Recently in Spotlight Category

It has been a while since we've done a spotlight on one of our editors, so we've got a truly exemplary editor to spotlight today. What do you get when you combine a very active forum poster with cats and plop them down into a tiny town in Oregon? You get TrilbyKat. We've been watching TrilbyKat for a while. She edits up a storm and is a great (and prolific!) presence in the Topix community. Let's see what she has to say.

Why did you want to become a Topix editor?
I was enjoying the interaction on my favorite forums and wanted to become more involved. I first applied to be the editor for my (very) small town and then The Cat News. It’s really satisfying, so I’m glad that I did it.

Where else do you find articles, outside of Topix?
I peruse local news outlets, as well as county and state websites to find stories that are pertinent to my town. I also check recreation, visitor information and local agency’s websites (such as Fire & Rescue) for news. Sometimes I will write a story myself. For the Cat News, I have a newsreader and a long list of cat’s sites that I check in with.
(editor's note: This is a great idea. If you don't use an rss reader, it is definitely worth checking out. We'll talk about the basics of rss feeds and feed readers on an upcoming post.)

What are some editing pitfalls you've learned to avoid?

Having to re-edit a story because of a bad headline, summary or other error. The Preview window is invaluable.

What is your prior editing and writing experience?
I’ve done some writing for various projects including plays, songwriting, puppet shows, press releases, newsletters and children’s stories. I am currently working on curriculum for preschoolers. Topix has provided my first editing experience.

What question would you like to ask other Topix editors?
Do you think that the new judging option will make your job easier, since users now have a way to vent their frustrations at posters they disagree with?

Are there any newspages not currently on Topix that you'd like to see?
We absolutely need a page on Antidisestablishmentarianism, don’t you think? Okay, I was just kidding.

What other user-edited pages on Topix would you recommend?

My hands down favorite page is Science/Technology. Offbeat is fun, too. You never know what you’ll find there.

What is your most memorable editing experience on Topix? Big story? Reader response?TrilbyKat
This is it, no doubt! What an honor. Thank you.


Are there any other user editors you'd like to promote?

Cash and Iria both make all their pages outstanding. Their personal blogs are also immensely entertaining. In addition, Topix Ed is doing a great job on the Topix Editor News page and throughout Topix.

What other internet sites do you visit regularly?
I post a monthly blog on Blogger, and check in on BlogCatalog, MySpace and Yahoo! Answers occasionally.

What advice would you give to other editors in making a great page?
Pictures really make a page pop.

What question do you wish we'd asked you?
Would you buy stock in Topix? The answer is, “Yes. It’s the greatest thing since cheese was invented.” I’m a big fan of cheese.

We're big fans of cheese too. :)

Today we spotlight Stargazer1, editor for three Chicago suburbs, Plainfield, IL, Romeoville, IL and Lockport, IL. She's a great example of a Topix Editor that is also active in the forums associated with her pages. She's got some great tips, guys. Enjoy!

Why did you want to become a Topix editor?

I have been active with online forums and message boards since the mid 90’s when I got my first “Internet capable” computer. I was on a bulletin board that was sponsored by a local newspaper and was the moderator of a forum, and also participated in a forum for and about poetry and poets. I am a news buff and have been writing since I was in high school.

Where else do you find articles, outside of Topix?

I subscribe to several electronic versions of technical publications, professional publications and local newspapers that don’t always show up in the Wire. The local news channels also have web sites that I utilize for news stories and information that I think would be interesting to discuss.

What are some editing pitfalls you've learned to avoid?

Well, the new feature that dims out the stories that have already been posted to the news helps prevent duplicates. Another tip I picked up from one of the other editors that was featured is to post the most important story of the day last so that it appears at the top. One thing I discovered on my own was that when posting a story from the web, it is helpful to edit the title to take out any excess information about the location it was from, such as the web address. This is redundant information since it usually appears in the body of the article or at the end. The title should be the main focus of attention.

What is your prior editing and writing experience?

I was a moderator for a local bbs forum that was sponsored by a local newspaper, for other users of the bbs to submit recipes and cooking tips to for publication. I wrote my first poem in 6th grade, and when I got to high school, I took Journalism. I was bitten by the writing bug! I became a contributor to my high school newspaper, and had several articles and short stories published. I have had 3 poems published already, and participate in an online poet’s community where you submit your writing, whether poetry, short story, haiku, etc, and others can comment and give criticism. I didn’t get started on the blogging scene until about 2 years ago and don’t really do too much in that area. But I do have a few stories started, mostly fiction, and a few non-fiction. I have been encouraged by writing instructors to submit my stories for publication, and I’m considering that option but haven’t followed through yet.

What question would you like to ask other Topix editors?

How do you get your readers interested in posting comments to a new story if you don’t understand or have a great interest in it yourself? I try to stimulate exchange, but if it’s a subject that I am not familiar with or don’t have an opinion on, I have a hard time getting it going.

What do you do when you are not on Topix?

