Sunday, October 3, 2010

Four Ideas (aka elements) for the Branded explainer

A tool for demand driven explainers

This element is the most common one among all of us and propublica staff and that is why it doesn’t need explanation as much as it needs elaboration, I believe that this tool can work ideally relying on 4 factors
A.The most common words in relation to news people look for on daily basis using search engines or social media websites like Youtube and Twitter.

B.“Upon your request” style of explainers wanted by Propublica users, this can be done by urging users to submit what they need to be explained.

C.The questions raised by the users commenting on the topic in propublica and in other media websites that published the same confusing news items and this includes questions asked on facebook comments or using twitter replying to propublica or even raising the issue in social media.

D.Editorial decision, we can’t ignore that some investigative journalists who are experienced in explaining complicated topics and have history in predicting upcoming developments in their beats can be very helpful by making suggestions even before the rise of the demand.

Explainers tool kit

This tool should be a collection of all possible types of explainers gathered in one place (slideshows, videos, timelines, fact boxes, Q&A, etc)

Reporters and editors should be familiar to all these tools and should go through them as a part of their work flow to make decisions on which tools can serve their stories the best.

This tool kit can be in the backend of where every journalist can go through it before publishing and can feed it with information gradually so that we can fulfill the goal described by Amanda Mitchell as a “Ticker” showing the new developments every day.

Explain it yourself tool

One of the important elements that should be included is creating a way to enable users to create their own explainers and post them online.

As Jay Rosen mentioned in his famous post “The Journalists Formerly Known as the Media: My Advice to the Next Generation” users know more than you do, if we can enable users to send their work and databases regarding a certain topic, this will save a lot of time and effort for propublica editors and will enable users to have their space and freedom to explain, this will require us to create a tutorial to show the users what to do, how to contribute and how to reward those who participate, it is similar to managing online communities.

How the Explainer will be viewed?

Where the explainer items should be found on Propublica? .. will it be viewed as a news item like any other story or as a page with a big banner in the upper half of the home page?

How the explainers will accompany stories that need explanation?
Can we insert explainers inside a new investigative story by clicking some words or some titles or should it be shown as side items?

Navigating the explainer is another issue needs some work because we don’t want it to turn into an archive which was described by Jay Rosen as the easiest way journalists arrange their work.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

5 social media policies you should know

If you are a journalist.. You don’t own your name

I am interested in reading the BBC guide for Personal use of social networking and what they call “other third party websites” as blogs, microblogs and personal web-space.

BBC is one of the first media organizations using online tools to interact with its audience worldwide and it affects many newsrooms in Africa and Asia as a role model and that is why it is interesting to find out their take on this controversial issue.

This guide reminds me of Octavia Nasr the former CNN anchor who was fired from her job because of sending a tweet showing her respect of a leader in Hezbollah shortly after he passed away.

CNN decision created a debate in media organizations about the limits on journalist’s personal freedom and whether they should behave in their personal life as representatives of their organizations or not.

The BBC guide doesn’t only discuss opinions expressed by journalists through social media but also it covers their involvement in building open encyclopedias like Wikipedia and balance in the groups they join on facebook.

The guide which was updated last February brought issues like relationships between colleagues in BBC through social networks and restrictions over using BBC brand name in blogging.

I might not agree on all points in this guideline, but it remains an important source of discussions in newsrooms.

Questions related to content from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube?

I have posted this link before and I am using it again because I believe it is very important to raise questions inside the newsroom or the journalism classroom in order to understand ethics.

What protocols do you have for checking the truthfulness of photographs or video that you find on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or photo-sharing sites? .. this question is one of several questions raised in the social media and blogging ethical guide for Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA).

The significant point about this guide is it contains some open ended questions to use it inside newsrooms.. very useful for editors who need to set a professional code of ethics for their online publications.

The Buttry Diary

Steve Buttry the journalism trainer and the director of community engagement in TBD gives some tips in one of his blog posts.

Buttry gave journalists useful advice through 6 general tips then he speaks about 6 important websites of social networking.

This handout can be used as a very good introduction for those who didn’t set a policy before for dealing with social media and it provides guidance for professional journalists who are not aware of their organizations new media policies.

Why Wall Street Journal policy isnt that good?

One of the good articles I found is an interview with Jane E. Kirtley, Professor of Media Ethics and Law and director of the Silha Center at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota conducted by

In this interview Kirtley criticize the Wall Street Journal social media policy pointing out some very important issues as discussing the subject of a new story with readers before it is published or allowing journalists to express their personal opinions before introducing their stories.

Kirtely believe that these old objectivity guidelines is the reason why newspapers are losing audience because the content is not personal.

Reuters: Use two separate accounts

Reuters social media guidlines emphasizes the role of social media as tool of reporting and distribution of content online.

The news agency encourages the journalists to use facebook for example to gather information and receive updates or tips from their sources as its nature is to compete with news providers and send stories before them.

