Tag Archives: digital

ICYMI: Vox Magazine at the RJI Tech Innovation Showcase

I clearly need to work on my public speaking, but for a last second presentation, this wasn’t half bad. For a quick rundown of Vox’s digital innovation this semester, watch this video:

[9:49] Our Blue Highways — Ride along with Vox reporters and digital editors as they discuss this award-winning multimedia project from Fall 2014.
Members: Atiya Abbas, Bryan Bumgardner, Jenna Fear and Carson Kohler

[16:44] Vox on social media — There’s a right way and a wrong way for publications to use social media. Vox social gurus share some of our success stories, including Renz prison, the Antlers and CoMo cups.
Members: Christine Jackson and Dan Roe

[1:22] Vox’s new website — Publication websites are in a state of constant development. Vox students took a leadership role in the relaunch of Vox’s spiffy new site last summer.
Members: Laura Heck and Justin Paprocki

[26:38] Q&A

More information about this event: http://rjionline.org/events/tech15

Vox Digital: Organizing talent and fostering creativity

I’m a Teaching Assistant for Magazines Across Platforms, a class run by Sara Shipley Hiles, Digital Director of Vox Magazine. These students, known as Digital Editors, make up the majority of the Digital Team, the web-based half of Vox.

As Digital Managing Editor, I’m basically the quarterback of the Digital Team, making sure we’re successfully producing digital content, maintaining our brand across social platforms and constantly exploring new storytelling mediums.

Last semester we only had 6 students, meaning our brand and production power was shoestring. This semester we have 16. I like to say the Digital Team’s accomplishments last semester attracted more students, but who knows?

Either way, this growth presents challenges for our organization. How do we engage these students each week while also hitting our production goals? Can we make this pedagogical, considering improving their skills will improve our content?

Here’s my major goals as a Digital Managing Editor for this semester:

Don’t let the organization descend into chaos. Our strength lies in our ability to organize, making sure everybody knows what they have to do and when. We’ve built a huge color coded spreadsheet with various shifts for each job we’ve defined, and each job has a perfectly clear statement of responsibilities and associated “How-To” documentation. Organization allows for forward planning and less on-the-spot attempts to produce content.

Discover, master and share digital storytelling tools with the entire Vox Magazine staff. The key to improving our digital content is showing people what we can create. If we show the staff all the interactive quiz, graphic design, and social aggregating tools we have, they’re more likely to implement them. Pair this with clear and concise how-to documents and innovation will spread.

Practice a clear and transparent style of leadership. Everybody knows what must happen and when they’re failing or succeeding. I want to drive all my students to improve upon themselves and practice loyalty to the organization. They will tell me what they want to learn, what works and what doesn’t, and how they think we can improve.  When they need help, I will be there. Office politics and drama will be at a minimum if everyone knows their role in the machine.

We know this is how to engage millennials in the workplace, so why not try it in class?

Innovate every single week. Digital organizations are in permanent beta, constantly changing and improving with every version of content. This goes hand in hand with technological advancement. We are no different. Each week we should build on the lessons we learned in the previous. As we continue, we set the bottom line for production quality higher and higher.

Teach every single student how to learn. The most important part of digital journalism is teaching yourself brand new tools. Because this industry requires multi-talented and multi-perspective journalists, that’s what we need to create. We need to create young professionals who both know the skills and understand theories. In the end they will adapt just as quickly as their industry changes.

Establish persistent and scaleable digital production methods. I know we don’t really know the best way for legacy print organizations to evolve in response to digital demands, but by God we’re going to try. Already I’ve established some methods that elevate our digital presence – hopefully by the end of the year we’ll have serious, long-term strategies laid in stone.

Here’s to hopefully having the best semester ever for Vox Digital.

New Year’s Resolutions for Digital Journalists

New Year, new you. If you’re a digital journalist, some of the resolutions below will help you bring in the new year on a positive note. Here’s to actually keeping them!

1. Start considering new definitions for the roles of journalists. The age of journalists as “gatekeepers” are over. Anybody can find anything thanks to Google. These days, many journalists are more like “tour guides,” aggregating the best parts of the web for their users, while still providing original content. Journalists have become thought leaders, commentators, live bloggers, and conversation starters. How does your audience view you?

2. Talk about your audience as “users” not “readers.” Your audience does more than just read things on your website – they click links, scroll around, watch videos, use search bars, comment and share socially. Calling them “readers” boxes our focus only on content. How are your users interacting with your site? Do you want them to do more (or less) of something? Look at your UI and UX. 

3. Learn how to talk with developers, programmers, graphic designers and photographers. Digital journalists often need unique elements for their content, whether it’s special photography or additional graphic designs. This is especially true for programming. Learn their languages. Understand the Rule of Thirds. Dabble in network administration. Know the difference between Ruby and Python. Better communication, better collaboration.

4. Start using Reddit. Reddit is the model for successful internet forums, and the communities here are influential across the web. Find where you belong, whether it’s /r/TheWalkingDead or /r/cumberbitches. There’s a lot to learn about commenting, moderation, and building an internet community, all valuable lessons for digital journalists. And don’t forget to install the Reddit Enhancement Suite.

