» Journalism Covering the Business of Nonprofit and Independent News Thu, 12 Mar 2015 19:10:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Kevin Davis: What the ‘Lens’ story teaches news nonprofits about editorial independence Tue, 10 Feb 2015 17:56:29 +0000 “Unfortunately in today’s society, good journalism doesn’t necessarily translate to plentiful funding,” writes Paul Maassen, general manager of WWNO, in NetNewsCheck’s piece about the saga of how the Lens of New Orleans lost its office space on the Loyola University campus there.

He’s right. Today, nonprofit newsrooms around the globe have to scramble to keep the lights on, rely too heavily on too few funding sources and, as a result, are susceptible to influence exertion and retribution from funders, supporters and suppliers. 

While the case of Loyola’s decision to not renew the Lens’s lease for office space was ostensibly about resource constraints, the appearance of this move being punishment for the paper’s coverage of the university’s president, the Rev. Kevin Wildes—who then chaired the New Orleans’ Civil Service Commission—being in bed with city officials is very troubling.

Not only is this bad for the Lens (costing it more than $30,000 per year to relocate and pay for new space), it also deprives Loyola’s journalism students the opportunity to work on the forefront of civic journalism. And it negatively impacts the media environment in New Orleans, which continues to struggle with the information needs of its citizens. 

Unfortunately, this is not the only case of apparent backroom attempts to punish a nonprofit newsroom that aims to inform its community while also helping train a future generation of journalists. In June of 2013, legislation was introduced by the Wisconsin legislature that would have evicted the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism from its UW-Madison offices and barred faculty from working with its reporters.

Despite these attacks, both the Lens and the Wisconsin Center are able continue to report on the type of civic stories that commercial news organizations often can’t or won’t do. (Full disclosure: both the Lens and the Wisconsin Center are members of the organization that I run, the Investigative News Network.)

This is not an issue just for university-based nonprofit news organizations. Any nonprofit that accepts grants from a philanthropist or foundation also inherits the legacy of the funder or founder. Nonprofit news organizations that accept monies from foundations or directly from well-known philanthropists such as George Soros, John Arnold or the Koch Brothers are often painted with the funder’s political brush and suffer attacks based on that presumption.

But there are concrete steps a nonprofit can take before it accepts funds, services or enters into any contract with an outside party:

Be transparent. Producing ethical journalism in the public interest isn’t easy, but it’s what the 100-plus nonprofit news organizations that are members of INN do. Helping people understand what you do, why you do it and where you’re coming from is proving to be even harder. It starts with mission-driven organizations acting in the public interest by disclosing their donors and encouraging their readers to make up their own minds about the ethics and motivations of a story or the organization behind it.

Adopt strict editorial independence and conflict of interest policies. Under the review of leading ethicists in the field of journalism, INN recently crafted and adopted an Editorial Independence Policy, specifically to provide our nonprofit newsrooms with a clear statement to provide to their funders, supporters and suppliers that states up front and center:

“Our organization retains full authority over editorial content to protect the best journalistic and business interests of our organization. We will maintain a firewall between news coverage decisions and sources of all revenue. Acceptance of financial support does not constitute implied or actual endorsement of donors or their products, services or opinions.”

By adopting, posting and providing this policy to all its funders, supporters, suppliers and readers, along with a clearly stated Conflict of Interest policy, an independent news organization can go a long way to setting expectations up front. By educating the supporter at the outset, we believe that it will prevent and rebuff future attempts to influence the organization’s editorial content. 

Tell your own story, before someone else does. While journalists and practitioners pride themselves on their ethics and ethos, the battering that our profession has taken in public opinion means that it is now easier for bad actors to attack the source of a story than to deny the facts. Now more than ever, it is incumbent on investigative reporters and mission-driven news organizations to proactively tell their own stories and educate their audience rather than let others, who may or may not have the public’s interest at heart, do it for them.

While these steps may or may not have prevented the turn of events in New Orleans and Madison, it is likely that by adopting these ahead of time, news organizations will be more effective in establishing clear boundaries up front, while at the same time increasing the level of trust with their discerning audience members.

This post originally appeared on NetNewsCheck and has been republished with permission.

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What’s wrong with a state-funded news site?  Well… Tue, 10 Feb 2015 17:41:26 +0000 Concept photo of "Just IN," a proposed news site run by the state of Indiana.

Concept photo of Just IN, a proposed news site run by the state of Indiana.

I was a little busy last week, but I did notice one story running by me on Twitter: The state of Indiana was going to open and fund a news site.

All the media folk and web hipsters I follow thought this was a terrible, no-good, very bad idea.

I’ll admit it. I have attended a few too many conference on the need to find new business models for journalism. These sessions had an eerie sameness. You could set your clock by them: about 45 minutes in, everyone would be very depressed, and then someone would pipe up about how “other countries supported journalism” and that government subsidy was really the only way out. This would generally be regarded by the crowd as a pipe dream.

Even the Knight Foundation, which is really, really into giving money to journalism, had its doubts about the idea. From its Knight Commission report of 2011: “It is highly unlikely that in the near term, government will directly fund journalism, especially in a time of strained budgets at all levels. Even indirect subsidies or added tax breaks may be problematic.”

