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Emmy-Winning Web News Editor and Online ProducerNicole is a two-time Emmy Award-winning web editor and self-proclaimed "news junkie" with a passion for writing, editing and all things online.
I am now a nominee for a 2010 Rocky Mountain Emmy Award in investigative reporting. I'm honored to be nominated as part of the team -- Morgan, Z and David -- that produced and reported the issues surrounding Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Nevertheless, for local sites, some pageviews are better than others.
Thus the cake analogy. Think of pageviews from within your coverage area as cake mix, and pageviews from outside your coverage area (such as those sent via CNN.com or Fark) as the frosting. Sure, you can bake a small cake with twice as much frosting, and it will still taste really, really good -- but eventually you'll get sick from all the sugar. (I'm looking at you, Sprinkles -- your cupcakes are amazing, but I can never eat more than one.)
If your cake, however, is mostly cake and not frosting, more people will eat it, and you can eat more without getting sick.
Why local pageviews? Well, Bob's Coffee Shop downtown is going to be more interested in advertising on a site that many people from the area are visiting; its owners don't care about someone 3,000 miles away. And, yes, I realize that ad-targeting software can keep the 3,000-mile-away visitor from seeing Bob's ad, but that's not the point.
To use a cliche, with local visitors you can have your cake and eat it, too.
Should I follow your blog on Tumblr? Let me know!
All done! In my opinion, ice cream is one of the best parts of summer (and, really, the rest of the year). Enjoy this sweet bite.
In my two years in Phoenix, stress hit me far too often, and I didn't always have a way to cope. The following methods helped sometimes:
- Taking a walk
- Watching episodes of old TV shows on Hulu
- Chatting with friends on IM or the telephone
- Talking with family
- Playing Sudoku
- Crocheting blankets
They helped, but they were like sticking a bandaid on a wound that needed stitches when it came to relieving major stress. Ironically, I figured out what I needed shortly before I was let go from the job that was causing me so much stress.
When I was young, I rode horses competitively, and I tried to continue to at least work with horses throughout college. After graduation, however, I moved to Arizona and stopped riding.
I started working with horses again at the beginning of spring, and throughout my last few weeks at the station, I was more relaxed than I had ever been. I had found my "third place" (away from work and home); I was exercising more; it was simply a matter of finding something I loved.
Even now that I no longer have a job, I've continued to visit the horses; they're keeping me sane through my stressful move.
Riding has filled an empty space in my life, and I hope to keep spending time with horses, no matter where I end up.
Here's an example:
In this post, I'll explain how to use Yahoo! Pipes to create a simple aggregator that cites the source of each headline in brackets.
In the Pipes workspace, you'll notice the left column has lists of modules divided by category. At the bottom of the workspace is the Debugger, which lets you see if your modules are working properly.
To place a module on the page, click and drag it onto the grid.
To add multiple sources to your aggregator, drag multiple copies of the fetch feed module and paste the URLs for your other feeds. I used the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Washington Post.
Under "Operators" on the left, find the "Union" module and drag it onto the workspace. This module allows you to combine up to five feeds into one. (If you have more than five sources, you can use multiple union modules.)
To connect a fetch feed module to the union module, click the dot at the bottom of the feed module and drag it to one of the dots at the top of the union module. Then drag the dot from the bottom of the union module to the Pipe Output module.
Though it's not visible in this screencap, if you check your debugger, you'll see that the headlines are organized by feed. Since you probably want the headlines to be in chronological order, use the "Sort" module.
To sort by date, select "item.pubDate" and "descending." Note: Not all feeds have valid pubDates. Also, if you check the debugger, you'll see that the pipe is outputting 77 headlines. In the next step, I'll show you how to reduce the output so the feed loads faster.
Now we'll label each feed with its source. To do this, drag a "RegEx" (stands for "Regular Expressions") module into the workspace. In this example, I'm connecting the CNN output to the regex module before I connect it to the union module.
Because we'll be appending the source to the headline, select "item.title" in the first drop-down menu. In the next box (after "replace"), type $. This tells the system that anything typed into the last box should go at the end of the headline. In this case, I wrote " [CNN]." (Note the space before the brackets. Without it, the bracket will run up against the last letter of the headline itself.)
If you'd like to add the source to the beginning of the headline, you can type ^ instead. In fact, you can replace the whole headline by typing (.*) in the box.
