Storify: A New Way of Reaching the Masses

Introducing Storify

Storify first appeared in the journalism scene back in September 2010, being an invite-only site at first which then became open to public in April 2011. This particular social network tool aims to collect and curate stories scattered across a various range of social media and then arranges the collected pieces into a full story, provided with your own narrative.

Figure 1-1: Storify’s homepage, where you can check out the collection of pieces done by people and organizations around the world.

Storify is slowly bringing journalism to a whole different level, where the ability to form and obtain on-the-fly news and reports is becoming the norm. News organization, Al Jazeera is already using Storify as a platform for citizen journalism, called The Stream where they collect stories from all over using different angles and gives readers a chance to let their voices be heard. For the budding journalist, Poynter.org goes into a bit more detail into the 5 types of stories that make good Storifys. But really, these don’t have to be a sort of “guideline” because Storify has no limit as to what you can do with it. In fact, there is an article which talks about Storify being used to cover any type of meetings or workshop events and even surprisingly to create a work resume.

The more in-depth background of Storify is explained in this video, and shows how we are integrating Storify into our news reporting, as with constructing and consuming information through social media.

Figure 1-2: The Create Story options.

This report aims to show how Storify is used, hand-in-hand with science journalism using the affordances theory. As defined by Hutchby (2001), affordances is the “functional and relational aspects which frame, while not determining, the possibilities for agentic action in relation to an object”. Affordances is split into two areas: that is, technical and purposive. Technical refers to what the service allows or constrains you to do whereas purposive would be whether it encourages or discourages you to do in a social, cultural and logical context.

Literature Review

With the emergence of social media, it would certainly be safe to say that news has taken on a whole new form in which journalists can aggregate information from so many different sources. Nevertheless, it can be subject to bias, and information gets omitted or twisted to create the “perfect” story. Anyone with a working Internet can upload their stories, from their point of view, which admittedly brings citizen journalism to a whole new level. But Niles (2012) states that, “the journalism convention of reporting multiple viewpoints can just obscure the truth if you don’t find a way to show your readers which points of view are supported by evidence, and which are not.” The problem is that most journalists end up being uncritical about their sources, which in turn leads to imprecise distribution of events. This rings true when it comes to cases such as scientific breakthroughs or new findings, because what sells is “sensational” news. As de Semir (2000) noted, most reporters would come up with catchy titles when presenting science in order to capture attention and often scientific news would consist of killer bacteria or miraculous therapies, and a general misrepresentation of information. Moreover, it cannot be denied that with authority comes credibility, since statements made by respected specialists would be taken at face value, without validation. Because journalists do not question the authority that accompanies the statements, this can lead to serious problems with misinformation (de Semir, 2000).

In relation to inaccurate reporting, is the verifiability of news source in the fast-paced world of social media journalism. This could be related to the fact that the increasing number of citizen journalists who believe they are the ones suitable to be giving out the raw, gritty details but because they are moving away from established news sources, the link to proper verified news weakens (Burkholder, n.d.). Additionally, journalists and editors are often under pressure to update quickly, hence the decrease of level in fact-checking and leads back to the problem of verifiability. Singer (2012) comments that “authentic accounts from the scene are great, but they also can be authentically wrong”. Though it may seem to be a credible online source, it may often be written from the author’s point of view, causing a more slanted perception of the news itself. But Niles (2012) again states, there is no wrong in being partial when it comes to taking sides in a news story, as long as there is concrete facts to support the claims made.

Analysis

At first glance, it seems that Storify is merely all about collecting stories across a broad range of social media. On a deeper level however, Storify can be used to shape a sequence of events captured from different angles. With the ability to generate different news sources from selected media platforms, it is useful when searching out a particular news topic. Based on my usage of Storify, I actually found the interface slightly confusing at first as a new user, because I wasn’t sure how to begin since the pool of data I could collect from was so vast and unsorted. The fact that Storify includes Google search within it’s sources is great because you can get started by typing keywords in there.


Figure 2-1: List of sources included in Storify from where the author can draw from.

It is possible to add on to the author’s current list of sources, by clicking the “+” button and customizing your list of sources, which can improve the experience of searching out specific stories more tailored to the author’s needs.

Figure 2-2: The list of preselected sources and the available sources you can drag into your list of preferred sources.

Clicking on each social media icon in the tabs will bring up the search bar, in which you can enter your interest. For instance, by clicking on Twitter and entering the hashtag (#) combined with the topic of interest will bring up a whole stream of news and tweets that have been hashtagged, as shown in Figure 2-3 .

Figure 2-3: Typing in “#science” in the search bar brings up topics hashtagged with science.

Another useful feature that Storify has is the ability to copy and paste a specific URL to embed into the story. This way, if you already have a URL that you want to directly link to, you can just enter it into the search bar, and Storify will transform it into an embeddable link.