There are plenty of well-known and well-respected government-funded news organizations: the BBC, Canada’s CBC and Voice of America. Even our own NPR and PBS are funded in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Of course, there are also state-run news organizations that exist largely to repeat the views of the government that funds them—I won’t list them here, but it’s a much longer list.

So what kind of news site was Indiana intending to create? An independent, trustworthy news source, or a government megaphone? Over the weekend, I had a chance to find out. One Indianapolis Star story gave us this tidbit about the workflow of such an organization: Indiana governor Mike Pence, it said, “is planning in late February to launch ‘Just IN,’ a website and news outlet that will feature stories and news releases written by state press secretaries…”

Oh, dear. That’s not good. Not good at all. My friends on Twitter were right: This was a terrible, no good, very bad idea, indeed.

This brings us to the essential question: What’s the difference between a good government-funded news organization, and a not-good one? What makes one trustworthy, and the others not so?

Mostly, ironclad editorial independence.

Any form of funding—any form of funding at all, whether it’s commercial advertisers, philanthropic funders, government sources and even member/donors—can have an undue influence on the end product of a news organization if we don’t think things through.

The problem here is that thinking things through requires a good deal of sitting down, maybe even with a committee. Such a prospect may make you feel as though you’ve done something to anger the news gods. Maybe you started a sentence with a proposition, or buried the lede one too many times. The pressure of deadlines and the news events rushing by may make you just decide to table it for a while. Possibly forever.

We have good news for you: We here at the Investigative News Network did a lot of the work for you. Since we have 100-plus member newsrooms, there are many things that makes it easier for us to do as a group than it would be for each of us to sit down and hammer it out one by one.

Editorial independence is a cornerstone of building a trustworthy, sustainable news organization, which is why we wrote: “We will maintain a firewall between news coverage decisions and all sources of revenue. Acceptance of financial support does not constitute implied or actual endorsement of donors or their products, services or opinions…we accept gifts, grants and sponsorships from individuals and organizations for the general support of our activities, but our news judgments are made independently and not on the basis of donor support.”

If you’d like to use INN’s editorial independence policy as a template, feel free to download a copy here.

And what happened to Indiana governor Mike Pence’s idea for a news startup, anyway?  Well, it was stopped before it even got started, and Pence denies he ever had such an idea in the first place.

It’s tough out there for a news startup.

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How to improve statehouse reporting? Thu, 06 Nov 2014 20:04:59 +0000 Kelly Born, Hewlett Foundation

Kelly Born, Hewlett Foundation

I recently attended a conference in Chicago on how to improve statehouse reporting – looking not just at the reporters physically in our nation’s 50 state capitols, but also those covering the effects of Statehouse policies on agencies, departments, and the executive branch.

Why is this important? (At least) two reasons: First, fully half of the state legislatures that met in 2012 passed more bills in one year than congress passed in two years. That’s a lot of bills.

Second, just as with the broader field of journalism, Statehouse reporting has experienced dramatic reductions in coverage in recent years. Pew Research Center estimates a 35% decline in statehouse newspaper reporters since 2003, an even steeper decline than that in newsrooms overall during the same period. That leaves fewer than 1,600 journalists in America’s capitols—and only 47% of those are full-time. That averages out to 15 full-time reporters per state, but the actual numbers vary widely, from a high of 53 in Texas to just two in South Dakota. According to Pew:

  • “Less than a third of U.S. newspapers assign any kind of reporter—full-time or part-time—to the statehouse.”
  • “Fully 86% of local TV news stations do not assign even one reporter—full -time or part-time—to the statehouse.” This is especially problematic in that most Americans (particularly less ideological ones) still get the majority of their news from local TV.
  • “Students account for 14% (223 in all) of the overall statehouse reporting corps.” In fact four states—Missouri, Nevada, Kansas, and Arizona—have more students than FTEs.

The Chicago conference was designed to explore whether and how foundations might help to address these problems. Orchestrated by Kevin Davis of the 100+ member Investigative News Network (INN, a Madison Initiative grantee) and moderated by Steven Waldman, journalist, media entrepreneur, and former Senior Advisor to the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, the event brought together a small (20-ish) but wide-ranging group. This included representatives from the Pew Research Center, the Associated Press, and Storify, alongside some of the nation’s most successful nonprofit journalism outlets, including Center for Public Integrity, the Texas Tribune (both Hewlett Foundation grantees), and Vermont’s VT Digger. It included representatives from Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (also a Hewlett grantee) and American University’s School of Communications, alongside leaders of politically-relevant nonprofits like PopVox, the Institute for Advanced Technology & Public Policy, Chicago’s Better Government Association, Al-Jazeera. It also included representatives from the Arnold Foundation, Democracy Fund, and Ford, Knight, and McCormick foundations. And of course me, from the Hewlett Foundation.

