Toronto’s Globe and Mail’s main story today on riots in China featured five photos that originally appeared on Twitter from citizens in China.
The wire service Reuters originally curated the images, and the Globe and Mail grabbed them from the service, citing both Reuters and Twitter for the photos. China is a country with tight media controls and a vast Internet filtering strategy that would have traditionally made it difficult for photos like these to be made public. But social networks like Twitter, Facebook and Flickr are making it hard for China’s censors to keep up with its citizens.
The Internet, and social media in particular, are making it difficult for authoritarian regimes around the world to control the flow of data into and, perhaps more importantly, out of their countries. China’s fabled “Great Firewall of China” is really intended to keep citizens from accessing information produced outside of China on such hot button topics like democracy and Tienanmen. The Great Firewall was not designed to keep information from flowing from Chinese citizens to the wider world, especially in real time.
Social media is having a big impact on both journalism and the wider world. While western news agencies struggle to get images out of China and Iran, Twitter and other social networks are providing a near limitless flow of information and media. In this case, a mainstream media story was combined with photos from a social network to tell a more complete story of the current unrest in China.
Rather than fear social media and other emerging Web technologies, news organizations should embrace these new technologies. In this case, the Globe and Mail was able to print five incredible photos that illustrate the upheaval and deadly violence in China. These photos would not be possible without social media, and the world would be poorer without these photos.
And while this is a journalism site, it’s pretty amazing to also see the impact that Twitter and other social media are having on totalitarian regimes like China and Iran. It may have been possible a few decades ago to keep unrest under wraps or at least limit its exposure to the world, but that is no longer the case. People have stories to tell and social media is emerging as the premier platform to tell individual stories, especially in the face of oppression and censorship.
It’s also worth noting that the Globe and Mail didn’t turn its nose up at non-professional photos on its front page. While the photos grabbed by cell phones aren’t award-winning quality, they are often more than adequate to tell a story. These photos are powerful not because of the technology behind them, but rather because of the subjects they capture and the stories they tell.
People all over the world are constantly taking photos and posting them to social media sites. News organizations need to learn how to harness this mass of information. While many of the photos are duds, there are plenty of gems.
To find these five gems, journalists at Reuters had to sift through many photos. As social media continues to proliferate, curation will become an increasingly important skill for journalists to have.
This week’s Leaderboard examines what good curation/link journalism is all about.
Link journalism seems so simple. It just some links and a little text. Not hard, right?
Poor link journalism is incredibly easy to produce, but good link journalism is an art and a science. Good link journalism requires a knowledgeable and well-read curator. The value in link journalism is derived from a knowledgeable curator looking at a myriad of sources and information and distilling down the best of it.
Most people don’t have time to do what a good curator does. Many journalists already consume a lot of content on a daily basis on their beats. They have RSS readers stuffed with feeds.
Curation is a skill that more journalists should pick up. Beat reporters are very knowledgeable about a set topic and already process a lot of information. Why not show users what you’re reading, watching and consuming?
We also examine a few other topics in this week’s Leaderboard, including advocacy journalism and hyperlocal journalism.
The Infrastructurist | Jebediah Reed
- The Daily Dig continues to be one of our favorite daily link journalism roundups and not just because everyday has a new “edition” like our Leaderboards.
- What makes good link journalism? It all starts with quality curation. People like Reed monitor a lot of different news sources, agencies, Web sites and saved searches. What makes The Daily Dig good is the fact that Reed links to a variety of different sources and he finds the best infrastructure-related stories. The core value in Reed’s link journalism is derived from him being an expert on the topic, and only someone who spends a lot of time consuming content on a specific topic can be great at link journalism.
- Good link journalism is also about making the links seem interesting. It’s not enough to just grab headlines and link. A good curator sells you on why a story is worth reading. A good curator gives you a true taste of what is to come and highlights the biggest reason why you should read on. Link journalism is in some ways content marketing by offering succinct summaries.
- Good link journalism is also interesting. This goes back to good curation, but it’s not enough to just find news worthy stories or content. Rather, a good curator also finds interesting and unique stories. Some content might be mainstream, while other content off the beaten path.
