Thursday, 28 August 2014

How digital journalism changes story telling

Picture courtesy: www.fundintranslation.berkely.edu
On Tuesday 26 August, 2014, Stats SA released the GDP figures of the second quarter of 2014. The figures showed that South Africa has managed to stave off a recession by posting a modest growth of 0.6 per cent.

The following multi media platforms may be used to tell the story.




Picture Courtesy: www.theundercovercircuit.com
Social Media Platforms:
  • Google Plus Hangout: G+ Hangout is a very useful tool to reach out to the readers. If I was reporting on the GDP news, I would have held G+ hangout with my readers and my newspaper's business/ economic editor and invited industry experts one or two days before the publication of the news. This would have generated interest among readers about the expected figures. In the environment of 24X7 news, it is extremely important to create a 'buzz' around the news one is reporting on so that one can draw the readers in.
  • Twitter: News story, sensational or otherwise is now mostly 'broken' on Twitter. I would have posted the news on Twitter as soon as Stats SA made the figures public. I would have also twitted on subsequent tweets the important numbers and facts such as the key contributors to the growth and the key sectors which pulled the growth down. Twitter serves as the most useful platform for making the news reach a large audience through the means of a "#". In addition to my followers getting my tweets, there is a high chance of the tweets being re-tweeted or being marked as favorite. 
  • News Organizations's Website: After Twitter, the second most important place to report the news is of course, the news organization's website. This platform would give the journalist an opportunity to report on the story behind the numbers and analyse the 'how' and the 'why'. It also gives the reader a chance to disseminate the news on various other social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and on Google Plus and of course  to be emailed to the reader's friends. The reader also gets an opportunity to comment on the news item. 
  • News Organisation's Blog: Blogging is a very useful platform to get the reader's attention and engage him/her with the news story. For the particular GDP story, an economist or an industry spokesperson could be invited to write on the blog. Blogs are usually for serious readers who are interested in analyzing the news. Therefore it would be better if an economic analyst or the Treasury spokesperson can write the blog about the consequences of such a slow growth rate and how it would affect the economy. Also a mining industry expert could be invited to write upon what impact does the negative growth rate have on the industry  
  • Reddit.com: Reddit.com is an amazing site to put the news across. Of course, a news like SA's GDP growth would not necessarily interest readers, because a lot of readers might not be from South Africa. To make the news more interesting and relevant to readers, I would link news articles on a particular sector such as mining and show how mining in SA reflected a negative growth rate. I could also post a series of articles from my organization's website about the trends of the past quarter's GDP figures and analyse what it means for the economy.
  • Storify: Storify lets the user create stories or timelines using social media platforms. I would Storify the above news with the various tweets that my business/economic editors post and also take relevant conversation occurring on media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn on the topic and Storify them.
  • LinkedIn: Though this platforms is mostly used to connect professionally, news like the GDP growth should definitely be on LinkedIn. I can share the link from my website onto LinkedIn and through LinkedIn to the community pages that LinkedIn hosts. LinkedIn is frequented by more serious visitors who are willing to read on subjects such as GDP growth rate.
  • Web Polls: Though not a social media platform, polls are a very good tool to gain an insight into the readers. For this story, I could have a poll asking the readers to express their view on a certain sector of the economy or on the growth figures. Online polling sites such SurveyMonkey (https://www.surveymonkey.com/?ut_source=header_) to create questions and take surveys on the website or blog. Readers will have added initiative to read the article and respond.

Picture courtesy: www.socialmediaexaminer.com
Data Journalism and Visual Graphics:

Economic/ business news can be best told through visual graphics and through the use of pie charts and bar diagrams. Visual representation should be used to simplify the numbers and figures that many readers find daunting and most of them, therefore avoid news such as the one above. In an article from the Columbia Journalism School, the author points to Washington Post's successful digital initiative "Wonkblog" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/) as an example to visually represent numbers.
I would use an interactive visualization and exploration tool like Gephi to put across some of the important figures such as the positive growth by some sectors and why did these sectors grow. I could actually represent the GDP growth figures completely through graphics and share it on my website. It would help draw readers in and help them easily understand about the state of the economy.

Multimedia: 

The use of multimedia such as videos would not really help this story. A way of incorporating videos in the story would be to focus on particular sectors of the economy to show how and why it fared, as it did. Or one can interview industry experts or economists to show how the figures would impact the economy. I feel, the Google hangout mentioned above would actually help the reader more than just videos of comments from industry experts or economists.




Friday, 8 August 2014

Keys to a successful marriage (as learning from my parents)...