You can also use the regex module to alter just about any bit of data fetched in the feed.
Once you've finished adding regex modules for each of the sources, you'll probably want to change how you're filtering for unique headlines. The "item.title" attribute won't work anymore because of the text you've added, so we'll change it to "item.y:title."
Finally, to filter out a few more items from the Associated Press, I used the "Filter" module between the union and unique modules.
That's it! You can save the pipe, then run it. Here's the output from the pipe I created.
Remember, you can rearrange and add modules as much as you'd like. I'll occasionally use the filter and truncate modules on a single feed source before sending it to the regex module, just to keep certain items from appearing in and certain sources from taking over the feed.
Hulu's my favorite, though, since I'm easily bored; I can find old TV shows to watch. Then again, I think I'm running out...
With that in mind, here are a few things you can do to keep your web editor happy:
- Do give us reasonable deadlines for projects. You wouldn't give a reporter a promotable sweeps piece the day before it's going to air, especially if you've been promoting the piece for a week.
- Don't request a special project specifically for your broadcast -- like a special section -- then never mention that it exists. When this happens, you're basically telling us that you don't respect our time. You wouldn't schedule a special broadcast and work on it for a week, only to cancel it at the last minute... would you?
- Don't write, tape and air the promos before we've got at least a good working draft on a project. It's a little embarrassing when you air a promo, then discover that your web team doesn't have the capabilities to build your dream interactive by deadline.
- Do provide us with additional information for stories before the broadcast! It's always nice to be able to break a tidbit on the web.
- Do take a few snapshots of a scene -- readers love pictures.
- Do look at the front page of the site once in awhile. A coding error caused some images to move out of place on our site in Internet Explorer a few weeks ago, and I didn't find out until a friend told me... four hours after it went live. I never heard a peep from producers. In a similar vein, don't ask us if we have the No. 1 story of the day on our site without checking the front page. In this case, the story was the very prominent top story on the site.
- Do show us some love in your web pushes! A simple "click on the broadcast links for more information" doesn't exactly drive people to the site; however, a "visit our politics page for information on the candidates, a list of propositions and a map of polling places" will bring visitors. People like to know specifics.
- Do coordinate with us for special projects! As long as you give us a reasonable deadline and find ways to properly push to it in your broadcast, we're happy to come up with something to suit your needs.
- Do ask for assistance if you want to learn something! We're generally happy to teach producers how to post links or stories -- that way, when we're not around, nobody panics when a link needs to be put up.
- Don't blow us off when we ask questions about a story or project. We usually have a good reason for asking.
Remember, your web editors are also part of the news team. When everyone works together, both the broadcast and the Web site benefit.
Am I missing anything? Let me know!
I got to see a few friends -- Joe Ruiz, Vanessa Bezic and Jess Ramos -- listen to great speakers and learn lots of awesome new tricks. I've got a few new ones up my sleeve, but I'm going to try them out first before I say anything.
For some recaps of the conference, read Jess' blog.
Ever feel a need to aggregate a bunch of RSS feeds? Yahoo! Pipes rocks for that sort of thing. There's a little bit of a learning curve (and, unfortunately, not a ton of formal documentation...Google is definitely your friend, there), but it's totally worth it.
I use Feedburner, now owned by Google, at the station for one thing: its headline animator. Just pop an RSS feed into it, make your own background (or use one of theirs), stick it in your e-mail signature, and presto! It's a quick and easy way to promote your site with every e-mail you send. Feedburner can also be used to track RSS subscribers or send out daily e-mail digests.
Dynamic Drive is a site I've used since I first started designing pages. It's great for easy scripts to make navigation snazzier or create interactives without knowing Flash. Just be cautious: these scripts can be like super-rich candy, where too much can be a bad thing.
Instead of teaching a reporter the ins and outs of a content management system that might not have tiers of editing capabilities for blogs, why not go with a reliable third-party service like WordPress and simply use an iframe to integrate it into the site? WordPress has a fairly narrow generic layout that works nicely for this purpose. There are drawbacks to this approach -- namely, you can't track stats on individual pages -- but for now, it serves our purposes nicely.
That's it! Feel free to list your suggestions in the comments; I may include them in a future post.
I realize my station is not the only one to actively use the service; many other television stations, newspapers and even national media outlets use it, whether as a headlines feed or to receive feedback.
