5 ways newsrooms can make the most of Instagram


A selection of photos from Poynter’s Instagram feed (@poynter_institute)

What’s the point of Instagram if it doesn’t drive traffic?

This is one of the most common questions I hear from journalists tasked with growing their newsroom’s social media presence. It’s also a question I recently faced as I made the case for Poynter’s newly launched Instagram account.

It’s a fair point: when you’re strapped for resources, how do you determine whether a social network like Instagram is worth your time? And, if you do decide to create an account, how do you prove that it’s successful?

Just this week, The New York Times announced the launch of the paper’s primary account on Instagram, @NYTimes. The feed, as described in a Times’ press release, is designed to reach new audiences and boost brand awareness. Read more

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Inside EndRun, The Marshall Project’s lean content management system

EndRun's administrator homepage. (Credit: Ivar Vong)

EndRun’s administrator homepage. (Credit: Ivar Vong)

Ivar Vong is all about avoiding frustrating and tedious tasks. And since he started as director of technology at The Marshall Project in June, he’s been focused on saving his co-workers a lot of time in little ways.

“I’m very interested in workflow,” Vong said. “Building tools that are efficient, especially for things that we do a lot, say publishing a post — that’s really important to try to get as good as possible.”

When he was brought aboard, Vong began talking with managing editor Gabriel Dance about what kind of website they wanted to build. He and Dance wanted The Marshall Project to be flexible, to grow to meet the changing trends and demands of the news business. And that meant building something new. Read more


‘Serial’s’ twist on traditional crime reporting

serial-adnanNot many journalists would dare compare a convict’s big brown eyes to those of a dairy cow: “Could someone who looks like that really strangle his girlfriend? Idiotic, I know.”

Yet that’s exactly what Sarah Koenig, the reporter for the public radio podcast “Serial,” did while talking about one of her series’ main subjects. Her style mixes traditional reporting with think-out-loud observations and thoughts, which is why it’s both compelling and uncomfortable for journalists to listen to.

“We try to minimize the reporter’s voice,” said Justin George, a crime reporter from the Baltimore Sun. “She’s literally telling readers how she feels. Not what she’s seeing but how she feels, and that’s probably why she is grabbing readers.”

“Serial” is about the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee, a high school student in Baltimore County, Maryland, and the arrest and conviction of her 17-year-old ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed, who was sentenced to life in prison. Read more

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Today at the South Florida Sun Sentinel, a switch to digital thinking

Starting today, staff at the South Florida Sun Sentinel will have to think differently about how they report, write and present the news — and differently means digitally.

As of Tuesday, everyone but a designated team will focus solely on reporting and producing news online. A separate print production desk will then choose from what has been produced each day to create the next day’s printed newspaper.

“Realistically, it’s a change for a lot of journalists who are traditional newspaper journalists, who’ve made tremendous strides at being more multimedia journalists than they ever were, but still love the daily newspaper and love the cycle,” said David Schutz, design director, in a phone interview.

That cycle is changing now, he said, and “I think it’s a big mental change for a lot of people, especially more senior journalists, including me.”

It’s also a natural progression from a change made three years ago, when the Sentinel gave the print section editors responsibility of their sections online and merged the digital team with the newsroom. Read more

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Storify adds a way to collaborate on breaking news

Storify now has a way for journalists to collaborate on breaking news, Livefyre announced Tuesday. Storify Enterprise, which was previously Storify VIP, lets several people “simultaneously add text or content in real-time, see who else is working on the story at any moment and access the editing history to clearly identify what changes were made by whom,” according to a post on Livefyre by Samantha Hauser.

“Covering stories has always been a collaborative process, and that’s even more true when you’re sifting through huge volumes of social media for a breaking story or brand campaign. While part of the team seeks out great photos and quotes, others craft the story and give context,” explained Burt Herman, co-founder of Storify and vice president of editorial at Livefyre.

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Omidyar’s First Look Media looking to find its focus, target an audience

Pierre Omidyar has issues. Several problems, actually.

