Posts Tagged ‘Tawnell Hobbs’

Leaderboard for week of 6-1-2006: Collaborative podcast edition

Tuesday, June 2, 2009 15:59 - by

This week’s leaderboard focuses on collaboration between news organizations to create new products.

Podcasting is becoming a more popular medium, and more news organizations are partaking in it. Podcasts are often recorded live with a live user chat along side them. Podcasts make both good live interactive events for journalists and users, while also making good mobile content later on.

Collaboration is helping to make podcasts and journalism better. Sometimes one news organization or reporter is not enough to properly cover a story or produce a feature. That’s where collaboration comes in.

We are looking at a few podcasts that would not have been possible if news organizations weren’t willing to collaborate.

Politics As Usual | The Morning Call

  • While this politics podcast is officially hosted by The Morning Call, it is actually a collaboration between three journalists from three different news organizations, from three different mediums. The Morning Call’s John Micek brings the print prospective, while Politics PA’s Alex Roarty brings the Web perspective and Scott Detrow of Public Radio Capital News brings the broadcast perspective.
  • What makes this podcast special? It features three different political reporters from three different news organizations getting together to discuss local Pennsylvanian politics. This is the kind of mash up of news organizations and mediums that we didn’t see a few  years ago. Thankfully this kind of collaboration is becoming more common.
  • This is a lively, fun and informative podcast that helps make local politics more accessible to the average Pa. resident. The three discuss recent political news and what they have been hearing behind the scenes, while also giving their expert opinions on a variety of topics.
  • None of these organizations could do a podcast like this themselves. They simply don’t have enough knowledgeable employees on hand to have a politics round table. By collaborating with other news organizations, they have been able to create a new product that helps serve users.
  • I asked Roarty if he or his bosses were concerned about working with the “competition” and he said the old ways of thinking of other news organizations as competitors no longer apply. “I think the idea is, on the Web, there’s room enough for all of us,” he said.

Previewing Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals |

  • had a podcast with a beat writers covering the Cavs and Magic for game five of the Eastern Conference Finals. In order to make this happen, got beat reporters Brian Windhorst from The Plain Dealer and Brian Schmitz from the Orlando Sentinel on the phone together.
  •’s host asked their opinions on the series up to that point, their opinions on certain calls and situations in the series and their thoughts on the series moving forward. Schmitz and Windhorst are two the most knowledgeable people around about these two teams. does weekly chats with Windhorst, and he frequently puts his knowledge of the Cavs on display and helps answer reader questions, but adding in an expert on the Orlando Magic took this podcast to a higher level.
  • Not only is this kind of collaboration rare, but getting together around an event like a playoff series is even rarer. But it just makes sense. By working together, they were able to create a better product.
  • Combine this concept with’s chat room that allows fans to ask questions, and I think you have an absolute winner. normally has a live chat room during its podcasts where users can ask questions. Since this wasn’t a regularly scheduled podcast there was no chat room.

Why did DISD’s ratings go sky high? | Tawnell Hobbs

  • Hobbs is asking her readers to help her get to the bottom of a story. She is wondering why the DISD is projecting a record number of exemplary and recognized schools. Her readers are helping to get to the bottom of this story. Did students really improve that much or is something else at work here?
  • Users are chiming in, helping to clarify the situation. Some are posting links to district documents as well.
  • The DISD Blog has a lot of district insider’s reading it. They have been a big help to the bloggers covering the beat because they are often able to clarify district policies and provide documents.
  • Not only are a lot of facts, figures and information being posted on this blog post, but there is also a healthy discussion about the standardized tests in question. Are they any good? Is what the state considers “acceptable” really acceptable? This is the kind of thoughtful debate that is possible with a good beatblog and a blogger who is willing to take ownership of the comments on her blog.

EWA: Social media for better education reporting

Wednesday, April 29, 2009 23:59 - by

Below you’ll find a post I created to go with a beatblogging presentation at the Education Writers Association conference.

