Reporting an Afghan poll

28 Mar

Just looking at the websites of The New York Times and USA Today shows they present their news in very different manners.

More so, looking at an Afghan poll inspired two very different ways to tell the story.

USA Today  offers a very basic approach. The story is in the details of how the poll was conducted, then the findings are simply listed. This is a very easy-t0-understand format, which is appropriate for their readership. They also included reactions to the poll from scholars, adding to the value of the story and aiding readers in interpreting the results.

Meanwhile, the New York Times chose to interpret the poll’s results for readers, rather than just listing numbers in a bulleted format. The article compares national and local statistics, showing different levels of responses. The article’s main lede, respondents’ feelings on the direction the country is headed, is highlighted by a graphic.


Compiled Story:

In what is billing as the widest opinion poll conducted in Afghanistan, the non-profit, San Francisco-based Asia Foundation surveyed 6,226 Afghans in 32 of the country’s 34 provinces over the summer.

The poll, financed by the U.S. Agency for International Development, suggests that Afghans are surprisingly confident about the direction of their country even as NATO forces battle a pro-Taliban insurgency in southern and eastern provinces and the violence begins to threaten other places that previously had been considered safe.

While the national mood remains positive on the whole, the number of people with negative or mixed views on the trajectory of the country has grown significantly since a similar survey in 2004, according to the Asia Foundation.

Security was the main source for optimism among those who said the country was headed in the right direction. But among those who expressed pessimism, more than half said the biggest problem was a lack of security, the Taliban threat and warlords.

Respondents listed the economy and unemployment as other big issues. Fifty-four percent said they felt more prosperous than they had under the Taliban, but 26 percent said they felt less well off. On a local level, unemployment was cited as the biggest problem, while security and a lack of infrastructure and basic services like electricity and water featured less prominently.

Corruption, which has become one of the main criticisms of the government, was less of a concern for respondents than unemployment and lack of services. When asked specifically if corruption was a problem nationally, 77 percent of respondents said it was, and 60 percent said it had increased.

The survey showed strong support for democratic elections, and strong approval of new national institutions, including the Afghan National Army, of which 87 percent approved, and the Afghan National Police, of which 86 percent approved. A similar amount expressed trust in the electronic media, and 57 percent in nongovernmental organizations, whose performance has often been criticized. The justice system, local militias and political parties were not trusted, the survey said.

Eighty-six percent supported equal rights for women. Freedom of speech also received wide support.

Deep respect for religion also was apparent. Sixty-one percent said religious leaders should be consulted on issues and problems. Sixty percent of those surveyed said an Islamic nation could attain democracy without becoming Westernized, while 35 percent said democracy challenged Islamic values.


From print to digital

28 Mar

It’s hard to believe that just last year going digital was a big deal.

Sure, most magazines had websites, but their content wasn’t being scrutinized. Websites were for keeping an audience intrigued enough to run out to their local supermarkets and pick up the physical magazine from the racks lining the check-out counters. Now, with the emergence of e-readers and tablets, what magazines put in digital form while still maintaining the quality  of their print editions is being evaluated.

Sports Illustrated has become a frontrunner in tackling both the digital and print markets. It manages to stay true to its magazine’s readers expectations while keeping up an updated online presence. More so, the magazine works on everything as a collective unit, with no separate technology-only department to tend to its online readers.

To bolster its readership, The Atlantic went against the current trend of offering online subscriptions. Instead, it took down its paywall and allowed unlimited access to its website. It also made an effort to be a digital media company, which in turned boosted revenue.

With these changing technological times, news publications have to change as well. OpenFile works entirely upon reader suggestions. While the world of journalism is a competitive one, OpenFile has been able to put that aside to focus on community news and interacting with residents. According to the site’s editor in chief, providing value to the reader is more important than story scoops.

OpenFile may have been ahead of its time with its news format, as more and more news organizations turn to social media to actively engage readers. Johnathan Stray points out that this different medium – online – calls for a different story form. Audience participation and real-time reporting, though always being commented on by scholars, is becoming the norm in society. Bloggers are seeking ways to make themselves more noticeable, mainly by attracting readers through other blogs and social media. Local and national news sources alike are finding using FourSquare and Instagram to combine reporting the news with audience participation.

With the growing capacity of social media and the usefulness of it, one has to wonderful what the Next Big Thing will be and what that will mean for the working structure of publications.



I couldn’t help but be attracted to this Storify. It combined two of my favorite things – my love of fashion and my everlasting fascination with my hometown of Miami. It begins with tweets explaining the event. Then, the well-taken photos (with their necessary captions) serve to capture the event.

Breaking news without breaking accuracy

21 Mar

News outlets all have their different styles of reporting.

However, accuracy is the link that unites all news.

When a story breaks, news organizations scramble to get their audiences the most information first. In the link above, BBC turns to its followers to help them complete the scene of what occurred in Liege, Belgium. This led to a hastily put together story, in which witnesses recounted the events they saw. While it is wonderful to include quotes from those who were at the scene, crowd psychology and lapse of time can distort initial sightings and reactions.

Meanwhile, RTE took a simpler, less reactionary approach. Upon gathering the basic facts, it posted a simple Twitter link with a short, to-the-point story. Though not as quite as exciting as BBC’s story, the facts are all there and seem to have come from a credible source like the police.