That said, Rick Sanchez (@ricksanchezcnn, for those of you on Twitter) -- probably the most visible media personality on Twitter -- annoys the crap out of me. I applaud his and CNN's use of Twitter and other social media to solicit viewer feedback and drive the show; however, I also think he comes off as completely unprofessional through his tweets, which could give other media on Twitter a bad name.
How is he unprofessional? Let's examine some of his tweets:
GOP GOES ALONG WITH DEMS ON STIMULUS, ARE U SHOCKED??? (link)
Apparently, Sanchez's CAPSLOCK key was stuck for a few tweets; as far as web etiquette goes, he was shouting at his followers.
The above post is also fairly indicative of his posting style (well, besides the CAPSLOCK). Here's another:
chris brown and rehanna, i find abuse begets abuse angle fascinating. my staff so so, what do you guys think? (link)
Now, this is a somewhat intelligent comment, but I find it negated by the fact that he misspelled Rihanna's name. This is fine for the average person; however, Sanchez ought to be held to a higher standard. Misspelling someone's name is tantamount to making a fact error.
Nevertheless, spelling isn't the only thing that annoys me about his tweets. He also doesn't bother to properly punctuate or capitalize. Now, I will admit that I do, on occasion, find myself omitting punctuation marks or abbreviating words -- usually when I find myself approaching the 140-character limit. Sanchez, on the other hand, never capitalizes (unless his CAPSLOCK key is stuck), always abbreviates and rarely punctuates, even when he has more than a few characters to spare.
To me, this sort of writing oozes laziness. I would understand if he were sending text messages from a cell phone; he's not. I believe this sort of writing begets more bad writing. Once again, Sanchez needs to set an example for his followers.
It's embarrassing when his followers respond to his tweets with ones more grammatically correct.
The purpose of this rant? I hope more media twitter-ers will pay more attention to their image online. Tweeting from the web is no excuse "4 u 2 wrt lyk this." It doesn't make you seem more hip or whatever -- it makes you seem stupid.
And, Sanchez, on the off chance that you happen upon this blog, please consider capitalizing words in your tweets. What you do reflects upon the rest of us, and while you've done an admirable job integrating social media with a national broadcast, changing your tweet style would promote a higher level of professionalism, which would help the rest of us.
Just a thought.
Track everything - Mint
Mint.com is wonderful. I can't say enough about it. I had privacy concerns at first, but their "security" explanation page on their site reassured me. Plus, you can't actually move any money using Mint -- you have to go to the banks' official Web sites to transfer anything.
Mint tracks my bank accounts, my credit card, my car loan and my 401(k), keeps a running total of my expenses, tells me when I've gone over budget and allows me to sort expenses using various tags. It's quite handy, and I feel much more in control when I have all that information at my fingertips.
Budget - Buddi
I use Buddi to do the math on new budgets. If I want to add a new item to my monthly budget, I'll add it here. If I'm simply adding a one-time expense to the budget, sure, I'll put it in Mint; however, if I want to add a new permanent expense, I'll use Buddi to figure out if and where I need to cut expenses elsewhere.
The big advantage of this program over Mint is that it lets me input income directly into my budget. Mint shows you your current net worth, etc., but there's no way that I've found to have your income factor into the budget.
Expense reports - Burn
It looks like Blackhole Media's gone out of business, which is a shame -- Burn is a very simple little tool that lets you balance your checkbook online. I use it when I have to keep expense reports: I fill in the amount, the category and the date for each expense. Afterwards, I can just export the file to a .pdf and print it.
So, that's what I use. Any programs or services you can't live without?
* As a journalist, my salary doesn't exactly compare to those in PR or investment banking; therefore, free tools are very, very handy.
Fast forward to two weeks ago. I'm in the middle of a weekly journalism discussion when Jeff sends me a direct message (a private message sent only to me):
Pssst... question for ya: Have you heard about our No Pants Day ride on the Light Rail?
Intrigued, I responded. Jeff gave me more details, and I brought it up with the station when I got back from my vacation.
The Saturday of the event, I decided that I was going to cover it myself, but not by attending; instead, I watched for tweets marked #nopantsaz. I even participated in the conversation to get quotes, photos and facts.
The result of all this? Light Rail Riders 'Forget' Pants, complete with a slideshow and a byline.
