Storify: making news a multi-layered narrative.

It was only a matter of time before someone developed a tool that allowed social network and information services like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to be pulled onto the online news platform.

Storify is a curation-focused services, similar to both Curated.by and Keepstream. However, Storify is different in that instead of focussing primarily on collecting and aggregating Twitter messages, it pulls information from a number of different social networks and sites, in order to create a much broader narrative .

Basically, Storify allows users to pull in real-time data from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, YouTube and other social networks and services. Users can filter the information by inputting keyword, and then it’s as simple as drag-and-drop to put the content onto the story template!

 

 

For example, last week Julia Gillard gave a speech in Parliament, in which she claimed Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was a misogynist. If you were to write an article of Storify about this turn of events, you could include the video of Gillard’s speech, and a snapshot of the public’s reaction via a Facebook post and a tweet.

 

 

Now, you may be thinking that journalists and bloggers can already do this, by taking a screenshot on Facebook, or embedding a YouTube clip. However, when content is included in a Storify template, it retains all its features and interactivity, as well as the surrounding metadata such as location, profile information, links and the like. For example, when a tweet is embedded in Storify, the user names can be hovered over for more information or clicked on to go to a Twitter profile.

Click here to watch an interview featuring Burt Herman, who co-founded Storify. Herman worked as a foreign correspondent for 12 years, and in 2009 he accepted a Knight Fellowship in journalism at Stanford University. Herman says he he thought about the future of media, and wanted to design a tool that would make it easier for journalists to aggregate and filter reports about events and then build those into a coherent narrative.

We’re coming at it from the point of view of story-telling — it’s about creating a really rich experience about an event. There are all of these real-time updates, so many that we are drowning in them. This is about finding relevance in the noise.

Well, it would seem Herman has succeeded. Ten ways journalists can use Storify are outlined in a blog post referred to by the Poynter Institute. Check it out if you want a more in-depth explanation. The ten ways discussed are

1. Organising reaction in social media.

2. Giving back-story using past content.

3. Curating topical content.

4. Displaying a non-linear social media discussion or chat.

5. Creating a multimedia/social media narrative.

6. Organise your live tweets into a story:

7. Collaborate on a topic with readers.

8. Create a timeline of events.

9. Display audience content from across platforms.

10. Live curate live tweets from the stream.

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Don’t forget the basics!

 In my Do we “dumb down” the news for online journalism? post I told you I would get back to you about  the speed versus accuracy issue. Well, the timing could not be more perfect, as Queensland Online News Producer/Editor, Elaine Ford, spoke to the Online Journalism cohort in our last lecture about this very issue.

To re-cap, there in a great amount of pressure on journalists to be the fastest, the quickest, the first to upload their story to the web. However, it is still imperative to be accurate. Now that journalists are uploading stories from the scene, minutes after the event has occurred, from iPhones, iPads, tablets and whatever other weird and wonderful technological gadgets they have access to, I have to wonder: are journalists sacrificing quality for speed? 

I posed this question after my Online Journalism class had been put through a Live Blogging test, which (if you remember) I was not all too confident about. My class experienced a simulated version of the stress a journalist feels when faced with an unfolding event and the knowledge that, in the world of online journalism, every extra second you spend on your story could mean potential readers are being lost to competitors… and I felt A LOT of pressure.

As a result, I made a couple of spelling errors and typos (but overall, I was very happy with my mark – SUCCESS!). After the lecture with Elaine, however, I’ve realised that had I been an actual journalist, reporting an unfolding story, I would be in big trouble.

One of the very first points Elaine made in her lecture was that spelling and grammar mistakes are more important than ever before. Simple mistakes look amateur and suggest lazy reporting, and can damage the credibility of not only the mistaken journalist, but also their employee news organisation and the journalism profession as a whole. So, hypothetically, my couple of spelling mistakes could potentially have lost me my readership.

Elaine directed the class to the ABC Media Watch website, which reports on the various mistakes and discrepancies in Australian reporting. I have spent countless hours reading through articles on the website since the lecture, and I highly recommend checking it out.

