Going Viral


“Going Viral.”

It’s a saying we in the journalism profession hear a lot and for the most part it goes to the fundamental changes going on in the concept of “publishing.”  That’s a term that for decades has carried lofty connotations.  But with web publishing your writing can have a tremendous reach, thanks to the benefits behind the concept of “link journalism.”  The key to link journalism, and to “publishing” is to use social media to let folks know what you’ve published.  Those who may not have the content or material that you have will link to you, helping to inform the audience.  Once word gets out, you can end up being linked off of many sites.

In the first month of classes, we’ve seen several strong examples of Web publishing and the viral nature of publication.

One example came with coverage on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.  I was in a coffee shop on Sept. 10 doing some work when I saw this #wherewereyou hashtag on Twitter. The hashtag had been generated by The Washington Post’s web site as editors sought to get readers’ stories on where they were when the attacks happened.

After reading some of the entries on the Twitter feed, I was prompted to write a post on my own experiences on 9/11.  I posted my entry on Facebook and Twitter.  Editors at The Post then saw my blog entry, and they posted it here.  After the posting, I saw some spikes in page views but what really intrigued me were the analytics which showed page views from 9/12 on 9/11.  I thought it was a glitch but then remembered the global reach of The Post and figured I had some reading in a time zone a day ahead.

The viral spread continued when Dave Beard, the Boston.com editor, saw the post, commented on it and then added a link to the post on Boston.com’s Facebook page with this comment:  “FYI, nice remembrance by UMass prof Steve Fox, ex national/political editor of washingtonpost.com, on his 9/11/01, right here: https://umassjournalismprofs.wordpress.com/2010/09/11/remembering-911/

Nieman caught up the story a few days later and blogged about the hashtag.

The second example came with the sad news on Sept. 17 that UMass band director George N. Parks had died on a trip to Michigan prior to the UMass-Michigan football game.   As student journalists within the Journalism program reported the story that Friday morning, I recalled that students who took part in the Multimedia Bootcamp prior to the start of the semester had done on a video piece on the new band building which included an interview with Parks just prior to the start of the Fall semester.

I quickly posted the video on Facebook and Twitter and let news organizations throughout the state know about the video.  Prior to that day, the video had a handful of views and overnight it had more than 1,000.  The video was linked to by the Web sites of the Springfield Republican and the Daily Hampshire Gazette, amongst others.  In a time of grief, web publishing allowed us to share the Parks interview with UMass alumni all over the world.

In Web publishing, nothing is ever truly “old” and this was a pretty strong example of that.

Multimedia Bootcampers Set Tone for New Semester


Welcome back Journalism students!

UMass Journalism Multimedia Bootcamp.

Bootcampers Brittney Figueira, Matt McCarron and Katherine Valera have fun while editing during the Journalism Program's annual Multimedia Bootcamp.

While you were all running around to Target, Wal-Mart and Big Y this weekend, 11 of your Journalism comrades were running around with video cameras, putting together stories as part of the Second Annual Multimedia Bootcamp.  The students included freshmen, sophomores and transfers and were joined by Journalism graduate Jackie Hai and professors Brian McDermott and Steve Fox for 2 1/2 days of intense introduction to the world of Multimedia Journalism.

“This was a great group.  I think they will do well,” said Hai.

Take a look at the work of the Bootcampers:

* A Home for the UMMB

* College Roommates

* Pricey Textbooks

*Taking the “Zoo” Out of UMass

Bootcamp discussions ranged from video editing and shooting tips to brainstorming the perfect story idea to ethical dilemmas when shooting video.  Students were also welcomed with mini-visits from Professors Raz Sibii, BJ Roche and Maddy Blais.

The importance of internships was also mentioned…frequently.  And I stumbled across this notice from Dow Jones today, so get out there and apply!

Have a good semester!

Bootcampers swamp UMass & Amherst

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“In a perfect world, think about what would the best visuals for your story be?…”

UMass Journalism Multimedia Bootcamp

UMass Journalism Professor Brian McDermott reviews digital images with the 2010 class of Multimedia Bootcampers.

That was the question/thought of the day from UMass Journalism Professor Brian McDermott Friday as 11 UMass students brainstormed before venturing out of the classroom Saturday to shoot and compile video stories.  The dynamic group of students took part in several fun brainstorming sessions, with the most popular story idea focused on the ‘ZooMass’ image that UMass can’t seem to shed.

Accompanied by McDermott, Professor Steve Fox and UMass journalism graduate Jackie Hai, students pursued stories ranging from a feature on band camp to the “party” reputation of UMass to the cost of textbooks to the emotions of move-in day.   The trio of instructors were able to give hands-on guidance on lighting and composition of shots, as well as ethical issues including avoiding setting up shots and using open-ended questions when interviewing, not leading questions.

The Bootcamp students were the first to use a brand new batch of equipment — including new video cameras, wireless microphones and headphones.  It was all handled with care and students were back in Bartlett editing by late afternoon.

Check back later for their final projects!

Journalism Bootcampers Arrive at UMass!

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UMass Journalism Multimedia Bootcamp

Professor Steve Fox goes over story ideas with the 2010 group of Multimedia Bootcampers.

This year’s group of Multimedia Bootcampers arrived to Bartlett Hall — home of the Journalism program — early and energetic Thursday evening.

“I had to get out of my dorm and get over here,” said Brittney Figueira, who arrived about an hour before the start of Bootcamp.

The 11 students are made up mostly of freshmen, with a few transfer students and sophomores as well.  They spent most of a sticky Amherst Thursday moving in to their dorms before heading to Bartlett.

“This is a pretty impressive group,” said Professor Brian McDermott, who is joining Professor Steve Fox and UMass journalism graduate Jackie Hai in teaching the two-and-a-half day session this weekend.

Students took part in a fun interview exercise to help break the ice then gave their “elevator pitches” — 3-4 minute summaries of their journalism backgrounds — before the class.  Students actually “pitched” twice — the first pitch was used as practice before being delivered on video.  That video will be used today as a way  to show the group some video editing tricks.

The Bootcampers also brainstormed possible story ideas for today.  Students will spend a few hours this afternoon going out to streets of UMass and Amherst to put together short video packages.

Their final packages will be posted in this space, as well as on Amherst Wire.

I’ll check back later with updates.

First-Ever Multimedia Journalism Bootcamp!

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If you happened to stroll past Bartlett Hall this weekend, you would have seen a small group of journalism students hunched over their laptops, putting together a collection of stories focusing on the return of students to UMass and Amherst.  The students were part of the first-ever Multimedia Journalism Bootcamp, which began Thursday night and concluded late Saturday afternoon.

Jackie Hai, BJ Roche and I guided student discussions on everything from the role of bloggers and social media to the importance of networking and internships to the ethics of using music in audio slideshows.  Instructors accompanied students on reporting outings on Friday and worked with students on the editing of their video and text pieces upon returning to Bartlett 107.  Students spent about 14 hours on Friday working on their packages, which can be found on Amherst Wire.

A great experience for all involved.  Much thanks to my fellow instructors, Jackie Hai and BJ Roche, for helping to make this happen!