#125 – Designing for the demands of media

WASHINGTON – Designing for media is something former journalists do best. That’s Josh Kadis’ take. He helps media organizations design and manage the volume and content of their product.

Kadis is the director of product development at Alley Interactive. Prior to moving to Alley he was senior technologist at Quartz.

Josh Kadis

Photo courtesy of Josh Kadis

“We are a full service digital agency. We do technical strategy, user experience and interface design and development,” he says. Working with media organizations, Kadis says his team can use their experience as journalists to partner with organizations like the Online News Association.

In one of his latest projects redesigning for the The New York Post, he found WordPress isn’t for second tier, smaller news organizations. It in fact is as appropriate for larger publications.

“Historically, there’s been a reluctance on the part of a lot of media organizations to use open content management systems. And I think in part that reflects some genuine things on a technical level specifically in terms of how you connect to the kinds of content management system you need if you’re using the same thing for print and digital,” he says.

They’re finding as they build high volume sites, using a proprietary CMS is unnecessary for anyone. It’s expensive to build and challenging to maintain, Kadis says.

In this week’s podcast, Kadis also talks about designing websites to meet the demands of media outlets and how to analyze metrics to better understand an average reader’s habits on a media website.

Megan Cloherty

Similar Podcasts:

#45 – NPR’s apps editor Brian Boyer turns data into stories

#8 – WNYC’s John Keefe on how to find and tell stories with data

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#124 – Oculus Rift and immersive journalism

Putting a reader inside a story is nothing new for journalists. That’s part of the job description. You’re the witness. You’re the reporter. You’re the proxy for the person who’s not there. You use the tools and tricks of the trade to help them see the events as you’ve reported them.

Anthony DeBarros is the director of Interactive Applications at Gannett. (Photo by Jack Gruber, USA TODAY staff)

Anthony DeBarros is the director of Interactive Applications at Gannett. (Photo by Jack Gruber, USA TODAY staff)

But what if one of those tools helped to actually put the reader in the middle of the story, so they could see events unfold around them? That would be kind of a cool thing, right?

That’s one of the promises of Oculus Rift, a three-dimensional, immersive, virtual-reality technology being tested by Gannett Digital.

To access the Oculus Rift experience, a viewer dons a headset that contains a smartphone-sized screen that takes up the entire field of vision. Motion tracking and an accelerometer are incorporated into the headset, so as the viewer moves, the image projected on the screen moves with them.

“The total effect is that when you’re viewing an experience, the experience is all around you,” said Anthony DeBarros, director of Interactive Applications at Gannett Digital. “It’s as if you’ve stepped inside of a world. If you move your head to look up in the experience you’re looking up. If you look to the left or right, in the experience you’re looking left or right.”

The experience DeBarros is describing should be understandable to anyone who’s played a 3-D video game. Oculus Rift and similar technologies are the next step in immersive storytelling within the gaming realm. Big companies like Facebook and Sony are investing heavily in developing the technology.

But, journalists may have a hard time seeing the practical application for reporting the news.

“Most of the early interest in this has come from the gaming world, and that’s to be expected, because something that’s so immersive and so interactive is going to naturally lend itself very well to existing gaming environments,” DeBarros said. “But once you start to get an understanding of what the technology does, it’s not very hard to be able to set aside the whole idea of gaming and start to think about, ‘Well, what are the other applications for this?'”

DeBarros and his team at Gannett took the journalistic plunge last summer with Harvest of Change, a project they developed with The Des Moines Register. Rather than telling a whizz-bang story with video-game like visuals, they chose a visually mundane — though journalistically important — story to tell about the current state of family farming in Iowa.

“What we do as journalists is really all about telling stories,” DeBarros said. “Traditionally, as writers, as photographers, as builders of interactive applications, the thing that we try to do is bring our readers or bring our viewers into the story. We either do that with very good descriptive writing or we do it with well-produced audio and video or we do it with interactive applications that let people dive into the data. Virtual reality is just simply an extension of those kinds of storytelling tools. It’s another medium that journalists could make use of to tell stories.”

