Copy editor for the Austin American-Statesman, Amy Zerba, speaks to communications class about multiplatform journalism

By Daniel Temple

Nov. 16, 2008- Amy Zerba, a copy editor, Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas-Austin and journalism researcher was in town Friday to talk with communication students about the public interest in multiplatform journalism. 

Amy Zerba speaks to communication students about multiplatform journalism

Amy Zerba speaks to communication students about multiplatform journalism


            Prior to Friday’s discussion, Zerba administered a survey to the class in which she asked students why they think multiplatform journalism is so popular.  The most common student response she said was interest. 


Public Interest in multimedia journalism


“That’s the word that appeared the most in your responses,” she said.  “I wrote my thesis on why people click on multimedia links and the biggest contributing factor had to be that people found these links more interesting than your traditional news sources.”

            Zerba attributed this public interest to a number of reasons, including the basic desire to learn and curiosity.  Zerba believes that multimedia news is a fairly new and exciting component of today’s media.  Many people, who are unfamiliar with multimedia features, are intrigued by the possibilities, and thus are extremely willing to click and learn more.

            “I think that main thing is people are still learning, and they’re willing to explore the process and continue to learn,” Zerba said.  “People are curious because it’s cool right now, but what’s the next cool factor going to be?”

            Zerba also explored possible reasons as to why people don’t click on multimedia links, citing technological difficulties as the usual explanation. 

            “Usually you’ll find people avoid multimedia links because of plug-ins or loading troubles,” Zerba stated.  “You’ll also see some people that avoid them because of bad past experiences when dealing with multimedia links.” 


Business and financial reporting


            Going back to the survey, Zerba reported that the most popular news subjects students were interested in were weather (93%) and entertainment (83%).  On the flip side of things, 82% of students said that business and finance was the least interesting subject in the news. 

            Zerba then began a class discussion on why students believe business and financial reporting is the least interesting of news topics.  In response, students said that the stories were “too dense” and “contained too many numbers”. 

            “Business and finance certainly takes a little more effort than other genres,” Zerba said.  “You have to really try and make it more comprehensible and definitely more interesting.” 

            Students were then asked to visit the New York Times online site to read and respond to a business article discussing the bail out plans for the U.S automotive industry.  Zerba asked each student to write down questions they had concerning the article as well as improvements or changes they would have


Zerba leads a class discussion on business and financial reporting

Zerba leads a class discussion on business and financial reporting


            Many students said that the article failed to inform the reader as to why the automotive industry was failing.  Others were confused with undefined terms such as “lame duck” and “the Big 3 of the automotive industry”. 

            The class also had a number of ideas as to how the article could be improved.  These ranged from implementing a more human side to the story, to creating visual graphics that would entertain and inform the reader about the issue. 

            “The question you have to ask yourself is how do you tell this story differently?” said Zerba.  “How would you present this so that it’s more appealing visually?”

            Zerba concluded her discussion with some advice for the students.  She said reporters must always try and think like the reader, so as to write in a way that the average, every day citizen would want to read it.  Zerba also said that a good reporter must answer the big questions, and always try and use the best medium possible to explain their story.

            “Good public reporting takes effort,” Zerba said.  “You have to know your readers and stories and figure out a way to bring them together.  That’s the beauty of the Internet.  You get these multiplatform sites that allow you to grab the reader’s interest and bring them into stories they wouldn’t normally look at. 

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One Comment on “Copy editor for the Austin American-Statesman, Amy Zerba, speaks to communications class about multiplatform journalism”

  1. Janna Says:

    Hey Hobie, you got some good SEO keywords into the headline on this.
    In the written reporting, you did a good basic job catching some main themes from this presentation.
    The video is not really relevant because it simply shows a small portion of the class discussion about a topic that you don’t really cover in the story, so I suggest you take it down. It’s also shot at such a distance that the quality of the image is poor – yet another reason to remove it. If you can’t get closer to the subject than this when you are shooting video with the Flip, it’s almost not worth using the video. Sometimes it might actually work better to do some frame grabs and use just the sound from the Flip – a sound clip with still photos.
    You have excellent reporting instincts, and when you concentrate and take note of specfic details you can be quite good at this work. You could have done even better if you had simply asked for Zerba’s e-mail address and then requested that she send you the data from her research on young readers or from her quick survey of the people in the Reporting course.

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