Smarter: Keeping up with journalism

I read a lot of posts and articles and news about journalism — about the evolution of this field. Job prospects. Technology. New content formats. Ethical problems, scandals, lawsuits. New publications, new websites, new mobile apps. Thank goodness for Twitter — that’s how most of the information comes to me.

Last week I started a new project. The idea is to help journalism students keep up (at least a little) the way I do, but without expecting them to read 100 different articles a week.

I called it Smarter.

If you’re not on Tumblr, you can follow it on my blog, where there will be one post each Sunday.


Exemplary online journalism from last year

See the list — everything is linked:

2013 Online Journalism Awards finalists 

You can learn a lot by looking at a few of these every week.

New news startup targets ‘the Change Generation’ Sept. 18, 2013

What do you think about this site? is a new site with a mission of keeping younger adults (like you) informed without … um … stressing you out too much, I guess.

Leave your reactions (if any) in the comments.

Edited audio interview 2: Conduct & produce a good interview

NOTE: READ Kern, Chapter 13, BEFORE you edit your interview! Also REVIEW Kern, pp. 219–223. These pages will help you think in a professional manner when you are making editing decisions.

Conduct an in-depth interview with a UF international student. Details about your interview subject and the topic can be found here:

Pitch (document) for interview 2

DO NOT conduct the interview until AFTER your pitch has been explicitly approved by your instructor.

After you have posted the interview link here, you will also SEND THE LINK via email to your interview subject. We want your subject to hear your edited interview and make comments.


Edit the interview (using any audio editing software) to a length of (minimum) 90 to (maximum) 120 seconds.

Note: Getting the length right will affect your grade. If you want to edit a longer piece, like the examples in the Blog Post 2 assignment, you may choose to do so — but all the same requirements (below) apply. If you choose the longer format, the minimum length is 4 minutes 0 seconds, and the maximum length is 6 minutes, 0 seconds.

PLEASE NOTE that any other length is not acceptable.

If you are new to editing, you should download this PDF and read it: Super-Fast Guide to Audio Editing (6 pages, 290 KB).

Save the file as a mono MP3 and then upload it to SoundCloud. Note: Listen to the full MP3 before uploading to make sure the sound quality is good. Double-check the length before uploading.

TITLE on the SoundCloud page:

DO NOT put the student’s name in the title!

Write a short, accurate, interesting title on the SoundCloud page (there is a box at the top of the page for the title), but do not include the person’s name. We don’t want these to show up in Google when someone does a name search on the student.

Any reference to an assignment or class is NOT going to make your title interesting.

Other SOUNDCLOUD requirements:

  1. Write an interesting and brief description of the content of your interview — without giving away any key story points. In other words, don’t spoil the story by saying too much about it. Also, please use ONLY your student’s FIRST NAME in the description (again, so this will not Google for their name).
  2. Include in the description the full date of your interview and where it took place (Gainesville, Florida, is acceptable).
  3. Add several appropriate TAGS to the piece. No more than 10 tags, because more than 10 tags is like spam.
  4. Set the use rights for your interview. In this case you probably want All Rights Reserved to protect both your work and your interview person.

How to turn in your assignment for a grade:

Upload to your SoundCloud account. Write and add all the stuff specified above. Make sure you click the SAVE button at the bottom of the page.

After you publish your file on SoundCloud, open the publicly accessible page for that file alone, copy the complete URL of that page, and paste it in a REPLY to this post, here, on this blog. If you paste a complete URL on a line by itself, it will automatically become a working link. That is what I want.

This is an example of a correct LINK to an individual sound file:

Note: The contents of that file are similar to your assignment but NOT EXACTLY the same.

Requirements for the edited file:

  1. Your edited interview must NOT include your own voice. No intro. No questions. Nothing.
  2. It must be interesting and also coherent (not rambling, not disjointed).
  3. It must make sense as a stand-alone audio piece.
  5. It must include a complete ID of the subject (in the subject’s own voice). This means the interview subject must say something like “I am” or “My name is,” followed by his or her first and last name, AND something that identifies him or her, which in this case is probably something about his or her current student status. MAKE SURE the student says what he or she is studying AND the name of the university. MAKE SURE THESE ARE CLEAR. Ask your student to say it all again, slowly, if the first (or second, or 10th) time is not easy to understand. Foreign accents can be hard to understand, but when someone speaks slowly and in a relaxed way, it’s usually okay.
  6. DO NOT START WITH the ID. Start with something that is interesting enough to make a total stranger feel like listening to more of your story.
  7. The length of the edited mono MP3 file is explained ABOVE, under “Overview.” The length is part of these requirements.
  8. SEND THE SOUNDCLOUD LINK to your interview subject. Your instructor MUST receive a verified comment from your interview subject within ONE WEEK of the assignment deadline. The verified comment can appear on your SoundCloud page with the interview, or the international student can send the comments directly to me at my UF email address.

DEADLINE: Tuesday, Sept. 18, at 8 p.m. (Your reply posted here must be submitted before 20:00:00 East Coast time in order to receive credit. I will have to approve your comment before it appears, so don’t panic if it says “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”)

Note that you have the classroom at your disposal. So a very clever thing to do would be to all meet there between 2 and 5 p.m. on Tuesday and listen to one another’s interviews. You have until 8 at night to make some additional edits.

Looking for online journalism tutorials?

You may have accidentally come to this site when searching for Journalists’ Toolkit, a site that provide free tips and tutorials for journalists, journalism students and journalism educators. In many ways, this class blog was the inspiration for that website.

This blog was created for and used in a two-semester course for graduate students in Journalism at the University of Florida in 2007 and 2008.

At the Journalists’ Toolkit website, you’ll find handouts, downloads and other materials to help you learn about Web audio, video, photojournalism and design.

Blog guidelines from The Washington Post

From an internal memo, posted at

This memo describes guidelines for our newsroom for creating, maintaining (and ending) blogs. Blogs, like all content on, 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.

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:

Personalize the issue!

Thanks to a comment on my TOJou blog, I found this article:

The story is not about child labor. The story is about Johnnie Smith who works 10 hours a day in a rubber chicken factory because his mother is sick and his father was killed in the war. The story is not about breast cancer, the story is about Leslie Faithcart who was diagnosed with breast cancer. She lives in Marin, a city that was just found to have the highest rate of breast cancer in California.

Yeah, I’m starting to think your third Soundslides (and package) has to be an issue story …

Photo and audio on the scene

How would you cover a live news event involving hundreds, or thousands, of people?

Read this brief account by USA Today reporter

Then watch his video.

Reporters have told me that when they sit down to edit this kind of visual story, what they are trying to do is give the viewers a sense of how it felt to be there, on the scene.