Figure 2-4: The embed URL tab for all your linking needs.

As a technical affordance, Storify is a good tool for curating events and collecting material for stories that are happening in real-time, since all you need to do is enter a keyword to bring up pictures, articles, YouTube videos or whatever that is covering the event. After that, Storify’s way of searching, dragging and dropping news links relevant to whatever article being written is extremely handy. Gone are the days when one has to screenshot and manually create links in order to integrate it into a story; Storify handles the embedding of direct links into your creation which is great if you are worried about copyright or obtaining permissions to recreate material.

Figure 2-5: The “drag and drop” feature in Storify as highlighted by the red circle.

 

Figure 2-6: “Click to add text” where the author can insert commentary.

The fact that one can embed Storify anywhere on the Web is also a useful one, because it can provide a logical narrative to a series of events that would otherwise be jumbled and confusing. Such instances would be in the case of live tweets during press conferences, talks or government events, in which a journalist can construct a recount of events just by searching the sources on Storify and recollect the day’s happenings, adding their own commentary leading to the formation of a coherent report.

Figure 2-7: Embedding is simple and fast, just by copying the embed code and pasting in your desired location.

Yet, such fast upload of information can also be dangerous, because it is difficult to ascertain whether the source you are drawing from is credible or not which brings into the picture, inaccurate news reporting and misrepresentation of information. Usually we assume that if the originating source sounds credible, then it should be; which is always the sad case. With such a big mix of sources all across a range of media platforms, journalists end up piecing together stories and events with too much to choose from, and too little time actually verifying the sources.

Moreover looking at it from a purposive affordance view, Storify can also be turned into a tool for public harassment and abuse, in which social media from someone can be collected to form a collage of everything they say or do which is almost akin to stalking, as seen in the case of this woman who was attacked by misogynist trolls via Storify and other social media. Despite this, social media on the whole can either be used for good or abuse; it is dependent on the user themselves. As such, I have actually used Storify to try and create a piece on becoming more aware over eating disorders to bring attention to the fact that it isn’t just a simple matter of “not eating”. With Storify, I feel that I can help get my opinion out there as a sort of social justice move, shedding light since there has been too much discrimination and trivialization of eating disorders.

Conclusion

With the fast-paced world of today, journalism has to keep up with the growing technologies that come along with the digital age. Storify helps in the sense that it provides raw, instant news for the journalist to quickly collate and disseminate to the public. I would recommend Storify if you want to have all your information organized and archived, as using Storify, I discovered that I could have anything I needed at my fingertips, all it took was to know what I needed to search for. However, with this comes the danger of adding the wrong type of information, because Storify draws on media that is created by the public itself, which may not be entirely correct. Storify has to be further developed and fine-tuned in order for it to serve as a better tool for the public to tell their stories, but for now it serves as an experimental way for us to monitor how the way we build our information changes with the times. Done right, Storify can be a powerful method of illustrating issues and current events, told through each unique individual eye.

References

Burkholder, C. (n.d.). Citizen Journalism. Retrieved 20 August, 2013, from: http://www.journalismethics.info/citizen_journalism/blogging.htm

Holt, K. (2013). Misogynist trolls have turned Storify into a harassment tool. Retrieved 20 August, 2013 from: http://www.dailydot.com/lifestyle/elevatorgate-storify-feminist-harassment/

Hutchby, I. (2001). Technologies, Texts and Affordances. Sociology, 35 (2), 441-456.

Niles, R. (2012). It’s okay to be partisan, and a few new principles of journalism ethics. Retrieved 20 August, 2013, from: http://www.ojr.org/its-okay-to-be-partisan-and-a-few-new-principles-of-journalism-ethics/

Scoble, R. (Director) (2010) The story behind Storify, new real-time curation service. [Motion picture] YouTube.

de Semir, V. (2000). Scientific Journalism: Problems and Perspectives. International Microbiology, 3, 125-128.

Singer, J. B. (2012). The ethics of social journalism. Australian Journalism Review, 34 (1), 13-16.

Tenore, M. J. (2011). The 5 types of stories that make good Storifys. Retrieved 20 August, 2013 from: http://www.poynter.org/how-tos/newsgathering-storytelling/153697/the-5-types-of-stories-that-make-good-storifys/

Zak, E. (2011). How Journalists Can Use Storify To Cover Any Type Of Meeting. Retrieved 20 August, 2013 from: http://www.mediabistro.com/10000words/how-to-use-storify-to-cover-a-meeting-workshop-or-event_b9068

Zak, E. (2011). How to Use Storify to Create an Interactive Resume. Retrieved 20 August, 2013 from: http://www.mediabistro.com/10000words/how-to-use-storify-to-make-an-interactive-resume_b9336

 

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