Saturday, August 2, 2014

Lexy’s journalism extras book

Not everyone is lucky enough to experience heart-flutters by just doing their job. Journalists who love their work know what I’m talking about.

Writing is a creative process and sometimes it’s hard to get the juices flowing. That’s where ideas to make your story stand out come into play.

Here’s my list of ways to make your web stories shine with a little extra work. TV newsers, you can use your knowledge of these elements to tease to online content on air. Newspaper pros can also send readers online this way. I've linked examples throughout, so click away!


Storify lets you take tweets, YouTube videos, images and even Facebook comments to create your own timeline. You can add confirmed photos and tell a story with additional text. Here is an example from Charolette about a nasty line of thunderstorms. It’s a visual way to tell a story and also lets you pull information, videos, pictures from the places we can’t be. If you don't have time to aggregate, you can also embed public posts from Facebook and Twitter into your story with a quick copy/paste.

Posting Documents (Document Cloud, Scribd)

I love posting documents because it puts the non-believers in check. Of course, you can say “According to court records, the man jumped out of the car with a knife and asked for mustard.” Although, there are always skeptics that think you pulled that story out of your back pocket. Post those documents and find digital ways to make notes. For example, Document Cloud lets you highlight the important parts to either note in the full PDF or extract the HTML for that specific piece. Here’s a piece I wrote & Document Cloud’d up by taking excerpts and telling a story while providing documentation. You can also use Scribd to post documents.

Overview Project

Speaking of Document Cloud, meet Overview Project.  This tool is awesome for those who have a lot of documents to sort through. Here’s an example from the beta tool’s website: “Wade had heard that the Tulsa Police Department had wasted millions of dollars on new squad car computers that didn’t work — and that there was an internal ethics investigation into the purchasing decision. He asked for the emails documenting the problems, and got them, all 7000 of them. He used Overview to find the half dozen that explained the story.

Audio recordings

Sometimes you need to provide your audience with proof. Just like embedding documents, there are ways to include audio recordings online. Audio clips can range from meeting conversations to music to podcasts.


If you can’t keep dates in a story straight, how do you expect your audience to keep everything in order? Some timelines can become a story, like these key moments in sports in 1994. Other timelines can just give the reader a visual look at a possibly complicated (or just drawn out) story. Timetoast is the kindergartener's version of a timeline. It looks pretty good and it’s very simple to use and modify. Timeline JS is a little more complicated, but really has movement online. Here’s a very easy how-to.

Google Fusion tables

This tool lets you turn data into living and breathing maps and charts. All you have to do is create some sort of spreadsheet in Google Drive and merge it into a map or chart. It can even as simple as addresses of where to find a local newspaper. Here’s a how-to on making a map with certain photos and information on each location.


A GIF (GIF sounds like the beginning of Jiffy Lube) is an image format that people use to show looping video/photos. You may remember these little guys in the 90’s. Well, GIFs have turned a corner and can be used to showcase a photo with movement, like this story from, or even an awesome sport moment. It’s sort of like a mini-video without pushing play.


You don’t have to only use a SOT (Sound On Tape) tease on-air. Export that puppy, throw it on YouTube and tweet/Facebook it! People will check it out throughout the day and hopefully remember to watch or look out for your story later.

GOOD raw video/interview

No one wants to see a boring Q&A between a public official and a voice from behind the camera. If the interview you did was insanely awesome, cut it up as short as possible for an extra web segment. It’s easily shareable and if it’s riveting enough, will spark some attention. Here’s some raw video of a court hearing. Sounds boring? Just watch.


Graphs are a super easy way to show and compare your numbers. Give your data girth and context. You can go from an easy chart to creating maps with color density to enhance your story.

45* Imagery example
Google Maps capabilities

WSJ’s Census Map Maker lets you see what kind of people live in a certain area via Google Maps. 45* Imagery on Google Maps lets you check out some cities at a 45 degree angle rather than right above it or right beside it (like Google Maps Street View). Remember, you can include a Street View snapshot into any web story.

My Congressional District

Check out this easy-to-use database, My Congressional District, letting you choose a state and district showing you Census stats on gender, age, race, ancestry and more within the area. Within that page, search the tabs above that let you pick and choose what data you need for your stories. In my experience, the Census PR people are very helpful and will try to find odd or unusual data for you if you get in touch with them.


A few of the best things about Vine are the ability to share a video quickly without a long uploading and processing ordeal and how the video can be played inside of Twitter without getting out of the app. The six-second video made straight from your phone can be one long shot or multiple short clips. (Remember to embed your Vine after your story’s done!)

