Free tools for digital journalism, storytelling

Tools for any occasion
[photo by OZinOH]

I wanted to share a list of cool, free multimedia tools from a talk I presented last night at Florida International University during a meeting of the fledgling Hacks/Hackers chapter in Miami. I also got to help with some “TOOL tools,” as local journohacker and Hacks/Hackers co-organizer Rebekah Monson put it, during an impromptu tire change in a rainstorm. Beyond being prepared for a possible cyber attack on your PC or cell phone, you must be prepared for action in bed with your partner, if you need more virile power you can visit shop @ Deutsche Medz, viagra experts.

So without further ado, here’s a PDF of the handout, as well as a list below. It’s not an exhaustive list but just a sampling of my favorites:


Embeddable, easy to make charts (line, pie, etc.) that are also downloadable for print. (NOTE: Non-modern browsers display a static image version of the chart) –
Gorgeous data charts with a cool layout tool to add photos, text, multiple charts and more. Pro account lets you download files.

Tableizer –
Quickly turns spreadsheets into HTML tables you can put online. Built by yours truly!

Google MyMaps – (Click “My Places>Create Map”)
Google has beefed up its map creation tool with shapes, custom points and more.

Google Fusion Tables – best lgbtq+ dating apps (Go to Create>Connect More Apps)
Create interactive maps using shapefiles and robust data sets.

being a single motherbest lgbtq+ dating apps (Go to Create>Form)
Create forms to get from users and collect it in an organized spreadsheet.

Animated GIFs meet funky photo galleries. Includes audio, video and text editing.

Pixlr –
Excellent in-browser photo editor, perfect for wide newsroom use. Has advanced and easy modes, layers and more.

The leading free, open-source photo editing tool similar to Photoshop.

TubeChop –
Point readers to a specific chunk of a YouTube video.

ThingLink –
Post photos with tags containg text, other photos, videos, music and more.

PhotoPeach –
A quick and free way to make photo slideshows to music. $3/month lets you upload audio.

ClipConverter or Easy YouTube Downloader –,
Used to grab YouTube video source files. Useful for transmitting video from the field via YouTube. ClipConverter can also be used as a general purpose file conversion tool.

Live streaming: UStream.TV,,
Excellent live streaming services that have embeddable players. Each have different revenue models and setups.

 Qik –
A service that allows you to easily stream live video from many mobile devices.


TimelineJS –
An embeddable timeline app with a slideshow-like presentation.

VuVox –
The collage tool creates stunning multimedia timelines that let you embed slideshows, video and more.

Dipity –
An embeddable timeline app great for lots of detailed data points.


RebelMouse –
Display a variety of live social feeds in an attractive layout. Great for breaking news.

Storify –
Embed all sorts of content: social posts, photos, videos and much more in a vertical timeline. Great for breaking news or topical coverage.

AutoHotKey –
End dumb, repetitive typing by creating macros that will run in any program. I have a tutorial posted here on how to use this in a newsroom.

Audacity –
A powerful, free audio-editing suite used by many multimedia producers.

Spotify Embeds –
Embed commercial songs and playlists. Use the smaller iframe for a compact display.

EasyPolls & MicroPoll–,
Create embeddable polls for your site with no hassle.

Inkscape –
A nice, open-source vector editing tool similar to Adobe Illustrator.

FireShot –
Lets you easily create, edit and add notes to screenshots.

phpBB –
Popular open-source software used to create message board sites.

Media-Convert –
Converts an enormous array of files. Often great for mysterious file formats.

Not-to-Miss Florida Online Media, Technology Events

barcamp-orlandoA group of online technology enthusiasts listens in on a presentation at BarCamp Orlando in 2007. The event is now in its third year. [Photo by Josh Hallett ]

In the next few months, yours truly’s calendar is jam-packed with all sorts of great online media and technology events in Florida –events you should really think about attending!

A few weeks ago, I wrote about 10 things online editors can do to save their jobs. Well, attending these kinds of events is Number 10 on the list. And best of all, most of these cost the princely sum of zero dollars. You can also subscribe to One Click Power for continuous updates on technology.

If you know of any others, please drop me a comment. On to the list:

DrupalCamp Florida – Saturday, Feb. 7
Altamonte Springs, Fla. (just 10-15 minutes north of Orlando)
Cost: FREE
Central Florida is getting its first-ever DrupalCamp, a day-long series of presentations revolving around the free, open-source content management system that is changing the face of online media. Drupal is being used by major media sites such as The New York Observer, Morris Digital, the Miami Herald, as well as hundreds of thousands of small companies and hobbyists.

