Use Google Trends to develop story ideas

By Nicole Garner

While working in a television newsroom over the summer, I learned a tactic for finding story ideas for that day's newscast: Ask yourself and colleagues, "What are people talking about today?"

Whether you're working in a day-turn newsroom or starting to scope out ideas for a long-form journalism project, finding out what people are discussing can lead to interesting stories. But how do you do that on a large scale? It has become routine to check out Twitter trending hashtags, but you can also use Google Trends.

Why hashtags are important for #journalists

By Andrew Gibson
Photo courtesy of danielmoyle

One of my favorite quotes about Twitter comes from Megan Garber, an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab:
"Twitter, like many other subjects of political pique, tends to be framed in extremes: On the one hand, there’s Twitter, the cheeky, geeky little platform — the perky Twitter bird! the collective of 'tweets'! all the twee new words that have emerged with the advent of the tw-efix! — and on the other, there’s Twitter, the disruptor: the real-time reporting tool. The pseudo-enabler of democratic revolution. The existential threat to the narrative primacy of the news article. Twetcetera."
Hashtags embody the dichotomy of Twitter better than perhaps anything else. On one hand, they're a powerful way to restore information order because they let users categorize content with just a few keystrokes. But hashtags are also cultural symbols and have even stretched into spoken conversation. You might finish a sentence with "hashtag awkward" while recalling an uncomfortable experience.

Fortunately, journalists can take advantage of both the fun and the serious sides of hashtags. Here are some tips for turning the funny pound symbol into a powerful online tool.

Live Blogging: ONA Mizzou Meeting 10/20/11

Thanks for coming to our meeting. Tweet @triblocalPat and get on the Mizzou Mafia board.

5:45: "At Mizzou, I should have overcome fears to do events that may seem dull."- Rollens

5:43: Rollens' favorite story- Commercial real estate magazine where he got to travel a lot. Rollens went to Iowa and was supposed to tour a developer. The developer turned a concrete bunker into a great development.

5:39: "I've learned so much about what things people want to read. We use daily hits to see how well we are doing and how stories are doing."- Rollens

5:37: Aggregation has become a big topic with advisor Amy Simons leading the discussion.

5:35: "Our websites are a little text heavy but I always try to find YouTube videos to post. Also our photo galleries are the bomb."- Rollens

5:30: Q: Some things you learned at Mizzou that you use at TribLocal? A: Working on Vox was a great experience. Small, scrappy staff that can work remotely. Sense of camaraderie. Be comfortable wearing a bunch of hats.

5:28: Q: Would you consider advertising to businesses in the area that you run? A: Ad reps go after local businesses all the time. And we hope they convince them to run ads in both print and on the website.

5:26: TribLocal uses Twitter for serious and breaking news. They use Facebook for more slideshows and events like that.

5:24: "I use Twitter to push out news as much as I try to hook in news."- Rollens

5:21: The social media is left to the producers. It's one main Twitter account called @TribLocal.

5:20: "At the end of the day, you have your authority on your website. They don't have their 1st Amendment right on your website."- Rollens

5:16: Q: How would you go about starting a hyperlocal site in a smaller town? A: A simple Blogger or Wordpress. It would help to have citizens participate.

5:15: TribLocal is always monitoring our postings.

5:13: "Their is no approval process for getting an online contribution account. Then I contact the person that signs up. It's help when I perform one on one customer service."- Rollens

5:11: Q: How did you get citizens to write for TribLocal? A: Call up local libraries, park districts etc... and gave them a way to get their message out not only online but in print as well. The OPRF high school do not want to use the website and that's their choice.

5:09: TribLocal journalists are trying to become more and more hyperlocal.

5:08: Citizen journalism, social media, print component all make up TribLocal's cycle.

5:07: "I don't tweet about journalism. I tweet for journalism."- Rollens

5:05: Rollens breaks down his schedule and what he does for the week while working with the TribLocal site.

