In the wake of Storify

wake-ocracoke

I was dismayed a couple of months ago when I heard that Storify was ending. I’d used the service — which allowed users to collect and arrange social media and park it all on one page — for assignments in my editing classes.

Thanks to a Twitter tip from editor Gerri Berendzen, I’ve found a successor to Storify. Wakelet lets you to do much of what Storify allowed you to do and more (such as uploading your own photos). Today, I’ll try it in class for the first time with an assignment on alternative story forms.

For more about Wakelet, follow them on Twitter and watch this video on YouTube.

UPDATE

Here are some examples of student work:

Advertisements

Finding beauty inside an ugly building

Steve Merelman, an editor at Bloomberg, tweeted a link to a Business Insider list of “the ugliest buildings in every state.”

I took the bait and scrolled to what was deemed the most hideous building in North Carolina. The “winner” is an office building in Asheville.

My mind quickly turned to a building in downtown Raleigh, one that Merelman and I both worked in earlier in our careers. I responded on Twitter:

newsobserverbuilding

The News & Observer building, with its brutalist architecture, isn’t much to look at. Built in 1956, the structure is outdated inside and out.

Late last year, the newspaper’s parent company, McClatchy, announced that the property is being sold for $22 million. The building will be demolished, and a mixed-use development, including a hotel, will take its place.

Sometime this year, the N&O offices will move a few blocks away into a skyscraper on Fayetteville Street, with the newsroom at street level. Publisher Sara Glines said: “We are very excited to be moving into downtown Raleigh office space that supports flexibility, collaboration, and makes it easy to engage with the community.”

I agree. It’s time for a change. N&O journalists deserve to work in a contemporary space.

Yet as ugly as the N&O building is, I will always have lovely memories of the 10 years I worked there in various editing roles. As A.C. Snow wrote in a column recently, the people made it beautiful.

Q&A with Christina Cleveland, reporter for the Aiken Standard

christinacleveland
Christina Cleveland is a features reporter at the Aiken Standard in Aiken, South Carolina. She previously worked at The Journal in Seneca, South Carolina. In this interview, conducted by email, Cleveland discusses her job at the Standard, changes in editing there and her journalism education.

Q. Describe your job. What is your typical day like?

A. Surprisingly — or not — I’ve learned to expect much of the same each day working in news. My schedule is pretty flexible, though I do feel editors would probably prefer to see (most of) our faces by at least 10 a.m.

Generally, I try to get to work no later than 9:30 a.m. My ideal time to start working, however, is 8:30 a.m. I find my goal humorous most weeks, because I can often be at the desk until 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. at night. I don’t recommend that, but it’s probably an unhealthy reality for me lately, so when I do work later, I try to come into work later.

The first thing I do when I get to my desk is read and respond to email, as well as any phone messages I may have received. Then, I pick up a print edition of the newspaper and/or check the e-edition online.

I prefer to read the newspaper as a product, not just the website. I just feel more informed about our stories, reader questions and the product that way. The Aiken Standard is unusual because our press is still located in the newspaper office, so production is right here.

During the day, I will also periodically check my social media pages. Twitter is my favorite social media forum for news gathering, sourcing and sharing. It doesn’t always produce the highest web hits for us, but it is a very valuable tool.

When it comes to writing, I try to schedule interviews for stories a little further out. I may have around two telephone interviews a day on average. As a features writer, I mostly prefer in-person interviews, where I can see firsthand what and who I’m writing about and get a photo. But sometimes you just have to pick up the phone.

Of course when I was a news writer, there were sometimes when a story broke in the morning or middle of the day, and I just had to make phone calls/conduct interviews as soon things were happening.

At both my current and previous job as a news reporter, I have written more stories daily than a reporter at a larger circulation daily would, which can be expected. I could produce up to three stories a day, and was always shooting to work on at least two per day.

Reporting news, I have been more comfortable with most of my content being ready by 2 p.m. before our 4 p.m. deadline to give my editors a fair enough time to read and make suggestions.

I also spend a healthy amount of time story planning for the weekend ahead during the day, too, because working for a daily newspaper with a smaller staff requires everyone pitching in content, especially interesting, well fleshed-out stories for Sundays — a big day for not only subscriptions but also single-copy sales.

