Thursday, 28 August 2014

How digital journalism changes story telling

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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.

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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  
  • 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 ( to create questions and take surveys on the website or blog. Readers will have added initiative to read the article and respond.

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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" ( 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.


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.

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