We discussed three primary goals that a healthy Statehouse reporting field would help to support:

  • Holding officials accountable (and thereby helping to deter bad behavior)
  • Engaging the public with relevant, useful information
  • Leveling the playing field between special interests and the public

We then discussed a LOT of barriers to these goals—the discussion filled up four of five flipcharts (in pretty small print). These fell into a couple of loose, often overlapping categories which I’ll attempt to summarize here:

  • Lack of sustainable business models. This was the background to all of our discussion.
    Public trust in information. Including discussion of coverage that is more “horse-racy” than substantive, polarization of the media, lack of journalistic standards, and the increasing influence of special interests.
  • Public engagement with the news. Including news’ lack of nuance / personalization, and the perceived lack of understanding (on the part of news producers) of “consumers’” preferences. All driving low public interest in political news.
  • News quality. Including concerns that news has become more “reactive than proactive” and that so little is translated into Spanish or other languages. This also touched on the lack of “data or journalistic standards” and of “data interoperability” (e.g., overarching taxonomies) that would allow data to speak to each other across geographies or organizational silos, which would allow for better trend interpretation.
  • Reporter efficiency. Including the lack of training and institutional knowledge, declining reporter relationships (e.g., access to tips, time to conduct interviews, etc.). This discussion also touched on reporters’ limited access to (and ability to interpret) public records.
  • Government accountability. Including the lack of government transparency, as well as the perceived shift of government resources away from governing towards communications/PR.
  • The (increasingly?) negative tone of news. Including whether / how this serves to undermine other democratic goals of civic engagement.

Undaunted (well, maybe a little daunted), we then broke into groups to brainstorm solutions. Ideas included:

  • Creating either a national hub or regional hubs of accountability journalism, making data and research available for easy customization by local reporters.
  • Creating a mobile, time-limited (3 year), highly-publicized team to help improve state media that would focus on specific states. (The benefit of it being time-limited and highly-publicized being that the public might feel a heightened responsibility to support the effort and focus attention on longer-run sustainability.)
  • Auditing—and creating a central database of—existing journalistic data resources, collaborations, players, etc., with a goal of helping to inform others about what is available and identifying the gaps.
  • Improving data standardization across states to provide reporters with, for example, standardized data on bills’ statuses, so that journalists have tools as good as the lobbyists.

But while the discussion of problems facing statehouse journalism was rich and the ideas generated interesting, none are silver bullets. Addressing the issues plaguing statehouse reporting will require time and effort from many actors across the news media. The question remains which, if any, of these ideas could be implemented, iterated, and scaled—and which might make a demonstrable difference.

This post originally appeared in and has been republished with permission.

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Building Community, Innovation: The Power of Coding Workshops, Hackathons for Nonprofit News Organizations Sun, 28 Jul 2013 12:42:49 +0000 Social coding events like coding workshops, codeathons, and hackathons seem to be happening on a weekly basis in the United States and around the world. Do a quick search online and you will be surprised to see the number of events being held in your own state or city.

The premise of these social coding events is to bring people together with different skills sets (e.g. designers, developers, journalists, etc.) for a few hours to a few days (depending on the event), to learn (code or new skills) or to build something (an idea, an app, a platform, a data visualization, etc.) and in the process, network with each other, build community and hopefully have a good time.

Social coding events have become more popular in recent years due to the increasing open civic data movement in the United States and around the world. Hacks/Hackers, Code for America, as well as local open-source/civic-tech coding communities, and start-ups have all been leading the way in hosting these kind of social coding events over the years.

This week I take a look into what it takes for a nonprofit news organization to implement its own social coding event. I had the opportunity to talk with three coding event experts who share their insights on what news organizations need to keep in mind when deciding to host a coding event:

The Experts

  • Erika Owens is community manager of the Knight-Mozilla Open News initiative. They host Hack Days that are coding events for news organizations and/or the public. They also do code sprints that are geared toward to helping a news organization solve a coding problem. News organizations can apply for a $10,000 grant “to fund small-scale utilities and tools that help solve specific, repeatable journalistic problems.”
  • Sisi Wei is co-founder of Code with me and also a news apps developer at ProPublica. Code with me teaches journalists the foundations of HTML, CSS and JavaScript over a two-day workshop. It’s a 2-to-1 student-to-mentor ratio for the workshop. They have hosted workshops in Austin, Portland, Miami and Washington D.C.
  • Travis Swicegood is director of technology at the Texas Tribune. Swicegood has participated in several hack day events including ones with Open Austin and also organizes programming meet-ups in Austin.

Starting Point – Building the Community

coding event

If you are interested in launching a social coding event, you need to have a clear goal of why you want to do it. Don’t just think hosting one will lead to a new app, program or miraculous innovation. You need to set up your goals of what you want to get out of the coding event. That goal should come back to the community you serve.

Travis Swicegood says when launching a coding event it depends on the aim of your organization and what you do.

If your organization focuses on specific news coverage about the environment, health, politics or education, your coding event should tie into what you do and how your coding event can tie back to that.

“News organizations are generally in the business of telling stories,” Swicegood says, “If you are going to do a hackathon from my perspective, the ideal situation is that you have some sort of question or some sort of story you want to tell and provide a place for people to come together and try out different ways to do that.”

Coding events are not just about bringing together developers, programmers, creatives, journalists and citizens from the community to make something it’s about building community.

This is an opportunity to engage with people in your community that are passionate about their work, the skills they can bring to the table, and how they can make their own neighborhood or city better by helping in a particular initiative and have fun while doing it.

“Knowing your community and knowing your audience is important,” Erika Owens says. “If you have a relationship with your community, you will know what is best for your community. Laying the ground work beforehand helps the event succeed more than the venue or setting.”

By knowing your community it can help you figure out what kind of coding event may be best. For example, you could host a coding event tied around creating a new web app around a specific civic issue that you have been covering recently in your community that matters to the public.