I try to update the news budget for the next day, the day before. Eventually, after all of this, I go home. I can’t say news ever stops, but I’ve been trying to unplug when I’m off lately, and it helps a lot. I also heavily depend on Starbucks and Chick-fil-A, so those are my lunch break weaknesses.

Q. You recently moved from a news beat to features. How has that transition been, and what do you like about your new assignment?

A. My new assignment has been interesting so far — for many reasons. It’s somewhat of a full circle moment.

I started my reporting career as a crime reporter at The Journal newspaper in my hometown of Seneca, South Carolina. When I started writing for the newspaper, I was stringing or freelancing as a lifestyle writer. Sometimes, for more experience, I would cover local council meetings and general assignments, but I always felt like I wanted to be a features writer.

I took feature writing with professor Paul Cuadros my senior year at UNC, and after every journalism course I had taken throughout my undergraduate career, I finally thought, “That’s what I should be doing.”

Before deciding to pursue a career in news, I had always thought I would study and pursue music professionally, as choir and music theory was a huge part of high school for me and I have been singing since I was very young. It wasn’t until I got into feature writing that I really learned how to be a more effective storyteller. It reminded me a lot of the skills it takes to perform and turn compositions into something palatable for an audience. That meant bringing the audience into the story, something feature writing is designed to do — engage.

Likewise, I got to explore more human interest pieces, as well as arts and entertainment, which is what I love.

Unfortunately for me, when you’re at a small staff, writing about those topics aren’t often the priority. The Journal needed a crime reporter around the time I started, so there I was. But I found a way to squeeze in at least two feature stories a week because I loved it.

When I began in Aiken two years ago, I was floating around doing enterprise pieces, assignments and digital content. I was eventually assigned the local government beat and began covering a lot of the Aiken County legislative delegation in the S.C. Statehouse.

This was different, and to be honest, a little out of my comfort zone. I don’t consider myself to be very much of a politico and, less than an hour from our state capital, Aiken is an extremely political area. I believe I’m well-informed, but I’m very much a creative and free-spirited person. I had the idea that government and politics were way too rigid for me. I had to look at it from another lens, which mostly meant figuring out how government decisions truly affect residents’ day-to-day lives. Actually engaging with people really stuck with me.

When the features job opened up in Aiken after the longtime arts writer’s departure, I thought about it and then asked to be considered. These days are longer for different reasons, sometimes requiring monthly planning versus weekly planning. There are dozens of arts organizations, dozens of productions, restaurants and interesting people. I’m a “one-man band,” so I’m trying not to overwhelm myself but also tell the best stories possible.

We’ll see how this shakes out. I’m mostly happy to be among the arts crowd and feel like myself again.

Q. How do story editing and headline writing work at the Aiken Standard?

A. This has changed since I started in late 2015. When I began, the newspaper had an executive editor, a roughly four or five-member copy desk, plus an editor for each section — News, Living and Sports — along with a digital editor. We also have traditionally had a night/weekend editor.

At that time, after my story was done, my digital editor most likely conducted the first edit, because web publishing often happens first. Then, my news editor completed the second edit, and the executive editor could often also give stories a solid read.

The night editor read content in the evening before sending it off to copy editors who would be responsible for mostly checking grammar, style and writing headlines on the page. At both jobs I’ve worked at, reporters have been asked to write their own headlines, but it doesn’t mean that always goes into print.

The copy editors were also essentially the paginators and designed the pages.
The year after I started, the company decided to move design to a hub at the Post and Courier offices (our parent company) in Charleston. That move meant no copy desk in Aiken, but Charleston designers and our editors had to collaborate to put together the paper. Our stories had to be done earlier, so pages could be sent to Charleston and then back here for proofing, then sent back to Charleston, and back here for printing.

After around a year, our new publisher decided to bring pagination back to Aiken. Now, we have a desk of three designers, whose roles don’t delve as much into copy editing from my understanding, but they are placing stories and designing in our newsroom.

The executive editor role has become a managing editor. We no longer have an editor for Living (it’s just me), and we have two editors who rotate weekends and nights. We are also still — as much as I’m aware — hiring a digital editor to fill a vital role when it comes to producing web content, managing social media and the website, as well as assisting the news editor.

Q. You were a student in journalism at the University of South Carolina and UNC-Chapel Hill. What skills and concepts that you learned in those programs, and what new ones have you picked up so far in your career?

A. One thing I can say is as much as a bemoaned in college about “not knowing what I wanted to with my life,” I have been very blessed to attend both of these universities and their respective journalism schools.