5. Plan ahead. It’s a lot easier to finish projects when you aren’t scrambling for content at the last second. If you’re uploading somebody else’s content, do you know where to find it? Save yourself some deadline grief, man.

6. Don’t forget journalism is a business. It’s a never-ending cycle: good stories bring more users, more users bring more ad revenue, more ad revenue means better stories. Once again, communicate. Have conversations with the advertising department. They’re probably in your own building – stop in and visit. I bet they like coffee.

7. Uploading a story doesn’t mean it’s finished. If an error runs in print, retractions are noted in the following issue. Online, the fix must happen instantly. Once a story goes live, be prepared to continually update it.  Sometimes code doesn’t work. The more you prepare, the less you have to do later.

9. Be a part of the community. You’ll find Voxers at Ragtag Cinema every Friday night, all seeing the latest movies. By the time you’ve heard it, restaurant gossip is old news in the Vox office. Because our journalists are out there as active members of the community, we know what’s happening and when. This is the true nature of journalism, isn’t it? By the people for the people?

10. ????? Whats a best practice for digital journalists I’ve left out? Let me know in the comments.

Photo by Crowd Expedition, Flickr. 


A Fairy Tale for the Internet Age

Saving the internet isn’t about protests or petitions – it’s about weaving our values about the internet into enduring cultural standards.

Imagine, if you will, a futuristic world:

A world where people built buildings, and businesses set up inside those buildings, and customers came inside and purchased things,

Some people don’t sell things, they just build places where people can talk or share things they’ve created,

In some of these buildings people come together and share knowledge, help each other, or give each other love,

In some of these buildings people find hope, inspiration or education,

A universe of information is available to anyone and everyone,

In some of these buildings people can see things they have never seen before, and lots of lives are changed forever.

And there are magical roads that connect all these buildings, roads that can move people instantly to whatever building they want to visit anywhere in the world,

And the people who built these magical roads charge a tiny fee for you to use their infinite power.

And there are rules in this amazing world, simple ones like our own,

It’s frowned upon to be mean to other people in public,

You can’t steal something that somebody else created,

It’s not okay to shoplift from any business, even the immensely successful ones,

Police can’t barge into anybody’s home without a warrant,

You can’t spy on people in the privacy of their own homes,

And everyone is equal.

But this world had a problem – it was super easy to break the rules.

Everybody stole everything they could get their hands on,

Everybody spied on one another and stole from one another,

Everybody carried tons of stuff on the magical roads and caused horrible traffic without paying extra,

Everybody shared stuff they weren’t allowed to have,

Everybody kept information about other people and used it for nefarious purposes,

Nobody paid for anything,

And the people who built the magical roads started charging whatever they wanted for passage because people abused the magic roads.

Soon the perfect world was falling apart.

The police stormed into any business or house they want and took whatever they want, whenever they wanted, without a warrant,

Big businesses spied on everyone who came into their businesses, keeping little files of information about every single person,

Governments broke into any business or home they wanted and took anything they wanted, just like the police,

The people in charge of the magic roads started charging whatever they wanted, and soon some people couldn’t afford to go certain places,

Or customers couldn’t afford to visit their businesses.

Suddenly, everything that made this world perfect was gone.

There was no free information, nobody could get to it.

There was no privacy, powerful people took it all.

There was no protection, the police don’t help.

There were no small businesses, they couldn’t afford to stay open.

The magic roads were too expensive for some people to use,

And the perfect world fell apart until there was nothing left.

The perfect world died because the people in that world forgot some important things:

That if you love something, you shouldn’t take advantage of it,

And that the government can protect the things you love and value if you tell them to,

And sometimes it’s important to pay for things because you respect them,

And rules exist because they help life go smoothly,

And that it’s not okay to prey on weak people,

And when you’re inside somebody else’s building or on the magic roads, you are, in fact, in public where people can see you,

And that this world was wonderful not because it kept people apart,

But because it brought people together,

It made people better, smarter, more connected,

It gave them infinite knowledge.

But their greed ruined it all,

And before those people could even stand up and say “Hey!

We think this stuff is important and we want to protect it,”

It was all gone forever.

Behind-the-scenes at Vox Magazine

So I’m a first-semester graduate student in Convergence at the University of Missouri (Mizzou.) I’m also the Digital Managing Editor of Vox Magazine, which means some crazy person put me in charge of the magazine’s website. 

The website got a redesign back in the spring of 2014 to a WordPress custom platform, an iteration of the Genesis theme.

The theme itself is beautiful. The website (while not responsive) is easy to navigate, clean and coherent. It also presents content way better than Django, our former CMS. WordPress is arguably the best CMS out there for a variety of reasons. In most cases, young people have started their own angsty blogs on WordPress, so they’re familiar with the layout. It’s also free and comes with tons of customization options. Even the New York Times uses a WordPress CMS, and if it’s good enough for the Gray Lady, it’s good enough for me.

Like all websites, Vox has equal helpings of success and problems. On this blog I’ll be posting behind-the-scenes views into the efforts of our Digital Editorial Team, sharing strategy, content and solutions.

Expect Vox Magazine to become an even bigger force in Columbia’s digital news scene.