For a more in-depth quick start guide on what beatblogging is, how to do it and best practices, check out my post: BCNI Philly: Why beatblog? (and why news should be social)

Best networks for education reporters

  • Facebook — Facebook is a no brainer. It originally started as a social network just for college students, then added high school students and now has expanded to allow everyone to join. You’ll find a much higher concentration of college students in particular on Facebook than you will on MySpace. Even many teachers, professors and administrators are joining Facebook these days. It’s the perfect network to find education-related people to interview and even find stories. Every education reporter should at least have a presence on Facebook.
  • Twitter — Twitter is a great social network for almost any journalist. In particular, it’s a great tool for crowdsourcing, asking questions and monitoring trends. Check out our screencast on how to use Twitter for reporting and our other screencast on how to use

Education beatbloggers to follow

  • Tawnell Hobbs/Kent Fischer | DISD Blog — The DISD blog won this year’s EWA award for best multimedia education blog and for good reason. It has been the gold standard for education beatblogs the past 1-2 years. Here are just a few of the lessons you can learn from the DISD blog: Fischer’s readers helped him uncover an A1 story, hoisting comments to build a better community, live blogging to help form a closer connection with readers, providing a public service for readers, etc, etc, etc.
  • Alexander Russo | District 299 Blog — Russo has a different kind of beatblog. He centers his blog around “hosting the conversation.” The District 299 is a place where people in Chicago can go to discuss education and the Chicago school district. Russo does original reporting, linking to others content and conversation starting.
  • Gotham Schools — This non-profit, new media startup is one to watch. They don’t have an institutional memory and aren’t beholden to how things “used to be.” Instead, they can concentrate on transforming education reporting. We’re big fans of their daily link journalism post too.
  • Khristopher Brooks — Brooks use of Facebook is one to emulate. He convinced the University of Nebraska to give him a e-mail address. This allows him to see most students on the Nebraska Facebook network. Brooks does not grab students profile information without prior permission, however, and he mostly uses Facebook to find students who are studying certain majors or taking certain classes. If Brooks is doing a story where he needs to talk to a student about a controversial class, for instance, he can search the Nebraska Facebook network for students in that class, contact them and get interviews. He essentially uses Facebook as a phone book on steroids. Listen to Brooks discuss how Facebook has made his job much easier.

Best practices

  • Be transparent and accessible — Brooks is extremely accessible for Nebraska students because he has put himself on Facebook. If students want to contact him about an issue at Nebraska that he may not know about, they can easily do so via Facebook. It takes far less work on their part to send him a private message via Facebook than it does to hunt down his e-mail address or phone number. The easier you make it for people to contact you, the more likely it is that they will contact you. Get on multiple social networks (with your real name), put a bio and about page on your blog and make sure you have contact info on your blog.
  • Be social — This could be as simple as being active in the comments section after stories and blog posts. It also means being an active participant on social networks. If you’re on Twitter, just don’t ask people questions, but answer their questions too. Be social and get to know people. Social media is all about being social. The old way of doing journalism was one-way communication, but today it’s all about two-way communication. Be a part of a conversation.
  • Cultivate a community — Being social is the first part of cultivating a community. If you’re lucky enough to be given your own blog, use it to its fullest potential. A blog is a fantastic place to cultivate a community of knowledgeable sources that will send you tips, links and documents. Monica Guzman is the master community cultivator and is someone worth following for ideas on how to build a community.

DISD blog wins national education reporting award

Friday, March 6, 2009 12:29 - by

Two of our favorite beatbloggers, Kent Fischer and Tawnell Hobbs of the DISD Blog, were recognized by the Education Writers Association for the best multimedia education blog.

The Education Writers Association (EWA), the national professional association of education reporters and writers, today announced the winners of the 2008 National Awards for Education Reporting, the prestigious national competition for education writing. The annual contest honors the best education reporting in the print and broadcast media and is the only independent contest of its kind in the United States. Contest entries were limited to stories published or broadcast for the first time during the 2008 calendar year.

Fischer and Hobbs will find out for a few months why the judges picked them as the top multimedia education blog, but Fischer said their application focused heavily on community aspects of their blogs and the conversations they created. Fischer and Hobbs also made it clear that this was a hard news blog that regularly broke news.

