Wired Journalists in Cedar Rapids weathered the floods

Remember back awhile when I mentioned how some seriously wired journalists were bubbling up to the surface at WJ.com?

Yeah, I specifically called out Matt Neznanski and Jason Kristufek, didn’t I?

Here’s Matt interviewing Jason about running the online operations at the Cedar Rapids Gazette during the floods:

Q: Had you already put into place a plan for handling breaking stories, or were you working on the fly?
Jason: As far as having a template approach for display of a major breaking news event online, we were basically working on the fly. As far as a system for getting information into the newsroom quickly for immediate coverage, we had that part already covered.”

Read the whole thing at Wired Journalists.

10 blogs your newspaper needs to rip off

I’m making a short list of frequently updated news blogs published by mainstream news organizations that post breaking news and link out to other sources.

If you run a newspaper.com and you don’t have a blog like this to put together links and short updates, ask yourself why not.

These are all great examples of blogs that get news up in a timely way without a great deal of waiting around for a daily-print-cycle-based editorial process to wrap up.

  1. The Lede – New York Times – Notes on the news in the Times and all over the place. Links to blogs, other news sources, YouTube videos embedded on the page, etc. See also: City Room for the local NYC version.
  2. Blotter – ABC News – “Brian Ross and the Investigative Team” provide lots of detail on current news stories. Not much in the way of links, but there’s lots more here than you’d find on the nightly newscast.
  3. On Deadline – USA Today – Breaking news, including frequent updates on whatever’s breaking right now this minute, plus links to outside sources.
  4. The Trail – Washington Post – Campaign trail notes from WaPo staffers. Less links and more reporting, but short and sweet for the most part, far ahead of the print cycle.
  5. Wonkette – Gawker Media – Washington DC gossip + snark.
  6. Instapundit – Glenn Reynolds – A classic example of a political blog, but the links are the content here.
  7. Romenesko – Poynter – I’d guess this is the single most widely-read blog in U.S. newsrooms. All the news industry news you can shake a browser at, all links, all the time.
  8. Epicenter – Wired – Lots of technology business news here, often in the form of short posts with links to other news sources, blogs, and research.
  9. L.A. Now – L.A. Times – Daily links, photos, and bits of news.
  10. TechBlog – Houston Chronicle – OK, so this is more topical than timely, but Dwight Silverman is probably the most prolific individual newspaper blogger out there, with really frequent updates and lots of links, focusing on consumer technology, not venture capital news that no one outside of Silicon Valley cares much about.

Feel free to add more examples in the comments.

I’m looking for the best news linkblogs out there to use as examples of what a newspaper.com should be doing with an all-purpose breaking news blog or a topical linkblog.

See also: Scott Karp on “link journalism.” 

How do you cover snow?

{In the spirit of this whole carnival atmosphere, I’m going to post links to my fellow circus acts as my mental and temporal bandwidth allow today.}

Yoni Greenbaum has some suggestions for how a local newspaper might bring readers into the fold when it comes to covering the weather. Apparently, Back East you people have something white and frosty you call ‘snow’ and I hear there’s quite a bit of it coming down as I type this.

Yoni says:

“I believe that editors should start by treating weather events (in this case a snow storm) as an online story and as the day progresses, pick the best and the most relevant content to appear in print. They should ask what would readers want to read the day AFTER the snow storm, what do they need to know about the weather event they just lived through and what would be useful to them going forward?”

So, snowbound friends, how are you covering today’s storm?

Map thyself

{Carnival! There’s a journalism blog carnival under way, hosted — if you can wrap your head around that concept — by the folks at Scribblesheet, some sort of collaborative writing tool I haven’t had a chance to look at yet. Here’s a review of their product at the Online Journalism Blog.}

I’ve written pretty extensively about the merits of using free online tools to embed, well, just about anything, in an online news story. Here are two map-based examples from opposite ends of the spectrum:

In the major metro disaster scene category, we have The Oregonian’s coverage of what looks like a pretty hardcore wind and rain storm this week, with all the photos, multimedia, and many stories aggregated on a Google map that a Web Producer* built the complicated way: updating a KML file and embedding the map created by it.

Here’s a snip of what the page looks like today:

Oregonian Storm Map 2007

The headlines on the left are being pulled off of RSS feeds from a couple different sections of the news site; the photos on the right are from a Flickr collection of photos by staff photographers. (Any contributed photos here? Why not a call for readers who use Flickr to tag their photos something common and pull that feed?)

It’s easy to navigate, with lots of content (including video that plays in an embedded Brightcove player in the pop-up from the spot on the map – always nice to see that), and once the files are put together, it’s not difficult for a producer to update the map.

At the other end of the continuum we have my local paper, the Santa Cruz Sentinel, filling a hyperlocal need with a map of where to find houses and businesses decked out with lights for the holidays.

Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Map 2007

I love it. In fact, I live here, and I’m planning to use the map as a guide to take my family out to see the lights.