Another aspect to launching a coding event is if you want to teach something instead of build something.

Sisi Wei, co-founder of Code with me hosts two-day coding workshops for journalists to help them with their coding skills. They provide individualized instruction over a two-day period and help journalists learn HTML, CSS and javascript. They have a 2-to-1 student-mentor ratio.

Wei says you can teach a lot in a coding workshop in two days if you give a lot of individualized instruction with the 2-to-1 developer-journalist ratio. They have found that model has been helpful and successful for the journalists they have trained.

Wei states that their aim of the coding workshop is to teach code but importantly, they want to help people know how to teach themselves how to program.

At the end of the workshop, “If you can’t remember a single piece of syntax of how to do HTML or CSS, but can remember how to look it up and what to look up and how to figure what to look up, that is the aim and what we drill into our students,” Wei says.

Wei says that people don’t have to wait until Code with me comes to their city to do a coding workshop. She says cities that have vibrant journalism and development communities can create their own coding workshops.

When doing a coding workshop, keeping it small is key. This allows for the mentors to easily help students during the training.

If a coding workshop is appealing, think about how a workshop can help train citizens, journalists, students and other constituents in your community on how to code –and perhaps toward a bigger project or outcome.

For example, INN Member, Oakland Local has a summer program now underway called Hack the Hood: Oakland to train local youth web tech skills and they use the skills they learn to help local businesses with their web presence.

The important thing to keep in mind is that you need to identify your goal first for doing a coding event and how this ties back to the community you serve.

Here are some questions to help you start:

  1. Do you have a particular issue, theme or story that you want to cover in your community?
  2. Do you want to build an app, platform or some other kind of innovation that ties into that theme/issue or story?
  3. Do you want to teach code or programming for a greater project or purpose that ties back to your community?
  4. How will this coding event help the community?
  5. How can the community help you in building this project?
  6. What will be the short-term/long-term outcome of the coding event?

After answering these questions, you can have a better sense of whether a coding workshop, codeathon or hackathon may be best for your news organization.

Look In Your Own Backyard

Once you have an idea of what you want to do, next comes the planning.

When it comes to planning your coding event, don’t think you should do it alone. There are a lot of potential partners in your own community you can work with in order to make it a success.

Owens recommends spending time seeing what is already out there and talk with the developers and programmers in your community.

“Engage with the existing technology community in your area,” Owens says. ”Get connected with those communities and see how they function, see who is involved with them, what kinds of collaboration activities there are.”

Owens suggests checking out local meet-ups or one-day unconferences to see what is out there and to meet the people doing development work in your community. These kinds of events and connections can help you to see exactly how your coding event can develop and who you can collaborate/partner with.

She also recommends it can be a good idea to attend a coding event and experience it. This can give you insight into what you did and didn’t like at the event and how you would like your own event to go.

By engaging with the community in these ways, you will have a better idea of who you want to partner with, who should be participating in the event, and what you want to do.

The Logistics

When planning a coding event, whether it is a workshop during an afternoon or a weekend-long marathon event, it does take time to plan all the logistics. You need to think about the following:

The venue – where will you host it?

You may be able to use your existing newsroom or building for the event. Perhaps your local university, community center or library may have space to provide?

The food – what kind of beverages and food will you serve?

Coding events thrive on food and drink. You need at minimum snacks and coffee. Ideally, you should plan on having a meal (something as simple as pizza and beer) to keep people hydrated and fed. It will keep the energy and concentration levels up throughout the event.

The infrastructure – what kind of Internet connection and equipment will you provide?

It’s important to have a good Internet connection so people can work seamlessly during the event. Most people will probably bring their own computers, but plan on the possibility that some members from the community may not have their own equipment (this may be more important if you are teaching code to the community for a workshop).

The content – what will be the purpose? Will they build something? Learn something?

Owens suggests have a pre-meeting or brainstorm event prior to the coding event to get people excited about the event and also to help set the expectations for the event.

“Having some sort of pre-brainstorming event or just getting people together thinking about what kind of project they want to work on before the Hack day event can be helpful,” she says. “It gives people a chance to know what is a hack event and do some initial sketching of the project and who they would need to have on their team and who could come to the hack event.”

Registration – what kind of system will you use to allow for people to register?

It’s important that you keep track of who is coming so you know exactly what kind of participants will come and with what skill sets they have so you can make sure your coding event is successful.

Owens states one of the biggest lessons she has learned and experienced from participating in and hosting multiple coding events is the composition of the participants who attend the event. It can make or break the event.

“A helpful thing when you have the event registration is asking people to self-identify what their skillset is – that goes a long way to both help the organizer control how many people with what skillset are registered for the event but also to help make sure there aren’t too many of one type of skillset,” Owens says. “Particularly with journalism hackathons, it’s usually good to have 2-to-1 ratio to two developers to each journalist – that can be a good balance.”

Tools – what kind of digital and non-digital tools will you make available to participants?

For any coding event, you should plan on having a digital platform for participants to be able to share, edit and save their work. GitHub has become a popular tool for many coding events where participants can upload, edit and save files as they build them during the coding event.

Owens recommends Hackdash. It helps organize and visualize the development process during the hackathon.