Michael O’Connell

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#123 – Innovation specialist Jackie Kazil: Everyone should innovate

The word “innovation” keeps dogging Jackie Kazil.

Currently, she’s an innovation specialist in the General Services Administration’s 18F office, which she describes as a “tech shop” for the government.

Jackie Kazil

Jackie Kazil is an innovation specialist at the General Services Administration’s 18-F office. (Photo by Michael O’Connell)

Before Kazil became a federal employee, she worked at The Washington Post when the concept of an “innovation editor” was introduced.

“I remember when the positions were created, because I thought to myself … what is this title ‘innovation editor’ and how does it give you some sort of license to innovate?” she said. “It was almost like ‘You can innovate and you cannot.'”

Later, after she’d made the transition from data journalist to government programmer, Kazil became a Presidential Innovation Fellow in the Obama administration, which amused her former coworkers at the Post.

“A couple of ex-colleagues of mine had said to me, ‘Jackie, innovation fellow? Really? The person who had mocked the innovation editor title?'” she said.

It’s not that Kazil dislikes the word or the concept of “innovation”; rather, it’s the exclusivity of picking one group or position as an “innovator” that she questions.

“Everybody should be doing it,” she said. “That is a title that will go away. … There’ll probably always be like a research or labs component to places, like how can we test the boundaries? But, the idea of sort of innovating in the way that we are is going to be an everyday thing.”

In this week’s podcast, Producer Michael O’Connell talks to Jackie Kazil about her journey from being a data journalist to working for the federal government. She says that those two careers aren’t as different as you’d think. She also shares some tips about what skills potential data journalists should pick up.

Michael O’Connell

Similar Podcasts:

#45 – NPR’s apps editor Brian Boyer turns data into stories

#36 – Washington Post’s Kat Downs talks graphics reporting, breaking news visually

#8 – WNYC’s John Keefe on how to find and tell stories with data

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#122 – Geeks, GamerGate and games journalism with Aram Zucker-Scharff

Aram Zucker-Scharff is a self-described geek. Which is OK, because if you’ve listened to our podcast, you’ll know that I’m a geek too.

Zucker-Sharff’s particular flavor of geek is gaming. As a freelancer, he’s covered the video gaming industry for the past couple of years. He also moderates Facebook discussions on gaming and a number of other topics too.

Photo courtesy of Aram Zucker-Scharff

Photo courtesy of Aram Zucker-Scharff

When I found out that he was in D.C. for a few days, I invited him into the studio to talk about a topic that’s been floating around at the edge of my awareness for the past few months now, namely, GamerGate.

When I say that I’ve been sort-of aware of GamerGate, I mean that I’ve seen things pop up loudly in social media and the mainstream press about sexism, bullying, harassment and journalism ethics. I learned a new word — doxing — which is when someone uses the tools of the Internet to find out personal information about an individual and publish it online for everyone to see.

There’s been a lot written about GamerGate. Here are some of the better pieces I’ve come across:

GamerGate is big and deep and dark and ugly, and I don’t pretend to understand all of it.

But it’s clear that it’s something we all need to become more familiar with because it forces us to confront many of the new realities borne out of the digital culture we are building around the Internet.

This is not just a geek thing.

— Michael O’Connell

Related Podcasts:

#98 – What does a successful digital newsroom look like?

#71 – Rob Pegoraro: Making a living as a freelance writer

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#121 – Meet the I-Team: Investigative journalists Tisha Thompson and Rick Yarborough

It takes time to learn how to be an investigative reporter and do it well. NBC Washington’s Tisha Thompson and Rick Yarborough have mastered the art of producing consistently enterprised stories that make a difference.