The billionaire technologist, philanthropist, and publisher is stitching together a strategy for his weeks-old First Look Media group, and he’s grappling with some essential questions:

  • What’s the focus?
  • Will First Look be one big brand, or a confederacy of brands?
  • Will it serve a mass audience, or a niche audience?
  • Will it be “problem-pointers,” or problem solvers?
  • Can its journalism innovation match its technology innovation?

First Look Media launched in February with The Intercept, featuring Glenn Greenwald, who, while working for The Guardian last year, was the first to report on the National Security Agency’s far-reaching surveillance program. Greenwald practices what he calls “adversary journalism.”

The hiring of Greenwald has framed the public’s view of First Look. Read more

Creative management (Depositphotos)

Building a creative news environment can be a matter of routine

Newsroom managers have always needed to be good jugglers. When someone asked how I was doing, I often answered:

“I’ve got a lot of balls in the air — and I’m trying not to let too many of them land on my head.”

But listen to managers talk today about their daily challenges, and the juggling metaphor no longer feels sufficient.

Not when they say things like, “I’m just trying to survive.”

With more work, over-stretched resources and frequently changing expectations for themselves and their staffs, managers say their top priority is to get the website updated, get the paper out, get the show on the air.

Just get the work done.

Notice what’s missing from that statement: “Get the work done … well.”

It’s implied, you say? Read more


What makes journalism ‘innovative’? Lessons from this year’s Scripps Howard Awards

What is innovation in journalism today? I heavily debated that question with Dan Gillmor and Retha Hill earlier this month while judging the Scripps Howard Awards at Poynter.

The 44 entries in the “Digital Innovation” category we were judging were some help. But not as much we had hoped.

The top of the list, thankfully, exemplified the award criteria of finding “fresh, engaging” ways to do great journalism. What does that look like? Think Snow Fall from The New York Times, which ended up winning the award. Big data projects from ProPublica, narrated graphics from the Los Angeles Times, the killer iPad app by Reuters, Bloomberg’s infographics, and News 21’s interactive video trailer presentation also had the judges uttering words like “stunning,” “mind-blowing,” “amazing” and “powerful.”

What set them apart from the rest of the entries was the way that each one found a creative — and effective — way to use a digital technique or tool to tell a story or convey information. Read more

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Critics ask if Times-Picayune, other Advance papers are ready for their new digital focus

Forbes | Reinventing the Newsroom | Newsonomics | The New York Times
There’s been much consternation about the stop-printing-daily part of the news from The Times-Picayune and Advance Publications’ three Alabama papers. But what of the “exciting changes” — the new emphasis on digital? There are skeptics.

The goal isn’t bad, writes John McQuaid, who used to work at the Picayune, but Advance has so far fumbled efforts to integrate its legacy and online operations.

The company, McQuaid writes, “has pursued a web strategy that is only lightly tethered to newsgathering.” Its websites often combine information from several newspapers and “are not very attractive and are notoriously difficult to navigate.” (Wade Kwon Storified reader reaction to the Alabama papers’ bloggy design after it debuted recently.)

At the TP, the intrinsic clunkiness has improved somewhat of late; but in spite of all the bold talk, jargon and corporate branding going on around online news, Advance has yet to provide a clear sense it’s committed to making a systematic move to the online news ecosystem, or that it “gets” digital news at all beyond the crude basics: more blogging, tweeting, video, mobile.

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Eric Newton: Journalism education suffers from ‘symphony of slowness’

Knight Foundation | Common Sense Journalism
Eric Newton, senior adviser to the president at Knight, didn’t hold back in his criticism of the state of journalism education in a speech last week. Although he praised a handful of schools that have revamped their programs to help chart the future of news, he spent a lot of time criticizing “the middle of the bell curve.”

With all due respect, journalism and communication education plays at least second chair, and sometimes first chair, in the symphony of slowness. What I mean is the reaction time to new things. Consider this: On one side of campus, engineers are inventing the Internet, browsers and search engines. But the news industry is slow to respond. Then public radio slower still. Foundations even slower.

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