Kickstarter helps journalists fund reporting projects

By BOLTON LANCASTER

One of the problems that people run into when they are trying to work on a creative project is that they often do not have the necessary funding to start. The website Kickstarter helps with this problem by allowing people to directly fund projects that they think are important or that they support.

The crowd funding website has 13 different categories of creative projects: art, comics, dance, design, fashion, film and video, food, games, music, photography, publishing, technology and theater. The film and video and music categories have the most projects on the site.

The projects on Kickstarter are listed with a goal of how much money each creator hopes to raise as well as a deadline for which to raise the money. If the goal is not reached by the deadline, then none of the money goes to the person who put up the project listing and the people who offered to help fund the project are not charged any donation money on their credit cards. This encourages people to donate knowing that they will only contribute if the project is actually created.

People who are looking to fund projects on the site are only allowed to “back” projects, not “invest” in them. That is, people cannot pour money into a project hoping to make money off of it. Project creators are allowed to promise funders a tangible reward (such as a first edition of a novel) or a one-of-a-kind experience (such as lunch with the author).

Kickstarter comes in useful for journalists primarily in the film and video and publishing categories. For example, in the publishing category, one of the projects that is currently looking to be funded is a bi-monthly humor magazine. In the film and video section, a documentary focusing on nature and the evolution of childhood is hoping to be funded.

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Remember the Milk helps get things done

By EMMA REYES

Journalists juggle with a lot of tasks and sometimes it’s hard to keep up with them, from making calls and writing e-mails to different sources, getting to the next location to make an interview and making deadlines.

The list of tasks can get overwhelming and some people turn to a to-do list, but that sometimes doesn’t help either – it happens to me all the time. However, this got a little easier to remember because of Remember The Milk.

Remember The Milk is a web app that lets users write in tasks and help him or her remember the task. It’s a more functional way of remembering the tasks because the users has to put in when the task is due, how long it will last doing that task and if the task needs to be repeated.

The way the web app works is by sending an e-mail to the address the user gave when signing up and if the user has an iPhone the reminder of the task will appear in the task app that comes already with the phone if the e-mail address goes to the phone.

Yes, the task app on the iPhone helps and is quick because it’s easy access, but Remember The Milk also has apps for the iPhone, Android and Blackberry and the app can also be available for the iPad. The app for the phone has a fun look that makes writing in the tasks more appealing because the task looks like it was handwritten and with an app name like Remember The Milk who wouldn’t remember a task.

The signing up process is quick and easy and can also be through Facebook and Google accounts.

I hope the next time you have a lot on your plate you remember the milk.

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CareZone offers health-related social media site

By RACHEL JANOSEC

Social media have officially taken over and everyone seems to be aware of this. Social media should be about just connecting with loved ones and friends from the past and seeing what your friends are up too, but is has become less and less safe and a major security issue.

Social media, especially Facebook is now about sharing more and more information with more and more people you don’t know. But many users feel that this is an invasion of personally information and space. Close personal information like about your health, kids and money should be kept safe, and there is a now a new website for that.

This new social site comes from a well-known name in the technology world and is one all should try. CareZone, a new site created and cofounded  by Jonathan Schwartz, the former chief executive of Sun Microsystems, is a service that enables families to organize care of their loved ones. It provides secure storage of patient information like medical records and prescriptions, which could very much come in handy. CareZone also provides critical phone numbers and digitized documents associated with care, like insurance information for example.

There is also a journal feature offered on the CareZone site that journalists can use to their advantage. The journal feature allows you to take notes on anything you may need to remember like future appointments or groceries to pick up at the store. Or, for journalists, this can be used to keep track of deadlines, write down story ideas or breaking news events as they are witnessed.

The main idea of this site is not to keep in touch with friends but more to keep in touch with your own health or one of your families health issues. It can be used to take care of somebody else in need and is a safe place to hold important information like doctors notes, medications and other medical care.

This site is definitely more serious than Facebook or Twitter and may attract a more mature crowd that will sooner than later have to deal with this issues. CareZone was created for health and other issues that one would want to keep more private and not have the whole world see.