While they are both humble and say they found the path to investigative reporting in different ways, multiple awards prove their work is some of the best in the country and in joining us on It’s All Journalism, the reporter and producer team shared some tricks they’ve learned over the years.

Full disclosure, Tisha and I are old friends. I met Rick through the Investigative Reporters and Editors professional organization.

Rick Yarborough and Tisha Thompson

Rick Yarborough and Tisha Thompson are part of the investigative reporting team at Washington, D.C.’s NBC affiliate. (Photo by Michael O’Connell)

Our conversation started with the question that is often asked when it comes to local TV reporting, ‘How much do looks matter?’

“It’s a visual medium,” says Yarborough whose career was jump-started when he took the morning producing shift out of college at WIS in South Carolina.

“This is stupid. Here we are talking about investigative reporting and now I’m talking about my hair. But that’s what television is,” Thompson says.

While she found it frustrating to focus on appearance, everyone trying to make it in TV news knows it’s something that needs to be addressed if you’re on air.

“It just means you have to have a super thick skin and just keep trucking forward. And you have to be willing to take advice about whatever it is that isn’t working,” she says.

The two have churned out hundreds of investigative pieces in Washington, D.C. The latest for NBC Washington details the documents that expose the DUIs, speeding tickets and traffic infractions racked up by diplomats. The classified documents took years to procure as they were being withheld from the public because of diplomatic immunity.

Coming up with story ideas is the same process as it has always been, Yarborough says. The ideas come both from sources and by questioning what they hear and see.

“Tips are our bread and butter. That’s what we do. Some of our best stories are things Tisha has seen driving into work or I’ve noticed,” Yarborough says.

As far as style, NBC’s I-Team isn’t confrontational to start. Thompson says after every avenue has been exhausted, she’ll offer the department or person they’re attempting to contact the options.

You treat people with respect. You tell them what’s coming at them. I don’t want someone in an interview to be like, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ That’s a stupid interview. — Tisha Thompson

“We can do this in a well lit room, where you know what’s coming at you and you have thought about what your answers are going to be. … Or we can do this when you’re not expecting me,” she says.

Though they stress that approach is reserved for stories that matter to people’s lives or livelihoods.

“You treat people with respect. You tell them what’s coming at them. I don’t want someone in an interview to be like, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ That’s a stupid interview,” Thompson says.

The approach they use for an interview shocks people, she says. Both talk about why they like to spend time with the source before the camera starts rolling.

Later in the podcast, Yarborough discusses how they have to think twice about using social media, how to get what you want from a Freedom of Information request and the best ways to avoid paperwork.

— Megan Cloherty

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#120 – Mr. Glaser goes to Washington; PBS MediaShift hosts open data event

Mark Glaser, editor of PBS MediaShift, has been covering the shifting media landscape for six years. Part of his mission is to bring new ideas about journalism innovation and startups to the masses.

Glaser and the MediaShift team recently traveled to Washington, D.C., for a Collab/SpaceDC event on open data sponsored by the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri.

Mike and Mark

Mark Glaser, right, editor of PBS MediaShift participates in a shameless selfie with It’s All Journalism producer Michael O’Connell.

“It’s really a collaborative workshop, an all-day workshop that highlights innovative projects,” he said. “And we use improv comedy techniques to get people to work together better, to say ‘Yes’ to other people’s ideas instead of ‘No, that’s a stupid idea.'”

This was the fifth such event MediaShift has put on around the country.

“We try, not like some of the pitch competitions that happen with innovation projects and startups, we actually, instead of naming a winner, making a competition, we really make it about collaboration and kind of helping these projects overcome some of their challenges,” Glaser said.
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#119 — Branded Content: The New York Times finds new life in old business model

Earlier this year, The New York Times launched T Brand Studio, a unit within its advertising department to create branded content for the newspaper’s digital platform.

“Branded content, when you think about it from what it used to be, that was John Deere printing a catalogue,” said Melanie Deziel, the social media strategist for T Brand Studio. “That was Betty Crocker putting a recipe on the back of a box. They were creating content. Brands have been creating content for a really long time.”

