Posted tagged ‘Cover It Live’

Student studies ideaLab blog for class

December 28, 2011

An Eastern Michigan University graduate student contacted me recently about an independent study he had under professor Michael McVey, a contributor to this blog, in the School of Education. He was studying my ideaLabHeritage blog and wanted to ask me some questions via email as part of his class. You can imagine how stunned-yet-honored I felt that a student was studying my blog, and I was more than happy to answer his questions. I thought readers may be interested in this as his questions and my answers pretty much highlight my first year of ideaLab work and this blog.

Q: Tell me about the establishment of the blog. Where did the idea come from? How did you go about setting it up and decided what topics to cover?

A: I created the ideaLabHeritage blog in July 2010 after I was named to the Journal Register Company’s ideaLab. I wrote about it under the page “ideaLab forms.” At our first JRC ideaLab meeting in Philadelphia, board members encouraged every member of the ideaLab to set up a blog and Twitter account as I had. The type of topics to cover on my blog was a no-brainer as they had to be associated with my work in the ideaLab. Many of the posts are associated with learning different technologies and applying them to reporting. I decided right away that whatever work I did in the ideaLab should be written about and shared publicly as it would be beneficial to journalists and aspiring journalists alike, and would be a good way to gather feedback, as we try to figure out the future of media in a world becoming increasingly more technologically adept. I thought it was important to share my ideas, seek input and feedback, collaborate and partner. My initial idea was to create ideaLabHeritage, a local arm of the JRC ideaLab, made up of veteran journalists, student journalists, educators, IT professionals, newspaper advertising and production staff, as well as our audience in Washtenaw County, to brainstorm, innovate and execute projects exploring new forms of technology to help move journalism forward. I asked for volunteers and invited people who I thought might be interested in participating. What I found, however, was that my level of commitment was much stronger than the desire of those who expressed initial interest. The only volunteer to actively contribute has been Eastern Michigan University professor Michael McVey, who played a vital role in my first project, a historic walking tour podcast of downtown Saline, so in the spring I folded my staff into the group and asked each reporter to sign up for a technology tool to learn and teach.

Q: Have you been able to add any of the technology discussed in various posts into your newsroom? If so, how’s that going? How are your reporters utilizing the technology?

A: I still struggle to get reporters to embrace the technology we have learned. That’s partly because of a turnover in staff, as we have lost some journalists who have taken advantage of other career opportunities and, to be honest, others who “saw the writing on the wall” and didn’t want to evolve into multimedia journalists. Luckily, however, we hired an online coordinator, David Veselenak, in spring 2011, who has been helping to teach these new tools to staff, and has been leading the way in incorporating technology in our newsroom and encouraging others by leading by example. Some examples of our work as a staff include live Tweeting government meetings, creating a Storify to localize national topics, embedding Google maps, creating photo slideshows in Flickr and Capzles, using Dipity to create timelines, hosting live chats, and improved video quality that came after JRC training coupled with a tutorial for iMovie created by David. He has also conducted blogging workshops for the public and is in charge of recruiting community bloggers for our website. As of just a week ago, every reporter now has a professional Twitter account, in addition to each publication having one, to better leverage and engage our audience, and crowdsource stories. So, I feel as if we’re making progress, probably not at the rate of speed I would like, as we seem to take steps backward with turnover in staff. You probably read about some of my frustration last summer in my post “A reporter with today’s tools should use them.”

Q: I know your editor of a group of papers that belong to a larger group. Do you share any of the information gained from various conferences and other meetings about new technologies with editors from other publications? Talk a little bit about the reception things such as iMovie have gotten from other editors.

A: I have always been big on sharing. I think my desire to share with colleagues ideas and successes that I’ve had in the field, and open communication with company leaders led to my appointment to the ideaLab, as I was the only member who did not apply. On my blog, I have shared what I’ve learned at conferences and, most importantly, while I’ve been at conferences, I’ve “walked the walk,” putting these tech tools I ask reporters to use on the job to use by live tweeting and live blogging, and capturing audio using, the tool I’ve experimented with the most as a member of ideaLab. In addition, I’ll send a companywide email sharing my blog posts, and share links on Twitter and Facebook as many of my followers are fellow editors and reporters. Some people seem receptive and thank me, but, for the most part, no one responds. However, I closely watch the stats on my blog after I send an email with a link and I do see them climb, so I know they are checking it out. For example, today I posted “Using Google Voice for Journalism” and shortly after I sent a link to editors in our Michigan cluster of papers, I had 22 views. My best day was 264 views, the day I posted “A reporter with today’s tools should use them.” My total number of views since establishing the blog in July 2010 is 6,376. I’ve been asked by one of the executive editors in the Michigan group to create a toolbox incorporating definitions and tutorials of all these tech tools highlighted on my blog, and more found on the company intranet and explored by other ideaLab members, to serve as a resource companywide for editors and reporters. I’ve delegated this project to my online coordinator, and I am advocating for it to be open to the public. The key will be to get reporters and editors to actually think of using these tools to enhance their online storytelling, engage their audience and provide more visual storytelling, and then remind staff regularly that this resource exists.

