Colleen Wilson

Skillset 5: Pinterest

March 22, 2012 · No Comments

For months I’ve avoided getting my own Pinterest site, terrified of the amount of time I’d drain away sitting on the site. However, Professor Klein required that we get our own profile for COMM 361, online journalism, I gave in. A casual glance at my boards may give off the impression that I’m a middle aged domestic woman who loves to cook in garden.

In reality, I’m only 19, but plants and food are a both favorites of mine. I’m still working on setting up a board to compile all my work from the student newspaper and other sources that I’ve written for. For now, I’m trying to stay off as much as I can for the sake of my grades and my sanity.

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New Iphone App for Travelers

March 22, 2012 · 1 Comment

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I believe that the next social media platform will feature travel and adventure in an interactive format. My hopes were dashed when I realized that someone had come up with the concept before I did, and a recent Mashable article showed me that I was even further behind than I thought.

A new app called Dcovery allows travelers to accumulate information from travel websites, articles and blogs, including specific information like addresses and telephone numbers. The app allows users to create their own personalized travel brochures that they can sync up with their phones for easy access while they’re out adventuring.

The app will be available on iPhone after beta testing is finished.

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Organic Gardening Blog

March 22, 2012 · No Comments

This summer, my best friend Seana McCroddan and I are attempting to grow an organic garden at her family’s property in the Blue Ridge mountains. Seana is also junior at James Madison University, and she is studying journalism as well. We decided to create a blog to record our experiences throughout the summer, as well as our thoughts on relevant topics in the mainstream media. We used WordPress to create our own domain at

We debuted our blog on Facebook and Twitter several weeks ago, and received 194 views on our busiest day. The feedback has been great, friends and family with very little interest in plants or gardening have been very supportive.

Future blog posts will range from posts about Monsanto in the media to tips and tricks that we learn in the garden. New posts go up about twice a week, keep an eye out!

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Briggs Chapter 10 and 11

March 22, 2012 · No Comments

Chapter 10: Managing News as a Conversation

“It is often said that ‘information wants to be free’, but it is truer in the digital age that information wants to be analyzed, shared, synthesized, curated, aggregated, commented on and distributed”


News as a Conversation: News is no longer a lecture from journalist to public. In the digital age, journalists and the community create an interactive conversation.

Making Conversation: Digital conversation between journalists and readers first started in the comment sections of online newspapers. Today, with the advent of social media, journalists are active on websites like Facebook and Twitter. This allows for more in depth coverage of beats because the reporter can turn to the public and hear immediate feedback.

Downsides of Digital Conversation: Because online users are able to comment on content anonymously, there is the                   potential for mean spirited or harmful

Social Media Tips for Journalists:

-Become familiar with social media sites like Twitter and Facebook

-Be mindful of what you put on social media. As a journalist you represent an institution larger than yourself

-Assume that everything you write online will have a larger impact than you expect it to

-Ask your boss to follow you on Twitter to make sure that you keep everything professional

Why the News Conversation is Important

1. Conversation makes the news participatory. Online commenters can easily add new information and insight to a story, which is a valuable resource. User Generated Content (UGC) can include information, photos, video, recommendations and sharing on other social media sites.

2. Journalists must get involved. Using social media and UGC is a free way to expand your knowledge and participation in community news. However, building up your domain online takes time and effort. Carefully cultivate a list of followers and supporters.

3. Keep conversations ethical and accurate. Monitor your social media and comment sections to make sure that the content is on topic and not cruel or hateful.

4. Know your legal responsibilities. As a news source, you are not responsible for any libelous or derogatory statements made in the comments section, as you are not the publisher of their content.

5. Correct your errors. In the fast paced digital world, it is easier to make errors in your copy. The online community is quick to catch errors, and credibility can quickly be lost.


Chapter 11: Building a Digital Audience for News

“If journalists produce great stories but no one reads them, how can news survive?”

Measuring Journalism: With online content, spreadsheets and data records listing traffic and comments can easily be compiled. Not only should journalists track the content on their own website, they should keep an eye on the content generated on other websites that relate to the news.

What is there to track?

-Total news stories by day

-News stories by category

-Total blog posts

-Blog posts by a specific blog

-Slide shows per week

-Video stories per week

-Podcasts or other audio clips

-Breaking news email alerts

Keep Track of Your Audience

Pageviews: The number of time any given page on your website has been viewed. These numbers can help with advertising pitches and a better understanding of what’s popular on your site.

Visitors and unique visitors compared: Contrasting how many unique visitors versus how many visitors a website has overall will paint a picture of how many users frequent the website.

