about it and find out what she’s learned. Increasingly, I’ve found that my reporting informs my teaching. When I write stories about journalists’ use of social media, I often come away with real-world examples that both readers and those I teach can learn from. When teaching journalists how to use Storify, for instance, I typically refer to the examples and lessons learned in this piece I wrote about five types of stories that are good for Storify.

4. Create & share handouts.
Print handouts for people who want a tangible takeaway from your session. I typically distribute handouts at the end of sessions, but some people prefer to hand them out earlier so participants can take notes on them. Either way is fine. Handouts that show people why they should be using social media and/or how they could be using it better are especially helpful. You might, for instance, consider sharing this piece about the best times of day to post links to Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.

5. Answer the “Why should I care? question.
This is an important question to answer early on so that you can hold the attention of people who are skeptical of social media. I typically start off by talking about how, when I first wrote about Twitter, The New York Times had about 400 followers. Now, it has more than 5 million. I use this example to illustrate just how much Twitter has grown and to show the potential we have as journalists to reach that audience. I’ve also shared research showing that social media’s role as a driver of news is growing. It helps to keep the “why should I care?” question in mind throughout your session.

6. Make at least part of the session hands-on.
Some people learn best by doing. If you are teaching people how to use Twitter’s Advanced Search, for instance, turn it into a hands-on exercise by asking them to do their own Advanced Search. One of the drawbacks to having participants sit in front of a computer, of course, is that they’re more apt to get distracted. Letting them know ahead of time that they’ll get to use the computers later on in the session can help.

7.  Don’t just answer questions; ask them.
As you walk through the examples you’ve provided, ask people to share their own experiences using social media. This will help break up the session and keep people engaged. It may also deepen your understanding of the group’s experience with social media. If you’re including a hands-on activity, ask people to talk about how it went. If you don’t know the answer to a question that comes up, don’t pretend you do. Ask the audience for input. You may be surprised by how much knowledge there is in a room.

8. Include a primer on social media verification.
Along with showing how journalists have used social media effectively, it helps to highlight times when they haven’t. Often, I’ll share one or two instances when news organizations have been duped and then talk about how journalists can do a better job verifying accounts posted on social media — especially during breaking news situations. Here are some resources to read ahead of time and share:

9. Conclude by asking people to set a goal for themselves. Maybe it’s tweeting once a day. Maybe it’s drafting a Facebook strategy for your newsroom. Maybe it’s helping a colleague set up a Pinterest account. Hand out index cards and ask participants to write down their goals. By prompting people to work toward a goal, you can encourage their use of social media beyond the classroom.

10. Become a resource.
Before you end your session, give participants your email address and Twitter handle so they can contact you with questions. Follow up with them as time permits and check in on their goals. Maybe you’ll be so impressed by their use of a tool that you’ll want to use them as an example the next time you teach.

The Missouri School of Journalism’s Jen Lee Reeves will be teaching a News University Webinar on this topic on Thursday at 2 p.m. ET. You can sign up here. Read more

Adobe Photoshop PDF

How a Michigan State University journalism class published multi-platform book on bullying

Give the students credit.

They were handed an ambitious goal and, when I lost my nerve and pulled the plug on their journalism project, “The New Bullying,” they plugged it back in and made it work.

The advanced reporting class at Michigan State University’s School of Journalism is expected to go in-depth and produce multimedia content for the Web. A topic emerged in December 2011, when Michigan became the 48th state to adopt an anti-bullying law for schools. The law set a six-month deadline for public districts to adopt or update their policies.

When the class met on Jan. 9, 17 juniors and seniors were asked whether they had ever published a book. None had.

The challenge was to build a website about bullying and turn that into a book. The book was to be available in print and digital forms, and we had to complete it before classes ended in April.

Of course, we had help. My former Detroit Free Press colleague David Crumm and his business partner, John Hile, run a small, forward-thinking publishing company called David Crumm Media, LLC. The duo, who publish books and the online magazine, offered to take us on as an experiment.

Our learning objectives were to assess what readers wanted to know about bullying, fulfill that with multimedia content, and publish it on a variety of platforms. I have learned through a couple books that I published with Crumm and Hile that people expect websites to be free but will pay for books — even when they share the same content.

