February 15, 2011

Lots of Opinion (Journalism)

The unfortunate thing is this: The way the semester works out at the moment, readers of Ozarks News Journal have to wait about six weeks into a given semester before our main features and the television show begin showing up on the web. That will change by this time next year (because we’ve created a new 100-level class to teach basic web/new media/ social media skills so students are up to speed by the time they get to my multimedia journalism class).

But, even better, the site is open for past students to use. And, still better, the site will soon be open for citizen contributors.

The goal: By this time next year ONJ should be a year-round news organization with a steady stream of local content.

Students have been blogging from the first week, and transparency has been job #1. Their first assignment was to post bios that tell readers “where I’m coming from.” The comment feature is wide open. We also have a corrections & amplifications form linked on the top menu for citizen feedback. We have a Facebook group for citizen feedback (where we post the reporting group assignments). And you may subscribe by e-mail, Twitter, SMS text, and RSS.

The main features will fall within the parameters of “news” and “features” — i.e. content reported and presented using the best practices (we can muster) of multimedia presentation and journalistic craft. The blog posts are (supposed to be) opinion journalism, and, at the editor’s discretion,  well-handled blog posts may be placed in the featured position. Neither I nor the editor edit or otherwise supervise these posts (although we may edit if we find glaring errors of fact/usage. ONJ reporters are supposed to approach their blogging by these criteria:

  1. Does the post pass the grandmother test, i.e. don’t shock your grandmother. The point is to keep content appropriate for younger readers. We don’t do pornography or violence.
  2. Does the post demonstrate good opinion journalism? i.e. based on one or more of: reporting, first-hand experience, and/or demonstrated expertise.

So there’s plenty of opinion on ONJ. And plenty of opinion about the topics the students are reporting because they are supposed to blog about the news and features they are working on. How is that going to work? You’ll find out as we do.

Also of note, the editor of ONJ last semester is doing an independent project in online opinion journalism. Her blog is Blogging and Opinion Journalism. Check it out.

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