The press release is an important publicity tool that barely costs a cent. However, a press release, especially a poorly written one, is easy to get buried among a huge number of emails coming to a reporter’s email box every day. I happened to find this old article “How To Write a Press Release, with Examples” by CBS Money Watch. I also read a very good guide to writing press releases yesterday: A Complete Guide to Writing an Effective Press Release. Those two articles gave me lots of insight into what type of press releases may get reporters’ attention.

From my understanding, the first thing we should be aware of is to write press releases with our audience in mind. A press release has a much higher possibility of getting covered if it is packed with stories concerning readers rather than business cliches. I had experience working in a newsroom before. Whenever I wrote a story as a journalist, I needed to make sure there was in fact a “story” worth covering. In that light, a same rule can be applied to writing press releases. We need to make sure there is a “story” that might interest journalists and their audience. The CBS article gave us an idea of what kind of press releases do have a story worth covering.

The second thing we need to pay attention to is target audience and target media. What is the press release about? Who will this release be most relevant to? What type of newspapers or magazines are more likely to cover this topic? Identifying the target audience and target media is a prerequisite to an appropriate use of language and content. For example, we should not put a bunch of terminologies in a press release sent to a local daily newspaper. I think a good strategy is to draft and send different versions of a press release to different types of newspapers or magazines.

One last thing is to have an effective communication with reporters. A follow-up call after emailing reporters press releases is desirable. Contacting reporters whom you want to cover the release personally is a good idea too. Besides, structure and style the press release in a way that makes reporters’ job easy. See A Complete Guide to Writing an Effective Press Release. If you have high-quality and publishable photos, send them with the press releases too.

 

As a communications student, I have heard of SEO thousands of times. I knew SEO is short for “Search Engine Optimization, and I had a very rough idea of what it means. From my understanding, for marketers, SEO is a technique to make their website easily accessible to search engine users from a list of search results. Now I plan to learn the concepts and practices of SEO in depth. In this blog, I’m going to share my understanding of the basic definitions of SEO.

According to the definition given by Moz, “SEO is the practice of improving and promoting a website to increase the number of visitors the site receives from search engines.” Since the majority of website traffic is driven by search engine results such as those appearing on Google or Bing, it is essential for website owners to make sure their sites are not buried in search results. Good SEO strategies play an essential role in increasing the visibility of a website. 

This is a video on the definitions of SEO from Search Engine Land.

Generally speaking, search engines act as a tool to help searchers find possible web pages they are looking for. SEO practice is to structure a website in a way that makes search engines easily find this site when searchers try to find content the website provides and present this site on top results. The key point of SEO practice is to understand factors influencing search engines’ decisions on whether a website is highly relevant to what a searcher is looking for. Engineers and professionals have been doing researches and analysis to identify those factors. For example, this is the periodic table of SEO success actors from Search Engine Land.

There are some principles we all know such as providing useful and informations content to your users. However, there are a huge number of factors to understand. I will learn them gradually and share my understanding in future posts.

What is the difference between recording a video and shooting stills? What are the things we need to pay attention to when we are doing a vide story? The chapter 13 of Kenneth Kobre’s book Photo Journalism: The Professionals’ Approach provides great tips for video beginners.

(1) One journalist is playing multiple roles in today’s newsrooms. The assignment of photojournalists is not limited to shooting still photos any more. They also need to record videos, report or produce stories. There are worries upon this phenomenon. Technical quality or accuracy of the story may be jeopardized. That requires that traditional reporters update their toolkit and that traditional photojournalists improve their reporting skills (page 308, 309, 310, and page 311).

(2) It is important that we should make sure there is a story before we shoot the video. A good way to do that is to conduct an interview with the subject before recording the video. We can decide whether we can get some engaging stories from this subject through the interviews (page 312).

(3) When we do video stories, we should also keep basic reporting necessities in mind. We should remember that opposing viewpoints do matter in the video story because we are in the journalism field instead of public relations section. Providing opposing viewpoints avoids partiality and imbalance (page 313).

(4) Shooting stills is about catching a moment but shooting videos is about recording the sequence. Moment needs to be put into a context in videos, so things before and after an action or a moment is important (page 314).

(5) I like the comparison that “Shooting video is like composing a symphony.” The way materials are gathered, structured and integrated depends on what kind of stories we want to tell. We should know what kind of shots we may need in order to produce a fluent and interesting video and should integrate them in a way that tells an engaging story (page 314).

