Tag Archives: BASIC principles

Writing/producing for the web: BASIC principles of online journalism (Online journalism lesson #3)

Here’s the 3rd in my series of classes in online journalism. Having already set up an RSS readers and Delicious account, a Twitter account and a blog, this week they start the news website, and learn about writing and producing for the web:

BASIC Principles of Online Journalism: C is for Community & Conversation (pt2: Conversation)

Continuing the final part of this series (part 1: Community is here) I look at conversation. I look at why conversation is becoming a form of publishing itself, why journalists need to be a part of that conversation, and a range of ways they can join in. Continue reading

BASIC Principles of Online Journalism: C is for Community & Conversation (pt1: Community)

In the final parts of this series I look at two concepts that have become increasingly central to online journalism in the post-Web 2.0 era: community and conversation. I look at why journalists need to understand how both have changed, how they are linked, and how to embrace them in your work processes.

Conversation and community have always been the lifeblood of journalism. Good journalism has always sought to serve a community; commercially, journalism has always needed large or affluent communities to support it. And good journalism – whether informative or sensationalist – has always generated conversation. Continue reading

BASIC principles of online journalism: I is for Interactivity

Part four of this five-part series looks at how interactivity forms the basis of true online journalism, and explores ways to think about interactivity in practice. This will form part of a forthcoming book on online journalism – comments very much invited.

In his 2001 book Online Journalism, Jim Hall argues that, in the age of the web, interactivity could be added to impartiality, objectivity and truth as a core value of journalism. It is that important.

Interactivity is central to how journalism has been changed by the arrival of the internet. Whereas the news industries of print, radio and TV placed control firmly in the hands of the publishers and journalists, online you try to control people at your peril.

It is important to remember that people use the web on devices – whether a computer, mobile phone or PDA – with cultural histories of usefulness or utility, very different to the cultural histories of television, radio or even print.

People go online to do something. Companies that help with that process tend to prosper online. Those that attempt to curtail users’ ability to do things with their content often find themselves on the end of a backlash.

News is, of course, a service. But up until now news organisations have been under the mistaken impression that it is a product. The web is reminding them otherwise.

What is interactivity?

Interactivity is not video, or ‘multimedia’; it is not flashy bells and whistles. At its core, it is about giving the user control. Continue reading

BASIC principles of online journalism: S is for Scannability

In part three of this five-part series, I look at the need for scannability in writing for the web. This will form part of a forthcoming book on online journalism – comments very much invited.

Users of news websites are generally task-oriented: they will most likely have arrived at your webpage through a search for something specific. If they don’t find that something specific fast, they will go elsewhere.

How do they find that something? Seventy-nine percent of Web users scan pages. They look for headlines, subheadings, links, and anything else that helps them navigate the text on screen. Continue reading

BASIC principles of online journalism: A is for Adaptability

In the second part of this five-part series, I explore how adaptability has not only become a key quality for the journalist – but for the information they deal with on a daily basis too. This will form part of a forthcoming book on online journalism – comments very much invited.

The adaptable journalist

A key skill for any journalist in the new media age, whatever medium they’re working in, is adaptability. The age of the journalist who only writes text, or who only records video, or audio, is passing. Today, the newspaper and magazine, the television and the radio programme all have an accompanying website. And that website is, increasingly, filled with a whole range of media, which could include any of the following:

  • (Hyper)Text
  • Audio
  • Video
  • Still images
  • Audio slideshows
  • Animation
  • Flash interactivity
  • Database-driven elements
  • Blogs
  • Microblogging/Text/email alerts (Twitter)
  • Community elements – forums, wikis, social networking, polls, surveys
  • Live chats
  • Mapping
  • Mashups

This does not mean that the online journalist has to be an expert in all of these fields, but they should have media literacy in as many of these fields as possible: in other words, a good online journalist should be able to see a story and think:

  • ‘That story would have real impact on video’;
  • or: ‘A Flash interactive could explain this better than anything else’;
  • or ‘This story would benefit from me linking to the original reports and some blog commentary’;
  • or ‘Involving the community in this story would really engage, and hopefully bring out some great leads’. Continue reading

BASIC principles of online journalism: B is for Brevity

In the first part of a five-part series, I explore how and why a talent for brevity is one of the basic skills an online journalist needs – whether writing an article or employing multimedia. This will form part of a forthcoming book on online journalism – comments very much invited.

It shouldn’t have to be said that the web is different, but I’ll say it anyway: the web is different. It is not print, it is not television, it is not radio.

So why write content for the web in the same way that you might write for a newspaper or a news broadcast?

Organisations used to do this, and some still do. It was called ‘shovelware’, a process by which content created for another medium (generally print) was ‘shovelled’ onto the web with nary a care for whether that was appropriate or not.

It was not.

People read websites very differently to how they read newspapers, watch television or listen to radio. For a start, they read 25% slower than they do with print – this is because computer screens have a much lower resolution than print: 72 dots in every square inch compared to around 150-300 in newspapers and magazines (this may change, but usage patterns are likely to stay the same for some time yet).

As a result, you need to communicate your story in less time than you would in print. You need to develop brevity. Continue reading