At USC, my news writing professor was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. He worked for The State newspaper in Columbia, and I can genuinely say, without that course, I would not have understood one thing about news writing or reporting. Not one.

I also feel like I learned quite a bit in my graphic design course there, and it wasn’t until I moved to Aiken that I was reminded that my professor was from Aiken! The first advertisement I ever designed was about the city. (So ironic). That course taught me basic design and visual/photography skills.

At UNC, I think I got a stricter sense of why avoiding mistakes and errors were critical. I remember the first time I turned in a news writing assignment and instead of getting 2 points off for a style or spelling error, losing 20. It kind of shocked me, but it is probably why I read over everything I publish with a fine-tooth comb. Granted, I have still made my share of mistakes — some I wouldn’t dare repeat — but I’m mostly comfortable with the content that I produce.

I also learned quite a bit in my reporting course at UNC. I think that is when I questioned if I was actually going to make it in print, because I didn’t know if I was quite enjoying it. The deadline pressure was very valuable, however, because I am on deadline every day at work.

I do wish I would have taken more advantage of internships, but I will say, once I knew I was going to continue pursuing print, I freelanced where and when I could. That was very helpful, because hands-on experience is necessary.

I think, really, that is what my early career has been about: getting experience and valuing the experience. I’ve learned so many tools like good storytelling, being a more critical thinker, making relationships, and failing. Yes, failing. Failing until I know more, do and write better and try not to fail again.

Quoted and tweeted out of context

One of the topics in my editing course is about the ethical use of quotes in news stories. Editors should ensure that reporters quote sources completely and accurately.

On occasion, a celebrity or politician will accuse a news organization of taking a quote out of context. Typically, this is an attempt to deflect criticism for an outrageous statement.

But sometimes, a news organization does use a person’s quote out of context, warping its meaning. Here is an example that I have used in class for several years.

A news story quoted Brad Pitt about his early days in Hollywood. Before getting into acting, he drove strippers to parties. One of the women recommended an acting coach who proved instrumental in Pitt’s rise to stardom.

The interviewer asked: “So a stripper changed the course of your career?” Pitt’s response facetiously: “Strippers changed my life.”

The resulting headline from The Huffington Post takes this quote out of context:

pitt-strippers

It’s misleading and unethical. It’s clickbait. It’s a good example of what not to do.

My example is stale, however. I’ve been looking for a new one. And this week, Fox News provided me with a fresh example of a quote taken out of context.

Jake Tapper of CNN said this on the air as his cable network covered a terrorist attack in New York City: “The Arabic chant ‘allahu akbar’ — ‘God is great’ — sometimes said under the most beautiful of circumstances, and too often we hear of it being said in moments like this.”

Here’s how Fox News reported Tapper’s remark via Twitter:

foxnews-tapper

The tweet warps Tapper’s statement, implying that he approved of the violence in New York. Tapper responded on Twitter:

tapper-response

Fox deleted the tweet, but a story about it stayed on its website. Fox host Sean Hannity repeated it on the air.

I feel bad for Tapper. No one likes to be misquoted or have their words distorted for any reason, including political attacks.

But I want to thank Fox News for this tweet. It’s a beautiful example of what not to do.

Q&A with Travis Greenwood of Movie Heds

goofy-cleared-roger-rabbit.png

This headline from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” is among Travis Greenwood’s favorite examples of headlines from the movies.

Travis Greenwood is a writer and editor in Portland, Oregon. He recently started a Twitter account called Movie Heds, which collects newspaper headlines from movies. In this interview, conducted by email, Greenwood discusses the origins of Movie Heds and some his favorite cinematic headlines.

Q. What inspired you to start Movie Heds? What are you hoping to achieve?

A. The roots of Movie Heds can be traced back to a previous job with a pair of partnered e-commerce sites, one of which had an identity anchored around movies and pop culture. Among other responsibilities, I was charged with developing special content projects -— what some might call linkbait (not to be confused with its more defamed cousin, clickbait) — and this included shareable things like illustrations, tutorials, and “supercuts,” or videos edited around movie tropes.

(A playlist of said videos can be seen here; my favorites remain the two at the top, which are cobbled together from the best seen-on-screen T-shirts.)

While none of these really broke out in a major way, most racked up view counts in the five or six figures and surfaced at places like Digg, io9, VICE and Sports Illustrated. But for every video I made, there were probably at least three or four that never made it past the conceptual stage, and one of them was … wait for it … newspaper headlines.