(6) We should avoid colliding images when we shoot videos. Colliding images such as a band walking from different sides can be confusing to viewers. One of the good ways to solve that problem is to provide transitional shots which explains the positions or directions visually (page 327).

 

(1) Editing audio pieces is one of the most essential parts in making sure a good story is told in a coherent and interesting way through sound. The Chapter 6 of Jonathan Kern’s book Sound Reporting gives us a detailed explanation on what audio story editors usually do and how they can do their job efficiently.

  •  Story editors have to make sure that the reporters have actually got a story and help the reporters to focus the story. One of the good ways to do that is to let the reporters to tell the story with one sentence (page 93).
  • Story editors also need to make sure that the story will be interesting enough to grab audience’s attention. Editors can provide reporters with unique perspectives formed through editors’ experience. In that way, editors are playing a role of a guide helping reporters focus the story in a better way (page 94).
  • Editors should edit the story by ears because it is the ears audience will use to absorb the story. Besides text or scripts, audio editors should also make sure the SOUND is intelligible and interesting to audience when it is aired (page 99-page 102).
  • When editors do copyediting, they should make sure audience will not be confused by who is talking and what is happening. The audience are learning about the story merely with their ears so it can be confusing if a speaker is not identified or the quotes are structured in  a way which causes confusing identifications. The confusing identifications are especially likely to happen when two sources sound alike. Audience may take sentences said by one of the sources as what another source said (page 109).

(2) The Chapter 12 of Kenneth Kobre’s book Photo Journalism: The Professional’s Approach tells how sound and photos can accompany each other to deliver a compelling story.

  • Subjects’ own voices are much powerful than captions. Accents or the way a person talks can all reveal certain perspectives of someone’s stories, including where he or she is from and how well he or she is educated (page 270).
  • It is important to get a 60-second pure ambient sound because it may be useful in later editing work. It can be added as a pause (page 276).
  • During audio interviews, reporters should play a role of directing  the conversations so that they can get everything they want for a vivid story. Techniques include asking follow-up questions, asking questions in pairs and letting interviewees to repeat reporters’ questions (page 280).
  • I am amazed by how the journalists did the Kingsley’s Crossing story. They just followed the whole process of a young man’s journey all the way from Africa to Europe. The courage, the efforts and the pains of the two journalists are really admirable. They paid a lot in order to make a compelling story told to everyone in this world (page 282-page 285).

(1) The Chapter 5 of Jonathan Kern’s book Sound Reporting tells us what a field producer for audio does and how to become an effective field producer.

  •  One of the things which amaze me most is how many things field producers have to do and how many skills are required for them. Not only do they have to suggest story ideas, arrange interviews and outline the story, they also need to be in charge of technical aspects. Producer Sarah Beyer Kelly summarized that “It’s like being a parent.” That job really requires lots of skills. The field producer is almost in charge of every aspect of the story (page 73).
  • Field producers should be able to collaborate with reporters or hosts effectively. When they are assigned to a new place, it is often the case that they have to work with reporters or hosts. That requires effective collaboration and communication to make sure a good story will be generated (page 74 and 77).
  • Usually we are not able to go back to the same place a second time and sometimes it is hard to predict what kind of sound will be useful. It is important for field producers to keep their eyes and ears open and never miss any part which may be useful. A good solution is to record sound in different settings and at different distances (page 81).
  • Sometimes it is important to record a sentence saying where the piece is recorded or what it is like on the scene in case producers are not able to identify the sound later.Field producers may not remember when and where some of the pieces are recorded. They need effective ways to make sure they won’t feel confused or lose any interesting things ( page 83).
  •  Field producers should have the ability to solve unexpected troubles. They should think of back-up plans ahead of time (page 91).

(2) The chapter 10 of Kenneth Kobre’s book Photo Journalism: The Professional’s Approach gives us several excellent examples of how photojournalists cover issues with photo stories.

  • Photojournalists need to do huge amount of researches and preparing work in order to identify and photograph an issue. They may need to get some statistics first and try to talk to as many people related to that issue as possible. In the case of nursing home on page 207, it is hard to find a nursing home where owners and managers are willing to let the nursing home be taken pictures of. However, the photographer talked to so many people and did so much work to gain access to one or two nursing homes (page 207).
  • Photojournalists may need to spend time with staff in police department or hospital and return to their sources from time to time in order to get a story idea for a feature beat (page 213).
  • The alcohol story on page 208 impresses me because I can see how much research the photojournalist has done in order to presents audience with a full picture of the issue.

