Category Archives: Ideas

Matt Waite’s drone

Drones are not legal for news organization use. Some regulations that may allow their use could be in place by early 2015, but Matt Waite, a Pulitzer-prize winner who now teaches journalism at the University of Nebraska has one and demonstrated it for the ONA13 throng.


Bag A Troll

Presenter: Peter Dykstra – Publisher, The Daily Climate & Environmental Health News
@pdykstra |

Would it work to have a “Troll of the Week”? Using shame as a deterrent?

Boston paper: They pay outside company about $5,000/month to moderate comments, then two regular people serve as moderators for Red Sox/Patriots forum.

Having columnists/reporters go into the comments and post has changed the tenor of the debate, but only when the reporters/columnists are men.

When it’s women, they get attacked. It’s a safety issue for female journalists and female commenters when they have to use their real names.

Some sites have a “bozo” feature – they get banned but they think they’re still posting.

UT San Diego – has hired company to moderate comments means nothing remains up for more than an hour. Comments have to be moderated.

Livestrong site: Using FB comments has been helpful. About 60% women on site. Still have people post fat shaming remarks, listing tempting foods in threads about dieting, also problem with pro-anoxeric posts

Martha Vineyard’s paper: Has had sources refuse to talk for a story because they don’t want to be subjected to the comments online. (This is my worst fear.)

Question from woman w/ Site that deals with intersection of LGBT/spirituality: Where are the sites that have good commenting?

Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates and NPR’s Code Switch mentioned as good examples of well-policed and thoughtful comment boards. Coates spends a lot of time there, NPR is quick to ban comments but always says exactly why.

Yahoo: Has invited trolls to create content for their site and let them see, subtly, how it feels, to get comments that are super critical

Cagle editorial cartoon site: what about dealing with institutional trolls? In response to a controversial cartoon, subject asked his supporters to flame Cagle, which got 10,000 comments, about 3,000 death threats.

Yahoo: Suspects that most of us have institutional trolls, but we may not know it because they don’t represent themselves that way.

Wendi C. Thomas, The Commercial Appeal


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Breaking news drills

First of all, why don’t most news organizations do this as a rule?

You never know when your newsroom finds itself responsible for covering a large, breaking event.

Rick Hancock of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said that in their drill, they built a scenario, gave reporters a heads up at the beginning of the week to let them know something was coming, and sent them out to a scene to cover their “news.”

Things to look at:

  • What to do if the site went down (Do you go straight to social media?)
  • How to handle when/if to take down the paywall
  • How reporters communicate with the newsroom
  • Who’s verifying information/who’s curating it
  • Who you’re talking to in public safety, getting verified information from them
  • Where people are positioned in the newsroom to get the information out as quickly/accurately as possible
  • The best way to get
  • What if reporters don’t have cell coverage (In the event of a natural disaster, this is super applicable.)
  • What to do if your wi-fi goes down
  • When to tweet scanner traffic (Just kidding, the answer to that one is never.)
  • The human toll of covering events, especially when they hit close to home for reporters

Do breaking news drills for your organization. Create as many scenarios as you can. Have contingency plans. Be prepared.

– Naudia Jawad, The Commercial Appeal

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Should we think of articles as particles or waves?

In the optimizing your narrative session, the speakers were divided about which analogy fits best for news. Purposefully, they arrive at the same conclusion physicists reached about light: Both.

Vox Media made the waves argument, demonstrating their StoryStream concept. They explained it as a step of refinement between live blogs and final wrap ups.

“Atomic unit of content is not the article” Trei Brundrett said.

In a hypothetical about an Apple event, Brundrett explained notes or play-by-play are taken in a live blog. Meanwhile short stories are pulled out and fleshed out in the StoryStream tool they custom-built.

The principal idea is that news comes and travels in waves.

Quartz’s Zach Seward argued in favor of particles, acknowledging the desire for atomized news and displaying examples of success with targeted story nuggets. He also discussed the methods of distribution.

“The new news habit is no habit at all,” he said.

He went on to argue, “It’s less likely that they are actively trying to obtain news in a set time of the day. It is more likely that the news is coming at them” as in social media and push notifications to  smartphones.

For those, he said, the prepared and targeted particles have the best success.

The arguments overlap, just as the design and editorial decisions that determine what we can do with both approaches.


–Phil Tenser, KMGH

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This thing and that

`Things` are a surprising factoid a statistc
a chart that shows a clear trend
a photo that you have to look at
a long, authoritative feature
an exclusive bit of news
a very strong argument
a good headline

Zach Seward of Quartz  says that we should be doing these `things`…

‘The jazz age of journalism’

I heard a talk about a really interesting, but maybe not universally agreed upon analogy between jazz and journalism.

Of course, I chose to attend and that meant I was going to be potentially receptive. But I have it well engrained that arguments by analogy are always troublesome — thanks to my other studies in philosophy.

Still, I think that Laura Amico – CEO, Glass Eye Media, made a strong case.

At the core was this premise: jazz and news both exist within the environment.

On the surface, that comment seems obvious. But in the context of jazz, she argued, it should influence our thinking.

Jazz is about improvising in a stepwise manner, reacting to the audience, venue and previous notes.

“Each note, though incremental, shapes the note which it proceeds” she said, clarifying it is called “yes, and” in jazz.

She said, “In order for jazz to happen, each player in the ensemble must be doing their job.”

Again, I found myself reluctantly agreeing that this fit a (good) newsroom model.

Amico offered these three lessons from her comparison to the musica genre:
1. Innovation happens when the mind is free of preconceived plans
2. When we listen to what our colleagues – on and off stage are doing – we create space for all of us to do our best work
3. Take action, say “yes, and”

I’m left, however, with a single philosophical question stemming from a very memorable and unresolved philosophy of aesthetics class discussion: is journalism an art form? Is photojournalism or videography or writing, even if another one isn’t?

Addition from a question from the crowd: he asks about other genre comparisons, Iike punk. It is confrontational, loud, but also can be formulaic.  Doesn’t that sometimes apply too?


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Million dollar idea?

Does anybody know of a map and timeline mashup tool? The question came up during my group discussion in the “Oops, we broke the article machine” session.

I asked on Twitter, and quickly got a few pitches… But I don’t know if any actually do this. What we imagined was a map that changes (or has points appear) as you progress through a timeline. Under each point on the map could be the report from that location.

Each group was given a scenario and asked to answer alternative ways to tell the story. Other interesting ideas: face grid of reporters and sources that click to reveal what they are reporting, another wanted to link a timeline with charts of data for election trends, several brainstormed apps that show projections that could be geolocated for politics or climates. My favorite may be a White House petitions style method for news tips.

And here is a photo of the scenario form my group was given:


–Phil Tenser, KMGH

Updated: An alpha test of a possible solution was announced on by KnightLab in the same day I wrote this post:

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Collab/Space Atlanta showcases media startups


A pre-event ONA event on Wednesday showed that lots of people are thinking of interesting new approaches and new models to news (broadly defined), marketing and social media.

The day-long workshop included presentations, a brain-storming exercise and brainstorming solutions to challenges for specific startups that presented at the workshop.

The photo above from MediaShift shows the breakout group I was in on a site and venture called Clear Health Costs.

Here is some coverage from PBS MediaShift, the organizer of the workshop and which was hosted by MediaShift’s Mark Glaser.

Here’s a Twitter stream from the workshop.

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