Embedding journalism everywhere: 5 reporters rewriting the career path

If the web makes everyone a publisher, doesn’t everyone need journalism? That’s the proposal that media pundit Jeff Jarvis made in April, toying with the idea of embedding journalists, and especially the processes and values of journalism, in organizations that traditionally have had little reason to associate with the rituals and codes of the newsroom. Jarvis’ point: journalists are the best at adding context, finding missing information and presenting accurate and compelling stories. As more companies, governments, police departments, NGOs and universities use the web to disseminate information directly to an audience, the idea doesn’t seem so crazy.

We set out to find some examples of this embedded journalism and came up with five reporters who have left the newsroom not for PR gigs or to write a book but to practice their craft in a very different way. Their profiles are below but here’s what we learned in the process:

  • Tech startups are big believers in embedded journalism.
  • Embedding favors journalists who can use their editorial savvy in conjunction with algorithms, datasets and business teams. That means curation, data journalism and building content relationships.
  • This is happening right now. All of our examples left the newsroom for their current employers in the last year or so.
  • Anyone thinking of making the leap should be prepared for a very different culture than that of the newsroom (duh!).

Dan Roth (@danroth), Executive Editor, LinkedIn

Roth joined LinkedIn last summer after stints as managing editor at Fortune.com and writing for Wired and Portfolio. He now runs LinkedIn Today, a news feed that delivers industry headlines tailored to users’ information and preferences. “It’s based on an algorithm, and I’m bringing some human editing to the entire experience,” Roth told Fast Company last year. “I used to be editor of Fortune Digital, and I realized we put up articles and just hoped the right people found them. At LinkedIn, we want to take the hope out of it.” Roth also collaborates with the company’s data scientists. 

Mark Luckie (@marksluckie), Creative Content Manager for Journalism and the Media, Twitter

Formerly social media editor at The Washington Post, Luckie joined Twitter in June and coordinates with journalists and news organizations on how they can best use the platform. He also collects insights on the tools reporters need for the future. “We are doing rolling analysis of how people are interacting with tweets, and we continue to post those sorts of things on the Twitter for Newsrooms page,” he says. In October Luckie will also present a series of free webinars on Twitter for Journalists in partnership with the National Press Foundation. Luckie says of the transition from WaPo to Twitter, “Being in a place where I get to step back and think and be innovative is quite a change for me. I’m still doing what I’ve been doing for news, which is monitoring what journalists are doing on social media.”

Liz Lufkin (@LLufkin), Chief Content Officer, Trapit

Lufkin was in charge of front page programming at Yahoo! before joining this content discovery site in April. The former USA Today editor now helps Trapit build partnerships with publishers and manages the company’s curation team. The team focuses on building topic-based traps that give users a broader view of how news stories develop than the traditional model, says Lufkin. “The story arc is a lot longer than I as a mainstream traditional journalist initially imagined it,” she says. “In a lot of cases, the conversation starts earlier and it goes on longer, and I find that really fascinating.” Her advice to journalists making the transition from newsroom to tech company is be prepared to justify practices you may have taken for granted. “At newspapers, the separation of church and state is sacred, but in tech companies, they’ll say ‘Why is that?’”

Liv Buli (@lbuli), Music Data Journalist, Next Big Sound

Buli was a reporter for The Local East Village and an editorial intern at Newsweek before taking her data journalism skills to Next Big Sound, which provides intelligence to the music industry. Buli has used the company’s vast trove of data to create stories on the fastest-growing artists at Bonaroo and the spike in interest about Taylor Swift after the singer’s live web chat. “With a wealth of data concerning artists at my fingertips, I am able to put together articles on trends within the industry, festivals, up-and-coming artists and more that can be of interest and value to anyone working with music,” she says, adding that her employer’s combination of data from social networks and sales figures gives her more insight than she would traditionally have had as a music journalist. Although Buli misses bouncing around ideas and pitching during weekly editorial meetings, she says, “My colleagues are a great source of feedback for me and often introduce to me to new great ideas through what they have seen in the data.”