The guideline suggests that journalists shouldn’t include much personal information and urge them to use separate accounts from the professional ones.

In the same time the agency urges editors to apply the same rules they apply on their regular service on twitter as sending corrections and mentioning Reuters name.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Five Codes of Ethics I Recommend For Journalists

1- Ethics in the digital age

Although this set of ethics is not a formal code I find it a very important discussion about issues in digital journalism, the guidelines here tackles issues like linking, user generated content, anonymity of users and moderating forums.

The post also present ethical guidelines in the form of FAQ which is easier to for everyone understand.

2-What about Facebook, Twitter and YouTube?

What protocols do you have for checking the truthfulness of photographs or video that you find on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or photo-sharing sites? .. this question is one of several questions raised in the social media and blogging ethical guide for Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA).

The significant point about this guide is it contains some open ended questions to use it inside newsrooms .. very useful for editors who need to set a professional code of ethics for their oniline publications.

3- Regret The Error

If double checking the facts and making sure of information provided by the sources is part of the ethical code of journalism then this is will be a very useful copy editing checklist of 44 points should be taken in consideration to avoid publishing errors.

In addition to that checklist, Regret The Error is a very good blog to learn from other people’s mistakes, it tracks errors in media telling stories of every mistake, the blog is edited by Craig Silverman the columnist for Columbia Journalism Review and author of a book who have the same title “Regret the Error”.

4- Ethics of photoshop

If the internet and social media revolution created the famous rule “Everybody is a journalist”, Digital Cameras and photo editing programs made everybody a professional photographer, that is why I find this set of ethics by The National Press Photographers Foundation very useful to every young journalist.

The best part of this code is it gives examples of manipulation and wrong doing made by well established media organizations to avoid their previous mistakes.

5- Global ethics

Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute in Missouri school of journalism offers an extensive list of more than 400 code of ethics worldwide practiced by journalists from Albania to Zambia, you can navigate ethics by country.

This list is very useful to understand the common points and differences between countries from different regions around the world, in most cases codes of ethics are ideal and doesn’t reflect the situation of press freedom and availability of information in every country.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Interactivity Editing (8 hours)

check our latest course

Maestro: (3 hours)

How to create side items for the big story?
How to create alternative ways for telling your story?

Practical training with the photo editor (1 hour)

(participants work in groups to produce stories)

The art of listing: (2 hour)

When, why and how to use it?
practical training

Benefits of google and web 2.0: (2 hours)

Delicious, Flickr, video compressing, photo editing, sound mixing and much more free online applications serving the editorial process.

Made in

watch how presented Manchester united's manager Sir Alex Ferguson career in a slide show .. it was a bit long but a great collection of pics that fans like to watch

My reflection on the experience of being a journalist in the age of convergence

Although I was introduced to the concepts of convergent journalism and multimedia journalism 2 years ago in United States .. I only practiced it today with the full meaning of the new tasks required from reporters.

I have practiced it partially as an editor by telling the story in different forms and even teaching others how to tell it in text, slideshows and videos.

Today I attended the press conference of Vingada al-ahly club new coach

and I was gathering material to produce interactive content .. I found that :

1- it is a very possible task for one person to gather photos and videos while still taking notes as a reporter in the same time. (I remember how mark comerford said once about how we can do multitasks in the same time in good quality).

2- you have to think wisely when to take video or sound bites coz you should expect when the source is going to say something interesting or u r wasting ur memory card.

3- At the time of video recording u should hold ur camera tight and focus in what is said in order to write it down after you finish recording.

4- to beat ur competitors you should have a speedy internet connection or to have someone on the phone to post breaking news (as ahmed ezz helped me).

5- Start capturing photos for ur slideshow even before the event starts you will be saving ur time .. taking close shots for meaningful stuff in the place can help u create a slideshow story by mixing wide and medium and close shoots (as mentioned by Rob Montgomery). .. I add for low quality cameras u should mix between using flash in certain shots and avoid it in other shots.

6- Don’t sit down in the middle of a row of chairs or u will lock urself from moving to get different angels.

7- in office you need good internet connection or you will be pissed off coz you cant upload ur material.

8- make a plan in ur way to the office like : give photos to the photo editor then upload video to youtube .. continue writing while the first 2 tasks are handled by someone else.

9- as an editor you should know that big news and VIEs (very important events) deserve to send one reporter for every task .. it worth but I time of financial crisis and low budget task one well trained journalist is enough .. he can produce a good story.
watch the video :

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Great Debaters

As one significant result of our first course Ahmed Ezz wrote a very good story creating a debate on who deserves to join Egypt's starting 11 players against Zambia in the world cup qualifiers.

The best thing about this debate that it was published in an almost dead time of getting news (just 12 hours before the game) and 9 hours before announcing the final 11.

The story was read more than 27000 times and it generated 354 comments .. more than 95 % of these comments were in point with no offensive content.

this debate was one of the debates we created methodically to attract users when we dont have big news reports.
you can read our debates here :