How we found our focus

The class met Monday and Wednesday mornings, with a lab on Monday nights. On our first day, we brainstormed bullying on sticky notes, grouped our words and phrases and voted. Hile visited our class and put our ideas through the keyword analysis tool Market Samurai.

This showed us terms that were getting hits on Google, but that there weren’t many results for. These would be our sweet spots. We were initially going to focus on those words and phrases — which would have made for a boring project — but we caught a break.

One of our guest speakers had a schedule conflict and asked if he could come in sooner than the date we had picked. The speaker was Kevin Epling, a national anti-bullying activist whose son Matt had taken his own life after having been bullied. Michigan’s new law is known as “Matt’s Law.” Epling is founder and co-director of Bully Police USA. He and his wife, Tammy, both came to our class.

They said it took a long time to pass Michigan’s anti-bullying law because many adults do not understand how bullying has changed; it is not the bullying they experienced as kids. This gave us our journalistic angle — to find out how bullying had changed. We began calling the project “The New Bullying.”

The keyword story assignments were trashed and, at Hile’s direction, we built eight entry pages that we hoped would come up high in searches on phrases like “bullying statistics,” “hazing definition” and “social exclusion.” Those pages are on the site, but they are not near the top. Their sole job is to attract readers, provide them with some quick answers and link to the journalism on the site.

Guest speakers — including opposing state senators, a clinical instructor from MSU’s School of Social Work, a lawyer and a retired sheriff — helped us find stories. Students interviewed people in person and by phone or email. They made videos, photos, graphics and a sharp book cover.

Developing a Web presence

On Feb. 13, we began posting to the WordPress site we had created. We used more sticky notes and a chart to make sure we were hitting all our keywords, even though we weren’t writing directly to them. Satisfied that we had covered those areas, we pivoted, rearranging the content into the order it would take in book form.

Student Lynn Bentley, who wrote about bullycide and school violence, wasn’t sure how news stories written for a website would translate into a book.

“To me, people don’t buy books that simply collect news stories,” Bentley said. “I believed that our stories would, in the end, need to be broader, more detailed and would need to offer readers not just the news about bullying but solutions for changing, stopping or coping with bullying. I wasn’t convinced that we would have enough time to do the required editing, and I had a difficult time writing my stories since I tried to mesh the two types of writing.”

Although we did address solutions, we took a non-traditional route when creating “The New Bullying.” As Bentley noted, traditional books are linear from beginning to end, but this book was organized after the parts had been written. We built the website chronologically but reordered everything by topic when we pivoted to the book.

The idea for stringing content chunks from a blog into book form came from marketer Seth Godin, who regularly turned his blog posts into books that sell — even though all the content is free on the Web. Since we had 17 writers, that seemed to give us a speed advantage.

A lesson in time management, perseverance

As the students reported, wrote and produced, the clock ticked. I started to chicken out. We were not going to make it.

Soon, we would have to switch over to almost all editing, and we did not have enough content. I had not done enough homework on Hile’s home-brew of Extensible Markup Language to feel confident enough that we could tag our content to print simultaneously on all those platforms. I worried about some of the things Bentley had worried about. How could this be a book?

On March 19, I pulled the plug. I apologized for not asking the students whether they even wanted to publish a book and said that this had been too ambitious. Embarrassed, I told journalism school Director Lucinda Davenport that I had to stop the project. I told Crumm and Hile that we couldn’t get it done on time. The experiment, I said, had failed, and it wasn’t the students’ fault.

I told them we could settle for a good website. We would meet individually during our next class period to talk about how they were doing with their grades and, after that, we would reboot as a normal class for the final month of the semester.

The students wouldn’t have it. In our one-on-one meetings, several students said that they did not want to give up on the book.

Seth Beifel said he thought he could learn to produce books on the MSU Library’s new Espresso Book Machine I had told the class about. He had read some of the documentation.

Dmitri Barvinok, a junior, told me he had dabbled with XML and thought he could make a Kindle book. “Everything worked about as well as could be expected,” he recalled, “but I think we had trouble getting organized and starting, which makes sense given the unprecedented scope of the project.”

That had been my mistake. We had started with an end product in mind and a schedule, but I had not planned out the process in enough detail to be confident about our path.

