Packaging national election headlines for local news sites with Publish2

Happy Election Day-After!

I’m still up to my neck in post-election analytics, gathering stats and data from hundreds of news sites I work with to do a little postmortem on what worked, who learned some new tricks, and what the readers thought of it.

One of the things we put together here at GateHouse for Election Day coverage was a national election news widget.

Because I work with small-town and rural community newspapers, national news is the last thing I want reporters and editors to spend time on while local election results are coming in.  Copying and pasting AP stories?  No.

But, wouldn’t it be nice to have a constant stream of headlines available for readers obsessively pounding the refresh button looking for updates on local races?  Without depending on any one source, like the AP, that everyone else has on their sites?

Yeah, it would:

Neosho Daily News on November 5

This is a screenshot of a chunk of the content well at a small (think: sub-10,000 print circulation) news site in Southwestern Missouri.

The top part of it is list of headlines that we’re putting together with Publish2.

I’ve been working with editors from the GateHouse News Service to use Publish2 as a bookmarking engine to route headlines from our browsers to that widget on many GateHouse sites.  In fact, the news service has been using it for months now to feed links to their Elections page.  You can find notes on that use and our use of Publish2 to feed Hurricane Gustav headlines to sites in Lousiana here.

Here’s why we’re getting so much use out of this:

  1. It’s simple. Use a bookmarklet, surf the Web, hit the button when you find a story to share.
  2. It’s diverse. You choose the sources, you push the buttons, you curate the content.
  3. It’s timely. I sat in front of my laptop last night, scanning, Google News, Yahoo News, the network’s sites, big national papers, Memeorandum, Twitter, and Google Reader, plucking the results off the pages and bookmarking the link with Publish2, giving local sites an instant feed of national headlines.

Scott Karp started telling about his plans for Publish2 more than a year ago, when it quickly inspired me to start thinking about ReportingOn, based on what Publish2 didn’t do; but he keeps developing the idea, and I think he makes a strong case for using it as a tool for curating the Web in a way that makes sense for news organizations.

Yes, yes, I know that you could do something similar with Delcious or Google Reader or FriendFeed or even a Twitter account, but Publish2 has a by-journalists-for-journalists feel that I like.  You’re not repurposing some other app to do what you want; this is designed to do what you want, and even allow you some editorial control, or even to group users with access to a set of links.

Check it out.  Curate the Web that your community cares about.

A short manifesto on local linkblogging

Brittney Gilbert blogs for a TV station in the Bay Area.  I’ve mentioned her before, and even though I’ve moved geographically far from her coverage area, I keep up with her tweets and various postings.

Today she writes: I am not a journalist.

While I disagree (the curator is a journalist and the journalist is a curator), she lays out the logic and opportunity for the local linkblogger:

“The Bay Area is crawling with people passionate about their communities. They have their feelers out, covering the legislature, watching their streets and otherwise covering the San Francisco-area like a blanket. In fact, there are so many awesome local bloggers out there breaking and reporting news that you need a human to point you to the best and most important stuff. This, my friends, is my job.”

Does your news organization have a dedicated linkblogger, or does your staff contribute to the task of curating the local Web?  If not, why not?

The good stuff is over there –>

If you prefer my tweets and shared reader bits and delicious links to the infrequent and sometimes long-winded content here at what passes for a blog, click on through from that reader of yours and take a look at the right side of your screen. (Actually, let me check that in a few browsers first… OK, we’re cool.)

You’ll find a stream of links, and some other stuff that was buried a bit lower until a few minutes ago.


(Thanks to the folks at SimplePie, especially for the WordPress plugin. It. Is. Rather. Simple.)

Watch out for secondary characters with more interesting stories than your protagonist

That’s good advice up there in the title of this post. I got it from a screenwriting teacher, and it’s been a running joke around our house for the last week based on a couple movies we’ve watched lately.

And it’s also good advice for narrative journalists.

But that’s not what this post is about.

This post is about the Long Bet between Dave Winer and Martin Nisenholtz.

Just in case anyone is keeping score, I’ll add my name to the list of unofficial judges who think Wikipedia was the winner.