This service is also fairly new. It was introduced last Feburary, so it hasn’t even been open for the public for a full year yet. Schwartz says the site is steadily growing and has had many positive responses to it.

On Tuesday, Schwartz added voice broadcast and calender features to make the site more functional and accessible to larger groups of people.

Starting January 1, 2013, the main application fee for the site will cost $5 a month or $49 a year to use CareZone for five to 10 people. But right now it is free, so go try this social media/health site out soon!

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Make your professional portfolio stand out

By CONNIE FOSSI

If you are looking for a job in the journalism field and want to make a good impression, cuttings.me can help you with this.

In this website, journalists, bloggers and even freelance writers can create a professional portfolio and publish in an organized way all their clips and previous work in the field.

Cuttings.me also allows visitors to add their social media links, write their biography and customized their website as they desire, including the color, images and the format of the files uploaded.

In addition, users have the option to direct future employers to several links and attach their clips to e-mails and websites.

The good thing about Cuttings is that it is very simple to use. First, visitors of the site shall only register and create account to be part of the network. Second, they shall download all the files or links related to their stories as well as adding the social sites of them to include content in their page. The final result will be a personal URL that will include the site address and your name.

With just two steps, users will have their professional portfolio created.

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Rules change for journalists as social media evolves

By ELIZABETH DE ARMAS

Browsing through the Internet this afternoon, I came across a very interesting article discussing the relationship between social media and journalists.

The article titled “Social Media Etiquette for Journalists: The Rules Have Changed,” drove home a very important point — because of social media journalists now have to find continuous way to engage their readers while making sure to continue meeting ethical standards.

This is referred to as the “high-wire” act.

Since the boom of social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, the rules have indeed changed. It is no longer about having the most well-written story as much as it is about having the breaking news or the juicy details first.

The article addresses five key points of etiquette that have changed since the social media evolution:

1. Decline of the “view from nowhere.”

Opinions and views are now accepted. Journalists no longer need to just “spit out facts and headlines.” This gives every journalist an edge because it allows them to personalize their stories through their social media accounts and relate to people.

2. Deleting Tweets is up for debate.

If you make a grammar or spelling error, journalists can delete Tweets before they go viral – which is a good thing. But the Tweet debate comes when someone’s Tweet sparks controversy. In that case, journalists shouldn’t delete their Tweets. Instead, be happy that your view points are being noticed.

3. Social media policies may not be essential.

According to the article, The New York Times does not have a social media policy in place, but the Wall Street Journal does. However, rules shouldn’t be the main focus of a newsroom – putting out a good product and breaking news should. Therefore, the article says that guidelines should be put in place to “empowering the staff to use social media effectively.”

4. Photos create new ethical issues.

You technically can post pictures you find on social media because it is in the public domain, but as a journalist, there is a certain way to go about that. If you see a picture you want to use, it is best to reach out to the person who posted it, make sure the photo is legitimate, ask permission to use it and credit the initial source. This makes things much easier, and sets a precedent for the future.

5. On which platform will social media be evolving next?

According to the article, social media is not done evolving, and we shouldn’t think it is. Audio storytelling is what the article foresees as the next big thing, and sites like Reddit are making it happen.

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Google Flu Trends can predict outbreaks through social media

By DANIELA RODRIGUEZ

There are a few things about me I don’t mention to people I meet. But I graduated as a dental assistant when I was in high school. During clinicals, I worked as a dental assistant to University of Florida dental students in a clinic for those who were underserved or didn’t have dental insurance.

This is what started my interest in public health. I was really interested in epidemiology, which are the people who track down the source of an outbreak and how to contain it from spreading. So when I found out that Google Flu Trends even existed, I was astounded.

Google Flu Trends is a project developed to monitor disease activity based on queries from Google users for subjects such as “muscle aches” and “thermometer.” This helps get results similar to the ones which the Centers for Disease Control gets, but up to a week earlier. It is still in its early stages, but it has proved to be very useful so far.

Now how does this pertain to me as a journalist? This is a great site to get the latest news of a possible flu outbreak. When there is an outbreak, updates are constantly being made, reporting the next person who was affected or what country is deeply affected or most likely to face an outbreak.