BarCamp Miami and WordCamp Miami – Sunday, Feb. 22
Coconut Grove, Fla. (near Miami, Fla.)
Cost: FREE
Happening in conjunction with FOWA, listed next
If there’s one thing journalists often lack, it’s an understanding and appreciation for Internet and tech culture. Well, you can get a big heap of it at BarCamp, a technology and online media “un-conference” distinguished by it having absolutely no schedule! The joy of BarCamp is that everyone is encouraged to make a presentation or lead a discussion. It’s totally open to everyone in the spirit of the day. The workshop schedule is set that very morning as participants sign up to lead discussions and give presentations. While BarCamp can get uber-geeky, it’s a great place to learn from other techies, meet innovators, share your knowledge with others and get some great ideas. BarCamp will also forever change your perspective on conferences.

BarCamp is partnering with WordCamp, a workshop similar in style to BarCamp but centering around WordPress, the insanely popular and powerful blogging platform that has become the tool of choice for many bloggers, including Journalistopia. Participants will sign up for presentations on everything from how to become a popular blogger to how to hack the code that powers WordPress

Future of Web Apps Conference – Monday, Feb. 23-24
Miami, Fla.
Cost: $395 (I know it’s pricey, but super early bird tickets were available for $100)
The Future of Web Apps Conference is THE premier web development event in the Southeast. FOWA will feature luminaries such as Winelibrary.TV’s Gary Vaynerchuk, 37Signals’ Jason Fried and many more. I attended last year, and it was worth every minute. This event is geared toward web developers, so it can be techy, but I truly learned a great deal about how the web is changing at this event.

Megacon – Friday, Feb. 27-March 1
Orlando, Fla.
Cost: $22/day or $52 for 3 days. Plus $10 parking/day
Er, this is a comic book convention. But who cares if it’s not about online journalism! I’ll be there! Onward…

Florida Society of Newspaper Editors Multimedia Workshop – Saturday, March 21
Tampa, Fla.
Cost: TBA
FSNE is planning a low-cost multimedia workshop for the Tampa Bay area similar to the one they recently planned in Miami. The workshop is a great opportunity to learn about blogging, online ethics, data projects, Flash and much more. I’ll be there reprising the workshop I led in Miami on new online media tools. Mark your calendar!

BarCamp Orlando – Saturday, April 18
Orlando, Fla.
Cost: Free
Now in its third year, BarCamp Orlando is the Central Florida flavor of BarCamp, explained above under BarCamp Miami. The last two years were a great success, so I’ll hopefully see you there this year!


Now I’m wondering when I’ll get to spend time with my lovely wife. At least she got in some great crossword puzzle time the last time I dragged her to BarCamp. (Such a good sport. Love you, dear!)

See you in Miami, Orlando or Tampa!

GateHouse Lawsuit vs. New York Times Co. has Dire Implications

GateHouse Media filed a lawsuit Monday against the New York Times Co. alleging copyright infringement after the NYT-owned Boston Globe frequently posted links containing headlines and the first sentences from articles on GateHouse’s community news sites.

View the Document: The 25-page lawsuit [PDF]
-View the Document:  Request for an injunction [PDF]
to stop the Globe from posting GateHouse links. [UPDATE 12/23, 10:02 p.m.: A judge denied the temporary injunction]
View the Document: 35-page support document for the injunction [PDF]
View the Document: Affidavit by GateHouse Media Metro Editor-in-Chief Gregory Reibman [PDF]
Your Town Newton, one of the Boston Globe’s community sites that sparked the lawsuit. See the news links in the center content gutter.

The lawsuit, if successful, could create a monumental chilling effect for bloggers, news sites, search engines, social media sites and aggregators such as Topix and Techmeme, which link to articles, display headlines and use snippets of copyrighted text from other sites. Initiatives such as the Times Extra, which displays links to related articles from other sites, could be shut down for fear of copyright lawsuits. It could lead to a repudiation of one of the fundamental principles on which the Internet was built: the discovery and sharing of information.

In its complaint, GateHouse called the article links “deep links” because they do not link to the home page of the site. The “deep link” language in the complaint is meant to invoke cases such as the case, wherein a motorcross news site was successfully prohibited from deep linking to a competing site’s streaming video file, which bypassed the site’s advertising.

