Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Stovall Revisited

Further Highlights from James Glen Stovall's book Journalism on the Web

Chapter 5: Writing is the focus of all forms of journalism, including what is found on the web. Stovall urges journalists to write clearly, precisely, accurately and efficiently in order to be successful at writing for any journalistic medium.

Many of the traditional elements of print based media, can be utilized in presenting news online. Newspapers use sub heads, labels, summaries, and lead paragraphs successfully, which can be translated into similar uses online. However, when newspapers believe that no changes are needed in placing materials online that they can run into presentation and content problems.

For a news site to be successful it cannot only report the same news found in the newspaper. It needs to have more information, new stories, and be updated more often than a traditional paper. While newspapers are hampered by deadlines, there are no deadlines for online publications. Therefore, during breaking news stories, online publications are under more pressure to update and report news as quickly and as accurately as possible.

Chapter Six: Editors should make sure that journalists use fresh, but analytical language, interesting enough to draw the reader into the story without being offensive or distasteful.

The preservation of a website is more difficult than maintaining traditional newspaper archives. Links must remain current, archives must be kept up to date and remain available through the site.

The main site must also be constantly updated with new information that is balanced with a united style of presentation and design in order for the viewer to find consistency on a site.

Chapter Ten: While many websites feature a visual display designed to draw the eye, the news must remain a main concern. On certain occassions, it may be necessary to remove these design elements to allow more people to view the site during a breaking news' story.

Web designers should know how to engage the viewer using a balance of visual logic, creating balance, simplicity and variety.

A website should have a specific and understandable purpose. Without one, a site cannot be utilized to its full potential.

Chapter Eleven: Web journalism's interactivity allows editors to track how popular a story is, online. Web pages, in general, keep track of what people are doing online. This provides valuable information into the interests of the public.

A question that is central to Stovall's book is 'Will this technology encourage journalists to tell the audience what they need to know or give them only what they want?'

Should information on the web be free? As the web first entered into picture and up to its current point, many news sites that are not developed from a parent company, have failed to make a profit. However, in the future many sites may charge for utilizing their information if the internet evenually renders other forms of broadcast media obsolete.

Stovall's Web Journalism

James Glen Stovall's book Web Journalism, Practice and Promise of a New Medium is helpful for people who want to learn about writing for the web. No longer are traditional print or broadcast media the only means of reporting the news. Web Journalism with all of its advantages and disadvantages have entered the foray of news reporting to the despair of some and the delight of others (Stovall pictured at left).

Some chapter highlights:
Chapter One
: The description of the game developed by Slate magazine as a reaction to the Enron scandal. The online board game contained pictures of Enron officials. When a viewer clicked on their pictures, who they were blaming for the fall of the company would pop up.

The connection of computer networks, the internet, developed in part from fears that the U.S. government held after WWII. Agencies feared that the current ability to distribute information could be compromised easily. It is due to the Advanced Research Project Agency (APRA) that protocol for email and other tools for the transfer of information was developed.

It is estimated that as of 2004, 75% of the United States population is using the Internet is some way. The internet combines visuals, words, pictures, video and graphics as well as audio in a capacity that allows for immediacy, flexibility, interactivity, and permanence.

Chapter Two: It is not easy for traditional news organizations to develop quality websites. Many tend to shovel content from its original print or broadcast medium without structuring them for the web. Others are not immediate with their updating, leading to sites that are not utilizing the full potential of the web.

Original Content sites are websites that use the web to a higher degree of potential. They structure stories that will be viewed best online. They work with appropriate software and often have an experienced staff devoted to reporting news on the web.

News websites have a greater chance of becoming popular if they are paired with a brand name of a respected print or broadcast news organization (i.e. the

(I also appreciate the Harry Potter analogy on p. 23)

Chapter Three:
Stovall suggests four ways for journalists to make their websites more user friendly and to increase interactivity: email; online polls; bulletin boards, forums and discussion groups; online chats with reporters or newsmakers.

Personalized web services offer websites a way to market specifically to target audiences. It illustrates the subtle shift to user rather than journalistic control of the news.

Journalism- even if it does not vanish completely in the future, it has been undoubtably changed due to the emergence of the Web as a strong force in reporting the news.

Chapter Four: The most successful websites are those that layer the information that they are distributing. Similar to traditional print and broadcast media, information needs to be divided and organized on websites. The web offers unique opportunities for journalists to structure information in both useful and creative ways.

The Web forces journalists to look beyond their usual audience and to write for an audience that is in fact world wide.

Web journalists need to be skilled in more areas than a traditional journalist. They are responsible for taking digital pictures, recording audio, learning software, and many other things that was not necessary for a print or broadcast reporter in the past.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

"That Which We Call A Blog"

Dan Mitchell's article "That Which We Call A Blog" (New York Times online, February 18, 2006) discusses how the lines distinguishing blogs from mainstream media, such as web sites, have blurred. It is now difficult to label all blogs as merely personal web diaries, as some have started reported the news. Some blogs even have professional journalists working for them. Many main media sites now even offer blogs, written by professional writers, as part of their user's web experience.

According to David L. Sifrey's (the founder of Technorati, a blog search engine) "The State of the Blogosphere" report lists evidence that states that blogs are not a threat to the traditional mainmedia. Main media websites continue to be more popular than blogs. Mitchell writes,
According to Mr. Sifry's data, mainstream media sites, as measured by the number of blogs linking to them, are trouncing news-oriented blogs by a growing margin. Bloggers link to The New York Times Web site about three times as often as they link to the Only four blogs show up in the top 33 sites.
While blogs may not be able to compete with most main media site, according to Sifrey and Mitchell, they do threaten certain niche publications because hobby blogs and blogs about specific topics often receive particular attention from a regular and attentive audience.

What continues to remain important for both blogs and main media sites is the reliability of and the validity of the information published.