For whatever reason, I kept returning again and again to the idea this year, but I was hesitant to act on the impulse because these projects can be time-consuming to research and edit and the genre has lost its luster — fewer sites cover them now. And because newspaper scenes can be kind of static, I wasn’t sure a 3- or 4-minute clip consisting entirely of them would be all that compelling.

But that’s when it hit me: a Twitter feed, publishing two to three times daily, would be a better format for this kind of content. (Plus, the debate around “fake news” gave it a topical and convenient peg, but that’s mostly just for yuks on my end.)

After a bit of research, I settled on the current handle, penned a pithy little bio and started posting, and well, here we are. It’s been fun to watch a community come together around the account! It’s a bit of insider baseball, so I’m not sure it’ll ever attract a mass following, but the early returns have been promising.

As for goals, this is largely a pet project, but it’s also one that, depending on the potential employer and role, I’ll include in my portfolio to showcase my editorial skill set (I currently freelance as a writer and editor for Cuteness.com on the trending animal beat, but I’m hoping to transition back to full-time work in 2018).

Q. What makes an effective headline in a movie?

A. Ah, good question … and I’m not sure I have the authority to say. While I’ve been writing and editing on the web for 10+ years now (with bylines at publishers like Spin, Yahoo, and BuzzFeed) and can turn the occasional gem, I don’t actually have experience working in print.

But that’s where the community comes in. One of the feed’s followers, @LeCineNerd, is a professional copy editor, and she routinely shares technical critiques that touch on things such as style, formatting, layout and the like. While this was unexpected on my part, I totally welcome insights like this that afford a closer look at how professionals would approach the challenge of creating prop newspapers.

It’s interesting because a lot of the older examples — like this one from “Rocky III” — feature filler text and elements that are completely off-topic or unrelated and were probably splashed together by the art department in a pinch. My guess is that the filmmakers never expected the audience would look deeper, but in the age of streaming and Blu-ray, when every frame can be frozen and inspected, these things fall apart under closer scrutiny. Newer films seem to have course corrected for this but you still find some strange juxtapositions.

Q. What are your favorite movie headlines?

A. My favorite prop headlines skew funny and would include “Goofy Cleared Of Spy Charges” from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” “Disaster Seen As Catastrophe Looms” from “The Iron Giant” (a fantastic sight gag that works in context — the character reading it pulls the paper close as a futile defense in the face of a crashing wave, which is mirrored on his sunglasses — and is itself a callback to something similar in “Lady And The Tramp”), and a pair from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy (“Drunken Billionaire Burns Down Home” and “Billionaire Absconds With Entire Russian Ballet“) that are funny little asides but help flesh out the world-building.

I’ll also always love the one from “Old School” because it provides denouement for Jeremy Piven’s character (an obnoxious college dean who gets his comeuppance) and it’s one of the first headlines-in-film that I really noticed.

Q. You’re focusing on print examples so far. Do you expect to include digital headlines or tweets in your collection as news organizations move in that direction?

A. This is actually something I’ve been wrestling with internally. I’m interested in curating a balance of headlines in all of their various forms (in part because directors use them in so many ways), and this includes print, photocopiesmicrofiche, digital and whatever other forms they might take.

Aside from one scrolling headline pulled from “The Matrix,” I haven’t included digital headlines in the programming yet, but that’s just because I’m working through a long list of movies with print heds. Look for more of these as the project matures!

Follow Movie Heds on Twitter and see examples of Greenwood’s other work at his website.

Q&A with Elaina Athans, reporter at ABC11-WTVD

athans

Elaina Athans is a reporter for ABC11-WTVD, a North Carolina TV station that covers Raleigh, Durham and Fayetteville. A graduate of Hofstra University, Athans previously worked at stations in New York and Maryland. In this interview, conducted by email, Athans discusses her job, including how she uses social media in her work.

Q. Describe your job. What is your typical day like?

A. I’m a general assignment reporter, and all in all, my day is hectic!

I usually come in around 9:30 in the morning and pitch stories I’d like to cover that day or I think would play well on social media. After getting assigned around 10:00 or 10:30, I’m out the door.

I’ll make calls in the car driving to a story and research my piece. I could be live in the noon show, which means there’s a tight window to gather information. I will try to grab interviews as soon as the car is parked and then will flip the sound around for noon.

