Q&A: Ellyn Angelotti, Poynter Institute, St. Petersburg

83D: What's the most interesting, cutting-edge online interactivity out there at the moment?
EA: Foursquare has been very hot. I was the mayor and was getting people excited about it. The Foursquare app allows you to check in and earn badges. That's how I got to be mayor. Foursquare now it has a competitor in Gowalla. It's all location based. Facebook connects you with people everywhere. Twitter added the location element. The Foursquare and Gowalla apps allow you to search for places nearby. A user can create a community. You become the mayor because you check in the most in that community. It's another way for journalists to find sources. Users supply the information.

83D: Name your top 5 bookmarks?
EA: Foursquare. I use it everyday. It's a pretty young audience.
Facebook. It's a good cross-section of professionals and friends.
Twitter. Especially feeds for news organizations.
Mashable. It's a great site, where I always find something interesting.
Citizen Media Law Project, a project at Harvard that tracks legal threats in the digital world, trends in the courts.

83D: Which is the most cutting-edge?
EA: Mashable. Tech Crunch. Twitter. Yelp. I'm also focusing on what we can learn from successful online businesses. Farmville, online games, so successful. Zynga made $50 million last year. What are the lessons we can learn from that?

83D: What is your take on blogging as a form of journalism?
EA: Blogging has transitioned from being long, thoughtful stories to more tweets, shorter, briefer; it's more about guiding people to what others are posting. Yesterday, I saw a great interactive graphic on the Gulf oil spill. I later tweeted it out and posted to my Facebook page. Another example, I was really tired one night and was trying to figure out what to name a session here at The Poynter Institute about crowd sourcing and sports journalism. I put that out there and ended up with lots of suggestions. So we crowd sourced the title of a session on crowd sourcing. Pretty cool. Blogs aren't just about publishing something, but about starting conversations in a digital environment.

83D: What's an example of successful journalism in the blogosphere?
EA: The biggest came when the plane went down in the Hudson River. We had the city desk editor of The New York Times here teaching. Headlines started popping saying a plane had landed. His phone started ringing. We started switching back and forth between CNN, ABC, The New York Times websites. All had that a plane had crashed. Then we went to Twitter.com and the first thing we saw was the famous picture posted of people on the wing. Users of Twitter were all over the crash before traditional media could get on it. Another recent example, I was following Colonel Tribune, the Chicago Tribune's alter ego and saw a link on the Colonel's blog sending people to the Chicago Sun-Times. I sent a tweet asking why are you sending people to your competitor. The Colonel responded that they want people to come to the Colonel for breaking news, and that sometimes includes sending people to others' work to get the latest news. Blogging is transitioning into a collaborative, open source world where everyone can share information and content. Copyright is something we're still trying to figure out. Online media is constantly changing. We try to figure out what values are still important. How do journalists uphold values without compromising themselves?

83D: Given the instantaneous nature of online media, how much thought goes into what is being communicated?
EA: Journalists add context. Anyone can be a blogger. It takes someone from the community to provide the narrative, the whole picture. Instant info is like a snapshot. Readers still need the follow up, the rest of the story. It's a huge opportunity for journalism to survive. People aren't satisfied with just bits of news. Tweets can provide the breaking news, but then comes the long tail. That's where there are lots of opportunities for journalists to get more voices in the story, to add more depth and breadth to stories.

83D: How else has social media changed journalism?
EA: It used to be that once a story was published, the journalist was done. Now publishing is just the first step, just the beginning of the cycle. By adding sources, adding information, the story is evolving. You can republish the story days later and it's completely different based on added information. News has gone from being consumed to being interactive. Now with email, user networks, online info, there are so many ways that you have to pay attention. That's where lots of ethical issues come into play. Journalists have to weigh the importance of added information and interactivity. With everyone involved in news, it is to your benefit to listen to additional perspectives.

83D: Any advice about how to guard your privacy online?
EA: Remember that everything you put out there is public. Even if you put in place privacy settings, there is still a chance to see it. For instance, someone takes a screen shot of your Facebook page and shares it with others. Online sites can give you a sense of privacy, but it's like a walled garden. Lots of people now have two Facebook pages, one personal and one business. The challenge is how to distinguish. And just when you feel like you're reaching a good balance, everything changes when Facebook releases a new set of privacy levels. So anything you put out there, if it's taken out of context, can be personally embarrassing. There's a New York Times article, "I'm so digitally close to you,'' that talks about ambient awareness.

83D: What's next in the industry?
EA: More development in location-based media. Everyone is heavily invested in mobile. The tablet movement, the Ipad, netbooks that are smaller than the Macbook. The smaller units are lower speed but battery life is 8 hours. The whole touch function. Expect a really integrated user experience -- read text, look through photo galleries all in one place -- creating a huge opportunity for storytelling.

83D: Any other point you'd like to make?
EA: It's a huge misnomer that newspapers are dying. While traditional news organizations are getting smaller, at the same time people are more interested in news and information than at any other time. So here at Poynter, we're trying to shift to a focus on the skills that journalists have rather than on the delivery system. We're trying to find ways for former traditional journalists to be relevant. Rather than thinking about specific jobs, they need to focus on the skills they have and how to develop them. The evolution in media offers incredible opportunities for intergenerational workplaces where a young person familiar with digital media can learn lots from people with great years of experience and vice versa. Both should be trading, bartering to learn and share knowledge.

83D: How engaged are other Poynter faculty in what you do?
EA: The reaction here has grown from curiousness to general understanding. One of my colleagues who was initially slow to embrace interactivity now has become an expert on online ethics. I help and encourage faculty to be more interactive. Often all they need is a little help to apply my interactivity knowledge to their institutional expertise.

83D: You're now going to law school. Why?
EA: In teaching ethics sessions, I heard a lot, "Can we do this? Is it ethical?'' I have to be in a position to give advice. The law gives you that foundation, that framework for figuring out what the answers are.

Diane Egner, 83 Degrees publisher and managing editor, shares insights from thought leaders by conducting interviews and editing their answers for succinctness. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.

Read more articles by Diane Egner.

Diane Egner is the publisher and managing editor at 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida. 
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