Swicegood recommends Heroku. It allows participants to have a place to host projects and deploy them quickly for a demo without complication during the event.

On the non-digital side, you should plan on having pens, markers, notepads and whiteboards for people to have a place to brainstorm and write things down in their groups.

Incentives/Prizes – what kind of prizes will you give to those attend?

Not all coding events expect prizes or incentives, especially if you are teaching code in a workshop, but if you are hosting a hackathon there may be an expectation of some prize for the individual(s) that had the best idea or project. Make sure to communicate ahead of time whether there will be prizes or not so people know what to expect.

Who will pay for what – coding events do entail costs for a variety of resources. Be prepared to have a budget and think carefully of what you can and can’t afford.

Owens says in-kind donations and sponsorships can help with covering some of the expenses for a coding event such as getting help for web hosting, data services, applications, food, venue, etc.

Contact vendors, organizations and companies in your community and they may be able to give some free licenses or in-kind donations for the event.

Owens said they spend $1,500-$2,000 for their OpenNews Hack Day events which usually covers food, some travel for speakers/participants, and facilitation/organization of the event. Owens says this cost can vary as it depends on where you are located and the resources you have.

For more tips on logistics and planning, Owens has a journalism hack day preparation guide on GitHub you can check out: 

Who Owns What?

During a coding event, it’s possible that you may have the creation of a new product or innovation. It’s important to keep in mind the expectations of what you build and who owns that product – is it your news organization? The community? The developer? Wired recently published an article on the legal implications of who owns innovations and products that are created from coding events like Hackathons.

Of course, this may be more applicable in the start-up culture for specific for-profit companies, but news organizations should not steer away from having the conversation and be ready to communicate to the participants at the event your guidelines on this if you are asked.

Make Sure to Plan Fun

Lastly, coding events are meant to be social and that means don’t forget to include the fun. A big part to hosting and implementing these kinds of events is that it is a chance for people to meet and network, gain new skills, share knowledge, and have a fun environment in which to do this.

Make sure to include breaks throughout the coding event for people to talk and get to know each other. This could be through icebreaker activities, meal breaks, exercise activities, dance competitions, etc. The sky is the limit on what ways you can bring fun into the coding event.

Photo Credits: LexnGer | via photopin | cc  and opacity via photopin | cc

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The Power of Podcasts Sun, 17 Feb 2013 13:06:57 +0000 Podcasts. It may seem like an old term to some in the digital world, but the podcast and the power of telling stories through short, digital episodes remains a popular way to reach news audiences.

This week we take a look at how podcasts can enliven your existing news coverage, provide a new venue for audience engagement, and offer another venue for your reporters to tell stories about the communities and topics they cover.

What is a Podcast?

A podcast is a digital media file (audio, video, images and audio) that is part of an episodic series where the user can subscribe and download the files or stream them from their digital device.  A podcast can vary in length from a few minutes to 45 minutes.

Adam Curry and Dave Winer originally developed the concept of podcasting in 2004 when they created the first podcasting software.

The Stats Behind Podcasts

According to statistics on the Podcast Alley website, one of the largest directories of podcasts, they feature over 6 million episodes and 91,000 podcasts on their site.

The number of podcasts being produced has been stable for some time. According to The State of the Media Report 2012, “podcasting hit a plateau in 2007, and has largely stayed there with a steady following since.”

As these stats may seem low, The State of Media Report 2012 stated that “probably the biggest development in the audio landscape in 2011 came in the growth of people listening on digital mobile devices.”

As more news consumers are using mobile devices to consume news, more opportunities arise for news organizations to provide news in audio or video formats via the podcast for the news consumer on the go.

Podcasts and News Organizations

News organizations can use podcasts for a variety of purposes:

·      It can serve as a way for reporters to provide additional news content that is complementary to existing news coverage.

·      It can be an opportunity for your staff to do Q&A with local sources and experts on specific topics.

·      It can be a way to feature unique content by your staff that may not necessarily fit into an existing news area you currently cover.

Audience Engagement with Podcasts

Podcasts can also provide another way to bring your news organization closer to the communities you cover. Podcasts are by nature a personal medium that allows for the user to feel as if they are having a one-on-one conversation with you. This creates a different level of audience engagement that can bring loyal listeners or viewers (whether via audio or video podcast) back every time as long as you keep a consistent podcast broadcast schedule.

As part of your podcasting efforts, you can also weave in the use of social media by live tweeting when the episode launches online and taking Q&A from the audience or using Facebook to have people comment on the latest episode when it launches.

You can also do podcasts on the spot at community events as a way to provide different kind of coverage of an event and involve the audience in the podcast with short interviews from your podcast booth set up at the event.

Where to Start?

If you are interested in starting podcasts in your news organization, there are some important questions to think about before jumping in.

1. What kind of content will you feature in your podcast? Podcasts are built on the premise of having unique content. Think about what kind of news your staff covers that can be different from what you offer on your existing platforms and how it can complement your existing efforts. Think about what makes your news coverage different from others in the community and build your podcasts around that.

2. Who will be recording and producing the podcast?  Producing podcasts takes resources and time. You should identify a team of people that can help with scriptwriting, producing and editing the podcast. You may have someone on your staff that has a great audio voice that can be the “voice” or talent for your podcasts.

