For those of you who don't know me, seeing as it has been a while since my name has been featured in a byline, I'm Julia Kern, The Daily Collegian's social media manager. My job is to update the Collegian's Twitter and Facebook and monitor feedback -- meaning that almost all of what you see on social media from The Daily Collegian comes from me.
Almost immediately after @DailyCollegian began tweeting from Jerry Sandusky's hearing Friday, we were inundated with replies - not regarding the content of the updates or the hearing itself, but about the way we were denoting the tweets.
@cmspearman said: "Is it just me that is annoyed that the hashtag has been psucharges? Shouldn't it be like #sanduskyscandal?"
@solightisvanity said: "It's agreed: stop using #psucharges. Sandusky is the villain here."
Many others expressed similar sentiments -- and it's a question that's been raised since charges were filed against former assistant Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky three months ago -- so I figured I would elaborate on the origin and decision to continue using #PSUCharges. (Worth noting: Onward State also commented on the use of #PSUCharges in a post that can be found here.)
It's important to bear in mind that, on Twitter, a hashtag serves to provide a touchstone for all news pertaining to one central topic, whether that's a football game, a political race, or a broader, ongoing story such as this one.
For several reasons, local media decided to use this hashtag to refer to news pertaining to the case and related issues involving other major university figures, student reactions, effects on the borough of State College and effects on the Penn State community at large.
For one, some alleged incidents connected to Sandusky's charges took place on Penn State property, according to court documents. But also, following the release of the first grand jury presentment in November, it has become clear that this story stretches beyond Sandusky to include other Penn State officials.
Former Athletic Director Tim Curley and former interim Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz have been charged with perjury in connection with this case. Within days, former Penn State President Graham Spanier and former head football coach Joe Paterno were removed from their respective positions, decisions that have been cited to be related to the announced charges.
As the story garnered more and more local and national attention, #PSUCharges became the shortest and most succinct way to encapsulate all of the various players and events associated with this ongoing story.
Now, tweets from different points in time and different users - including not only Penn Staters, but also people across the country who are now following this story - can now be easily searched, located and linked by searching #PSUCharges. Anyone who might not be familiar with the big picture, or even someone who might want to catch up on past events, can more easily do so because of the way the tweets are cataloged.
So while an event such as Sandusky's hearing regarding his bail conditions on Friday might have seemed to be solely about Sandusky, and didn't feature testimonies from other Penn State officials, that hearing is part of a greater story that was branded as #PSUCharges since the Grand Jury report was released in November.
To change the #PSUCharges hashtag to #Sandusky or #SanduskyCharges would be to implicitly go against the nature of the case, which, as noted above, is multi-faceted and involves more than one individual.
Comments? I'd love to hear from you. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or @juliakern.
The Daily Collegian's social media is under new management.
To be more accurate, The Daily Collegian's social media is under management.
My name is Julia, and I hold a new position at the Daily Collegian: Social Media Manager.
We've created this position to most effectively deliver news to you through the medium that more and more of you, our readers, are using to learn about what's going on.
My goals are three-fold for this semester: 1. Get the news to you faster.
Every day, our reporters cover tons of events and issues on and around campus, and we want you to have that information at your fingertips, even after you spill coffee on your print copy of the Collegian. 2. Deliver the news with a little bit of personality.
Our staff consists of college students just like you, and we want our Twitter and Facebook feeds to reflect that. 3. Engage with you.
We want to know what you're talking about and what issues you want us to cover. Social media, by nature, is interactive, and we want to interact with you and for you to interact with us. Let us know what you think. Tweet at us. Leave us a comment.
You may have noticed some changes in our Twitter and Facebook pages last week, and those changes have been the result of some strategic planning and a lot of conversations among our Board of Editors. Keep an eye out for more changes to come soon.
Please let us know if you like what we're doing. The Daily Collegian is a paradox - we're a student-run newspaper, but we also work for 40,000 people.
I, for one, am okay with that.
