Aug
2012

New blog name: The Happy Hooligan

Shortly after I first switched over from producing full-time to being a social media reporter, I got my first complaint call. I’ve taken these calls for years as a producer, so I was prepared for whatever crazy thing they were going to say. In the past I’ve heard from people that were upset over how much cleavage an anchor was showing, how bad an anchor’s shoes were, how ugly someone’s glasses were, and how awful their hair was. There are also the more standard calls of “that person on TV is sending me a direct message, please ask them to stop.”

So I was ready for what was bound to be coming my way. Since most of my reports are focused on technology, and social media, I often talk about some confusing things (to older viewers that is). In this instance I think I was explaining a new Facebook feature that had just rolled out.

As I walked back into the newsroom from the set, one of the photographers yelled out “Hey we got a complaint about you!”

I said, “Oh what did they say?”

Photog: “She said that while you seemed like a nice young man, to tell that happy hooligan to knock it off with all of his computer shit!”

Me: “oh, anything else?”

Photog: “No that was about it, but I did tell her you were nice.”

Me: “thanks?”

Since graduating grad school, I keep coming back to this blog. I’m not entirely sure what to do with it, but I know I need to keep it. I need to keep writing – if for no other reason then to stay on my toes creatively. It’s also a good therapy from time to time. More importantly though, it helps me to continue to grow as a writer (I still have trouble with tenses and possessives). I’m not saying this is ever going to become Shakespeare over here, but one can only grow as a writer — if you write. So it’s good to have an outlet. I know the viewing public on this blog is quite small, so I think of it like a comic trying out new material in one of those tiny clubs in New York at 2 am.

I was nagged all the time during grad school to come up with something more creative than “Not Just Another TV Geek.” I just never found anything I liked more. I’d like to find something that works with my Twitter handle of @Timebrat, but I don’t think that idea is anywhere right now. So for the time being, I like “The Happy Hooligan.”



Apr
2011

Capstone Research Help

Hi everyone,

I am looking for feedback on the topic within my capstone project. I am designing a class to teach social media to people who are either entering or are in journalism. The class in the style of our classes in the ICM degree but on a website like ICM 501, 505, or 508.

Here is where I need the help. How do I narrow down what to teach? How basic do I start and how advanced should I get? Should I just focus on Facebook and Twitter and do I go as basic as how to set up an account? For the capstone I am only going to teach three modules. There is so much stuff to teach about social media it’s overwhelming trying to narrow it all down.

Also I know how I feel about online classes, but I need to know how other people feel too. As a part of the research, I am looking to hear from people in our degree about what they think works and does not work when taking an online class. Please be as honest as possible. We have all had various Professor’s in this degree. What have you found is the most effective teaching method and what are the type of things a professor does that makes you scream? Again looking for your honest take.

I need a wide audience to get the right feedback. Also if you chat with anyone else in the degree program please pass this on. I would love to hear from as many people as possible. You can either comment below or email me if you want to keep your thoughts private. I will not be sharing peoples opinions. I am simply conducting research so I can better approach teaching.

Thanks everyone. here is my email: brett.whitmarsh@quinnipiac.edu

Oct
2009

“At Home News”

Below is the text version of what is above:

1. What is it you are offering? What are you contributing?

I am offering an alternative to the way people currently get their news. When someone wants to know more about what’s going on in their area, they turn to their local news. The local news broadcasts on average between an hour, to two hours a night, of what is going in an area. Their websites do offer more, but only what they have time to post.

The world of journalism has been hit just as hard as the rest of the country over the last year. We’ve seen a great number of jobs cut and newsrooms loosing resources, but the still the local news needs to fill the same amount of time each night. So how is all the news we report relevant to what all the viewers needs? While we do a good job balancing the big stories of the day, there are still important stories out there we just can’t get to.

I’m offering something more personal. I call it “AtHomeNews” it’s the future of blogging and news, more personalized.

We’ve all heard the phrase “we report you decide,” but how about “you report-then you decide?” My website offers viewers the chance to tell their stories in their own words. You become the reporter, the producer, and the editor. This website is all about you and your hometown.

Based on the idea of Wikipedias’ news site, “AtHomeNews” is completely user generated. All the stories are uploaded from the user.

2. What makes you think people are looking for that? What is your evidence?

Recently CNN has been seeing a great up tick in their user-generated site called the “ireporter.” The basic idea is the same. CNN welcomes anyone who wants to be an ireporter. The user then finds a story and reports on it. If the story is really good, CNN might just use it on air.

The website has been very good for CNN and their numbers keep growing. The ireporter site has developed into a great community among the reporters who help each other out. They can rank the stories or the reporters and how good a job they are doing. They also watch out for each other and make sure comments are appropriate.