3. How often will you publish your podcast? Podcasts are only successful when they are routine. It’s important to identify a schedule of when you will produce and publish the podcast – perhaps it’s daily, weekly or monthly? Stick to the schedule and your listeners and viewers will follow.

4. How long will your podcast be? Podcasts nowadays can be long or short. It all depends on the kind of content and format you will use in your podcast.

5. Will it be solo or co-hosted? Some podcasts are narrated by one person and in other cases, some people have co-hosts to make it lively. Consider if you want to bring in multiple people into the podcast. Perhaps start small with only one person at first and expand to a co-host later when you have several podcasts under your belt.

6. Will it be one segment or several featured in one podcast? Podcasts can be formatted to cover only one topic or several. It all depends on what kind of content and how much content you want to feature. Having a few segments can make your podcast lively, engaging and different as well as keep listeners/viewers wanting more if you include multiple segments instead of one.

7. Where will you record the podcast? When producing a podcast, you will need a computer and audio equipment to record it. You should plan on being in a quiet location to avoid having any background noises that can interfere with the recording.

Podcast Notes and Tagging Files

When producing a podcast, it’s important to have a podcast outline and notes with each episode you produce. This helps the audience to know what the podcast is about before they click the button to listen to it or view it. The notes are resources such as websites you talk about during the podcast that they can check out.

It’s important to note that your podcast file can be found online through searches and not just through your site or a podcast directory. You should optimize your podcast for SEO. Write clear titles for your podcasts that are SEO-friendly and also tag the actual podcast file with keywords (ID3 tags tied to the mp3 file) that are applicable to what is discussed in your podcast. These steps will help to make sure your podcast will be found effectively on search engines.

Observe Others and Take Note

Before jumping into doing podcasts, listen to other news organizations’ podcasts to get a sense of what they feature, the style and voice they use in their podcasts, and the overall format that they use for their podcasts. This can give you ideas and inspiration for your own podcast.

Here are some INN members’ podcasts:

· Voice of San Diego

· Center for Investigative Reporting

· ProPublica


Additional Resources

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How to Succeed from Failure Sun, 13 Jan 2013 13:28:59 +0000 It’s a new year and that means you can make a fresh start, have a clean slate and take a new approach to running your news operation.

You may have had some initiatives or projects that didn’t work out or were a complete failure in 2012. It’s not time to think that the failure is it and that it’s time to pack the bags. It’s time to think quite the opposite.

There is a lot that can be learned from those projects or initiatives that failed. We have a few tips to help you in taking a different approach and how to succeed from those failures in 2013.

Constructive or Defensive Strategy

First, it’s important to recognize that the daily decisions you are making may be constructive or defensive for your news operation and that can impact how your operation moves forward or backward.

In a recent book chapter I wrote in Newsroom Decision-Making: Under New Management, an edited work by Associate Professor George Sylvie at the University of Texas at Austin, I explain a constructive or defensive strategy can lead the news organization on the path toward success or catch-up.

“The defensive strategy can be defined as those managers who react to the changes versus those a step ahead of the game…The stakes are high in this mode, where innovations must succeed and there is no room for failure. In addition, this strategy focuses on maximizing production via efficiency and outsourcing when possible because of its economic mandate of doing more with less to make a profit or just maintain the status quo.”

We have seen many news organizations fall into this defensive strategy by peer pressure from the competition with an all-or-nothing approach to projects that can be detrimental to the organization in the long run.

On the other hand, the constructive strategy focuses on how managers need to proactively think of the next change or innovation they need to make.

“Creativity is the main goal and identifying contributions and improvements are characteristics sought in the innovations adopted. It can be inferred that risk is needed, failure is okay, and trying over and over again is welcomed. The focus is on doing less, and more on identifying a niche to perfect.”

The constructive strategy allows for the failures to occur but the key point is making sure that those failures are learning experiences that bring the organization to its next step toward perfecting what it can do best.

Embracing Failure, Taking Smarter Risks

As Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen and Clayton M. Christensen state in the book, The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators, “by embracing failure as a vehicle for learning, innovative companies embolden their employees to try new things.”

Part of this process of learning from failure entails taking risks to pursue innovation and change, but making sure those risks are smart risks.

Dyer, Gregersen and Christensen state that smart risks are, “hiring and developing discovery-driven people and institutionalizing processes that supports people’s questioning, observing, networking, experimenting, and associating.”

To help recognize if your organization is taking smart risks, Dyer, Gregersen and Christensen provide a list of questions in the book:

  • Does your organization encourage people to take risks in order to learn from them?
  • Does your organization reward people for learning from failures? Or is punishment its default response?
  • Can you name at least one successful innovation when your company celebrated learning from at least one failure to make the innovation ultimately work?
  • Has your company built a higher-than-average discovery quotient in its people to ensure against the inherent risks of disruptive innovation?
  • Do your company’s top managers understand that they need to take risks and fail frequently in order to innovate?

Answering each of these questions can help you to see exactly how you and your staff have handled past failures and if you are engaging in smart risks. If you are not taking smart risks, 2013 may be the time to consider doing so as you revisit the failed projects and initiatives from last year.

Ecosystem Mindset

Another approach to take in moving forward from the failures of the past toward success can also come in the form creating a different kind of mindset.

Associate Professor and Media Management Scholar George Sylvie explains in the Newsroom Decision-Making: Under New Management book that news managers can utilize an ecosystemic perspective to decision-making.