Steve Rawley | PPS Equity
- PPS Equity offers more than just news about Portland schools; it’s also an advocate for change. And it is starting to seem like good beatbloggers — especially education ones — mix in a bit of advocacy with their journalism. It’s not that they are biased, but rather that they care to see change. For many education reporters, they are covering school districts that are failing. In fact, the American education system isn’t doing so well.
- Advocacy speaks to readers. Rawley is not advocating on behalf of the teacher’s union or some other vested interest but rather advocating for change. That really resonates with readers, especially with beats like education. Most people deeply interested in education are so interested in the topic because they believe the status quo isn’t working.
- Rawley is himself a father of two PPS students. Some may think that’s a conflict of interest, but rather it humanizes Rawley to readers. He, like most people reading his blog, has a vested interest in the district himself. He wants change because he, like his readers, believe the district needs improvement.
- The mission of PPS Equity is to, “inform, advocate and organize, with a goal of equal educational opportunity for all students in Portland Public Schools, regardless of their address, their parent’s wealth, or their race.”
- What ultimately makes this beatblog work is not just the passionate advocacy, but also the content itself. The blog has newsworthy items and features great discussions in the comments after posts. It’s an all-around strong beatblog.
Plano Blog | The Dallas Morning News
- This is yet another strong beatblog from The Dallas Morning News. This one is run by Theodore Kim and Matthew Haag. This beatblog is focused on providing local coverage of the city of Plano, Texas.
- Again this beatblog is patterned after the pioneering work that Kent Fischer did with the DISD Blog. Many of the new beatblogs at the Morning News are trying to capture that same magic that Fischer had. Fischer and the DISD Blog are an excellent blueprint for how to do beatblogging well.
- Kim said, “By using the blog, we’ve been able to cover much more ground. The small stuff and the big stuff, the chicken dinners and the larger trend stories: We’re finding a place for all of it through regular features such as our daily Morning Jog and Bulletin Board. And people are responding.”
- The blog is allowing reporters to cover smaller topics. In the era of shrinking newspapers, beatblogs offer an opportunity for increased coverage, instead of diminished coverage due to a lack of space. Also, the Plano Blog is spurring conversations about the area and attracting residents to the Morning News brand.
- This is a hyperlocal effort of sorts, but instead of developing an entirely separate site ala Loundoun Extra, the Morning News has decided to hand two reporters a blog and tell them to provide in-depth coverage of a single geographic area. This is a less sexy option than other hyperlocal efforts, but early returns suggest it is working. And it’s the kind of effort that can be started in a matter of minutes, rather than months like big projects like Loundoun Extra require. A beatblog like this is a down and dirty way to provide innovative and new journalism to a community.
Many journalists — whether they choose to admit it or not — are scared of trying to make a living in a world where anyone can report.
It’s true that the Web, smartphones, social media, blogs, etc are making it easy for everyone to report and share their stories, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a need for professional journalists. In fact, I’d argue that citizen journalism, while helping to cover the world better, only highlights the need for professional journalists.
Over the past few days, I’ve extolled the virtues of social media in covering the unrest in Iran. True, without social media, this story might not be told properly, but there still has been a large need for professional reporters. Let’s take a look at some content from pros that has really helped provide clarity to what is going on in Iran:
FiveThirtyEight.com — The new media startup/blog that covered last year’s presidential election so well has a great piece on the suspect numbers coming out of Iran. FiveThirtyEight made its name by analyzing polling data, and in a post today it compares the 2005 Iranian presidential election to the one last week.
This is the kind of thoughtful, time consuming analysis that can’t be provided in 140 characters. It’s also the kind of analysis that can help make a journalism organization stand out.
Some irregularities that popped out:
Around 1600 GMT Sunday, the ministry of Interior released the official vote totals by province. As others have mentioned, by law candidates have three days following voting to contest the result, before the final totals are approved by the Supreme Leader. As such, it is notable that both the aggregate totals and provincial totals were certified, approved and released before the three day deadline.