After the midday show, I have the next few hours to continue gathering, tweet and grab new elements for our evening shows. In between writing my stories for broadcast, I will write a separate web version and send that along to our web department to post online.

Once I’m done with my on-air duties, I’ll also send along a “Night Note” detailing all the information I’ve collected throughout the day and important contacts I’ve made. This is meant to help my colleagues who might be assigned to a follow-up story down the road.

Q. In addition to being on air, journalists at stations like yours also write for the web. What are the challenges of working across formats?

A. I think it can be overwhelming at times, and it’s hard to pace yourself. I have to prepare stories for broadcast and push information out on social media at the same time.

Balance is key. You can’t go hard in one area and wane in the other.

Q. You are active on Twitter, and you have a professionally oriented page on Facebook. What role does social media play in your reporting?

A. To start with, I turn to social media to find stories to pitch. It’s the only place I go for enterprise pieces, to be honest. Folks are always sounding off about what’s going on in their communities or cool things that are happening around town.

I also use it for news gathering. I will incorporate tweets or Facebook posts into my stories. If I’m covering a political story, for instance, the first thing I’ll do is check is Twitter to see if the Senate leader, House speaker, governor or other elected officials are commenting.

When I first started in this business, you had to go through a press rep to get comment on every issue. That is not the case any more.

Q. What advice do you have for student journalists interested in breaking into broadcast?

A. Watch the markets or cities you aspire to work. If your dream is to be in Los Angeles, watch how the reporters in that city are telling stories and then mold your style around that.

Follow Elaina Athans on Twitter and on Facebook, and read her stories on the WTVD website.

Q&A with Colin Campbell, editor of The Insider

Colin Campbell is editor of The Insider State Government News Service, a website and newsletter in Raleigh, North Carolina. He previously worked as a reporter at The News & Observer, covering state politics. In this interview, conducted by email, Campbell discusses his role as editor and The Insider’s operations.

Q. Describe your job. What is your typical day like?

A. When the legislature is in session, I’m usually juggling a bunch of committee meetings and floor votes, writing short items for the newsletter. Outside of session, most of the stories I write are enterprise stories following up on state government news that didn’t get much attention initially.

Our newsletter comes out at midnight, so I typically log in from home around 10 p.m. to give it a final proofread once our production crew has put everything together. On Fridays, we record our weekly podcast with the N&O political team, and I write a weekly column on politics that’s syndicated to papers across the state.

Q. How is The Insider different from The News & Observer and other media that cover state government?

A. The Insider publishes news items from a wide variety of sources to ensure our subscribers get a comprehensive view of the day’s state politics and government news, so we have partnerships with WRAL, The Associated Press and others to use their coverage, as well as the N&O’s stories. That means the Insider’s original reporting can and must go beyond the breaking news of the day that the N&O will be covering.

Our subscribers are lawmakers, lobbyists and business leaders, so we don’t have to focus on topics of interest to a general audience and can instead delve into wonky policy stuff that other outlets typically ignore. We can also be somewhat of a community newspaper for the Legislative Building, looking at minor things like new furniture purchases and building security that are of interest to people who work here often.

Because the Insider is owned by the N&O, the N&O periodically publishes our stories after they appear first in the newsletter.

Q. You and your staff members are frequent users of Twitter. What role does social media play in your coverage?

A. The North Carolina political world is heavily plugged into Twitter, so it’s an invaluable tool for reporting. I frequently find story ideas by browsing the #ncpol hashtag and the people I follow.

It’s also been a helpful way to connect with the political world and establish ourselves as experts, to drive traffic to the N&O’s website, and to promote the Insider newsletter to potential subscribers.

Q. What advice do you have for student journalists interested in covering state government in North Carolina and elsewhere?

A. Be prepared to start small by covering town or county government — that’s the best way to learn how state and local governments operate. Jobs covering state politics are hard to find these days, so experience at a community newspaper is often the best way to start (for UNC students, Jock Lauterer’s community journalism course is the best available for that career path).

It can also be helpful to specialize, as North Carolina and other states have a number of subject-specific start-up news organizations like N.C. Health News and EducationNC, so knowledge in those subjects can be helpful. Keep an active social media presence to make connections and catch the eye of fellow reporters and editors.

Follow Colin Campbell on Twitter and learn more about The Insider in this short video.