Posts Tagged ‘wordpress’

Introducing NewsWire: If you run a journalism school, you need to do this

July 8th, 2008 is the new news website for the Whitireia Journalism School, New Zealand.

I built it. And, aside from the fee for hosting (pennies) and my own personal wage, we did it for FREE. And what’s more, it’ll stay free.

We created and launched the site within THREE WEEKS. That includes setting up the hosting, domain name, content management system, design, editorial structure, promotion and publishing software. Oh, and lets not forget that students creating the content have been training as journalists for less than six weeks.


The simplicity of the operation is staggering. Using a series of free, open-source tools, we have created a multi-media news website that is already involving the community.

Now, when I was putting all this together, I constantly referred to the work of Mindy McAdams. Her how-to guides have meant some very tricky aspects of the teaching — setting up Audacity, for example — were made a lot simpler.

Now it’s one thing for Mindy to create those sorts of guides for her own students, but it’s another thing altogether to put those resources on the web, for free, for everyone to learn from.

So, inspired by Mindy’s example, I’ll explain everything that went into Maybe some other journalism schools can follow Whitireia’s lead.

» Read more: Introducing NewsWire: If you run a journalism school, you need to do this

Web 2.Much!

June 1st, 2008

(image from Flickr, by premiardiego)

Can you ever be too Web 2.0? I’m starting to think so.

Zac Echola posts this brilliant list of tools for streamlining reporting in the modern newsroom. I say ‘brilliant’ with a hint of unease, however, as the list is as long as your arm — and then some.

I worry that with all these great tools, we’re going to get wrapped up in user accounts, feeds and social media. While some of these methods make reporting easier, more efficient and, you’d hope, better, we’re hurtling towards Web 2.0 meltdown.

So, I’d like to streamline the streamlining list into some essentials. For the sake of clarity, I’m going to write why I decided to ditch the other ones too. Of course, feel free to disagree. I change my Web 2.0 allegiences more often than I change my socks (so that’s alot… you cheeky buggers).

Here we go:

Firefox – YES

I agree. Firefox is far quicker, and can be customised beyond belief. It’s not just about saving time, it’s about putting all the tools that I’m about to write about in easy reach. I didn’t know about the portable version which Zac mentions, but it seems a good idea for all of us who are blocked from installing anything by frightened IT technicians.

ADrive – NO

I’ve had a look around, and this seems clunky and unreliable. If you’re a professional outfit, you’re far wiser to use Zac’s second suggestion: A private FTP server. – YES YES YES!

I first saw in full swing when I observed Martin Stabe at work. His use of the social-bookmarking super-tool was to collect links that might be of interest to other people, and then to privately save links that are of use to him. I’d urge every journalist to do this. I hate how MSM sites don’t bother to actively acknowledge other MSM sites exist. You should, as a provider of news, send your readers to wherever is important. The best bloggers are the ones that are trusted by their readers to steer them in the right direction — even if it means sending them to a ‘rival’. (Sidenote: Do bloggers have rivals?)

Google Reader – YES!

If it wasn’t for Google Reader, I wouldn’t have learned about Zac’s post. It was recommended by Ryan Sholin — his favourite bits of Web-ness end up in my feeds too.

Google Reader is a terrific bit of kit. ‘Nuff said. Tie it in with the mobile version, the ‘badges’ and the shared item functionality and it’s undoubtedly one of the best tools on this list.

Gmail – Suppose so…

It won’t change your life… but if you’re not happy with your web email client, then Gmail is the best solution by miles. Although, I have to disagree with Zac on the usefulness of the IM feature. No-one pays any attention to it… at least not in my experience. Far better to Twitter them…

Google Docs – NO

It’s handy for quick edits, but I wouldn’t recommend it for much more. Certainly not, as Zac suggests, a cheap alternative to front-end word processing. If you want a free alternative to MonopolySoft’s Office suite, then try OpenOffice instead.