The folks in Santa Cruz (full disclosure: I worked at the Sentinel for a year) used ZeeMaps, a free map-building tool where you can add content to a map, embed it in your site, and most important for this exercise, allow your readers to add points on the map themselves.

Which means the map is an interactive, dynamic source of information for your community.

There are more than a few sites to help you get this job done. Check out FMAtlas or MapBuilder or even the ‘My Maps’ feature in Google Maps.

And if those tools are old news to you and you’re ready to go a little deeper down the rabbit hole, here’s the place to start learning about rolling your own embedded map.

Need more inspiration? Check out this list over more than 1,000 Google Maps mashups.

*The Oregonian Web Producer in question was Mark Friesen of NewsDesigner.com, who needs to update his blog.

Notes on breaking news

Last June in the most popular post ever on this blog, I said this:

“You ignore new delivery systems at your own peril. RSS, SMS, iPhone, e-paper, Blackberry, widgets, podcasts, vlogs, Facebook, Twitter — these aren’t the competition, these are your new carriers. Learn how to deliver your content across every new technology that comes into view on the horizon, and be there when new devices go into mass production.”

Six months later, Facebook has taken off as a tool for newspapers to gain “fans” and disperse their headlines and related news, Amazon’s Kindle — as small and flawed a step as it may be — is a step toward e-paper newspaper subscriptions, and a solid bunch of news organizations have started using Twitter as a quick way to push information out to the Web and mobile devices, without waiting around for any corporate initiatives or guidance from the folks in IT.

If you’re unfamiliar with Twitter, go sign up now and start “following” my updates. Then find your friends and favorite newspapers or cable news channels, and follow their updates to get 140-word snippets of news, commentary, and links to full stories or interesting pages. Search for your local paper to find out if they’re Twittering the news yet. If you work at your local paper, now would be a good time to start.

Zac Echola has a great tutorial up on a basic way to start feeding Twitter public weather data – that’s a good way to start serving your readership automatic updates — no reporting required, no programming experience required, just the smarts to route some information through free Web services to get a job done in your newsroom.

If you’re looking to use Twitter for “live” reporting, check out Jack Lail’s post about how a Knoxville local kept his readers updated on the progress of a big high school football game:

“…McCaughan’s Twitter posts had an immediacy that captured the drama and tension of a playoff game between two arch-rivals. It was breaking news to the people that wanted to know. It was news of the moment.”

And if you need more convincing of why news organizations should become more agile by using services like Twitter to break news, check out this post at Strange Attractor, chronicling a couple recent examples of online news folks beating their newsrooms to the punch when news broke.

Starting to get ideas? Look up Twittergram, Seesmic, Utterz, and Jott. They’re all services that start down the path of delivering payloads (audio, video, photo files) over a simple social network like Twitter.

Obligatory Twitterquake post

So last night, around 8 p.m. California time, a rather large truck was idling in front of our building.

That was what it felt like at first, then the wife and I looked at each other and said the magic word: “Earthquake.”


We scrambled for a few seconds, made some moves to grab the kid and get out the door, but it wasn’t getting any worse, and then it stopped.

You know the rest of the story by now.

I go back to the laptop, find out the two people I was talked with on IM felt it in San Jose and Fairfield, hit USGS.gov, find the quake immediately (epicenter NE of San Jose in the foothills), then hit Twitter.

To be fair, I was the second person in my network to get something up on Twitter about it, but then again, I don’t know every geek in the Bay Area.

And of course, the kicker

There was far more information available (and faster) on Twitter than there was in any local news outlet.

SFGate.com, the San Francisco Chronicle’s site, was the first to get a one-liner up with a link to the USGS. The Mercury News followed a long, long while later with a story full of quotes, and InsideBayArea.com (Oakland Tribune and other East Bay Papers) and the Santa Cruz Sentinel ran the Merc’s story shortly after that.

Ah, but there’s a twist

Some hour after I went to bed, my local paper did post a great story full of local color: A scene from the movie theater, a scene from Trader Joe’s, and the context of the Loma Prieta quake that beat the crap out of this town in 1989.

What now?

So the local paper did alright, hours later.

What I’d love to see, from all these papers, are breaking news blogs that anyone in the newsroom can publish to in a hurry. And by “publish,” I don’t mean make ten phone calls and wait for quotes from the Mayor’s press secretary to flesh out the story, I mean a running breaking news blog with the latest headline on the homepage of your site, very much like a Twitter stream:

“8:05 p.m. – Earthquake…”
“8:06 p.m. – Epicenter NE of San Jose according to USGS; no magnitude yet.”
“8:07 p.m. – No damage downtown; call us at 555-4242 if there’s anything broken in your neck of the woods.”

Better yet, just publish it to Twitter and your “breaking news blog” is the bit of javascript you slap at the top of the homepage to pull in your latest tweet.

More obligatory Twitterquake posts:

So, did you feel it?