Engagement and referrers: These numbers will tell you where your readers are coming from if they clicked through a link.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engines perform three main functions. First, spiders and robots search the internet for content related to the keywords that were used for the search. This task is performed by sites like Google. The information from the spiders and robots is then sent to more powerful computer systems for indexing, where large database files are referenced for information. When you type a keyword into a search engine you are making a query of it’s database.

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Briggs: Chapter 8 and 9

March 21, 2012 · No Comments

Telling Story with Video

Impact of Video:

Video is a versatile form of journalism. Any kind of journalist, no matter the level of experience can get started immediately shooting video. Depending on the time and energy put into the project, the quality can vary.

Perfection is not necessary. In fact, quick and less polished video content usually generates bigger audiences. This has led to one man “digital journalists” shooting, editing and producing their own footage.

Plan Your Video and Go:

Use different approaches for different projects. You can take one of two approaches, documentary style or breaking news style with highlight clips. Both forms require some planning. Breaking news videos need to have a comprehensive view of the scene, including interviews. Shooting a documentary gives you more freedom and control to plan and research.

Try storyboarding. Storyboarding is making a visual sketch of your plan for the video, separated into parts for organization.

Mix your shots. Notice how different shots are used in your favorite video story. Become familiar with the different styles of shooting and videographer terminology.

Build a five shot sequence. Using these five elements in this order is recommended by the BBC for a perfect video every time.

1. Close up on the hands

2. Close up on the face

3. Wide shot

4. Over the shoulder shot

5. Creative shot

Voice in Video:

Learn effective video interviewing. Make sure you have the right location to complement the story. Check your lighting and sound to make sure your video will look professional. Come prepared with questions, and respond with non-verbal clues so that your “uh-huh” and “wow, really” doesn’t ruin the interview.

Content. Keep it short.

Write a script and warm up. If you don’t have time for a full script, jot down an outline.

Be stable, breathe easy. Make sure you look relaxed and at ease while on camera.

Don’t be afraid to talk with your hands. The best people on screen are the ones who can capture viewers with their personality.

Gear Up and Get Out There:

Choose the right camera for you. The Flip camera, which is now out of business, has been replaced by the Bloggie. Both options are small, cheap and portable.

Accessories. Tapes and batteries are essential. Make sure to have backups. Sound is imperative to the quality of a video, so an external microphone may be a good idea. Keep your videos from looking amateur by using a tripod.

Working with Digital Video Files:

Keep it short. The web audience does not have the patience to watch long videos. Four to five minutes is a safe bet.

Choose your editing software. There are several programs available for beginners from $60-$200.


Data-Driven Journalism and Digitizing Your Life

Your Digital Life:

Organize your email to keep yourself on top of all the information  you receive every day. For further organization, use tools to manage your contacts, to-do lists, calendars and notes. Project management programs allow you to assign tasks, share files,establish deadlines and share notes, which is especially helpful with big project stories or ongoing coverage.

Data Driven Journalism:

Using data to write stories about taxes or the census is obvious, but nearly any story can be supplemented with data. Databases can be particularly useful to readers. Building an API, application program interface, allows one web service to feed another, connecting data and technology between different websites. This has changed interaction on the internet and can be useful to readers and journalists alike.

Building Spreadsheets, Databases

Spreadsheets are easy to create with programs like Excel. The information can then be easily sorted into groups based on their fields.

Map Mashups

Map mashups refers to the idea of taking physical location data and organizing it based on category or information type. This was made much easier with the advent of Google’s API mapping program. Map applications can be used to record data, such as crimes, or for breaking news to display the affected area.

Build an Interactive Map with Data

Build your own map using HTML or a host site and embed it onto your own website with data. Location aware devices make it possible for readers to interact with maps, offering new possibilities to custom deliver news, information and even advertising.

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Skillset #2, Flash Workshop

March 3, 2012 · No Comments

For our COMM 361 project, my group has decided to create a comprehensive and interactive guide to dining at Mason. Our loftiest goal is to create an interactive campus map with clickable links through to the different dining locations, filled with information and videos.

After talking to several people well versed in computers, we decided that Adobe Flash was one of our options for creating this interactive map. Dani Roussey and I attended the Star Lab flash workshop on March 2 to try and get a grasp on what our capabilities were for the program.

We were the only two people registered for the class, and the instructor told us that we were the first to sign up in nearly four months. We realized pretty quickly that Flash was not going to be the best option for our project since Apple does not support Flash.

Even though we weren’t going to use Flash for our project, we stuck it out for the class. After going over the basic interface, we tried to make a realistic looking coffee cup. Emphasis on the word tried. The poor instructor had to constantly back track, and Dani and I were in a fit of giggles over her green misshapen cup of coffee.