Elaine also stressed the point that journalists need to be accountable to the public. In a recent episode of Media Watch, it was pointed out that The Sydney Morning Herald had removed a columnist pending an investigation on plagiarism, however readers were provided with no explanation. Editor in Chief of the Sydney Morning Herald Sean Aylmer merely said, “We are no longer using Dr. Ahmed as a columnist”.

 In my opinion, that’s not good enough. I suppose that that is not for me to say. However, considered in light of the fact that journalism is considered to be the ‘fourth estate’, Aylmer has not done much to instill confidence in the SMH readership that they strive to report accurately and fairly. 

Perhaps they need a lecture from Elaine Ford on the importance of accountability, too?

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Government told no new funds needed to save Moreton Bay

The Queensland Conversation Society is urging the Queensland Government to re-think its refusal of their Save Moreton Bay campaign, after altering the proposal to require no further funding.

The Council is calling for a redistribution of existing funds in its revised proposal to reduce pollution in Moreton Bay, claiming the Government is spending money in the wrong places.

The health of Moreton Bay and surrounding waterways continues to decline due to urban development, stormwater run-off and rural land use, Healthy Waterways studies show.

The Queensland Conservation Council believes the plan will protect southeast Queensland’s “greatest asset”, and is awaiting Environment Minister Andrew Powell’s approval of the plan.

The Future of Moreton Bay

The Council’s Rivers Project Manager Nigel Parratt is urging the Government to protect the Bay, or risk losing the $5 billion a year the area generates through tourism, recreation and primary industries.

“One of the main reasons people are attracted to southeast Queensland is because we have this fantastic ecological asset, the Bay, on our doorstep.

“All of the waterways and beaches surrounding it add to the livability of the region, so if Moreton Bay was to become even more polluted then people wouldn’t want to come to southeast Queensland,” Parratt says.

Glyn Hughes, who has been a resident of Moreton Bay for the past 34 years, questions why the Government hasn’t acted yet.

“If they don’t do something, it will become a cesspit – and who wants to live somewhere like that?” he says.

Environment Minister Andrew Powell prefers not to comment until after meeting with the Council, however Parratt remains positive he will support their plan.

“Given his background as the Member for Glass House, I think he’ll see the sense in our plan.

“Politically, it’s a no brainer,” says Parratt.

Queensland’s “greatest asset”

The Bay is made up of a collection of islands, coral and rocky reefs, seagrass beds and beaches, stretching 125 kilometres from Caloundra to the Gold Coast.

Described as a “sanctuary for endangered animal populations” by residents, the Bay is home to a severely dwindling dugong population, and boasts the highest recorded diversity and abundance of whales and dolphins in Australia.

It is also one of the few areas along southeast Queensland where grey nurse sharks are found.

“Moreton Bay is an environmental jewel, and arguable Queensland’s greatest economical asset,” says Parratt.

Queensland Conservation Council’s proposal

Prior to the State election in March the Queensland Conservation Council, a non-government organisation representing all major conservation organisations of Queensland, lodged the Save Moreton Bay campaign.

The Council proposed an investment package of $80 million a year for three years, and delivered a petition urging action from the incoming government with nearly 4000 signatures.

Although the campaign was in the media spotlight earlier this year, little ground has been made since.

In a bid to keep the ball rolling, the Council has altered its proposal.

“The message we’ve got from the new government is that there is no more money available.

“So, instead of asking for a commitment of further funds to fix up issues affecting Moreton Bay, we need to do better with the existing money,” says Parratt.

The Queensland Conversation Council is calling for a series of complementary policies, investments, regulations and market mechanisms to restore and monitor Moreton Bay and its surrounding waterways.

The Bay’s declining health

Local government currently spends in excess of $90 million a year fixing waterways.

However, despite extensive work by South East Queensland Healthy Waterways and community groups, annual ecosystem health cards continue to show a decline.

The Bay’s Central Bay was graded D+ on Healthy Waterway’s scale in the most recent assessment.

The area has been steadily decreasing since 2004.