Finally, my students made me listen to them, instead of the other way around. On March 26, I apologized to the class again. This time, I asked them to decide what we would do. They voted. They wanted to make a book.

Creating the book, spreading the word about it

When I told Crumm that the students had overruled me and that we would do a stripped-down version of a book, he said he and Hile wanted back in. My nerves had cost us a week.

Leslie Tilson, who had taken the lead on the cover, had to get it fired up again. Stories that had stalled were back on. We turned classes into editing sessions and we wrote chapter headings. Some good videos were produced, including a gallery of nine in which Allen Martin asked middle-school students about bullying.

Hile came back to the class and went into detail about XML tagging and how it helps content come out on multiple platforms — including platforms that have not been invented.

The finished product.

And they got their book done.

“I would say the part of the book that did not work as well was the reason the book turned out so well — that is the diversity of those who put the book together,” Beifel said. “We had designers, editors, writers, photographers, video editors who all have different personalities and interests.”

“The New Bullying” was for sale as a $9.95 Nook download on Barnes & Noble on April 19. Within days, it was available for Amazon’s Kindle. We ordered 40 print copies. I downloaded “The New Bullying” into the Kindle apps on my iPhone and iPad, and we passed the book around during our last week of class. It is up on Google Play. It is in iTunes. The print books were mailed to their authors.

It had taken 101 days for the first version to come out. We could have had a book-signing party if I had listened more and worried less.

The students created a marketing team, and two were soon on the Michigan Radio Network to talk about it. University press relations picked up their press release and the project was on TV and the AP. (You can watch a video about the book here.)

“The idea of publishing a book as a class was crazy,” Beifel said. “Who could imagine 17 20ish-year-old students writing a book that actually means something? Thinking back, I know it can be done and that there is no one way to write a book.”

But it may be that 20ish-year-old people are exactly what we need; this kind of publishing appeals to many of them.

When I asked Barvinok whether this changed the way he thinks about journalism, he responded, “Not really. Journalism is about taking information and putting it out for the public to consume. Many books have been published in this style, though not necessarily by journalists or journalism classes.”

Barvinok, who wrote some good stories and worked with Hile on the XML tagging, has a new part-time job, by the way. Crumm and Hile hired him.

Class photo of the students who created “The New Bullying.”
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Should journalism educators ban students from using technology in class?

A friend and fellow educator sent a shock through my system last week. He told me he was so frustrated by rude and distracted behavior on digital devices in his journalism labs that he imposes a ban on laptops, tablets and cell phones turned on during class.

Not known for subtlety, I asked, “Are you insane?”

The interaction led to a productive conversation about digital distractions and effective teaching practices in a connected age. Somewhere in the combination of our approaches and their devices is a sweet spot that can move learning forward.

My ban-imposing friend, Tim Brown from the University of Central Florida, has a solid point. Every college instructor I know has been frustrated by Facebook pictures or ESPN box scores popping up on a monitor as glassy-eyed students disengage themselves from the lecture. And Brown is no Luddite. He teaches journalism in the digital sphere every day.

“My main reason for banning technology in the classroom is that I’ve found it distracting, both for me and for many students,” he told me. “I’ve found that many students (not all, but enough) spend more time on social networking pages and YouTube than they do on taking notes. Looking at videos or Facebook timelines either distracts those around them or leads to conversations that have nothing to do with the class.”

True that. I’m especially swayed by the idea that these disruptions affect other students who are not off to the social races on their own. If I’m trying to concentrate but my group partner is reading a Kim Kardashian Twitter feed, I’m interrupted through no fault of my own.

But I took it to Brown with a larger point. Digital and social media are critical to the future of journalism. Banning technology in the classroom sends the message that they’re something less than that. It also sends the message that the only solution to wandering minds is to remove all temptation. Our students today, after all, will face these same tech enticements as professionals tomorrow.

I would argue instead that the solution is to give those minds something that keeps them from drifting away. In the same way Brown strives to make lectures interactive through discussion, we can extend the conversation into digital realms. Why not shake up the traditional lecture format? If I had to listen to myself drone on from PowerPoint for 75 minutes, I’d be on Facebook too.

