It's time to ramble on…

The thoughts of a young journalist in southeastern Michigan

Posts Tagged ‘Journalism

Thinking about trying to go paperless for 30 days

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UPDATE: So I did not follow up with this post, namely because I saw I used very little paper. In attempting it, I found I’m a fairly light paper user, save my reporter notebooks. At the very least, this project showed me that. Thus the lack of follow-up.

I’ve been using Evernote, the note-taking productivity tool, since early last year. Since starting to use my Android phone, I’ve definitely began using it more and more.

Every once in a while, I see talks of “going paperless,” something that would be very difficult to do for a reporter using documents and such. But I’ve decided to give it shot with Evernote’s most recent blog post, advertising its 30-day paperless challenge.

While it’s not the best way to store all personal data (see: passwords), it’s a great tool for keeping things together that aren’t as critical, such as news clippings, grocery lists and miscellaneous information. It’s come in handy with my fiance and I as we plan our wedding: we can use the program to save items for our registry, and carry them with us to do some price comparisons at other stores.

Of course, not all paper can go away with being a reporter. Just ask this stack of notebooks sitting behind my desk at home.

It’s a great tool for journalism as well. I use it to type out my story notes, police briefs and save important web pages for later. I use a label system and can find what notes go with the school district I cover, my story list for the week or reference what police case numbers I’m requesting more info on from the local department for crime briefs.

So I’m taking Evernote’s advice and trying to reduce paper clutter starting tomorrow. I’ll post here at least once or twice to gauge how well I’m doing; I’m more likely to succeed if I make it public.

I don’t have a major gameplan yet, so I’ll probably try and follow Evernote blogger Jamie Todd Rubin’s advice for now. I’ll probably shift this as I go on, but it’s a good start.

If you want to, give it a shot as well. Follow the event on Facebook for updates. Some ideas are popping onto the wall as well, so be sure to use some of those.

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Written by David Veselenak

August 20, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Posted in Journalism, Technology

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The “breaking news” tag: is it broken for the web?

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Even with this “digital transformation” in news delivery, it’s still a very common occurrence: a big story is first reported on, say, for instance, a prominent cabinet announces his resignation. The first group to report it, we’ll say its the Washington Post, publishes a tweet at 1:45 p.m. saying “BREAKING: Secretary of Energy to announce resignation” and posts a link shortly afterward.

Twenty minutes later, another tweet regarding the news will go out, this time from perhaps a college publication or smaller local news org, that says “BREAKING: Cabinet member to resign.”

The question is, when does a story still warrant that “breaking news” label? Is it when the first story is published no matter who does the publishing? Is it “breaking” when its the first notification goes out from that news org? Is it “Breaking” at all? Even Breakingnews.com isn’t always first when it comes to the big stories on Twitter.

Dictionary.com defines the term as “news that is happening and being reported on or revealed at this moment.” So by that terminology, only the first news organization that announces the news has broken it; the rest are just following suit. So why is the term “breaking news” still being used so loosely?

Some inspiration for this question came from Journal Register Company Director of Community Engagement and Social Media Steve Buttry’s post on the news alert sent out by the Post in the very early morning hours, stating the U.S. electorate “was frustrated” a year out from the 2012 presidential election. Buttry writes:

Really? A poll that reveals nothing new and just confirms what everyone knows about the country’s mood deserves a news alert? At 12:18 a.m.?

Buttry calls the timing of the message – being pushed at 12:18 a.m. – “print thinking,” something that definitely won’t help a the digital delivery of news. This led me to the thinking behind this post. The question still plagues many journalists still adapting to a digital delivery: how do we handle big stories that have recently unfolded? Some of us still classify news that is big as “breaking:” to some, this can feel natural; people are checking our site first, so its big news to them, right? But for those we are going to go to places such as Twitter first, by the time they check your site, they already know the news; it isn’t breaking anymore.

I had a conversation with a colleague mine on Twitter several weeks back on this very subject, and came to this conclusion:

In the Web age, the term “breaking” should cease to be used. Nothing is breaking 5 minutes after it happened; its become old.

