Photo by Shirley Chan ’17
A lot has changed in media and communication in the past decade, but one thing remains true: For journalists, the beating heart of the industry still resides in New York City.
What better place for journalism students to learn and network?
In May, UO School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC) Instructor Lisa Heyamoto and Carolyn S. Chambers Professor in Journalism Damian Radcliffe took 14 top journalism-track students to the city for the inaugural Super-J trip to the Big Apple. The Super-J contingent visited 16 of the industry’s most iconic sites, from centuries-old educational institutions and legacy print dynasties to the nimble startups researching and innovating the latest media technologies.
“The journalism industry is incredibly varied and constantly evolving,” said Heyamoto. “It was invaluable for our students to experience that firsthand and to see the many paths that are open to them.”
Virtual reality journalism? They tried it. Robots who write news stories? They found out why it’s not as scary as it sounds. Audience engagement? They learned the latest approaches for immersing users, tracking their interests and expanding reach.
And that’s barely skimming the surface. To learn more about the first-ever Super-J trip, read six students’ accounts of some of the most inspirational sites they visited and their takeaways from each.
New York Times: Four things I learned at the newspaper of record
Story by Caitlyn May ’16
Photo by Lisa Heyamoto
The Super-J in NYC Experience spanned start-ups, tech companies and online publications, but it also extended students the rare opportunity to visit the Gray Lady herself — the New York Times.
In true journalistic form, our visit began with a story.
Weekend Editor Ian Fisher — who has worked extensively overseas from Rome to Iraq — was tasked with meeting us and came up with his tale in the shower. While details of the story will stay between the 17 of us, the moral was that the Times has always invested in its journalists, no matter the cost. And, despite further disruption rumbling in the journalistic distance, the publication continues to beat it all on story.
Here are four key insights I learned from Fisher and his colleagues:
- Substance wins the day.
Against a backdrop of industry discussions about layoffs, clicks, revenue, circulation and the next big thing in journalism, the Times is still dedicated to the original big thing: the story.
Sure, innovation drives us forward. But video, virtual reality, social media and, yes, even listicles are effective only when they produce high-quality content that applies the journalistic principles that have carried us this far. Every ounce of content under the Times’ banner adheres to this same high standard.
- The robots are coming.
The Times is working on a slew of tools to make journalists’ lives easier, including tables that record and transcribe interviews, data platforms that give real-time feedback and an archiving process that will help hold authority accountable.
These are potentially all great tools that can only improve engagement. But they’re also worrisome for a graduating journalism student with student loan repayments on the horizon. I would certainly require a larger salary than a robot. So where does making the job easier overlap with needing fewer journalists to get the job done? That’s yet to be seen.
- Get an internship.
We’ve heard it before (and before that and before that). And at the Times, we heard it again: Internships are invaluable when on the hunt for a job.
Nearly everyone we’ve met in New York media has climbed their way up the ladder to their positions using an internship as the first rung. You have to work before you work.
- User experience matters.
The Times has a team working on improving viewers’ visits online. It wants to know how we read the stories at nytimes.com, why we read them, when we read them and if we’d read more if the interface was tweaked just a bit.
The Times has a process to shape these tweaks that involves interacting with readers to test its ideas before fully rolling them out. Nothing done well in journalism is done without research, dedication and feedback from the community that’s being served.
ProPublica: Open-source journalism
Story and photo by Sami Edge ’16
ProPublica, a digital investigative outlet based in New York City, was founded in 2008 with the mission of producing “journalism in the public interest.” Aside from producing Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism, the outlet focuses on expanding the reach and impact of its content through a number of unique strategies.
“The idea is essentially to democratize journalism,” ProPublica Public Relations Director Minhee Cho says.
Here are five ways ProPublica maximizes the social impact of its content:
- Free content
Not only is the ProPublica website free to access, but the outlet also gives away its stories for other news outlets to publish — provided they follow a few attribution guidelines, of course.
Since launching, the outlet has partnered over 100 times with everyone from The Marshall Project to the Albany Times Union. Partnering with specific outlets helps ProPublica get their content in front of the people most affected by it and expands their coverage into areas of multimedia they don’t produce in house. The partnerships are also an opportunity for small outlets to pitch big stories and take advantage of investigative resources they might not have.
- Open data
The outlet shares the numbers behind its stories so that citizens and reporters can find information that’s pertinent to their communities. For example, a news app called Dollars for Docs allows users to type in the name of their doctors to see if they are being paid by pharmaceutical companies.