The Council estimates it will cost Queensland $32 million a year in water treatment costs by 2031 if no action is taken.

Click here to see how various parts of Moreton Bay compare.

Looking to the future

In the past decade, the Queensland Conservation Council has opposed fish farms in Moreton Bay, helped to phase out broad scale land clearing and fought against sand mining on the Bay.

The organisation remains positive about its chances for saving Moreton Bay.

The Conversation Council’s next hurdle is banning the single use of plastic bags.

You can read more about the campaign on the Queensland Conservation Council’s site, http://www.savemoretonbay.com.au/.

You can also friend them on the Save Moreton Bay Facebook.

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News consumers are spoilt for choice

Consider: how many news websites do you use? Do you use different news websites for different types of news, such as political, sport and entertainment? Well, you could! There is that many options.

So how do you know which one is right for you?

To know that, you have to think about …

  • Are you more interested in Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention, or who is likely to be the next evictee from the Big Brother house?
  • What is more important to you: accessibility and usability, or interesting design?
  • How much advertising is too much?
  • Do you need to get your news from a reputable source?

In The Best Designed News Sites, an article on Poynter Institute, Anne Van Wagner recognises that that the best websites reflect the identity of their brand, have a balanced and functioning contents page, are aesthetically pleasing, and are easy to read and navigate.

I have compared a few of your possible options for news websites below.

NineMSN

The old reliable. NineMSN has been my internet homepage for as long as I can remember. This may be because I actually have no clue how to change the homepage, but in truth it would be pretty easy to Google “How to change your internet homepage” and follow the instructions … I’ve just never bothered, because NineMSN does everything that I want my homepage to do.

NineMSN informs, entertains and has a link to both Hotmail and Facebook. What more could you want?!

But, in all seriousness, NineMSN has (in my opinion) created a pretty good news website. The latest headlines are right in the centre, in slightly larger font so that even those unfamiliar with the site have no trouble locating them. Down the left are links to more ‘entertainment’ and ‘lifestyle’ type articles, which is a nice change. On the right hand side is the weather, and if you scroll down you will even get the TV Guide.

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I do, however, have a few issues with the layout of the website. There is an awful lot of linking and advertising, which can make it difficult to tell what is news and what is not. I would say that, in an attempt to give us what they think we want (and need), they have gone a tad overboard. Why is an ‘Editor’s Pick’ necessary on the home page, as well as a long line of links from other parts of the NineMSN network? It’s difficult to discern which links will take you to news articles on NineMSN, and which will lead you off to another website completely.

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Another frustrating factor is the amount of advertising, polls and questionnaires. The advertisements can sometimes look like news stories, leading to much confusion. And I, personally, have never answered any of these polls or questionaires, however I do appreciate that NineMSN is trying to engage viewers in the news.

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All in all, I don’t think I’ll be changing my homepage from NineMSN any time soon. I can live with the advertisements, because I am familiar with the site and know whereabouts on the page the articles that hold my interest will be. However, the many links to entertainment and lifestyle websites may frustrate some.

ABC News

From first glance, it is obvious that the ABC News website is less geared more towards current affairs than entertainment-style news.

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ABC News has done a wonderful job of telling the audience what is most important; the breaking news is easy to spot, with a picture and large font drawing attention to the’Black Parody’ article. ‘Bulldogs v Storm’, ‘March for Jill’ and ‘Aussie rescued’, each have their own thumbnail picture, demonstrating that they are not the headliner, but still important stories. The less important, or older in time, news is then succinctly set out by headline in hyperlinked dot-points below. In comparison, I think this is one area NineMSN could definitely improve on, as their clutter of links is quite confusing.

I especially love ABC News’ function that allows you to read the latest news from a selected state. It seems that ABC News provides links to news consumers might be interested in, whereas NineMSN tries to squeeze it all on their start page.

Importantly, there is distinctly less advertising on this website than NineMSN. Speaking as a news consumer myself, advertisements (especially the kind that pop up and play a video, obscuring your view of an article) are frustrating and never relevant to me. If I was to base me opinion on what is the best News website purely based on the amount of advertisements, ABC News would win, hands down.

