in Just Journalism

How journalists could use social media to enable storytellers

Underheard in New York: Twitter for the Homeless

Underheard in New York hands the storytelling tools over to the sources and is helping to amplify their experiences to a wide audience.

I just read with interest Zachary Sniderman’s Mashable post about homeless people in New York City tweeting via an initiative called Underheard in New York, a neat idea brought to life by three interns at BBH New York.

It got me thinking about how journalists and news organizations use social media in their storytelling: They tend to keep the keys.

What I mean by this is that journalists using social media usually treat it as a tool to spread and source their stories. But ultimately, they don’t hand any level of access—the keys,  so to speak—over to their sources.

For example, in the same vein as Underheard in NY, a reporter covering homelessness could distribute to their primary sources cheap prepaid cellphones and teach them how to tweet their story. Suddenly, the source has been given the platform and knowledge to share their own experiences. These tweets could be curated in a way that gives them more exposure and helps the storytellers gain a following.

To take it one step further—what if a reporter were to give a source in a human interest or community-oriented series the keys to their Twitter account for a day? Or access to a blog on their news website?

Read on…

in College Media

Leaving College Publisher for WordPress? Good, now ditch the print too

Newspaper on Fire - Ditch the Print

Photo by fotko via iStockphoto

Daniel Reimold of College Media Matters predicts a lot of student newspapers will be leaving College Media Network and its College Publisher platform after the new ownership announced licensing fees begin this year. And I hope he’s right.

The overwhelming majority of those who leave, I much more cowardly predict, will be examining and choosing WordPress as their alternative.  For those thinking about the switch, here’s  some advice from a recently graduated two-year college newspaper editor-in-chief:

Make this an opportunity to do something truly meaningful

Don’t just look at this as an inconvenient platform change. This is a chance to do something truly significant for your school, your media organization and, most importantly, yourself as a developing journalist or professional.

Been dreading moving to a truly online-first publishing model? Now is the time to do it. While you’re creating your new platform, do it intentionally. Utilize the wonderful library of WordPress plugins, including editorial-specific ones like Edit Flow, to redefine how you produce news.

Forget having an online editor who shovels stories from the web to a CMS and tweets a little bit. Get your entire staff involved. Give everyone some sort of access to your WordPress setup, and train them in using it. If they haven’t already, teach everyone some HTML and some CSS.

Yes, these are monumental tasks. But leave a legacy, and learn a lot in the process.

Read on…

in Tutorials

How to display updated publication date in WordPress themes

I was recently asked how you can display the time a story or post was updated in a WordPress theme, like what you see when major outlets cover a breaking and rapidly evolving news story. Suggestions I’ve heard before—and quite often, the instant reaction of WordPress users—is to look for a plugin or utilize custom fields.

But neither method is the best way to do it. Using core WordPress functions and template tags, you can change any of your theme’s templates to display when a post was last updated or the “time ago” date, which has become popular through the real-time web and services like Facebook and Twitter.

Read on…

in Tools & Tutorials

How to make your own URL shortener in less than 10 minutes

Link by Profound Whatever on Flickr

Photo by Profound Whatever on Flickr

When I was in junior high, my mother had a vanity license plate that read MOMS CAB. Everywhere she went in the great metropolis of Billings, Mont. people saw those plates on that beast of a Suburban and knew that was Cathy Lynch’s truck (and they had better get out of the way).

Times change. The ultimate vanity license plate is to have your personal website at the domain name of your choice so you can reserve your little portion of the great interwebs.

Let’s take your web domination one step further with your own URL shortener. This is the recipe to make it in less than 10 minutes.

Read on…

in Showcase

Interview: Why Poynter redesigned its website on WordPress, open source

Poynter Website RedesignIn January of 2010 when the Poynter Institute began intensively looking at rebuilding its website, the school was in the same situation as many of the news organizations and journalists it serves.

Its website was powered by a limiting proprietary content management system that controlled publishing and a variety of other processes, including the school’s online training and store. Meanwhile, on the publishing side contributors complained about the difficulties of using the CMS.

Less than a year later, Poynter.org relaunched with a modern design powered by a combination of WordPress and Drupal.

“I think the end result,” says Julie Moos, editor of Poynter Online, “is a CMS that is very easy to use.”

Read on…

in WordPress News

WordPress Security updates: A reason to avoid WP?

WordPress Security Lock

Photo by nation161 on Flickr

Yesterday marked the second bug fix and security update for WordPress 3.0, and it brought to mind one of the arguments I’ve repeatedly heard against using WP: that it has frequent security updates. Some might argue these are frequent enough to be annoying and eat up considerable amounts of time for enterprise users who are using separate installations across a variety of their web properties.

WordPress 2.0 stands as the most updated, with 11 releases over the course of 17 months. More recently, WP 2.8 went through six bug fixes in just four months.

No piece of software is perfect, and I take comfort in that WordPress developers recognize weaknesses in the software, inform their community of users and quickly release updates that can be installed with one click.

With the 3.0.2 release, quickly took on a whole new meaning. As WordPress core developer Andrew Nacin pointed out, the update took less than four hours from disclosure to final release. I can think of a few companies I pay for services who don’t even respond to help tickets in less than four hours, let alone solve the problem before it was one for millions of users.

Read on…

in Design & Dev & Tutorials

How to display subpages of a WordPress page with their custom meta

When working with WordPress as a CMS, pages are likely to be used far more often than the typical blogging-focused WP installation. A WordPress as CMS implementation could have hundreds of pages, so one of my favorite tricks for making those pages structured and navigable is to display the subpages of a WordPress page with their meta, such as title, publication date, featured thumbnail, custom fields, excerpts and, of course, permalinks to the subpages.

One example use is on this page of Seattle Photographer Clara Ganey’s portfolio. The portfolio page displays all of its subpages in a multiple column list (another favorite technique of mine) of the subpages’ featured thumbnails with the subpage titles and excerpts showing on hover.

Read on…