A newcomer’s guide to NU


I spent part of yesterday going over your efforts and cleaning up the map so that we had a consistent look and feel for each spot. I am very pleased with how this turned out, especially given the problems that I was having with the initial set-up over the weekend. It looks like the problem was on Google’s end, and now all is well. You all did a very good job.

Tragically, the various map symbols you used were not working, at least not to my eye. Some of them just didn’t fit, and there was nothing for the two bowling alleys. So I changed everything back to the generic teardrop pointer, which, though not too exciting, is at least not a distraction.

Not all of this worked out as I had planned. Many of you included your assessment of handicap access, which I had asked for. But some of you didn’t. And I must confess that I forgot to include it in my own write-up. Overall, though, what we came up with is a useful example of map-based journalism with multiple points of entry.

I’ve locked down the map except for two students who haven’t added anything yet. That’s because I’m going to brag about you on my own blog, and I don’t want to risk anyone vandalizing your work.

Thinking about maps as journalism

You all began writing a blog post about the journalism and mapping in class today. In case you haven’t had a chance to get started, I would like you to look at any three of the maps I ran through in class today. You’ll find them linked from the syllabus or from my Delicious account (right near the top).

Tell us something about the maps. Do you like mapping as a form of journalism? Are you dubious? Explaining your reasoning. Write a 200- to 300-word post, with links to the maps. Due Friday, March 26, at 5 p.m.

More on our Google map project

Each of us now has a place we’re going to report on for our project on things we want newcomers to Northeastern to know about. By this Sunday, March 28, at 5 p.m., please upload a 200- to 300-word post on what you have chosen.

Be sure to take at least two photos — a shot that clearly identifies the place (outdoor shots of signs are good), and a more feature-like shot, perhaps taken inside. You will use the feature photo(s) in your blog post. The identifying picture is for the map. Make sure that picture is available to you next Monday, when we will put together the map. Uploading it to Flickr is probably your best bet.

Please include the following information:

  • The proper name of the place you are writing about
  • The address
  • The hours of operation
  • Whether it is handicapped-accessible
  • Be prepared to offer a two- to four-word description of the place
  • Web site, if applicable

Here is “The Caffeinated Campus,” from the fall of 2008.

Deadline for blogging your presentation

If you have done a presentation in class and haven’t written a blog post about it yet, your deadline is this Friday, March 26, at 5 p.m. Be sure to send me an e-mail with the permalink. Check your grade on Blackboard — if you’ve written up your presentation and I haven’t graded you, same deal: e-mail with permalink. That is all.

Your final project

Yesterday I explained the various components of your final project. Today I’m putting them down in writing. The goal is to tie together many of the skills we have worked on during the semester.

As you know, your project will consist of an in-depth piece of reported journalism about a digital-media person or project that you think is interesting and significant. Your project will include the following:

  • An 800- to 1,000-word blog post — a feature story, essentially — that must include at least five three interviews. You may interview people in person or by phone. E-mail interviews are not permitted unless there is a good reason and I have approved it ahead of time. Be sure to include all relevant links in your blog post. Due: Friday, April 16.
  • A slideshow that you will upload to Flickr and embed in your blog post. I am looking for somewhere between six and 10 photos. You may conceive of this as part of your main story or as a sidebar. For instance, yesterday we talked about what to do if you are profiling a Boston food blogger and you are unable to interview that person face-to-face. You could take pictures of, say, five restaurants she loves and five she hates. You need to write complete titles and captions for each photo. Due: Friday, April 16.
  • A video that you will upload to YouTube and embed in your blog post. Your video should be somewhere between two and five minutes long and should include interviews with at least three different people. Just as with your earlier video assignment, I want you to include some B-roll (still photos and video) and an introductory stand-up starring yourself. As with the slideshow, your video can be part of your main story or a sidebar. For instance, let’s say you’re profiling an out-of-state blogger who writes about video games. You could put together a video in which you interview gamers about their favorite blogs. Due: Friday, April 23 (one week after your blog post and slideshow.)
  • A brief memo (a paragraph or two) on how you used social media such as Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn to find sources and improve your story. Due: Friday, April 23.
  • You will also be asked to plot the main location of your story on a Google map that I will put together, and build in a link to your blog post. This will take you less than a half-hour. Due: Finals week; date TBA.
  • On our last day of class, Wednesday, April 21, I will e-mail to you my suggested revisions for your blog post and slideshow. Due: Finals week; date TBA.

As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

Starting point for our map project

Click on image to get a full-size view

We have many things to talk about tomorrow. What I’m looking forward to the most is finalizing plans for our Google map project. We decided on a guide for newcomers to Northeastern — things to do, places to see and the like.

You may do anything you like as long as it falls somewhere on this map. We’ll finalize the list in class and decide on what must-have information each item should contain — hours, phone number, Web site, handicapped-accessibility and more.

Twitter as a news tool

Your assignment for using Twitter as a news tool is to cover an event and post at least five tweets. The ideal would be to go somewhere and use your cellphone. Depending on your model, you could even post pictures to your Twitter feed using TwitPic or a similar service. But you can also do something like watch a basketball game or “American Idol” on television and offer some running commentary via Twitter. Do it during the event, not after.

Once you are done, write up a brief blog post describing the event, what you were hoping to accomplish and what you see as the positives and negatives of covering a story via Twitter. You also need to use your blog post to link to your Twitter account, since otherwise I won’t know how to find you.

We agreed that posting links is too difficult with a cellphone. Nevertheless, you should bookmark Bit.ly, the leading link-shortener, for future reference.

If you are completely puzzled by the idea of covering an event via Twitter, I thought I would link to a few of the tweets I posted on the evening of Dec. 8, when I was at Martha Coakley’s headquarters following her victory in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate. During the campaign, the hashtag #masen became universally known as the best way to tag your tweets so that other people interested in the race could find them. As you’ll see, some of these tweets include photos. A random sample:

I make no great claims for what I wrote that night on Twitter. Mainly I was just passing the time while gathering material for my Guardian column. But I think they’re a fair example of what a reporter can do with Twitter at the scene of an event.

Deadline alert! I had set the deadline for Friday at 5 p.m., and received several requests to extend it so that you may cover events on Friday or Saturday night. That’s fine — the deadline is now Sunday at 5 p.m. But keep in mind that you still must post on your final-project proposal by Monday at 10 a.m. And I want everyone to come in with at least one idea of a place every newcomer to Northeastern should know about so that we can firm up our map project during Monday’s class.