At the recent (and excellent) Journalism Interactive conference for journalism educators, I learned about a number of ways to creatively attack this issue and improve my teaching.

Ron Yaros, a multiplatform journalism professor at the University of Maryland, fully integrates technology into all levels of his teaching. Key to his approach is the idea that his time together with students is not for delivering material but for exploring and expanding it through discussion and interaction — both live and digital. He’s moved beyond a lecture model and employs tech tools liberally in collaboration with students. For instance, students post ideas, questions and links to a Twitter feed that is then discussed in class.

“The overall blended approach of my courses is designed so that many of the face-to-face meetings are not to introduce new material but to discuss related material students have already researched between class meetings,” Yaros told me. “I use multiple technologies between meetings with focused assignments. This goes well beyond assigned readings or watching a canned video lecture because students use a course iPhone/Droid app to collect and share information from the field.”

Yaros pours a ton of time into his course prep, reinventing assignments and approaches regularly. That, to me, is why he’s wildly successful. New technologies give us new opportunities, but also more work. Students stay off their Facebook timelines in Yaros’ classes because he’s giving them meaningful interactivity.

“In short, I design every weekly topic and guide every classroom discussion with the information that students seek, select and share,” he said.

He advises others not to tackle too much too often, though. He chooses one course at a time to “invert” from a traditional lecture approach to something digitally interactive. He tries to build assignments that have a shelf life from term to term, so he’s not reinventing too often. And he employs automated quizzes in every class to hold students accountable. If they miss something in service of checking out their Facebook feed, they pay a grade price when they’re quizzed on it.

Technology in the classroom is not about “banning” or “allowing.” It’s about engaging. This could not be more important for budding journalists to learn.

We can each find ways to effectively incorporate technology into our classes and get students to use tech tools for learning purposes. I’m going to test out some new ideas in my intro course this semester and try to increase our engagement.

  • Segment content with breaks for activities: I’ve never been convinced about the efficacy of lectures. This semester, I’m going to try to break the information I provide into 15- or 20-minute chunks and then split students into groups with an online activity or two. For instance, in our session on critical thinking, I will have them debunk some prominent Internet lore.
  • Interact with Twitter live: At the conference I mentioned, one of the most productive moments occurred when a number of people started tweeting concerns that a panel on entrepreneurship did not include any women. Moderator Robert Hernandez, who teaches at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, was monitoring the feed and turned the conversation specifically to that question. The panel probably wouldn’t have otherwise addressed that critical gender issue. That experience taught me that inviting students to tweet during my classes can take me in productive directions.
  • Increase advance work: I’m going to adopt Yaros’ approach of having students blog and tweet about course materials before we meet and then expand on those posts in discussion. This should be particularly helpful with readings, as we often have little time to discuss them in class.
  • Take their temperature: Digital tools like Poll Everywhere should help me gauge my students’ opinions on everything from PolitiFact’s latest ruling to the cultural importance of Justin Bieber. (If you’re doubting the pop star’s relevance in a journalism class, think about the news value of prominence.)

My tech-suspicious friend Brown told me he’s relaxing his ban as he enters a new semester. He’s going to try to keep technology use focused on class materials, not on YouTube sensations. “I do want to allow for people finding information during class that can contribute,” he said, “but at the same time I don’t want to compete with cats playing piano.”

Yaros, meanwhile, plans to “learn more about how the next generation of information consumers uses newer technologies in different ways to engage with digital content.”

I’d love to hear what you do in your classrooms to engage students through technology and how that relates to larger questions about journalism and society. Please share your thoughts in the comments section. Read more


4 ways journalism educators are using Storify as a teaching tool

More and more news sites have been using Storify to capture reaction and highlight interesting discussions taking place on social networks. And journalism educators have also started using it — to create multimedia course content, organize handouts and teach students how to curate social media.

The tool, which lets users pull together content from various social networks to tell stories, is a one-stop Web publishing shop for even the most technophobic educator.

To organize readings, create handouts

Simply put, you can use Storify to gather up all those “must-read” Web links (which, let’s face it, never get read) and organize them. Like many educators, I use Storify to develop reporting and editing assignments in the classes I teach at Hofstra University. By using Storify, I’ve transformed my out-of-control Instapaper account into topic-specific handouts that I can distribute electronically.

