Category Archives: Class Assignment

The Globe Ideas Lab: the perfect outing for any journalism nerd

Outside of The Boston Globe

Outside of The Boston Globe

Before going home to stuff my face, I visited The Boston Globe’s Ideas Lab with my classmates from Reinventing the News. An entire lab designated for ideas may sound a bit frivolous, but the lab’s technology and multi-media work was innovative and fascinating.

One of the projects – Project Cascade – which originated at The New York Times, tracks the life of a tweet. The Globe now has the ability to study what tweets are successful and who is re-tweeting their content.

According to the Nieman Journalism Lab, “the tool is framed around the social science-based concept of the “cascade” — in this case, the chain of events that propels a story through and around social networks.” Paul Krugman of the Times re-posted a cascade, which can be found here.

We also heard from a designer and coder for the lab, who is primarily responsible for interactive material on the Globe’s website. As he said, “if I can get someone to spend 10 seconds on [what I’ve created], then I’ve done my job.” He showed us a few of his graphics, my favorite one being the “how much water is in your scallop?” graphic. (SPOILER ALERT: it’s 77 percent).

Our class then visited the Globe’s new radio station, Radio BDC. I geek-ed out a bit because we met Adam 12, who previously DJ-d for my favorite radio station before it went under. Radio BDC is apparently the first online radio station to exist on a news website. They focus on alt rock, playing artists like Modest Mouse and The Shins. Adam 12 said the station regularly hosts concerts, even a few that are right in the Globe’s office. Also the station has benefited the Globe, because they’ve gained new advertisers in the alcohol industry.

So for any journalism nerds who may be visiting the Dorchester area soon, try to schedule a tour. It’s definitely worth your time.

Photo (cc) by Tony Fischer Photography and republished under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.


Leave a comment

Filed under Class Assignment

Michael Maness of the Knight Foundation speaks at Northeastern University about the future of news

Michael Manness

Michael Maness

Michael Maness of the Knight Foundation spoke Wednesday at Northeastern University about how news no longer has a half-life, and why some entrepreneurial news companies are rejecting the generalist news model.

Maness, who is the VP of Journalism and Media Innovation for the Knight Foundation, said that in the early days of journalism a story had a very long half-life because information traveled so slowly. But in the digital age, major events are reported on almost instantaneously. Now through Facebook, Twitter, blogging, et cetera, everyone is a journalist.

“There is almost an impossible news cycle going on,” Maness said. “There is no half-life anymore.”

The role of a news organization in the digital age is to provide a fresh angle, or a new perspective on a major story, Maness said. News outlets should no longer think in terms of “stories” but they should rather be producing “projects.” Readers are looking for more: they want video, audio, photography.

Additionally, Maness praised The Texas Tribune for taking on a narrow topic (politics, public policy). Enterprising news outlets with small staffs are less likely to succeed as a “generalist” publication. But by excelling in one area, the organization will gain credibility and readership.

The Texas Tribune also focuses on database driven journalism. In the Tribune’s first year two-thirds of their website traffic was database oriented, Maness said. Now, the database journalism is responsible for 45 to 50 percent of page views.

Maness said that technology is not an afterthought for the Tribune. In addition to database reporting, the Tribune is successful because they have a wide array of multi-media content.

“They don’t think of themselves as a journalism company, they think of themselves as a technology company…,” Maness said. “This is a fundamental shift in thought.”

Photo (cc) by Knight Foundation and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under Class Assignment

“Crispy magic” at Flour Bakery and Cafe

At Flour Bakery & Cafe, the sweets are simple. The homespun treats include fresh fruit tarts, Belgian chocolate brownies, and the wildly popular cinnamon buns, with dark, sticky caramel and toasted pecans (pictured below). Flour also makes its own versions of classic confections, such as Pop Tarts and Oreo cookies.

Flour has three locations, one in Fort Point Channel, another in Central Square, and the third in the South End, which is the location I visited. The cafe has a cozy, inviting feeling to it, whereas the other locations have a more modern look.

Jen Bates, manager of the South End location, said her customers love Flour because the treats are not manufactured, and nearly everything is made from scratch. By the end of the night, almost all of the desserts are sold out, she said.

“A lot of the desserts homemade,” Bates said. “It’s simple, quality ingredients.”

The chocolate cupcake with “crispy magic frosting” – which costs $3.25 – is an absolute must have. The cake is made of a rich, slightly dark chocolate and has an almost brownie-like consistency. Flour piles on the frosting, which is a light and airy buttercream topping.

With cupcake stores cropping up all over Boston, my biggest complaint is these specialty stores offer cupcakes that are too small or too big. At Flour, the size is just right. It’s big enough to share with another person, but if you chose to go at it alone you wouldn’t be left with a stomach-ache.

Location: South End 1595 Washington St., Boston MA 02118

Hours of Operation: Mon-Fri 7 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Sat 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sun 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Contact Information: Flour Bakery and Cafe’s website; (617) 267-4300

Nearest T Stop: Silver Line Bus, Washington Street @ East Newton Street

Dessert prices: $1.25 – $5.50

Leave a comment

Filed under Class Assignment

Mapping: not just a supplementary tool, but a new mode for storytelling

Mapping has the potential to be not just a supplemental tool for journalists, but to be journalism in and of itself. Maps are limited in the information that they provide. Yet at the same time, this simplicity can be advantageous if reporters think up smart mapping stories. The following three mapping projects are examples of how a map can tell effectively tell a story.

The “Police log compliance” mapping project by the Worcester Telegram is a prime example of how mapping can be used as a journalistic tool. In this case, a map is more useful than a story. The subject works because it is simple: how do police departments react when asked to hand over their police logs? Vibrant colors and key descriptions are what make this map easy to digest. The only criticisms I would have is that the text is slightly difficult to read, and the law should be more visible.

For the journalism project Homicide Watch D.C., mapping is integral. According to its website, “Homicide Watch is a community-driven reporting project covering every murder in the District of Columbia. Using original reporting, court documents, social media, and the help of victims’ and suspects’ friends, family, neighbors and others, we cover every homicide from crime to conviction.”

The map is powerful, because it details where each murder happened and then links the viewer to a description of the incident. The viewer immediately sees how these murders all take place in the same area; this is something that a reporter could describe in a story, but a description wouldn’t have quite the same effect as this map.

The mapping project, “Mark the Potholes” is a fun and informative venture. The website asked its readers to report where potholes were in Boston, and then placed each one on the map. The project evolved into marking other issues that need to be addressed by the city. This map is addressing a public concern that would not be as well conveyed in a story.

Simplicity is key. A journalist should use mapping not only as a supplement, but to tell stories that would not otherwise be told in print.

Leave a comment

Filed under Class Assignment