ONA '14Going Mobile Presentation

Mobile in the Newsroom and Classroom: Just Build It, Baby

By Mike Reilley

Posted: Friday, Sept. 26, 2014

During our ONA 14 session, Mark, Ed and I will show you a lot of cool things. They have an incredible tablet magazine with OR Magazine. I focus mainly on the mobile web, using responsive web-designed platforms where students can produce mobile stories over their phones.

Once our session is over, be sure to read this list of tips that summarize some of what I talked about. 

1. Just build it, baby 

 During our session, I talk about the importance of prototypes when building a project. Sometimes, we have to work AHEAD of the business plan/budgeting phase to help others better understand the project. In building The Red LIne Project, I spent about $800 of my own money -- and a lot of my own time -- to build the site. Once built, my bosses, foundations and others had something tangible to consider when making decisions about grants, equipment, etc. I built The Journalist's Toolbox for $381 and maintained it for four years until the American Press Institute bought it. API later sold it to SPJ, where it's currently housed. That initial $381 investment -- and my time -- has paid off with six-figures in my bank account.

2. Seek funding

As I mentioned in the session, there are journalism grants out there to support your work. I used this $20 responsive Tumblr template to build The Chicago Stumbler, which documents poor sidewalk conditions in the city. That Tumblr led to an investigative project with NBC 5 Investigates in Chicago. That project served as a centerpiece to a McCormick Foundation grant proposal. McCormick awarded us a $20,000 grant in July 2014. A $20 "risk" paid off with a $20,000 grant thanks to some ingenuity and sweat equity by a professor and his students. This simple prototype gave the foundation something to consider when deciding whether we were worthy of funding (see No. 1, Just Build It, Baby).

3. Working mobile (and data) into the curriculum

I started by working simple data and mobile assignments into my beginning and advanced undergraduate and advanced online journalism courses. This gave students a chance to pick up these skills as I developed two new courses -- Data Journalism and Mobile  Journalism/Wearable Technology. Both classes have been added to our 2014-15 course schedule.

4. Tools

I won't spend a lot of time on these as tools come and go. I teach concepts -- when does video or audio best tell a story? What's a good mobile story? What makes for a good data piece? Once those questions are answered, we find the tool that fits the story. That said, here are a few that I use with my students and how we use them:

Timeline JS: A slick timeline building tool using the magic of the Knight Lab and a Google Sheet. Very easy to build, the students took to it quickly. We use them regularly on big projects, events and anniversaries. A few: Wrigley Field's 100 Years, 9/11, Chicago Pride Parade and World Cup history.

StoryMap JS: Another good Knight Lab tool, this one builds geolocated maps to tell stories. All you need is a Google Drive log-in and about an hour to teach yourself (then your students). The interface is easier to use because it doesn't require a spreadsheet like Timeline JS. Some of the projects we built: World Cup team previews and Chicago Rising Rent.

Tumblr: I use our Chicago Stumbler crummy sidewalks Tumblr to teach students basic mobile reporting skills. Students use their smartphones and Tumblr app to shoot photos of Chicago's poor sidewalk conditions, locate them and write about them. They post everything through their phones. It's a great mobile reporting assignment in the first week or two of class. Beyond teaching those basic skills, the project took on a life of its own when we teamed with NBC 5 Investigates in Chicago on a series of stories on poor sidewalks conditions. Those stories were the backbone of a $20,000 McCormick Foundation grant that we secured this summer to build more data and mobile projects.

Wordpress: Every beginning online and mobile student is required to use Wordpress on the desktop and/or the tablet and mobile app. Understanding a basic CMS is no longer a "desired skill." It's expected.

Google Drive: It's great for collaborations. We use it for many of our bigger projects, where students share documents and update story budgets. It's also useful for Timeline and StoryMap, and it also houses many of the documents we use to build searchable maps and Google Forms. Students should be introduced to Drive in introductory journalism courses, but I often have to show it to them in upper-level courses as well. For maps, use Derek Eder's Searchable Maps Template with Google Fusion Tables.

More tools we used to build The Red Line Project: Surreal CMS, Bootstrap (responsive), Foundation (longform template), EmbedResponsively (make videos responsive), DotEasy (hosting), DataWrapper (charts), Tableau Public (charts), PiktoChart (infographics), RedOxygen (mobile text alerts), Twitter, Storify, Instagram, RebelMouse, YouTube, SoundSlides, SoundCloud, Flickr

Wireframing (Ed and Mark): Poynter | 20 wireframe tools from Mashable

Storify: Highlights from the presentation.

Apps: There are dozens of apps and other mobile tools to teach students. Here are a few I use: Videolicious, Flipagram, Camera + (along with Robb Montgomery's mobile journalism e-books), Instagram, Flipboard, Storify (desktop and tablet), Recorder, TapeaCall, iMotion Pro (timelapse), Reel Director, 1st Video, Capture, Dragon Dictation, Scanner Pro, Photoshop Express, Over (text on graphics), Layout, Thinglink, Tagg.ly and MobileV.is.

Want more? Four Tips for Newsroom Collaboration | Visit The Red Line Project

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