Online Journalism: Thursdays 2009


the class blog for Columbia College Chicago’s Online Journalism class: Thursday edition

your work for next week

Your teams have been assembled. Now you need to get together and start making plans on how to move forward. You have a very important document due next week, an audience & editorial plan for your site. This plan needs to include the following and must be signed by every member of your team:

  1. A detailed description of your site. It is OK, at this stage, if the site idea has changed from the initial pitch, either subtly or dramatically. This should lead with a clear one-sentence description, and then build with a paragraph explaining the site & idea in more detail.
  2. Interviews with three actual members of the audience/community you’re targeting (new folks, not the same faces), about the space your site is operating in, not the site itself.
  3. Informed by these interviews, a discussion of the types of stories you would like to do and at least ten specific story ideas.
  4. A plan for the integration of tools and media beyond simple text/blogging.
  5. A basic plan for marketing your site: How will people find out about it? How do you connect with the communities that are already out there?
  6. An overall plan for the equal distribution of labor: How will you share the reporting work? The data entry? The coding? The images/video/audio? The marketing?

Please post your reports here, but also bring in a hard copy that–everybody now–has been signed by every member of your group


Filed under: group project work

4 Responses

  1. Molly Lynch says:

    Group: F Major
    Molly Lynch, Brett Marlow, Megan Ferringer, Eve Fuller

    Site Description
    F Major is a site for and about emerging female musicians in Chicago. More than just a place to check listings for local female bands or solo acts playing around the city, F Major fills a void in a community that is, more often than not, underrepresented. From the interviews we have done, we’ve gathered that if you don’t already know someone in the music business, it’s hard to know where to begin in terms of promoting yourself, finding venues to perform, finding other women to work with on the technical side, or to just have a place where people in the same boat as you can learn from one another.
    As of right now, the plan for our website’s content is to divide it between feature/profile/how-to pieces that will stick to its intended journalistic principles and an array of multimedia content (video, audio, calendars, photos) that is interactive and user-friendly to showcase the talent of the musicians we feature.
    All of us agree that having a strong presence in social media is essential to promoting our site. By using sites like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and YouTube, we are able to attract web-fluent users who want to find another Internet avenue to promote themselves on.


    Emily Webimeyer

    Interview by Brett Marlow

    When I spoke with Emily Weibmeyer, a member of a local female-fronted band, she told me the scene in Chicago is much like the rest of the music industry, it’s very male dominated. Female musicians or lady-centric bands don’t really have a place to connect and communicate with each other. She said for example, if her car broke down and she had to go to an auto-mechanic, she’d feel intimidated because she doesn’t know much about cars and wouldn’t want to be taken advantage of. But if there were a place where females knew the same, she’d be more than happy to go and talk and would feel more welcomed. She said the same goes for music, it’s easier to talk to female musicians or lady-centric bands because they’re dealing with the same issues of trying to book shows, trying to get the word out about themselves, and also trying to build a community where they’re welcomed and appreciated.
    For her, and her bandmates, they’re focusing on getting shows right now and playing live. For them, that’s what keeps them going and motivated to stay in the local scene, but there are struggles. She said there’s definitely a need for such a site like ours and offered ways for people to be more attracted to it like a listings page of upcoming lady-centric bands and also a forum or outlet for female musicians to trade tips or open the floor asking for or selling equipment, as well as offering other services or posting openings for slots in bands around the area. She also said she knew of only one female who worked as a booker at a local venue.

    Rachel Lindsay Kahn

    Rachel Kahn is 21-year-old student at DePaul University, who tries to heavily involve herself in Chicago’s music scene. She has been playing guitar and singing at various open mics, and sometimes in Subway stations for the past three years she has been living in Chicago.

    When I talked to Rachel about her needs within a website, she said see would like to see some sort of discussion board where other women throw out ideas, experiences and advice on their struggles in the business. When I asked Rachel about the most frustrating thing about current music sites, she said that most sites seem to have a lack of community. As a female just starting out in the business, Rachel would most like to see good female-friendly venues to play (and what they are like), contact info, general advice as well as information about recording studios.

    What Rachel hopes to see most out of this website is a knowledge base where people can go to a lot of different shows. She said that since most people attend shows because they know the person playing, this site would be a great way to introduce other up-and-coming female acts to create a greater sense of community, not just for the person going to the show, but the artists themselves. Rachel said that having a website like this would be a great resource for anyone wanting to start or expand their music career.