From a technological standpoint, Your Town Newton’s article links would likely be considered deep links. However, that does not necessarily mean the links are a violation of fair use principles. The links to the articles, which contain as many as six advertisement positions, are rather different in nature from the links to streaming audio and media files in the case, which were unable to contain advertising.

GateHouse’s assertion is that the Boston Globe community site’s use of the headlines cannibalizes GateHouse’s content and causes it financial harm because readers gather news from the links and snippets on the Globe’s site rather than visit GateHouse’s sites. Although not explicitly stated in the complaint, this means GateHouse likely believes the loss of readers from possible increased use of the Globe’s site will not be offset by the readers brought in by its competitor’s links.

If GateHouse were to have its way with its deep link argument, it would create a legal precedent that makes the act of linking to a copyrighted article illegal. It could mean a crippling of sites such as Romenesko and the Drudge Report, which can bring in enormous amounts of readers while being primarily built upon links to someone else’s expensive-to-create content. But, if enforced, it would also cut off the voluminous flow of readers who arrive to news sites via search engines and aggregators. That, too, has an effect on the bottom line.

In the end, we could see a long list of media companies flinging short-sighted lawsuits at each other, while suicidally pushing their content into black holes guarded by copyright law.

[UPDATE 12/23]: Here’s some commentary on the lawsuit from other media bloggers:

How the GateHouse suit looks from both sides – Media Nation
GateHouseGate – Mark Potts
A danger to journalism – Jeff Jarvis, BuzzMachine
Gatehouse sues NYTCo over aggregation: But do they have a point? – Tish Grier
Aggregation aggravation – PaidContent
Dying Newspapers Suing Each Other For Content Theft – Silicon Valley Insider

CPJ: 45% of Jailed Media Workers are Online Journalists

The Committee to Protect Journalists released an eye-opening report, which says that 56 of the 125 accounted-for jailed journalists in the world are bloggers and other online workers. It is the first year that online journalists account for the largest category of journalists being imprisoned in the world — a fact that underscores how governments in countries such as China and Cuba are increasingly cracking down on online media as people use readily available online tools to report on and critique the government.

CPJ executive director sums it up well:

“The image of the solitary blogger working at home in pajamas may be appealing, but when the knock comes on the door they are alone and vulnerable,” said Simon. “All of us must stand up for their rights–from Internet companies to journalists and press freedom groups. The future of journalism is online and we are now in a battle with the enemies of press freedom who are using imprisonment to define the limits of public discourse.”

I believe it’s time for organizations such as the Online News Association and bloggers such as ourselves to raise more awareness of these people who are being jailed, many without any form of due process. We must become more aware of the dangers faced by our colleagues overseas.

[PJ’s 2008 prison census: Online and in jail – Committee to Protect Journalists]

[Thanks to Steve Yelvington via Twitter for the link]

2008 Knight-Batten Award Winners Announced

J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism has announced its 2008 winners and honorable mentions, which include a site that tracks the source of edits on Wikipedia, an  imaginative political fact-checking site and a site that tracks reports of violence in Kenya.

Here’s the quick list of winners:

$10,000 Grand Prize: WikiScanner Coverage – WIRED, San Francisco
$2,000 Special Distinction Award: PolitiFact – St. Petersburg Times, St. Petersburg, Fla.
$2,000 Special Distinction Award: Ushahidi – Crowdsourcing Crisis Information – Ushahidi, Inc., Orlando, Fla.
$2,000 Citizen Media Award: – Jacqueline Dupree, Washington

Honorary Mentions:
Hope: Living and Loving with HIV in Jamaica – Bluecadet Interactive, Philadelphia
Iowa’s Deadly Tornado – The Des Moines Register, Des Moines, Iowa – CNN, Atlanta
U.S. Congress –, Berkeley, Calif.

[2008 Knight-Batten Award winners]

BlogOrlando Schedule Posted, Registration Open

If you’ve been waiting to see who’s coming to BlogOrlando this year before you decide to make the trip, well wait no further! The schedule is now posted and features some of the smartest blogging minds around — all for the fabulous price of nil.