Mark Armstrong (@markarms), Editorial Director, Pocket

Armstrong joined Pocket (then called Read It Later) last fall after discussions with CEO and founder Nate Weiner about how publishers might use the platform, which provides a handy way for people to save articles and other media for later consumption. Armstrong’s credentials: he founded Longreads, was news director at People.com and the New York bureau chief at E! Online. Armstrong has been using his editorial knowhow to suss out trends from Pocket’s data that show how different users consume content differently. “We’ve done a number of Pocket Trends reports highlighting how saving [media] for later can affect the types of content we consume,” he says. (Two examples highlight the most-read authors and the popularity of video on the platform.) Working at a tech startup has also given Armstrong the chance to contribute to business development, which doesn’t usually happen in traditional news organizations. “Everyone needs to be thinking about how to grow the business, so you are in a much better position to hear the challenges of what needs to happen.”

A Modest Proposal: Strikethrough Feature for Dealing with Erroneous Tweets

Erroneous tweets

Erroneous tweetsAs news stories like Michael Jackson’s death and the plane crash on the Hudson break on Twitter before mainstream media, journalists and newsrooms increasingly turn to Twitter to see what’s trending. But sometimes, in our haste to tweet a headline before the competition, we get it wrong. For instance, several news outlets erroneously tweeted that Congresswoman Giffords had died in last year’s shooting. And several Twitter accounts prematurely reported on the death of football coach Joe Paterno earlier this year. Oops!

As Twitter becomes more mainstream, journalists debate options for dealing with these inaccurate tweets. Should we delete the original tweet (which several people take issue with) and post a corrected one? Leave the original tweet for posterity and post a correction? (In its social media guidelines for employees, the AP suggests posting a correction as quickly as possible.)

Problem is, tweets can go viral very quickly, so even if you delete a tweet and post a correction, there could be inaccurate RTs spreading inaccuracies. And bloggers sometimes link to individual tweets (or journalists could use a tweet in a Storify article without seeing the update tweet), so the reader wouldn’t have the context of the correction.

One possible solution, as reported by Poynter and The Verge, is for Twitter to offer a new strikethrough feature so users could mark tweets as errors without deleting them entirely. (This might also be useful for correcting typos. Again, same debate: delete it and pray no one saw the misspelled tweet? Post a corrected tweet?). It makes sense to many journalists and freelance writers, but according to Poynter, Twitter’s creative director Doug Bowman said the feature’s utility is too niche for Twitter to implement. Sounds a bit like HBO’s response earlier this month to the #takemymoneyHBO Campaign where fans used social media to request a standalone streaming service from HBO and the network essentially said, “thanks for your interest but it ain’t happening.”

Granted, I don’t know how feasible this is, but it seems like the perfect opportunity for a third-party service to fill this need. Twitter itself doesn’t offer features like scheduling tweets or automating direct messages, but other companies like SocialOomph and HootSuite do (full disclosure: here at Ebyline, we use HootSuite to manage our social media accounts). Not all Twitter users care about scheduling or automating tweets but for those who do, these add-on services make a lot of sense. Maybe something for the SocialOomphs and the Hootsuites of the world to consider?

Your turn! How do you handle erroneous tweets and would you use a strikethrough feature if it were available? Leave a comment and let us know!

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This Week’s Headlines: Politico Expanding, Time Offering iPad Subscriptions

First off, we couldn’t resist including a link to Poynter’s post about the journalist wage maps we published yesterday. (In case you haven’t noticed, we’re huge fans of the Poynter website so that was a nice coup for us.) Elsewhere in cyberspace: reporters, bloggers, and content writers were buzzing about a variety of other topics, including a scandal at the WSJ and news about Time Inc. subscriptions on the iPad. Here’s a look at this week’s top headlines in media and publishing:

