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.
Ryan Sholin is the Director of News Innovation at Publish2, a co-founder of Wired Journalists and a 2008 Knight News Challenge winner for ReportingOn. You can reach him at ryan[a]publish2[dot]com or @ryansholin.
Whenever I talk with news organizations of any size about linking to sources, resources and journalism that originated outside the walls of their newsroom, two questions come up: How and Why.
Well, conveniently enough, I work for Publish2, and we build tools that help answer the question of How. If your problem is that systems make adding links directly in the text of your story a difficult task, let’s solve that by adding links in widgets, sidebars, scrolling across the bottom of the browser window, blinking in 96pt red Helvetica, pushed to Twitter — wherever and however you want them.
My standing offer on How is that if the question comes up, you can talk to me and I’ll help you out.
So back to the question of Why.
Why we link: Five reasons your news organization should tie the Web together
1. Because we owe it to our readers to give them as much information as we have at our fingertips.
Don’t we? Of course we do.
If you’re a journalist, a huge part of your job is to filter all the information relevant to your community or your beat and pass along the important parts to your readers. Think about all the press releases you get by fax or e-mail, all the phone calls, voicemail, and messages that land on your desk, and think about how you act as a filter for that flood of information. Do the same thing with the Web.
Bring your readers the best links related to your story, and they will thank you. How? By treating you like a first-class citizen of the Internet, and coming back to your news site, which is no longer a dead end backwater in the river of news, but a point of connection where they can find other interesting streams.
Chris Amico took it one step further in a tip he submitted via the Publish2 Collaborative Reporting form I used to gather some ideas for this post. “Humility is healthy,” Chris wrote. “The more we get out of this mindset that we are the sole producers of useful content, the better off we’ll be in the long run.”
2. Because linking to sources and resources is the key gesture to being a citizen of the Web and not just a product on the Web.
You might think your news organization is super-duper-Web-savvy because you put your stories online, have RSS feeds and push links to your own content out via social networks, including Twitter.
That’s Step One. And it’s a good first step.
But, if all you provide your readers is flat content that doesn’t take them anywhere else on the Web, or back up statements with direct sources, or provide resources for those who want to explore a topic beyond what you’ve been able to provide with original reporting, you’re just shoveling text into another bucket, one labeled “Web.”
If, on the other hand, you want to embrace the traits that make blogs, Twitter, and so many other online communication tools a vital part of the daily life of your readers, your news site shouldn’t feel like an endpoint in the conversation. It should feel like the beginning.
Asteris Masouras put it this way in a Twitter reply to my query about why we link:
3. Because it’s the best way to connect directly with the online community in our town.
If you’re writing about human beings, businesses, organizations, government institutions or any other life form with a presence on the Internet, linking to them in the stories you publish about them is the low-hanging fruit when it comes to participating in your local online community.
Skipping the link to the city council’s calendar when you mention the next meeting, leaving out the link to the Little League’s online scoreboard when you write a story about its resurgence or not bothering to link to the full database of restaurant inspections when you choose three to write about — these are all easy ways to miss an opportunity to connect with your community and your readers.
Start simple: If you mention a person or organization, link to them.
Many, many bonus points to be awarded if you dig deep enough into the local online community to link to relevant content created by the people in your story. Did that angry neighbor’s crusade for a new zoning law to govern branches that hang over someone else’s driveway start with an image posted to a photo-sharing site and a determined comment? Link to it.
There’s a huge upside to linking out to community members, of course. Sometimes they link back.
Wenatchee World Web Editor Brianne Pruitt dropped a tip in my form including the following statement: “The link economy is real, and important for anyone who wants to be a part of the Web ecology.” I’d translate that as: Give some, get some.
And here’s how Web developer Pete Karl answered the question of why news organizations should link to external sources:
4. Because we absolutely do not know everything, but we know where to find out most of what we don’t know.
The days of your news organization existing as a monopolistic source of local information are over, and your readers know it. They browse local, national, international, and topical news and commentary in more places than you call “news.” And if they don’t, they hear it from their friends on any one of a dozen social networks. They know that you don’t know it all. And so do you.
But you’re the journalist.
You’re the filter. You’re the person in town who knows everyone who knows everyone. You’ve got the sources, whether they’re people you talk to at the community center, the city council meeting, the police station, or their Live Journal page. Bring what they know to your readers as directly as possible: Link to them.