I honestly never thought I would see the day, but alas, it has happened.
The New York Times sent out an e-mail to readers on March 18 that announced the beginning of digital subscriptions. According to the e-mail from the publisher of The New York Times and chairman of The New York Times company, those with home subscriptions will receive full navigation of the digital content. Also, people may still view up to 20 articles per month for free but upon any subsequent views they will be prompted to subscribe.
The web has presented a bit of a stumbling block for journalists. It has raised questions like: Should we offer print content on the web? The problem has slowly evolved into: How do we become compensated for this amazing product we have put on the web? Until now, online advertising and creating more original digital content were the answer. Subscriptions were avoided.
As a consumer of The New York Times, as I said, I didn't think I would see this day. My convenient emails with today's headlines, alerts at new and developing stories have been key in keeping me up-to-date. As a broke college student, I shiver at the extra expense. However, as a journalist, I understand the necessity.
The website, NYTimes.com produces an astounding amount of original content: photo stories, videos, original documents -- the list goes on. The journalists who create this content as well as the company who produces this content deserve to be compensated for their work.
With the development of digital subscriptions at NYTimes.com, I think we will start to see a trickle down effect as papers in financial straits see a potential solution to their problems. I hope that as this happens, papers will also adopt the structure of NYTimes.com, which allows for searched and social media-linked articles to be read, despite the monthly limit. I think this type of structure will ease readers, who are used to getting their media for free, into paying for the content.
The subscriptions will go into effect March 28, enjoy free roaming until then.
The announcement from NYTimes.com can be found here.
I've been aching to do something like this for awhile. Ever since I saw The New York Times' budget puzzle (to which I give full credit for the idea and interface), I've thought such an interactive would be a cool idea for Penn State, but I'd kind of shelved the idea earlier in the semester to wait for an appropriate news hook.
Governor Corbett graciously provided such a hook to me with his proposed budget for 2011-2012. As soon as I heard about this, I began scouring http://www.budget.psu.edu and trying to consolidate a massive amount of data.
Penn State's total budget for this year is in fact $4.0 billion, but this appropriations cut mostly affects our general fund, which amounts to $1.8 billion. The other budget categories are either largely self-sustainable (Hershey Medical: $1.1 billion, Auxiliary Enterprises: $340 million) or restricted in how they can be spent (Restricted Funds: $661 million, Federal Agricultural Funds: $20 million).
I opted to just work with the General Funds budget. This year, most of the state appropriation ($290 million out of $318 million, or about 91%) went to the general funds budget. Assuming that percentage remains the same, that means that of the $153 million cut, roughly $140 million of it will be cut from the general budget. In addition, federal stimulus funds ($15 million) ran out this year, so I added that and came up with the $155 million figure that the interactive asks you to cut.
Determining tuition was harder than it should have been - all of the totals I could find combined the fees with the flat tuition figure. My only option was to go to the line item income summary (around 400 items), and filter out both the in-state and out-of-state items. A few regex replaces later, I had a nice addition problem and found that the base tuition alone generates just under $1.1 billion for the general fund ($744 million in state, $346 million out of state). That gave me all the data I needed for the tuition section.
After tuition, all of the remaining adjustment options needed to be cuts of some sort. The university's budget is very large and complex, so I had to narrow things down a few categories which seemed most relevant and understandable to readers. This meant excluding (for the sake of this interactive) cuts to any of the academic and administrative support units. Obviously these are large categories, but it's less clear what effect cutting them would have. To cover part of those areas, I opted to include two across-the-board cuts (Research and Student Aid), and also provided the option to adjust salaries for employees in all of these areas.
Finally I got down to the meat of things - the cut Graham Spanier had alluded to in his response to the proposal. Getting the figures for the commonwealth campuses and academic departments wasn't too hard - they're all clearly listed. I elected to exclude the administrative departments in most of the academic colleges for the same reason as above - it's unclear what effect cutting them would have.