“This award tells me that we’re not wrong — all of us journalists who know that blogging extends our reach into the community,” Hobbs said. “The EWA award validates that the Dallas ISD blog is a ‘multimedia’ reporting tool that can be used to help tell a story.”

The DISD blog has been a success for the Morning News when measured by a variety of metrics: content created, pageviews, user conversations and content that originates on the blog and makes it into print. Editors want to try to bottle some of the lessons and best practices from the DISD blog and share them with the rest of the newsroom.

“There is definitely here at the Morning News a growing effort to take what Tawnell and I have learned from our year of beatblogging and to spread the word, the gospel so to speak, to other reporters on other beats who are interested in dipping their toes into beatblogging,” Fischer said.

Fischer will be conducting brown bag lunches where reporters and editors can come and learn about beatblogging. He’ll be explaining what beatblogging is, examples of what he and Hobbs have done and how he approaches the art of beatblogging.

There will also be beatblogging sessions aimed at editors. Fischer said editors’ roles are changing, and because of that editors have to change their expectations for the kind of work that will produced and how much of it will be produced.

“Beatblogs aren’t successful if editors don’t change the ways they manage reporters,” Fischer said. “A beatblog is practically a full-time job in itself. You can’t have the same level of expectations on your reporters to produce for print and then sort of throw a beatblog on top of that and expect it to be a success.”

Fischer said people at his paper are beginning to realize that pageviews aren’t enough when measuring success or failure. It’s now becoming about creating niches and communities online that are highly focused. They believe these highly focused audiences will appeal much more to advertisers.

“I think what they’ve come to realize is that to be successful online, it’s not about total pageviews, it’s about creating a community in a sort of a dedicated core of community members who are going to be highly engaged and conversant with each other on niche topics,” Fischer said.

Fischer and Hobbs are still working out how to best work on two distinct products with unique audiences at once. Both work on the blog and create content for print. They still have to do a lot of duplicating content between the mediums.

“I find the print product to be frankly annoying,” Fischer said. “I don’t think about print anymore. I come in everyday, and I blog. Blog posts that blow up on me, become really popular and get lots of comments, those become candidates for print stories. If I blog all day and I don’t have anything that blows up like that than I consider myself not to have anything cooking for print the next day.”

Kent and I also discussed many other topics for this week’s podcast. Those topics include:

  • What newsroom technology hurdles do you run into? What can’t you do because of the limited Web technology you are allowed to use?
  • Who will be attending the beatblogging training sessions?
  • What do you hope reporters and editors get out of the beatblogging training sessions?
  • How has your beatblogging changed in the past year?
  • How are the beatblog and print audiences different? How does that impact content creation?

Click here to stream the interview. Or download the MP3.

Leaderboard for week of 12-22-08: The best of the best

Tuesday, December 23, 2008 13:45 - by

We thought we’d end this year with some of this year’s pace setters in the world of beat blogging.

These are some of best beat bloggers out there, and these people are constantly trying new ways to innovate. We do try to present a diversity of beat reporters on this blog, but on any given week, any one of these beat bloggers could be on the Leaderboard. Every week they are pushing the practice.

If you’re a journalist and you want to learn how to harness social media and other Web tools better, I strongly recommend you follow these beat bloggers every week.

DISD blog | The Dallas Morning News

  • This award goes to both Kent Fischer and Tawnell Hobbs. They have produced one of the best beat blogs around.
  • Who said that people don’t want to read about topics like education? The DISD blog is on track for more than 1,500,000 page views in its first year. That easily surpassed expectations. Just think of the page views that this blog could get if Fischer is able to build that blog on steroids that he is planning.
  • Keep in mind that both Fischer and Hobbs also write for the print edition. This is a pretty impressive start for these two reporters, especially since their beat isn’t the easiest to get page views with.
  • Perhaps the greatest success of the DISD blog is how active the community is around it. It has really spurred conversation and given people almost a public town hall where they can discuss the Dallas school district. 
  • You know how you surpass expectations? You provide in-depth coverage, including live blogging big events. You also provide a fantastic place for people to express themselves. And finally, you provide a community where people want to help you out.
  • When you do that, your community can help you uncover big stories. They can also act as a truth squad by fact checking what public figures say.
  • People will be more likely to be active in your community if you acknowledge when they write something smart. That’s why Fischer started hoisting comments.