    Lindsey Hemmer

    Lindsey is a solo guitar player/singer/songwriter who has lived in Chicago for four years now. She has played a few small shows around the city, mostly in cafes or at Columbia’s monthly open mic night, Acoustic Kitchen.

    Growing up a music heavy family, Lindsey has known since a young age that music has been her passion. When I talked with her, she said she has yet to find a community or website with a Chicago focus that lets her know what’s going on with female music acts in the city. She said that she wishes everything wasn’t so “word-of-mouth,” and that there was a reliable place for her to go so she could know when and where other acts were and how to contact other women who could help further her career.

    Though Lindsey doesn’t consider herself someone who listens to predominantly female artists, she said that she still find it difficult to be taken seriously in a field that is typically dominated by men. She seemed very enthusiastic about the idea of the site, and even gave me more people to contact who would be interested in talking about the idea, which I am sure will be very useful once we get the site up and running.


    When it comes to marketing our site, especially as a beginning web site, we think it’s good to be realistic. Of course, we would make Facebook and MySpace group pages and hopefully get the word out via those methods. We’d also advertise (especially the things we offer) on, or other music websites. We’d explore other advertising options like banners on local music websites, but also it’s known that after writing or doing a story on something, those involved usually link back to the article online which I believe would also bring traffic to the site.

    As a group, we also plan on attending shows and covering them, so maybe we could work out something with a venue where we promote our site at shows like radio stations do. Using Twitter to post updates or to link to stories we’ve done is also a great way to lure readers in. The same goes for having a YouTube channel where we may post footage of a show we’ve covered and users come to our site for more content.


    Because our site is based around music, audio and video are two major tools that we will incorporate into our website. Whether we integrate video interviews or performances of female musicians, many users of our website will be interested in not only reading our stories, but hearing the artists as well. Visually, we would like to use not only video and images, but slideshows from shows or events that feature photos that may not have been used within the article.
    Another tool we would like to include with our website would be a calendar. The calendar would mark upcoming shows by female musicians, album releases, and other events. An additional tool we would feature on our site would be a listings and classifieds section like Craig’s List. The listing section of our site can be used for musicians who are seeking other female musicians, females who are looking to start a band, a place where instruments can be bought and sold, and job opportunities for females in the music industry.


    1. We plan to have a weekly feature of a female-headed band or solo female musician that or up-and-coming and making a name for themselves in the music community. Though the format of the story could vary, the idea would be to stick with a question and answer style.

    2. We will occasionally write “success stories,” which essentially profiles a certain female musician in Chicago that has started from the bottom and worked their way up in the music community. It’s more or less a “how they made it” story.

    3. We will talk to local record labels and write up a story that outlines how to score a record label contract, the best Chicago labels and who to contact.

    4. We’re planning to interview event bookers at a few venues throughout Chicago, such as Bottom Lounge, to get advice for our audience on how to book a show.

    5. We’ll write up a guide the best and most affordable recording studios for our audience.

    6. We’ll also provide another guide that lays out how to find a talented band photographer for publicity shots.

    7. We’ll write an article with advice on how a band or solo act can advertise themselves and promote their shows in the best way.

    8. We will write an article that provides resources and tips for purchasing new musical equipment.

    9. We will provide tips on how to hire a manager and give advice on knowing when it’s time to get one.

    10. We will cover financial matters for bands and solo musicians, such as the best ways to make money playing music, how to save money and how to know when it’s time to go to a full-time musician status.

  2. Kate Spethmann says:

    Healthy Eats for College-age People on a Budget
    Kate Spethmann, Jennifer Nunez, Lauren Wille, and Jennie Fajman

    1) Description:
    This site is a guide for Chicago college students who are looking to eat healthy while maintaining a budget.

    The site is ideally aimed at those who live in off-campus apartments, or student housing that include a kitchen. The site is mainly based around recipes that are added by both the site writers and readers. The recipes will range from snacks to all three meals of the day. Sure the website is based around healthy eating, but that doesn’t mean an Oreo can’t be thrown in here and there. The site will also include tips on how to shop smart. This meaning how to get used to buying no-name brands for a better price, or buying things in bulk to get more for your money. Another thing that would be included in this site is video tutorials on how to make specific recipes. One of these would be featured each week. Another weekly (or bi-weekly or monthly) feature would be a restaurant that practices healthy eating. Like Jennifer said, it would be a good idea to interview a chef and get a recipe from him or her. Also, nutritional facts will be included in all the recipes, along with a food pyramid to remind people what they SHOULD be getting on a daily basis.

