The Journalist’s Toolbox


Cases of news innovation and entrepreneurship – Research panel, featuring L to R: J. Richard Stevens, Bruce Mutsvairo, Jonathan Groves, Carrie Brown-Smith, and Lawrie Zion. (Nicole Raney/Knight Center)

#Memstorn: Twitter as a Community-Driven Breaking News Reporting ToolCarrie Brown-Smith, University of Memphis

Twitter and the hashtag #memstorm allowed users in Memphis, Tenn., to share real-time weather news following a series of powerful storms in April 2011.

Brown aggregated and categorized these tweets into different categories. Users posted accounts and direct observations of the storms, followed by information on storm watches and warnings.

Her findings were that users were also using #memstorm to connect with other users, make jokes, ask questions and praise journalists for their coverage of the storms. Users expressed how they felt they were part of community as they tweeted during the storms, giving them a “sense of comfort.” A local TV station even received backlash from the some members of the #memstorm community for making a competing hashtag for weather updates.

Brown found that the role of journalism initially was to verify information and provide local specific information. The tweets expanded the journalists’ responsibility by further engaging them with #memstorm community. The hashtag facilitated a more open exchange between journalists and the community.

WellCommons.com: Breaking Down the Barriers between Journalists and the Community
Jonathan Groves, Drury University

Groves’ research into the niche “social journalism” site WellCommons.com in Lawrence, Kan., demonstrates the breaking of barriers between journalists and the community they cover.

Modern journalism kept a wall between reporters and the community, causing disengagement between the two groups. The team that developed WellsCommons.com bridged this gap by combining 40 people — journalists and non-journalists — to cover health issues in their community.

Groves’ research focused on the type of stories being contributed and the sources being used for the website. He found that while the journalists’ stories focused on experts and the non-journalists wrote more personal narratives, the line between the groups began to blur with more collaborative reporting.

African Citizen Journalist’s Ethics and the Emerging Networked Public Sphere
Bruce Mutsvairo, Amsterdam University College (The Netherlands)

African journalists are still dedicated to traditional ethics even as the social media landscape brings more changes to the continent.

The research team concluded that ethics were still relevant to them, something that they had not expected. Mutsavio states that more research into the role of ethics in journalism in the region is needed.

More than 20 citizen journalists from Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe responded to an online survey about their feelings about the role of ethics in journalism, and how they identified themselves with the profession. The research team found that the respondents defied what a journalist and what a citizen journalist is in different ways.

Social Reading and Privacy Norms: The Aesthetic of Simplicity, Online Reading, and Interface Confusion
J. Richard Stevens, The University of Colorado at Boulder

Studies show Americans care and are concerned about data privacy but do little to protect it, showing a paradox of the issue.

The usability of a social reader is defined by the effectiveness of its design to allow users to achieve their goals in terms of lack of obstruction or complexity.

Stevens said that user confidence in social readers, coupled with increasingly complex backend architecture for those social reader sites, is creating an “architecture of vulnerability.”

That vulnerability, along with low user digital literacy, is creating an increased confusion for users on how those online tools function. This could lead to confusion over privacy issues for users.

“Best Practice” in the Journalism Ethics Frame: A Comparative Study
Lawrie Zion, La Trobe University (Australia)

The advent of online media and complicated journalist ethics in Australia is a challenge that journalism educators face.

Zion’s research looked at the possibility to identify the best practices for using tools and techniques of digital journalism. He looked at five case studies to find the best practice principles.

Some of the common best practice features he found were identifying emerging situations, share findings, foster collaboration, suggest rather than prescribe and enhance media literacy.

The use of these best practices will lead to more global and open approach to doing ethics, potential for collaborating on transnational research and help resolve some of the journalistic ethical debates in Australia.

Zion also concludes that simply teaching ethics must be supplemented by the development of these best practices.

ISOJ 2012: Lawrie Zion, La Trobe University (Australia), from Knight Center on Vimeo.