Online Journalism: Fall 2010


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Readings + Reactions for 10-8-10

How to beat AOL’s Patch
Five mistakes that make local blogs fail
Rescuing the Reporters
Three primary roles your local website must play

Magazine writer Susan Orlean talks about Twitter
The Atlantic joins Tumblr
Scanner Tweeting: Breaking News Lessons from the Boulder Fire


Filed under: Readings + Reactions

6 Responses

  1. These articles relating to local sites brought up a lot of good points involving the misuse of technology and information. Yelvington’s three primary rules are a great example of what needs to be done and what isn’t being done in the world of new-age media. I especially love his observation about Google. It’s the biggest site on the web and it’s main function is sending people away. Community sites need to learn from this. Your one website can’t do it all. There’s lots of information out there so organize it on your site and then send people where they need to go. I also thought that Flora’s article had some great insight on this topic. I liked his idea that starting a local blog is like starting a small business. In thinking about Chicago website ideas, I have felt like I’m starting a business. I’ve been trying to organize ideas in a convenient way and have even been thinking about who would advertise on my site etc. I also found it interesting when Flora said that Facebook and Twitter are the main competition to any community based project or site. While reading this paragraph I instantly had an image of a mom and pop grocery store being overrun by Jewel. On the internet Facebook and Twitter are like Jewel and Meijer and these community based sites need to find something to offer that’s more personalized and convenient so people will still see the need in them.

    The articles on social media made me feel guilty about the same thing every journalism professor I’ve had at Columbia has made me feel guilty about: I don’t have a Twitter. See, I get why Susan Orlean has a Twitter; she’s a published author, she’s a somebody. And I get why Sandra Fish has one, she’s also a professional writer. I also understand how beneficial Twitter was to her during that whole fire thing. But for me, I still don’t see the point. I have horrible thoughts of signing up for a Twitter account and literally not having one follower. Even if I do have something to say, who’s going to know who I am. I guess that is the part of Twitter I don’t understand. I have friends on Facebook, but my friends aren’t on Twitter. I feel like I would be completely alone. Maybe I need to take Orlean’s advice and check out Tweetdeck.

  2. laura nalin says:


    I liked the idea that starting a small blog is similar to starting a new business. You really need to do your research as to what content you’re putting in and your target audience, etc. I think instead of having Facebook or Twitter take over the web sites, people need to be proactive in joining forces with these sites in promoting yourself and creating “fan pages” and such to make yourself more well known on the Internet.


    I like this section a lot. I have like 100 something followers but I don’t really use my Twitter in the way I should. I just use it for random things and occasionally will get cool articles and such from friends and can “re-tweet” them and all that jazz. I liked the Boulder one a lot. It reminded me of the protests in Iran and the pictures people were sending in to Twitter, which, maybe I’m wrong but I remember that being a huge breakthrough for people as far as understanding what Twitter’s capabilities and purpose was. I have a lot of good friends that live out there that thankfully were not affected by the fires, but that was a scary time and I’m glad she utilized it to keep others in-the-know as to what was happening in the community.

  3. Susanne says:

    Community Based Websites
    I thought these readings were very interesting because they bring up points that most people don’t think about when starting a community based blog or website. Flora’s 5 Mistakes were very specific. When most people start a community based blog, they fail to identify their audience in such specific terms – are there other people interested in this community? Is this community large enough, online oriented that they will reach out to a local blog? What do these communities already know? Are you just reiterated common knowledge? These readings were helpful when coming up with ideas for our websites this week – it helped me to refine my ideas and really tested my comprehension and understanding of the community I chose.
    It was also interesting to read about Patch and how one larger corporation is monopolizing community news. Owens addresses the good things Patch does but he also exposes all the weaknesses. While I was reading, I just kept picturing old Mom and Pop stores going out of business to the Wal-Marts and Targets of the world – and now this is happening in the online world as well. So it was interesting to see this concept mirrored in technology.