  • Gina Chon resigns from Wall Street Journal after admitting affair with U.S. official: A Wall Street Journal reporter covering Iraq resigned from the paper this week after her relationship with an American official (President Obama’s nominee to be ambassador to Iraq) came to light. The Washington Post reports that the reporter did not divulge the relationship to the paper and violated company policy by sharing unpublished articles with him.
  • Politico to Expand Its Subscription Service: As print publications like The Times-Picayune reduce staff and page counts, Politico is actually expanding coverage of the economy and the military. In fact, the news outlet plans to hire 20 more writers and editors to beef up its subscription service Politico Pro.
  • Why your news organization’s social media policy may be illegal: A multimedia journalist at the Colorado Springs Gazette who was placed on “administrative leave” this week following a dispute over posting on Facebook illustrates the potential legal pitfalls of publications dictating employees’ social media use.
  • Apple, Time Inc. settle magazine subscription dispute: Time Inc. has reached an agreement with Apple that will enable readers to buy iPad subscriptions for 20 of Times’ magazine titles. Previously the company had been the last major holdout to iPad subscription plans, offering only single-issue versions of its magazines through the App Store.
  • iWitness filters Twitter and Flickr content by time and location: We saw several tweets this week about iWitness, a new web app that displays updates from Twitter and Flickr by time and location. Currently the app only runs on certain browsers (Chrome and Safari but not Firefox) but appears to have potential for reports looking for eyewitness accounts of events.

What’s on your radar this week? Hope all our readers have a great weekend!

@NYTimes Social Media Editor Lexi Mainland Talks Pinterest, Reddit and More

NYT Pinterest

The New York Times started using Pinterest in early June, focusing on home and design, fashion and food. Ebyline recently caught up with social media editor Lexi Mainland by phone to discuss how The Times is using Pinterest and other social media platforms such as Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter. Here are excerpts from that interview:

What do you do as a social media editor?
I am responsible for helping to define a social media sensibility for The New York Times  for instance, which platforms we want to be using and what we want to do with them. I also work on big news projects that have a social media possibility for them, big things like the Olympics or the election, or things like last night’s Tony Awards, big events that people like to feed into socially.

The Times recently started using Pinterest. Why did The Times decide to launch on the platform?
We, like everyone, have noticed over the past few months that Pinterest has gained so many followers, and it’s such a great visual social platform that for at least a couple of months we’ve been paying close attention to Pinterest and starting to brainstorm what The New York Times‘ presence could be there. We immediately thought that because home and design, fashion and food are the three most popular topics on Pinterest, and we have such great content from The Times in those three areas, that we would focus our efforts on Pinterest around those three content areas to start.

How has it been going so far in terms of followers and engagement?
Well, it is going well. Actually, I tweeted out on Friday that we joined Pinterest the same day that Britney Spears did, and The New York Times was only about 90 followers behind Britney, so we felt like that was a pretty good measure. We have gotten a great response so far, and it has been really fun. [As of June 11], Britney spears has 1,081 followers, and The New York Times has 1,123.

New York Times' Pinterest page
Could you talk a little bit about The Times’ overall social media strategy and how Pinterest fits into that?
We really always try to be doing things that are creative and innovative on social platforms ,.. For Pinterest, we have these boards up now that cross over between these three content areas, so we have a board called Color Riot. That is all about bright colors, and it includes posts from our Food, Home and Fashion departments all together in one place. And there’s really no other place on our website that you sort of get this crossover remixing of three distinct sections.

The other thing that we’re doing on Pinterest is, you’ll see almost all of the pins that we have posted, you can actually see who posted them. They’re not posted by The New York Times. They’re posted by the actual photo editor or story editor, who are experts in that subject area. If you click through on their names, you’ll see it says, you know, dining photographer editor or homes section photography editor. I think that’s a really fun way to personalize the sharing of our journalism on social media.

The Times is obviously on Facebook and Twitter. What other platforms are you on, and which platform do you get the most engagement from?
We get a lot of engagement, probably the most engagement, on Facebook and Twitter. But we are on Tumblr – we have two New York Times Tumblrs. One for our T Magazine, tmagazine.tumblr.com, and one for our archival photography collection, which is called The Lively Morgue, livelymorgue.tumblr.com. Those are really, really fun projects, both of them. They get lots of engagement, they are very visual, and I think they make really good use of Tumblr.

And then we are starting to do more on Reddit. We have a lot of readers, people who like New York Times journalism, who are on Reddit, so we are trying to do more there on that platform that they are most interested in. We have been doing a couple of IAmA interviews there. We did one that was with Paul Krugman, our Nobel Prize-winning columnist. He answered questions for a couple of hours on Reddit, which was really great ...

