5 things to know about … blogging for the Star-Telegram

A newspaper blog should be much more than an online notebook. At its best, a blog:

Our computers

Photo by Pablo Ruiz Múzquiz; Flickr Creative Commons

1. Is interactive. Use it to communicate with your readers. Ask them questions. Read and respond to their comments.

2. Aggregates. Imagine that your blog is a water-cooler spot for your subject. Look for what others are saying or doing and repost their content. Use the same general guidelines we use for print: It’s OK to quote or paraphrase a couple of graphs, as long as you include attribution and post a link to the original source.

3. Includes multimedia. Photos, videos, source documents and other rich media content can be easily uploaded to a post and can often tell the story better than words. It’s OK to use photos pulled from our Merlin archive with two exceptions — if the cutline forbids web posting (usually in red) or if the photo is from Getty Images. Include attribution somewhere in the post.

4. Has a voice. Write in a conversational tone rather than the formal writing you’re used to for print. Let your inner personality shine through. Have some fun. You can be colorful yet still remain impartial, as per our ethics policy.

5. Starts with a strong headline. Bloggers are headline writers, too. Remember the rules of search optimization — think about what search terms people might use to find your subject matter and include them in the headline. Keep the headlines relatively short — 8-10 words at most. Learn to write provocative headlines that summarize the content of your post.

Instructions for posting to Typepad, the Star-Telegram blog tool.

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An intrepid journalist builds a bridge over those pesky tools

People come up with all kinds of reasons not to change. It’s only human to want to spend time where we’re comfortable, even if we have to dig a hole and cover ourselves with leaves to avoid reality.

The "intrepid" Gordon Dickson

In legacy print newsrooms, it seems that the latest pushback against change goes something like this: We’re “spending more time on the medium, the technology, than the content.” That line, from an LA Times report on Digital First Media CEO John Paton, was attributed to “a 32-year New Haven (Conn.) Register employee.” But I’ve heard it on many occasions.

I understand the sentiment. I know that those who say it are sincere in their fears that the quality of our journalism will suffer as we try to do more with less.  Continue reading

A 21st century journalist is fun, flexible and technically savvy

We are in the midst of dissecting the results of a newsroom-wide survey of technical skills, which is leading to some interesting discussions about priorities. It seemed like a good time to share this job description for a 21st century journalist, which was the result of a brainstorming session by a Digital Strategy Committee at the Star-Telegram. (Note: This has NOT been officially adopted at our newspaper.)

And, yes, this is much easier said than done.  Continue reading

Steve Wilson’s accessories to improve your iPhone video

Colleague Steve Wilson, whose work with the iPhone video camera was referenced in a previous post, shares his list of accessories:

Mini video kit for iPhone

“I have a little mini video kit for my iPhone that I now carry with me that reporters might find useful.

It all fits in a small bag that I keep in my desk.

The “How to Make the Nellie Cruz cutout” was shot with my iPhone using this mini tripod.

In the “Cookie Challenge” video, I used my iPhone on the same mini tripod head, but mounted on a full-sized tripod. I also used the Lavalier microphone for the sound.”  Continue reading

30 days to the digital transition: The miracle smartphone

In my last post, I posited that Twitter might be the shortcut to the digital transition that we’ve been searching for.

Now, I’d like to make the case that the new generation of smartphones, especially the iPhone 4 and 4s, may be the only hardware we need for field reporting.

AME/Metro Lee Williams checks out the high-tech iPhone tripod solution on the left (the Joby GorillaMobile) and the low-tech version made with clips and a card on the right. Photo and Rube Goldberg tripod by David Kent.

In my six years working for the Star-Telegram’s digital operations, I have learned to use at least nine cameras and/or camcorders, plus three digital voice recorders. And Windows computers. And Apple computers. And iPads. And Android tablets. And so on.

And I’ve put many of my eager colleagues through that hell along the way.

But in midsummer 2011, I bought an iPhone 4. And I realized that I was holding a simple yet high-quality device that would allow us finally to spend more time creating content than we do learning technology.

With the iPhone 4 and its newer sibling, the 4s, journalists can shoot good-enough video and photos, can record decent audio, can access high-quality productivity apps, can stream live video, can keep in touch with the office through video chat, IMs or text, and can even attach a Bluetooth keyboard and write an entire story in a pinch.

Continue reading

Sarah Huffstetler learns digital journalism in a week

The Star-Telegram’s AME/Design won a fellowship to the Knight Digital Media Center’s January Digital Storytelling Workshop. I collected some of her tips, via Twitter, and her final video.

Below are her posts through Day 3, via Storify. More tips, from Day 4.

  1. @shuffstetler: for visuals, being there is 97%
    Tue, Jan 10 2012 17:22:30
  2. Mobile: Being there is 51%. Technique is 46%. Gear is 2%. #fwstnext #kdmcinfo
    Tue, Jan 10 2012 17:16:55
  3. Love your experiments as if you would an ugly child. This is how you learn, and ultimately get better.#fwstnext #kdmcinfo
    Tue, Jan 10 2012 15:08:16
  4. Video tip: No matter what the subject is, you need a tight, medium, wide shot. #fwstnext #kdmcinfo

A blind reporter’s digital journalism includes a lesson for us all

Liz Campbell with Gabe, her guide dog.

Liz Campbell with Gabe, her guide dog. Photo by Joyce Marshall/Star-Telegram

A big challenge for digital journalists at a newspaper is figuring out how much time to spend helping colleagues learn the required skills.

It’s hard to overstate how much we appreciate those who don’t need much hand-holding.

Enter Elizabeth Campbell, a blind reporter who has worked various beats at the Star-Telegram over the years.

Liz has accepted that today’s journalists must create content that works across platforms, not just in print.
She can’t shoot videos or take photographs, but she found at least one new platform that she can master — audio storytelling.

She refused to settle for the “I’m too busy” rationale, and she didn’t give in to the technical challenges.

She simply pulled out her iPhone, opened the built-in Voice Memos app, and recorded a short audio clip while interviewing riders for a story about bus transportation.  Continue reading