Making sense of the local twitterverse

We’ll open tomorrow with a brief tour of 61Fresh, The Boston Globe’s attempt to make sense of what people in the Boston area are saying on Twitter. As Justin Ellis reports for the Nieman Journalism Lab, the effort is entirely automated.


Thinking about photography

On Friday we will have our second guest speaker — Brooks Canaday, a staff photographer for Northeastern University and a photojournalist who has shot for the Boston Herald and other clients.

I am also stretching out our photo-story assignment, which I haven’t posted yet. I have revised the syllabus, so please take a look. Your photo story will now be due on Monday, Oct. 7, at 9 a.m. For this coming Tuesday, I want you to shoot five people-oriented photos and be prepared to show them and edit them in class. Again, consult the syllabus for further details.

The syllabus originally said that we would be posting our slideshows to Flickr. Unfortunately, the new “improved” Flickr looks nice but, in my opinion, is no longer a suitable tool for putting together a news presentation. We will base our slideshows on WordPress galleries instead.

Here are some places where you can find great photojournalism every day:

Social media and verification

Many thanks to Josh Stearns for talking with us today about verification and citizen media (not to mention verification and professional journalism). Please write a blog post about or related to Stearns’ talk, with some links in time for Friday’s class.

Also, you should have just about finished your Storify in class. Please get it the way you like it and then post a link to it from your blog. I’m not looking for you to say much on your blog — what I’ve done on my blog is fine.

Getting ready to hear from Josh Stearns

Our first guest speaker of the semester will be Josh Stearns of the media-reform organization Free Press, who’ll be joining us on Tuesday at about 9:15 a.m. Please spend some time with his “Storify of the Year,” which is on the syllabus. Also, he has a brief essay on verifying breaking news that I would like you to read and a Tumblr, Verification Junkie, where he collects verification tools.

Twitter news assignment

Your assignment for using Twitter as a news tool is to cover an event and post at least 10 tweets, then write a blog post about it. Embed your tweets in your blog post as I have done below. The event could be a speaker, a sports event or even a street fair that you run across. Please attempt to take and post a couple of photos in your Twitter feed. (If your phone doesn’t allow you to post pictures, don’t worry about it.)

Do not forget to include a link to your Twitter feed in your blog post.

Posting links by cellphone is too difficult, and doesn’t fit all that well with covering an event. But, as a rule, posting links is one of the most important things you can do on Twitter, as it enables you take part in the ongoing conversation. These days, most Twitter clients take care of link-shortening automatically.

Once you are done, write up a brief blog post describing the event, what you were hoping to accomplish and what you see as the positives and negatives of covering a story via Twitter.

If you are completely puzzled by the idea of covering an event via Twitter, I thought I would link to a few of the tweets I posted on the evening of Dec. 8, 2009, when I was at Martha Coakley’s headquarters following her victory in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate. During the campaign, the hashtag #masen became universally known as the best way to tag your tweets so that other people interested in the race could find them. As you’ll see, some of these tweets include photos. A random sample appears after the jump:

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Our opening thoughts for tomorrow

1. A follow-up from the Atlantic Wire on the photo of the alleged shooting victim that was pulled back by the Associated Press.

2. My synopsis of an interview with Washington Post executive editor Marty Baron on the challenges posed to general-interest news organizations by the rise of communities of shared interests.

Neither is long. Please read them and be prepared to talk about them. We’ll also look at the Twitter feeds you found and get ready for your Twitter coverage assignment.

Enhancing your beat with Twitter

For your next assigned blog post, please find the Twitter feeds of 10 people or organizations related to your beat. Follow them for a day. See who they’re retweeting. Click on their links. For Friday — before class — write a blog post about your experience, what you learned and how it enhances your ability to work your beat.

List and link to the feeds you are following and write a sentence or two about each one describing what it is.

How to find Twitter feeds related to your beat? Here are a few ideas.

  • Look at the Twitter feeds offered by large news organizations such as The Boston Globe and The New York Times.
  • If you’re following someone who is useful to you, find out who she’s following. Maybe she’s set up lists. You can follow anyone on that list, or the entire list. Maybe she participates in Follow Friday. See if she’s posted anything with the hashtag #FF.
  • Use our friend Google. Let’s say you’re writing a blog about skateboarding in Boston. Google <skateboarding Boston Twitter>.
  • Use a search/directory service such as We Follow or Topsy.