Why the hostility? Well… try opening a formatted document in Google Docs. It’s all over the place. Try copying text from Google Docs into a web-based form, and breaks will litter the page. You’ll need to painstakingly go through each line. Grrr.

Zac notes you can publish directly to blogging software and similar bits and bobs… but is it really that difficult to log into Wordpress? Nah.

Google Calendar – NO (sadly)

You know… calendars are great. I have a good one on my wall. Except it’s from 2003 and stuck on September. I also set up Google Calendar for my student newspaper team — except we didn’t update it. Are we lazy? No. Are we technically backwards? Of course not, you cheeky swine! What we are (were… *sigh*….) is busy journalists who keep on top of their appointments by using personal diaries, and phone-based calendars that vibrate and beep at me if I’m missing anything.

In an ideal world, everyone would use a Google Calendar to organise their time. Diary stories would be placed on there, assigned to different reporters, timed to perfection. But that’s not how a newsroom operates — thank God! They’re manic places, where stories and appointments change at the drop of a twitter. A Google Calendar doesn’t reflect that — so we don’t need it.

The most effective way to manage reporters is that big scribbly whiteboard in the corner.

Grand Central – Oh.. go on then!

I’ve never used or even heard of this before, but it looks good. Especially the WebCall function… unless you get prankers. Which you probably will.

“Do you like scary movies?”


Flickr – YEAHHH!

I love Flickr. Give it time, I reckon Flickr users will have photographed the entire world. Well, the bits we inhabit, anyway. Most useful are the mobile-to-web tools. Imagine a world where your online reporters can post pictures and video to your news site within seconds of it happening? Imagine no more… go and get a Flickr account.

LinkedIn – NO

If you’re more worried about embracing social-networking and the ‘real’ people that use them, you’re far better off getting a Facebook and MySpace account. Facebook for sure.

If you need contacts, you can get them. Don’t waste your time signing up to too much.

Jott – NO

I’m always against technology that makes the user look like a bit of a maniac. Too busy to post to your blog? You’re likely to be in a busy situation then. Imagine whipping out your phone and talking your posts down it. You’ll sound insane, like those blokes who use handfree kits around the supermarket. Show offs.

Remember the Milk – NO

Aside from the fact the cheesy name of it makes me feel like being sick (cheesy… milk… geddit? Ho ho!), Remember the Milk seems like another pointless organisation tool. “Editors can see what you’re working on, while assigning quick tasks and deadlines,” says Zac. Just phone them, says I. It’s amazing how more productive an actual conversation can be.

Twitter/Brightkite – Oooohhh YES!

I love Twitter. I’ve never heard of Brightkite, but Twitter is just fantastic. When it’s working, that is, which at present is a bit haphazard. The thing I love about Twitter is that posting to it is simple — a nice, free text — and it’s versatility knows no bounds. My latest Twitter message appears on the sidebar of this blog. When I was at Sky, Julia Reid used Twitter to great effect, reporting from an aeroplane grounded at the shiny but shit Terminal 5.

Ning – NO

New to this, too, but it’s not needed. Firstly, the general public aren’t using Ning. So, for that reason alone, it’s of limited use to journalists. Want to build a community of your readers? You’ve already got one in Facebook and MySpace. Want to reach people who don’t use social media? Then your own website should be massaging discussion.

As for the second reason, the art of conversation is the best tool for newsroom communication. You don’t need Ning, and your readers don’t either.

Any good blogging platform – YES

Well this is a no-brainer, really. If you don’t have a good, versatile blogging platform then you’re pretty much stuffed. So get one. I suggest Wordpress.


So there we go. I sense I’m being very dismissive of some of the tools there, so please, get some comments over this way and I’ll happily debate with you until the cows come home.

To sum up, in the ‘yes’ pile:

Google Reader
Blog software

In the ‘no’ pile:

Google Docs
Google Calendar
Remember the Milk

And in the ‘maybe’:

Grand Central

The jury’s out!