Eric Berger | The Houston Chronicle

  • The SciGuy is one of the most innovative beat reporters around. Some of the things he does aren’t exactly social media or Web related per se, but they rock nonetheless. He is the master at building a community.
  • No, technically conducting random drawings for science books does not count as beat blogging, but it is one hell of a way to build a community and build user loyalty. 
  • Berger is sent many science books over the course of a year for review purposes. He thought it would be a good idea to conduct a random drawing for the five best books he received this year.
  • Want to enter the drawing? All you have to do is leave a comment on his post about the book. So, not only is Berger finding a good way to recycle these books, but he also managed to get people talking about science topics. Check out all the wonderful comments left on that post.
  • Plus, these posts might be a way to get people who have never commented before to start commenting. Why not do something like this?
  • Berger does other innovative things, like asking his readers to be his assignment editor.
  • Berger also understands that his users know more than he does.

Monica Guzman | Seattle Post-Intelligencer

  • Want to know how to get a conversation started? Just follow what Guzman does. Her job is centered around getting people talking. 
  • One of Guzman’s core jobs is to analyze posts to cultivate conservations. She reads what her colleagues write and tries to find interesting jumping off points for discussion. 
  • For Guzman, cultivating conversations is a great way to build a community. Ultimately, building a community is at the core of beat blogging. 
  • We often call beat blogging a sort of Rolodex 2.0. It greatly expands the number of available sources that a beat reporter has access to. But the only way to meaningfully expand that network of sources is to cultivate a community. 
  • Guzman is also one of the most active beat bloggers on Twitter

Jon Ortiz | The Sacramento Bee

  • Ortiz has only been beat blogging for about six months, but he has easily been one of the most innovative and adventurous around. Perhaps because he is new to blogging he is more willing to take risks and try new things. 
  • Whatever the reason, The State Worker blog is a most follow. He has developed several distinct features that help break up the flow of his blog. 
  • His “Blog back” feature is something every beat blogger should copy. 
  • Ortiz has launched another new feature recently. This one he calls “From the notebook.” This feature is extra tidbits of information that don’t make it into columns or stories that Ortiz writes. 
  • This is another one of those features that Ortiz created that doesn’t take a lot of time, but it provides his users with something of value.
  • Ortiz launched his blog early so he could cover the budget crisis in California as it broke. It turned out to be a momentous decision for Ortiz. Timing can have a big impact on the success of a blog.

DISD blog doubles traffic expectations in first year

Monday, December 22, 2008 18:34 - by

Months ago Kent Fischer told me that he expected the DISD blog that he and Tawnell Hobbs run to get between 500,000 and 750,000 page views in its first year.

That estimate has turned out to be wildly wrong. The DISD blog already has about 1,500,000 page views for the year, and traffic has been increasing steadily in the second half of this year. Those are pretty impressive first-year numbers for a blog dedicated to the Dallas Independent School District. Both Fischer and Hobbs also write print stories as well. 

The blog has picked up considerable steam ever since a financial crisis broke out in the school district, and Fischer and Hobbs provided incredible, in-depth coverage of the crisis. Timing can have a large impact on blog traffic. Getting ahead of big stories is a great way to build traffic and use loyalty.

The DISD blog is a great example of harnessing the Web to provide better coverage.

Leaderboard for week of 12-7-08: Public service edition

Tuesday, December 9, 2008 12:48 - by

Beat blogging is all about expanding ones networks using social media, blogging and other Web tools.

An expanded network allows for more tips and more chances for crowd sourcing. But people are much more likely to help journalists with their reporting if journalists provide a tangible service to them. Many of our beat bloggers have given users an unprecedented level of coverage and also helped provide their users with a service.