Another example is the recent launch of Hearst- Argyle’s “U-local”. U-local is a user-generated branch of all Hearst-Argyle local news station’s websites. The idea is to give viewers an outlet for their stories. The difference with this site is the expected use. Users aren’t expected to report the news of their local town, but this is more of an outlet for sharing pictures and videos of your community.

The goal for the Hearst stations is to have a place already established so if there is breaking news the viewers have a place to go to upload their video or images and the stations can get them directly. For the most part the site serves as a place for family vacation photos, sporting event updates and maybe some area fall foliage pictures. Still in it’s infant stages U-local has the potential to be a key assets to the local news.

The reason being, people are looking to have their voices heard. They want an outlet for their story. Even with newsrooms at full capacity, they can hardly tell every story that comes into their newsrooms. They just don’t have the time. But with this website the viewer has their chance to have their voice heard and get their story out there.

My site, At-Home-News is more like U-local, but with more of an emphasis on sharing local news.  In the theme of Craigslist, a user would go to my site, choose their state, and then select their town. Then they can upload their story.

The stories can range from getting the word out about a blood drive, to reporting breaking news that could be happening in their town.

3. How are you going to find and connect with those people? Why will they come to your site? Who are your direct competitors for their attention?

Getting the word out will be the toughest challenge. The appeal to the site is to work like Craigslist. Currently the options out there for user-generated sites serve a more national level and not a local level. The goal of AtHomeNews is to be all things local. A resource for anything a town may need to stay informed and share information about what is going on in their zip code.

4. What will you get from them and how? What makes them keep coming back (if that is central to your model)?

The user will be able to report their own stories. They can upload just text like a blog, video, or a podcast. Each story will have a category that it needs to fit under.

Some example would be:

Community news

Breaking news

Personal stories

Event information

Town notices

The need to get the story out and seeing whom they can connect with will keep people coming back. They will want to see any updates to the story, they will want to see if others have comments on their stories. Maybe someone else may report the same story differently, or have a follow up on a story.

5. What are the informational resources (assets) you need to host on your site? Documents? Videos? Databases? Do these already exist, or will you need to build them?

To make this site work to it’s best potential it will need to be able to host video, audio, and images. The most common personalization of the site will be text, or web text stories. They will mostly look like blogs, but should have some resemblance to web reporting.

Then there should be an option to store an archive of any of the video or images that people upload. We could link in with YouTube, or a blog system like “Wordpress” to help with the storage and the need, but in a perfect situation we should build our own.

6. How will your site be organized? How many pages will it have, and in what order? How do you move from one page to another? A sketch of a site map might be helpful here…

Craigslist has the best model for location. On their front-page the have a list of states. From there you can choose your town. I could either use this model or design something like Google Earth and allow for users to punch in their zip code then be transported to their area.

Once in their area they can then upload their story and choose their category for the story.

7. What does your site look like visually? At this stage, a sketch on a back of a napkin is fine: just something to show the layout and some of the design elements. Are there sites from which you are drawing visual queues?

Simple design. They layout should be simple and easy to navigate. My complaint on Wiki and ireport is that I can’t find anything local. If there is something happening in my town, it’s complicated to navigate to that.

-Easy use, not too complicated, easy layout. Anyone from a 16 year old to a 60-year old should understand how to use the site.

-Spell check.

-Mapping feature.

-Sharing feature, share with social media sites (Facebook, twitter).

-Upload options, video, and audio, still images.

-Browsing options, view other states news, or browse your area.

– Source confirmation, at the bottom of the page for each story, the user must make clear the source of the story.

-Phone applications, CNN just launch the ireporter iphone app. the ireporters can now upload on the go.

-Commenting, it will be up to the community to police the site and report and/or block inappropriate comments.

IF I WERE TO LAUNCH THE PROGRAM TODAY THE FOLLOWING IS HOW I SEE IT WORKING:

As the user logs on for the first time there will be a logo of a house with the sites name on it. The front door would have place to enter a zip code. Once entered the user would be re-directed to a screen with multiple windows. The top of th page would identify the location.

The side of the page would list either other towns in that surrounding zip code or simply an option to browse other areas. Before the user can take the next step, of telling their story, they will need to log in and create an account.

Most importantly in the center of the screen would be “upload your story.” Here the user has a choice of a simple text story, video upload, or even an audio upload.

The next step would be to classify the story. Is it a personal story, breaking news, traffic, events notification, general news, sports and so on. Each one of these categories will have a description in order to better explain to the user best where their story belongs. Also the idea is to not give too many options. I don’t want to confuse the viewer so they get frustrated and go away, never using the site.

Once they have classified their story, then they can move on to uploading it. Similar to a wordpress blog, they can write the text here or copy and paste it from another program. They could also upload an image, video or audio. Just like YouTube, there will be an agreement each time they upload confirming that they have the right to upload this video, audio or image.