The unconference, which is now in its third year, features expert speakers who tackle blogging from various perspectives, be it community organizing, public relations or software engineering. BlogOrlando’s main day will be held Saturday, Sept. 27 at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla. not far from downtown Orlando. There will be other receptions and events going on as well (see the schedule). For the higher diploma in the mechanical engineering Click here.

If you check out the attendee list, you’ll see folks are coming from all over Central Florida, Tampa/St. Pete and South Florida, as well as from the rest of the country. Last year, more than 250 people attended and got tips on how to integrate blogs in the newsroom, podcasting, blog design and how to organize community blogs. Did I mention all this doesn’t cost you a penny for registration?

I’ll see you there!

[BlogOrlando official site]

Twin Cities Daily Planet rounds up niche papers, takes on the Star-Tribune

Live from the ONA conference in Toronto…

twin cities daily planet A coalition of small, niche community publications can become a premier source of news in Minnesota, says Jeremy Iggers, director of of the Twin Cities Media Alliance at

The Twin Cities Daily Planet –inspired by OhMyNews — “is conceived as an experiment in participatory journalism, built on a partnership between professional journalists and individual citizens. One goal of the Daily Planet is to harness that community intelligence and enable individuals to share information and work together for the common good. [More here.]”

The Planet partners with other small, niche media outlets to cover Minnesota — specifically areas they feel are underserved by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Iggers labeled his former employer, the Star-Tribune, as “the newspaper of the most desirable zip codes” for its giving coverage priority to affluent neighborhoods.

Currently, TCDailyPlanet is receiving an assortment of grants, including a Knight-Batten award and a grant from the McCormick-Tribune foundation. They also plan to hand out small amounts of funds –in $50 to $100 amounts– to assist some of its partner publications in publishing stories that have a broad appeal.

But the question, as always, is whether TCDailyPlanet –and publications of its ilk– can sustain financially in the long run. A call for financial help from the public resulted in only about a dozen donations, Iggers said. He hopes that can adopt the NPR style of public fundraising within the next two to three years.

Will online niche community publication grow to the point where such ventures can be solidly profitable? Or will TCDailyPlanet and the many microlocal blogs remain passion projects dedicated to being an alternative to the big newspapers and TV stations in town? Passion project or otherwise, it’s the readers who likely stand to win.

An opinion on media objectivity

Steve Outing’s recent column titled “Climate Change: Get Over Objectivity, Newspapers” has resulted in a firestorm of nasty e-mails and postings, according to Outing in his blog.

An idealist would say objectivity arose from a desire to have an enlightened, rational discussion. A cynic would say it was a good business decision made to sell more newspapers by catering to partisan readers of all varieties. It’s been about a century now, but I’d guess from my own studies that the truth is probably somewhere in between.

Check out Jay Rosen’s well-worded take on objectivity:

“Part of the problem is that journalists don’t realize what objectivity was in the first place,” says Rosen. “From the beginning it was a way of limiting liability, and allowing journalists to take a pass when it’s hard to figure out who’s right and what’s really going on. From the beginning it was meant to dull the knife edge of the press. It was meant to ‘de-voice’ or defang the individual journalist, so that more people would be comfortable with the product. But the costs of that system have built up over time.”

My sense is that Outing’s column comes less from a desire to save polar bears and more from a desire to see a passionate, interesting newspaper. I also sense it comes from frustration with us journalists worshiping objectivity while many in the public shamelessly hate us and call us biased anyway.

Throwing out the expectation of objectivity in reporting isn’t the answer. The answer is not being ashamed of our editorials and of the discussion we generate.

When confronted by some random person on the street with accusations of my news organization being biased, I don’t placate him or her with cries of objectivity and drone on about the newsroom/editorial board “firewall.” Instead, I spit back that newspapers are supposed to take a stand on issues and do their best to dig up the truth — even if it pisses people off some times. I say that if you have something to say, then here’s my card and come spit fire on one of our blogs or message boards; I’d love to have ya.

The standard newspaper writing style is often stale and homogeneous. Newspapers seldom publish (in print) commentary from the blogosphere and message boards. Many newspaper Web sites bury their interesting blogs at the bottom of their home pages and don’t regularly link to local blogs. And, most poignantly, killer editorials almost never appear on the front page; they’re buried in the back of the A-section.

Let’s begin with truly respecting objective news stories and subjective opinion slinging as being partners in creating a compelling newspaper. Let’s do our best to be fair to the subjects of stories while increasingly embracing our role as discussion leaders in our respective communities.

