Chapter Review

Tompkins, Al. “Tell the Story Online”. Aim for the Heart: Write, Shoot, Report and Produce for TV and Multimedia, 2nd Edition. Washington: CQ Press, 2012. 171-195. Print.

About the author

Al Tompkins is Sr. Faculty for Broadcast and Online at The Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, FL. He is a broadcast veteran with more than 25 years of newsroom experience and 15 years of journalism teaching experience. He has been awarded the Peabody Award, and many other prestigious awards and honors too numerous to list here. Mr. Tompkins is currently pursuing his masters degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln and received his bachelor of science degree in journalism from Western Kentucky University.

Introduction

Chapter 13 of Aim for the Heart is entitled “Tell the Story Online”. This chapter takes the storytelling principles of broadcast journalism and explains how they can be applied to online journalism. In explaining the former, Tompkins lays out three learning outcomes:

1. How to think interactively

2. How reporting and writing for online are different from writing for television

3. How to ethically use social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook

How to think interactively

The chapter’s first section, Rules for Online Storytelling, thoroughly covers how journalists can incorporate interactivity into their stories and websites. Before elaborating; however, he points out one of the “worst mistakes” journalists can make is to believe that “online news should be the same as what we put on television but shorter” and that “online news should be just like what we put on television only longer” (172). He goes on to give – and explain in depth – ten rules, or as he likes to call them “strongly worded guidelines”, for online storytelling. These “guidelines” range from using Search Engine Optimization (aka SEO) on headlines to optimizing and using raw video on the Web to explaining when and how to use elaborate presentations.

How reporting and writing for online are different from writing for television

This second section, entitled Reporting and Writing for Online in the book, is no less thorough than the first section. Tompkins goes into detail about 8 ways online and television writing are different. He starts by emphasizing the importance of keeping track of a website’s “key performance indicators” or KPI, making sure to mention that to “Web geeks” this was known by the term “analytics”. He goes on to address issues ranging from verifying linked sources and copyright/fair use guidelines to Web skills journalists need to get or keep their jobs.

How to ethically use social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook

In the third section, entitled Ethics and Social Networks in the book, Tompkins writes that in early 2010 he sat down with Kevin Benz, news director of News 8 Austin; Stacey Woelfel, chair of the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA); Ryan Murphy, media attorney; and Richard Goehler, Carol Knopes, and Kathleen Graham, of the Radio Television Digital News Foundation to draft what they considered to be guidelines for the ethical use of social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, wikis, and online chats (191). This section of Chapter 13 is a reprinting of the guidelines found on the RTDNA website, and officially named “RTDNA’s Social Media and Blogging Guidelines”.

RTDNA’s Social Media and Blogging Guidelines are divided into 3 categories: Truth and Fairness, Accountability and Transparency, and Image and Reputation. Each section gives clear, easy to understand instructions and also helps the journalist or blogger reason through trickier issues such as determining if an online source has the legal right to post certain material(s) before linking to it (as explained on page 189, linking to another site/source can imply that a journalist endorses the site/source as legitimate).

Conclusion

I would say that Al Tompkins more than accomplished the goals he set with the 3 learning outcomes at the beginning of the chapter. He is very thorough and I did not find any weaknesses in the chapter. I haven’t read the entire book, yet, but if allowed to make a recommendation based on reading one chapter, I would not hesitate to recommend this book to others. In fact, I wish I would have bought the book sooner, being that it has been referenced in prior classes I have taken as a digital journalism major.

Krug Book Review

Don’t Make Me Think! A common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition
Steve Krug. Berkeley: New Riders, 2006. 201pp. Reviewed by Rosalind R. Gash.

Steve Krug is a usability consultant with over twenty years of experience in his field, consulting for companies such as Apple, Lexus, an BarnesandNoble.com. The first edition of Don’t Make Me Think! was published in 2000, during the Internet boom years. The second edition, which is the subject of this review, was published in 2006.

Krug’s stated purpose for writing this book, in his own words:

I’m writing this book for people who can’t afford to hire (or rent) someone like me. I would hope that it’s also of value to people who work with a usability professional” (5).

The thesis of Don’t Make Me Think! is summed up by Krug’s corporate motto: “It’s not rocket surgery” (5). Krug maintains that much of what he does as a usability consultant is just plain, old-fashioned common sense and that “anyone with some interest can learn to do it” (5).

Before continuing with this review, we must define our terms, so that everyone who reads this is on the same page (pardon the pun). So, what exactly is ‘usability’? What does this term mean? Steve Krug gives a straightforward, common sense definition:

… usability really just means making sure that something works well: that a person of average (or even below average) ability and experience can use the thing — whether it’s a Web site, a fighter jet, or a revolving door — for its intended purpose without getting hopelessly frustrated” (5).

Krug achieves his goal to make this book easy to understand for people with little or no previous experience — people who have suddenly “been made responsible for big-budget projects that may determine the future of their companies” (4). Don’t Make Me Think! is easy to read and understand for this demographic. Krug does not use a lot of industry jargon, and includes plenty of pictures, illustrations, and screenshots as examples to accompany his guidance. The book is also a fairly quick read at only 185 actual instructional pages (not including the back sections for Recommended Reading, Acknowledgements, and the Index).

This book differs from others addressing the same subject matter because Krug does not start by assuming that his readers already have basic knowledge of HTML or Web design principles. He also does not use unnecessary jargon in an attempt to place a barrier between him and his readers by showing off how much more he knows about the subject than do they.

Though a useful, easy to understand book for its intended audience, experienced Web, front end, and user experience designers — amateur or professional — will find this book too basic. For experienced designers, the principles taught in this book should already be ingrained into their workflow to the point of being second nature and done automatically, as a matter of course.

A third edition of Don’t Make Me Think!, which would address Web usability in the wake of the new functionality HTML 5 and JavaScript brings to Web sites would be interesting to read. As it stands; however, this book is recommended for those new to Web usability. It is also recommended as a quick-reference guide for those more experienced individuals who just need a simple refresher that cuts to the chase in plain English.