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The Open Notebook

November 9, 2012 in Craft, Resources

Science journalism is changing, but the ability to recognize and sharpen important ideas, ask incisive questions about complex subjects, and tell accurate, compelling stories — often on shorter deadlines and with fewer reporting and editorial resources than ever before — will always be essential. The best science journalists do not merely translate the latest scientific discoveries into lay language, but provide nuanced context and critical analysis. Well-trained journalists can explain how a new finding fits into previous research, why the research matters, and where important tensions and debates lie. And they shed light on the human characters behind the findings, understanding that scientists are fallible and scientific advancement is cumulative.

Such expert synthesis and critical analysis takes thoughtfulness and skill. The Open Notebook is the only online resource dedicated to science journalism as craft.

What We Do

  • In our popular Story-Behind-the-Story interviews, The Open Notebook asks science journalists to deconstruct their working process, from inception to completion. These features, edited for length and clarity, also typically include supplementary materials such as pitch letters, notes, draft excerpts, edits, and other behind-the-scenes resources that illustrate how one story evolved over time.
  • Our topical features focus on specific elements of the craft of science journalism — for example, finding an effective narrative structure; taking good notes; finding and sharpening story ideas; or pitching stories well.
  • The Open Notebook’s Ask TON series invites our audience to privately submit craft-related questions, which we then pose to experienced writers and editors, allowing journalists of all experience levels to tap into the expertise of their peers.
  • The TON pitch database is a searchable resource containing dozens of successful feature queries to a wide range of publications. This unique tool gives science journalists the opportunity to study the first — and often the most difficult — step in producing outstanding science stories.

Part practical guidance, part writerly voyeurism, TON’s Natural Habitat series visits science writers in their working spaces — from home offices to coffee shops to  hammocks — and invites them to share the accoutrements that help them do their best work.” Source: The Open Notebook

Emergency Journalism: Toolkit for better and accurate reporting

November 8, 2012 in Craft, Resources

Emergency Journalism is an initiative of the European Journalism Centre that brings together relevant news and resources for media professionals reporting in volatile situations. The website focuses on tools that use up-to-date digital technology, from content curation tools to multi-layered live maps, to support media coverage of emergencies such as natural disasters and political conflicts.

Every emergency is different, yet no matter the circumstances, there are tools that can help journalists during the newsgathering process, and when dealing with big data, limited resources and tight deadlines. Under such circumstances, accuracy, timeliness and quality content from journalists can ultimately contribute to effective relief and humanitarian response…

This website will help journalists to stay informed and updated on the topics that are related to emergency journalism in digital age.” Source: Emergency Journalism

A Guide to Effective Fact Checking On-air and Online

October 11, 2012 in Craft, Resources

Drawing on Annenberg Public Policy Center research conducted over a period of more than 20 years, this video “Guide to Fact Checking On-Air and Online” shows how to minimize the power of the political ads aired in news reports and increase the effectiveness of ad watches.” Source:

Headquartered at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, is a video-based counterpart to APPC’s award-winning program uses parody and humor to debunk false political advertising, poke fun at extreme language, and hold the media accountable for their reporting on political campaigns.” Source: About Us

10 Best Practices for Twitter for Journalists

September 10, 2012 in Community, Craft, Resources

Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have become part of a reporter’s toolkit. Yet research shows that media outlets and journalists tend to approach these Web 2.0 services with a 1.0 mindset.

In an attempt to help newsrooms, journalism professors Susana Herrera and José Luis Requejo have put together a list of 10 best practice guidelines for using Twitter…

For the guidelines, the scholars looked at the academic research on Twitter and studied the official accounts of leading news outlets such as The New York Times, the BBC, The Washington Post and National Public Radio.

The 10 best practices they identified are:

  1. Have a voice that is credible and reliable, but also personal and human
  2. Be generous in retweets and credit others
  3. Link to external material rather than simply broadcast your own content
  4. Listen and respond to others
  5. Provide information that adds value
  6. Seek out the views of users
  7. Promote the most interesting and useful content for audiences
  8. Use hashtags created by the Twitter community
  9. Include multimedia with tweets
  10. Link to other networks where a conversation is happening, such as Facebook”


Journalist’s Resource

July 27, 2012 in Craft, Education, Resources

Unlike most journalistic stories or blogs, academic studies are the product of months or years of work; they can include analysis of large sets of data or carefully conducted experiments. A scholar might finish just a few important studies in his or her career, often on problems that have been studied for decades. Studies aspire to say as much as can definitively be known on a particular question, be it complex or seemingly self-evident. Does money in politics cause corruption? You may consider that an obvious question, but for scholars the answer — not just yes or no, but also why and how — has to be proven with precise weighing of evidence. The essence of the scientific method is to come up with a hypothesis, test it, and then make sure it can be repeated – and that no external factors skewed the results.