This ecosystemic perspective entails how much the news operation can rely on networks. Networks can include the different kinds of audiences you serve, your board members, donors, other news organizations you collaborate with on news projects, and so forth.  These networks all play a role in the ecosystem in which your news organization is a part of.  Harnessing those networks and nurturing the creativity, collaboration and knowledge-building facets among your staff and your networks, can make a difference when it comes to the long-term and short-term decisions that are made.

This perspective entails a different mindset of viewing the news operation as one part of a bigger network in which aspects of autonomy and collaboration are extended beyond the newsroom walls, and where the value of knowledge and creativity are embraced. Thus, smarter risks can be made as a result.

The new year presents an opportunity for you and your staff to revisit what worked and didn’t work last year. It’s only by seeing what has failed can you and your staff know where to improve and how to get better. Implementing new decision-making skills, strategies and mindsets may be one route to helping your news operation thrive and succeed in 2013.

Photo Credit: FutUndBeidl via photopin cc

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Five Media/Tech Innovations for your 2013 Newsroom Fri, 28 Dec 2012 10:39:20 +0000 Nonprofit newsrooms and news ventures have a great opportunity to make changes in 2013 that can keep them ahead of the competition, help improve the news operation, inspire staff, and lead to new efforts in storytelling and reporting.

We have five ways to make your newsroom different in 2013:

  • Tablet
  • Software in the Cloud
  • Data Training
  • Visuals
  • Social Media Metrics

Tablet. If you have not started thinking about how to offer your news content for the tablet, 2013 is the year that you need to do so. Sales of tablets will continue to rise in 2013. What does this mean for the news organization? More news consumers will be looking for local news content that they can access from the tablet.

If you are uncertain of how to get started and what to consider when presenting news content on the tablet, a good guide is the recent e-book by Mario Garcia entitled, iPad Design Lab. Check our past review of this e-book and tips on how to get started with storytelling on the tablet.

Software in the Cloud. Nowadays, news organizations have to deal with tight budgets and few resources, this also includes careful purchases for items such as software applications that require physical installation and constant updates.

Software companies are quickly realizing the opportunity of selling their software applications in the cloud. Google Docs is one perfect example of how software applications can be housed in the cloud and accessed from anywhere, anytime with less hassle and expense.

In 2013, you can make the difference in your newsroom to go green and consider purchasing software applications for your staff that are accessible through the cloud.

For example, Adobe Creative Cloud includes access to their most popular applications such as Acrobat, Photoshop, Dreamweaver and several others, for rental on a monthly or yearly basis.

Microsoft Word also offers its applications in the cloud via Office 365 with access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more. A free trial is available and special rates are offered for small to medium-sized businesses, which may be perfect for the news venture.

Software applications in the Cloud can save your operation money and resources in the New Year.

Data Training and Education. In 2012, data and the use of data visualizations in storytelling was a big trend. In 2013, we will see more of the same.

As more organizations (both public and private) continue to go digital with their data, news stories abound for news organizations in terms of the potential of doing some amazing news stories with data in 2013.

Newsrooms should seize the moment in 2013 and make sure to train their staff on data-driven reporting techniques. This can be an investment that will lead to many long-term returns in making your news organization’s reporting stronger and more impactful in the coming year.

If you are not sure how to get started, look inside your organization first. Your reporters may be the perfect trainers to give an afternoon workshop or series of trainings to the rest of your staff.

If that is not an option, there are many places online where one can learn data-driven reporting techniques such as Poynter’s NewsU, which offers a variety of webinars, online courses and tutorials on the topic.

IRE has a variety of tipsheets on data-driven techniques and tools. There are also free tutorials available on the Knight Digital Media Center’s website on data visualizations. In addition, the Data Journalism Handbook provides a good primer for any journalist or news organization jumping into data-driven reporting and storytelling. It’s available for free online or you can buy the book.

Resources abound for journalists who want to learn about how data and journalism can come together to make impactful journalism, it’s just a matter of having the tools and time to learn it in 2013.

Visuals.  We now live in the era of the visual – news consumers nowadays want to see visuals whether that is an image, photo or video. In 2013, we will continue to see more visual content in all its forms.

In the New Year, you may want to consider new approaches to add visuals to your existing news coverage. This doesn’t mean replacing or substituting your news reporting for a visual but see the visual as a compliment. You may want to ask your staff to think of the following questions with each and every story they cover in 2013:

  • Is there a way you can incorporate an infographic with that investigative piece or local story you are writing? It may not entail a deep analysis of data but can be something as simple as a basic interactive timeline.
  • Is there a photo or a collage of photos that may engage your readers into the story? Perhaps a Pinterest page may be an option?

Not every story your staff covers may require a visual, but you should be thinking of ways where the visual can help elaborate, conceptualize and present information from your existing news coverage in a new and different way.

Social Media Metrics. In 2013, news organizations need to go beyond the number of followers or likes on social media and make an investment to know who is following them and what they are doing with the content they share with others.

Those news organizations who are savvy to know how their news audiences are engaging with them and their news content, will be the ones who will be ahead of the curve, leaving other news competitors in the dust while gaining new audiences and maintaining a loyal audience base at the same time.