And what makes it even more interesting is that social media updates the trends. Even though there are a lot of areas that don’t have the proper resources to fight an outbreak, people still manage to have a cellphone, which gives them access to social media or the Internet. Looking through the Google Flu Trends, a journalist can see which country is at high risk and even go as specific as to what city is at higher risk. If a journalist were doing an investigative piece, they would be able to download data and make a graph out of it.

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SkewedNewsTutor helps viewers identify bias in the news

By ANDRES CORREA

“Six of 10 Americans believe that news reporting is biased.”

This statistic, from a Gallup poll, is the reason that Colleen Bradford Krantz created SkewedNewsTutor.

The objective of the newly launched site is to target young people and teach them how to view the news more critically. Krantz believes that kids, from middle school to college age, are not able to spot the bias that has become so common in contemporary news. The site operates mainly through videos, showing stories in the news with added pop-ups to explain to the viewers how the story has been skewed.

The videos posted contain three versions of the same news story done by the site. The first is a centered version of the story, which is followed by two versions of the story that are deliberately skewed. The pop-ups then point out the ways in which the story has had bias inserted into it. The bias could be shown in many different ways, from the removal of a word or two, to the addition of ominous music.

The site also contains helpful tools for aspiring journalists. One of the pages outlines a journalism bias sheet, with questions to be answered by journalists before covering a story to make sure they do not end up inserting their bias into their final product. The questions are designed to help reporters overcome personal or outside influences in order to reach a centered conclusion.

According to Bernard Sanders, contributor to FoxNews, we live in the “United States of Entertainment.” The news, as of lately, has had a main goal of achieving high ratings at all costs rather than creating an informed electorate. As a result, our country has become more polarized and less educated on the issues. Sites like SkewedNewsTutor and journalists like Colleen Bradford Krantz create a hope for the future that when the next generation views the news they will watch in search of a centered approach. This generation will gain the knowledge that they have the ability to come to the correct conclusion on their own, rather than relying on their news source to skew the story in one direction or the other.

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Application helps journalists get through writer’s block

By NICKY DIAZ

Lately, I’ve made way too many purchases on iTunes – mainly because I have found several apps that have made my life as a journalist a whole lot easier. Most recently I found Writing Prompts by Writing.Com. The application, which is available for iPads and iPhones, cures any journalist’s writer’s block.

It offers prompts, given by prompt generators, and works with current events, scene elements, words, sketches, colors, genres and writing types to help you start your story. There are 60 sketches, 250 scene elements and 600 text prompts – the tips and prompts are sure to last you for a while.

These text prompts include several phrases, quotes, writing exercises, and story openers. You can also add more prompts by upgrading to additional packs. The normal version of the application is only $1.99.

You can also get ideas for headlines from actual articles – the app lets you know which publication released the story in case you want to check it out.

Obviously, no app is perfect. Some of the prompts and ideas are a bit chessy, especially for hard news. But, if you’re stuck on a lede for a feature, this might be the app for you. For example, it’ll help you set up a scene and start with an anecdotal lede.

Considering the app offers so many different options, the “favorite” feature is useful, allowing you to save prompts or tips you’d like to return to in the future. Another great feature of the app is that it no longer requires Internet connection.

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Nate Silver blog proves election 2012 pundits wrong

By ANDRES CORREA

“Anybody that thinks that this race is anything but a tossup right now is such an ideologue, they should be kept away from typewriters, computers, laptops and microphones for the next 10 days, because they’re jokes.”

This is an exact quote from Joe Scarborough referring to the election forecast on Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog. However, Scarborough was not the only one who had a problem with the result of the data in Nate Silver’s computer in the weeks leading up to the election. Many right-wing pundits claimed that the polling Silver was using was skewed. Even David Brooks of The New York Times suggested that Silver was “getting into silly land.”

Silver had the last laugh on Tuesday night. After forecasting 49 of 50 states correctly in the 2008 election, FiveThirtyEight forecast all 50 states correctly in 2012. Silver even predicted the extreme tightness in Florida, tweeting on Tuesday morning, “our projected margin in Florida now Obama 49.797, Romney 49.775.” On Saturday morning, the final results in Florida came in to show a slim Obama victory.

