Ninja School re-launch Day 2: Workshops with Steve Buttry

Steve Buttry, digital transformation editor at Digital First Media, will be at the New Haven Register Tuesday leading workshops on social media, blogging and building a digital-first copy desk.

Buttry led similar workshops Monday at the Register Citizen Newsroom Cafe in Torrington.

Have a question for Steve? Follow along here, type in the question, and Steve will answer it.

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Ninja School re-launch, Day 1

As you can tell by looking at the gap in posts on this blog and the gap in activity on the Ninja School Twitter account, the Digital Ninja School was essentially on hiatus through late summer and much of the fall.

The hiatus came about for a variety of reasons, including that Chris March, who had been most responsible for keeping things moving when he was Assistant Managing Editor for Disruption, left the JRC Connecticut group to work in Digital First Media’s Project Thunderdome newsroom in New York.

With a few weeks left in the calendar year, though, we’re re-launching the program with an emphasis on more closely tailored training sessions and on freeing up staffers to do innovating, enterprising work.

Folks from DFM will be in Connecticut throughout the week running a series of workshops on topics ranging from social media for local news coverage to data journalism and video workflow.

Steve Buttry, DFM’s Digital Transformation Editor, was at the Register Citizen Cafe in Torrington Monday leading workshops on social media and blogging for local news coverage, and on copy editing in a digital-first workflow.

Steve will be in New Haven running the same workshops today.

Here are some highlights from Monday’s sessions:

[View the story “Ninja School re-launch, Day 1 ” on Storify]

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Instagram: A tool for the digital journalist

In the digital world we live in, journalists continue to use words, images and video to share news and interact with the community they serve.

Photo by Alexandra Sanders

To the delight  of digital first journalists, the ways to share all those things keeps evolving. Enter Instagram.

It’s free and it’s a social network that helps anyone who connects to it share the world around them. The photos posted there can be edited; they can be shared right away with the users of social networks.

For digital ninja Alexandra Sanders, that means sharing the images that help her to report the news of New Haven and give others a look at the very fabric of the city.

Photo by Alexandra Sanders

Alex has numerous examples of her use of Instagram that demonstrate both that she is deeply connected to the city – in terms of knowing the news – and that she cares deeply about issues that affect its residents. She is part of the community.In the photo at right, for instance, Alex captures a quick and colorful moment as New Haven’s Mayor John DeStefano Jr. waves during the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade.

By using these photos on social media services such as Twitter and Facebook Alex instantly shares what she sees.

In another example, Alex has enterprised stories about the city’s homeless (see top image), delving further than just services that are available and similar issues, by getting to heart of how some homeless people feel about their lives in shelters they say constrain them.

Photo by Alexandra Sanders

The Occupy New Haven movement is another example of Alex using Instagram to put the community right there with her on the New Haven Green.

What occurred on the Green moved fast at times and Alex was able to show that action.

The image below here, for instance, offers a quick snapshot of action on the Green. Those are police officers carrying an occupier.

Photo by Alex Sanders

It was a way for people who may not have had time to watch a livestream still get in on the news. It is up close and personal.

Alex also found ways to use this tool for reporting feature news. This might not have quite the urgency associated with breaking news such as the removal of the Occupy movement from the city Green, but it shares what Alex is up to; it offers folks a chance to get in on the news.

In this image, below right, Alex captured an important effort in the city, Inside Out NHV, that shared the very thing we notice the most: human face.

Tech crunch reported this month that there are 80 million registered users of Instagram. They called it the “world’s most beloved mobile” app.

It’s an app that also can show beloved moments of a community. Alex has done just that. Any digital ninja can do the same.

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Register reporter examines pros and cons of Facebook subscribe feature

Susan Misur

As she closes in on her Ninja belt in social media, we asked New Haven Register reporter Susan Misur to give us a report on the pros and cons of journalists using the Facebook subscribe feature. Here is Susan’s take — and note her effective use of crowd-sourcing to arrive at her conclusions!

From Susan:

One of my ninja belt goals was to evaluate the usefulness of Facebook’s new subscribe feature, even though I already had a professional profile with more than 2,500 “friends.”

You can turn on the subscribe feature if you already have a Facebook profile. You can see a list of your subscribers just as you can with your friends. But it’s definitely not user-friendly or intuitive and it’s not entirely obvious that you have it after you turn the feature on.

Pros for subscribe:

The subscribe feature seems most appropriate if you still only have a personal profile for real friends and family but want to interact with sources and residents in your towns. In that case, you can turn on the subscribe feature and only allow subscribers to see certain posts.

Subscribe is great for celebrities because it’s assumed they can’t get to know every single “friend” or fan.

