The Elements Of Social Media Style

Nearly a century ago, William Strunk Jr. penned a treatise on writing that has defined the craft for generations. As recently as 2011, Time magazine ranked the revised and expanded version of “The Elements of Style,” co-authored by E.B. White, among the 100 best and most influential nonfiction books.

But in the past decade, the expectations of readers have changed as technology has advanced. The art of writing has evolved to fulfill their expectations. To excel in this online era, communicators must learn to write for the platforms that readers use today. They must practice “The Elements of Social Media Style.”

ElementsOfSocialMediaStyle
Through my company Tabula Rasa Media, I explored this intersection between traditional and modern communications in a presentation to a global communications consultancy in Washington, D.C. A mix of lectures and interactive exercises, the class covered three broad aspects of writing — composition, creativity and courtesy (online etiquette).

Participants learned how to turn existing content into fresh online material, how to cater their writing toward different social media platforms, and how to coordinate content across those platforms. They also discussed real examples of social media successes and flops that illustrated both effective and flawed writing.

TRM offers this training to corporations, trade associations, nonprofit groups and other organizations. If you are interested, please email me at tabrasamedia@gmail.com.

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Judging Social: Modern Media In Court

Reprinted from Justice 2.0, a blog about social media in the courts
By K. Daniel Glover

The man who represents himself in court may well have a fool for a client, but the Indiana Supreme Court is doing its part to make sure that man is a little less foolish.

Over the past few years, the court has been producing Internet videos aimed at educating people who choose to represent themselves. The series includes introductory lessons, specific tips for various stages of the legal process and topical videos on subjects like children and divorce. Some of the clips have more than 10,000 views each.

Online videos like those on the Indiana high court’s YouTube channel are just one technique that courts — and some judges — are using to expand their communications horizons. As more people go to social media for information, the judicial branch is getting social to reach them.

“There’s widespread interest in the topic in the court community,” said Chris Davey, the public information director for Ohio’s Supreme Court. He has been spearheading research of social media in the courts for the Conference of Court Public Information Officers. “Almost every day there are courts that are starting to use some form of social media.”

Even the International Criminal Court has a Twitter account and YouTube channel.

The 21st-century court reporter
The Indiana Supreme Court is one of several U.S. courts on Twitter, a move that PIO Kathryn Dolan credits to changing media realities — and to her boss Chief Justice Randall Shepherd, whom she calls “a newspaperman at heart.”

“What we’re seeing nationally and globally is obviously a shift in how people consume news,” Dolan said. “They decide what they want to hear and learn about and go directly to the source in many cases. And we felt that it was important to provide that information and that means for them to gather that information directly from us.”
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Trial By Twitter: Real-time Court Coverage

Reprinted from Justice 2.0, a blog about social media in the courts
By K. Daniel Glover

Helen Ubinas was a lone voice tweeting in a media wilderness in January 2010. The Harford Courant columnist was the only journalist reporting in real time via Twitter during jury selection of a high-profile murder trial — an experiment she began by happenstance when the reactions of potential jurors intrigued her.

“Mostly I thought I was ‘talking’ to myself, just jotting down impressions of the young woman who broke down crying when she saw Hayes, the high-stakes lawyering taking place, etc.,” Ubinas said in an email interview. “But suddenly people started to follow me — and they began sending messages. I realized quickly that people were very interested in the case, in the judicial system. They wanted every single detail.”

By the time the jury found Steven Hayes guilty of killing three people in Cheshire, Conn., Ubinas was one of a half-dozen reporters covering the case live in news blurbs and sound bites of 140 characters or less. Their work amassed such a following that Hayes’ defense team blamed Twitter for creating a “circus atmosphere,” and the second defendant in the murder case, Joshua Komisarjevsky, later tried to keep tweeters out of the courtroom.

The reporter’s notebook online
The Cheshire murder trials highlight the increasing significance of Twitter both as a news tool in general and as a great gadget for covering trials in particular. Journalists can report dramatic testimony, legal maneuverings and more as soon as they happen, and they can do it in more detail than traditional media allow.

High-profile trials such as the Cheshire case and the federal corruption trial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, D-Ill., attract the most attention. But some local court reporters have made Twitter part of their daily routines.