For example, I created this Storify handout to introduce students to making a basic Web news video.

Here’s an example of a Storify I created for my class.

Storify, which recently unveiled a new interface, has helped me develop a system. This is only my third semester teaching and it’s been a lesson in barely controlled chaos. I had posts on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, Instapaper and Google Reader. I had links just about everywhere there is a “Save,” “Share” or “TLDR,” button.

I had piles of un-filed virtual clippings and paperwork. The more I taught, the more links I collected and posted, to the point where the information became truly unmanageable. I tried WordPress and Tumblr but they didn’t solve the problem. Storify, however, did.

Next semester, all my course content will be published in themed Storify handouts. Each element will include narrative, curated links and embedded multimedia. Students will be able to move through the items without leaving the page.

Other educators are using Storify this way as well.

Jamie Cohen, who teaches new media at Molloy College in New York, uses Storify to create “vignettes” of recent media history by curating YouTube clips, articles and Flickr images.

Cohen told me he’s a big fan of organizing multimedia content in one place: “That way, students always have access to the examples and assigned reading on each topic.”

To teach students to curate social media

Often, I’ll assign a current affairs topic and then have my students create stories built around the sources and information they find through Storify. Robert Quigley, who teaches multimedia journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, also uses Storify this way. He requires students to create a Storify about their specific beat topic and says students are often surprised by how much work is involved in curating social media.

“It’s a journalism skill that needs to be learned,” he said by phone. “Otherwise it’s just a bunch of social media comments.”

Quigley wishes Storify had been around longer when he was at the Austin Statesman. “I was embedding code, pasting links, taking screen grabs and doing this the hard way,” he said. “Storify is a new way to do an old thing.”

Paul Mihailidis of Emerson College said via email that Storify is more than just pulling in bits and pieces of information online.

“It’s multimedia storytelling that can redefine how we think about organizing information, ideas, and identities. In the classroom it helps us to understand curation as a habit of our everyday lives online,” he said. “Storify has helped my students see the purpose, value and real opportunities in crafting trans-media stories as a natural way to report in a hypermedia age.”

To help students gain credibility, exposure

Leslie-Jean Thornton of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, says her students have embraced Storify without reservation. “Within hours of my introducing it,” she said, “students were Storifying, unbidden, all on their own and posting the results to our shared class hashtag.”

The tool, she said via email, has given students a way to be noticed on a global platform.

“If they get in on an active hashtag and start contributing smart material, the chance they’ll be picked up and included in someone’s Storify, which then becomes an archive of sorts, is very good. It’s a way to establish an online presence and credibility.”

Thornton is working with her students on “a huge project — making the Census come alive through multimedia reporting.” Her students, she said, are currently examining ways to incorporate Storify curations into the mix: “There are so many things we could consider, including replies to questions we put out there in social media as a crowdsource technique, and searches in image and video banks.”

Storify co-founder Burt Herman has seen many classrooms experimenting with Storify. There’s a clear benefit for journalism instructors, he said via email, because Storify “always keeps attribution and makes sure proper sources are credited.” This goes a long way toward preventing plagiarism and copyright issues.

“Given the natural inclination of younger people toward social media, many of them get it right away and embrace the new form of storytelling,” Herman said. The Storify folks created a Storify earlier this week that shows how two student journalists used Storify to report on the Occupy Wall Street crackdown.

“We think professors and teachers can actually do more to encourage students to cover major stories, not just the issues on campus,” Herman said. “We’ve seen many students do great work on major news, because they are skilled at finding the best material from social media.”

For more insight, check out this Storify I created on how to use Storify for journalism education.

Correction: This story originally misspelled Leslie-Jean Thornton’s name. Read more

Photographers take pictures of U.S. President Barack Obama after he announced live on television the death of Osama bin Laden from the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., May 1, 2011. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

Photographers debate what should replace staged photo opps now that White House is ending the practice

Calling it a “bad idea,” the White House has decided that it will no longer re-enact speeches for still photographers, as it did the night President Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden. That re-enactment was the subject of a story that sparked industry conversation about the ethics of staging photos, particularly one of such a historic event.