I think Reddit is pretty amazing. It’s kind of like a utopian community where everybody has interesting things to say.

Talk a little bit more about Facebook and Twitter. For what purposes does The Times use them?
We like to spark conversation on Facebook. We try to get active conversations going with most of the things that we post there. We often find that really, really interesting and vibrant discussions pop up among our readers around our content. For example, over the weekend, we had a front-page story about high school students using prescriptions drugs like Ritalin, and we posted on our Facebook page to ask people if they would share their experiences with us. A really lively discussion generated about whether or not these drugs are appropriate, and people sharing their experiences of taking them or not taking them, and that’s always really interesting to us. Wherever possible, we actually try to take those Facebook comments off of Facebook and post them back on our site in some way.

Do those comments ever make it into the print paper?
Yeah, they do. We have done a few stories where we used our main Facebook page to crowdsource people’s experiences, and we’ve used it back in actual stories.

Does The Times have a social media policy for its staff?
We don’t have a specific social media policy by design, mainly because we don’t want to hinder our journalists from using these platforms to do journalism and to feel comfortable there. So, we basically just tell them that we expect them to conduct themselves on social networks just as they would anywhere else, in real life, in an interviewSo, we have been quoted before as saying our social media policy is: don’t be stupid. I think it’s kind of flip. What we really mean from that is, social media is really no different than any other platform where you’re acting on behalf of The New York Times. We trust our journalists to be smart about it, and so far we’ve really not had many, if any, real problems.

How does The Times measure ROI (return on investment) when it comes to social media, and how much of a factor is that when creating social strategies?
Certainly, we don’t want to be creating content on social media like into a void. It definitely matters to us that we have an audience and that we’re building an audience. But, you know, when people ask me this, I tend to say, which is true, that I work in the newsroom, and I’m focused on the journalism of it and creating the most compelling journalism that I can. We have a business side and a product team that’s more focused than I am on clicks or other sort of direct ROI aspects.

What I’m looking for is a more-engaged reader, someone who wants to come back tomorrow and read another story with us.] I feel like everything we do is helping to create a more engaged reader or to bring somebody into The Times who might not ordinarily read our stuff.

How does The Times quantify the positive results of nytimes.com tweets?
A simple way of quantifying it for us is just to look at the rate of followers increasing on these accounts. The New York Times has almost 5.3 million followers on its main feed, and we just crossed our 5 millionth follower threshold only a few weeks ago. So, we’ve gained almost 300,000 followers in a couple of weeks. When I see our numbers constantly going up like that, I feel safe in assuming that we’re engaging people on these platforms.

What I love the most, obviously, is, we put out questions on our main Twitter feed to people. Months ago, we asked people to tell us their five favorite fiction books on Twitter, and we created a hashtag #fiction5, and we got thousands of tweets back with people listing their five favorite fiction books. And we ended up doing a data analysis and putting up a little graphic showing what our readers enjoyed most in the fiction world. That’s the most gratifying thing, when you can tap directly into this readership of really interesting people with interesting ideas and opinions, and you hear right back from them.

Do Tweet Buttons Help News Sites? Yes, According to Nieman Lab


Some social media managers love the convenience of a Tweet button. Others hate how the buttons clutter up otherwise elegant web design. Love them or hate them, but Tweet buttons account for roughly 1 in 5 tweets from news organization websites, finds an analysis by Joshua Benton at Neiman Lab. Using a Ruby script that shows how many of recent tweets containing a specific URL were generated using a Tweet Button, Benton examined the 1,000 most recent tweets for 37 news sites.

According to his findings:

… killing off Tweet Buttons would, for most news organizations, remove somewhere around 20 percent of their Twitter link mentions. Maybe more, if … those Tweet Button users are often something like a Tweeter Zero — an originator that enables a story’s later spread through other means.

Of course, the numbers vary depending on the niche, presumably because readers of tech websites are savvy enough to tweet without the help of a button. Read his full analysis on the Nieman Lab blog.