In the Chapter 8 of Nathan Yau’s book Visualize This: The FlowingData Guide to Design, Visualization, and Statistics, Yau gives us an introduction of how to use several tools to visualize spatial relationships. In fact, visualizing spatial relationships never occurred to me before when I thought about data journalism. However, it is a very essential part of visualizing data. Several tips I learn in this chapter as well as some experience and confusions are as followed:

(1) Maps are similar to any other statistical graphic. We can use those tools to tell many stories in maps and visualize those stories. And we can also introduce time into maps. We can personalize the maps in several ways. The goal is just to tell a vivid story (page 272).

(2) Mapping is one kind of visualizing data, so we need to get our data first. In other statistical graphics, we deal with x- and y- coordinates. In mapping, we deal with latitude and longitude. To map a point, the essential things we need to get is such data (page 273).

(3) The thing I find very interesting when I read through all those examples is how Alaska and Hawaii are missed out at first and how they are found on page 279. If we use the “state” database, they are just omitted. I think this example gives us a lesson that we should always be careful and considerate when we deal with data. It is very likely that we miss one single point and we will give a totally wrong picture.

(4) On many occasions, we present changes through maps. One way we often adopt is that we use multiple pictures to show such changes. However, sometimes it would be better if we use one single map to tell how things have changed. One single map can make the change more obvious. I like the example on page 307 which presents that a single map can tell us population living in urban areas changed the most in Africa (page 305-page 307).

(5) I have searched the tutorials online which teach me how to use google map API. It is not so hard to get the meaning of the codes written. Through the tutorials, I have got a API key in my google account and tried to change some part of the code, such as the longitude, latitude and the map type. Then I can get maps of different locations. This process happens during the tutorial. However, I think the problem is that I still do not fully understand the meaning of API and I don’t know what programs I should run to use google map API. I have only got a sense of what the codes are like so far, but the problem is I don’t know how to start mapping with this tool at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we try to visualize data, the crucial step after gathering statistics and handling data is to choose appropriate tools to visualize the data, to make graphics to tell a story. Nathan Yau introduces several tools to do that in the Chapter three of the book Visualize This: The FlowingData Guide to Design, Visualization, and Statistics.

(1) Many of us, especially those new to visualizing data, sometimes may find it tough and boring to learn to use new software and programming. One thing I find really interesting about Yau is that he finds some fun from doing this. I can learn from him and try to find my fun in visualizing those numbers in aspects such as choosing colors or choosing the graphics (page 55).

(2) The out-of-the-box Visualization tools are really easy to use. They are good tools to orientate beginners towards visualizing data. I have tried Microsoft Excel. That is really easy to grasp. In only a few steps, I can create different types of charts. It is a good way to visualize simply expressed data stories (page 54, 55).

(3) Although the out-of-the-box tools are simple to use, they have limitations such as lack of flexibility. Besides, there are so many functions in one software, requiring time and effort to learn them one by one. Programming may be a solution to those problems (page 61, 62).

(4) Never be frightened by the word “programming.” it is just another language which can be understood by our computers. The key is to learn to use that language to let computers do what you want (page 62).

(5) Different software has different pros and cons. When we choose a certain software to use, we should take factors we care most into consideration such as how easy it is for us to use, how aesthetic the result can be or how much it costs. Decisions may vary among different individuals since goals of each person vary. It is also a good idea if we learn different softwares so that we won’t let one certain software restrict us (page 62, 63, 89).

(6) Learning to do programming is just like learning a new language. It really takes time. However, it saves us lots of time and efforts in the future if we grasp that skill and things will get easier and easier because we know how to let the computer do what you want it to (page 75).

 

(1) The introduction part of Nathan Yau’s book Visualize This: The FlowingData Guide to Design, Visualization, and Statistics gives us a general idea of the importance of learning data and telling stories through data.

  • Visualization is important in making data more understandable. Stories can be told through visualizing those numbers (page XVI).
  • Most of us hate statistics because we merely do not understand that there is connection between data and real life. Learning to tell vivid stories through those numbers provides us with opportunities to discover that connection (XXIII).

(2) The first chapter of the book tells us what kind of stories data can tell and gives us some useful tips for designing graphs to tell a story.

  • One of the most important things to remember during dealing with data is to guarantee the accuracy. That requires us to do data checking and verification. The whole data may make no sense due to a little error (page 3, 12).
  • Data can be boring as well as exciting. The thing we need to learn is to visualize the data so that we can tell a rather compelling story (page 6, 7).
  • When we start to approach the data and try to identify the patterns, we should try to ask more questions and explore the meanings in the data. In this way we may discover lots of interesting results and give an extraordinary story (page 9).
  • Remember to include the sources the graphs we have designed to give the context of the data (page 19).
  • We should make sure our audience can decode what we mean at first. Labels or legends can sometimes be useful in helping them to understand our encoding (page 13).