People around the nation quickly learned Silver’s name the morning after the election. Tongue-in-cheek accusations of Nate Silver being a witch spread like wildfire throughout social media. Many even shared a link to “isnatesilverawitch.com” and, according to the site, “Nate Silver is probably a witch.”

However, this was really just a victory for common sense and logic over the typical media hype to which viewers of the news have become so accustomed. While many pundits tried to convince the nation that the election would be close enough to keep their eyes glued to cable news, Nate Silver fed the electorate the truth based on empirical data.

While many in the mainstream media seemed frustrated by the approach that Nate Silver’s blog took, in the end they only made themselves seem foolish. The 2012 election was a historical moment for math or, as Bill Clinton would say, “arithmetic.”

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Bitly.com offers easy ways to manage hyperlinks

By ELIZABETH DE ARMAS

In the past, people had to save their hyperlinks on a Word document, Excel spreadsheet or with e-mail. But now with technology continuously evolving and advancing, organizing your links is easy – especially with Bitly.com.

Bitly.com allows its users to save, organize, share and bookmark things they want to keep track of online. It’s easy to join, and it’s free. Once you create a Bitly.com account, possibilities are endless.

The site has a search option in order to find links quickly, sorts links into themes that users can make private or public and lets users share their links across Facebook, Twitter and e-mail all through the webpage.

But, I am not done yet.

Bitly.com has an iPhone app that is also free and lets you takes your links wherever you go. It makes life simple, especially for journalists, web producers, social media junkies and students who have trouble keeping track of their stories, research and favorite sites.

For journalists who are Twitter savvy and like posting their latest news stories or blog posts, Bitly.com becomes essential. Sometimes links are too long and don’t fit in the 140-character space allotted to Twitter users, but Bitly.com shortens your links with the touch of one button.

That way, journalists can add a shortened hyperlink and a description so  readers know what to expect when they click on the story.

Bitly.com will definitely simplify work, research … and life.

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Company culture is a difference maker in news business

By SAIRA SUMBAL

Company culture: It’s the shared behavior of individuals who work in a company or organization, and the meaning they attach to the work that they do. Your company culture is important because it is precisely what defines the attitudes that you’re employees have towards what you’re paying them to do.

Yep, I brought the money factor in – and well money talks.

So let’s say you’re X news company. You’re bringing in decent revenue, but you’re not quite hitting the mark that you know your company can. And, with this economy and a digital age that “shook up” your market value, you realize that increasing the revenue coming in could save you from what I like to call grim circumstances.

So what is your first investment as a news company to increase your long term market value?

It is your employees, all the reporters, writers, editors, researchers, copy editors, photographers, and administrative aides.  And the only way to do this is by having a company culture that facilitates an environment where the worker attaches a positive meaning to the work their doing. The idea is that if you invest in your employees, you will see an overall return on investment.

Why? Because you’re employees are now upping the level of dedication and effort they put into their work.

Think about the employees who do the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. shifts each day. They come to work, don’t always feel valued by the company whose brand they work so hard to promote, feel that management does not value the work they do.

And why should they? The news company they work for hasn’t created the culture to do so.  Wouldn’t it be far more beneficial for the company if these employees not only felt they needed to be at work for financial survival, but wanted to be at work because they feel their work is meaningful?

News, in broadcast or print, is about creativity. There is a certain point where you have to be in touch with your creative side. I don’t care if you write about dry topics like finance or engineering – you have to have a creative buzz. So, if you don’t feel valued by the news organization you work for, your creativity in writing or producing a multimedia story, may not flow the way someone who is paying you would want it.

As a news entity, businesses must invest in their employees by investing in the company’s culture.  This is a part of what you want to do to bring in revenue. As Suze Orman said, “people first, then money, then things.”

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Alternative press less affected by print sales decline

By BOLTON LANCASTER

In an era of declining newspaper circulation, one of the areas that has not been as heavily affected is the alternative press such as The Village Voice in New York and the Miami New Times in Miami.