Photographers take pictures of U.S. President Barack Obama after he announced live on television the death of Osama bin Laden from the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., May 1, 2011. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

On May 1, continuing a practice in place for decades, the White House barred still photographers from photographing the live presidential address because of the disruption the still cameras would cause. After the speech, President Barack Obama walked down the hallway toward the microphones for a second time and spoke for a few minutes, just so still photographers could capture what they missed.

Photojournalists defended the practice to, in part because captions disclosed that the photos were not taken during the live speech. But the captions weren’t all that clear that the photos were staged, and our audit found that in many cases those captions didn’t run with the photos.

The question now is what will take the place of the re-enactments. Kenny Irby, Poynter’s visual journalism faculty, said the easiest option would be to move to a single-camera pool. That means one photographer, from a select group of news outlets, would document the event, and those images would be shared with all the news outlets that cover the White House. The easiest option, though, is not the most inclusive, Irby said.

Photojournalists who spoke with on Thursday evening oppose that approach for still images, saying it limits photographers’ storytelling options and creativity.

If the White House moves to a pool, said Doug Mills, White House photographer for The New York Times, “we are taking one step forward — we get live coverage — and four steps backward — we will lose four photographers from the room. “

He continued, “We clearly lose out in terms of perspective. There will be no wide shots or risk-taking, for that matter.”

A meeting is scheduled for next week between the White House and the White House Correspondents’ Association to discuss a new approach. Mills is the representative to that group, which is separate from the White House News Photographers Association.

Photojournalists lobby for more access

Photojournalists who spoke with Poynter on Thursday night expressed concern that a new arrangement might be even more restrictive, forcing them to become more reliant on pool photos or worse, photos supplied by the White House.

“Any decision that leads to greater transparency is a good decision,” said Santiago Lyon, director of photography for the Associated Press. “What remains to be seen is what level of access we will have.”

The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), along with the White House News Photographers Association, has complained about access to presidential events before. Sean Elliot, NPPA president, said the Obama administration has a history of “pushing the press to take handouts from the White House photo staff.”

“The simple reality,” Elliot said, “is that the official White House photographer is a staffer and any photos they produce are essentially PR photos. Coverage of the White House and of our government need to be done by an independent press — not by handouts.”

A technological solution?

Harry Walker, director of McClatchy-Tribune Photo Service, thinks there are alternatives to going to a single-camera pool or using handout photos. Still photographers could use blimps (cases that help to quiet the noise of SLR cameras) or set up farther back with long lenses so the photographers don’t ruin the live event with their actions or mistakes, such as dropping a camera. (An NPPA story on the White House decision describes one such incident that happened this week in Austin.)

A couple of weeks ago, Walker said, he saw plenty of great images of the royal wedding that were documented with long lenses. “I think we know that everyone can pull back 20 or 30 feet and still get a very good image, both video and stills.”

Other possibilities include using “frame grabs” from the high-definition television feed, but wire services resist this because, they say, the frame grabs would not be of high enough quality.

Another option: using a still camera with the mirror “locked up,” so the camera can operate almost silently. One of the official White House staff photographers captured still images during the president’s speech this way, according to a story by Don Winslow on the NPPA website.

NPPA’s Elliot says without a doubt, the technology exists to quiet cameras that would allow photojournalists to do their job without interrupting a speech. “Still cameras have been working on movie sets for decades,” he said. “It is about time for this staging to end. Arguably there have not been enough protests to this for a long time.”

Pool photography limits competition

And while television often uses a pool camera — and did that night — Elliot opposes pools for still photojournalists. “Pool situations often don’t work because of the competitive nature of the industry,” he said, and because multiple still photographers can capture different angles and elements of a news event.

The competition that photojournalists spoke of is journalistic, but it’s also financial. The few news organizations that got access to the re-enactment on May 1 are part of the so-called “tight pool,” which has five slots: AP, Reuters, AFP/Getty (the two have a partnership), The New York Times, and a rotating independent photographer. These news organizations commit to covering the White House at all times, at great expense. They have access to scenes that others don’t. And they can sell and distribute those images.

A single-camera pool “limits the amount of images and competition,” Mills said. He said he would fight to prevent this from becoming the “precedent for other sensitive and intimate situations.”

