Hit the Slopes

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Storify, press freedom, and the Occupy movement (Guest speaker reflection)

On Thursday, journalist Josh Stearns spoke with the class about his Storify of the Year (as voted on by the Storify community) about arrests of reporters covering the Occupy movement around the nation. Stearns works for Free Press, a press freedom advocacy group, but he said this Storify was a project he started on his own because he felt strongly about the subject.

Stearns tracked arrests of journalists in 2008 at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. He said at that time, he could only list the name and news organization of the journalists arrested, as well as what charges they faced. But with Stearns’ coverage in 2011 and 2012 of arrests at Occupy camps, Stearns said he can give more context, telling the story of the arrest from start to finish. He’ll grab pictures, video, tweets and links to news articles at mainstream organizations to augment his Storify. Storify is a powerful journalistic tool, he said, something flexible enough for both breaking news and longtime curation, for both short- and long-from journalism.

I took a look at PBS News Hour’s live-blog coverage of the Florida primary. This Storify is the exact opposite of Stearns’ longtime curation of a trend story; this covers events that unfolded over the course of one day. News Hour links to some of its own content, but I also saw tweets from various Republicans, other news organizations, and multimedia content from various people on the Internet. News Hour did a good job of working in both citizen and mainstream media. I also liked that News Hour used Storify to liveblog instead of a page on their web site or their Twitter. Because News Hour used Storify, they were able to incorporate material from across the web, and at the same time made it more visually appealing than a Twitter feed would have been.

The other Storify I checked out was the Weather Channel’s reporting on Groundhog Day reactions. This was also a liveblog, but it had a lot more embedded media than News Hour and a lot of less text written by the Weather Channel. This Storify also embedded a large number of tweets, which I think News Hour should have done more of. The Weather Channel’s inclusion of opinion tweets helps the organization connect with its consumers as well as provide a reflection of the general population’s opinion. News Hour would have done well to include more tweets, especially in a story about politics, which naturally elicits strong opinions from the entire population.

I would say that I agree with Stearns’ prognosis of Storify: it’s here to stay. Unlike the faddishness of Friendster, MySpace, and other sites of a bygone era, Storify compiles information in such an effective and visual appealing way that I think its usage will only increase in the coming years. Maybe it will stay a niche product for journalists and not spread out to general consumers, but even if that’s the case, it’ll remain popular.

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