It doesn’t just apply to big stories, either. Repeatedly, I’ve seen tweets, especially from the Associated Press Twitter account, with the breaking label that doesn’t just seem like “breaking” news. Take this tweet, for example, sent Friday night:

BREAKING: Obama calls Penn State sex-abuse case “heartbreaking” -CC

I don’t disagree that this is important information: The Penn State scandal has dominated news sites all last week, and it was the first comment from the president on the matter. But wouldn’t most people familiar with the Penn State news expect the president to think nothing less? Does this deserve a “breaking” tag, especially when it was sent out on a Friday night, and is nothing but a presidential statement? This type of tweet would be still appropriate to send out, perhaps just dropping the “BREAKING:” altogether.

Is there a better way to convey bigger stories than just labeling them “breaking”? Or is there a better way to use that phrase in a more web-friendly manner?

Written by David Veselenak

November 13, 2011 at 7:41 pm

My year in review: It’s been a wild one!

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It has been a crazy 2010.

It started with this blog, which began as a class assignment for my online journalism class. I had held a blog previously, but I saw this site as a great way to help grow as a journalist after graduation. And I’m proud of myself for continuing it (not to mention the “A” I received for this site).

I’ve grown a lot since I began the year covering the first Mount Pleasant City Commission meeting for Central Michigan Life. I served as online editor of my alma mater’s newspaper this spring, doing all things Web-first and managing the paper’s website and social media pages. The experience allowed me to take a bit of break from the grind of running editorial content as a news and managing editor. But it gave me the opportunity to pursue one of the best decisions I felt I made this year: take over the Mount Pleasant city beat.

As someone who didn’t have an internship until after graduation, this decision was one that prepared me for the “real world.” Covering university-related issues is great, but community news orgs want you to cover local government. I was able to cover more than a dozen meetings, dealing with complex issues such as budget slashing, infrastructure and business. The city of Mount Pleasant is a great place to get experience with covering, and I highly recommend Central Michigan University j-students to give it a shot.

The highlight of the year reporting-wise, though, came this summer working on the politics desk as an

The press pass I was issued when I arrived at the airport to cover President Barack Obama's landing. I had two by the end of the summer, the other coming when he spoke at the groundbreaking for the LG Chem lithium ion battery plant in Holland.

intern with the Grand Rapids Press. The first assignment was to cover a town hall with soon-to-become Gov.-elect Rick Snyder, and it only got better from there. Overall, I met three candidates for governor, Spoke with several state legislatures, the mayor of Grand Rapids, and added two White House press passes to my collection of White House press passes (which brought my total to two).

The opportunity to cover politics during one of the most heated political primary years in Michigan was nothing short of spectacular. There was always something to write about in politics, and it never got old. Writing on several general assignment pieces allowed me to meet and see the best charitable organizations Grand Rapids had to offer, including the Ronald McDonald House, Gilda’s Club and the Blandford Nature Center.

My reporting was capped with a giant profile piece on Michigan State Sen. Jim Barcia, a politician who is retiring after 34 years as a legislator at the state and federal level. I drove down to Lansing to spend time with the Senator in the Capitol (which I can’t help but marvel at every time I go there), and met with him in his office. After meeting with him and his wife at their home for a behind-the-scenes look, I crafted a piece looking back at his career. It is the biggest piece I’ve written to date, and I haven’t spent so much  on a piece before. It turned out well, and was posted on two entries on The Bay City Times’ page.

Which brings me to perhaps what I learned the most this year: Web posting. I got a big dose of online reality when I began at the Times in August. Like I’ve said previously, the cuts in print have forced the Booth Mid-Michigan newspapers adapt their news model, and I was thrown right into the mix. Stories were still important, especially for print, but most of our day is consumed by Web posts on MLive.

This has showed me the power of the Web at it’s finest. Especially Election Day, when I was responsible for 10 of the Times’ posts, I’ve learned that getting things online as fast as possible is the way we are headed.

So, what does all this leave for goals in 2011?

  • For one, just because I’ve graduated and am out of school doesn’t mean I want to stop learning. There’s still a lot I need to master personally. I never got around to teaching myself more HTML and CSS coding, and I want to begin doing more of that.
  • I want to be a more regular Web presence, blogging more often and using social media more to make communicating with others more effective.
  • I have little to no experience with anything mobile, mostly because the phone I have is a Samsung Alias 2, aka a “dumbphone.” I’d like to invest in some sort of smart phone this year to help understand the world of mobile news.

