Your Storify assignment

We’re going to get started on this in class today, but we may not finish. Please assemble a Storify about a story in the news that you have chosen. I am not going to specify how many elements you should include, although you should have no problem finding about a dozen.

No doubt most of what you include will be tweets, but don’t limit yourself. News stories, YouTube videos and photos you find on Flickr and Instagram are all grist for you mill. Make sure you use your own writing for context and transitions.

After you are done, write a brief blog post explaining your Storify and linking to it. I wish we could embed our Storifys in our blogs, but that capability is not available.

You will find that the process of assembling a Storify is so simple and fast that you might think you can wrap it up in a few minutes. Slow down. Think about what you’re including. Could you find something better? Are your items in the order that you want?

Storify can pretty much eliminate the journalist’s voice — but not if you include strong passages of your own writing to tie together the examples of social media that you find.

Deadline: Tuesday, Feb. 5, before class.

A few sample Storifys from last semester:


A few links for Friday

We’ll open with a brief consideration of two digital-journalism stories in the news — a claim by The New York Times that its computer systems were hacked by the Chinese government in retaliation for critical reporting, and the latest in sleazy, state-of-the-art search-engine optimization.

Links for Tuesday’s class

I would like to open tomorrow with a consideration of The Atlantic’s recent decision to publish a sponsored article (that is, a paid advertisement) by the Church of Scientology — a decision it quickly admitted was a mistake. As news organizations try to figure out how to make money in the digital age, the wall of separation between the business and editorial sides is becoming increasingly fuzzy. Please have a look at these two articles:

Here is a link to Twitterfall, which I will be demo’ing briefly.

Also tomorrow, we will have our first student presentation (from Samantha Caro); we will check in on our experiences live-tweeting an event; and we will get started with Storify (please make sure you do the reading).

Twitter news assignment

Your assignment for using Twitter as a news tool is to cover an event and post at least five tweets, then write a blog post about it. Embed your tweets in your blog post as I have done below. The event could be a speaker, a sports event or even a street fair that you run across. Please attempt to take and post a couple of photos in your Twitter feed. (If your phone doesn’t allow you to post pictures, don’t worry about it.)

You’ll find that once you get rolling, you’ll have no difficulty writing more than five tweets. But five is a good minimum to shoot for. Ten would be better.

Do not forget to include a link to your Twitter feed in your blog post.

Posting links by cellphone is too difficult, and doesn’t fit all that well with covering an event. But, as a rule, posting links is one of the most important things you can do on Twitter, as it enables you take part in the ongoing conversation. These days, most Twitter clients take care of link-shortening automatically.

Once you are done, write up a brief blog post describing the event, what you were hoping to accomplish and what you see as the positives and negatives of covering a story via Twitter.

If you are completely puzzled by the idea of covering an event via Twitter, I thought I would link to a few of the tweets I posted on the evening of Dec. 8, 2009, when I was at Martha Coakley’s headquarters following her victory in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate. During the campaign, the hashtag #masen became universally known as the best way to tag your tweets so that other people interested in the race could find them. As you’ll see, some of these tweets include photos. A random sample:

I make no great claims for what I wrote that night on Twitter. Mainly I was just passing the time while gathering material for my Guardian column (which turned out to be wrong in an almost breathtaking manner). But I think they’re a fair example of what a reporter can do with Twitter at the scene of an event.

You may also look at what I did and say to yourself, “Oh, is that all he’s looking for? Big deal.” That would be a good thing.

Deadline: Monday at 9 a.m. I’m hoping to take some time in class on Tuesday to see what you came up with.

Your in-class presentation

Thanks to Samantha Caro for volunteering to do our first in-class presentation next Tuesday.

The assignment, which all of you will do at some point during the semester, is to write a blog post about a website, blog, Twitter feed or whatever that you find helpful in blogging about your beat. Elements should include:

  • Why you chose the site and what you like about it
  • How it could be improved
  • How it does or doesn’t involve its audience
  • Briefly, show us another site or two about the same topic for purposes of comparison

Once you are in class, you simply need to do a five- to 10-minute presentation based on your blog post, leaving aside another five minutes or so for questions.

Enhancing your beat with Twitter

For your next assigned blog post, please find the Twitter feeds of 10 people or organizations related to your beat. Follow them for a day. See who they’re retweeting. Click on their links. For Friday — before class — write a blog post about your experience, what you learned and how it enhances your ability to work your beat.

List and link to the feeds you are following and write a sentence or two about each one describing what it is.

How to find Twitter feeds related to your beat? Here are a few ideas.

  • Look at the Twitter feeds offered by large news organizations such as the Boston Globe and the New York Times.
  • If you’re following someone who is useful to you, find out who she’s following. Maybe she’s set up lists. You can follow anyone on that list, or the entire list. Maybe she participates in Follow Friday. See if she’s posted anything with the hashtag #FF.
  • Use our friend Google. Let’s say you’re writing a blog about skateboarding in Boston. Google <skateboarding Boston Twitter>.
  • Use a search/directory service such as We Follow or Listorious.

Also: If you didn’t have a chance to finish your blogroll in class, please do it as soon as you can. You should have at least five sites you plan to use in blogging about your beat, plus a sixth: our class website.