Cons for subscribe:

I’m definitely more in favor of a professional profile for journalists, so my con list if much larger for the subscription feature.

It does not seem to be the best tool for journalists who already have established professional profiles and a presence on Facebook. As reporters covering towns, we need to know who the residents are and learn more about our beats through their posts, and we can do that by friending them.

I asked my Facebook friends what they think of subscribe and received a lot of comments.

I thought Richard Wilson’s comment, “If ‘reporters’ want to truly get to know others and want to connect with the public without being self-aggrandizing then they should have profiles,” is interesting and telling.  People join Facebook to interact with others. If I don’t friend people and only allow them to subscribe to me, I’m not learning anything about them or what they’re posting about in their town. That makes it seem that I am not interested in them and what they are saying, when the opposite is true.

People also want to friend other people on Facebook to increase their friends count, as well as interact and build a profile, etc. But if people can only subscribe to someone’s profile, that does not make them look more popular or “cooler.” They might benefit from reading your statuses and posted articles, but it does nothing to increase their friend numbers. I started with Facebook when it first came out, so trust me—I know the friend number is important to many.

Additionally, it appears Facebook has a few kinks to work out with the subscribe feature. At first when I turned mine on, I asked people on my Facebook if they could see it, and they couldn’t. And I couldn’t either. There was no real way to tell if I had done it correctly until I started to get subscribers.

However, when I soon began to get subscribers, I realized that some people are automatically subscribed to me until I friend them back. I have checked my subscribers list and then friended a few people, and noticed that the people I just friended immediately came off the subscribe list. So while it’s great to have subscribers, it’s not so great when the people didn’t actually want to subscribe — it just happened automatically.

I first thought that turning on the subscribe feature would give you the opportunity to create a page within your profile that people could go to. For example, I thought I would make a West Haven page that Westies could subscribe to within my profile.

So in my opinion, if a reporter has a professional profile, it should be completely open, and then you don’t need to try and have subscribers. Facebookers seem to prefer friending reporters and others who are local and then subscribe to celebrity pages.


Assistant Managing Editor for Disruption Chris March said he agrees with Susan that “friends” is a far more engaging means for a local beat reporter. But he offers an additional thought on instances in which the subscribe feature can be a plus. He notes that Dan Petty from DFM’s Denver Post ( was followed by thousands recently for his coverage of the Colorado fires. He garnered more than 42,000 subscriptions. When a “big story” comes along, you sometimes do enter “celebrity” status, Chris notes. So he believes journalists can (and probably should) turn on subscriptions and still employ the friend method. “It doesn’t change anything, it just limits you less. You can still go in and choose to friend your subscribers from the list.”

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Photo editor livestreams Fourth of July party and fireworks

When I asked my photo editor, Cathy Avalone, to livestream the July 4 fireworks in Middletown, she immediately started to think about ways to make it more fun.

Then she grabbed her MacBook Pro and ran outside to the pre-firework festival outside City Hall. She livestreamed herself – starting with the elevator ride from the office – and a reporter interviewing people full of anticipation for the Big Event. CLICK HERE to check out her video and CLICK HERE to see some fireworks.

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Middletown Press reporter learns video editing skills

Middletown Press reporter Jeff Mill edits video clips.

Middletown Press reporter Jeff Mill was one of the first people in the newsroom to embrace the new Flip cameras when we got them two years ago. His camera is always neatly tucked into his chest pocket when he heads out to an assignment, and he will take it out to shoot video when the situation calls for it – whether it’s a car crash or a parade.

However, Jeff used to be one of the reporters who came back from an assignment, picked a person in the newsroom who looked skilled and trustworthy, handed his camera over and said “here.”

Then, he expressed an interest in leaning to “do it all” on his own.

Through coaching, instructions and support from co-workers, Jeff has now mastered the skill of basic editing in the free Flipshare program that comes with the camera, which lets you trim clips and put them together into a movie.

Jeff’s first video edited without anyone else by his side was this one from the Cromwell Memorial Day Parade. He put together eight different clips, added a title and credits to the movie and successfully uploaded it into Syndicaster, our video platform.

The next day, he covered a press conference in East Hampton at a factory that had burned down, and he came back and put together this video. His second video was a combination of clips that he and Photo Editor Cathy Avalone had taken at the site. But Jeff did all the editing and uploading himself.

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Reporter learns about podcasts

When covering the Winsted Memorial Day parade, Register Citizen reporter Jason Siedzik

Register Citizen reporter Jason Siedzik

decided to try out making his first podcast as part of his goals for the first Digital Ninja School belt.

This first podcast features Mayor Maryann Welcome’s remarks, and Jason also does an intro and an outro where he encourages questions and comments from readers.

CLICK HERE to listen to the podcast.

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