I work full-time, take care of my home, and dabble in the online auction scene. I just completed school in December, receiving my Associates Degree in Microcomputers for Business and I am considering returning to school in the Spring to complete my Accounting studies. In the summer I have my garden to tend to and of course the birds that frequent my backyard feeders. My husband and I got started with Ebay about 4 years ago and in the warm seasons we frequent yard sales and flea markets, and also attend many auctions in the area looking for treasures.

What is your editing environment like? Do you post from work or home?
Snacks, routine, etc?


I usually post from home, sometimes in the morning, but usually in the evening. My environment consists of my office, that I share with my husband and son; and my cat, who likes to lay on the desk right next to my hand. I always have my coffee, no matter where I am posting from. When they make a waterproof laptop computer, I will probably start posting from the hottub!

What other internet sites do you visit regularly?

I regularly check out the local newspapers online and also local news programs. I also go to Urbis.com, a writers’ community, and communicate with distant family on myspace.

What advice would you give to other editors in making a great page?

Read the forums and learn what the readers are talking about. Then try to tailor the articles you post to their interests.

One of the things we like the most about your participation is you seem
really able to focus on keeping local news pages truly local. What advice
do you have for other local editors?


I use Google to find stories for my towns, by searching on the city and state, followed by the word “news”. It usually brings up quite a few sites that have news about my towns, and many times they are publications that are not local and have a different perspective on things. Makes it interesting to see how people looking in from the outside view our towns.

You are also a prolific forum user. How does that affect your editing? How
have you used that to your advantage?


I see what news items get reactions. Then I try to find similar types of articles on the web, sometimes locating a news story about someone local that has been in the news in other areas, such as a college student or a former resident that has moved to a new area. Many times when an article is written about someone, especially a student or a professional person, their hometown or former residence is mentioned. When I post a news story, I try to find something to add in the form of a comment to get the ball rolling.

What question do you wish we'd asked you?

Stargazer1.jpg“How much should an Editor be expected to contribute to the forums in the way of time and participation?”
I think that if someone is an Editor, they should at least spend some time reviewing the stories on the Wire and putting the ones that show the most potential for interest at the top of the News page. I have been to many, many forum pages that have editors, some as many as 20, and all the news stories were posted by Roboblogger. It makes me wonder if there aren’t forum users that only want that “badge” on their profile without actually doing what that honor enables them to do. An Editor can do more than post the stories that the crawl finds. An Editor can also take tips from other users, post stories that are found on the web from other sources, and can also write their own stories and post them just as if they were from one of the many sources that the other news comes from. It’s a great opportunity for someone who is creative and likes to write.

Upstream

Providing news coverage isn't always easy, particularly when a tragic event happens and the news providers in the area are affected along with everyone else. When they occur, these events often serve to highlight the best in the news business. The reporter or news anchor that is able to stay the course and provide the story becomes the one you remember and forever associate with getting through the crises at hand. With the recent mall shootings in Omaha, NE, our editors were outstanding in the way they handled the unfolding events, providing updates quickly and often for their community. Today, we spotlight Upstream, who was in the thick of reporting the scene.

Why did you initially want to become a Topix editor? I was trying to find local news online and found that Topix offered news from my area, yet no one was actively editing that page. I positively begged to be a Topix editor. Once I'd done a little research and consulted the editor's blog, I jumped right in and started posting stories from "the wire" and adding photos - to spice things up a bit. I'm still learning how to create my own articles from scratch.

Where else do you find articles, outside of Topix? I find article information on the internet, from people who live and/or work in the area, and local television stations.

What are some editing pitfalls you've learned to avoid? I've learned that I've really got to remember to cite all my sources for a "scratch" article. I wrote two articles concerning the recent shooting at a local mall, through tears, as I listened to the local news channel. I was so focused on getting the information out, accurately and quickly, that I forgot to cite the television station I'd been listening to as my source. I only realized it today (when I was contacted by Topix). I went back into the articles and added my source, but I feel terrible about overlooking that important a detail.

What is your prior editing and writing experience? I am a writer and artist by nature. I've written and published two books ( http://amykjones.blogspot.com/ ) and I contributed local interest articles to "Paradise News", a Florida magazine, for several years prior to relocating to Nebraska.

You were actively involved in editing the Omaha, NE page in the hours after the recent shooting tragedy. What was that experience like? It was terrible! I was crying like a baby while I was trying to write the article for Topix. I was listening to witnesses wailing about the horror they'd just witnessed, to local reporters who could only tell them that their worst fears had come true - many people had not made it out. I almost didn't post the story at all, it was so upsetting.

My husband was working at one of the other area malls that day, and that made it horribly personal for me. He was sending me text messages, asking me for information for he and his co-workers, so I was sending him all the information I could find on TV and the local police scanner. I just wanted him to come home, but he said the police at his mall already, making sure nothing happened there.

The next day I cried even harder, trying to type out the list of people who lost their lives or were injured because that young man wanted attention.

Your articles were written yourself, rather than found on other news sites, how were you getting your information for your articles about the tragedy? I got information from the police scanner and from a local television station.