We would have expected Ahmadinejad’s result from Friday, informed by the polling, historical trends and a bit of bet-hedging, to be between 40% and 55%. These figures would suggest that Ahmadinejad’s reported 65% of the national vote is at minimum outside of the trend, and more likely, an exaggerated figure.
Medhi Karroubi, over whom Ahmadinejad advanced to the 2005 runoff round by just 700,000 votes, was surrounded by controversy in that election as well, arguing that Ahamdinejad’s totals had been inflated by conservative hardliners. His openly accusatory allegations to the Supreme Leader resulted in his resignation from several top political posts.
This post is a must read for anyone who wants to understand why the election results are so suspect.
The Lede | The New York Times — The Lede has been leading the NYT’s coverage of Iran by curating the best content from around the world about the Iranian elections. The Lede is linking to other news organizations, bloggers, press reports, videos and, of course, New York Times content.
The Times provides an excellent example of how new and old forms of journalism can merge together to cover a story better. The Times still has its excellent traditional news stories that help put everything into context. These are the kinds of stories that are needed to help people make sense of all the upheaval in Iran.
But the Times also has The Lede, which is focusing on curating right now to provide the total picture of Iran. Professional journalists make excellent curators. Many are quite knowledgeable on certain subjects and make ideal people to curate content from around the Web.
The Iran election aftermath cannot be told fully by one news organization. That’s why a a mixed strategy of original reporting and curation of the best of the rest makes sense. The Lede is the ideal place to start on nytimes.com when looking for coverage of Iran.
BBC News — BBCNews.com has an excellent who’s who in Iran post up that makes an excellent primer for anyone wanting to know the major players in Iran. This is the kind of simple, yet information piece that you won’t see originating on social media. It provides excellent context for what’s going on and invites readers — especially non-Iranians — to learn about the key players.
Analysis content is where professional journalists can really stand out. On this front, the BBC has several great pieces on BBCNews.com. They have a Q&A with their correspondent in Tehran and an analysis piece comparing previous mass Iranian protests to the new ones.
Citizen journalism is here to stay, and it’s going to help provide fuller coverage of the world. But there is still an important place for professional journalists, especially when it comes to putting everything into context.
Lots of journalists and Web sites have link journalism posts to start the day.
Maybe it’s a Daily Dish after you Rise & Shine or a stop by from the City Hall Monitor, but whatever the name and theme, these posts almost always start in the morning. Their purpose is to give readers content to kick off the day and read throughout the day (some link journalism posts contain enough links that it would take hours to read through the contain being linked to).
Beatbloggers are already reading a myriad of sources, and many have a bunch of RSS feeds in a program like Google Reader and Google Alerts set up. The primary purpose is to keep up on one’s beat and to find potential stories, but it doesn’t take much work to make a post linking to the best content a beatblogger finds through this process. The very best news and information will most likely make for full-fledged posts (or for a topic to be researched further), but the best of the rest is still going to be very interesting to readers too.
These posts are either constructed with left over stories and news from the day before or with new stories that show up in a journalist’s RSS reader in the morning. A new trend is starting to emerge, however, where journalists are adding a nightcap of link journalism to their work. It’s something for fans of a blog, for instance, to read as they unwind at night, and if the curation is done well, it can provide a lot of content even after a blogger is done for the day.
Gotham Schools has the standard link journalism post first thing in the morning, Rise & Shine, but a few months ago it added a new bit of link journalism called Remainders. Content on Gotham Schools is bookended by link journalism posts. One contains tidbits of news at the start of the day, while the other contains links to stories to round out the day, and in-between users are treated to original reporting.
Gotham Schools covers a massive beat: New York City schools. There is plenty of quality content and documents to link to every day about a massive school district like that. How else could two beatbloggers cover a school district with thousands of schools without linking to other content?
“Since our goal is to be a one-stop-shop for New York City school news, we decided to run two daily aggregation posts,” said Philissa Cramer, one of the two writers for the site.
