Thursday, January 31, 2008

One of the Things We Will Be Doing in Class Next Week

I'll ask the class what they think these six leads mean, and why?

I admire Britney Spears.

We admire Britney Spears.

You admire Britney Spears.

You know I admire Britney Spears.

You know we all admire Britney Spears.

I know you all admire Britney Spears.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Young People Creating Content Online: Lots of It

This is from Pew Research.

Some 93% of teens use the internet, and more of them than ever are treating it as a venue for social interaction -- a place where they can share creations, tell stories, and interact with others.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project has found that 64% of online teens ages 12-17 have participated in one or more among a wide range of content-creating activities on the internet, up from 57% of online teens in a similar survey at the end of 2004.

Girls continue to dominate most elements of content creation. Some 35% of all teen girls blog, compared with 20% of online boys, and 54% of wired girls post photos online compared with 40% of online boys. Male teens, however, do dominate one area -- posting of video content online. Online boys are nearly twice as likely as online girls (19% vs. 10%) to have posted a video online where others could see it.

The survey found that content creation is not just about sharing creative output; it is also about participating in conversations fueled by that content. Nearly half (47%) of online teens have posted photos where others can see them, and 89% of those teens who post photos say that people comment on the images at least "some of the time."

However, many teen content creators do not simply plaster their creative endeavors on the Web for anyone to view; many teens limit access to content that they share.

A subset of teens are super-communicators -- teens who have a host of technology options for dealing with family and friends, including traditional landline phones, cell phones, texting, social network sites, instant messaging, and email. They represent about 28% of the entire teen population and they are more likely to be older girls.

Friday, January 25, 2008

UK's Independent tries to evolve

Posted by Paul Bradshaw 12:18:44 PM
The Independent's New Site: The Real Change Isn't Technical
The Independent's new site design offers many good features -- but that huge banner ad space up top is overkill.
U.K. daily The Independent has relaunched its site. (Here's the official announcement.) At first glance there's nothing spectacularly new or innovative. However, a deeper look reveals some intelligent changes -- particularly on the business side. Here are the headlines:
  • RSS feeds more prominent. There's now an orange feed icon for each home page section.

  • Also more prominent placement for: "Most popular" content (read, e-mailed, commented), videos, podcasts, blogs, ("Just posted" and "Catch up with our experts"), photo galleries, polls, etc. Which is as you'd expect.

  • "Editor's Choice" is even more prominent, appearing just below the top-level navigation. In comparison, "Most popular" lies below the fold. The "Day in a page" drop-down menu (presumably for people who missed the news that day and want to catch up) remains, but moves to the bottom of the home page.

  • Sharing and usability. There's the now customary "Digg it / Stumbleupon / Facebook / delicious" box on every article (plus "change font size / print / e-mail").

  • "In the News" navigation option reveals the big stories of the moment. Not as striking as Sky or The Guardian, which can include those stories as a navigation choice in their own right.

  • Open House: An "online debating chamber where our diverse stable of columnists and commentators come together to discuss the issues of the day -- and invite you to join in." Looks like an attempt to clone commentisfree.

  • New IndyBest microsite brings together "The Independent's ever-popular weekly 50 Best features and the daily 10 Best series." Are they annoyed ShortList came up with the idea first?

  • Weather now is more customizable.

  • Niche news. This is the most noteworthy change. The Independent now targets niche markets with new online-only sections including Art & Architecture, Fashion, Gadgets & Tech and Health & Wellbeing.

  • "Offers" classified ads now has its own page and navigation button, as does Student. Also, Environment now makes it to the Inde's top level of navigation -- just as The Guardian prepares to invest in its own environment coverage.

  • Mapping. The Inde's property service and automated quotes from Xelector now are integrated into editorial pages.

...The final verdict? Clearly the Inde has its business head screwed on, while managing to tick all the boxes a newspaper should have been ticking last year in terms of technology.

Editorially, however, it's still trailing its broadsheet competitors in terms of making the most of the possibilities of the medium. The Telegraph is doing exciting things with databases and Flash, and The Guardian excels at blogging and podcasting.

Still, at least The Independent prints links to other sites in its newspaper -- something its competitors have never done well.

For the record, here's what the Inde looked like on January 4, before the revamp.

An Immigrant Story.

I started browsing the Nieman nonfiction archive for stories about immigrants and found my old hometown paper had run a series. Here's the link to one of those stories.

Here's part of the lead, plus a methods box.

Leonardo’s dressed neatly in black jean shorts and a tucked-in white T-shirt. He’s boxy and built like a linebacker. His hair is thick like a dried paintbrush.

He works in construction. Most of his T-shirts are marked with white paint.

But not this one. This one is clean. He wants to look good.

Leonardo is at the DMV to see if he can get license plates for his car, even though he doesn’t have a driver’s license, and even though he is not in the country legally.

Other Hispanics in the Roanoke Valley pay strangers hundreds of dollars to help them get fake Social Security numbers and driver’s licenses. Leonardo has seen others get license plates some way, somehow. Usually through someone in Rocky Mount, he’s been told.

But he has already spent almost $600 on license plates that didn’t arrive.

Leonardo’s at the DMV in Crossroads Mall because he wants to do it right, or as right as he can under the circumstances.

Leonardo paces near the entrance, looking at the vanity plates on the wall. Man, he thinks, do those vanity plates look good. How about one of those?

Nah, he decides, just something simple. He just needs the plates. Until Christmastime 2008.

By then, he’ll be done working in the United States. By then, he’ll be home. With his wife and daughter in Mexico. With a new truck and a new home.

About this story (The Methods Box)

This is the last installment in The Roanoke Times' "Land of Opportunity" series. In this story, and in some previous installments, we have chosen to not fully identify subjects because such details could increase the risk of their deportation.

In this story, the subject is identified only by his first name, Leonardo. The reporter, Evelio Contreras, spent more than five months following the lives of Leonardo and his roommates in Roanoke. All of the subjects in the story spoke only Spanish, with the exception of government officials. Contreras translated the quotes into English at the time of reporting.

Contreras accompanied Leonardo to the Department of Motor Vehicles in Crossroads Mall to observe if he could obtain license plates. Contreras translated the conversation at the DMV, as well as the described documents, because Leonardo does not speak English or read in any language.

"I did not provide any answers Leonardo didn't have," Contreras said. "When we arrived at the DMV, I didn't see any translators — I didn't ask, either — so I decided to translate for him."

Contreras, 24 and a community sports reporter, brings a relevant background to this story.

"He [Leonardo] reminds me of my father, Evelio Sr., a 63-year-old semiretired construction worker living on the border of Texas and Mexico. He's not a U.S. citizen but a [legal] resident alien. He's from a different generation of Mexican construction workers.

"My father wasn't big on words but work. Leonardo approaches life similarly."

Hit us with some champagne and push us in the water. This blog is ready to go.

Here's our first blogging assignment for the class. Comment at this blog on this question: How hard was it to find a suitable topic for your first story?

If you want to tell compelling stories, how important is spending enough time getting a real good subject? This is what Ira Glass has to say.

All you visitors. Here's the assignment:

January 23/Week One: Introduction to the course/Interviewing/Focusing your idea.

Assignment: A story of at least 500 words based on an interview with an immigrant or alien (preferably a refugee) who has been in the country no more than two years. Most of the story will reflect your interview with your subject, but I want two additional sources: a secondary written source and a brief comment from a USF professor or staff member who has expertise that is relevant to the experience of your immigrant. Such information is good preparation for asking the tough questions in an interview. Such supplementary information is particularly useful if you think you have been told something that is not true. Read Blundell, Chapter 1.