5:03: Rollens works on Oak Park and River Forest and Elmhurst pages.

5:02: Go to to follow along Rollens' discussion go to this page. Click on the Find Your Town on a List to see all the towns in TribLocal's web.

5:01: "Social media is a big part of my week. Nice Facebook page as well. Not to share just breaking news but also highlight citizen contribution."- Rollens

5:01: Rollens is a Mizzou grad of '04.

5:00: Rollens met a bunch of ONA people at the conference in Boston last month.

4:58: History of TribLocal: 3-4 years old, since '09 they have been investing time and money into TribLocal.

4:57: The Skype connection has been established with Patrick Rollens.

4:53: Guests start arriving and snacks are put out.

Welcome to the third meeting of the year for ONAMizzou. Today we are Skyping with the Chicago Tribune's TribLocal Community Producer Patrick Rollens.

Tips for evaluating the credibility of real-time information

By Ashley Crockett

Everyone is plugged in these days, consuming news at lightning-fast speed. Even the news of Osama bin Laden's death broke on Twitter before President Obama announced it.

This photo of a shark in a Puerto Rican street after Hurricane
Irene was nothing more than a clever editing job.

At the 2011 ONA Conference in Boston, Craig Silverman and Mandy Jenkins led a session called "B.S. Detection for Journalists," which was full of tips for quickly determining a source's reliability.

For breaking news on Twitter, try to track down who first reported the information. Then, go through this checklist:

- When was the account created?
- Is this a regularly updated account?
- Is there a picture?
- Do they have "normal" followers?
- Do they interact with other users?

If all that checks out, find the person's Klout score, or Google the name and handle of the account. If nothing seems suspicious, contact the user.

This next step is critical: get the person's phone number and call them for more information.

Find out where the information originated. Ask, "Did you witness this? Can you tell me what exactly happened and when? If not, where did you get the information?" Follow up by asking who else might have the information.

Now, you're still not ready to completely trust what you've been told. Look at the tweets leading up to and following the breaking news to see if they follow a logical order.

If that all seems legitimate, contact official sources and search Twitter to see if any reputable accounts are reporting the same thing. Don't forget to try reaching out to your followers for help verifying the information.

The biggest step in determining whether or not you should share the information is answering one question: Is it worth the risk if the information is wrong?

For even more tips for credibility checks online, take a look at Silverman and Jenkins' presentation slides.

Calendar Alert: Hyperlocal comes to Mizzou at 5 p.m. Thursday

Who says major newspapers can't deliver neighborhood-level news? Patrick Rollens, TribLocal community producer, will Skype with us at 5 p.m. Thursday in Reynolds Journalism Institute room 200A. He'll talk about how the Chicago Tribune-owned outlet uses the Web as a medium for delivering information specific to small communities. Who knows -- maybe you have a future in hyperlocal!

Tweet him questions and discussion topics now to @TribLocalPat. He'll answer them Thursday!

Photo courtesy of TribLocal

M-I-Z, Net-work-ing!

Image courtesy Mizzou Alumni Association
It's Homecoming here at Mizzou - meaning skits, philanthropy and tailgating are on everyone's mind. But, with this year's centennial anniversary, don't forget about one of the biggest perks of the season: alumni networking. 

While it seems nearly every event held at the Missouri School of Journalism is an effort to rub elbows and make contacts, Homecoming week offers a few unique opportunities:

Career Fair - Thursday, Oct. 13
Stotler Ballroom, Memorial Union
9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

You've probably seen the announcements about the journalism job fair happening today, but if not, grab your résumé and head over (in business attire, of course). At least 12 journalism-related organizations will be there, including:
  • Fleishman-Hillard
  • k-Cura
  • American Junior Golf Association
  • CGX Consolidated Graphics

How ONA Mizzou does social media

By Andrew Gibson
There's a good chance you're reading this post because you clicked one of our Twitter links. We tweet quite a bit -- sometimes more than 10 times a day -- but the timing and content of each 140-character message is far from random. The same goes for Facebook posts. If you've wondered why you're seeing a certain tweet at a certain time, keep reading, because this is a brief look at the ONA Mizzou social media strategy.