With beginning at Heritage Newspapers shortly after the first of the year, I have a feeling my learning curve will change. I’m hoping 2011 has more great news to come.

Written by David Veselenak

December 27, 2010 at 9:27 pm

Some questions on the new seven-day delivery for the Detroit Free Press and News

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(Note: I was going to use this post as my first week review at the Grand Rapids Press. But seeing how something else a little more timely popped up, I will save that post for later this week.)

Waking up this morning, I heard some news that makes me believe the economy as a whole is turning around.

The Detroit Free Press and Detroit News, the two major newspapers I rely the most on, announced that seven-day delivery would start back up again in select areas in metro-Detroit via independent contractors on the days the News and Free Press don’t already deliver.

By no means is this a reversion to the old way where deliverers would receive their instructions from the papers and go from there. This will essentially have independent contractors (in other journalistic terms, “freelancers”) receive several copies of the News and Free Press, most likely in the morning, and have them be sole proprietor in distributing them on the days the News and Free Press don’t already deliver – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.

This is a good sign. I wrote about the change in my previous blog when it was announced, and wasn’t sure what it meant. Now, being older and slightly more mature on the subject matter, this is a step in the right direction for newspapers. As good as this is for the customer that wants seven-day delivery, several questions come to mind regarding the service:

First, as awesome as home delivery is seven days a week is, who will be responsible when a problem with delivery pops up, the independent contractor or the newspaper? I would assume the independent contractor would be. Which could prove problematic to the News and Free Press. If there’s a major delivery problem, even if the newspaper could discipline these distributors, it may be too late if the customer has cancelled their subscription. I don’t know what type of screening process the newspapers will have, but here’s hoping it’s extensive to insure customers don’t get frustrated.

Another question that comes up is an issue of timing. Once those newspapers get dropped off at the contractors home, is there a deadline on when they get delivered, or is it whenever the contractor can do it? This seems to remind of when I home delivered the Royal Oak/Clawson Mirror once a week. Whenever I was able to deliver the newspapers, usually after school, is when they were delivered. There was no consistency with when people got their papers. While that was okay with a small weekly, the largest paper in the state will cause some different reactions if the paper isn’t on the porch before work. That’s when most people want their paper, and hopefully the News and Free Press have very high standards when hiring these contractors.

If anyone from the companies stumbles across this post, I’d love to know the answers somehow – a comment, or include them in a Q-and-A on the respective websites when it comes closer to the change.

The Great Lakes Bay Edition flag on its first day of publishing, March 30, 2010. The edition also began including some news from Midland in the publication, and is circulated there as well.

These aren’t the only newspapers in Michigan that have seen increased change in the last year. The Flint Journal, owned by Booth Newspapers (the same company that owns the Grand Rapids Press, whom I work for), decreased publishing from seven days to three last year, and in late March, added a fourth day, meaning the Journal now publishes Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

The Bay City Times and Saginaw News, another pair of Booth papers, went down from seven days to three days at the same time as the Flint Journal, but created a joint Tuesday publication, the Great Lakes Bay Edition, which publishes for the Saginaw Bay region on Tuesdays.

The increase in circulation and home delivery is a good sign. Waking up this morning and reading the note from Free Press publisher Paul Anger gave me a breath of relief. It shows that advertisers are beginning to come back to print products, meaning the money is there to spend. Here’s hoping in December that one company has enough money to hire a reporter fresh off graduating college and two big-city internships.

Written by David Veselenak

May 30, 2010 at 7:07 pm

Like an onion, packaging has layers

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Incorporation is important in several aspect, including the Bill of Rights. But it is also important when it comes to reporting as well.

When covering a story with multiple mediums (print, photo, video, etc.), it is imperative that those mediums are consistent. This may seem like an obvious move-“of course everything should match up”- but it isn’t as easy as it seems. I was able to experience this on March 18 in covering the United States Census Bureau tour, which stopped by CMU to promote the completion of people’s census forms.

This story had three layers: a written story, photo and video (which can be found here). While I constructed two of these pieces, it still needed the still image aspect, which photographer Paige Calamari shot. But seeing this type of assignment from both sides-the reporter and editor- I’ve noticed the importance of covering things with another journalist, and have included some here.