The value of live-tweeting trials quickly becomes apparent to journalists who try it. They hear from crime-news junkies, lawyers involved in trials and especially family members of crime victims. “Family members who could not be in court thanked me for making it possible for them to ‘be there,'” Ubinas said of both the Hayes trial and another one she tweeted more recently.
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Your Guide To Pet Names For Politicos

Originally published at Beltway Blogroll

Children learn at a young age that if you really want to get under someone’s skin, make fun of their name. Bloggers have taken that skill to new heights in adulthood, as they try to score points against their political enemies by giving them memorable and sometimes mean-spirited nicknames.

Below are some of the ones I’ve taken note of since I started tracking blogs. I’m sure there are many more, so if you have a blog name for your least favorite politician, bureaucrat or media personality and want to expand the list, add your voice in the comments.

— Sen. Felix Macaca: Former Sen. George Allen, R-Va.
Sen. Smirk: Joseph Biden, D-Del.
Sen. Switchback: Sam Brownback, R-Kan.
Gov. Privatize: Mitch Daniels, R-Ind.

Tax Hike Mike: GOP presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (also called “The Huckster“)
Harry Potter: FCC Chairman Kevin Martin
Multiple Choice Mitt: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney

Senator Pants On Fire: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Both Ways Shays: Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn.
Pete StarkRavingMad: Rep. Fortney (Pete) Stark, D-Calif.

Pentagon Takes Fire Over Blog Briefings

Originally published at Beltway Blogroll

Last fall, the liberal blog Think Progress took the Pentagon to task for giving only Defense Department-friendly bloggers access to regular blog briefings. The Pentagon responded by agreeing to let Think Progress, and presumably other bloggers likely to be critical of defense policies, to future roundtables.

Al Kamen of The Washington Post apparently doesn’t read Think Progress, though, because today he ridiculed the Pentagon’s new media chief for how the blog briefings are organized. Rob Bluey of the Heritage Foundation didn’t take Kamen’s outburst lightly.

Kamen suggests that the Pentagon is limiting these calls to the “right bloggers.” That’s absolutely untrue. When I saw Holt speak at Blog World in Las Vegas last year, he made a point of stating that he reached out to bloggers of all political persuasions as well as those who cover military issues exclusively. Anyone is welcome to take part on the calls, but liberal bloggers have never expressed any interest. (And why would they when it’s so easy pontificate rather than report what’s actually happening.)In my opinion, Kamen’s piece is yet another example of an elite, mainstream journalist expressing jealously about the emerging role of bloggers in the information age. His cushy job at the Post could soon be at risk with the more Americans turning to blogs for their news and information rather than page A17 of the newspaper.

Netroots, DCCC Find Common Ground

Originally published at Beltway Blogroll

When Democratic bloggers first came on the political scene, they clashed with the party establishment’s fundraising apparatus in Washington. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in particular was a frequent target of netroots scorn.

Not this year. The DCCC has paired with the netroots fundraising vehicle ActBlue in a new campaign dubbed “Red To Blue” in order to raise cash for candidates fighting in some of the country’s toughest Republican strongholds.

Here are the details from an e-mail I received from ActBlue last week:

Not only is ActBlue partnering with the DCCC at this stage of the effort, ActBlue played a critical role in drawing the DCCC’s attention to the profiled candidates.Of the first group of “Red to Blue” candidates, eight have used ActBlue to build a community of supporters and raise critical early funds, and the remaining two, as yet unnamed nominees in Illinois and Louisiana, are being supported by ActBlue’s pioneering “Democratic Nominee Funds.”

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‘Beatblogging’ On Technology Issues

Originally published at Tech Daily Dose

Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at New York University, has brainstormed a trio of journalistic innovations into the existence the past year. The new project, Beatblogging.org, went online yesterday, and elements of it will appeal to the technology crowd.

The concept behind Beatblogging is to connect beat reporters with social networks of experts in specific topics who can help them do their jobs better. To test the theory, Rosen recruited about a dozen beat reporters from newsrooms across the country whose editors are on board with the idea.