The hardest thing to account for in this interactive were the external costs associated with cutting a department or campus. For example, if you were to close the Comparative Literature department, you would recoup much of that department's costs, but some of it would have to go to other departments which might pick up classes, students, and faculty left behind by the department's closing. Similarly, if you close a branch campus, you also lose that branch campus' tuition income, or students may instead choose to go to some other campus, increasing that campus' cost.
There's no simple way to figure this out, but I had to come up with a figure. I decided that cutting an academic department would allow you to recoup 80% of its costs, and cutting a campus would recoup 70% of its costs. I suspect these numbers may be a bit high, and they certainly would vary extensively depending on what exactly is being cut, but the purpose of this interactive is to get the general idea, not the exact figure.
A final note: Obviously, many of the areas I excluded from this interactive will be on the table for cutting or trimming, and I'm sure that the externalities will vary greatly depending on what the university chooses to cut. This interactive is not, and was never meant to be a precise calculator of our budget. Rather, the goal of it is to give readers a sense of the magnitude of the appropriations cut because admittedly, 4% of the budget doesn't sound too terrible at face value. It only becomes clear how harsh a cut that is when you see how the money is usually spent.
If you think any of the choices I made are way off or don't make sense, feel free to let me know on this post.
I think it finally hit me as I packed up my belongings to go home for spring break. I gathered my clothes, laptop, chargers and toiletries and yet I still had that feeling of "I must be forgetting something important."
And then it hit me. I no longer had piles upon piles of Collegian newspapers packed along with my belongings to bring home to mom and dad. I no longer had any clippings for my master scrapbook or any more reporter notepads.
I am strictly a web girl now and can only gain access the things I've accomplished with the use of a computer.
On one hand, I feel like I no longer have that sense of pride when I open up the paper and see my name right there in the byline. On the other hand, however, to look at the entire home page of the Collegian website and know that I had full responsibility of formatting every story, picture, blog and video is more gratifying than I ever could have imagined.
As I become more comfortable in my new position, I realize that there is hope in change.
Don't get me wrong, there are of course those moments that I miss the late night phone calls from my editor to pick up a story and the crazy interviews that used to be part of my every day life.
But as time goes by, I feel just as proud of the stories that may not belong to me personally. Here at The Daily Collegian, it truly is a team effort. I feel that no matter what my position may entail, may it be reporter, online manager or even editor some day, one thing will never change: I'm going to give it my all.
It’s happened more than once now. Sleeping — I mean, sitting in front of my computer, I am jolted to attention when my phone rings late at night. On the other end is a Collegian editor. I’m ready with a notebook, but I’m also ready to do another read on a story if they’re looking for someone to edit an update.
But it turns out I’m not needed for either task. It’s my web… uh, prowess they seek. The editor is calling for me to update the website, post a story, tweet or Facebook.
Rarely one to miss an opportunity to tout my position, I often stumble over introducing myself at the Collegian this semester. After taking the reporter-turned-editor track, I’ve moved back to reporting and am also serving as an online manager. It’s been a great experience and learning opportunity, but halfway through the semester I’m still finding myself getting adjusted to this niche I’ve carved out for myself.
I’m certainly no Renaissance woman, but this online manager gig has certainly given me the opportunity to foray into the extremely wide world of online content and social media. There is still a lot that I have to learn, but I like it a lot, to say the least.
There is so much that can be done with social media alone, and I feel I have only so far scratched the surface of what I can do. I’m looking forward to delving further into it, maybe even starting a few trends in this place, myself. It’s totally different from reporting or editing, but certainly nothing to be ignored just because it’s not understood. It’s lent to my maintaining the mantra of never saying “Well, that’s they way we’ve always done it,” and simply settling.
But I’ll still report the breaking news before I post it to the website as you need me to, @dailycollegian editors.
You've probably heard the rumors: "Flash's days are limited", "Use HTML5, not Flash", "Design everything to be viewable on a mobile device". It's an issue I pay attention to pretty closely, both in regards to the Collegian and my views on web design at large. I even wrote a column about the topic last summer, though I've refined my views a bit since then.