Photo slideshow

Some stories are begging for a slideshow. With photojournalist jobs slashed left and right, reporters are becoming mini-photogs. If you’re writing a story about a protest and don’t include photos in your story, you can leave the reader out of the loop. If you’re an MMJ, use your iPhone to take photos and then screenshot clear images to upload from your b-roll. If you’re a lone reporter on a tight deadline, take out your iPhone take a few photos to tease your story immediately. Once you find your hook, tweet/Facebook again with another photo. Let your web editor know that you have a few shots to add online. (Trust me. They’ll be thankful.) A slideshow doesn’t need to be elaborate. Five good photos can take your reader/viewer to another level.


I like using Tumblr to discuss newsroom decisions and questions. For example, Breaking News uses Tumblr to take viewers inside of their newsroom to discuss what’s to come and explain some big ethical decisions in national news. It shows that, unlike some people think, journalists have ethical hurdles they must learn how to jump over.
Share some of your favorite ways to give the audience a little extra. Tweet me!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Using Twitter as your wires

Starting my career as a news producer, managers told me to constantly check the wires for national and regional updates to interesting stories.

I would check our iNews wire connection and quickly found Twitter was much more up-to-date. Even The Associated Press, the usual wire service for news teams, tweeted updates before pushing updates to iNews and APExchange.

When a major story is happening, you don’t see it on Facebook, television or the wires first. You see that big story on Twitter. You can usually see how the story developed on Twitter, too.  

Twitter is now my main wire service.

It’s easy to use the old option as a crutch. Twitter is a strange place with unconfirmed craziness thrown around, but you should have your own set of rules to determine what’s real and what isn’t.

1. Look for @AP (or your preferred wire service) for updates

2. Find the subject’s Twitter account. 

I am always comfortable running with official statements on social media. If you feel iffy, attribute the information to where you found it. You can spread that information on Twitter with a plain retweet or a manual RT to add your own info.  

On air/online: “Crews deactivated a bomb at Local College, police on the scene said. Classes are canceled as investigators look for a suspect, Local College’s Twitter account confirmed. (add link to post online/pull up screenshot on air)”

3. Search for the local television station or newspaper account and attribute facts to them. 

You should probably keep checking their page for an accurate stream of information.

“Crews are looking into a bomb threat at @LocalCollege, @LocalNews reports.”

4. Use search tools to find tweets from the scene. 

Search keywords, location, hashtags, etc. using Twitter’s advanced search option. It can be a little harder to confirm info from these random people quickly, but it’s a good way to get an interview and at least hear rumors so they can be debunked or confirmed.

“WTH? Police are in my classroom rite now at @LocalCollege. #scared #TGIF - @LocalCollegeGirl” 
Do you use Twitter during your work day? Tell me why/why not.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Training my inner journalist young

A memory from my childhood came back to me recently while I was producing alone during the weekend.

I’ve always had an ear for the people screaming and whispering on police scanners.

My older brother, who was probably in high school, was stuck babysitting his hyperactive and nosey little sister. I was a young girl-- I’d say in elementary school at that point.

After he’d feed me all of the cereal and coke I could handle, we’d sit in his bed and turn up his police scanner as loud as possible. We’d sit there and he’d tell me to stay as quiet as I can and listen closely.

He’d pay attention to the codes and streets of our local police department to figure out where they were and what was happening. I’d pretend to know exactly what was going on. Once something sparked his interest, we’d pack up in his extended cab El Camino and drive until we saw red and blue lights ahead of us.

We’d park out of harm’s way and watch like the snooping kids we were.

Listening to the scanner is now part of my day-to-day job. I can have an ear bud in one ear, write a script, carry on a Facebook conversation and still hear every word on the scanners.

Just like my brother, I now have to figure out whether it’s worth driving out to any location after hearing the very few words chirped over the frequency.

People who understand scanners know there are some points in the day you’d like to throw the black box straight across the room. Other times you’re talking to dispatch and officers on the scene as if they’re sitting right next to you.
“Brush fire at akejfsekhiuo.”

“Come on. Say that again. Where are you?”

“Caller says they can see flames and smoke coming out of a house on Main Street. Fully involved.”

After this flashback of my childhood, playing co-pilot to an interesting call with my older brother to the left of me, I have a reignited love for the sounds and squeaks that come out of that block of noise.

(Of course, I do not suggest bonding with your siblings by taking them to crime scenes! Let’s hope my parents don’t read this post.)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Mobile journalism and its extending reach

Journalists seem to pick different aspects of the job and spin them until the next big thing comes along.

