Have you checked your e-mail?

I sent the following three e-mails to the class Listserv:

  • Friday, Nov. 16: “MMC 6936 – Instructins and templates for final Story Package” (embarrassing typo!)
  • Monday, Nov. 19: “MMC 6936 – Web space for your stuff!” (with one attached GIF)
  • Monday, Nov. 19: “MMC 6936 – Important note about final Story package files”

Check your mail and make sure you have all of these. Save them somewhere good.

Have a great Thanksgiving holiday! If you are traveling, please travel safe.

Behind the scenes at FeedBurner

It’s not just some crazy thing your professor uses:

Few, if any, comparable services exist, and according to the FeedBurner home page, over 631,000 publishers have burned over 1.1 million feeds so far.

Source: How FeedBurner Adds Up Subscriber Numbers

Today’s class: HTML, CSS, and blog enhancements

Today we tried to cover everything on the Week 12 page, and we got a little short on time for the blog enhancements.

You’ll see here, on this blog, that I have added the three enhancements to the sidebar. The FeedBurner chicklet and the Technorati widget are in a Text widget, which you can add to your WordPress.com blog from the Dashboard (under Presentation, go to Widgets, and drag Text 1 up from the boxes at the bottom). Read the instructions at the respective sites to learn what to do.

The Site Meter addition has different instructions. There are two cut-and-paste operations. There’s a way to get the Site Meter out of the Blogroll. Read the instructions and find out how!

My motive in requiring you to add these things to your blog goes beyond just getting the end result (that is, having thingies in your sidebar). A person who works on a Web site at a news organization needs to learn how to learn, how to find instructions, how to make things work. A few students in our class already know how to do this. Why? The same reason I know how — we have taught ourselves. When someone says, “Put a FeedBurner widget on that page,” you ought to go straight to Google, find FeedBurner, and find out from the FeedBurner site how to use FeedBurner.

Not because you’re a Web developer. No, just because you’re not going to ask other people to do stuff that you can do yourself. Everyone learns the same way. Take your time. Follow the instructions. Make it work. Make it work right.

If you need help, come and see me in my office. Next week I’ll be in New York on Tuesday. Monday is a holiday, and Wednesday is a bit busy. I can probably meet you Thursday morning or sometime Friday if you need some assistance.

Blog guidelines from The Washington Post

From an internal memo, posted at Cyberjournalist.net:

This memo describes guidelines for our newsroom for creating, maintaining (and ending) blogs. Blogs, like all content on washingtonpost.com, are published under the supervision of editors at wpni. This primer aims to help reporters and editors at the newspaper decide when, how and whether to launch a blog.

All blogs should draw on our principles for Washington Post journalism on the web, including meeting our standards of accuracy and fairness and rules for expressing personal opinions.

There are nice details about the blogging rules, following that bit.

Web design: Catching up from Thursday

I don’t want to overwhelm you all with too many posts and too much to read, so I’ll keep this short.

After our in-class exercise on Nov. 1, I briefly covered some design principles and talked about the Minnesota Liberians package and the wild horses segment (these are linked on the Week 11 page of the syllabus). This course makes no attempt to cover Web design (see MMC 5015 for that), but you should have at least a little appreciation for what makes one Web page look great and what makes another look terrible.

I recommend this introductory article about Web design principles — it will give you some grounding:

Web design is a relatively new profession compared to other forms of design, due to the youth of our medium. As with any design discipline, there are aspects of the Web design process that are unique to the medium, such as screen resolution, additive color spaces and image compression. But too often these more unique details override our sense of the bigger picture.

If you work online, you ought to acquire familiarity with some rules governing how a page is laid out (print or Web):

  • Contrast
  • Repetition
  • Alignment (this alone can transform a page from bad to good)
  • Proximity

Break the rules, or ignore them, and the page gets ugly.

Other considerations include screen resolution (Web only, of course), typography, and the use of color. You can learn more here.

Navigation: I talked at some length about the left-side navigation used in the Minnesota Liberians package.

Credits: These must be accommodated in the design. For any project, story, photo, etc., a journalist should make certain that the public can easily see who was responsible — who made it.

Acknowledgments and sources: Similarly to credits for everyone on the journalistic team, information about where the information came from is essential. Link to the sources whenever possible (but not inside the text, because that might seem to be advertising; use a separate resources page).

Date: This is a pet peeve of mine — stories sometimes stay online for many years, yet you cannot find a YEAR of publication on the story! Every package or story should have an easy-to-find month, date and year somewhere.

What is an “issue” story?

Take a quick look at this package from the Detroit Free Press newspaper:


The issue: pit bulls — more specifically, are these dogs always dangerous? Is dog fighting (for gambling, for profit) the main reason why these dogs are often negatively portrayed? Why do people keep pit bulls, if the people are not expecting the dog to cause harm?

Note the way the issue immediately yields QUESTIONS. You want to address the questions in the story package. You might not be able to answer them all! But if there are NO questions, then what the heck IS your story about?

Now, think back to the way I constructed your in-class exercise on Thursday. Look at this package about pit bulls. Are you happy, as a reader — as a seeker of information — that the package modules are named:

  • Video Gallery
  • Photo Gallery
  • About This Project
  • Join the Discussion

Do these labels help you decide whether you want to spend time with this package, with this STORY?

Planning a story package

The story package you will plan and produce for class is a SMALL package. Even though the issue you choose might be a huge one, your package in this case will use only three Web pages. This will make it manageable for one person in a short span of time.

When we talk about “packages” in online journalism, however, many times we are thinking of BIG packages with dozens of Web pages.

Here is a list of links I prepared for a half-day professional workshop: Planning Multimedia Packages. You can explore the links at your leisure to see how much variety there is in the topics covered, and the different approaches in both design and organization that the various news organizations have taken.

Here are the storyboard examples I showed in class on Thursday, Nov. 1: