Things I love about TBD.com (and a few things I don’t)

TBD logo


TBD.com, a much-hyped local news website in Washington, D.C., launched to the public this morning. PoynterNewsonomics and Nieman Lab wrote lists on why it’s the news company to watch this year, and PaidContent has a great interview with Robert Allbritton, the guy in charge of TBD’s parent company. Mashable even has a nice writeup this morning, too.

Any time there is this much hype surrounding a product launch, someone is going to end up disappointed.

This time, it’s not me. I’m impressed with TBD so far, and I’m not easily impressed with news sites nowadays.

That’s a testament to how many cool little things are packed in this site. And from all accounts, it still doesn’t have nearly as many cool things that were planned for it, either.

Perhaps I haven’t run into many of the bugs that Erik Wemple spoke of in his letter from the editor. I have run into a few, which I list at the bottom of this post. But I love the ideas, the layout, the concept, the conversations, and I can’t wait until even more features are unveiled.

TBD.com screengrab

What I love:

  • The main news pages have the number of updates in the last 72 hours in the left-hand rail (see the picture above). In the right rail I find all the news in the area of my community. And you can refine that list by category? Be still my heart!
  • The headlines-from-everywhere idea. That’s hardly new, but I love the way it’s implemented here. They’ve pulled in content from a slew of different sources, from mainstream media outlets to blogs, and they geotagged them into locations, so they’re searchable by zipcode or neighborhood. And I love how every headline on the main pages has the source of the story in clear sight.
  • Complete This Story. On a story about D.C. mayoral hopeful Vince Gray, there is a box you can fill out if you have more information on his campaign. Two birds, one stone: TBD gets better opportunities for reporting, and users get better opportunities to interact.
  • I love the upfront traffic delays, using data from BeatTheTraffic.com. Public transit delays take data straight from WMATA. It works brilliantly for a major metro area whose transit data is publicly available.
  • The “Long Story Short” box on each TBD story. It’s a Twitter-friendly headline you can tweet with one click. (See it in action on the left here.)
  • Love the Foursquare partnership. It reminds me of a simple request I’ve seen in several newsrooms — “Hey, let’s put all our restaurant reviews on an interactive map” — yet is difficult to pull off because all the previous reviews aren’t in a data-structured form. Because TBD is built from the ground up in a purely digital format, it doesn’t have that problem.
  • Love The Facts Machine (on Twitter at @TBDFactsMachine). It’s in the same vein as PolitiFact and the San Diego Fact Check. Though all reporters need to be checking facts, I think every news organization should have at least one full-time employee doing nothing but fact-checking the crap out of politicians’ claims.
  • When I am logged in (with my Facebook account even), I can bookmark articles from within the site. Why haven’t more sites done this? Or have they been doing it and I’ve been blind?
  • They have a reporter dedicated to lists, says Erik Wemple. That’s kinda… a little bit… awesome. (If you read my blog, you know I’m a sucker for lists and bullet points. You’re reading ‘em right now!)
  • Comments. I love that reporters are actually responding to comments. I also like that the default sort is by highest ranked, but you can choose to have them listed in chronological order.
  • Each Metro station has its own page. For example, the Rosslyn station page has live boarding statuses, a trip planner, even a widget that shows when someone is tweeting about the station (this morning’s tweet from a random person is warning me there is no air conditioning on a Blue line car. THAT. IS. GOOD. TO KNOW.)
  • There’s a live chat all day today to answer questions. That’s “community engagement” right there.

What I don’t love:

  • The relatively few hard-news reporters. Of the dozen reporters on staff, only four are doing “news” news — one fact-checker and three community reporters, according to the letter from the editor. I understand that entertainment and sports rake in the dough, but more news news, please!
  • It’s still not clear how much vetting there will be of outside blogs. What if a blog posts an unfounded rumor and it gets aggregated, even featured? I know I spoke to Steve Buttry before about this, but now that I can see the site, I’m still unclear. (UPDATE: Not two minutes from posting this, I see that some of my concerns are addressed here.)
  • The name. Sorry. It just doesn’t quite sum up how cool the site is. I know if other domains were available, the TBD folks would have snatched it up. Also, there is no immediate explanation on the site on what the heck the name means and how it was chosen. That’s question numero uno for most visitors.
  • The Incidents page would be much better as a map.
  • This ad. Don’t know if there’s any way to block BP from an ad network, but SRSLY LOOK INTO IT.
  • Bugs. Yup, there are a few. I know the site had to launch before it was fully cooked because some tech-savvy people guessed the testing URLs correctly, so bugs are to be expected. I’m willing to bet the staff already knows about these ones I encountered. But I’ll write about them anyway in hopes it helps squash them:
    • Saved items. I could have sworn I saved more than two stories. Does it only register if it’s a TBD original? If so, what do the stars by the aggregated content do? And the star on the TBD story that IS in my queue is greyed out. Shouldn’t it be colored still?
    • Setting up locations. I was surprised that when I typed in the name Rosslyn, Va., TBD’s own home base, the name didn’t pop up under the list of suggested locations. And when I tried typing in three locations at a time, it didn’t seem to save.
    • If I mark a comment as a “Good point” on accident, I can’t undo.
    • The Facebook social plugin on this page seems to link to example.com. Or does it?
    • Minor quibble, but on my Chrome and Safari browsers, the “All Over Washington” tagline is hidden below the TBD logo on the home page. I think that’s just a CSS tweak.
  • And the biggest thing I don’t like about TBD: That it’s not based in my community. Doesn’t do me much good to enter my real zip code, does it? :)

So that’s my official two cents (in a reference to their comments section). Overall I’m quite excited about the site and what it means for digital journalism as a whole, and I’m happy the site is finally out in the open for everyone to see.

And I bet you the staff is operating on about 15 minutes of sleep. I’ve experienced this when the SF Public Press launched its first print edition last month.

Note to friends at TBD: Do get some shut-eye. If the only flat, non-Red-Bulled surface in the newsroom is Jim Brady’s desk, well, I’m sure he’ll forgive you for your nap.

Oh, and congratulations.

ADDENDUM: Read the Knight Citizen News Network’s  great post, “Lessons Every News Site Can Learn from TBD’s Launch.” And also catch up on the excellent live chat archive at Poynter with some of TBD’s top dogs.

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How our university newspaper used social media to find news and break it

Student Newspaper Survival Guide A while back, Rachele Kanigel asked me to contribute to her textbook The Student Newspaper Survival Guide. She asked me how we at the Spartan Daily, San Jose State’s college newspaper, used social media to:

  • find story ideas
  • report stories
  • build a relationship with readers
  • promote stories or the newspaper and website itself.

Her textbook is geared toward student journalists who want to know everything there is to know about the student newspaper process.

So this is what I told her, and I’m sharing it with you now:

Finding news stories on Twitter

We used a site called Hootsuite.com to manage our Twitter and Facebook accounts. It does a million things we like: It lets several people co-manage accounts without having to sacrifice password security, we can schedule tweets and Facebook posts into the future, and we can set up searches and friends lists to easily sift through all the noise. There’s also analytics built in, which is a nice add.

We have a search set up in Hootsuite for anyone on Twitter who mentions SJSU. (You can also just use search.twitter.com.) That has proved invaluable in a handful of cases. We can be alerted to news stories posted by the mainstream media the second they appear, and we can take action.

We can also get specific leads for stories that no one else really sees. For example, I found one Twitterer in my SJSU search who mentioned a blind classmate in an orchestra class. I messaged her and got more details: Apparently the Braille technician on campus had moved on to another job, and the blind student wasn’t able to have the sheet music printed in Braille, so the orchestra had to be limited to pieces that were already available in Braille. It was an interesting story I don’t think I would have found any other way.

Using social media for reporting

Social media was extremely helpful for one of our biggest stories of the semester, but our big breaks in the process came from old-fashioned reporting.

Last March, a man named John Patrick Bedell brought a gun into the Pentagon and opened fire. No one at the Pentagon was seriously hurt, but the man was shot and killed in retaliation. We had heard he was a former SJSU student, so we worked all night to verify that fact.

Bedell was quite tech-savvy and had accounts on LinkedIn, Wikipedia and Amazon that mentioned SJSU and revealed more pieces of his character. We used that in our stories, but we didn’t have definitive verification until the school’s media relations officer came through. She had access to a student database we didn’t have, and she provided the student photo that matched the photo the FBI released.

We also wanted to find a student who knew the shooter, so we scoured Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and web bulletin boards. We came very close to finding students who would speak to the media, but they never came through. We used our newsroom Google group to e-mail the entire news staff, and it turned out that a friend of an editor knew someone who had a class with him. We eventually nailed the story.

My takeaway was this: You get better sources and better information with established connections. It’s tough to make cold calls, and they come through sometimes. It’s also tough to make cold connections on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. We got the best results when we had pre-existing relationships with sources, or friends of sources. There’s an established trust, and that reinforces the need for journalists to make online connections through social media before those connections are needed. Start following Twitterers in the area, or be active on Facebook fan pages and other bulletin boards.

Building a relationship with readers

On our newspaper’s Facebook fan page, we made sure we asked questions of readers, at least one every day, about the issues of the day. We tried some different things with that. For example, if two columnists write opposing views on one subject, we asked the Facebook fans to “like” the article they agreed with the most.

Because of abuse and lack of moderation options, we had to shut down the ability for fans to post on our wall. At the time Facebook had no way for us to moderate wall comments. But our workaround was having an “Open-topic Friday” every Friday where people could post their rants, raves, events and news items in one thread. It’s actually a good idea to have those kinds of posts occasionally anyway, because some people won’t contribute to the community unless there’s a reason.

Another idea: Create a graphic of a scale of 1 to 10, and ask Facebook fans to tag themselves on the photo that best reflected their viewpoint. For example, if they were for tighter gun control, they would tag themselves near the 1, and if they were against, they’d place their tag near the 10. That way, their friends are notified that they are tagged in this photo, and they are automatically subscribed to the comment thread. It’s another way to make an issue of the day go viral.

Promoting stories

We actually slow-released our headlines on Twitter every fifteen minutes in the morning. It avoids the RSS dump most news feeds have when a site goes live. We used to post every story to the Facebook page but we wanted to avoid overload, so we picked a good representative of stories and released them throughout the day via Hootsuite. We’d post our three top headlines at 7 a.m., a discussion-generating question at 10 a.m., an opinion column at noon, a feature or entertainment story at 3 p.m. and a multimedia piece at 6 p.m.

[Note: Since I originally wrote this about a month ago, Facebook has revealed that 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. are the best times for reader engagement, according to a presentation the company gave at a Hacks/Hackers meetup. For more, read Poynter’s article on the subject. There’s also an interesting spike of activity after midnight, they said, something that I found true when I had to post something late and got surprisingly immediate comments. Then again, this is a college newspaper, and college students are notorious night owls. I would take advantage of that.]

If I had more time as the online editor, I would have submitted our stories to StumbleUpon, Digg, Reddit and Delicious, with the proper tags attached. I’ve found StumbleUpon to be one of the top referral sources to my own website, and research shows that to be true on a wider scale. So don’t make the mistake I made, and find time to promote your site beyond Facebook and Twitter.

So what practices have you found that work for you? Do you have any specific examples?

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In which I say goodbye to the Bay Area

Me at Vesuvio Cafe in North Beach, San Francisco

I’m leaving San Jose in two weekends, back home to Visalia. Whatever “home” means nowadays.

I have no idea what’s next, but I’m open to any possibility. I could up-sticks and move clear across country – I could use a bit of East Coast butt-kicking in my life. I could end up in the Middle of Nowhere, Kansas, and reconnect with that whole Real America contingent, as opposed to the Fake America I now live in.

But for now, I have to unlatch myself from my current Bay Area location. Which means I have to get my kicks in now in case some opportunity draws me far, far away.

I’m just trying to wrap my head around the fact that San Francisco is no longer going to be in my backyard.

There is so much I wanted to do up here and never did: cheesy touristy crap like ride the cable cars, or sophisticated geeky things like sit in a café in North Beach and write my heart out.

The second item on the agenda is being fulfilled right now. Here I am at Vesuvio Cafe, on the second floor that overlooks City Lights Books. If it was good enough for Jack Kerouac and Francis Ford Coppola, it’s good enough for me.


Sign for Vesuvio Cafe, San Francisco

I felt like I’ve been applying to jobs left and right in the area, to no avail. So I’ve expanded my search nationwide. It’s no secret that it’s competitive up here. Look, I can throw down with the best of them, and I’m still hustling to find something in the web producer or social media arena. I have confidence I’ll land something great soon.

But this idea of saying goodbye to the Bay Area has consumed me at the moment. It’s ironic that the handful of job applications in my queue that could allow me to stay here permanently are being put on hold for this ridiculous, drawn-out, sappy farewell.

I feel like I’m in mourning. Or in panic mode.

When I was in Visalia, I would drive the three-and-a-half hours fairly often to be in San Francisco. When I moved to San Jose, I took advantage of BART and CalTrain connections constantly.

My admiration for this city is making me do strange things now, like spelunking in buildings I have no business entering, or paying far too much for ferry rides to Sausalito (OMG I’m on a boat!!1)..

It also led me to the epicenter of San Francisco tourist traps: Hyde and Beach streets. But I was only happy to be trapped in such a beautiful panorama.

Behind me, Ghirardelli Square. In front of me, the cable car turnaround. To the left was the Golden Gate Bridge gently arching above blue bay waters. To the right, Buena Vista Café, where I met Sean Blanda not too long ago and sipped an Irish coffee while talking tech and journalism, an issue this Silicon Valley place helped create.

People give their life savings to be in this city. They travel halfway around the world to be here.

I’m here now, eyes wide open, phone camera at the ready, neck craned upward.

I’m here, San Francisco.

Not for long, but I’m here.

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Tips for an awesome student newspaper experience

Before I even got into the meat of my journalism-school experience (read: the Spartan Daily, San Jose State University’s student paper), I spouted off a laundry list of advice for journalism students.

But now that j-school is officially behind me, I have a new perspective on that monstrous beast of an experience I just went through. And I’m also being asked for interviews about that perspective.

Dan Reimold called me up from Singapore a few months ago for an interview and just today posted the results. (Thanks, Dan, for making me sound smart!)

Alesa Commedore, an intern at Ourblook.com, did a video Skype interview last week that should appear on the site later on. I’ll let you all know when it’s posted.

And Rachele Kanigel, an instructor at San Francisco State, asked me some questions over e-mail to help update her textbook, The Student Newspaper Survival Guide. I have to say, I wish I knew this book existed before I was interviewed for it.

With her permission, I’m sharing my advice for student journalists at campus publications with you. (I’m only speaking of roles where I’ve had extensive experience — my apologies to the photography and videography students out there. For that, check out the excellent blogs from Mindy McAdams or Mark Luckie.)

All staff:

  • Do not be married to your work. I know you spent a half an hour perfecting one sentence. If it doesn’t work, it will be edited. I know you just spent 8 hours on that infographic. If it doesn’t go with the story, it can’t run. That is the nature of the business. If you can’t deal with it now, don’t go into journalism.
  • Work with people, not against. When you’re working with fellow students , you have to be flexible. Everyone is learning.
  • Always have a plan B, C, D and a vague idea for a plan E.
  • Treat every opportunity like a test for your dream job. What do you want future employers to see? Do that.
  • Know your style. Most American schools go off of AP Style. If you haven’t dug into the industry standard stylebook from A to Z yet, get on it. I’m even looking at you, photographers.
  • Make sure you have a copy of everything you’ve done when you leave the newspaper. That includes articles, photos, video, Flash projects, headlines, editing (save before-and-after copies of particularly difficult edits), live blogs, live tweets, everything. You never know what kind of job opportunities pop up in the future, and you may want to show them what you can do.

Reporters:

  • Get it right. At SJSU, our mass communications building is named Dwight Bentel Hall, and the namesake just turned 100 years old. He had only three bits of advice for our newsroom: Get it right, get it right and get it right.
  • Always save your notes. (EDIT: Thanks to the commenters of this post who pointed out that this is bum advice. See below for the reasons.)
  • Don’t rely on technology, but do use it if you can. Carry a pad and paper everywhere and always take written notes. That’s in case your tape recorder, iPhone, laptop, Pulse smartpen or any otherwise helpful gadget fails on you. You’ll find that transcribing takes up way too much time on deadline anyway.
  • Our adviser encouraged all reporters to call up sources and read back their own quotes to them. It’s a good practice.
  • Keep organized. Have an address book with the names of your sources, their title, their contact info and the name of the story they were interviewed.
  • Move fast. Tweet news as it happens. Post a paragraph online with a note that says, “For more, see tomorrow’s edition.” The quicker you learn how to be quick, the faster you will be in adjusting to the real world of journalism.
  • Take deadlines seriously. When I was working as a copy editor at a daily paper, we had to write an e-mail to five — count ‘em, FIVE — superiors if we were any more than three minutes past deadline. Feel that kind of pressure now. It’s good training.
  • Push for deeper stories. Don’t just run with your first obvious idea. Pitch something your editor doesn’t even know about. Start talking to people. Start digging through documents no one else is digging through. Start reporting.
  • Get it right. Get it right. Get it right.

Editors:

  • Please, please, learn to delegate.  When you delegate a task to someone, you are not relinquishing control, nor are you admitting defeat. You are being a manager. Maintain your ownership over the task. Check up on its progress at reasonable, non-psychotic intervals. And budget out time to train others to do the parts of your job you can’t — or shouldn’t — be doing. Other people want the opportunity to learn something, too. Don’t hog it all to yourself.
  • Lead by example, not by force.
  • Some writers are going to need more red pen than others. Remember that it’s an intimidating, sometimes hurtful process. Work with them so they understand why changes are being made. You’re the de-facto teacher.
  • Communicate. Good God, you’re in the communications industry.
  • On the first day your newsroom meets, get everyone’s contact info, schedule and how far from campus they live. This will be vital when breaking news hits.
  • Plan an initiation bootcamp for the first week your news staff has formed. That means you need to plan some weeks ahead of time. Include how to use software, how to file stories, how to post breaking news to the website, how to do multimedia, how to shoot good photos, etc. You’d hope that previous classes would have taught these skills, but not everyone was paying attention, and you may have some transfer students who didn’t get the memo. Plus, there are specific ways your publication works, and those are important to iron out before the first edition hits the streets.
  • Think visually. I know you’re used to working with words, but you have to coordinate the photographers, videographers, multimedia crew and designers for your stories. If you can’t think visually, ask those who can to think for you.

Designers:

  • Always, always, always have alternatives in mind. I’ve worked as a designer and copy editor for a daily newspaper for three years. Changes happen last-minute all the time. Be ready to completely redo A1 with 15 minutes to deadline.
  • Subscribe to Lynda.com and really learn your design software.
  • Get reporters to start thinking design, like sidebars and graphics and charts. Coordinate with editors and make sure there is room for them in the paper.
  • Get Tim Harrower’s book The Newspaper Designer’s Handbook. It’s excellent. My particular favorite: The Maestro worksheet (PDF).
  • At my job, I learned the dollar-bill rule. If you can place a dollar bill on a page and it doesn’t hit some sort of design element — a photo, a pull quote, a sidebar, a drop cap — it’s too much text. Add something, but purposefully.

Online editors:

  • Do not give up. College students are surprisingly resistant to all this digital crap. But if you see a way your newsroom can do its job better through the magic of the Internet, stand up for it. It’s up to you, and no one else, to fight to bring your newsroom into the 21st Century.
  • Keep up on what’s happening in the industry and new online tools that pop up. If you do nothing else, at least follow Nieman Lab and Mashable.
  • If you can, use an open-source CMS to host your website. Don’t go through a third-party CMS. WordPress is great and allows you to 1) own your own advertising, 2) feature stories and multimedia exactly how you want it, and 3) be in control of your own destiny, to speak grandly. Web design, coding and management are just a few more great skills that makes employers drool. If you need help, join the CoPress community. Or read Lauren Rabaino’s post last year on how the Mustang Daily did it.
  • Be creative. Don’t just do something with social media because some other news outlet is doing the same thing. Really explore possibilities. Journalism school is the place to experiment and stretch limits. Do it.

I actually have another post waiting in the wings to expand on the role of online editors at student publications. Keep tuned in.

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Announcing my graduation

Designed by my sister Jo Anne.

Please RSVP.

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A boatload of good journalism opportunities and events in the Bay Area

Fog begins to descend near Coit Tower in San Francisco. Photo by John C. Liau for the SF Public Press, a news organization participating in Journalism Innovations III.

Photo by John C. Liau for the SF Public Press,
a news organization participating in Journalism Innovations III.

I don’t really blog about Bay Area journalism-related events often, but there’s just too many coming up this month to keep to myself. So if there’s a journalist out there in the San Francisco or San Jose areas wanting to network, brush up on some digital skills or just goof around, you got plenty of opportunities coming up soon:

  • Journalism Innovations III happens this weekend, April 30-May 2 at USF. Register soon — it’s the most affordable journalism conference you’ll love. I’ve been to last year’s event and it was awesome. This year promises to be even bigger, with sessions on:
    • journalism career coaching
    • the status of Bay Area college media
    • new storytelling ideas
    • using new media tools for reporting
    • future business models for news
    • life after journalism school
    • examining old-fashioned journalism ethics in a new media world
    • building an open-source newsroom
    • Also, RemakeCamp is happening May 2 in partnership with JI3. It’s a half-day unconference where all things journo-geeky will be discussed. The beauty about unconferences is that you never know who will show up and decide to speak. The unplanned nature is half the fun.
    • The SJSU Magazine Club is sponsoring a panel of editors from McSweeney’s 6 p.m. Monday, May 3, room to be determined. The panel will talk about the San Francisco Panorama, the latest edition of their literary mag that is a super amazing cool newspaper. (I had a very small hand in the production of it: I provided them a high-resolution vector logo for the SF Public Press, and I helped fund the cover story through Spot.Us. But I still treat the paper as my own.)
    • On May 7-9 there’s a big collaborative project called the 48 Hour Magazine (@48hrmag), where writers and artists from pubs like Rolling Stone, Wired, Dwell, Gizmodo and GOOD are going to put together a magazine in two days. May 7 the theme is announced, May 8 everything is due, and the magazine is sent to print May 9. Headquarters are in the Bay Area and you’re allowed to produce your work there, within reason methinks.
    • If you are interested in developing journalism for the iPad, don’t walk, run to the Hacks/Hackers Unite on May 21-23. There a hack (that’s the journalist) and the hacker (the programmer) will work in teams to explore the unique storytelling capabilities of the journalism’s newest darling, the iPad. It sounds really exciting. I’ve never worked directly with a programmer to tell as story before. I’ve never had the opportunity. Until now, of course.
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Leo Laporte on the future of journalism – extended interview

I recorded this interview with Leo Laporte on a Flip camera at the ONA ’09 Conference on Oct. 2, 2009.

I have a shorter two-minute edit at the ONA website.

In digging around on my hard drive, I remember I had an extended cut, and it might be of interest for Leo’s fans.

I also live-blogged his keynote speech as it happened.

And if you really want the full live stream, you can check it out on PaidContent.org.

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Twitter and journalism panel: I’m on it!

Thanks to @SuziSteffen’s class, I’ve been invited to join this rather cool panel on Twitter and journalism. Check it out here!

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Journalism students across the globe, here is your reporting assignment.

[UPDATE! Read everything you need to know about this project here.]

In yesterday’s CollegeJourn chat, a group of student journalists produced a road map for our first global collaborative reporting project. Sarah Jackson blogged about the idea here, and Josh Halliday wrote about it for the Online Journalism Blog here.

Students, join us. Take up the assignment. Use this opportunity for one of your journalism classes, produce a piece for your college media outlet, or just jump in because you want the unprecedented experience for your resume. Teachers and pros, we welcome any help and guidance you can give us!

We split the topic of health into two, so that the feature writers and beginning reporters could jump in to one area and the data-miners and investigative reporters could jump into another.

If you want to do a news feature, here is your assignment:

What does health mean in your area?

Get creative. We want to get humanizing stories from around the world. How does your town’s attitudes toward health differ from the rest of your country, and how does your country differ from other countries? Find those stories and share them.

Here’s some prompts you may want to explore:

  • What is physical health?
  • What is mental health?
  • What is good health care?
  • What is a healthy work/leisure balance?
  • What is healthy eating?
  • What are healthy relationships?
  • What is addiction?

