Using Storify to explain Storify

By Shaamini Yogaretnam

Karen Unland teaches Storify at MediaCamp Edmonton on Feb. 4, 2012 at World Trade Centre Edmonton.

EDMONTON — Storify, a social-media curation tool, was launched in 2011 by Xavier Damman and Burt Herman. In the span of one year, it has become a highly-used tool for journalists. Initially, only journalists who belonged to news organizations could get an account. Now, any user can create an account and curate social media content varying from reactions to Beyonce and Jay-Z’s bundle of Blue Ivy to today’s MediaCamp Edmonton sessions.

“It restores order to chaos,” said Karen Unland, journalism educator and avid Storify user.

Journalists might be feeling some social-media fatigue but Storify is a tool that uses other platforms to get content and then publishes this curated form to those same platforms and can even be embedded on a story page.

What is Storify good for? 

  • restoring order to chaos
  • turning bits into narrative – this is what journalists have been doing for years, turning facts into a narrative and making the connections between stories to find larger patterns and trends
  • adding context – Storify can give you the room to make your tweets accurate when immediacy gets in the way of real context.

“A hundred and forty characters is just enough to get you in trouble,” Unland said. When you’ve made an error through what you’ve implied or directly said but can’t risk deleting that social media content, Storify gives you the do-over to add the context back in.

  • collecting what the community is saying when you ask them to “send us your stuff” – asking readers to contribute content on social media is a great tool for community engagement but what happens when the user wants to see what you did with the image they supplied or the experience they shared? Storify lets you pool all of those resources in one location.
  • combating the ephemerality of Twitter – Twitter loses its memory as frequently as every seven days. When Twitter is your note-taking or reporting tool, once your tweets are gone, so are your notes and your stories. Storify changes that and preserves a record.

Unlike traffic on social media sites, curating the content and embedding Storify on a story page can directly serve your news organization.

“Embedding serves all the ads,” Unland said. You don’t need to worry about sending moneymaking traffic away and can build up your social media brand at the same time.

You can find this Storify presentation online here.


There’s an [Edmonton Journal] app for that

By Shaamini Yogaretnam

John Connolly, publisher of the Edmonton Journal, speaks to MediaCamp Edmonton about the newspaper's digital-first push on Feb. 4, 2012.

EDMONTON — The spirit of MediaCamp Edmonton is alive and well in publisher John Connolly’s talk on the Edmonton Journal‘s move to digital first. The Journal faces the challenge of remaining a newspaper with a loyal readership but moving towards digital-first priorities.

For Connolly, audience development is key, but how do you develop an audience? By being open to innovation in areas of content and advertising. Enter the Edmonton Journal app and the numerous partnerships the Journal has forged to bring news to the community and the community back to news.

“We want you to know the Journal,” said Connolly. “We want you to work with us on one or more platforms.”

Aaron Clifford, an independent developer with EgoAnt Productions, echoes the need for partnership between developers and journalists.

“Figure out what your goal is,” Clifford said. “And decide how you’re going to measure success.”

The Edmonton Journal wanted to connect with people as their foremost goal. Clifford came up with the Edmonton Journal Writer Personality Quiz as way to reach out to the Journal’s base audience. Readers could take an online quiz that paired them with the personality traits of a Journal writer. Quiz-takers could then share the results on social media sites like Facebook and create conversation among their friends.

Projects like the quiz work largely because of a devout readership but they also help to brand the Journal, engage with the community and get the attention of a new audience.

Collaboration, creativity and cash are the things informing the success of digital initiatives, Clifford said. News organizations need to collaborate with developers, show a willingness to think outside of the conventions of print and be willing to pay for the applications based on their complexity.

Digital first doesn’t just mean that online content trumps that which appears in print. The Journal’s use of digital tools is a great example of how to use the online world to inform the print edition. In 2011’s PC leadership race, the Journal used a Google Docs poll to measure voters’ support and then made that data available both online and in a print story.

An illustration of the 'Getting an app for that' presenters by Kyle Sams, Guru Digital Arts College student. (Left to right) Aaron Clifford, John Connolly, and Karen Unland at MediaCamp Edmonton on Feb. 4, 2012.


Five things journalists need to know about data

By Shaamini Yogaretnam

Mack D. Male presents 'Intro to Data' to MediaCamp Edmonton on Feb. 4, 2012 at World Trade Centre Edmonton. Data has multiple uses for journalists and their storytelling.

EDMONTON — Mack D. Male, software developer and social media guy, wants journalists to know and use data. The intersection of technology and journalism is a site for advanced storytelling. Facts and figures can leap off the page (or screen) when journalists understand them and can make them understandable to a larger audience. Here are five things that every journalist should knowing about what data is, its uses and its potential for journalists.

Open data

Open data is data that anyone is free to use and redistribute with the main requirements of attribution and continued sharing. Open data allows journalists to learn from each other, build upon the work of their colleagues, and tailor the information to specific regions and stories. Open data also breeds an increase in accountability and transparency.

“Anybody can make a graph,” Male said. “If you make a data build, it makes it more transparent.”

Unstructured vs. structured data

Knowing the difference between these two types of data will save you time and the stress of trying to make sense of data. Unstructured data is exactly what it sounds like, data that exists in a format without any imposed structure. Structured data has a defined format and can be easily navigated, curated and separated because of this format. Comma-separated values, or CSVs, are a great tool for journalists. Nearly all programs can open a CSV file since it’s basically a text file.

Knowing the trends

If journalists can know, anticipate and learn from the trends, the data tends to simplify itself. The same principles of beat reporting and keeping your ear to the ground still apply. Only now, they are connected to knowing what others have said, the data that they’ve used to support what they’ve said, and what your new set of eyes and stories can take from that data.

“I can combine this with other data sets,” Male said of how individual data sets that highlight different trends can make new stories.

Find and replace

This literally means to ‘Find and Replace’ characters and spaces in your imported data sets to make the data workable for you. On a larger level, it means add to the discussion. Find the data, contribute to it what you can to tell your story, and make that data available for others to do the same. There will be some work that you will inherit and there will be some that you contribute, both are vital to the idea of data journalism. You can download a data set, from the City of Edmonton for instance, and then make the data tell your story. You can add URLs, additional numbers, geographic points, Male said.

Use multiple platforms

Be prepared to use multiple platforms to get your data where you want it to be. Google Docs, Microsoft Excel, and other programs can all read CSV files. These additional platforms will help you to organize and then visualize the data.

“Really quickly, I can take a data set from a public database, add some of my own stuff to it and make a map,” Male said.