5. Because it will make your job easier.
I know, I know. Everyone is asking you to do more with less. It’s extremely easy to tell people like me that you just don’t have time for another toy, another tool, another camera, another social network or another task.
I’m here to tell you that bringing your readers the best of the Web can save you work.
How? By opening a two-way channel to let your readers tell you what you should link to next, you’ll cut down on the time you spend looking for that next thing. By maintaining a real presence in the local link economy, you’ll make it easier for sources who know the answers to your questions to find you, and you won’t spend as much time trying to find them.
By sending your readers to the best information available on the Web, you’ll keep them coming back for more, drawing more traffic to your news site. Last time I checked, more traffic is one way to make more money, and with any luck, that’s still how you get paid.
Bonus Links on Links:
- Josh Korr, my colleague at Publish2, explores what happens when a group of news organizations collaborate to curate links when regional news breaks
- David Cohn from Spot.Us asks whether bookmarking links using social news services is an act of journalism
- Jeff Jarvis explores the ethic of the link economy
Thanks to everyone who replied on Twitter or in the Publish2 Tip Form when I asked for some of the best reasons to link out from your news site.
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.
Live blogging has helped transform how journalists — particularly print journalists who had to report yesterday’s news tomorrow — cover events and give commentary in real time.
A live blog is a live, online update of an event, via a microblogging service like Twitter or a dedicated live blogging service like CoveritLive. We’ve been researching live blogging habits and trends, and live blogs tend to cover standard fare: breaking news, politics, sports, entertainment and business events. Beyond that though, live blogs on the web are so varied that it’s hard to see them all as one style of journalism.
The differences in live blogs can be narrowed down to three main areas:
- Frequency and length of updates
- Level of interactivity with readers
A live blogger’s writing style can vary from straight-laced news reporter, to snarky know-it-all commentator or rapid-fire text messenger. When Kate Phillips covered the State of the Union for the New York Times, she did so as a straight-up reporter at the event, with knowledgeable entries that covered all the bases. When “Political Doctor” covered the same event from her TV, her writing went with a dose of sarcasm. Meanwhile, when covering the Independent Spirit Awards, Spout just sent in Twitter messages of 140 characters, essentially fun blips to her audience.
Live blogggers vary widely as to how often they check in during an event. While most announce major developments, some take it to the extreme: When FiredogLake covered the Scooter Libby trial, it read like a transcript of the entire trial. Their team of bloggers rotated simultaneous blogging in the courtroom and hardly missed a beat. On the other extreme, there are live bloggers who just contribute when they feel like it, regardless of the event, like this casual Oscar live blog from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Then there’s how the blogger uses the readers’ feedback. In that Oscar blog from Florida, comments were in their own separate section below the blog post. In other blogs, comments are mixed right in with the bloggers’ writing, which makes it more of a conversation than a report. Some bloggers use their position to act as a voice of authority to readers asking questions: The Sioux City Journal’s live blog of Lawrence Harris’ trial read like a radio call-in show. In contrast, when The Uptake covers the Coleman-Franken hearings, everybody’s got an opinion, and the hosts tend to fade to the background.
Some live blogs use tools like instant polls to interact with readers Though perhaps gimmicky, the polls at least make participants feel valued. Other live blogs utilize links, which can be helpful to provide more info. But in the case of a fast-breaking story, who has time to be reading other links?
Underlying every one of these questions is how the blogger conceives of the audience. If they think their readers are watching along with them, as with the Oscars or the State of the Union, then the blogger can afford to miss details and chime in at will. In other events though, especially court cases, the live blogger is the only eyes and ears for their audience.
The bloggers also have to decide if they’re writing for insiders or the general public. Newcomers to The Uptake’s coverage of Coleman-Franken may feel lost at first, because essentially the blog is an ongoing chat room. It’s great for insiders but hard to navigate if you don’t have the background. In contrast, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s coverage of the Vincent Fumo trial gave constant updates but was also written to be accessible to readers with only a passing awareness of the case.
In the end, these questions of the audience are far more important than the event is in deciding a live blog’s content. The blogger who stops and thinks about their audience, tone and the other issues we’ve raised will probably create far better and more popular content.
In our research we noticed a few trends in live blogs. We hope these sites broaden your understanding of this fun and evolving reporting style.
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.