Pretty cool, huh?
At the time, there were between two million and three million Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire.
In the next few years, up to 1.5 million Armenians were systematically murdered. More were deported. My great-grandparents were some of the lucky ones who survived and eventually made it to the United States.
For years, the Turkish government has denied this holocaust by saying that the million or so Armenians died of famine and infighting, not from any actions of the Turkish government.
Now, 92 years later, the United States Congress is attempting to recognize these massacres for what they really were: a genocide.
The nonbinding resolution, which the House of Representatives will consider soon, states that the early 20th century killings were, indeed, an act of genocide on the part of Turkey. Unfortunately, the Turkish government has denied--and continues to deny--that the genocide actually occurred. In fact, Turkey says the passage of the resolution would endanger diplomatic relations with the United States over the genocide resolution.
The Turkish government is so adamant in its insistence that this genocide never happened that the country has a habit of arresting journalists who merely suggest that the country consider the fact that such events might have happened. The charge is "insulting Turkishness."
President Bush has asked Congress to kill the resolution, saying that it's "not the right time" and that it would hurt the troops we have in Iraq.
According to CNN, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi countered that "there has never been a good time":
I agree with Pelosi. The United States government should have recognized these atrocities as a genocide a long, long time ago. Instead, the government has become a group of genocide-deniers.
"When I came to Congress 20 years ago, it wasn't the right time because of the Soviet Union, Pelosi said. "Then that fell, and then it wasn't the right time because of the Gulf War One. And then it wasn't the right time because of overflights of Iraq.
"And now it's not the right time because of Gulf War Two."
The president of Iran says the Jewish Holocaust never happened--and almost nobody takes him seriously. The entire government of Turkey says the Armenian Genocide never happened--and almost nobody will contradict it for fear of threatening diplomatic relations.
Is it acceptable to recognize a genocide only when it's convenient?
For once, let's follow the example of a country like France and recognize these killings for what they really are: a genocide.
Hitler once asked some of his military officials, "Who today still speaks of the annihilation of the Armenians?"
The United States government should prove Hitler wrong. It should officially remember the events of the early 20th century as a genocide.
Along with her purebred Arabian stallion HSA Haleys Comet, Noteman has won 42 national titles on the Arabian horse show circuit. This makes her horse, known affectionately as "Comet," the stallion with the largest number of national titles in the history of the Arabian Horse Association.
The pair won three of the titles last month at the breed's Canadian National Championships.
The wins were especially sweet, considering the strength it took to get to the competition.
This past spring, Noteman underwent major surgery to treat a serious illness. When she found out that she would need to continue her course of treatment over the summer, she didn't forget her horse.
"[I said], 'Well, I'm going to Canadian Nationals,'" she told me.
For her, the chemotherapy was a "bad surprise," but riding Comet gave her something to look forward to every day.
"When I was on his back for one hour a day," she said, "I felt wonderful and beautiful."
Noteman is not the only one who finds riding horses therapeutic.
Last week, Rockbridge Report staff reporter Jessica Shaw profiled local woman Elizabeth Gorman. Like Noteman, Gorman has benefited from a relationship with horses.
Gorman rides at the Hoofbeats Therapeutic Riding Center, which is also located at the Virginia Horse Center. Gorman's trainer, Carol Branscome, has taught the basics of horsemanship to people of all ages.
In fact, as a volunteer at Hoofbeats I have seen the benefits of therapeutic riding. The participants do not simply ride the horses -- they bond with the animals. I have seen the shyest children come out of their shells when they are around their favorite horse; I have seen someone who can barely walk mount a horse and ride with ease. It is truly amazing.
Service animals are nothing new. Seeing eye dogs have guided the blind for years, and there are programs at hospitals nationwide that bring dogs and cats to patients for therapy. Other people have dogs that can sense when their owners are about to have seizures.
Additionally, scientists have shown that animal assisted therapy can be useful in combating stress as well as depression and other mood disorders.
Noteman, Gorman, and numerous people across the country already benefit from animal assisted therapy, be it in a formal or informal setting.
Perhaps, instead of relying solely on conventional treatment for illnesses and everyday grievances, more people should look to their furry friends for comfort and therapy.
People were talking about how they ended up with hundreds of dollars in coins once their jars were full.
Good idea for anyone. Just a random thought.