Lost Stories distribution plan

Notes from Elizabeth Hoekenga on Lost Stories distribution plan

Focus on the headline. It can make or break your story. We will have headline-brainstorming session after the stories are turned in. To write an effective headline, you need to think about your audience and the platform where you think you’ll find that audience. And think of keywords that people might be searching for. Be enticing but avoid clickbait. (People won’t want to share stories that underdeliver.) Is your story an answer to a question people might be asking.
Deliverable: Think of different headlines for different platforms — Google, Facebook, Twitter — and pitch 3-5 for each.

Think of audiences for your story. Who can you find to share your story? An organization? A celebrity advocate? Another influencer with a large social media following? The communications person at an advocacy organization? Where can you find a large audience? Ask your sources to share on their social media networks. Play to nostalgia. (The “I remember this. Do you remember this?” tendency.)
Deliverable: Who are potential partners to share? What’s the approach for each one? Name 5-7 people/orgs to approach to share, identify the right contact and contact info for each.

Figure out a social media plan. How can AL.com’s social media channels get the story out? Why would your story work on a particular social media channel? What can you make to promote the story? (Elizabeth will send examples of ways they’ve promoted certain stories.)
Deliverable: Which platform? Here’s photo I would use. Here’s caption.

Thursday 9/8: Class at Gorgas 104

On Thursday 9/8, class will happen in Gorgas 104, on the ground floor of the library. James Gilbreath, a research librarian, will give you a digital tour of the UA resources available to you. He knows about the Lost Stories project and will steer you toward helpful databases and tools.

Do not come to Reese Phifer on Thursday 9/8. Go straight to Gorgas 104 and be there by 10:55 a.m. in case you get turned around and can’t find room 104.

Lost Stories schedule


For your Lost Stories assignment, you will work individually to research a photo from the Birmingham News photo archive. From this research, you will develop and pitch three story ideas. We will discuss these pitches in small groups and you will settle on one story to pursue. You’ll then report and write a story about or inspired by the photo. You’ll also develop an engagement/distribution plan for your story. The goal is for your story to be published (with your byline) on AL.com.

Deliverables and deadlines

All of the following should be delivered in two ways: 1) two hard copies brought to class on the due date, and 2) a Google Doc shared with me at chip.brantley@gmail.com.

August 30  – Come to class with your top three photo choices. There will be some overlap with your classmates. That’s OK. We’ll concoct some fun way to determine who gets what.

September 6 September 9 September 13 – Backgrounder on the photo due. This summary of the photo should be a minimum of 300 words and it should answer the basic who, what, when, why, where of the photo. You will figure all this out by finding archival stories and doing other research.

September 13 – Three story pitches due. Each pitch should be minimum of 150 words and should articulate a clear story idea (as opposed to a topic or issue — we’ll discuss the difference). The three pitches should be composed in one Google Doc.

September 15 – By the end of class on this day, everyone will have an assigned story to work on.

September 22 – Audience engagement/distribution plan for the story due. If/when AL.com publishes your story, who will the target audience be?

September 29 – Final story due. The final story should be at least 800 words (unless you have a convincing reason it should be shorter than that).

Questions? Leave them in the comments.

Assignment for Tuesday 8/30

1) Read these Lost Stories stories:

2) Choose 2-3 of these stories, and in the comments, leave some thoughts on what you think works and what questions you have about the stories — the focus, approach, the voice, etc. Think about our conversation about the fire-behind-football-game story.

3) Look over the Birmingham News photos in Dropbox. (Captions are in a Word doc at the bottom of the page.) Come to class Tuesday with your top three. In the meantime, if you feel strongly about one (or more) of these, email me and let me know why.

4) Look over the schedule for the Lost Stories project and let me know if you have any questions about the deadlines. We will talk to Elizabeth at AMG next week about the engagement/distribution plan.

Assignment for Thursday 8/25

Read Fire Raged, They Played On, and the Photo Still Beguiles (in the NYT) and keep a list in a Google Doc of everything the reporter, Sarah Lyall, had to report in order to tell the story behind the photo. Before the start of class, share your Google Doc with me.

In the comments, leave some thoughts on what you think works and what questions you have about the stories — the focus, approach, the voice, etc.

Assignment for 3/29

1) Read Clara Guibourg’s 4 Mistakes in Data Journalism and How to Avoid Them and review Become Data Literate in 3 Simple Steps from the Data Journalism Handbook.

2) For your quiz, Make a copy of the spreadsheet of responses from the spring break survey we made and distributed. Using formulas in the spreadsheet itself or Fusion Tables, answer these questions for your third quiz. The quiz must be completed by 11:59 p.m. on Monday, March 28, 2016.

Good weekend!

Spring break beach reading

Over the break, please read Kathryn Schulz’ The Really Big One (sorry, people headed to the West Coast). It’s a great piece of journalism, full stop, but it’s also a great example of how data can fuel great storytelling. (That’s three uses of “great” in one sentence if you’re keeping count.) Also, read Oliver Roeder’s A Plagiarism Scandal is Unfolding in the Crossword World. It’s a great example of data-analysis-as-reporting.

We’ll talk about these when we get back to class on 3/22. We’ll also begin our important “Data of Candy” analysis then.

Have a great break.