- Community building
Instead of focusing simply on its relationships with sources and readers, ProPublica helps foster relationships between people who can help each other. One example is a curated Facebook group of nearly 4,000 people who are interested in — or have experience with — patient safety issues.
- Do-it-yourself help
After publishing major stories, ProPublica will release story recipes that explain how they did the work. These templates are intended to show citizens and other reporters exactly how they can keep reporting on the important investigative findings that ProPublica has unveiled.
Parse.ly: Lessons on audience engagement
Story and photo by Shirley Chan ’16
We spoke with Kelsey Arendt, customer success manager at the analytics firm Parse.ly, to get some professional insight. For digital publishers, the first thing they must do is learn how to understand data, and this is where Parse.ly comes in.
Parse.ly provides audience insights to digital publishers through an easy-to-understand data analytic platform. Their goal is to help their clients realize the power of understanding data.
“It can be measured and empower you,” said Arendt.
Thanks to Parse.ly, we found out what keeps most readers coming back for more: great storytelling. So good news, journalists: Our jobs are safe.
Here are my main takeaways from Parse.ly about audience engagement:
- Tell stories on different platforms, but only if you have the resources to do it well.
As technology evolves, we have plenty of new media to tell stories in different ways. But that doesn’t mean publishers need to jump into a particular platform — until they’re ready.
Arendt said many publishers don’t have resources to implement video, for instance, and until they do, they shouldn’t bring it in. But once they understand how to use it well, video will help them expand their audience.
- Companies and publications should focus on qualitative data more than quantitative data.
Although page views will always be important, they are not the determining metric for how successful your publication is. Good content will drive engagement, even if the numbers don’t show it yet.
- Understand the difference between psychoanalytics and demographics.
Too often when looking at data, we focus on things that shouldn’t matter. It’s understood that publications like Huffington Post and Buzzfeed cater to millennials. But their content should focus on what people care about, regardless of age, gender, etc.
For example, we learned that about 40 percent of The New Yorker’s readers are millennials. Many of my peers and I were surprised that so many young folks read a writing-heavy, legacy publication that most people think of as a magazine for the older generation. But then I thought to myself: The New Yorker is writing for anyone who wants to read quality, in-depth, long-form stories.
- Understand the difference between sharable content and valuable social content.
There is a difference. Arendt gave the example of how rapidly articles were shared when gay marriage was legalized. But people weren’t reading them because they already knew what was going on.
This is what Arendt described as sharable content: topics that people share to publicize the fact that they know about it. In terms of the legalization of gay marriage, it was a way for people to show support for the LGBT community, or that they weren’t living under a rock.
Then there’s valuable social content.
“The story doesn’t stop when you press publish,” Arendt said.
The power of storytelling will drive these stories’ success. People who care will click. And when they do, good storytelling will make them stay.
Empathetic Media: Five reasons to get into VR and AR journalism
Story and photo by Kira Hoffelmeyer ’16
To get a glimpse into the cutting-edge world of VR and AR journalism, we visited with Dan Archer of Empathetic Media, a media and technology company that specializes in VR and AR projects.
Archer, who’s dabbled in everything from cartooning to straight journalism, talked with us about the technologies involved in virtual and augmented reality and the company’s goal to use the new technologies to forge deeper connections between storytellers and their audiences.
I have to admit: It was compelling and awesome to see that kind of technology at work.
So what makes these new tools so cool for journalists?
- They are well suited for storytelling.
Every storyteller’s ultimate goal is to create an immersive experience for their audience — to make the story as real and concrete an experience as possible. VR and AR both accomplish that in ways that have never been done before.
And yet, many news organizations are dragging their feet. Yes, VR and AR are still in beta stages at this point, but I think many of the companies with the human and financial power to tell stories through these media aren’t doing it yet.
- You’re not tied to the same old story arc.
Sure, you could design a landscape where the user is forced to make certain choices and follow your narrative from Point A to Point B, just like a traditional story. Or you could do something like Empathetic media did with its Ferguson Firsthand project: Allow viewers to make their own choices in the narrative with the same outcome as the story you’re following.
- All the information is obtained through good, old-fashioned reporting.
It’s nothing new. It’s what you’re taught in journalism school. It’s the five W’s and the basics of public records requests. It’s good, old-fashioned, shoe-leather journalism that will make these types of high-tech pieces excel, and it doesn’t require much more than the job we’re already doing.
- Legacy companies already have the capability to do this.
The big and established media companies have the stature and the financial support they need to add VR and AR to their portfolios right now. All they need to do is take the risk.
- You’ll attract and engage new audiences in ways you never imagined.