1. Work with your co-worker before coverage begins.

This is a big proponent to any story. If you don’t talk to the photographer/writer before covering, how will you know where to meet up/what your angle will be, etc.? It also helps to know what both of your initial thoughts are on the assignment, and possible angles that would play up both the story and photos (and other layers if you have them as well, such as video).

2. Stay close on assignment.

If you don’t know what the other is doing, how is your story supposed to match the photos? Going off for a while is perfectly okay, but regroup as much as possible. See who the other has talked to, and possible angles may appear quicker than you think.

3. Sacrifice.

As a writer, you may have a bombshell narrative lead all set up. You interview that person extensively, and get back to to write your story. The only problem? The photographer has no photos of him/her. Your lead is useless without the photo (or again, video) to match up with. Don’t be afraid to sacrifice that awesome lead or well-composed photo if it means the packaging will improve.

At the end of the day, the packaging is the most important element, not the single story or photos. Ego can sometimes get in the way of journalists; they want what’s best for them. But with changing business models, audiences want something they can relate to, and a well-rounded package can provide the reader this.

Written by David Veselenak

March 28, 2010 at 6:50 pm

Posted in Journalism

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A side step: Judging the ethics of the Olympics

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Because of myself being a major Winter Olympics junkie (if you haven’t noticed by my tweeting the last few days), I have been trying to figure out how to incorporate the Games into this blog. And instead of advice or personal viewpoints, I’ve decided to pose an ethics question to those who visit.

By now, everyone’s heard about the Georgian luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili, and the untimely death he faced Friday as he lost control of his sled and flew off the track in Whistler, British Columbia. Tons of news reports are out there, reporting on the aftermath.

Now, herein lies the question: Youtube has seemingly pulled the video of Kumaritashvili crashing, citing that it is copyrighted by the International Olympic Committee (although the Associated Press video is still there). But a lot of people are crying out that the video is insensitive and not appropriate for viewership. I’m providing the clip because I want people to judge for themselves, but please be warned, it IS graphic:

And it isn’t just Youtube that’s pulling the clip. NBC has reportedly ordered that the clip no longer be played because of its nature. Only executive Steve Capus has the authority to allow the clip to be played, and it doesn’t sound like he’ll do that anytime soon.

The question is: Should this video be pulled from the Internet because of its nature? And is it journalistically ethical to play and post the video?

My two cents: I don’t think there’s anything illegal about the clip, as it is what happened. Nowadays, with 24-hour news channels, there is more of a tendency to replay clips of disasters over and over again (see: 9/11), something many viewers feel is gratuitous and unnecessary. Personally, it probably does not need to be played as often now, as the timeliness of the story is fading. As it was, I had a hard time watching the luge events this weekend knowing that that incident had happened. As the his father said, the track shouldn’t cause the death of an athlete.

If, however, the IOC investigates and something is determined, it may become ok to air it again to allow the public to scrutinize the ruling (as long as it isn’t played over and over again, see example above). But because it is news and was in a public place, there’s nothing illegal (at least in the United States) about posting and airing this clip. It’s just become tasteless.

Written by David Veselenak

February 16, 2010 at 4:13 am

The beginning

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This is the first of what I hope to be a series of informative blog posts regarding the media industry and college students and graduates. I hope to offer my insight on the media industry, and give suggestions to those beginning in it.

While this first post is an introductory post, I can offer one bit of advice to students out there looking to join the media business after graduation: Get involved with your college’s media organization(s).

It is impounded into the minds of college freshmen and high school seniors that classes are the most important during their time at college. While classes are the backbone of a good liberal arts education, nothing teaches a journalist more than reporting a story, shooting a photo or creating a news video that will be seen by hundreds, if not thousands of people.

Working on an assignment that will reach people gives it more meaning, and will be a better judge of your abilities than just turning in a story for class. While that still needs to be completed, getting published is the best thing an up-and-coming journalist can do.

I hope to improve this blog and write more to what readers are looking for. If there is a subject matter that you’d like to see my comments on, please leave your feedback below!

Written by David Veselenak

January 31, 2010 at 7:43 pm

Posted in Journalism

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