Archive for February, 2009


February 27th, 2009 by Jack

(2/28 update: check out this story in Saturday’s New York Times.)

I attended a seminar on Twitter at work today and although I still don’t get the microblogging site’s appeal, I do understand its usefulness.  The session included a lot of talk about Twitter as a promotional tool, the importance of making your profile look professional, and being careful about what you say once you’ve identified yourself as a company employee (which would even apply to students who will eventually be company employees, given that “tweets” never die), but of course, I was most interested in the reporting and research angles.

Mentioned prominently were the uses during the recent Hudson River and Buffalo plane crashes, gathering eyewitness accounts.  Just yesterday, Poynter Online posted a similar story about the Amsterdam crash.  But as useful as Twitter can be during such breaking news events, the point was also made that it’s only a matter of time before some news organization gets “pranked” by a supposed eyewitness. 

Anyway, two good sites to check out are Twitter Search and Monitter.  Enter a word into the search box, and you’ll get the most recent tweets including that word.  Twitter Search even lists the top trending topics on its home page, and TweetStats has a page with both current and historical trends.  Another interesting site is Twitterholic, which provides a list of the most followed Twitterers.

We’ll have a lesson on social networking later this semester.

P.S. One of the hottest trending topics on Twitter today is Rocky Mountain News.  My condolences to all the journalists who are now out of a job.

Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo.

Think Google has it all?

February 23rd, 2009 by Jack

Think again.

Its holes help keep researchers employed!

Next week, 2/24

February 20th, 2009 by Jack

I’m not scheduled to be in class next Tuesday, but I will be around school to observe one of my research colleagues in action, so if you need to meet with me for anything, let me know.

I also plan to get your research exercises back to you this weekend, probably Sunday.

In the meantime, take 3 minutes to check out the video below. You’ll probably recognize someone.


Research-inspired enterprise story

February 17th, 2009 by Jack

I’ll use the same parameters I established in Craft I for this assignment, which most of you didn’t get and the others can benefit from doing again.  Click here to read the required three-step process.  Pitch is due 3/10, although earlier is better.

Also, having gone through this once already, I can now point out some common pitfalls to avoid:

  • Back-end research: Don’t conjure up a story idea and then try to figure out how to fit (statistical) research into it.  That’s backwards.  The research is supposed to inspire the story.  In fact, don’t even bother making a pitch unless you already have the data that inspired your story idea.  Once you start writing, if you find yourself several paragraphs into the story before you’ve mentioned any numbers, you’re also “back-ending” it.  A research-inspired enterprise story needs the research up high.  If not in the lead, then shortly thereafter.
  • Numbers without context: Reporting that there are 27 widget manufacturers in your CD means nothing without some context.  How many were there five years ago?  What is the difference from the average CD?  Get it? Some kind of comparison is vital.  Chronological or geographical comparisons are two of the most common and accepted.
  • Statistical overload: Don’t operate on the “more is better” principle.  All you really need is one good statistic to inspire your story.  That’s not to say you’re limited to one, but don’t bombard us.  Cramming too many numbers into a story often clouds the theme or makes the necessary backup reporting too unwieldy.

Helpful hints: Interesting statistics you found while researching your beat memos may make for good story ideas.  Many of the sites listed on my handout are treasure troves of statistical information.

Craft I redux

February 13th, 2009 by Jack

Just read a couple of stories on topics that were addressed in Craft I.  Although the subjects are not scheduled again for Craft II, the links are worth a click.

The first is from today’s Times, and centers around online court records, including some controversy about the federal PACER document retrieval system.

The other is titled 20 Questions A Journalist Should Ask About Poll Results, which is particularly useful during election season.

Be prepared for class on the 17th!

February 10th, 2009 by Jack

As I said last week, the research segment of the next class will be more of a roundtable discussion than a lecture.  The unifying theme will be Community Districts, and you need to be ready to talk about two things:

  1. What you found in your Nexis/Factiva search exercise and how you found it.  I also plan to have one or two of you write your exact search strategies (with terminology) on the board, and this time, individual “victims” will get no advance notice.
  2. The CD beat memo…bring your rants or whatever else you have to say about it.  I’ll respond to all points.

We may not have time for everyone to speak at length on both items, but I’ll make sure everyone gets involved on at least one.  No “wallflowers” allowed.  Warm up the vocal cords now!

This week's bylines

February 9th, 2009 by Jack

Jenni Avins, a/k/a the Professor, wrote a hotel review of The Drake in Toronto.

Ben Fractenberg and Tim Persinko shared separate bylines in the Daily News.

And our visiting Times stringer, Souad Mekhennet, had a Page One story on a wanted Nazi doctor.

Congrats to all!

Lesson II-2: Finding experts

February 2nd, 2009 by Jack

Points of emphasis for critical thinking:

  1. Experts should be one of your first thoughts as a source of information on any subject.  They can lend authority, accuracy, balance and credibility to your stories.  They may also refer you to other sources.
  2. One good way to find experts is to do a Nexis or Factiva search on your subject and see who has spoken on the topic in the past.
  3. Another way is to seek out local or national organizations related to the topic.  One of my favorite tools is the Encyclopedia of Associations, an “old-fashioned” print resource available in our Research Center.  Online, you can use the school’s Associations Unlimited account or the universally accessible Gateway to Associations.
  4. Government experts can also be useful.  Any New York City reporter should have the latest copy of the Green Book.
  5. Many colleges and universities provide access to faculty and staff experts via their web sites, including CUNY and other local schools.   There are also web sites specifically devoted to connecting journalists with experts, such as ProfNet and the Yearbook of Experts.

Way to go!

February 2nd, 2009 by Jack

We have our first class bylines for the new semester.

Ben Fractenberg had a mascot scoop in Sunday’s Daily News.

And there’s no need to cry when you read Jenni Avins’ reporting Over Spilt Milk.