ABC News has also created a useful list of links to other sites. In my opinion, links like this should be legible and clear as to where they will lead you. ABC has done both.

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SBS

The first thing I notice about SBS’ website, is the vast amount of white space. If it weren’t for my studies in Layout and Design at QUT, I would probably look at this website and think, “Wow, it’s pretty. I don’t know why, but it is.” But I know better now.

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White space (the space between elements on the page) helps different features to stand out, or separates them from other features on the page. There is white space along the wedges of a fixed width layout, in the margins and padding around pictures and text, between lines of text, and letters in words. SBS’ use of white space has created a legible website that conveys a sense of simplicity and elegance.

SBS has, like ABC News, worked out how to guide news consumers through their website. The main story, ‘Jones apologies to PM’ is easy to spot with a large picture, and shows a small excerpt from the article. Other important news stories are featured to the right, with one thumbnail picture and a number of hyperlinks.

Further down the page, SBS has included Sport, Television, Food, Film and Shop sub-headings, which provide order to what would otherwise be a mish-mash of information and links. Through this layout, it is easy to find an article that would be of interest to you.

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I am also a fan of the bottom of the page, where SBS has provided links to other areas of their website. Although both NineMSN and ABC News also do this, SBS’ version is simplistic, which is what you want when you’re trying to find information quickly. This version also includes links to various entertainment articles and included searches ABC News does not.

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Side Note: SBS changes the colour palette of their site every day, and finds a way to incorporate the main colour into headers, links and text boxes. In my opinion, it makes the site looks more professional.

Which one do you prefe

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Do we “dumb down” the news for online journalism?

It has become apparent through my studies in Online Journalism that although not everyone is a fan of the new journalistic models, online news is in fact the way of the future. Now that people are used to having up-to-the-minute information at their fingertips, there’s no going back to waiting for the newspaper to be delivered or the 6 o’clock nightly news.

But at what cost?

In a lecture at the University of South Australia, Chairman of Private Media, Eric Beecher, said that online journalism is contributing to the ‘dumbing down’ of journalism.

You can watch it below.

According to Beecher, newspapers can no longer afford the number of journalists required to deliver quality journalism that fulfils its role as the fourth estate. Online news sites have taken away much of the advertising revenue that has traditionally funded journalism. Beecher says that no one, as yet, has developed the perfect model to fund mass market news, and questions who will pay for what he calls the ” single biggest safeguard of our democracy”.

According to the Pew Research Centre,

“U.S. newspapers lost $10 in print advertising revenue last year for every $1 they gained online, a deeper loss than in 2010, as competition from Internet companies increases.”

Considered in light of the fact that journalism, as the fourth estate, has the ability to question the government, uncover and publicise corruption, investigate issues and spread ideas, that is quite a worrying statistic. This is especially so when you consider the scary fact that ‘news’ (by some stretch of the word) is now considered to extend to websites like TMZ, NineMSN’s Celebrity Fix and Perez Hilton‘s blog. What better way to dumb down the news than to give Miley Cyrus’ new haircut its’ own article, and publicise it so widely you’d think the world really cared?

Leading on from that, one has to question the quality of news in general as journalists are challenged by hunger news consumers to deliver the most up-to-date turn of events.

A recent assessment piece required my QUTOJ1 peers and I to watch a series of media conferences, while writing a live blog (read: thinking on your feet, and typing like your life depends on it). Needless to say, I was not used to this type of assessment and I struggled. However, the assessment really got me thinking about the speed at which journalists have to work… and I have to wonder how on earth they can produce quality pieces. In this new media-obsessed age, are we sacrificing quality for speed? I’ll get back to you on that one soon. Stay tuned!

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Live Blogging

According to Daniel Hurst, a journalist with the Brisbane Times, live blogging is something new and exclusive to online journalism. Hurst told my Online Journalism class that although live blogs will not work for every situation, when a news story is rapidly unfolding live blogging allows audiences to keep up-to-date and keeps them interested.