Tomorrow is 9 August.

No, it is not my birthday or any day of any value to humanity whatsoever.

But the day has a special significance for me.

On this day, in the year 1978, my parents were tied in holy matrimony.

This might come as a surprise to my non-Indian readers but my parents never went through any courtship process... As far as my knowledge goes my parents had an 'arranged marriage' as in a marriage arranged by the families of the prospective bride and groom.... and they met only once before they actually got married!!!! On the said day my father had gone with his family members to my mother's house to see his 'future wife'. And the second 'date' they had was when they got married on 9 August, 1978.

Since then they have been together for 35 years and will be entering their 36th year of married lives tomorrow. I myself have been married for a little over two years and needless to say I or rather we are  still learning...

For me, my parents represent a successfully stable relationship. A relationship, based on ruthless honesty, both about themselves and about their partners, tireless commitment to the cause of one's family and an absolute sacrifice (especially on my mother's end) of individual ambitions.

They got married in 1978... a whole lot of things were done differently then.... for e.g. my parents had a ten year old age divide between them... my father is ten years older than my mum. I don't think I could have married a man even five years senior to me... maybe that's one of the reasons they have stayed together for so long... a whole lot of inane research shows that women's emotional ability to grow is twice that of a man... I do not know how credible the research is... but if it is true, then it makes perfect sense why husbands have to be at least a decade older than their wives. So what my mum thought when she was 35 five, my father got up to that level when was 45...!!!! It's incredibly difficult to imagine but probably this worked for them..... I also realize why Rahul (my husband) is such a kid some times and why my brother still has a 12 year old outlook towards relationships... More to girl power...!!!! yeah...

Also my mum absolutely and intentionally sacrificed all her individual ambitions to take care of the family. Though I have yet to meet a more intelligent and independent woman than my mum... and I am not saying this because she is my mother but because I really haven't met anyone as intelligent as her... it strikes me to be astounding. The values she imbibed me and my brother with have saved us from many a disaster...how could someone like her completely devote herself to house-wifely duties, immerse herself in the everyday humdrum of cooking, cleaning, washing, chopping and so on and so forth and still retain a sharp mind that even at this age, is capable of giving deeply insightful solutions to both our professional and personal troubles.

In the individualistic age that we live in... can women really survive by putting an hold on their ambitions and making their family the focal point in their lives? On the heels of that question, comes another one... An absence of any individual ambition on a woman's part but to raise a successful family, is it a highly selfless trait or an acceptance of personal inability to achieve anything outside the rituals of a domestic household?

I really do not know, but this has actually been a key reason why my parents could have a stable relationship. My mum was always at our beck and call while my father was away in office and sometimes on official duty all over India. In my school going years, till I left home for college and my brother even now, when he has grown up to be a hot shot lawyer, we always came back home to find our Ma waiting for us, ready to lend a patient ear or a plate of hot home made food.

And what about my father... My father is a self made man. An incredibly intelligent, hardworking and honest to boot kind of person... Being a retired defense estates officer, he counts punctuality to be an essential human trait... He was a bit more lenient to our childish misdeeds than my mum.... he did and still does like poetry and among my parents he was a better dreamer than my mum was (is)...  My father, I do not recall ever spent a cent of his earnings on himself nor did he demand any special treatment for being the sole breadwinner in our family and for working exceptionally hard to meet his children's needs, dreams and aspirations.

My father is the philosopher in the family, a position now taken by my brother... he always told us and still tells us, 'don't fill up your basket of dreams with the small ones otherwise you would not have place for the bigger ones." He lives by the phrase 'simple life, great thoughts.' I do not know whether he took up this philosophy after becoming a family man or before it... but it really worked for us.

I have had the fortune of spending a part of my adult life with them and some (well most) of the things you miss out as a child especially in grave matters such as relationship, you start noticing when you are an adult and you start appreciating only when you are yourself married.

A successful relationship can only be forged if two people in that relationship is committed to doing their bit towards it. I don't believe that any 'marriage' can be devoid of arguments, squabbles and debate, especially because I have seen my parents argue a lot... about not so cause worthy issues. Even I and Rahul quarrel on issues which are mostly worthless at best. But I guess that forms a part of married life...

For me, my parents represent a relationship that should be aspired to. It is not the one that romantic books talk about nor what glossy lifestyle magazines preach, but a relationship that works: a relationship between two individuals grounded in strong values about respect, honesty and  commitment to each other and to the the family they have.

Love you Ma, Baba... you guys rock...!!!! :) :)