Notes for #J508

I drove down to Eugene today to chat with Suzi Steffen’s J508Reporting and Information Strategies class. It’s always a lot of fun talk­ing with Suzi’s classes and I think it’s awe­some that she brings in peo­ple to talk with her stu­dents. Something I wish had hap­pened more often in my col­lege education.

I promised the class notes from what I talked about so here goes.

Byproduct knowl­edge

One of the things I spent a while talk­ing about was the idea that you can take all the byprod­ucts from work­ing on a story and turn them into some­thing valu­able. This not only pro­vides an out­let for inter­est­ing infor­ma­tion that doesn’t fit in your main day-to-day pro­duc­tion, but also lets oth­ers learn from what you’ve already come across.

A tremen­dous recent exam­ple is the way Will Davis has chron­i­cled the Bangor Daily News’ move to hav­ing an entirely WordPress-powered site. He’s cre­ated a devel­op­ment blog where’s he’s post­ing tons of help­ful back story about the switch. Not only is a cool way of pub­lish­ing all that extra knowl­edge but it also got Will, and the BDN some great press.

37signals also does a ter­rific job of this with their Signal vs. Noise blog. It’s full of great things they’ve run across and lessons they’ve learned while build­ing great products.

Using mul­ti­ple formats

Something else I touched on was mak­ing use of many dif­fer­ent for­mats to tell your sto­ries. Sometimes a story is just an image, other times a 3,000 writ­ten piece fits bet­ter. The great thing about the web is that your story can take what­ever form is most appropriate.

Jeff Jarvis defines this when he writes about what it means to be a dig­i­tal first news orga­ni­za­tion. He writes:

Digital first, aggres­sively imple­mented, means that dig­i­tal dri­ves all deci­sions: how news is cov­ered, in what form, by whom, and when. It dic­tates that as soon as a jour­nal­ist knows some­thing, she is pre­pared to share it with her pub­lic. It means that she may share what she knows before she knows everything.

Handily there are tons of ways you can do this with very lit­tle cost. WordPress.com has many themes that sup­port var­i­ous post for­mats. Tumblr is another option. Twitter, in a way, is even another for­mat you can use to tell stories.

Other tips

Something I for­got to men­tion when talk­ing about Twitter is an insight­ful exam­ple that Marshall Kirkpatrick gives about how he tracks the future of the music indus­try on Twitter. If you’re stuck on fig­ur­ing out how Twitter can help you as a jour­nal­ist go read that post.

Marshall’s also talked about other ways he finds infor­ma­tion at a cou­ple of con­fer­ences at the U of O. Daniel Bachhuber posted some notes from one back in 2009. If you ever get the chance to hear Marshall speak about this stuff take it. I guar­an­tee you’ll learn a ton.

Tools, tricks, and hacks

Something I totally neglected to cover was that for all your WordPress.com ques­tions we have a really solid sup­port site. If you’re stuck on how to do some­thing or just want to see how you can make bet­ter use of the plat­form you’ll likely find the answer in there. If you don’t feel free to get in touch.

Instapaper was the first tool I men­tioned. Like I said, it’s fun­da­men­tally changed my life and how I con­sume infor­ma­tion. I really can’t rec­om­mend it enough. Use it.

Evernote and Simplenote were the next two I men­tioned. These are like dig­i­tal reporter’s note­books and are really great buck­ets for putting infor­ma­tion in to. I use Simplenote, which also syncs seam­lessly with Notational Velocity on my Mac. While it’s lim­ited to text the advan­tage is that all the files are stored as plain text files and can be accessed with any text edi­tor. For future proof­ing your data there’s not a whole lot bet­ter than plain text.

I also rec­om­mend tak­ing the 10 min­utes nec­es­sary to get Google Reader up and run­ning with sub­scrip­tions to your favorite sites. They even have a handy video that explains every­thing. Having auto­mated con­tent sub­scrip­tions that you check reg­u­larly can really help you stay on top of things.

Anyway, that’s it. I’ve likely left things out so feel free to ask me about them.

2 thoughts on “Notes for #J508

  1. Hey Andrew! Thanks for ALL of this. Here’s Marshall’s list of cool links from last October’s SPJ: http://marshallk.com/uolinks. I still remem­ber that sci­ence ses­sion from ’09 as well, wherein the book writer had great things to say and so did Marshall. Loved it all. Best SPJ ses­sion I’ve ever been to.

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