For instance, Kent Fischer and Tawnell Hobbs alerted Dallas school teachers to career fares and job openings after many of them were laid off due to an unexpected budget crisis. They’ve built good will with many of their readers.

Our lead nominee this week provides quality journalism and a service to his readers.

Brian Krebs | The Washington Post

  • Krebs helps his readers out, and you know what, they help him out. Journalists who want to use social media and Web tools in a very one-way, me-focused manner will find limited success. 
  • Krebs was nominated for his post encouraging users to update Java on their computers because cyber criminals have a history of targeting Java vulnerabilities. This post reminds readers of the importance of updating Java on their PCs. Krebs also links to a tool that will let users know if they have the latest version of Java.
  • In addition, Krebs links to a free tool from Secunia that helps Windows users stay up-to-date on all their software. While reporting on Java vulnerabilities and patches is his beat, Krebs doesn’t have to go out of his way to make sure people are as secure as possible on their PCs.
  • The usefullness of Krebs’ blog, however, just begins with his blog posts. One user asked for examples of when cyber criminals attacked Java, and Krebs provided three examples. Other users were having trouble with Adobe Flash and Secunia. Krebs offered solutions to those problems as well. 
  • If you want users to help you do your job better (by expanding your network of useful sources) than it makes sense to help users out. Krebs follows this principle. 

Tawnell Hobbs | The Dallas Morning News

  • Hobbs puts a tough question up to her readers. “Should Dallas teachers who missed out on receiving federal grant money because their principals failed to follow rules receive the cash from DISD?”
  • This question becomes tough to answer because the Dallas Independent School District has been facing financial crisis for months. Yet, many teachers missed out on federal funds ranging from $1,000-10,000 per teacher just because some principals failed to follow federal rules properly. Some of the teachers who qualified recently lost their jobs because of a reduction in force due to the budget crisis. DISD trustees are split on what to do.
  • What better way to judge opinion than to ask your readers? Hobbs can use the comments she gets from readers (most of which are a part of DISD or former, laid-off colleagues) as a launching pad to a follow up story on opinion. Her blog is also a great place for public debate.
  • In addition, the blog has been a great tool for Hobbs and her partner, Kent Fischer, to get tips from DISD employees. 

Jon Ortiz | The Sacramento Bee

  • Ortiz wins this award again for his fantastic Blog Back feature. It’s a feature that every beat blogger should seriously consider adopting ASAP.
  • Let’s look at the benefits of this feature. It doesn’t take a lot of time to produce, it’s a popular feature with users that elicits comments and it generates a sizable traffic boost to old content that is linked to. Plus, it recognizes strong reader comments and encourages more. Many journalists complain that allowing user comments is a mistake because most of them are banal or hateful or whatever. But when a beat reporter acknowledges strong comments, it encourages every commentator to rise his game. 
  • Also, journalists who read and respond to users tend to get much better comments on their blogs in the first place. It’s all about taking responsibility for your community. Either you’re a community builder or a destroyer. These three Leaderboard recipients are community builders.

Leaderboard for week of 10-27-08: Community building

Monday, October 27, 2008 15:25 - by

This weeks Leaderboard is all about community building.

Some beat bloggers have built strong communities within the comments sections of their blogs. Others have become a part of a community by providing a level of coverage not seen before. Good beat bloggers are all about two-way communication and community building.

Here is this week’s Leaderboard:

Ed Silverman | Pharmalot

  • Silverman isn’t always the easiest to see innovation from in a single blog post, but when one takes his blog in its entirety, it’s easy to see the strong Web property that Silverman has built.
  • If there was one (daily) blog post that really shows innovation on Silverman’s part, it’s his daily Pharmalot… Pharmalittle link post. Silverman was one of the first mainstream media types to get into link journalism.
  • Every day Silverman links to some of the biggest stories about his beat — the pharmaceutical industry — from other news outlets. I know this sounds heretical, but it works well for Silverman. He has built Pharmalot into the source for daily pharma news. Silverman is a posting machine, often writing about 10 posts a day. He then links to some of the best content from his competitors. It’s the combination of original content and links that allows Silverman to own his beat.
  • Silverman has created a strong network on his blog, where users ask questions, interact with each other and help provide Silverman with tips and resources about pharma. The comments can be just as informative as Silverman’s posts, and they often contain links to valuable resources.

