Teaching “old” skills in a new way: How a journalism instructor integrates Storify in news writing classes

This guest blog is contributed by Maureen Boyle, journalism program director at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts. Maureen has been integrating Storify in news writing classes and has some teaching tips to share with fellow instructors.

Storify is a quick, easy way to teach students how to use social media for news writing

Showing students how to structure online news and feature stories using social media can be simple – and fun – with Storify.

At least that’s what I’ve found in the past two years with my students at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts. Two years ago, after reading Mu Lin’s tips on how to use Storify as a reporting tool, I began integrating the social media platform in classes: first in the advanced news writing course then in the basic news writing class.

The results? Online stories told with just the right amount of seriousness and humor, weaving in expert and “man-on-the-web” voices and images to provide accurate news accounts.

Pulling tweets into Storify showed students the importance of including the voices of average people in a story. It also removed that initial (and sometimes mind-numbing) fear of approaching and interviewing strangers some new journalism students have.

Crafting the Storify forced students to learn “old” skills in a new way

Writing, researching, editing and properly sourcing stories are decades-old skills taught in journalism classrooms. With Storify, students expand those skills by writing headlines, thinking visually, finding credible website research information to include as links and developing tight story structures. Students also see the results of their work online immediately.

Use of the Storify format in the journalism classroom helped students:

  • Develop better web skills
  • Learn how to incorporate social media into reporting
  • Learn to integrate video, photos, tweets, online sources and original writing
  • Learn to use humor to keep a reader engaged
  • Learn how to craft a listicle

Students realized there are what seems to be an endless number of places to get information. More people are talking online via social media and tapping into this resource provides a wide range of previously unheard voices, students discovered.

The students discovered memes, Vines, Gifs and Youtube can lighten a dull story and keep the reader on the page.

This Storify by a student, Christina Russo, is a good example:

Another student at Stonehill College, Liam Dacko, found crafting Storify pieces helped him create listicles for an entertainment website he interned at in California. In an email, Dacko wrote:

At Storyverse Studios, I am responsible for writing Buzzfeed-style listicles for the company’s 33 websites. I would certainly say that using Storify in the classroom has helped me acclimate to this new form of journalism. Using Storify teaches you to keep your writing tight and concise, which is certainly useful in all forms of reporting, whether it be traditional or Buzzfeed-style journalism. Using Storify also helps you realize the power of images. Student journalists are often so focused on fine-tuning their writing or finding the perfect hook that they often take for granted the fact that an image can help them tell their story. By using Storify, you are forced to rely on images, whether they be amusing or dramatic, to complement your written work and help you tell your story. As journalism continues to march toward the future, I believe the need to use Storify in the classroom will only increase. This industry is changing. Audiences crave shorter, image-based pieces. Storify is the perfect tool to help teach young reporters how to satisfy those cravings for their readers.

The most effective Storify assignment I’ve given called for students to use tweets, online story links, a video, photo and a gif to tell a story. Each student in the class was also required to tweet on the subject. Students could use the tweets of fellow students or other tweets they found. The assignment, given during what seemed to be endless snowstorms in Massachusetts, provided some entertaining results, as this one by Jared Chandler shows:

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If you teach digital journalism and communication courses, please consider doing a guest blog for us sharing some of your tips and resources with other instructors. Contact: mlin@mulinblog.com.

About Mu Lin

Dr. Mu Lin is a digital journalism professional and educator in New Jersey, United States. Dr. Lin manages an online marketing company. He also manages MulinBlog Online J-School (www.mulinblog.com/mooc), a free online journalism training program, which offers courses such as Audio Slideshow Storytelling; Introduction to Social Media Marketing; Writing for the Web; Google Mapping for Communicators; Introduction to Data Visualization; Introduction to Web Metrics and Google Analytics.
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