Recommended social media guidelines for reporters

  1. Be honest.
  2. Be yourself.
  3. Assume that everything you say is public, even if you say it privately.
  4. If it’s not clear to you what’s public and what’s private, don’t participate.

Inspired by recent discussion about the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and New York Times guidelines for reporters using social media.

Spartan Love

News from San Jose State’s J-School:

  1. Kyle Hansen is skipping town, headed for Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive to work with Rob Curley. The Spartan Daily’s loss is internology’s gain.
  2. SJSU is hosting an NPPA Flying Short Course in October. Daniel Sato is furiously wrangling multimedia shooters behind the scenes to set up an awesome program.
  3. I take full responsibility blame for the completely inappropriate title on Daniel’s blog post that closes with the following incredibly intriguing announcement:

    “The San Jose State photojournalism department will be holding multimedia workshops during the two summer sessions each year. Each session will be three weeks and will take place in a foreign country. The kicker, as if working on stories abroad was not enough, is that our school has two partners in this project. The Mercury News and National Geographic will each be sending either a photographer or an editor for one week to assist students as they learn multimedia storytelling techniques.”

The moral of the story: This is a really good time to be a J-School student at San Jose State University.*

*Disclaimer: I have every reason to be kissing up to certain faculty members right now, but really, I mean it!

Why wouldn’t a journalist leave his job at the newspaper for the online newspaper?

Derek Willis, who blogs at The Scoop about investigative and computer-assisted reporting, announces his move from The Washington Post to…


The online operation of the paper happens across the river from the newsroom, with a different set of employees and editors, and Derek has taken the step of packing up his skills and crossing over to the Web side, where his database-driven work will be presented in its native medium.

How many journalists do you know who could pull this off? How many have a Web-native skill to leverage?  Do you?  If not, it’s a good time to ask yourself two things: Why not? and Where can I learn one?

Using RSS to track the politicians you cover

Megan Taylor, an online journalism student at the University of Florida*, has been reviewing RSS feeds from newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post this week.

She points out a feature I hadn’t seen yet in the Post’s Congressional voting database: RSS feeds on every member of Congress full of their votes. (Thanks Adrian!)

Here’s the page for Sam Farr, our local representative in the House. Look for the orange XML button.
Aside from how slick it is that this database pulls from existing and frequently updated information (I’m guessing from somewhere in the bowels of, think about how easy this can make a political reporter’s job.

Subscribe to feeds of every member of Congress in your circulation area, and maybe put these feeds on a Netvibes-style homepage, so you can see all the headlines at once, compare votes easily, and move things around as necessary depending on the stories you’re covering.

Now you’ve got all their votes in one place and you know when they weren’t around to vote, what they skipped, and what the overall tallies were compared to how they voted.

Could be an easy way to get ahead of the press release / e-mail blast cycle by seeing the vote first, getting a source on the phone, and you’re on your way.

*Gators suck. Go ‘Canes!

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.

Semiotics 101

Does it matter what we call things?

Does it matter what words mean?

Does it matter if it’s a “War” or a “Conflict” or a “Conflagration” or a “Military Event”?

Does it matter if it’s a “newspaper” or a “magazine,” a “blog” or a “message board?”

From my grandmother’s point of view, my blog is “writing” and that’s all that matters to her. My mother certainly knows the difference between a blog and a message board and a live chat, and has run all three, not to mention email lists and in-person seminars. My wife is perfectly aware of the important disparity between time I spend writing on my “blog” as opposed time I spend writing “term papers.”

Things have names for a reason, and it’s far more interesting to me to study why we name things what we name them and how it affects our perception of said things than it is to just throw up my hands and say “a rose is a rose is a rose.”

Robert MacMillan of writes of his blog vs. message board mix-up: “On the Internet, however, it seems that people present personal communications in ways that are as fluid as the information we digest. Defining blogs seems to accomplish two goals: It lets bloggers identify themselves as practitioners of a rigid format, which then, ironically, allows the corporate world to figure out how to use this amazing medium for ends that have little in common with the spirit of the first-generation bloggers.”

Okay, so MacMillan’s gone ahead and cherry-picked his definitions, then mocked the medium for becoming commercial. Almost like a newspaper. With advertising. Or an internal corporate magazine. Or an advertising campaign.

He does admit his mistake, and although I really don’t have any time to savor a slice of “I got a mainstream writer to correct himself” pie, I give him credit for owning up to the factual error.

The medium AND the message are integral elements of communication, and if you can’t see that, you’re clearly neglecting your senses in some manner.

For those who take an interest in the naming of things, here are the immortal words of Old Possum…enjoy.

The Naming of Cats by T.S. Eliot

The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there’s the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, or George or Bill Bailey –
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter –
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that’s particular,
A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum –
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover –
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

[tags]Robert MacMillan, Washington Post, journalism, blogs, cats[/tags]