With VR and AR, you can give users firsthand insight into an underrepresented community. You can provide someone across the world with some much-needed visual context. You’ll definitely engage audience demographics that are more visually oriented. And you’ll reach people, like video gamers, you were probably not reaching before.
A few weeks ago, I had an opportunity to be a part of the inaugural Super-J in NYC trip. As a college editor-at-large for The Huffington Post, you can imagine how excited I was to visit the online publication’s offices and meet some of the awesome people I’ve been working with.
While we were there, we asked my fellow HuffPo journalists for some advice in starting out in the field. Here are some major keys to success the young, dynamic and diverse panel shared with us:
It may come in the form of paid or unpaid internships, volunteering, contract work or personal projects, but experience in the field of your desire is not optional. It is what potential employers will expect you to have, and they know it will look different for everyone.
Marcos Saldivar, senior manager, partnerships and content, for The HP said, “Never discount your experience. We all have a unique vantage point.”
The best way to do that?
“Be 100 percent yourself,” said Julia Bush, associate social media editor for The HP. “Be 100 percent on your resume, LinkedIn and cover letter.”
Sometimes we doubt ourselves, and sometimes others doubt us. But this visit has helped me realize that the impossible can be possible. That dreams can come true. That I should follow my passion and do so without self-doubt or fear.
Rowaida Abdelaziz, world social media editor for The HP, said, “Being a minority, I got told ‘no’ often, and not because of my skill set, but because of my looks. Don’t let the industry break you. You need to develop thick skin. Know your worth. Don’t compromise your values.”
- Practice self-care.
I’ve written about this several times on The HP because I want to save others from learning the hard way. You have to make yourself a priority.
While I listened to the panel, I reflected on who I am, why I chose this career path, where I am now — almost done with my bachelor’s — and where I could be in a few years. All of a sudden, everything seemed within reach. I looked at the panelists and started believing I could be in their place a few years from now or even next year! As I have learned, anything is possible.
Columbia University: The future of journalism
Story by Abby Johnson ’16
Photo by Shirley Chan ’17
Whoever said journalism is dead has clearly never met Claire Wardle, research director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University. There, innovation is the lifeblood of the work that students and faculty produce each day.
From the moment we stepped into the World Room of Pulitzer Hall, it was clear that journalism was not only still alive, but thriving. Wardle made a case to us that change in what we call “journalism” does not equal its dissolution.
Here are Wardle’s top five predictions for what’s coming up in the fourth estate’s near future:
- Even more social media
Embracing and investing in innovation are more imperative than ever. Many platforms now function as their own publishers. Channels like Snapchat are in the business of content creation as well as distribution and are nibbling at the corners of what most consumers learned from traditional news in the past.
- Computational journalism
In a media landscape littered with click-bait articles and viral videos, it is vital for news organizations to be timely if they are to emerge above the digital noise. This is why media outlets like the Associated Press have begun to experiment with computational journalism.
It’s a terrifying prospect to many seasoned reporters, but automatically created articles do not in fact pose a threat to these jobs. Instead, computational journalism will allow simpler articles, like those pertaining to sports scores and quarterly earnings reports, to upload immediately, leaving more time to investigate and report more complex articles.
- Metrics and analytics
The metrics and analytics available via social channels allow news organizations to get an unprecedented amount of information about every audience. Now it is possible to understand each reader’s interests, engagement and how best to serve them.
- Mobile platforms and citizen journalism
While seamless mobile optimization remains a struggle for some publications, the power of the medium cannot be overstated. It’s not only a place where most people are consuming content. It’s also a tool for users to contribute their own voices to the conversation.
Many have hailed citizen journalism as the downfall of professional journalists. But by empowering smartphone users to share the extensive video content they accumulate, it’s becoming a new kind of solutions journalism wherein a wider audience can experience issues that otherwise may never have been covered.
- Immersive video
There is a strong push for using augmented reality, virtual reality and 360-degree videos to cover news events. Although many are excited about the potential these media hold for increasing empathy, there are concerns about ethics and if they are too exclusive, given the expensive equipment they require. Though these technologies are new and exciting to experiment with, publications must consider the potential risks associated with investing too much, too soon.
- Native advertising
Another topic in the ethical gray area is native advertising. Journalists across the board are struggling with how to monetize digital content. Sponsored posts and videos are less intrusive and aggressive than pop-ups, and they evade the ad blocker. Yet is it ethical to package a sponsorship as true, unbiased reporting? This is one of the many questions journalistic institutions are grappling with.