Top 5 Storify tips for journalists

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Storify can help manage the firehose of tweets, Instagram photos, Facebook posts and other social media tidbits that threaten to drown us daily.

The free service allows users to curate public social media content in creative ways to tell stories. For instance, several news organizations used Storify to report on events in Ferguson, Missouri, after a grand jury decided against indicting the police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teen. The Mashable story makes terrific use of tweets, photos and videos to put the reader on the ground in the aftermath of the decision.

Mashable Storify

Because all of the content links to its original location (and credits whomever posted it), Storify avoids copyright infringement — whether the Storify is freestanding or embedded on an organization’s website.

At the Kiplinger Program, we strive to #PracticeWhatYouTeach. Here are our Top 5 tips for using Storify effectively:

1. Set up your Storify in advance. 

Whether you’re covering an event or breaking news, save time by setting up a Storify template in advance. Think about how to organize the story. Write explainer text and create links to websites with supplemental information. Find an image that works as a dominant visual. Prominently display the hashtag you’ve decided to use. For our Kiplinger Digital Media Summit, we created a Storify organized by the sessions at our workshop. In advance, we listed the speakers and built links to their LinkedIn profiles for biographical information.


2. Plan for compelling visuals.

MasumaIn a breaking news story or big event such as a political rally or concert, you likely will find plenty of striking visuals and videos posted on Twitter and Instagram. Still, as a safety net, it’s smart to have several images in advance that supplement the Storify that you create: file photos, screenshots of key websites and the like. To keep readers engaged, you need to break up a sea of gray tweets with visuals. For our recent workshop, we asked Ohio State photographer Kevin Fitzsimons to capture images during key sessions and send them to us in real time. We also used screenshots from a Tweet Archivist analysis of tweets during theUsersTagSummit conference. Tweet Archivist is an affordable subscription service. We uploaded our photographer’s images, along with the Tweet Archivist shots, to our Flickr account for easy access in Storify.


3. Build your Storify in real time.

With a template and a little advance work, you’re ready to build your story on the fly. Storify’s design lets you search for content on the right side of the screen, then simply click and drag it onto your story on the left. You can search for content by hashtag, key word or user across various accounts, including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and Getty Images. As you create your story, you can insert text boxes as needed between posts for fuller explanation, description and transitions. Once you publish your Storify, you can copy the embed code to put it on your website or blog, as we did with our Kiplinger Digital Media Summit.


4. Avoid a Tweet dump.

It’s tempting to gather a bunch of tweets with a particular hashtag and toss them into a Storify. It’s far better to use Storify as a tool to write a story — interspersing tweets, photos, videos and other social media posts as examples along the way. Check out NPR’s coverage of the Scottish independence vote.

5. Use drafts for research and backgrounding.

There’s no law that you have to publish every Storify that you create. Journalists might use Storify to gather social media examples on a particular topic or news event. You might create separate Storify boards for various topics on your beat. You might create Storify boards to gather social chatter and posts about particular people whom you cover or plan to profile for a story. People who have posted about the topic or person might become sources for your story. Simply save as a draft. No one will ever know.

Doug Haddix is director of the Kiplinger Program and assistant vice president of Editorial Communications at Ohio State University.

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