Our tweets usually contain links to digital-journalism stories, promotions for our events or opportunities for our followers (like writing for this blog). Before I tweet, I check the Missouri School of JournalismReynolds Journalism Institute and Columbia Missourian websites to make sure I'm aware of any local news related to Mizzou or the journalism school. Next, I search for interesting links by reading tweets from the people ONA Mizzou follows. Lists like Top Journalism Linkers, compiled by Jay Rosen, a New York University journalism professor, are good places to look. I also have 45 websites and blogs -- including Mashable, GigaOM and NewsFuturist -- bookmarked for this purpose. ONA Mizzou tries to appeal to people of varying journalism sequences and majors, meaning that, while many of our links relate to topics like social media and digital engagement, some will relate to photojournalism, advertising and ethics.

I start tweeting around 10:30 a.m. on weekdays. This gives college students time to coffee up to the point where they'll actually want to learn about digital journalism or write our next event in their planners. When noon comes, I pick up the pace and try to tweet at least twice and post on Facebook at least once before 1 p.m. This is a good time to promote club events and opportunities because many Mizzou students browse social media while eating lunch. Tweets continue about once hourly through around 4 p.m. Then I stop for a few hours because, well, I have to eat dinner, and so do our followers. Many students have Facebook or Twitter open while studying or watching TV later in the night, so 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. is another high-exposure period for spreading word about events and tweeting links.

Additional Information on the ONA Conference

By Addison Walton
At the 2011 ONA Conference recap held by ONA Mizzou on Oct. 6, panelists Brian Steffens and Jen Lee Reeves provided the audience with many different links from their ONA Conference experiences. 

Brian Steffens passed along his blog posts from the Reynolds Journalism Institute website:

Jen Lee Reeves listed all the great resources she found at the ONA Conference on a Pinboard:

Live Blogging: ONA Conference Recap 10/6/11

By Addison Walton

6:05- Thanks to everyone who came to the ONA Conference Recap Meeting! Follow us on Twitter @ONAMizzou. See you on October 20.

6:03- "The ONA Conference is the Journalism SXSW (South by Southwest)"- Reeves

5:58- Why join ONA? Hibbard- "Networking. This is the place to talk journalism. Access to ONA national resources" Gibson- "Huge for networking. This was my first conference and it was an incredible opportunity to connect with people." Reeves- "Focus on telling stories in journalism not just finding ways to tell it." Steffens- "Gives quick snapshot of state of the art journalism. I love to explore possibilities."

5:56: Augmenting Reality (experiencing things how they would be in fantasy) is something that should have showed up a little more during the conference says Reeves

5:54: "What you did yesterday is not what you're going to do tomorrow."- Steffens.

5:53: Steffens- "Everything was getting mashed up together (i.e. Facebook, Twitter) and now it's separating a lot more." 

5:50: Amy Simons asks "One takeaway that you can improve in your journalism day to day?" Reeves- "Post all the time on Facebook because now the timelines it's based on your friends preferences." 

5:48: RJIOnline.Org has some good takeaway videos, blogs and links from the ONA Conference if people are interested. 

Convert the Twitter nonbelievers

By Ashley Crockett

It's fine if you aren't using Twitter. Really -- you're free to make your own choices, after all.

Just know that you're missing out on a wealth of information and sources.

For instance, you can witness real-time global dialogue about whatever your heart (or your editor) desires, which is great for finding new sources or new twists on old stories. It's also excellent for finding new ideas -- if your newsroom seems stuck on repeat, find inspiration with a (free!) glance at what your audience is talking about and what it's curious to learn.

If you don't believe me, maybe Poynter's article "10 ways journalists can use Twitter before, during and after reporting a story" will convince you. I chose three items (below) from this list that I've used while studying journalism at the University of Missouri.