Melanie Deziel

Melanie Deziel is the social media strategist for T Brand Studio at The New York Times.

What’s changed in branded content is the same thing that’s changed in journalism as a whole.

“Publishers are adjusting to all of these incredible tools we have at our disposal with the rise of digital and smartphones and tablets and all of that,” she said. “Just as publishers are adjusting, brands are too and they’re realizing that for many of them, they don’t have to reinvent the wheel. They can leverage those tools by partnering with a publisher.”

What publishers like The New York Times hope to reap from such an arrangement is using branded content to help finance the quality journalism the editorial side of their business is creating.
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#118 – ONA14 Wrapup — Crowdsourcing, video production and covering local news

This week, we’re wrapping up our coverage of the 2014 Online News Association Conference in Chicago. Our podcast features three one-on-one interviews that I did on the floor of the Midway.

Phil Groman

Phil Groman explains how the video/crowdsourcing platform Stringwire works. (Photo by Michael O’Connell)

First up, I talk to is Phil Groman, the product lead and the founder of Stringwire, a platform developed by NBCUniversal to crowdsource live video from eyewitnesses at the scene of breaking news.

“We’re trying to close the gap between a story breaking, and a professional news crew getting on the scene,” Groman said. “And in the interim period, as news organizations, we rely on third-party platforms, on media that has already been generated in the past, on YouTube videos or tweets or Instagram photos that have been posted. In a breaking-news context, there is this continuum of the story that is captured, but after the fact, through these recorded mediums.”

What Stringwire aims to do is provide a place for eyewitnesses at the scene of breaking-news events to stream live video, which can be verified more quickly.

“Stringwire has always been as tool for citizen reporting, as a tool for crowdsourcing from the people that are close to the stories,” Groman said. “But during our internal beta it was, of course, used by our own journalists when they got deployed to a story.”

Carla Zuill

Carla Zuill talks about covering local news in Bermuda. (Photo by Michael O’Connell)

The Stringwire app is now available for download on GooglePlay and the iTunes Store.

The second interview is with Carla Zuill, who works with Ocean Media, a small company that’s planning to launch an online daily to cover news in Bermuda.

Bermuda has a small population — about 65,000 — and the younger part of that potential audience is the most engaged when it comes to digital media.

“We’re currently looking for a way actually to engage more youth in the community, getting them more involved in the day-to-day happenings on the island,” Zuill said. “We’re not just going to be online data, but we’re also looking to be trend setter in how we’re going to disseminate our information as well using comprehensive social media.”

Cristoph Pleitgen

Cristoph Pleitgen explains how Wochit works, during a presentation at the 2014 Online News Association Conference in Chicago. (Photo by Michael O’Connell)

The final portion of the podcast starts off with a presentation by Cristoph Pleitgen, the business development leader at Wochit.

Wotchit was founded to tackle two problems — to make video production for Web and mobile commercially feasible and to streamline the video production process.

“We’re not the people who will bring you fully automated video,” Pleitgen said. “That’s not something we believe in. We think from a user perspective, it’s not particularly engaging. We think it’s editorially risky, and we wonder what it does for you as a news brand. Instead, we’d like to use technology, smart automation … at the hands of storytellers, of bloggers, of journalists. Our mission is to empower journalists and not replace them.”

After his presentation, he sat down to chat and answer a few questions about how Wotchit works.

Michael O’Connell

ONA14 Podcasts:

#117 – Amy O’Leary & Tyson Evans — Behind the scenes of the New York Times Innovation Report

#116 – Josh Stearns — Building sustainability for local news

#115 – Diversity, entrepreneurship and making podcasts more visible

#114 – So you wanna podcast? Tips on how to be an online audio star

#113 – Let’s get social with Jeff Jarvis and Mandy Jenkins

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#117 – Amy O’Leary & Tyson Evans — Behind the scenes of the New York Times Innovation Report

Amy O’Leary was at a journalism conference in Amsterdam when she first heard the New York Times Innovation report had been leaked and made public.

