Taking Photos, Choosing Favorites.

We’re starting to look at the digital side of journalism. The parts of the trade that aren’t pen-on-paper or hands to keyboards. For an assignment, we had to go and take three photos: one still image of one of the tiger statues on campus (a wholly unremarkable sight to behold after your first week as a student — there are several. Therein lies the challenge: making the photo interesting), a portrait and a “news image” that tells a viewer that the seasons are changing from summer to fall.

So. I went and I took some photos.




I selected this one because of the background. I have a huge affinity for the Maryland flag, so it was nice to include it. The position of the statue’s face falls in line with the rule of thirds (which is always a plus) and the angle I shot this at makes, I think, the statue look larger than it is.







For the portrait, I chose to shoot an image of Carley, the arts and life editor at The Towerlight. I like this image because her hair gives a nice frame to her face, she’s in the side of the image (not dead center), shot at eye level and the photo shows her working at a computer in the Towerlight Office — which tells the story of about 80% of all the editors’ lives.



I chose this image for my “news” photo because I don’t like fall. Fall is my second least favorite season, and I think that the rain that’s featured so prominently in this photo relays the absolute sorrow I feel with the changing seasons (I may be a tad dramatic about these sorts of things). Aside from that, though, I think that the photo is more interesting that just a standard “oh here’s the sky” picture. Instead of focusing on the scenery, I got my camera to focus on the rainy fall weather. In the out of focus background, you can see leaves that are changing color (signaling the changing season) and the whole vista is nicely framed by the building on the left.


Talking twitter with USA TODAY reporter Natalie DiBlasio

Recently, I was able to speak with USA TODAY’s Natalie DiBlasio about how journalists work with twitter. She works in a newsroom where she has to be able to write for print and digital publishing, produce video content and proficiently handle twitter. Before reaching USA TODAY, DiBlasio worked as the Editor-in-Chief of the Vermont Cynic, a student-run newspaper, while she was in school. I transcribed the conversation as a Q&A below.

How do you use twitter as a journalist?

I use twitter in a few different ways. And I think a lot of journalists in the newsroom use twitter in a variety of ways, as well. To find sources, to find stories, and then to promote stories and you know, help make sure that our stories are reaching out to people that share certain interests. Twitter is a really good tool to be able to monitor what people are saying about a certain topic. So I think that those are the major ways that we use it.

Courtesy of Natalie DiBlasio
Courtesy of Natalie DiBlasio.

How do you use twitter while working on a story?

If I’m working on a story that I’m looking for some feedback from a large group of people or someone that might fit into a big demographic, I’ll tweet a question. But when you do that, you have to realize that you’re only reaching out to a group of people that are on twitter, and are checking twitter and that really changes the demographic you’re reaching out to. So you can’t really use it exclusively that way, but it is helpful. So that’s one way. I think probably more commonly, when news is breaking, I will search terms that people probably are tweeting.

Also while we’re at the scene of a breaking news story or we’re watching a press conference, USA Today encourages journalists to live-tweet what’s happening. It helps our followers see the news in another way, it’s not just going to the website to read stories. People are getting their news on twitter and they’re finding links on twitter, but they’re also just getting news from tweets themselves, so we’re starting to do that a lot more, too.

Continue reading “Talking twitter with USA TODAY reporter Natalie DiBlasio”


I am of the firm belief that nobody loves twitter like a journalist loves twitter. That being said, nobody is exempt from mistakes — least of all on a medium that relies so much on speed.

This article from Poynter uses Slate as an example on how news outlets and journalists ought to make corrections to tweets.

The article begins with an error Slate made on twitter: with a link to a story that involved Vladimir Putin, they sent out a tweet with a photo of Javier Bardem.

If it wasn’t apparent, the two look nothing alike.

Instead of deleting the tweet and hiding their mistake, however, Slate use the reply function on twitter to thread the original, mistaken, tweet with the tweet that clarified their mistake.

By using this strategy, anyone who sees the correction will see it in context, and anyone who sees the mistaken tweet will see the correction.

Slate uses this strategy because they “almost never” want to delete a tweet or entirely remove the evidence of mistakes.

Slate’s copy editor in charge of corrections at Slate said that they have found readers appreciate it when corrections are handled in such a way: it shows that Slate is being upfront with their audience.

I wholeheartedly agree with Slate’s corrections philosophy. If we, as journalists, expect our governments to be transparent and expect our sources to be open with us (in most cases), shouldn’t we, too, be transparent and open? In a profession as reliant on honesty, it falls on the practitioners to set the right examples.

Finding leads.

For an assignment in a journalism class that I’m currently taking, we’ve been tasked with finding 5 hard news leads, and talk about why we think they’re effective.

What would I be doing if I didn’t use an example from The Towerlight? A lead from Jonathan Munshaw:

University president Maravene Loeschke announced via email today that she is taking a leave of absence from her position until December.”

I like this lead because of its simplicity. The Towerlight is written for a niche audience — Towson University and the surrounding community — so anyone reading this lead will know which university is being referred to. Munshaw didn’t complicate the lead, and its simplicity and effectiveness would allow for readers to quickly ascertain the relevant information.

From John Wagner at the Washington Post:

“Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley on Saturday won praise from fellow Democrats for his record on immigration issues as he appeared at a campaign rally in Chicago for Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.).”

Don’t get me wrong, I like leads that have strong hooks, but I also like leads that could double as a news crawl, or a push update on your iPhone. If someone wanted to, they would be able to read the lead and get all the information they wanted (those less familiar with O’Malley’s probably intentions to run for president would be able to grab that information in the next paragraph down).

From Diaa Hadid, of the AP, hosted on the Boston Globe:

Syria launched a series of airstrikes targeting a stronghold of the Islamic State extremist group on Saturday, killing at least 29 people, most of whom died when one of the missiles slammed into a crowded bakery, activists said.”

Even moreso than the O’Malley lead, this one packs all the vital detail right into the start of the article. I dunno. Maybe I’m not thinking enough about this? I think that if you can get all the critical information into the first sentence of a news story and leave a reader with questions that are only incidental, and not crucial, you’ve done your job as a news reporter.

From Amanda Barnett at CNN:

“A meteorite crashed down in Managua, Nicaragua, late Saturday night, causing a loud explosion and leaving a crater 39 feet (12 meters) across, government officials said, according to The Associated Press. No damage or injuries were reported.”

The most effective aspect of this lead is, frankly, that it’s interesting. It’s not often that meteorites crash down near populated areas and get written about — so by it’s unique nature, this lead makes me want to keep reading.

From Burgess Everett at Politico:

“Several Senate Republicans joined Democrats on Monday to advance a constitutional amendment that would give Congress and the states greater power to regulate campaign finance.”

I’m going to go on a limb and say that this one works because it’s unusual, too — readers aren’t used to Republicans and Democrats agreeing on much of anything, and I know that this headline makes me want to keep reading to see what could possibly have caused such a situation.