Tawnell Hobbs | The Dallas Morning News

  • Hobbs works on the same beat and blog as Kent Fischer (Leaderboard member from last week). Together they are reinventing local education coverage on the Web.
  • Hobbs and Fischer have provided not only solid journalism during the financial crisis in the Dallas school district, but they have also provided a public service. Hobbs has been posting about job fairs and other opportunities for displaced workers. These posts don’t require a lot of work, but they have meant a lot to readers.
  • One of the benefits to forming a network around your beat is having people help you report your beat. Astute readers noticed that the DISD Web site had a listing of job openings, despite a massive layoff a week before. Hobbs took the information that her readers alerted her to and asked the district to clarify. It turns out the district didn’t expect so many employees to voluntarily retire and resign.
  • This is a story that might not have come to light without the help of readers.

Eric Berger | Houston Chronicle

  • Yes, Berger made the Leaderboard last week, but we have good reason to stick him on the Leaderboard again.
  • Check out the second comment on this post on his blog. Berger regularly responds to user comments. In fact, Berger is one of the best I’ve ever seen at interacting with users.
  • Many beat bloggers tried using Ning to build a social network around their beats. Many of those failed because it was yet another destination for users and yet another Web site to sign up for.
  • It turns out  that a blog itself can be a good social networking tool. Berger’s blog is part of the Houston Chronicle Web site. It’s a main part of his reporting, and it has been a great way for Berger to build a social network. He has done this by interacting with his users in the comments section.
  • Look at how insightful many of the comments that Berger’s users leave. A big reason is that Berger is actively cultivating a community. He hasn’t left a comment ghetto, where people can say whatever they want unchecked. A lot of scientific debate happens in the comments section of his blog.

Just how much has traffic increased on the DISD blog?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008 17:01 - by

I’ve reported that the Dallas Independent School District blog run by Kent Fischer and Tawnell Hobbs is on fire because of a financial crisis in the Dallas school district.

But just how on fire is it?

Prior to September 10 — the day the budget crisis broke — the DISD blog averaged about 3,000 page views a day. Last week, the blog got 106,000+ page views. It has been averaging about 10,000 page views a day since this huge story broke.

The blog is also generating a lot more conversation. In the month prior to the financial crisis, the blog received about 970 comments. In the month since, the blog has received about 2,100 comments. In addition, Hobbs has been live blogging important meetings, which also generate a lot of user feedback.

Last week Thursday, Hobbs did another live blog. This time the live blog was of a meeting in which the district approved 1,100 layoffs. The live blog got more than 30,000 page views and also received about 1,200 comments while the meeting went on.

Hobbs has garnered quite a following lately with her live blogs. They have become an instrumental tool in not only covering important district meetings, but they are also a great way for users to share their thoughts.

Fischer and Hobbs have been able to greatly increase traffic to their blog while also encouraging more conversations in the community. They have done this by giving people unprecedented information and new level of coverage during a crisis.

Fischer and Hobbs blog and write stories about the crisis daily. They link out to what other people are saying. They post documents from the district. They have live blogs.

And most of all, they give people an unprecedented voice in the matter.

Interview with Tawnell Hobbs on how beat and live blogging help form closer connections with users

Friday, October 3, 2008 16:09 - by

Earlier this week, I reported that Dallas Independent School District blog, run by Kent Fischer and Tawnell Hobbs of The Dallas Morning News, had seen a huge surge in traffic due to their strong reporting of a financial crisis in the Dallas school district.

I specifically wanted to talk Hobbs about her live blogging efforts, which begun a few weeks ago. Live blogging has been a big part of the DISD’s aggressive coverage of the budget crisis and has become very popular with users.

Hobbs has used live blogging to cover district meetings about the financial crisis. A lot of interested parties are unable to make the meetings, but by using live blogging technology, Hobbs can give people live updates. Also, people can replay the live blog after the meetings are over to see what they missed.