    Social Media
    The first two articles – about the Atlantic joining Tumblr and Susan Orlean joining Twitter were both very interesting because they show how using social media can change the approach of a publication or writer. The quote in the Atlantic story by J.J. Gould sums it up pretty well – “we’re interested in approaching Tumblr as its own thing.” This is not another online issue of the Atlantic – this is a place where readers who enjoy the Atlantic can come to find an offshoot of those ideas and find things that could never be spelled out in a formal story (whether through print or online form).
    And Susan Orlean points out in the interview about Twitter that by connecting directly with her audience and not feeling so removed from them, she is better able to gauge her work and where the interest lies in it. It’s like having your story idea workshopped by hundreds of people (or however many “follow” you).

  4. Community based websites

    The articles made websites and community blogs like businesses in a market,and I like that angle to it. To have a successful blog or website you have to know your audience and do your research. Like a business its tough with alot of competition, you have to bring something new and fresh to the table to have that edge. The articles are pretty self explanatory, if you dont take the proper precautions and prepare you will fail. Also with the five major mistakes that is also self explanatory and can be avoided if you are smart about what you do and take your time and collabarate with others. This was however helpful to my own community website ideas.

    Social Media

    I guess im old school but the social media boom hasnt hit me yet. I read these stories about Susan Orlean and tumbler and I cant help but feel disapointed. Social media can do wonders and can help journalists with stories but not more than you can help yourself getting a story the old fashion way. If I was a published author or a music star I would use these outlets but only to sell my work to make a profit.

  5. Frank says:

    Community Websites:
    You know, the “5 Reasons for Fail” article really highlighted why I’ve always been reluctant about the whole blogging movement. The man is completely right. Most blogs do fail, and in the end we find 90% (a totally fake statistic used to simply punctuate my opinion) of the internet filled with useless drivel filled with ads. And on the subject of ads, he mentioned making sure you think about where to place them, what types to use, and how much to use. But he fails to mention how much revenue the average web ad really brings in. I recall reading a Newsweek article a few months ago saying that you get almost no money from it. With that in mind, how successful does a blog even have to be to make it profitable???

    Social Media:
    I enjoyed the piece on Tumblr the most. It’s a unique idea, and it makes blogging even easier for those not very familiar with internet media. What I think the real gem of this is that contemporary news outlets could really take advantage of this. We’ve all seen examples of the Trib and Sun Times trying to outfit their websites. With a tool as easy to use as Tumblr, every staff member, no matter how technologically inept, can figure out how to use it. This greatly enhances the visual aspect of a site, which is arguably what people really want from online news (I recall us talking about how awful pages of scrolling text can be).

    To conclude, I think I can make a prediction out of these articles. The blog craze will eventually die down, and newspaper/magazine outlets will learn to embrace the multitude of tools released to create a hybrid form of contemporary and new media. Yeah, the physical newspaper in your hand may still disappear one day, but online news will be much cleaner and more interesting to skim through.

  6. Chelsea says:

    Community-based websites
    My favorite reading from the local website readings was the last one about the 3 functions. I think that this way of looking at how to handle online journalism is one of the best I’ve heard yet. Playing the role of “town expert” is something that I think is especially important for the role of the new journalist. Together, all of these articles said something along those lines. How to beat AOL gave some good, more detailed ways to accomplish this, as did the 5 reasons blogs fail (this one was a little more depressing than helpful). Rescuing the Reporters gave a very interesting look at how to do these things while still in print, rather than online, but I thought it still ended a little open-ended and was less productive than the others. What does working for a non-profit in journalism look like? How do we get there, and then what?
    Social media readings
    It was nice to think about Twitter the way Susan Orlean described it in her interview, and also the way it was used in Boulder Fire situation. I was also skeptical of Twitter when it first started gaining speed but I now think it is way more valuable than most other social media tools. Conversation, like mentioned in the community readings as well, is essential. The Tumblr reading was a little overwhelming. Hearing about how much effort goes into creating and putting content on yet another platform makes me cringe a little. I love the Atlantic, I love a lot of sites, but I don’t want to have to go see everything they post in a million different locations. And as a Journalism student I don’t want to think about the different kinds on content they are providing for each – is it all the same? If it’s different what’s different about it? Are there really different audiences for each outlet?! I don’t want to feel like I’m missing out on great stuff because I cant find time in my day to also check everyone’s Tumblr after I’ve scanned their twitter feeds, blogs, and websites.

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