As the Times‘ deputy editor of digital operations, O’Leary was part of the team that spent six months preparing the document that was only supposed to be glimpsed by the upper echelon of the newspaper’s editorial staff. Now it was out there online for everyone to see, courtesy of BuzzFeed.

“When if first got out, we were all kind of upset,” she said. “We just didn’t know how people were going to take it. We had this very candid document that had a lot of our most naked challenges laid to to bare in this report, and we just didn’t know. Our harshest critics, our stiffest competition could all sort of pick this apart. And that just never feels good.”

Amy O'Leary & Tyson Evans

Amy O’Leary, left, is the deputy editor of digital operations at The New York Times. Tyson Evans is the Times’ editor of newsroom strategy. (Photo by Michael O’Connell)

Tyson Evans, editor of newsroom strategy at the Times, was one of those who’d seen the report before it had been leaked.

“There had been a little circulation within the Times of people who were asking for feedback around it,” he said. “We were trying to kind of gauge what were the first steps after the report was maybe seen. And then, all of a sudden, everyone was reading it and it was like the most water cooler conversation you could imagine, right?”

Evans described it as something of a magical moment in the newsroom, when everyone was speaking from the same textbook.

“We had this amazing shared document all of a sudden, where everyone was talking about ‘What did you think about the point they made on page 60?'” he said.

When O’Leary and her team put together the report, it included five recommendations that they hoped the Times‘ editorial leadership would adopt.

“We had no idea if our bosses were going to green light any of them,” she said. “The document was meant to persuade them to do these things, and what we didn’t actually expect was that they approved all of them basically immediately. That surprised us. We thought they were going to turn some of them down and maybe just focus on one.”

This occurred shortly after the report was delivered in March and before it’s public posting in May by BuzzFeed reporter Myles Tanzer.

“If anything, having it public and with the public commitment from our editors that they want to pursue all of these, really does hold us accountable in an open and public way to follow through,” O’Leary said. “And I think that’s good.”

O’Leary and Evans spoke about the report and its sudden appearance in the public eye during a Sept. 26 keynote address at the Online News Association’s annual conference in Chicago. The next afternoon, they sat down with It’s All Journalism producers Megan Cloherty and Michael O’Connell to discuss what having the innovation report publicly available means for the Times and the journalism industry as a whole.

Michael O’Connell

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#116 – Josh Stearns — Building sustainability for local news

Josh Stearns has been interested in promoting press freedom for a long time.

“The reason that I got into press freedom is that I was concerned about the state of local news specifically, and protecting the smallest journalists and the smallest operations,” he said. “I just think that when it comes to the health of local communities, we need those people who are both doing the accountability/watchdog reporting locally but also just the neighborhood news, the things that connect us as people to our communities and to others in our neighborhoods.”

Josh Stearns

Josh Stearns is the director of journalism and sustainability at the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. (Photo by Michael O’Connell)

Stearns is director of journalism and sustainability for the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, which is working on a two-year grant from the Knight Foundation looking at community engagement and journalism sustainability issues for community websites.

“I’m working with six local sites around New York and New Jersey basically as a startup mentor and R&D coach, helping them figure out how do they move from just getting off the ground to actually having a diverse revenue stream that’s going to sustain them over the long term.

The sites Stearns is working with range from those founded by former reporters at CNN and The New Jersey Star-Ledger who launched their own hyper-local news sites, to Justin Auciello, an urban planner who founded the Jersey Shore Hurricane News, a Facebook-based news site. The White House honored Auciello for providing Jersey Shore residents with up-to-date news in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

“It’s a really wide-range of groups, but all of them are really focused on supporting their local communities and trying to fill the news gaps that are occurring in New Jersey,” he said.
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