    2) Allyson McGovern, 22
    Anything beneficial to my body or mind.
    I would eat healthier if it were cheaper.
    I do think I would have the time to make healthier food…I just have to follow recipes.
    I try and cook a good meal once a week or at least every two weeks. Other than that, I’m too busy so a lot of the time it’s a sandwich or pasta, whether i make it myself or grab it from Panera.
    Not really because our dorms have full kitchens; they aren’t really traditional dorms. It IS a pain in the ass to get all the way down to the grocery store though…

    Jennifer Hogan, 21
    Healthy to me is eating whole grains, less fatty food, no red meat, and a daily workout.
    Yes i would eat healthy if it was cheaper.
    If I lived in campus in a dorm, no because you are not provided with options to cook.
    Generally a small breakfast, an apple a granola bar and a sandwich for lunch, and a well balanced dinner with the occasional low fat desert. On the weekends I eat out but try to make healthy choices
    No, but I did for the past three years.

    Interviews, cont.–
    A- Stephanie Chau who goes to DaPaul. However she lives at home. She has always been the type of girl that can eat 5 big macs and not gain a pound; now, she has gained 10 pounds quickly now that her metabolism has caught up with her. She isn’t used to eating healthy and needs some help deciding what to eat to keep her from gaining any more weight. She isn’t that great of a cook either. She is looking for something very simple and cheap to make.

    B- Brian Ciupack; goes to Columbia College and has only lived on his own in the city for two years. He lives off of Subway and ramen noodles. He can cook if it simple and would like to add some variety to his grilled cheeses and Chef Boyardee. He doesn’t have a job, so his cash is limited.

    3) Story Ideas:

    A- Interview Chicago chefs and get professional advice on how to cook clean and fresh meals on a tight budget. Hopefully get a recipe that requires less than 5 ingredients.

    B- How to prepare a healthy pasta meal (because well, frankly, pasta isn’t known for its low calorie intake).

    C- How to shop for lean meats. A how to guide to picking the healthiest meat.

    D- A story that helps people pick healthy choices at restaurants.

    E- 5 meals under 500 calories with less than 5 ingredients.

    “10 spices you should always have on hand”: I personally, have no clue how to season the “healthy” stuff that I personally think tastes like socks…

    “Alternatives”: buying generic… is it healthy? Do we have to always lean towards the expensive organics to be healthy?

    “Healthy meals you can make in a microwave”: especially for those dorm folks…

    “Brain Foods” : what’s the best thing(s) for you to grab on your way out the door to class?

    “Cooking for one, two, or ten”: whether its just you, you and your roommate or a date, or your family comes to visit… here are some helpful tips on healthy portions and getting the most food for your buck.

    4) Integration of tools: demonstration videos, plenty of ingredient and “completed dish” imagery, and perhaps a sort of food pyramid/calorie counter that coincides with a grocery list planning tool.

    5) Marketing: Using networking tools like facebook etc. to get to our core audience. Post fliers in local eateries, college campus buildings and dorms, and grocery stores around downtown, etc.

  3. Michael Purgatorio says:

    1) Comedy Doctor provides guidance and foundation for up-and-coming comedians. Within our site we provide them with tips and tricks of the comedy trade. We also provide them with good locations and insights to the stand-up comedy profession.

    The site will also include an online networking survival guide, allowing users to add content freely – giving advice and sharing horror/success stories. Integrating this with constructive criticism gives a community feel to the website making the users feel more welcome. There will be an editorial section for original content that will showcase relevant industry stories on Chicago’s stand-up scene. An up-to-date news section entitled “Watch the Pros” gives users a chance to find out where big name talent is performing in the city.

    2) Interview 1: He wants a place where he can bounce ideas off other comedians. He says “nothing’s more frustrating than having a joke but not being able to being able to adapt into a routine. ” Chicago has such a young ensemble of comedians, it could use a place to network and openly discuss the industry.

    3) Our articles are meant to educate users on all aspects of stand-up. Here are a few we intend to publish:

    -How-to respond to hecklers
    -Reading your audience, what jokes work best under what circumstances
    -Building your set.
    -The anatomy of an audience
    -Q&A with a professional giving advice to up-and-comers
    -Shaping your voice, finding what jokes and style fits with your personality
    -Which open-mics to start at and which one’s to avoid
    -Where to find material
    -Taming the “stage fright beast”
    -Stand-up Etiquette: Does it exist?