As it turns out, six of the participating beat reporters will be focused on science and technology topics. The reporters and their topics are:

  • Eric Berger of the Houston Chronicle, science
  • Eliot Van Buskirk of Wired.com, digital music
  • Michelle Davis of Education Week’s Digital Directions, technology in the K-12 classroom
  • Brier Dudley of The Seattle Times, Northwest technology companies, like Microsoft and RealNetworks.
  • Matt Nauman of The Mercury News, energy and “green” technology
  • And Stephen Totilo of MTV News, videogames and their makers

You can get more details on each of those projects at Rosen’s PressThink blog and follow their coverage over the next year at the Beatblogging site.

You Can’t Say That In A Press Release!

Originally published at Tech Daily Dose

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is upset that the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today affirmed the right of entertainers Cher and Nicole Ritchie to use the swear words “f—” and “s—” on broadcast television — but not so upset that Martin refused to use the words himself, repeatedly, in chastising the court.

In a statement issued via e-mail, Martin used the f-word three times and the s-word twice. One example: “I find it hard to believe that the New York court would tell American families that ‘s—‘ and ‘f—‘ are fine to say on broadcast television during the hours when children are most likely to be in the audience.”

Using the words once to explain the ruling might be necessary (though readers certainly can get the point from hyphens as inserted in this blog entry). But repeating them multiple times is overkill. I wonder what Martin will think if broadcasters read his statement on the air this evening in reporting the court’s ruling and the reaction.

New On The Web: Politics As Usual

Excerpt from The New York Times
By K. Daniel Glover

THE Netroots.” “People Power.” “Crashing the Gate.” The lingo of liberal Web bloggers bespeaks contempt for the political establishment. The same disdain is apparent among many bloggers on the right, who argued passionately for a change in the slate of House Republican leaders — and who wallowed in woe-is-the-party pity when the establishment ignored them.

You might think that with the kind of rhetoric bloggers regularly muster against politicians, they would never work for them. But you would be wrong.

Over the past few years, bloggers have won millions of fans by speaking truth to power — even the powers in their own parties — and presenting a fresh, outsider perspective. They are the pamphleteers of the 21st century, revolutionary “citizen journalists” motivated by personal idealism and an unwavering confidence that they can reform American politics.

But this year, candidates across the country found plenty of outsiders ready and willing to move inside their campaigns. Candidates hired some bloggers to blog and paid others consulting fees for Internet strategy advice or more traditional campaign tasks like opposition research.

(Read the article)

The Online Curse Of Incumbency

Originally published at NationalJournal.com
By K. Daniel Glover

Bloggers of all political persuasions hate “the establishment.” If that wasn’t clear before last Tuesday’s primaries, it certainly is now. Voters in Connecticut, Georgia and Michigan handed electoral pink slips to three members of Congress, and blogs were a factor in all three upsets.

The Democratic Senate primary in Connecticut, where netroots hero Ned Lamont defeated Sen. Joe Lieberman 52 percent to 48 percent, generated the most attention. If blogs were published in newsprint instead of online, the Internet activists who fret about global warming would have consumed enough paper in writing about the Connecticut battle to destroy a rain forest.

But the role of blogs in defeating Lieberman went far beyond just ranting against him for his support of the Iraq war and other initiatives of President Bush. Bloggers were involved in the race from start to finish, as detailed by writer Ari Melber at The Huffington Post and the The Nation.

Lamont met with at least one key blogger (Matt Stoller of MyDD) early in his campaign, later hired another (Tim Tagaris) away from the Democratic National Committee, and used a third (Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake) as a volunteer production editor for his first video blog. Bloggers helped raise more than $300,000 for him online. They also followed his campaign across Connecticut and swarmed his headquarters on Election Night.

Before the votes were counted, some top bloggers tried to downplay their role in aiding Lamont. And when Hamsher embarrassed the campaign by painting Lieberman in blackface, Lamont unconvincingly claimed, “I don’t know anything about the blogs.” Now that Lamont has won, though, bloggers are beginning to boast of their newfound power within the Democratic structure.

“[B]logs are now vital parts of the party, displacing the lobbyist-lawyers-operatives whose organs were the New Republic and the Washington Post editorial page, and whose power flowed through their alliances with insular state machines and bigwig journalists,” Stoller wrote Wednesday.

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