A few that come to mind:
Video journalism, photojournalism, focusing on the web, breaking news online, social media strategies, etc.

I’d say mobile journalism is a current focal point among journalists.

During Augusta’s week of iced over roads, power outages, falling trees and two earthquakes, I realized how important it was to focus on mobile journalism.

We all relied on our 3G/4G to catch the news on our smartphones (probably near a car charger) with a majority of our audience (and our staff) without internet or TV access.

We watched our market reach (just over 701,000), grow as soon as app/livestream numbers came in.

In five days, our app saw 794,042 sets of eyes and 25,996 livestream views.

In seven days, our website had more than 1.2 million pageviews, about 750,000 unique visits and just over 9,000 livestream views.

We made an effort to get everything up online ASAP and worked on the app continuously. 

The ice has melted, the ground has stopped shaking and our light switches actually work again.

In one week, I found the reason behind the big mobile journalism push.

From paper to television, from a laptop to your smartphone-- the options are there and plentiful. You just have to offer the most effective product for each. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Twitter snark among journalists

I follow some pretty amazing journalists on Twitter.
Twitter snark

I enjoy seeing what they’re working on right now, new technology tips and even photos of their burnt dinners. I laugh when they make fun of themselves or point out some sort of blemish in their competition’s work with a quick, but poised 140-character tweet.

Lately, I’m see a whole lot of mean on Twitter from some amazing journalists. The people I’m talking about have thousands of followers. Is it worth it to be ill-mannered for everyone to see?

We all work so hard to gain respect in our field while being ourselves at the same time. Sometimes it’s worth it to ghost tweet.

Ghost tweet (v) /gōst/ /twēt/
  • To write a tweet and delete it before publishing to the social media platform Twitter
"I was so pissed. I just ghost tweeted a felt a lot better."

After reading a few mean-hearted tweets to either followers or fellow journalists, I thought about the people who met their all-time favorite artist in person and were disappointed.

I saw avid writers tear down fellow journo addicts and definitely lost a little respect for them.

Maybe I think too highly of these journalists. We’re all humans. We all have really bad days. I just hope people realize each rude tweet that’s published is sent to the thousands of people who follow them.

I’m not going to link to the tweets I’ve seen because we could all learn to think before we tweet.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Real life producer probs (catered to WRDW News 12)

  1. TVU de...(7 seconds later)...lay
  2. Putting a video ID in the wrong line
  3. Cutting off words in extra long supe
  4. Editors asking for video that isn't down yet
  5. Misspelling something so badly that it's incomprehensible
  6. Realizing you made any of the above errors mid-newscast
  7. Your lead changing 10 times in one day
  8. iNews time jumping during your show
  9. Being forced to use rain video
  10. Getting stuck on the phone with a crazy person

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Taking a break to be a better boss & employee

I’ve always been a career-driven type of woman.

During my first job out of college, I’ve learned the real reason for weekends.

They’re time for you to take a breath, relax, catch up on sleep, dive into your guitly pleasures and spend quality time with your favorite people.

For a while I thought that being 100 percent submerged in work would make me a better employee and eventually a better boss. I’ve come to realize that isn’t true.

You have to take a break to look at what you’re doing from another perspective.

It’s sort of like dating, you see your lover every single day in the exact same setting and it becomes the norm. Once you take a few days away, you remember why you’ve invested your time and energy into the relationship. Sometimes you get an extra jolt to jump right in and change things up.

Here are some great ways to back away from the job but stay engaged.

Soak up your weekends

This is your deserved break. Make sure your weekends count. If you have a type-a personality, make every hour count. Plan a dinner and movie for Friday night. Kayak at 9 a.m. on Saturday and run around with family the rest of the day. Or, if you like to take a backseat on your free days, sleep in, hang out, wear your PJs all day long. No matter what, this is your time to shine. You killed it at work and you need some "you time" in order to do it all over again next week. 

To email or not to email

Everyone has different anxieties when it comes to emails. Personally, I like to check them every few hours so they don’t pile up into the triple digits. I compare it to sports where I want the highlights not a play-by-play. Other people like to ignore those never-ending emails until Monday morning. Find what makes you at ease. Emails may seem like something small, but can make a big difference when you’re trying to stay present outside of work.


Go to a conference


Yeah, it’s still considered work to some, but it’s a new environment with new people. You’re out of your usual grind and I think this is a great way to stay engaged in work but still jump out of your normal routine. Find sessions or meetups that really grab your attention. It’s time well spent and if you’re willing to learn, a conference will give you a new outlook on work.

 In the end, kick ass at work but remember to kick off your shoes when you’re done.