There certainly are reasons for this assault: the Flash plugin can sometimes cause browsers to crash, it is still a proprietary plugin in this day of open standards, and perhaps most importantly, Flash has been shamelessly abused for annoying ads and poorly designed content. I believe that last reason to be the main cause of anti-Flash bias, but I don't believe it brings down the entire technology.
Development: This one is where Flash completely dominates other solutions, and will probably continue to for some time. Adobe now has three tools designed for authoring Flash content: Flash Professional, Flash Builder, and Flash Catalyst. With canvas or SVG, your development options look far more like cousins of notepad. You may end up writing more efficient code and having that cool do-it-yourself feeling, but in a high-demand low-time situation it's not always practical.
Compatibility: Arguably the most questionable choice on this list, but I include it for the following reason: SVG and canvas don't work on Internet Explorer 8 or before. HTML5's video and audio tags also don't work on those, and have confusing differences in codecs in browsers that do support them. Those issues affect a huge portion of visitors to most sites. Flash, on the other hand, is installed on some 98% of computers. Mobile is another story which I'll get to in a second, but if you're designing something intended to be viewed on a computer, you're pretty safe going with Flash.
Still, the anti-Flash movement may have a point in regards to mobile. Regardless of what I think of Apple's decision to exclude Flash, it's done, and I have to live with that. I have no reason to doubt that by 2014 over half of all page views will be on a mobile device. Designing your content to be available on a mobile device is incredibly important today, and will be virtually required soon. It's not just something for the big guns (New York Times, NPR, etc.) anymore - everyone's talking mobile these days. Locally, Onward State recently launched an excellent mobile site, and I've been underway with a similar effort at the Collegian for some time (though it could take awhile due to the amount of page types I have to redesign).
In other words, it doesn't make sense for me to strip functionality out of an interactive simply because it won't be viewable on a phone. If I'm going to design a large and detailed interactive, I'm may not intend for it to be viewed on a phone anyways - I want it to provide the best possible experience when viewed on a computer. It's sensible to provide some alternate content for the mobile version, but not to ignore the advantages a computer can give you. Imagine if all the games on your XBOX360/Wii/PS3 were designed to play only as well and look only as good as they would on a Nintendo DS (not a knock to DS fans - I love my DS).
I've been meaning to write frequent blog posts about the site, both as a way to share the process of managing a news website, and as documentation for future Collegian web staffers.
This morning, we switched the library we use for our photo galleries. For a long time, we'd been using JonDesign's SmoothGallery, which was simple and served us well, but had its limitations. Specifically:
No dynamic resizing of images. If we passed it an image too large for its viewport, it would simply chop off anything that didn't fit. For the techies among you, I did a bit of investigation into the cause of this, and it turns out that the library pulls in images as a CSS background rather than a HTML <img> element. This has it's advantages, such as making the picture harder to save and reducing the amount of DOM elements on a page, but unfortunately CSS can't really scale down background images.
No support for any content besides images. This has only recently become a problem, but given that we now produce all sorts of multimedia, we found it essential.
No dynamic resizing of the caption overlay. This meant that long captions ran out of the box, and shorter ones left a lot of blank space. I probably could have added this into the source code if I had to, but it would have been a chore, especially considering the other issues.
I considered a few options to deal with these issues:
Our current lightbox library, mediaboxadvanced, can handle collections of basically any media type you can throw at it. Unfortunately, it is still a lightbox, and I didn't like the way that the "next" and "previous" arrows moved around whenever you scrolled between content of different sizes.
I briefly considered writing a brand new gallery, but I finally settled upon Highslide JS. In some ways, this was a peculiar choice - Highslide is first-and-foremost a lightbox library, and the in-page gallery it offers almost seems like an afterthought. Still, it looked beautiful, handles any kind of content rather gracefully, and could resize images no problem. The thumbstrip it uses works very well, and the captions resize and are fully customizable.