If the White House moves to a single-camera pool, that could mean that the photographer who captures a particular news event will have to share those images with all members of the White House press corps. Any of those news outlets could use and sell the images, which decreases the benefit for the few that follow the president’s every move.

It’s also possible that the five members of the “tight pool” could come up with an agreement with the White House that enables them to share images only with each other. “It is not fair [that] the people who don’t commit to covering the White House consistently will be able to sell those pictures via the pool,” Mills said.

Donald Winslow, editor of NPPA’s News Photographer magazine, told that he believes wire services’ resistance to a pool approach is less about journalism than it is about competition and ownership of content.

“Is this really about the principle of having an independent journalist in the room?” he asked. “Because if it is, a pool journalist is acceptable and ethical. If they want an AP byline in the room, a Reuters byline in the room, an AFP byline in the room, then that’s about pride – and it’s not about principle. Pride or profit?”

Al Tompkins, Poynter’s senior faculty for broadcast and online, interviewed Sean Elliot for this story. Kenny Irby, Poynter’s senior faculty for visual journalism and diversity, interviewed Doug Mills and Santiago Lyon. Steve Myers, managing editor of, interviewed Harry Walker and Don Winslow. Read more


5 Strategies for Successful News Organization-University Partnerships

The New York Times, The Bay Citizen and Next Door Media have recently partnered with universities in hopes that students can help them expand their hyperlocal coverage, engage new audiences and experiment with different business models.

Editors and professors say the partnerships are a step toward re-envisioning the relationship that news organizations and universities often share. Traditionally, news orgs have turned to universities when they’ve needed interns to produce and edit content. Now, they’re starting to realize that students and the universities they attend can help them do much more.

“When the crisis came and all of a sudden there was this need for innovation and new practices and new business models and new technology, the industry didn’t have a journalism school to rely on because it never asked for it,” said NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen, who helped create the partnership between NYU’s Arthur J. Carter Journalism Institute and The New York Times. “l see these partnerships as correcting a misalignment between journalism schools and the news business.”

Below, I’ve listed some steps that news organizations and universities can take to create successful partnerships.

Find someone with a common link between the newsroom and the university

When creating partnerships, it helps to identify a “hinge” — someone who has had a foot in both the classroom and the newsroom. TBD, the Allbritton Communications metro D.C. news site expected to launch this month, just announced a partnership with American University. The hinge is Jim Brady, who graduated from AU and is Allbritton’s president of digital strategy.

In the case of the NYU/New York Times partnership, it’s Richard Jones, a former New York Times metro reporter who is now on NYU’s faculty. Jones will edit “The Local: East Village,” the hyperlocal news site at the crux of the partnership. Set to launch this fall, the site will be produced at NYU and featured on

“You have to have an elegant hinge so that the problems of coordinating two institutions don’t overwhelm you,” Rosen said in a phone interview. “The Times can be confident that this site will be done to Times’ standards, and we can be confident that we have an editor on hand right here.”

Jones will collaborate with Mary Ann Giordano, a deputy Metropolitan editor at the Times who is in charge of The Local — the Times’ hyperlocal news destination. Because he worked with her at The New York Times, Jones understands the type of content the Times wants and can help shape the “The Local: East Village” accordingly.

Visit the classroom to identify needs & explain what your news org wants out of the partnership

Giordano visited students in Rosen’s Studio 20 class last semester when they were working out the details of the partnership, and did the same as part of the Times’ partnership with the City University of New York’s graduate school of journalism.

“I think visiting the classroom,” she said, “is the most direct and simplest way to make sure everyone’s on the same page.”

When visiting NYU students, she explained that she wanted them to help the Times figure out how to sustain its hyperlocal journalism.

“Ultimately our business side of The New York Times decided it was not going to devote resources to this part of the experiment. From the earliest days of us running these hyperlocal sites we’ve been more focused on the journalism than on the business side,” Giordano said by phone. “At CUNY and NYU, they’re testing out different things for us and looking at ways that they can create a business model that’s sustainable and allows working journalists to make a living running hyperlocal blogs.”

Near the end of last semester, Giordano invited Studio 20 students to the Times building to present what they learned while preparing for the partnership. Visiting the classroom and inviting students to the newsroom, she said, helped her build a relationship not just with the students but with faculty members who can add a sense of continuity.

