From infotoys to BOPs

Journalists have more options than ever to tell great stories online. But even as multimedia skills become more sophisticated, newsrooms are focusing on just a handful of approaches because they seem to be most effective. That’s the conclusion of a terrific review in OJR by Nora Paul and Laura Ruel of the Society for News Design’s Best of Multimedia Design Competition . So what are infotoys and BOPs?

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Ignore the “if only” voice

“If only his eyes were open…” “If only that clock were not behind his head…” Jack Zibluck, who teaches photojournalism at Arkansas State University, says the only way to deal with these musings is to say “No.” Just because you can make a photo better by asking a subject to move or “fixing” the background after the fact does not mean you should. But in the June issue of the NPPA magazine NewsPhotographer, Zibluck admits he’s said “yes” more than once.
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Hyperlocal maps

KHOU crime mapHow can you share data quickly and easily online? KHOU-TV in Houston, Texas, used simple PDF maps. Reporter Mark Greenblatt says in The IRE Journal that his station didn’t have time to buy mapping software or train the Web staff to use it, so they created PDF files of neighborhood maps showing where aggravated assaults occurred in 2006. Users could link to these “hot spots” from a city map with embedded links, created in Macromedia Dreamweaver.

Almost immediately, we found out just how hungry our viewers were for local information like this. Our Web traffic for these searchable maps outpaced the number of hits a standard news story receives by more than 1,000 percent.”

The station also posted Excel files so users could see incidents by zip code, and zip codes ranked by number of crimes. Useful stuff, easily done.

Think like a detective

Good advice from Bob Woodward of Watergate fame: Reporters should remember that investigative journalism is a lot like “what TV’s Columbo does.” Two stories from a new biography of Woodward and Carl Bernstein make the point. When the five burglars were arrested at the Watergate, Woodward asks,

What do you do? Do you go over and have lunch at the San Souci restaurant with some FBI official to find out what’s going on? No. You study the five burglars and find out where they’re from, where they live, where they work, who they talk to, who they socialize with, what they background is, how old they are, what their children do, where they go to church, where they bank, who their neighbors are.

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Golden age of photo ethics?

There’s good news and bad news when it comes to photo manipulation. David Perlmutter, associate dean at the University of Kansas school of journalism, believes that by some standards, this is the golden age of photojournalism ethics. “If you are caught faking a picture today, you are fired,” he told American Journalism Review.

Fifty years ago, it was just part of the business. Now most people have gone to journalism school and learned ethics. Newsrooms are taking these things more seriously. Standards are higher than ever. On the other hand, it has become so much easier to get away with the crime.

True, but it’s also easier to get caught, because anyone anywhere can review online images for accuracy. Alert readers can and do blow the whistle on manipulated images. Read more in The New York Times about a case involving a Reuters freelancer.

A newspaper bucks the trend

USA Today was mocked when it launched 25 years ago. McPaper, they called it, with its “news nuggets” and “charticles.” But it has survived and is now thriving. According to editor Ken Paulson, USA Today is selling more copies now than it was six months ago. Why?

During a forum at American University, Paulson said new subscribers are telling USA Today they wanted more national and international news than they were getting in their local newspapers. That seems to fit with the recent trend toward “hyperlocal” coverage by many newspapers around the country. Continue reading

Giggles can harm credibility

ABC’s World News Now anchors totally lost it over the summer, dissolving in laughter while reporting an attempted suicide. Ryan Owens and Taina Hernandez were reprimanded and later apologized on the air, but that hasn’t stopped them from cracking up about other serious stories, including terrorism, fatal floods and breast cancer, Broadcasting & Cable reports. Continue reading

Local TV Web sites gain

Need more evidence that the Web is a growth area for TV news? A new study says one in four American adults visits a local station site every month, and many of the most frequent users are not heavy TV viewers.

“Television understands the power of the multi-media platform and stations have been putting renewed effort into their websites and it is paying off,” said Media Audit president Bob Jordan.

Across the nation 73% of adults are going online. With 27% going to local TV websites, this means that nearly 40% of internet users are visiting their local TV websites. This is a strong testament to the appeal of the local TV websites.”

The numbers are up from a year ago, when the top station site drew 46.1 percent of adults in the market. This year, the top ranked station drew 49.7 percent. Lower-ranked stations showed even more growth. Last year, the 9th ranked station drew 23.8 percent of adults, compared to 37.1 percent this year.

“There are 6 markets–Raleigh, Tulsa, Denver, Columbia, Little Rock and Madison –where over half the adult online population is going to a local TV website, ” Jordan said. He expects the number of markets on that list to double over the next year.