Stuck on a post idea?

Hiya Class!

We’re just about finished the course (already!) and the progress you’ve shown is amazing.

Here are a few ideas to get you started if you’re having a hard time jumping into the blogoverse. Remember, you can’t go wrong here – experiment, be creative, use the tools we’ve been learning about in class and most importantly – have fun with it!

Seven kinds of stories you should be doing often
(from’s online journalism handbook)

This quick and dirty guide to what you must write online on a day-to-day basis is meant to help you come up with story ideas for your newsblog. Items #1, #2 and #3 you should be doing often on your blog. They are easy to do. They build your credibility quickly and you will get into the groove on online writing in no time.

1. Do Roundups
– what the papers say on a topic
– what the blogs say

Summarize each source in 1/2 line maximum.
If you need to provide a quote from the source do it ASAP.

Examples: Blog aggregator Globalvoices does it on a daily basis.

2. Short post about something notable

– Give a snappy attention-grabbing headline
– start with a summary/question straightaway 1/2 line
– give a quote from the post that is the main point of the story, (or, a photo/video),
– end with a quick flourish

Examples: Bloggers Jason Kottke and Tyler Cowen have polished this format to an art form.

3. Liveblog an event
– post a 1/2 line summary very few minutes. There is no fixed time rule. The best way is to blog each time something significant happens
– put a time stamp [e.g. 12 noon] in bold at start of sentence
– highlight key segments with a caption after the time-stamp [e.g. 12 noon – the speech; e.g. 2 PM – On Recession…

Examples: Gawker, The New York Times and The Guardian do liveblogging really well.
Check Gawker examples here and here

4. Create a Resource Page
Resource pages are upgraded versions of roundups where you not only aggregate and summarize posts from web sites and blogs but also put in extra information:
– a basic fact sheet about the topic
– links to older articles from the net
– links to tools
– graphics
– links to photos and videos
– maps
– glossaries
– links to other resources on the topic on the net: Wikipedia pages, coverage by big name media titles like New York Times…

Examples: Wikipedia creates the best resource pages
Global Voices special coverage
Bighow Resource Page example

5. Do Quick interviews
– limit questions to not more than 5
– Example of interview series – “5 Questions…]
– Ask relevant questions with a view on current news/scenario
– Your peers, local bloggers, experts, authors, famous people [if they agree to be interviewed] these are some of the obvious interview targets

Examples: Deborah Solomon at The New York Times does great to-the-point, entertaining interviews

Tip: Smart writers combine two or more related interviews to create a story.

6. Do a Trend Story [aka “Here’s what I think” story]
Have you noticed the same kind of stories on websites and blogs the past week/s or so? Everyone is writing about some particular problem, topic. This week, the third week of February 2009, it is about Facebook’s Terms of Use and Obama’ stimulus plan.
What do you think about it? Can you look at problem from a bird’s point of view? If you can you can see what is stake. The New York Times does great trend stories using this ‘Big Picture’ thinking.

There are two ways you can go about writing a trend story:
A: Just do a roundup of what others are saying, offer your own opinion
B: Do a roundup, but first break the problem into sub-problems. Analyze each person’s/newspaper’s opinion for what it is. Ask questions; go in details, offer alternatives if there are.
C. Many trend stories write about “what’s going to happen next”

Trend stories are hard. Nevertheless, they make up for great pieces of writing and make a writer’s name. These kind of stories are rivaled or bettered only by long investigative stories or deep profiles, but these require time and money.

Examples: Look at the work of The New York Times Columnists – Paul Krugman, Thomas Friedman, Maureen Dowd…
Example: Data firms grow inspite of Recession

Example of a long profile story: The New Yorker profiles Barrack Obama in 2004

7. Do Top 5/Top 10 lists
– get to it without fuss
– add headings to each item

Examples: The internet is choke-full with Top 10 lists. Go to and search for “Top 10” using its search functionality. Do this regularly and you will begin to get an idea of what the internet likes.

Need more inspiration? Check out Probloggers article on Batlling blogger’s block or Life Clever’s 10 Tips for beating blogger’s block.


Class 5: Internet storytelling tools Part 2 – Maps, Maps, Maps!

In 2007, Google introduced the “My Maps” function to Google Maps, which allowed non-programmers to build and share customized Google Maps using a simple point-and-click interface. That tool can help journalists quickly slap up an online map whenever relevant news, such as a wildfire, breaks.

The Google Maps API has been a great boon for news websites and a great help in creating all kinds of interactive graphics involving maps.

Today, you’ll learn how to create interactive maps that can be used to enhance your stories.

You’ll be creating:

A Google map of your childhood neighbourhood and marking it with social paths. This map will be embedded into your blog post.

How to Guide here:

We will also look at how Google Streetview can be used to report news.

Some examples to get us started…

Toronto Star’s neighbourhood map (more Torstar maps)
WSJ’s Champions Guide to the NY Marathon
Crime Map in New Orleans
35wi Bridge Collapse
BBC Birkshire Flood

Food Truck Maps: LA, NYC

Please email your blogpost with map embedded to by noon, Friday October 21st.


Class 3: Visual tools for web reporters

Hiya Class!

image courtesy of

Today we’ll be talking about all things IMG.

Image editing, data visualization and basic photography are the name of the game.

We’ll be discussing things like layout, royalties, and effective image selection for online news.

You’ll be learning:

How to source royalty-free images
How to upload photos and share with Flickr
How to take decent photos
How to import and resize raw images in Photoshop
How to crop, clean and format photos
How to embed original images into your blog post
How to use web-based image editors like Picnik, Photoshop Express (and others) on the fly
Where to host your image files and the difference between “hot linking” and self hosting.

You’ll be creating:

Your very own flickr account and first photoset
A Vuvox slide show
A new avatar for your blog and Twitter profile
A blog post featuring some of your work from today

Data Visualization:

Data Visualization is a method of presenting information in a graphical form. Good data visualization should appear as if it is a work of art. This intrigues the viewer and draws them in so that they can further investigate the data and info that the graphic represents. In this post there are 15 stunning examples of Data Visualization that are true works of art.

“Representing large amounts of disparate information in a visual form often allows you to see patterns that would otherwise be buried in vast, unconnected data sets. … Visualizations allow you to understand and process enormous amounts of information quickly because it is all represented in a single image or animation.”


Additional reading: Journalism in the age of Data

Class 2: Online writing and mobile reporting

courtesy of Corbis

Today in class, we’ll be discussing the principles and practices of news production online. More specifically, we’ll look at writing for the web.

You’ll be learning:

Some basic HTML tags (links, images, videos and light text formatting)
How to embed multimedia pieces into the body of a post
Effective headline writing for web audiences
How to effectively tag posts
Why linking within posts and trackbacks are important (and what the heck a trackback is)

You’ll be creating:

Your blog bio / choose a theme
A blog post (formulated from content you’ve already writtem) that features links, embedded photos and an embedded video.
You’ll also be Tweeting out your post

If time permits, you’ll publish a Twitpic


PS: If you’ve got some time, feel free to preview the Online News writing article we’ll be going over in class – and if you haven’t shot me over a link to your blog and Twitter handle, please do so ASAP so that I can add you to the blogroll.



Hi There,

I’m Lauren. Pleased to e-meet you if we haven’t yet been acquainted in meatspace.

This website will serve as a resource for members Centennial College’s JO-222 Introduction to Online Journalism class.

Here, you’ll find links to articles, tutorials, tips, tricks and additional resources intended to help you succeed in Online Journalism.

Please feel free to email me with questions, comments or concerns: (laurenoneil -at-