Many corporations, commercial research firms, advocacy groups and consulting firms also produce studies and in-depth reports. While these can have news value, bear in mind that the findings of such work are not always independently fact-checked prior to publication, whereas studies produced by academic scholars typically are.

Why would a journalist want to read a study?

In a world overflowing with information of uncertain quality, it’s hard to find knowledge that is as unbiased, thoughtful and reliable as that contained in the best academic studies. This is why journalists should be familiar with how to read them. Studies can provide a baseline of solid fact where reporting can begin. When journalists call experts to hear their views, having familiarity with the basic research allows for more enlightening conversations and makes stories deeper. Studies almost always suggest a wealth of new angles for journalists to pursue. Further, journalists are connection points between information and the public; it is a journalist’s job to make things clear to the public that are often hidden. Sometimes this means misdeeds by public officials or large corporations. But sometimes important insights can be locked away in research studies and journals. Understanding how to read studies can allow you to bring sunlight to issues and knowledge that might otherwise remain obscure.” Source: Journalist’s Resource

Reynolds Center Beat Basics by veteran business journalists

June 27, 2012 in Craft, Education, Resources

Good business journalists look for anecdotes, or personal stories that drive home a point. The numbers we use help punctuate the anecdote. When I worked at Forbes Magazine, we would spend days trying to find the number or simple, easy-to-explain metric that best described the point we were trying to make. Was the company a rising star or a dog with fleas?

Finding that key metric could make or break the story. A metric might be something as simple as how much American Airlines saved removing an olive from every salad served to passengers. Metrics are simply a measure or yardstick. They come from good, solid reporting.

To help ease your transition, here are a few other tips…:

  • Meet the movers and shakers. Spend some time learning who the industry leaders and laggards are. Is it a mature, slow-growing industry dominated by giants or a fast-growing sector with new faces?
  • Spend some time to learn the language. Every beat has a lingo. You need to be able to speak it. Airlines measure revenue per available seat mile. Banks have net interest income. Retailers report comparable-store sales.
  • Find a mentor. Countless industry insiders, chief executives and journalists helped me establish myself as a business reporter. They taught me the ropes and gave me tips on how to navigate the terrain.
  • Develop a list of go-to experts. These are technical sources such as accountants and tax attorneys who can help you make sense of complex topics.
  • Find the followers. Read what other reporters write. But it is more important you connect with people who provide goods and services to the industry you cover – the suppliers, consultants, analysts, lawyers and investment bankers.
  • Always triple-check your numbers. I once wrote about FedEx’s new package-handling system but overlooked a glaring error. The article stated that packages whiz by at “540 feet per second.” A clever reader caught the mistake and wrote: “By my math that equates to 368 mph. Please explain to me how FedEx keeps the packages from catching fire.”
  • Remind yourself to be patient. Learning a beat takes time. Don’t expect to become an expert overnight.” Source: Covering business: An introduction

JA’s Collab/Space forum yields resources, examples and emerging practices to support journalism collaborations

May 25, 2012 in Blog, Community, Experiments, Revenue

Monkey and Dog

Together stronger, sharing complementary skills enriches collaborative partnerships.

Journalism Accelerator

One of the best parts about getting professional colleagues together to talk is that everyone brings specific resources and examples to the topic at hand. Sometimes these are familiar to you, but a colleague’s experience offers a fresh perspective. At other times, you may discover details about a resource you’d previously only vaguely heard of, or learn about something you were not aware of at all. At last month’s Collab/Space conference and during the extended conversation on the JA afterward, people offered concrete examples of successful collaborative reporting projects and pointed out tools or tips that helped them along the way. We’ve collected many of them here. Feel free to add to this shared base of knowledge. Happy collaborating!

Are you thinking about a collaborative reporting project and want some examples to show your editor? Would you like to work with an organization outside your own so your joint efforts can have a collectively bigger impact? Do you need tools to make collaborating easier?

Find ideas and inspiration in these examples, models, articles and tools that people cited in the JA conversation on collaboration and revenue.

Collaborative reporting: Story examples
Collaborative relationships: Journalism
Collaborative projects: Cross-industry or outside models
Collaborative resources: Articles and tools

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New Voices: What Works

January 12, 2012 in Community, Craft, Distribution, Education, Experiments, Resources, Revenue, Technology

Through 2010, J-Lab’s New Voices grants have been awarded to 55 local news projects from a pool of 1,433 applicants. All were required either to have nonprofit status or a fiscal agent. This report examines the outcomes of the 46 projects that were launched with New Voices funding from mid-2005 through mid-2010…

Simply put, we examined what worked and what didn’t, what made for robust sites or led to disappointment. We offer tips to help other startups and recommendations for Knight and other foundations based on what J-Lab has learned in mentoring these startups.” Source: J-Lab publications – New Voices: What Works