Easy-to-use infographic web tool

What is infogr.am? Free third-party web tool that allows you to graph information, ie) make infographics.

When to use it? When you’ve got a bunch of data and you want to display it in a visual way.

Example http://www.ottawasun.com/2014/05/13/ottawa-police-release-sex-offender-data

Screen Shot 2014-05-14 at 3.50.03 PM

Let’s make this text-heavy data list more visual. Info.gram gives me different options.

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Social Media tips for community newspapers

I had the distinct pleasure today of addressing a group of journalists at the Ontario Community Newspapers Association’s annual convention. Journalism is a tough job these days and running a smaller newsroom is among the toughest. I tried to offer this group a basic social media strategy that they could take back to their newsrooms.

Here it is:


User generated content best practices

My favourite session by far at this year’s Online News Association conference in Atlanta was the User Generated Content forum hosted by the Eric Carvin of the Associated Press (@ericcarvin), Katie Hawkins-Gaar off CNN’s iReport (@katiehawk), and Amanda Zamora (@amzam) of Propublica. They offered great insights into the getting the best content from your readers.

The power of Twitter search

Had a request from a reporter recently asking me to help her find tweets sent out by a particular Twitter user on a specific day. Challenge accepted.

After giving it some thought, I scoured Twitter advanced search for the answer. There are so many awesome Twitter shortcuts you can use to find information, enabling you to find everything from tweets sent from a particular user to specific time periods to posts with positive or negative feelings.

How we found reporter Don Peat’s tweets from July 11. Using the search field I keyed in: ‘from:(username) until:date’


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Mobile reporting tips from the Online News Association conference

It’s every tech journalists’ favourite time of year: the annual Online News Association conference.

This year’s digital news fiesta was in Atlanta Georgia from Oct. 17 to 19. I was lucky enough to attend the conference and pick up some useful tips. I’ll be sharing the best of the bunch on this blog over the next few weeks.

First up: Mobile reporting

We all know that so much can be done with a smartphone or a tablet. What are the best apps to do the job? What about gear?
Jeremy Caplan, education director at Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism, offered his tips at #ONA13.

** Apologies in advance. These tips are really geared toward iPhone, iPad and Android users.**

Caplan’s overall mantra was to follow four ‘rules’:

* Stay Home – Put the apps you use most frequently on your phone’s home screen. (My home screen below. Yes, I need to update my apps.)


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Live chat best practices

It’s a dreaded fear among us digital types who try to engage readers by doing live events or live chats on our websites: The fear that NOBODY will ask a question or make a comment. I’ll admit there have been a few times that I’ve filled an hour virtually talking to myself, rambling on (live blog style) and adding videos and polls in a desperate attempt to fill the time. As a colleague of mine would say, CRICKETS, is the worst.

Luckily, I’ve learned from my chat successes and failures using Scribblelive, our liveblogging platform. I thought I’d share a few tips with you.

1. Pick a good topic. This sounds obvious but it can be hard sometimes to find the right issue to really grab readers. Topics that are timely (i.e. current events, wildly popular TV show), universal (i.e. shared experiences, such as weather, traffic) tend to work. Open topics that a lot of people tend to like (i.e. wine, music, movies) have also worked well for us here at Sun Media’s national online desk.

2. Bring in guests. Including experts gives credibility to your chat and increases the likelihood of people asking questions.

3. Set it up early. Give yourself time to write a catchy intro. Be sure to clearly explain how people can participate. i.e.) Comment below, custom Scribblelive email, hashtag.

4. Promote it. Talk about it on Twitter, Facebook, etc., post it to your website in advance so people know the event is coming up. Give it a plug in print.

5. Make it easy for people to participate. I like to give people several ways to get involved, including through the live blog, email and Twitter. The more ways they can give involved the more participation you’ll have.



Reddit explained in less than five minutes

This video helps explain how social media site Reddit works. Reddit can be a great source for story ideas and to boost content if you can navigate the complex world of up votes/down votes, subreddits and links. It’s a whole new social language that you’ve got to learn to speak before getting any traction on the site.

Here’s another useful Reddit story from a few weeks ago: Stanford researchers crack the math behind successful Reddit submissions. There’s some good info here.