Writing and Digital Media  for journalists

Writing and Digital Media for journalists

I have a particular interest in Journalism and have focused my blog around the increasingly digital world of journalism. This class has helped me to explore and gain a better understanding of the increasingly digital world of journalism. There have been some major themes throughout the semester that I believe can be applied to online news stories. Now, more than ever it is important for journalists to be aware of the materials available to them and utilize them.

Useful Advice

Journalists need to stick to the facts and keep articles short and simple because online readers now skim instead of reading the whole page.
 William Zinsser: Keep it simple and avoid clutter. This is more important than ever when writing for the internet because there are so many distractions.

It is important to stick to certain learned cultural expectations.

Don Norman: Cultural constraints are learned conventions that are shared by a cultural group.

For example, in a story that includes an image but the text should stay the main focus, the picture should be medium to small and placed at the top to the right after the text. We expect to read from right to left and journalists should take advantage of this cultural constraint to maximize the effectiveness of their news stories.

Different materials equals a different approach. Writing for the internet is different because the materials are different; there is text, images, video, sound, hyperlinks, links, etc.

Anne Wysocki:

  • A need to focus on the specific materiality of the text we give each other

It is important to assemble the materials together to form a serial composition.

Geoffrey Sirc: Writing as a non-symbolic approach, focusing on the materials involved and their basic composition.

This class, Writing and Digital Media, was not designed specifically for journalists; one of the best things about this semester was the freedom to apply the techniques learned to a certain area of interest. The reason this class perfectly applied to journalism because journalism is currently transitioning into an all digital industry. Anyone that wants to pursue journalism as a career needs to understand how to write for digital media.


Coming to Terms with My News

I went back and looked at what we have read this so far during this course. I like to do that because the readings always seem to click a little better after class discussion. I went all the way back to the first reading “Coming to Terms” by Joseph Harris. He suggests asking three questions about a reading:

1. Aims– What is the writer trying to achieve?
2. Methods– How does the writer relate examples to ideas?
3. Materials– Where does the writer go for examples and evidence?

I have to confess when I read the news on my laptop in the mornings, I do not really come to terms with what I am reading. Shame on me. It is probably one of the most important times for me to question what I am reading. So, this morning I decided to change my ways and really come to terms with what I was reading.

You have to see it to believe it!

You have to see it to believe it!

CNN is always one of the sources I go to for my news, and the first story I read was about the amazingly hot heat wave in California. So what was the aim of the author of this story? The obvious answer is to inform the public of the heatwave, but it does come right after the presidents speech on global warming. The timing serves to reinforce the warnings about global warming. I am having a little trouble distinguishing between the methods and the materials. They ranged from images to interviews with residents and emergency officials. There was also a mention of the National Weather Services record for highest temperature, 134 degrees, at Death Valley in 1913 (that is just stupid hot). The use of credible sources like the CDC, the National Weather Service, and paramedics and police departments.

Look at Me!

Examining links in class the other day really opened my eyes. I cruise the web on a pretty regular basis but rarely notice the ad links. I have become accustomed to tuning them out, and only noticing the bright flashing icons in my peripheral vision. Since I am interested in journalism, I thought it would be fun to really close read the home pages of two very different news sites. I chose and


The home page reminds me of an actual newspaper. It is set up in a grid system with the text being the main focus instead of pictures. Also, there are no ads, which is very uncommon on a website. It actually made the home page seem a little bland. I am so accustomed to seeing bright flashing ads. The focus is aimed at the text itself and not pictures.

USA Today

The home page was not like a traditional newspaper because it was very visual based rather than textual based. There was also one ad for some online casino, and it was not as obnoxious as some. It was a more interesting home page, but I was not as interested in the actual head lines. The main headline read “Brennan: More heartbreak for Phil at U.S. Open.” I am not a golf fan, so I could care less. I was much more drawn in by NPR’s headline “Why Both Sides Want Gay Marriage Settled by the States.”

Both sites had interactivity with the readers; however, in different ways. NPR draws the audience in with text and USA Today draws them in with pictures. It is most likely that the readers of the NPR site are different from the readers of USA Today. So, I feel like the methods of interactivity change with the audience.