Live blogging involves providing short updates on a continuous news story, rather than a structured news article. Updates can be fuelled by social media, to illustrate the public’s reaction to the unfolding event. Also, live blogs may be interactive, and link to other articles.

The advantages of live blogging include:

  • Live blogs make it easier for interested readers to follow an unfolding event, by providing bite-sized updates as opposed to a standard news story that has been updated or tweaked.
  • It is easier to write short, sharp updates than trying to rewrite lead paragraphs as the event goes on.
  • Live blogs are “sticky”, meaning that instead of reading a story then leaving the site, interested readers will keep the page open, which helps build and maintain a website’s audience.

However, there are downsides. Some of these are:

  • Typos can slip in easily; in a typical situation, one person may be writing updates and then publishing those updates immediately. Typos make the journalist look less credible.
  • Context may be lost for a person who comes to the live blog for the first time after many updates have already been filed. This makes the layout and order of the live blog especially important.
  • The journalist doesn’t have much time to think deeply about the unfolding events and provide the traditional journalistic scrutiny of claims being made.
  • Live blogging only works if there are a lot of developments to document.

Despite these downsides, Hurst believes live blogging is likely to become even more prevalent, multimedia rich and reader-friendly.

“The best elements of live blogging – how it is so transparent about sources, how it dispenses with false journalistic fripperies and embraces the audience – are so strong that, rather than foretelling the death of journalism, the live blog is surely the embodiment of its future.”

Matt Wells, The Guardian

Have a look at this live blog, which followed Barrack Obama’s campaign rally on 2nd September, ten days ago.

What I like about this live blog is that it is written well, in the grammar/spelling/sentence structure sense. However, look at the size of each update! Definitely not ‘bite-sized’. The amount of time between each post is also frustrating – on average, there is 45 minutes between updates. Consider: how many people are going to follow a news story from 7:35am to 2:09pm? Not many, is the answer.

I’m also curious at to what went on between the post at 1:44pm

President Barrack Obama has taken the stage with a “Hello Colorado! Go Buffs!” welcome.

and the post at 2:09pm

President Barack Obama wraps up campaign speech on University of Colorado’s Boulder campus to strains of Bruce Springsteen.

The Obama campaign reports that 13,000 people attended the rally.

What did Obama say in his speech? How did the crowd react? Who knows!

Now have a look at this live blog, which covered Apple announcing the launch of the iPhone 5 at 1:20pm this afternoon.

This live blog was updated every couple of minutes, and the photos really round of the story. I also love how the journalist has added in their own commentary, which is what a live blog should do. He proclaims the name EarBuds “dorky”, says he “can’t wait to check out” certain features, and adds some light-hearted humour to the story.

In my opinion, the second blog is clearly the better of the two (and hopefully Daniel Hurst would agree!).

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Google Maps: an innovative journalistic tool

Who knew Google Maps could be such a great tool for Journalists?

I certainly didn’t. Before my Online Journalism tutorial this week, I thought Maps was only useful for getting directions to the beach and looking at your house on Street View.
Oh, how wrong I was!

It’s not surprising that in this digital age, journalists have found a new use for Google Maps. The tool is useful for illustrating stories about a particular area, and allows readers to engage with the information. I imagine it would be useful to document the route of a product or plot the path of an environmental disater.

For example, below is a map I created, plotting the route of a police chase that occured earlier this month, on the 12th of August.

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The above is so much more interesting and easier to understand than reading

The teen allegedly rammed a police car at about 11.30am while avoiding tyre spikes set up on the Cunningham Highway at Willowbank.

He then allegedly drove at an officer and rammed two police cars at 12.10pm when he avoided road spikes on Waste Facility Road at Bromelton.

Police will allege he then abandoned the vehicle on Kurragong Drive at Jimboomba.

(news article by Tanya Westhorp from http://www.goldcoast.com.au/article/2012/08/14/436658_gold-coast-news.html)

It will be interesting to see whether the ‘big’ news websites start to use Google Maps.

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