(3) The chapter two teaches how to gather and format the data.

  • We should be careful when others gather data for us because there is much possibility that there are mistakes in the data. We especially need to pay attention to whether there is any typo mistake (page 22).
  • We should learn to find sources actively via various of channels such as search engines, libraries or some specific websites (page 22-26).

 

Photojournalists always encounter the question: what is a good photo story and how to find a good photo story? In Kenneth Kobre’s book Photo Journalism: The Professional’s Approach, Kobre gives us a detailed explanation as well as several excellent examples to illustrate what kind of work can be called good photo stories.

(1) One of the examples that impresses me most is Face to Face with Breast Cancer. The amazing thing here is the subject is the photographer herself. Since she is willing to share with others how she encountered the difficulty and how she tried to overcome it, she really gets very touching pictures to tell us a vivid visual story (page 240-243).

(2) A photo story has a theme. A photo story is not a series of random photos taken in one certain place or at one certain time. In fact, they convey a point or an idea. That means each photo we choose for a story has the same theme. Being clear about the theme of one story can help us with wise photo selections (page 232).

(3) Photos which have visual consistency can form a picture story. The very common example is photos of the same person or the same location. Besides, photos of the same object or of the same mood or perspective can have connections with each other and form a photo story. My favorite example is Show of Hands which show hands of different people. The same subject makes all those photos form connections with each other (page 234, 238 and 244).

(4) A good narrative photo story should have a complication and a resolution. Unfortunately, many of us often shoot pictures which merely have a complication or a resolution. Such pictures can not make a complete and vivid narrative story (page 244, 245).

(5) Sometimes photojournalists need a long period of time to get a narrative photo story with a complete complication and resolution. They may follow their subjects for several years in order to shoot the problems their subjects encounter and how things or situations change. The photo journalists sometimes cannot predict the final resolution or the result. The Motel Dad is an example. The mother was the subject of the photos at first but it turns out finally the story should focus on the father. The photographer follow the story of that family all the time (page 256-260).

(6) When photojournalists only have a few days to work on a photo story and there is no way to follow the whole process of the development of the story, there are some ways to solve the problem. For example, they can shoot a story whose resolution is about to happen. They can also find photos in the album to show the history. In addition, they can shoot a small resolution, that is, a temporary resolution (page 260).

 

It is the photo editors who decide what stories will be unfold in front of audiences and what photos their audiences see in publications. Photo editors actually play a more important role than photographers. The Chapter seven of Kenneth Kobre’s book “Photo Journalism: The Professionals’ Approach” gives us a sense of how photo editors should do their routine jobs.

(1) The purpose of photos in news media is not merely to accompany a written story. Photojournalism sector should find story ideas which can be best illustrated visually. As a result, one of the most important tasks of photo editors is to send photographers to scenes where they may get excellent stories presented by photos (page 126-127).

(2) Photo editors are not necessarily photographers themselves. The important thing is that photo editors should own the instincts and capacity to decide whether a certain photo appeals to audiences. It is the ability to make the right decision that matters (page 128-129).

(3) Sometimes photographers are not objective enough to edit their own photos. They may grant too many credits to their works due to the great effort they have made in taking pictures. However, great efforts does not necessarily lead to excellent results. In addition, they may use their subjective judgement to do self-editting. It would be more objective if someone else does the editing work (page 129-130).

(4) It would be helpful if photographers themselves take the four guidelines, “informational, graphic, emotional and intimate” into consideration when they are completing their assignments. Those four elements are not only illuminating for editors during decision-making process but also important for photographers to learn. In that case, they may get photos better satisfying both the editors and the audiences (page 130-132).

(5) Be sure to use photos to provide audiences with a full picture of the truth. Avoid using photos to present personal bias. Avoid misrepresenting or promoting stereotypes of certain groups. Give a complete depiction of facts. Remember that photojournalism is one type of journalism and principles of journalism apply (page 133-134).

(6) Editors should combine different sizes and multiple images to create a rich, meaningful and attractive photo story. However, they should make a clever choice of  sized-up photos. Size up the photo which appears to be most appealing when it is large and which is most dominant in the series. Also, those combined photos should be able to tell a coherent story (page 142-147).

(7) Captions are important in assigning meanings to pictures, which determines the significant role of captions. Good captions are concise, informational and appealing (page 150-153).