    4) The site boasts an extensive shortcut side bar making navigation easier and a FAQ section to clear up any general concerns. A profile database and member roster will create a sense of organization and communal belonging – making it easier for user to user communication.

    5) Comedy doctor looks toward stand-up venues for publicity, a quick plug for the site before/after the show can arouse interest. Facebook and Myspace will provide a vehicle for advertisements with simple, up-to-date profiles. Short blurbs in the Chicago Tribune, Suntimes, Red Eye, The Chicago Reader, Chicago Journal… etc.

    6) The overall look of our site will be tailored by Emily. (Audio/Video/Images) The three remaining group members will work on the majority of the reportorial content, coding and marketing. Ofcourse job titles can change depending on demand – no one member is exclusive to a particular aspect of the site.

  4. Rachel Stapinski says:

    “Volunteers” via Google Docs

    A detailed description of your site. It is OK, at this stage, if the site idea has changed from the initial pitch, either subtly or dramatically. This should lead with a clear one-sentence description, and then build with a paragraph explaining the site & idea in more detail. (John:) (the working title) would provide user-friendly information, profiles and volunteer opportunities for students (geared towards ages 18-30) in Chicago’s Northside.

    These aren’t desk jobs answering phones or canvassing neighborhoods for donations: these jobs would be painting for homeless housing, preparing food at soup kitchens, homeless shelters and retirement homes, pitching in at food pantries, tutoring inner-city students, etc. (other opportunities in childcare, envionmental concerns, etc. too) But also ways people can volunteer without a specific degree or a place requiring a long application process or major commitment… (The Northside is just the beginning, if it proves to be successful I’d imagine we’d expand beyond the Lincoln Park, Lakeview area).

    But how can we make the site more than just a listing or a series of profiles? Maybe we can talk with community leaders or other volunteers to find out what the benifits would be from volunteering… Provide a top ten list of sorts? (Suggestions or concerns at the bottom?)

    Interviews with three actual members of the audience/community you’re targeting (new folks, not the same faces), about the space your site is operating in, not the site itself. (Ricky:)

    “I’ve always been interested in local community service, and I think lots of other Chicago college students have as well, so the site could probably be successful. The Northside is a good area to be based in. I think community service may appeal more to young people and there are lots in this area.”

    Nick Barnes (1-630-222-0989) is a student at Columbia College living in Lincoln Park.

    “I see fliers or promoters for community events somewhat frequently, but when you’re walking down the street most people usually just walk right by, especially when it’s this cold out. The Northside is probably a solid area to start off in because there are lots of young people. Kids from every major Chicago school live these neighborhoods. The only thing I’m not sure about is how many opportunities they’ll be every week. I know this area is pretty big, but I can’t imagine there is stuff to do everyday here. All over the city there probably is, but not just in a couple neighborhoods.”

    Nick Wilbat (1-847-322-2838) is a student at DePaul living in Lincoln Park.

    “Community service isn’t really my thing, but I know lots of kids at that just go to school and don’t have jobs that would would be into that sort of thing. If you can find a place to but a bunch of different opportunities from one area of the city, I think that could be a pretty good site. Especially in the Spring there are probably lots of organizations looking for help, and this would seem like a good area to start in.

    James Walsh (508-561-3107) is a student at Columbia living in Wrigleyville.

    Informed by these interviews, a discussion of the types of stories you would like to do and at least ten specific story ideas. (Maybe we can all search the web–lets all shoot for three each near northside Chicago– like on, and (these all provide contact info., any others you can find?) and put specific ideas of organizations we’d like to profile?):


    A profile piece on the Lakeview Pantry at 3831 N. Broadway

    As an ongoing opportunity, volunteers can come in on Thursdays to help unload trucks of food from various food depositories to the pantry location from 10am to 1pm. What would be interesting is providing information on who this organization serves, how easy it is to help (only skill: “be able to lift 25-50 lbs.”) them out and what exactly volunteers would be doing. We could get interviews with fellow volunteers and the volunteer coordinator.

    A profile and pre-event coverage of a charity event where students can volunteer at Holy Trinity High School at 1443 W. Division Street. They are having their annual fundraising dinner event with live auctions, a reception, live music, food, etc. on March 20th at the Marriott Hotel downtown to raise money but they need help to prepare. We could report on the event and also list and describe ways in which volunteers can help in food preparation, decorations, etc.