Next up will be the confirming of the story. This will have two parts. All stories will need a source. If the story is categorized as a “personal story” then no source is needed, but this should be made clear at the bottom of the stories page. If the story is “breaking news,” the user will need to explain how it’s breaking news. Sports will need to explain the person attended the event.

Finally all stories are considered pending until the user logs into their email and confirms via a link that will be emailed to them. Something like, “are you sure you want to post this and is all of the information you are posting true?”

So there you have it a quick view of “AtHomeNews” a user generated site that focuses on local news as reported by the user.

Oct
2009

Ethical Concerns For Web Idea

My website idea is a user generated media website, where the user can access and post information about their local area. The goal of the site is to become a Wikinews or iReporter like site with a style like Craigslist.

As with anything on the Internet these days, this site has the potential to do great things, but it also has potential ethical issues attached to it as well.

COPYRIGHT

The site is a placeholder for information. The copyright belongs to the user who posts the information. So if I am a local reporter, the story I tell on the website must be entirely my story to tell, and I alone hold the copyright to that story. It is my choice to share that information with the world.

The site will state clearly that any user, who does not own the rights to this story, will be penalized. They will have to agree that the story is theirs and they alone hold the rights to that story.

The exception to this rule is linking or posting video from another site. That other site must be the copyright holder’s site. Meaning if I want to share a story that I saw on the local news, if the local news’s website has posted the story on their site, then I can link to that or embed their video to my story. Here it will be clear that the story came from the local news. The difference being, I cannot record it to You Tube off the local news broadcast and then upload it as my own.

There is some flexibility here as well. If the reporter is covering something that is a public event, or is the eyewitness to a story, they can state that as their claim to being able to tell the story. If the information is public information then they must also state that. They cannot copyright public information as their own, but they can be an eyewitness to an event that has happened in public. An example would be seeing a car fire on the highway. I see the fire, record the video, and post it to the site. The video is copyright to me, but the story is a public one.

PRIVACY AND EFFECT ON THE USER

Ethically this is the most crucial part of the website. People want a place to be able to tell their stories and report the news they feel their local, or network news can’t or won’t tell. This website can their outlet. The issue being though, are they telling a story about someone that may not be true? Do they have the evidence to back up the story? Will someone be hurt or libel because of a story that has been reported on here? Does any of this reporting violate someone’s privacy? This is the area where user generated “journalism” gets into trouble. Not being professional journalist, the average user may simply not care about the repercussions of their actions. Nothing really holds them to any ethical standard like a professional journalist. The site can establish a code of ethics (and should), but someone may be so hell bent on destroying the reputation of someone else they may just plow through all the ethical walls the site would have put in place.

Being a website and not real newsroom, there is no immediate oversight. It will be up to the other users to police the site. It will be very important that the site designer thoroughly check these stories. Give clear reasons why a story may or may not need to come down off the site should it be too libel.

What about if the story has already been posted and the damage is done? Is the site held responsible? The site should have a statement posted clearly that the user generated content is that of the user and the site should not be held responsible, but that the site monitors all postings and does try to fact check everyone. This could be an endless job though. Here again the pre-defined categories of where the stories will be placed under will be key in tracking down the stories that might be questioned.

Certainly if information is available in the public record and can be found online, the source of that information must be cited. A town meeting or a public vote is certainly something that can be reported.

Here again is where commenting on the stories can be an issue too. Should the comments be a place for rebuttal? Or would the comments add to further tell the story or will they be a place for attacks? It might be wiser to have a “Tell your side of the story” section to each story posted as opposed to a comments section. Putting a little effort into it may cut down on how many negative actions could be taken otherwise.

This site belongs to the user. There will be a community of users that will need to check stories and report wrong information. Much like the iReporter site there can be more experienced user. Just like on Ebay when a seller has high marks or a buyer is considered a good person to do business with. There can be a ratings system established to show which reporters have experience.

There are a great deal of questions here. Similar to other sites there will be agreements in place for the user to understand before proceeding with their post. There will need to be an ethical and copyright agreement for each post they write. Within those agreements there should be highlighted words that can link to better clear descriptions if the user in unclear what the ethics are they are agreeing to. There will also be an email setting that will be in place to launch the story. So once they have agreed to the ethics, and the story is written, they will be sent an email that will have a link in it that will make the story live. This email is the final agreement to all ethical and copyright issues for that certain story. While this all may seem a bit excessive, the goal is to weed out spammers and people who are trying to libel someone. It is in no way a perfect system, but will need trial an error to figure out a better one. User feedback will be key to finding a way that is faster. Once the community if built that may help cut down on all the extra steps one take. Perhaps after a reporter has posted a certain number of stories and has a good track record then some of these restrictions will be reduced.