The following measurement tools can help you to have a better understanding of social media metrics via the reach, relevance and resonance you can achieve with your news audience (See our previous article on the three key pillars by Brian Solis):

Each of these tools provides different kinds of information and metrics about your social media presence, and it may be best to experiment with a variety of tools to see which ones work the best for your news operation. It’s important to note that you should not settle on just one measurement or tool, but have a combination of tools and metrics in order to help you to have a better understanding of your news audience and how they engage with your news content.

In 2013, visuals, data, software applications in the cloud, the tablet, and social media metrics will be some of the major trends. The opportunity awaits those news organizations that seek out these trends and implement them in the New Year.

The New Year brings a clean slate and a chance to help make your news operation better, while making a significant difference in the kind of journalism your staff does as you serve the community you cover.

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Holiday Wish List for the Digital Journalist and News Entrepreneur Sun, 09 Dec 2012 18:32:19 +0000 It’s that time of the year again – the holidays. We have a few suggestions of some gifts that are perfect for any journalist – books to inspire the news entrepreneur and tools to help the digital journalist on-the-go.

Here a few books that can inspire any journalist:

Tools for the On-the-Go Journalist
Nowadays, reporters must have a digital toolbox at their disposal while out on the job in order to get the story produced and published. Here are a few tools to consider for the digital journalist’s toolbox:

  • Virtual Keyboard. The virtual keyboard is an innovative tool that transforms any flat surface into a digital keyboard. Using laser technology and Bluetooth© wireless technology, it can transform any flat desk into a keyboard that can hook up to a smartphone, tablet or laptop.
  • Mophie Powerstation. Digital devices eat up a lot of battery power and it can be a challenge for a reporter on-the-go to make sure they have enough battery power while out covering the story. The Mophie Powerstation has a rugged case to handle any kind of condition (weather or otherwise) and provides extra battery power to your digital devices.
  • Portable Charging Station. Another option for charging your digital devices on the go is the AViiQ Portable Charging Station that is a zip-up bag with one outlet port to charge up to four digital devices in a small, portable bag.
  • Power Series Messenger Bags/Backpacks. Another option to charging your digital devices while on-the-go is having the ability to charge your devices within your bag. The Power Series by Timbuk2 features a messenger bag and backpack that has a built-in Joey® Energy charging pack that can charge a smartphone and tablet while in the bag.
  • Dropbox Subscription. Journalists work with many digital files on a daily basis that can take up a lot of room on a computer and newsroom server. A Dropbox subscription can be the perfect holiday gift. Dropbox provides a way for an individual to host their digital files in the cloud and access those files from anywhere and any device. A basic account is free and provides up to 2GB of space, but starting at $9.99 a month you can get up to 500GB of space.
  • iTunes gift cards or Google play cards. Reporters have a variety of apps on their smartphones and tablets nowadays that can help them record audio or video, take photos and/or produce multimedia content from the digital device. An iTunes gift card (for the iPhone or iPad) or Google play gift card (for android devices) can be a perfect holiday gift. The gift card allows your reporters to pick and choose which apps they want to download and experiment with on their digital device for their daily newsgathering and reporting work.

Happy Holidays!!

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An In-Depth Look at iNewsource Magazine Sun, 25 Nov 2012 17:14:21 +0000 Exclusive Audio Interview with Lorie Hearn

Nowadays, many news organizations are diversifying their content distribution strategies to reach as many people as possible in the communities they serve and cover. This includes providing news through multiple digital venues such as the website, social media, through mobile alerts, mobile apps, tablet editions, and email newsletters. Despite recent challenges in the news industry with the print platform, it can still be a viable way to reach audiences and to provide different content from what appears on the digital platform.inewsource-big

This week the Hub takes a moment to talk with INN member Lorie Hearn, founder and executive director of the nonprofit news organization, Investigative Newsource. In this exclusive audio interview, Hearn tells the Hub about the recent print product initiative she launched that seeks to reach different audiences with their investigative journalism coverage.

Who are they?

The Investigative Newsource began in 2009 and they produce investigative journalism for the citizens of Southern California. She has a staff of two-full time journalists with an expertise in databases, a full time reporter specializing in multimedia storytelling, and a part time D.C. correspondent.

What did they launch?

In October, the Investigative Newsource decided to launch an eight-page magazine to provide information to the community in preparation for Election Day. It was distributed to 2,000 people across the San Diego community.

Click on the audio clip below to hear the full audio interview about how Hearn and her team launched this initiative, how this strategy is a unique way to present investigative journalism to the public, and how other news ventures can launch their own similar initiative.

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Brant Houston, Kevin Davis Discuss Nonprofit Investigative Journalism on Illinois Public Media Mon, 08 Oct 2012 14:56:58 +0000 At a time when newsrooms are cutting their budgets for investigative journalism, nonprofit news organizations have an important role to fill. In-depth reporting is as important as ever for holding the powers that be accountable and investigative nonprofits are in a unique position to serve the public.

INN’s Board Chair Brant Houston and CEO Kevin Davis spoke to Craig Cohen at Illinois Public Media last week about the role of investigative nonprofits in journalism’s future. ProPublica’s Managing Editor Stephen Engelberg also joined the program to discuss his organization’s focus.

The full interview is available to stream or download on Illinois Public Media’s website.

Listen to the interview.

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