Here’s the kicker from Rogers Cadenhead’s post on the topic:

“Winer predicted a news environment ‘changed so thoroughly that informed people will look to amateurs they trust for the information they want.’ Nisenholtz expected the professional media to remain the authoritative source for ‘unbiased, accurate, and coherent” information. Instead, our most trusted source on the biggest news stories of 2007 is a horde of nameless, faceless amateurs who are not required to prove expertise in the subjects they cover.”

He’s exaggerating (‘nameless, faceless’) to harp on the contrast between the interesting secondary character in this story and the protagonist/antagonist pair, but the point is clear:

The crowd beats the individual and the organization when it comes to …well, SEO is a factor… but the reason the crowd’s version of events floats to the top of search results has more to do with individuals linking to the crowd’s record than a header tag matching a title tag.

There’s plenty of intriguing thought about this being thrown around, including these bits:

  • Dave Winer: “The world that I hoped would come about did not. While blogs have broken many stories, they have not, in general, turned into the authoritative sources I hoped they would in 2002. When the blogosphere resembles journalism it’s often the tabloid kind.”
  • Paul Boutin: “Cadenhead has exposed the flaw in my genius idea: I presumed there were only two sides. That’s journalist math. Any real techie knows there are never only two values to anything in real life.”

Where’s Martin Nisenholtz’s blog, anyway?  I’m eager to hear his take on this.

And the last open-ended question: Who’s the third player in the scene you’re writing? For example, is there a third element in the Newspapers vs. craigslist equation?

Five things you might not know about me, but now I’ll tell you and ruin the opportunity to tell you these stories properly later

Okay. First things first, I don’t usually play the blog-tag game, and calling these things “memes” always makes me, Saussure, and Debord throw up a little in our mouths, as the saying goes.

Does that count as the first thing? No?

Fine. Here goes:

  1. I spent my 21st birthday in Central Booking in Manhattan. Lesson learned: Being the loudest guy at the protest has consequences, no matter how diplomatic you are when you talk to the cops all day long. Takeaway? I’m hardcore.
  2. I have done quite a few of the silly-name jobs in the movie business. I can explain in painfully exquisite detail what a Gaffer does, how that differs from a Key Grip’s job, why you should stay out of the Dolly Grip’s way, and how there can possibly be more than one Best Boy.
  3. I self-published a book — in second grade — about Brisam, a hooded warrior of some sort who had a really cool sword and was on a mission to get some sort of special water out of a mountain. This was for a class, but it sounds like D&D was an influence.
  4. I met my wife in the middle of nowhere, working on a movie that was never finished, for a friend who ended up suing the director to get paid. The town was small, and the crew was large, so we became a bit of an attraction everywhere we went. There’s even a poem about a few of us leaving the bar (look for the one titled “Lured into…”)one of those nights. Not pictured in the poem? My wife.
  5. At the karaoke bar, I’m a rock star. Three words: Minnie the Moocher. Don’t try stealing my Cab Calloway routine, either.

There. That only took me five minutes hours days.

Why did I do this? Well, Jay tagged Howard tagged Will tagged me (and Will tagged Danny tagged me). You can dig back further into that thread if you want, but if you really want to go down that rabbit hole, I’ve got a blonde joke for you.

Moving right along, it is now my pleasure to tag the following five bloggers:

Yes, it’s an all-SJSU lineup. What I really want to see is the five of them each link to five bloggers who aren’t on this list already… 🙂 Bring it on, and Happy Everything.

Newspapers ready to start aggregating the competition

The New York Times reports that the Washington Post and other newspapers are linking up with to display links to related stories from other news sources — not just from blogs, but from newspapers, too.

Let the aggregation begin.

From the NYT story:

“This lets us be a search engine,” said Kelly Dyer Fry, director of multimedia for Opubco Communications Group, which publishes the Oklahoman and its Web site, “We look at it like we just hired 30,000 journalists, because now we can give you our story and what the rest of the world is saying about it.”

That’s certainly the right idea: “This lets us be a search engine.” Your newspaper should be the central spot for news and information for your readers. If it’s not, then something’s wrong.