Though the class won’t be beneficial to me for my project, I’m glad I had a chance to sit down and work with Flash. All Adobe interfaces are similar, and the more comfortable I am working with them the better.

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Skillset 4: Slideshow

March 1, 2012 · No Comments

I used Imovie to create a slideshow compiling photos with a few of my closest friends.

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Someone Beat Me to It

February 28, 2012 · 1 Comment

When guest speaker Steve Buttry spoke to our class about the future of journalism, he urged us to create our own brand or product, and to do it now. His words got me thinking, and I struggled to come up with something that would incorporate a popular theme with a twist.

The first thing that came to mind was Pinterest. I’ve known about the website for months, and have occasionally browsed it. But after Professor Klein recommended that we create our own profiles, I fell over the deep end. Pinterest is the perfect outlet for all my middle aged woman interests. I have boards for gardening and cooking, and have to wrench myself away from them to attempt some form of productivity.

My fascination with the site is not unique. Countless articles about the success of the new social media site are obviously pointing to a new trend. What can I do to capitalize on the Pinterest craze in my own unique way? Pinterest already covers my interest in cooking, gardening, fashion, and inspiration quotes, what was missing?


The possibilites were endless. I started envisioning a site where travelers could pin their adventures on a world map. The site would be interactive and social. When planning a vacation to Cali, I could check in on the site to see places other travelers had been, and plan my vacation more effectively. The website would serve as a living scrapbook for all your prior trips, as well as an inspiration for future ones.

Unfortunately, someone beat me to it.

Oh well, back to the drawing board.

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Briggs Chapter 6

February 27, 2012 · No Comments

Visual  Storytelling with Photographs


Digital Photography:

-take as many pictures as you want

-immediately see the image you just captured

– upload pictures to the web to share

-save money on purchasing film

-easily edit photos on the computer

pixel: acronym meaning PICTure ELement. A pixel is a visual representation of datat in an image or graphic.

megapixel = 1 million pixels

resolution: a measurement of pixels that are available to the human eye

Ownership, Copyright and Fair Use:

If a photo doesn’t belong to you, ask before you use it. Resources like Creative Commons offer images that are available for public use. Search terms on the website help define what purpose the photo is for.

Digital Camera Basics:

point and shoot: known as an “all-in-one” camera, it is more compact, easy to use, and affordable. Lens and flash are built in, and video features are available.

dslr camera: photo quality is higher because the image sensor is aproximately 10 times larger. However, with the added resolution comes a much higher cost and difficulty of use.

Basic Camera Functions:

camera modes: options for the photographer that very based on the lighting, action, location, and experience level.

optical zoom: moves closer in on the image

digital zoom: crops the image to make the subject appear closer

flash functions: auto-flash, “force” flash and red-eye reduction features

view/delete: view pictures that you have already captured and delete them instantly if necessary.

Tips for Better Photos:

hold the camera steady

-fill the frame

-focus on one thing

-get closer

-go vertical

-shoot action

For better lighting:

– With natural or ambient light only

– With a flash as the primary light source

– With a mixture of flash and ambient light

For mug shots:

-avoid high-noon sunlight and strong backlight

-try to photograph when skies are overcast, use flash as a last resort

-pick the right background, as neutral as possible

-don’t push subject up against wall

-make sure nothing is “growing” out of their head

Editing Your Photos:

On the computer: iPhoto, Windows, Photo Gallery

Online full-featured: Picassa, Flickr, Photobucket

Online editing only: Photoshop Express Live, Picnik, Snipshot

Value-priced software: Photoshop Elements, Paint Shop Pro

Professional: Photoshop

Tips for Editing Photos:

1. Edit a copy, never the original

2. Crop the photo

3. Resize the picture

4. Modify the resolution

5. Tone and color correct the picture

6. Save a web version

7. Keep it simple


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Starlab #1

February 27, 2012 · No Comments

I went to a workshop on Photoshop on February 22 in an attempt to better my basic knowledge and functional understanding of the program.

I was the only person registered for the class, which turned out to be very helpful, since I had accidentally signed up for a level 4 class, which was way out of my skillset. The instructor ended up going through the basic layout and Photoshop tools, then custom tailoring the rest of the lesson to my interests. As a design editor at Broadside, I wanted to know more about cutting out photos.

We went through several options for cutting out photos, and got so specific that I was able to cut out the individual hairs in a very messy mohawk.

The class was a great learning experience, and I’m hoping to encourage the rest of the staff at Broadside to take workshops in the Star Lab.

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