Oh, what a beautiful (online) morning

The Internet is not new, but the tools that journalists can use on the job are changing daily. That bright golden fun-haze hanging over the online meadow sometimes blinds us to the creative solutions available.

From flu trends to patents, Google serves as a platform for information exploration. As David Cohn explains, “If you are a journalist, your job is to understand and insert yourself in the flow of information.”

Find the flow.

It’s true that a liberal arts approach is best: Don’t be a silo writer. Read abstract, provocative pieces like the Waffle House Index or how tennis intersects with music.

For instance, let’s pin down blogging for a moment. The activity grants me an opportunity to explore informational connections in a casual way. Few journalists blog, but 39 percent find story ideas on social media networks(The survey was for B2B. I’m curious about the overall picture.)

I check Twitter and Facebook explicitly to find story ideas. Google+ isn’t there yet. Google(-), maybe? I have my invitation. It’ll sit nestled at the bottom of my inbox a while longer.

For now, KOMU, here in Columbia, uses the Google+ Hangout function to engage readers in round-table discussions.  It’s not grilled cheese, but our TV station’s experiment leverages social media to the benefit of both journalists and the audience.

More old news: The Internet is this space that allows for best-practices to come forth from the marketplace of ideas. Without attending a conference on the East Coast, I have Univ. of Florida professor Mindy McAdams’  great cheat sheet for deciding on a proper story medium.

I can also admire comprehensive story coverage unlike I’d find in print, sans QR codes. A good example is USAToday‘s damage assessment of Hurricane Irene.

Much of life — online and off — is a series of opportunities. We live in an age where information is abundant. If you can’t find a tool, invent it. Then share it.

Remember: “People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.”

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