The DISD’s blog traffic has gone way up since their first live blog a few weeks ago. One of the strengths of live blogging is the ability to gauge user feedback instantly. While Hobbs is posting from contentious district meetings, other people are posting comments on the live blog.

“There is nothing like it,” she said. “There is so much interaction that goes on it.”

Before the DISD beat blog, Hobbs thought she knew what people were feeling in the community. At meetings, she can interview people and ask them what they think, but now she has a lot more contact with people in the district. She has a lot more interaction with people in the district and can better gauge how they feel about issues.

“You don’t realize you’re not getting it until you have a blog like this,” she said. “Before, I thought I was kind of getting it. Until we put this blog up, I didn’t realize we weren’t getting as much as I thought we were.”

The blog has allowed Hobbs and Fischer to connect with users in a much more in-depth way. Because of this, people feel more connected to the blog and to Hobbs and Fischer than they did before when both were just print reporters.

“We have such a following,” she said about the blog. “People love it.”

That following goes both ways. Hobbs described the blog as “addicting.” A few days ago she was busy working on other stories and was unable to check in on the blog.

“I really missed it, just talking to folks,” she said.

That “just talking to folks,” has led to more tips being sent in and has led to some major stories.

“It helps your reporting because you get to know a lot more people,” she said about the beat blog. “Now you have hundreds more people. It opens you up to such more out there and so many more opinions. That blog reaches so many people,” she said.

We cover a lot more in this week’s podcast. Listen to Hobbs describe why beat and live blogging have helped her cover her beat better.

Click here to stream the interview. Or download the MP3.

The Dallas Morning News education blog is on fire

Tuesday, September 30, 2008 20:23 - by

Tawnell Hobbs and Kent Fischer’s Dallas Independent School District blog has seen a huge spike in traffic lately due to their phenomenal coverage of the district’s unexpected budget shortfall.

The blog has seen more than a 100 percent increase in page views to be exact. The two have been covering the districts developing financial crisis in real time, and people have responded by coming back to the blog over and over again, while also leaving hundreds of comments a day. The crisis could lead to more than 1,200 people losing their jobs and will lead to large budget cuts.

It’s big news for anyone working for the school district or who has kids in it. Not only are Fischer and Hobbs covering this story in ways print never would allow, but they have also provided a place for people to have a voice. People are upset and outraged over this situation, and the amount of comments the blog has received have greater increased.

I’ve written before that timing is very important for a blog. Getting out in front of an important story like this and owning it is a great way to build traffic. Fischer and Hobbs are owning this story.

The Web allows beat reporters to cover crises in more immediate ways. Not only are Fischer and Hobbs updating their blog all the time, but they are also utilizing other technologies like live blogging to give readers immediate information and feedback.

Ron Sylvester said last week that Twitter puts print back in the game for court reporting. Beat blogging and other social networking tools can allow reporters to cover stories in ways that print would have never made possible. Fischer and Hobbs still file stories for print, but they can also give people the kind of immediate information that print never could.

Good beat blogging is more than just immediacy; It’s also about interaction. Live blogging can help give people that interaction during live events. So can two-way communication in comments sections and on Twitter.

Another part of Fischer and Hobbs’ strong coverage is their daily feature, the Dallas ISD Daily Dish. Every day they link out to what the media, blogs and others are saying about the district.

Rather than (wrongly) thinking that linking out will lead people away from their blog, Fischer and Hobbs understand that they can create a stronger community and product by being the place to come to for the best content anywhere about the Dallas Indepedent School District.

About BeatBlogging.Org was a grant-funded journalism project that studied how journalists used social media and other Web tools to improve beat reporting. It ran for about two years, ending in the fall of 2009.

New content is occasionally produced here by the this project's former editor Patrick Thornton. The site is still up and will remain so because many journalists and professors still use and link to the content. offers a fascinating glimpse into the former stages of journalism and social media. Today it's expected that journalists and journalism organization use social media, but just a few years ago that wasn't the case.