Cramer generally does the Rise & Shine post for Gotham Schools, while Elizabeth Green usually does the Remainders post. The two of them have a different set of news sources and Google searches that they use to build each post (with some overlap of course). This means that the sources for each link journalism post are often different, and it helps give their link journalism a bit more variety and uniqueness.
Link journalism can be a great way to add a lot more content to a blog without a lot of additional work. Cramer was already looking over a myriad of sources for news and information about the school district. While some of what she finds may make for a full-fledged post, link journalism allows her to put the best of the rest out there for her users to read.
Why waste a resource like that? Cramer and Green are two of the most knowledgeable and well-read people about the school district. Their ability to curate the best content about it is a major selling point.
Rise & Shine takes about 45 minutes to put together, according to Cramer. She and Green have gotten good feedback about the link journalism posts, and the Department of Education uses the two posts to monitor the city schools.
Well-known political blogger Andrew Sullivan also ends his daily blogging with a roundup of leftover news, The Daily Wrap. It’s a wrap up of the most interesting political stories of the day.
NYU Professor, PressThinker and BeatBlogging.Org founder Jay Rosen called Sullivan’s “The Daily Wrap” a “smart, incredibly simple blogging practice for a busy, newsy blog.”
And it’s a very simple post that any journalist can do. It doesn’t take much time, can drive serious traffic and provides additional content and insight for readers. With sites/tools like Publish2, link journalism has become incredibly easy.
Most journalists and bloggers eventually call it a day (except, it seems, for a few tech bloggers). But people don’t stop consuming content just because content producers have gone home for the day. A daily roundup post can give a blog hours more of quality content.
And, as Cramer pointed out, if a blog wants to be a one-stop shop for everything about a beat, the only sensible way to do that if with a mixture of good original reporting and quality link journalism to fill in the gaps.
This week’s Leaderboard is a potpourri of different skills and examples.
That’s just the way I like it. We have strong link journalism, strong live blogging and strong community building. Each of those are important to journalism moving forward.
I apologize for the tardiness of the Leaderboard this week. We’ve been taking on a lot of new endeavors at BeatBlogging.Org and bringing students up to speed on the project.
David Brauer | MinnPost.com
- Brauer was nominated for this nifty bit of link-journalism. Curation is a big part of the future of journalism. Even if you’re not breaking every story, you can still act as a trusted source and filter for users.
- There is too much information to read on the Internet. It’s overwhelming at times. That’s what makes link journalism so powerful. Brauer combines great original reporting, with strong curation. His users get the best of his original work, plus the best work from around the Web.
- MinnPost.com is a non-profit journalism outfit that you should be following. They are experimenting with some interesting revenue models.
- Braublog is a kickass beatblog by them that covers local media and politics, and it’s a piece of new media journalism worth keeping tabs on.
Dave Levinthal | The Dallas Morning News
- This week features more CoveritLive goodness from a beatblogger. Levinthal used the live blogging tool to live blog / live chat during a contentious debate about a proposed Dallas Convention Center hotel. The debate featured Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and real estate executive Anne Raymond.
- This is a particularly strong example of live blogging. Before the debate started, Levinthal answered questions that were e-mailed to him about the proposed project. He also took questions from people on CoveritLive before the debate started.
- His analysis and links before the debate started helped give users background and answered many of their questions. They were then better able to understand what was happening during the debate.
- Live blogging is a tool that can benefit just about any beatblogger, and CoveritLive is one of the premier live blogging tools. Live blogging gives journalists, particularly print journalists a new ability to immediately inform users and connect with them during live events. A debate like this is an excellent example of when a live blog makes a lot of sense. This is one of the best examples we have ever seen of live blogging.
Monica Guzman | Seattle Post-Intelligencer
- This is an honorary nod to Guzman because her role at the new P-I will be changing. The Big Blog has existed as a conversations starter, linking heavily to the P-I’s content and great content from around the Web. Guzman has also pulled out interesting comments on other P-I stories and elevated them to their own posts. But the thing is, the P-I is radically changing. Most of the newsroom is gone, and so Guzman’s role will be changing.