COMMERCE

The goal of the website is to share stories/information, and report on local news. At this time I cannot see a way to profit from the website. Certainly that is not the goal of the site. Should a way to make money off the site in an ethical way, meaning one that doesn’t compromise the goal of the site or the sharing of information and local reporting, then it will be considered.  

Oct
2009

Their Needs

The idea behind my website is a more localized version of Wikinews, or the iReporter from CNN. I am looking to create a user generated media site, in the style of Criagslist, meaning the user can click on their state, and their town, and upload their news story.

While doing the research on what the user needs for this site, I came across something Hearst Argyle has started called, “ulocal.” Hearst has rolled out a big commercial campaign for the stations both online and on-air to promote ulocal. I have seen a number of commercials for it in the last week. Basically this is very close to the idea I have been playing with. Most of the Hearst TV stations now have a ulocal link on the top of their pages. For the purpose of this research I am going to focus on WMUR in New Hampshire and their ulocal site.

WMUR is a perfect example of how this service can work well. They are the only network TV affiliate news station in New Hampshire. The entire state get a hodgepodge of news over their airwaves. In addition to getting WMUR, some can see Boston stations, some can see Maine stations, while others only get WMUR. So ulocal is a great outlet for the viewer/user to log on and share their news stories that perhaps WMUR can’t get to or can’t deem important enough for their broadcast. The goal being, everyone in the state is coming to this website for their local news, so ulocal is an option for someone to share their story and other folks in the state might actually see it. It’s also a great resource for WMUR to find stories and connect with the community.

I think it’s also important to acknowledge the technical restrictions in Northern New England. In Maine and New Hampshire we are slightly behind in some areas of technology. There are few areas where we get G3 service for cell phones and still to this day a good chunk of viewers still receive TV over the airwaves and not via cable or satellite. Since the digital transition, this has caused many viewers to loose their TV signal and loose what few stations they could get. Many people do still have dial up, but many also work off of DSL because the phone company will provide it. They may have the internet, but not TV.  That being said lets get down to business and figure out what these folks will be looking for in their website.

Their Needs:
Simple design. They layout should be simple and easy to navigate. My complaint on Wiki and iReport is I can’t find anything local. If there is something happening in my town, its complicated to navigate to that.

-Easy Use, not too complicated, easy layout. Anyone from a 16 year old to a 60-year old should understand how to use the site.

-Spell check.

-Mapping feature.

-Sharing feature, share with social media sites (Facebook, Twitter).

-Upload options, video, audio, still images.

-Browsing options, view other states news, or browse your area.

– Source confirmation, at the bottom of the page for each story, the user must make clear the source of the story.

-iPhone application, CNN just launch the iReporter iPhone app. The iReporters can now upload on the go.

-Commenting, I am still on the fence about this option. The user will want it, but it will be up to the community to police the site and report and/or block inappropriate comments.

If I were to launch the program today the following is how I see it working:
As the user logs on for the first time there should be either a map, list of states, or even simply a “Find Me” option. Something like enter a zip code and find my location. Once entered the user would be re-directed to a screen with multiple windows. In the upper left would be a “My Location” heading with a map of the zip code entered. On the right would be a section labeled; “Here’s whats happening in your area” or “Recent News In Your Area.”

The side of the page would list either other towns in that surrounding zip code or simply an option to browse other areas. Before the user can take the next step, of telling their story, they will need to log in and create an account.

The account is important because we want to weed out people who may abuse the system. Like any other website there will not be a perfect solution, but we need to do as much as we can. One on hand it would be too much to ask a user to upload their drivers license information, but email and phone number is not going too far. Once the user has established an account, they may move on to the next step.

Most importantly in the center of the screen would be “Upload Your Story.”

Here the user has a choice of a simple text story, video upload, or even an audio upload.

The next step would be to classify the story. Is it a personal story, breaking news, traffic, events notification, general news, sports and so on. Each one of these categories will have a description in order to better explain to the user best where their story belongs. Also the idea is to not give too many options. I don’t want to confuse the viewer so they get frustrated and go away, never using the site.

Once they have classified their story, then they can move on to uploading it. Similar to a WordPress blog, they can write the text here or copy and paste it from another program. They could also upload an image, video or audio. Just like Youtube, there will be an agreement each time they upload confirming that they have the right to upload this video, audio or image.

Next up will be the confirming of the story. This will have two parts. All stories will need a source. If the story is categorized as a “Personal Story” then no source is needed, but this should be made clear at the bottom of the stories page. If the story is “Breaking News,” the user will need to explain how it’s breaking news. Sports will need to explain the person attended the event.

Finally all stories are considered pending until the user logs into their email and confirms via a link that will be emailed to them. Something like, “Are you sure you want to post this and is all of the information you are posting true?”

Once confirmed, then the story is live, and the user may share it on social media sites. These details are again, in a perfect world how I would see the site working. I am certain there are things I have not covered or have missed. So comment away and please be constructive.