“I think news organizations have to realize that there’s a learning curve, and what makes that all the more serious of a hurdle is the students come and go,” Giordano said. “They learn and the semester’s over, so you constantly have this turn of students. The key is to get someone to run the site day to day so there’s continuity and to keep the faculty involved so they can contribute.”

Involve students in your site’s advertising efforts so you can generate revenue together

Cory Bergman, co-founder of Next Door Media (and a member of Poynter’s National Advisory Board), helped initiate two partnerships with the University of Washington — one with an entrepreneurial journalism class in the university’s department of communication and another with the university’s student newspaper, The Daily.

Next Door Media, a network of 10 hyperlocal sites, launched with a reporter from The Daily as editor. Doug Alder, Next Door Media’s editor-in-chief, provides guidance and helps fill in coverage gaps, and the two sites link to each other whenever one runs content that’s relevant to the U District.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the partnership with The Daily, Bergman said, is that the students are helping Next Door Media generate advertising revenue. 

“The problem to be solved isn’t coverage, but economic sustainability,” Bergman said via e-mail. “The newspaper’s ad team already calls on neighborhood advertisers who are interested in reaching students in the paper and online. So through our partnership, The Daily can now offer those advertisers the ability to reach residents in the neighborhood blog as well, all in one integrated package.”

Next Door Media runs ads from regional businesses in North Seattle on, while The Daily is responsible for selling the site’s local neighborhood ads.

Encourage experimentation in the newsroom & classroom

As part of its partnership with the University of California at Berkeley, The Bay Citizen is working with the university’s Haas School of Business and its School of Information Management and Systems to develop a “test kitchen” for innovation and experimentation in journalism.

“It’s certainly our goal to be working with the Berkeley J school and — through the J school — other parts of the university to develop innovative strategies around our journalism,” Steve Fainaru, Bay Citizen’s managing editor for news, said via e-mail. The Bay Citizen is also running content from the School of Journalism’s three hyperlocal sites and has two interns from the school working for the site.

Experimentation is also at the center of Next Door Media’s partnership with the University of Washington.

“Our goal is to give students a more holistic look at the realities of today’s journalism away from the constructs of a traditional news organization,” Bergman said. “We’re very fortunate to have a forward-thinking university right in our backyard that believes that traditional journalism has changed forever. We may not know the answers, but we’re both out there experimenting as fast as we can.”

Tap into the expertise of various departments in a university

Rosen’s Studio 20 class collaborated with two students from the university’s Stern School of Business to brainstorm business models for sustaining local journalism. What they learn could ultimately help the Times answer some of the questions it has about the business side of hyperlocal journalism.

Students also collaborated with an Information Technology Projects class to create an open-source assignment desk system that’s being built as a WordPress plugin. The assignment desk lets contributors from NYU and the community pitch story ideas. The ideas, if approved by an editor, then appear on a list of available assignments to cover. After the site launches, students plan to report back to The New York Times about how the tool can be used to organize and generate story ideas.

This sharing of knowledge, Rosen said, is part of the partnership’s goal “to create a journalism space at New York University that is New York Times quality and a learning space for The New York Times that is university quality.”

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Giordano agreed that there’s value in looking outside the newsroom to address the challenges media outlets are facing.

“I think this is a new phase in journalism that will strengthen us,” she said of the partnerships between news orgs and universities. “Right now we’re in a very rocky place. We’re figuring it all out and we need to get to the other side of it. I’m hoping with everything we’re doing here, we will at least figure out some pieces of the puzzle that will help lead us to the other side.”
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Archived Chat: How Can I Help Make Changes in My School’s Curriculum?

In this week’s chat, Sara Dickenson-Quinn and Katy Culver of the University of Wisconsin-Madison joined Poynter’s Multimedia for College Educators seminar participants for a discussion about how to help implement changes in your school’s curriculum.

During the chat, they offered tips on how to take practical steps toward making curriculum changes and shared suggestions on how to get others on board with your ideas.

You can revisit this link at any time to replay the chat after it has ended.

<a href=”” >How Do I Get Buy In On New Ideas?</a> Read more


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