Use writing, video, audio, slideshows, whatever you see fit. You can produce one story or many. It’s up to you to get creative. But do get specific to your geographic location.

If you want to help us with the data-driven reporting, here is your assignment:

How does the health care on my university campus compare to the health care at other universities?

We want to examine what happens when a student becomes sick or injured on the university campus. What process do they go through, what’s the quality of care, and how does it rank with other campuses around the world?

The first leg of the assignment: Establish a narrative on what happens to a sick or injured student on campus. The second part is gathering data from each area, such as:

  • Distance to nearest hospital or clinic
  • Ambulance response times
  • Average cost of visit (if not to student, then to whom?)
  • Number of clinicians per 100 students
  • What services are available on-site
  • Population statistics over time for the campus
  • Statistics like weight, pregnancy, AIDS diagnoses, gonnohrea/syphillis, etc.

Any statistics we can find that will help us compare campuses, we want to dig up. It will also take a basic explainer on how your country’s health care system differs from others, and that will take collaboration and note-sharing.

We realize this can be very complex. We also want to be flexible in case the stats are unavailable, but we want you to use good reporting skills to do whatever necessary to find out.

I should also mention that the coordinating and planning will be conducted in the English language, but we are open and willing to find a way to accommodate non-English speakers. (Suggestions welcome!)

We are going to use Paul Bradshaw’s Help Me Investigate website to coordinate. Please contact either me (suzanneyada ~at~ gmail) or Josh Halliday if you want to participate, and we will invite you to the HMI group. (We also have a WiredJournalists‘s group you can join here without invitation.)

This means for you North American CollegeJourners that the Sunday chats will be moved up to 3 pm ET/noon PT until further notice, so we can chat at a reasonable global time and update each other about our progress.

So you have your assignment. It’s due Oct. 30, but each week we will advance our reporting and share notes, so we will know where we need to go for the next week. You’ll have a support group and clear guidance for what’s expected week by week.

More logistics will be hammered out, and we will keep you informed.

Any questions?

EDIT: Here is the Google group we are using to do internal coordination. Leave a comment here on this blog and then join — I’d like to know who you are!

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CollegeJourn’s global collaborative reporting project

The weekly CollegeJourn chats can generate some massive ideas. Like the Bring-A-Professor night last February, where we asked educators, professionals and students alike how they would like to see journalism schools change.

This time, we’re breaking out of the navel-gazing. Let’s stop talking about journalism and do some journalism.

We talked last Sunday about ideas for student reporting projects (transcript here), then quickly realized that there’s real potential for online collaboration around a particular story or topic.

Two ideas popped up, and they could go hand-in-hand. The first one focuses on data-gathering from all over the world on a particular issue. This is more geared for hard news. What information can you waaaaay over there access that my readers waaaaaay over here would want to know? Is (insert topic here) really this good/bad around the world? This one was inspired by ProPublica’s Adopt-A-Stimulus-Project efforts, but we need a subject that students around the globe could tackle.

The other idea would be focused on a word, like “victory” or “death” or “love” or “injustice,” and have student publications around the world publish stories that reflect their geographical location and culture with that theme. This could be feature, or hard news, or even arts and photography students could contribute.

It’s possible to cross-breed the two, but I had an idea of offering both assignments at the same time — the theme-based idea for audio/video reporters, feature writers or beginning journalists, and the data-gathering idea for the investigative journalists, data visualizers and computer-assisted reporting students. (BTW, I’m not suggesting multimedia reporters can’t be investigative and vice-versa, but some stories and topics lend themselves to different platforms, you know what I mean?)

On Sunday (that’s tomorrow!) we’ll be deciding many of the details, such as what the assignment will be, deadlines (if any), how to collaborate and what to do with the final product. Sarah Jackson (@sarahsodyssey) has already blogged about her vision here. It’s an exciting one.

Please join us at 8 p.m. BST if you’re in Europe and 3 p.m. ET/noon PT if you’re in North America. Those locations have already had CollegeJourn chats set up, but we want to expand to other continents, too, so please check out what time that will be in your time zone.

Also, join the newly formed CollegeJourn group on WiredJournalists. It could be just the platform we use to do the planning and collaboration.

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