The code required to make it work is certainly tricker than SmoothGallery's, but after a few new database columns and a significantly rewritten gallery user control, it was good to go.
Interestingly enough, we're actually still using mediaboxadvanced for our lightboxing. Although it's not usually the best practice to host two libraries on your server (which each use between two and four external JS and CSS files), I truly feel like mediaboxadvanced is just a prettier, cleaner lightbox. In addition, using the same library to enlarge an image from the gallery it's already being displayed by is much trickier than it sounds.
I've been writing a post about how Interloper, our homemade media CMS which powers all of our site's multimedia, works, but it's taking me longer to finish than I would have anticipated. Look for that and a preview of what we've got planned for THON on this blog fairly soon.
I, just like most other 19-year-old girls, thought I knew all there was to know about social media. As it turns out, putting up Facebook statuses about going to the gym and constantly tweeting about the Jersey Shore doesn't exactly make me much of an expert at all.
It was my very first day as the Collegian's online manager that I had a serious reality check. All this time, I had used social networking as a way to simply let the world know what I was doing, and now all of the sudden I have the responsibility of informing people of news stories they need to get through their day.
This means a number of things: My updates must now be clear and concise and get the point across to thousands of readers, and I must read each and every news story thoroughly to ensure the information that I am passing on is accurate.
And of course I will eventually have to understand a whole new computer code language, which seems to be the key to designing the best website possible.
In other words, its time to get down to business and be the new "voice" of The Daily Collegian.
In a semester's time I plan on mastering how to single-handedly create website homepage layouts, upload photos and multimedia to the web while also attend daily wire meetings to determine where the top stories will be visible on the website. This will be no easy task, but it’s my job and duty not only to make the website look appealing to its audience but to make sure the readers are getting the information they need in a convenient manner.
So if you guys have any feedback at all, let the web staff know and we'd be more than happy to hear what you have to say. Oh yeah, and wish me luck!
It’s not easy maintaining a site like the Collegian’s. I honestly get whiplash sometimes when I think about the amount of content I am responsible for overseeing on a daily basis. It takes a lot of hands each night to design the layouts you see each morning. A number of people look over and approve our plans before they get posted to the website.
First, during our budget meetings when we lay out the paper, the homepage is also designed. We customize these for each day, picking the most important and interesting content to make sure that the site’s visitors get the news that means the most to them and affects them the most.
We also design the homepage based around multimedia we want to direct our visitors to. Obviously, you can’t run a video or a slideshow in the paper, but the website is perfect platform for unique content that can’t work in a print platform. Many of our stories have, at the least, a photo gallery or slideshow, and some feature custom-designed interactive to present the story in a fun creative way.
The sports and arts pages are also customized. The sports page gets a new design every day, designed by the sports editor at their budget meeting. Generally, sports is underrepresented on the homepage, so we try our best to present sports stories on their own page to represent the biggest and most important games and features that sports has to offer. Arts is only updated twice a week to highlight the staff’s special sections – Arts in Review and Venues.
Both of the online managers spend a lot of time gathering media and posting stories so that we have everything we need, both for a successful layout and to make our website as dynamic as possible.
So how does this all work from the technical side? We use two to five layouts a day. The index pages are actually defined by blog entries, just like stories and blog posts. However, the index page blog has a lot of custom fields which allow us to fully customize the way the homepage appears. At the top of this post is a screenshot of the code I used to design just one column of a recent homepage. As you can see, we have a system of attribute-value pairs that we use to select the story, add any images or media, connect the story to related content and tweak things like the length of headline or excerpt. These are just a few of the over 40 attributes we use to make each page of the website look not only visually appealing but connect readers to as much pertinent content as possible.
We’d like to hear from you. What do you like about the index page designs we’re using currently, and what don’t you like? What would you like to see more of? We want to know your thoughts on this ever-evolving process. Next semester will bring staff changes and other new developments to web staff, and we want to know what you'd like to see on our site for the future.