Digital Media Toolbox
In June, the New York Times Magazine published a 10,000-word article by Nikole Hannah-Jones about segregated schools in New York City. Those who read the article online or on mobile devices may have noticed a subtle multimedia element buried halfway through the content: a graphic showing the shifting school zones for two Brooklyn schools.
In today’s digital-first news industry, priorities have turned to clicks and “attention minutes” and whatever the next big metric will be. But in all these analytics, how are we measuring readers’ understanding of news? Where is the metric showing that what we’re reporting is actually resonating with readers?
The English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote that the pen is mightier than the sword. For journalism in the digital age, it’s Twitter that has become mighty. Once known for its unique way to connect with celebrities and friends through bite-size 140-character posts, Twitter has become a tool central to the idea of speech and expression, and one of journalism’s essential social media tools.
More and more government data is becoming available online, but the keys to unlocking stories belong to those who are willing to get their hands a little dirty in a spreadsheet program. Several states and cities have started publishing data sets online, publicly available to anyone for review and download.
Travel journalists who want to cover foreign countries and produce compelling multimedia for visitors face challenges such as language barriers, unknown customs and unfamiliar geographies. Besides having a passion for exploring exotic locales, meeting the inhabitants and discovering unique facets to share with visitors, travel journalists need a solid understanding of how best to capture the essence of the place for their audience, especially in the digital era.
Technology and journalism are becoming more than just intertwined; they are informing one another’s development at an exponential rate. As journalism experiences one of its most transformative stages in history, reliable newsgathering and comprehensive storytelling require more than just observant eyes, savvy wordsmithing and a well-positioned camera.
Many journalists seem to have a love/hate relationship with infographics. On one hand, snazzy graphics replacing good old-fashioned word-smithing rubs a lot of us the wrong way. Sometimes the drive to produce clever imagery can even result in the distortion of data, perhaps going so far as to mislead readers.
There is a menace in digital journalism and, unfortunately, it is not going away any time soon no matter how cleverly a medium thinks it is hiding the violation. This menace is called “lifting” online content of an entire article — verbatim — into another print or online publication without the reporter’s permission.
As digital journalists, we’re used to operating within the ever-evolving sphere of cyberspace. We’re continually forced to expand our arsenal of storytelling resources just to keep up with the influx of information and the lightning speed of the Web. Meanwhile, some of the most essential parts of our industry — engaging with, learning from and sharing our work with others in our field — often get overlooked as we hurry to install the slickest apps or snag the latest gadgets.
More people are watching news videos online, Pew Research data suggests. But fewer people make it past the one-minute mark. We can debate all day whether shortening news to fit 140-characters or 15 seconds is helping or hurting journalism and attention spans.
Ecclesiastes put it this way: “There’s nothing new under the sun.” I recall the Old Testament curmudgeon every time I come across another pundit proclaiming how journalism schools must teach every student “data-based journalism,” how to wrangle “big data,” and how to create “data visualizations” and “code.”
Being a gadget freak isn’t a requirement for being a journalist, but these days it helps to have some familiarity with the plethora of new stuff constantly being pushed into the consumer pipeline. While journalists learn to embrace new tech as part of their jobs, news audiences have also benefitted from the march of progress.
I was recently interviewed by a college student doing research on the “censorship” of comments by news organizations. From the idealistic tone of her inquiry, she revealed that she thought newsrooms hiring a staffer just to manage comments was an outrageous affront to the First Amendment.
I was appalled recently to hear a city editor from one of the top daily newspapers in the country tell a roomful of journalism students that they shouldn’t worry about learning multimedia or any digital skills, and that journalism to him was all about one thing: writing.
I’ve heard it for years from mid-career journalists, though not so much from the j-school students I work with today: “How am I supposed to keep up with all this new stuff?” That was when now-commonplace concepts such as blogging, social media and SEO were bewilderingly new to the established news media.
Hey, can you make me a free video? Gather a room full of student media advisors together and sooner or later the topic of “value” comes up. From what we teach to how we teach it, it seems many inside and outside of education do not consider media a discipline equal to similar pedagogies with practical experience like music, nursing, education and social work, just to name a few.