This provides readers with what they want to know – and what is known to be true – first, which gives RTE reporters time to thoroughly familiarize themselves with the happening and to take their time in interviewing legitimate witnesses. With time, a fully fleshed out story will be able to be presented, much like CNN did.


Live-tweeting and the law

21 Mar

Break-ups are hard. They’re emotionally messy. They’re hard for outsiders to understand.

Break-ups at Burger King can be amusing, sans the couple fighting, if Andy Boyle is there to live-tweet them.

While this type of journalism is under question (I suppose it would be called live-tweeting stories?), the ethics of broadcasting such a personal moment is being questioned.

When I was little, my mom would tell me not to dare throw a temper tantrum in public. If I didn’t get the toy I wanted, I could wail about it all the way home, but I better be polite to everyone until that car door was closed. However, I suppose the childhood lesson of not causing a scene was not taught to these newlyweds.

If they wanted to keep their discussion of their private matters confidential, they should have had this fight in a private place. They had no reasonable expectation of privacy in a restaurant, especially at a Burger King where there is no intimacy (or hope of rescuing your failing romance, or so I thought before reading this). Heck, everyone in line can hear what you ordered. How could they think someone storming off would go unnoticed?

Though posting an overheard conversation doesn’t seem to merit an actual news story, it seems the definition of what defines a story is has changed.  And while this piece would in no way qualify as hard news, it still amuses readers and causes the audience to reflect on the state of society today if marriages are ending with the last of a Whopper.

Before such technology existed, a beat reporter might have noticed the scene, taken notes and turned this into an editorial on young love being over before you can finish your value meal. Wouldn’t people want to read that article, and would it have evoked as much criticism?

Everybody’s talking about Twitter

21 Mar

If you look up “twitter” in the dictionary, you will find that its definition is “to utter successive chirping noises.” Those noises birds make when they sound happy, basically.

Now, birds aren’t the only things that tweet. People can tweet too, all thanks to the invention that is Twitter.

Explaining Twitter to someone isn’t simple per say, especially if the person asking is your technologically-challenged mom, but it is best summed up as a social networking site in the form of a microblog. Just pray that whoever asked that  original question doesn’t need you to clarify about blogging. Just walk away for your own sanity at this point, please.

While Twitter can be used for a variety of reasons, it has become relevant to the ever-evolving field of journalism. Though many news organizations do have their own Twitter handles to tweet abbreviated clips, the miraculous thing about the platform is that it allows regular people to report the news. Even more intriguing is the news can range from a friend 20 miles north of you tweeting about the torrential downpour that came out of nowhere to organizing an Egyptian revolution.

Journalists themselves are turning to Twitter as a way to enhance their reporting capabilities. Not only can Twitter aid a journalist in his or her search for story ideas or sources, but it keeps readers involved. Readers can follow a story’s development. They can react to stories and send their thoughts directly to the reporter. And what writer doesn’t want to have a loving fan base that wants to interact in a simple 140-character Q-and-A session?

As with most things in life, staying organized in the world of Twitter is a key to journalistic success. By creating lists and searching for hashtags, one can certainly use Twitter to a professional advantage.

Though Twitter is a concept that many people have difficulty comprehending, those who do start to use it are becoming part of an evolving landscape, much like journalism itself. Surprisingly, not even those who run the site know what Twitter will evolve into next because its users come up with the new purposes, not the company.

So, keep an eye on all those tweets from people and organizations you follow. I’m sure we’ll see what the future holds for the site in 140 characters or less.



14 Mar

With the Republican primaries occurring, stories are appearing all over the Internet about the results and about the candidates. But wouldn’t it be so much simpler to gain some insight on the candidates without reading through eight other stories?

Luckily, Poligraft is here to lend a helping hand. Furthermore, Poligraft clearly states where it gets its information from and how it was developed. Such transparency is much appreciated when found on the Internet.

Simply by entering a story’s URL, all political persons will appear with their contributing industries on the right side of the screen.

Aside from this tool saving journalists time, it provides a stepping stone to any connections a reporter could have missed. Seeing who’s supporting who can give inspiration for new stories and even lead to groundbreaking investigative stories.

For example, the story above led to results on Romney, Gingrich and Santorum. While the latter two candidates have about a quarter of their funds coming from PACs, Romney’s contributors are nearly all individuals. One has to wonder, why is this happening?

Poligraft is a wonderful aid to journalists in a fast-paced time where media is held liable for the facts, as they should be.


Linking your story to the rest of the news world

29 Feb

Links are a tricky thing. An art form, really.

As an artist must learn his craft from the basics before he can break the rules, writers must first understand how links work.

The first step is to master when to use a hyperlink. A hyperlink can enhance a story, but it can also cause destruction.

To prevent this, one must learn to make their links linear. This is akin to an artist learning to draw the basic elements of straight lines, circles and squares without the guidance of a ruler. Once an artist has mastered these, they are on the way to creating virtually any object on their canvas. Alas, a writer can now make a story come alive and offer interested readers background without being repetitive in a story.

News organizations have realized this school of linking, and some, such as the BBC, have come up with guidelines on how to handle hyperlinks within their trusted brand. Some are struggling to deal with linking to one another, as they might provide a better understanding of an important topic. Others, like the New York Times, are offering quick-read news sites entirely composed of links.

However, hyperlinks are not without problems, much like an artist might make a painting similar to one that is already being critiqued in another part of the world. One must hope that others can laugh at these regrettable mistakes, and just learn from them in the future.