One of the main reasons these papers have been less affected by the decline of print is because many of them are free; there are no people cancelling subscriptions. However, another reason why the papers continue to excel is because of their online material.

The alternative press papers that are dropped off at various locations for free distribution rely solely on advertising revenue to make a profit. Advertisers have continued to flock to the alternative press papers as they look for ways to reach local consumers.

In fact, according to Chuck Strouse, editor of the Miami New Times, his newspaper circulation was virtually unaffected by the decline in print until a boycott caused by the Backpage.com controversy.

But advertisers are not just going to the print version of alternative press newspapers: they are also looking to get in the online versions. Lots of graphics and large typefaces help the alternative press websites stand out from other news websites. They cover less hard news stories, but publish in-depth features on a wide range of topics such as music, restaurants and arts.

In addition, these alternative press websites have a number of blogs that are frequently updated. This constantly gives readers new material and allows for alternative press websites to gain more viewers and appeal to more advertisers.

For example,  there are six featured stories at the top of the home page of the Miami New Times, but below that is a stream of stories that is constantly updated. On Friday, Nov. 9, there were 19 stories posted in this section. The abundance and emphasis on new stories help bring more viewers to the site and allow the publication to stay profitable.

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Handle passwords carefully and hackers go elsewhere

By RACHEL JANOSEC

Cybersecurity is prevalent more then ever, especially since technology basically runs our lives. Journalists depend on their e-mail, websites and blog sites to get their work done and must keep all their passwords safe or their work could be as good as gone. Hackers make it very easy to steal personal data that may never be retrieved.

Hackers regularly exploit tools like John the Ripper, a free password-cracking program that uses lists of commonly used passwords from sites and can test millions of passwords per second. Hackers attack companies’ computers systems everyday looking to for passwords to sell on black market sites for $20. This shows how easily a journalist’s websites and e-mail can be hacked.

There are several steps that can maximize the security of passwords that all should consider. The first word of advice when creating or remaking a password is to forget the dictionary, in other words, if your password can be found in the dictionary then you might as well not have it.

The second step is to never use the same password twice.  Most people think to use the same password for everything so it is easier to remember, but this makes it easier for hackers to crack into another personal account once they have hacked into the first.

Next, for password security one should come up with a passphrase.  The longer the password the better and the harder it is to get hacked.   A password should ideally be 14 characters in length or more. But since longer passwords are harder to remember, a passphrase can be created to help string together the first one or two letters of each word in the sentence.

One should also store their passwords securely. Do not store them on your desktop or inbox.  It is a good idea to save them on a personal USB drive or just a simple piece of paper so they are off the Internet completely.

Lastly, ignoring the security questions will help keep your passwords safe.  Hackers use the information in the questions to reset your password code and take over your account.

These steps are important and crucial but do take effort.

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Election night broke social media records

By MELISSA CASTILLO

My last blog post focused on how much social media has grown and become such a powerful factor in our everyday lives by using Hurricane Sandy as an example.

This fact is once again seen with this week’s leading story, President Obama’s re-election. His tweet, “four more years” with a picture of him and the First Lady embracing on the campaign trail, was re-tweeted almost 800,000 times in 24 hours and this made it the most shared tweet ever.

On Facebook, the picture became the most liked ever with now more than 3.5 million likes. It was also a big night for news sites.

Fox News broke their number of unique visits at 28 million that night, the highest in their 16 years online. This is a 95 percent increase since 2008. Imagine how many more visits there will be in 2016 with this pattern. CNN also broke their record with 23 million unique visitors and 203 million views, the majority from the Politics and Digital Election Center section.

Chances are that each year will bring new records, specifically election years. Social media has not only given people a chance to share their points of views with the community, but it has also given them more gateways into developing their points of views. With Facebook and Twitter, even if someone is using it purely for social reasons, it’s impossible to not come across significant news stories.

Since we are so much more exposed to the news and we don’t even have to go out of our way to stay updated, it’s only natural that people will become more engaged in latest events. This election brought the most tweets about a political event ever, at 31 million tweets total and it reached 327,452 per minute. Because of this ongoing growth, I don’t doubt that election years will continue to break records.

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