    A profile piece on the Alexian Brothers Bonaventure House at 825 W. Wellington Ave., which serves Chicago’s homeless. They need volunteers to help in the kitchen/dining area to help prepare food for the residents on Tuesdays and/or Thursdays for 2-3 hour shifts. May be provide interviews with the people who run this facility

    4. Several organizations noted that you need to attend volunteer training sessions to work at an event. We could do a feature story on what one of those training sessions entail, why they’re necessary, and types of things you learn there.

    5. A profile on the 16th annual Chicago Cares Serve-a-thon
    The Serve-a-thon (300 W. Adams) is the largest day of community service in Chicago. We could look at how it has grown through the years, and what it has accomplished.

    6. A profile on Ribfest

    Ribfest (4000 N. Lincoln Ave.) has been running the Wrigleyville neighborhood since 1999. It helps kick off the summer with 25 bands in 25 hours. We could look at the people who have been volunteering there since the events inception.

    A profile piece on the organization called Prevent Child Abuse America at 500 N. Michigan Ave., #200, whose mission statement is to prevent child abuse in all forms. The organization is currently looking for individuals who are willing to donate 1-2 hours per week, now through mid-April. These individuals will prepare shipments that are a part of the Pinwheels for Prevention campaign.
    A profile piece on San Jose Obrero Mission at 1856 S. Loomis. This organization needs individuals to come in on Fridays and help organize Friday Movie Nights for the Homeless.
    A profile of Cathedral Shelter of Chicago at 1668 West Ogden Avenue. This organization is looking for volunteers to monitor children Wednesday evenings between 6p.m and 7:30p.m.

    10. An informational piece on the Counseling Center of Lakeview because they provide counseling for children, adolescents, and adults dealing with emotional issues and/or mental illness. What’s interesting about this facility is that they provide mental health treatment for people who can not pay for treatment. Most places require that you have insurance or are able to pay out of pocket.
    11. A profile piece on Teen Living Programs on 3179 N. Broadway. They provide transitional and independent living, emergency shelter, and a day shelter which offers meals.
    12. A how-to piece on finding a volunteer opportunity that best fits your personality.

    A plan for the integration of tools and media beyond simple text/blogging. (Kasia:)
    I think that we can easily upload videos to the website. The videos would most likely be profiles of some of these organizations. They could also be interviews with people that are currently participating, or leaders of such organizations. We could also upload photo slide shows that would help the visitor of our website get a visual of how these organizations operate.

    A basic plan for marketing your site: How will people find out about it? How do you connect with the communities that are already out there? (Andrea:)

    Some ideas I had in terms of marketing were to advertise with local charities through some type of cross promotion…featuring their organization on the site in exchange for advertisement in their place of business. Since we all attend Columbia, advertising the site at Columbia events that are service focused (such as the anti-apartheid exhibit going on right now at the library) would be great places to advertise, because the audience attending these events will most likely already be involved in volunteerism or display an interest in servicing communities. Additionally talking to service-oriented groups at Columbia (and other local colleges) or faculty advisors is another way to go with marketing. We could also place flyers in local grocery stores, boutiques, bookstores, etc…places our target audience visits frequently.

    An overall plan for the equal distribution of labor: How will you share the reporting work? The data entry? The coding? The images/video/audio? The marketing? (We should all put in some ideas here):

    (insert text here)

    John: I feel like we can all easily come up with organizations to profile, we just have to search for them and make sure they offer an easy-to-do volunteer activity worthwhile to readers of the site. Google Docs seem pretty easy to use for collaberation, I’m sure we can take photos ourselves of these places, and maybe we can try to participate in one of these oppertunities and bring a flip camera or something for an interview with other volunteers at some point down the road…

    Kasia: I think we should cover the story ideas we came up with individually. I think it will be difficult for us to meet outside of class. If we decide in the beginning who’s doing which story, that person will be responsible for doing so and therefore we can work individually and combine the pieces and stories once the website launches.

    Andrea: I feel the same in finding organizations to profile. In terms of constructing and maintaining the site, I think that one person should focus on one aspect of the site (for example, coding)

    Ricky: It’d be best to give one task per individual, but I feel like some we’ll need to team up on. I’m not sure if any of us are experts at HTML, but we could probably figure it out together. Pictures, video, reporting…that’s stuff we can handle as a group.

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