- The Big Blog was an exemplary example of how a newspaper could use the Web for two-way communication and community building. Guzman engaged in gathering, moderating and analyzing conversations. That was the heart of what she did. Most news organization do not have someone like her on board. They need to fix that.
- The Big Blog was also a blog that worked well with traditional print content. This is the style of blog that every newspaper should look into. You can find our past coverage of the old Big Blog here.
- Now that the P-I no longer has print content, it’s clear that The Big Blog will be changing. What the new Big Blog and P-I will be like is still to be determined. Regardless of what the new Big Blog looks like, the old Big Blog was a beatblog worth emulating by other news organizations.
Note: This is a pilot in a new series we are developing. Your feedback would be much appreciated. How do you like the content? How is the video format? What should we improve?
Link journalism is becoming a big part of modern journalism, and this video should help you get started with one of our favorite social bookmarking sites, Publish2. BeatBlogging.Org has two Publish2 groups that you are welcome to join, Beat Blogging and Beat Blogging Tools.
This screencast will help you understand:
- The sign-up and approval process.
- The different ways to link on Publish2.
- How to install the Publish2 toolbar.
- How to utilize Publish2 groups.
- How to nominate beat reporters to our Publish2 group.
This week’s Leaderboard is all about curation.
Yes, the Internet makes information more accessible and has destroyed much of the gatekeeping role that journalists have played in the past, but it also has overloaded people with information. There is just so much information on the Internet that it can be hard to make sense of it all. That’s where journalists can come in.
On the Web, journalists can provide value by acting as curators. Journalists can sift through the mountains of information on a given topic, find the best parts, highlight keywords, link to important documents and help people make sense of it all. Beat reporters in particular have deep knowledge of topics and can harness that knowledge to be strong curators.
The link is a powerful thing. It is the basis of good curation on the Web. This week’s Leaderboard is comprised of journalists who act as curators for people.
They help their users make sense of it all.
Dave Levinthal | The Dallas Morning News
- This is another great beat blog from The Dallas Morning News. Levinthal was inspired by Tawnell Hobbs and Kent Fischer’s popular beat blog. Levinthal has used beat blogging to improve his beat reporting and to connect better with users.
- This is an interesting bit of link journalism. Instead of linking to other news stories, Levinthal mostly links to government documents about the Dallas City Hall. It’s a great way to provide curation of government documents. Journalists can sift through documents, finding and linking to important ones. Journalists can also help make sense of individual documents.
- Many documents, including government documents, are publicly available. Journalists, however, can provide value for users by curating and making sense of all those documents and information.
Kent Fischer | The Dallas Morning News
- Fischer originally blogged about a new Texas senate bill that would require school districts to make public the name of candidates during superintendent searches. He then posted about an exchange that he believes shows why the superintendent search process could use some openness.
- Fischer then highlighted keywords and phrases in the exchange that would be of interest to his users. The phrases he highlighted demonstrated a lack of openness that the Senate bill is meant to address. This is another act of curation. Fischer is able to read longer documents and explain them to users in much easier and digestible terms.
- Fischer and Hobbs have done a great job of getting people talking on their blog. These users often offer incredible insight into the district (many work for it), and they often provide links that can help Fischer and Hobbs report and help other users understand issues surrounding the school district better.
Daniel Bassill | Tutor Mentor Connection
- This post clearly demonstrates the power of linking, and it showcases how asinine it is when journalists don’t link out. If a journalist mentions an article, blog post, photo, video, etc that is on the Internet, it is paramount that he or she links or embeds said content.
- This post takes linking a bit further. It’s not just about linking to content that is mentioned within the blog post, but it’s also about fashioning a blog post around linking.
- In this blog post, Bassil links to articles, Web sites, books and other relevant information on the topic of school reform in Chicago. The value of this post is not only in the original content that Bassil produced but also the quality content that he links to and suggests that others read.
- Bassil knows the issue of school reform well, and he can act as a curator for the topic by sending people to the best content available on the topic.