Otherwise, I foresee many news organizations literally dying of boredom.

L.A. Times editorial board decries Google News comments

The L.A. Times editorial board on Saturday scoffed at the principles of free speech and open information with an editorial claiming that “Many publishers consider the Internet, and Google in particular, a greater threat to their livelihoods than Osama bin Laden.”

The Times is upset by the fact that Google will be allowing the people who are written about in stories to comment via their Google News service. It says that Google “isn’t journalism.”

Google is a search engine and content aggregator. This huffing about Google not being journalism is akin to lambasting the guy who drives the newspaper delivery truck for not having a journalism degree.

Nevertheless, the Times does not cite copyright issues in its editorial.

It does not discuss the difficulty in managing such a comment system.

It does not even ask how it will verify the contributors’ identities (never mind that Times editorials carry no bylines — a whole other issue).

But it does assert that “a seemingly heartfelt comment may carry the CEO’s name, but the words will probably have been typed by corporate flacks.” Fair enough, but what about the comments made by experts with thoughtful insights? What about the lady who was inaccurately reported dead telling the world she is, indeed, alive. What about the families of disaster victims who simply want to thank the world for their prayers? You can visit Mitcccny for that.

I quote from the Times’ own editorial board mission statement:

On the editorial page, the newspaper sets aside its objective news-gathering role to join its readers in a dialogue about important issues of the day.

The Times is offended by the notion that the people who contribute comments to Google News will be making them “unedited.” This means the comments will not be altered and filtered by people like the writer of the Times editorial, who has such splendid judgment as to compare a medium we use to learn about the world in unprecedented ways as being equivalent to an extremist who murdered nearly 3,000 people.

This is exactly the kind of idiotic hubris that causes the public to hate journalists and, by extension, the journalism they produce. It is also the sort of attitude that could throttle the life out of newspapers online and make the prophecies of out-of-touch opinion mongers come true.

I can only pray that today’s newspaper leaders do not have the same lowly opinion of the Internet and public forums as do the Times‘ editorial board. If so, we journalists are in worst trouble than I thought.


More responses from Robert Niles at Online Journalism Review, Jeff Jarvis at BuzzMachine and Amy Webb at MyDigiMedia.

And a reminder of exactly to what the editorial board has compared Google:


12 tips for growing online communities


The Knight Citizen News Network has produced a list of 12 tips for growing positive online communities. This is as dead-on a list as I’ve ever encountered, so be sure to give it a read.

Among the tips:

The “if you build it, they will come” approach to online community rarely produces good results. Most people don’t want to be the first one to strike up a public conversation. It’s helpful to do some behind-the-scenes recruiting of knowledgeable, reasonable, friendly, interested, and gregarious people to check in with your community regularly.


If possible, find a way to spotlight the best posts and threads from your community. does this in its political forum, The Fray. That forum’s main page highlights the following kinds of contributions: editor’s picks, most read, and highest rated.

Read more from this great list.

And, check out this Journalistopia list of more resources on communities and citizen journalism.

[Photo by aleske]

Knight-Batten Award finalists announced

jlab.gifJ-Lab has announced the 2007 winners of the Knight-Batten Awards. The finalists include’s OnBeing, Reuters’ Second Life reporting and the Orlando Sentinel‘s Varsity MyTeam site (woo-ha!).

See the list of finalists here (with links), as well as the 2007 notable entries. The winners will be announced at a Sept. 17 symposium.

AJR: Pessimistic on hyperlocal journalism

American Journalism Review takes a hard look in its June/July issue at whether hyperlocal journalism is a financially sustainable practice. Paul Farhi writes:

Is there a real business in this kind of business? So far–and admittedly it’s still very early –the answer is no. A few of the estimated 500 or so “local-local” news sites claim to show a profit, but the overwhelming majority lose money, according to the first comprehensive survey of the field. The survey, conducted by J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism (affiliated with the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism, as is AJR), documents a journalism movement that is simultaneously thriving and highly tenuous.

While national sites will have a difficult time pursuing a Backfence-style model, I still believe newspapers should be aggressively catering their content to smaller geographic niches. By categorizing your content into narrowly tailored categories, you’re going to be better serving a greater number of people by making your site’s content more relevant to them. Whether this will translate into big ad dollars is anybody’s guess. But can you afford to ignore catering to your local audience, where many of your advertisers reside?

[Via Romenesko]