Q: I am an avid user of Twitter. How do you feel about the impact the medium has had on journalism? I’m currently a sports writer. For sports reporters, it seems like you get better quotes from athletes – and not canned quotes – from reading their Twitter feeds. Do you see Twitter possibly ending the need for the face-to-face interview?

A: Twitter has had a tremendous impact on journalism and that impact will grow even more in the coming year, especially with tools like Storify to aggregate content, and as reporters learn its value as a crowdsourcing and audience engagement tool. I’ve been using Twitter as of late to seek input from our audience and local experts for our #whatsnextmi project, as well as a Twitter newswire, which I haven’t devoted the time I should to and probably will delegate to our political reporter, Amy Bell, for the 2012 election season. I will admit that I haven’t put the time into Twitter that I should and I haven’t used it conversationally, as we should, but rather to push out links in a rushed fashion after editing and then posting stories. I applaud you for understanding the value of Twitter and incorporating it in your everyday reporting. That really is the future. The shooting at Virginia Tech and the college newspaper’s reporting on the incident, sourcing through Twitter and posting frequent updates on the social media site, is a testament to that.

Q: How mobile are the reporters in your newsroom? I agree with you on tablets beings the new “it” thing. Is there a way you could equip all your reporters with tablets so they could submit breaking news briefs and information via Twitter without needing to be in the office?

A: All of my reporters have Netbooks, with Verizon Wireless built in, so they can post live from the field and engage our audience on social media. Our reporters are completely mobile. Frankly, I am surprised that all reporters at every media outlet aren’t. This isn’t the future; it’s now.

Q: How do readers of your publications feel about the blog? Do they see it as an inside look at the future of journalism?

A: I haven’t had a lot of feedback from readers of the eight publications I am involved with on my ideaLabHeritage blog. I try to engage them by posting links on each publication’s Facebook page and Twitter account. The norm seems to be that if they’re satisfied, they don’t comment or communicate. I see that reflected in the low number of comments posted on our online stories and on our Facebook pages. I am hoping this means they’re either content or busy, and not disconnected or disinterested. They do engage us when they’re not happy, such as the reaction we received over our decision to publish a photo of a local wingwalker as he fell to his death. In that instance, as a protest was launched by the victim’s sister on our Manchester Facebook page, we decided to remove the photo and held a live chat to explain why. Ninety-nine percent of the audience from that chat had a background in journalism with no connection to the community. Again, it speaks to the fact that we just don’t have a lot of audience interaction when readers are satisfied. We’re actively trying to build better audience engagement through social media and by forming a Community Media Lab.

Q: Do you ever take any of the posts from the blog and use them as editorials on your opinion page or is the blog strictly online?

A: I do repurpose some of the content from my blog for print when it makes sense. For the most part, though, I don’t because I incorporate a lot of hyperlinks, which, of course, are lost on print readers. I think the print reader, right now, is a different breed than our online reader. Our web readers have higher expectations. They want linked source material, database-driven content, rich visual storytelling, info graphics, timelines, maps, audio, video and they want to connect, interact, have a conversation, and that’s all fun and exciting stuff for me. Very soon, I think everyone will get there. Print will be converted to online and everyone will be getting their news on a mobile platform.

Feel free to add any additional thoughts or comments.

Additional comments:
Recently, I restructured our newsroom so that we are better serving our online readers. We have a beat structure in which we localize news that affects all of the communities in our coverage areas, rather than having one reporter as the sole person responsible for a defined area, splitting reporting time between two communities. This will help increase our page views and drive more traffic to as all of our content will attract a wider audience, but still retain local relevance and appeal. Lastly, if you’re interested in being part of ideaLabHeritage, our Community Media Lab or writing a blog that we host on our website, I’d be happy to discuss the possibilities with you in person. We’re always looking for more contributors.

ideaLab Report and Update

September 27, 2010

It has been 30 days since my first ideaLab report and a second one is due to update our progress. Some breakthroughs include our sports editor using the iPhone Friday by himself to tweet the halftime score to HeritageNews followers on Twitter, which total 1,114, and three Facebook posts from the iPhone announcing he would be posting, giving the halftime score and reporting the final score. He had three people post “likes,” one of which was me. I guess this will be baby steps because what I had asked him to do was tweet at each quarter, as well as post to Facebook. Another reporter had the Netbook, so I didn’t expect the video by halftime like I did last week when I accompanied him to the Huron-Monroe football game.

The podcasting local history project has generated interest from the Saline Area Historical Society. A member saw my blog post before I even contacted the organization and that helped facilitate the project. I met with David Rhoads, the historical society’s president, Saturday during the Harvest of Arts Festival in Saline. We came up with a list of 10 historic places we could feature first, and he recommended historical society members Bob Lane and Wayne Clements for researching and sharing the history. The next step is for me to meet with my ideaLab community partner, professor Michael McVey, who has experience in podcasting and has volunteered to help. We will review the list Thursday and consider the order, and come up with a time frame for recording.

