Category Archives: new media


Notes on covering a disaster

If you haven’t already done so, Brian Stelter’s account of covering the aftermath of the Joplin tornado is a fantastic read. It gives a really insightful perspective on the challenges and problems (both technical and emotional) a journalist can encounter coverings disasters of this magnitude. I highly recommend taking the time to read it.

I sent a few e-mails and made a few calls to The Times suggesting that my Twitter feed somehow be incorporated into the coverage. It was, after all, the place where my latest reporting was being posted. Late in the afternoon, The Times published a link directly to my Twitter feed on the home page.

Looking back, I think my best reporting was on Twitter. I have archived all of the tweets here.

Update: I’ve thought about this comment a little bit more. I believe it’s true that “my best reporting was on Twitter,” but only up until a certain point on Monday, probably around 11 p.m. local time. After that point, with a more stable Internet connection, I was able to file complete stories for, not just chunks of copy.

People later told me that they thought I was processing what I was seeing in real-time on Twitter. I was.

(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

CJR, Pew release hefty reports on digital journalism

The Columbia Journalism review and Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism have both released two dense reports on digital journalism and habits of those that navigate the news, respectively. I haven’t been able to get through both in their entirety, but judging by their overviews and executive summaries they both contain a wealth of information for anyone in the online journalism business.

The Business of Digital Journalism from the Columbia Journalism Review is a weighty 140-page report by CJR Dean Bill Grueskin, Prof. Ava Seave and Ph.D. candidate Lucas Graves. The report is conveniently broken down into nine chapters that examine different areas of the digital journalism business such as niche sites, aggregation and traffic patterns.

From the Conclusion:

Here’s the problem: Journalists just don’t understand their business.”

That’s the diagnosis from Randall Rothenberg, a former New York Times media reporter who heads the Interactive Advertising Bureau, a trade group representing publishers and marketers.

Whether or not you agree with his sweeping characterization, it’s clear that many sectors of the traditional news industry have been slow to embrace changes brought on by digital technology. They also have been flummoxed by competitors who invest minimally in producing original content but have siphoned off some of the most profitable parts of the business.

Navigating the News Online from Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism looks at the way online news consumers are finding the content they want to see and the value of aggregation services and social networking sites. Again, there’s a lot to get through but it is great chunk of research for any online journalism organization that is trying to leverage the various avenues readers have to find their content online.

From the Summary:

Overall, the findings suggest that there is not one group of news consumers online but several, each of which behaves differently. These differences call for news organizations to develop separate strategies to serve and make money from each audience.

The findings also reveal that while search aggregators remain the most popular way users find news, the universe of referring sites is diverse. Social media is rapidly becoming a competing driver of traffic. And far from obsolete, home pages are usually the most popular page for most of the top news sites.

I’m looking forward to reading them in full later this week when I can carve out the time. Both reports are available as PDFs.

Bin Laden

What can be said that hasn’t already been said? It’s a big deal, albeit a bit symbolic, and the way the news disseminated across Twitter was amazing to watch. That said, I’ll just share a picture that is making the rounds that is very cool.


Though I must say, after ’24’ and ‘The West Wing,’ I’m a little disappointed in the actual Situation Room.

Following the Firearms

I am pretty proud of this project I contributed to for MPR News. It’s called Following the Firearms: Gun Violence In Minneapolis. Reporters Brandt Williams and Laura Yuen, as well as photographer Jeff Thompson did the real work, but I’m really glad at how it all came together.

My contribution was coordinating the online package, mapping the data, doing the final web edits of the stories, edits of the photos and galleries and putting the entire puzzle together into a cohesive package. It was a wonderful project and a great batch of stories. Check it out, share some thoughts.




The future of breaking news coverage

Today we had a natural gas explosion in south Minneapolis that caused a large fireball and was a breaking news event we covered. However, what was unique about this event was a video we were sent (as were several other media outlets) that was the first video available of the fireball.

The video was shot and sent by Robert Stephens (@rstephens), who just happened to be driving by at the time of the explosion. Stephens is the founder of Geek Squad, and full disclosure, is also on the MPR board. However, he did not give the video or his pictures only to us. He shared it via social media and gave permission to all organizations to use via those channels. What was most interesting was his followup tweet:

He did all of this, on the move, with tools anyone can easily obtain for less than $1,000. If our breaking news journalists would have had these tools, they too could have transmitted similar high-quality material back to the mothership for immediate posting. Now of course this isn’t news that these tools can aid in breaking news coverage, this was simply another example, albeit a relatively high-quality one. I was just amazed at how quickly it was put together, edited and distributed via social media channels.

You can see more photos from our team.

Hmm, perhaps I’ll rethink getting an iPad2.