I am still waiting to hear about copy editor Daniel Lai’s experience with the Netbook while working on vacation in Texas, as he will be back Tuesday, and Heritage Newspapers online editor Jason Alley’s experience with the iPad.

Here’s my official report:
Goal: To incorporate technology into our jobs as reporters, editors and advertising representatives to achieve better efficiency, reader/customer engagement and interaction, and produce products rich in hyperlocal content relevant to people’s lives in a variety of formats. Our first project is a regional story on medical marijuana use in Michigan and the impact the new law has on local communities. Our first step was to shoot a video of our editorial meeting pitching the idea and that was followed by a live chat with readers Sept. 9. Ypsilanti copy editor and reporter Austen Smith is working on the story using our new technology, including video and audio, and is incorporating as much crowdsourcing as possible. During our live chat, we had 30 people participate in a two-hour period.

Allies: My fellow ideaLabbers, staff and the community. I won’t hesitate to call on anyone who may have experience or knowledge about what we’re trying to achieve. To be successful, I will engage everyone I can who has an interest in this project and moving journalism forward.

Obstacles: I reported last month that I still needed to work on getting the sports department on board. This is still a goal and I plan to meet with the department on Monday to reiterate this goal and seek a volunteer to follow on Friday to show him how to cover a football game live, like I did last week with the sports editor.

Training needed: We need training in podcasting, but it looks like Eastern Michigan University professor Michael McVey will help with this. We haven’t established the logistics yet, but it needs to happen in the next few weeks. I’ll also have copy editor and reporter Daniel Lai train employees on phonecasts using We had talked about this, but none of our reporters showed any enthusiasm for it. We’re about to hire two new reporters to replace two who have left and I can guarantee you they will be enthusiastic.

Resources needed: I purchased a camera connection kit for the iPad and I still need to get Internet outside of WiFi for the iPad. I also need to continue searching for apps for the iPhone and iPad that will help us achieve our goals. The Netbook is still relatively unknown to me because I’ve been lending it out.

Accomplishments: Last month, I reported that we shot our first video pitching our regional story on medical marijuana in the state of Michigan and hesitation local governments are experiencing as dispensaries seek to set up shop and local leaders don’t have zoning and other issues worked out. We followed up with a live chat Sept. 9 to engage readers and ask them what kind of questions they want answered and what their thoughts are on the issues, and saw 30 people chime in. Copy editor and reporter Austen Smith hopes to have the piece done by next week, and it will incorporate video, audio, sidebars and crowdsourcing. I also showed the sports department how to cover football live, and started a podcasting project.

What you’ve taught: I reported last month that I taught sports reporter Dave Merchant how to upload pages to Scribd and then posting them on our websites as an online teaser to print. I also taught reporter Lisa Allmendinger how to send breaking news alerts and enter her sources’ e-mail in our Mail List at TownNews to build our online audience through our e-newsletter. She, however, is leaving us, so the training continues with existing staff and new as two positions are filled. This past 30 days, I taught sports editor Terry Jacoby about reporting live from high school football games, with tweets, Facebook posts and using the Netbook to upload video by halftime. He, in turn, used the training to venture out on his own this past Friday using the iPhone. Both Austen and I also looked into Cover It Live to execute our live chat on medical marijuana.

What you’ve learned: I previously reported that I had learned how to upload pdfs using Scribd to provide more content for our online readers, as well as phonecasts, or phlogs, using This past month, I learned how to use Cover It Live to do live chats and iMovie on the iPhone to shoot and produce a video, and then I learned about to send it to my laptop so it could be converted and uploaded to our website (see my Sept. 13 blog post).

Metrics: As reported Sept. 21 on my blog, which has more than 1,300 hits, we can measure engagement from reporting live at the Huron-Monroe football game in terms of the feedback that I received on Twitter, as well 14 views on the video I produced and the comments on Facebook. The number of video views is disappointing, but it seems to be the average. On Cover It Live, there were 30 people logged on following the conversation and participating. These blog posts are attracting readers and facilitating engagement, as demonstrated with my contact from the historical society president regarding the podcasting project.

Narrative: Like I reported last month, I feel progress is being made in terms of learning the technology and getting it in the hands of staff who can use it in the field. I was excited to see the level of engagement in our live chat and the live coverage we provided from the Huron-Monroe football game using the Flip, Netbook and iPhone. I was also pleased to see our sports editor take the iPhone out on Friday, and will get feedback from him tomorrow. I saw he had tweeted and posted scores on Facebook. The podcasting project has a lot of potential, and I should be able to report back next month on the progress in training and execution. As I stated last month, I think the key to being successful overall will be staff and audience engagement. I need to continue to engage my staff and encourage them as we incorporate these tools into what we do, and make sure our readers/users know what we’re doing and join the conversation.