One of your articles received over 1300 comments, which has got to be a record for an original news piece by a Topix editor. Did you read them? Any impressions? I have read the comments from the articles, and I'm struck by the conversations (and heated debates) this young man's terrible act has sparked. People have come out of the woodwork to express their fears and frustrations with each other. That's one of the great things about Topix; people can express the impact the news has on them. I think that's very cathartic for people.

Are there any newspages not currently on Topix that you'd like to see? Oh my goodness, as long as I've been aware of Topix I'm sure I haven't seen every page available. Off the top of my head, I cannot think of one that's missing...unless it's a page of missing persons. That's one I'd edit in a heartbeat!

What do you when you are not on Topix? Well, that's not much time to account for, but I try to squeeze in working on my latest novel.

What is your editing environment like? Do you post from work or home? Snacks, routine, etc? Well, I work from home, so I guess that means I post from work. I drink coffee all day, every day, to prevent early onset of Alzheimer's, of course. Snacks? Love 'em! Routines? Scared of 'em! Etc.? My favorite word!

Are there any other user editors you'd like to promote? Absolutely! Citybeat also edits the Omaha, NE pages and provides great articles.

How else are you involved in your community? I sweep my neighbors front porches when I'm bored.

What other internet sites do you visit regularly? Quakerparrots.com National Center for Missing Adults

What advice would you give to other editors in making a great page? Photos when you can find them. They really make a difference.

What question do you wish we'd asked you? How long did it take you to answer these questions? (Ha!)

*UPDATE - Upstream's article on the Omaha, NE shootings has more than 2300 user comments on it at this time. That is most definitely a record for a "from scratch" article by a Topix Editor. The gauntlet has been thrown, Editors. Let's see what you can do!

When we developed the editor platform, Topix Newspages were equipped to handle multiple editors for each topic. At times, this can be tricky business when philosophies collide, but we were and are committed to the idea that more viewpoints equals better coverage. Way back when we launched, we had two editors sign on for the Science / Technology page almost immediately. While we had firm convictions with regard for the need for multiple editors for every page, we were anxious to see how our somewhat Utopian plan fit into the real world of cooperative editing. Wow. We were impressed. Today, we spotlight two Topix editors that have really shown us how it is done. Together (and now with even more editors on their page) they have created what is one of the best pages on Topix. Say hello to Cash and Iria. Let's find out where they are coming from.

Why did you want to come a Topix editor?

Iria: I edit at a bunch of different places, and felt it was a natural extension. At first, I did it because I wanted to post home town news. But I discovered my small town doesn't have much! So I moved on to Science / Technology

Cash: I am a big fan of news communities in general and science in specific. Science and policy and culture are forever intertwined so I think it's important that people have access to as broad a cross-section of thought and ideology as possible. Getting that from a generic wire service is difficult. It takes real input from people.


How much time do you generally spend a day editing?

Iria: probably about an hour a day.

Cash: About two hours per day, counting finding and reading the articles. I will read them and save them and then post them all as a group to save some time.


Where else do you find articles, outside of Topix?

Iria: Wow, plenty of spots. Yahoo! News, MSNBC, NY Times, News.com (for tech), Newsburst, Breitbart

Cash: I don't find any inside of Topix. Roboblogger could do that for people. I want to post the news that will show up in the regular news services tomorrow or the next day. Because I am in a few science communities I get all of their feeds. You name it, I have it.


What are some editing pitfalls you've learned to avoid?

Iria:
Look carefully for dupes. Also, check to make sure that the Topix Editor puts the correct Source in. I've noticed, for example, it always puts ESPN Sports in for ABC News.


What is your prior editing and writing experience?

Iria: Executive Editor at Real Tech News. Head News Moderator at DriverHeaven. I also post at Newsvine and on Netscape.

Cash:
I have written a number of technical papers on physics and I am the science group administrator on a social news site called Newsvine. I am also a featured columnist on a social science site called scientificblogging.com. Because I have access to the science feeds from those large sites and all of the people contributing to them it makes it quite easy to always have interesting science for Topix as well. In return I post the Topix feed in my sections on those sites so everyone benefits. I do science humor on my personal site, www.scienceandsupermodels.com, but you have to go to those places to read my articles from there. I think it would be bad manners to submit things I write to Topix.


What is your editing environment like? Do you post from work or home?

Iria: I post from both work and home. Since work involves the computer, I generally just keep an RSS reader up and if I see something interesting, I post it.


What other sites do you visit regularly?

Iria: Driverheaven, News.com , ZDNet, The Raw Story, ThinkProgress, Crooks and Liars


What advice would you give to other editors in making a great page?

Cash: Interact. Throwing up an article and leaving means it's going to be boring. If you like it enough to post it, leave a comment, respond to people, have some fun.


*Editor's Note: Providing the first comment on a news item that you post to the page is an AWESOME way to make sure that the readers in your forum see that article. Your comment seeds the discussion and gets the proverbial ball rolling on reader feedback.*


One of the things we appreciate in particular about the Science/Technology page is the way you work so well with each other. Can you talk a little about sharing the news page without stepping on each others toes?

Iria: Hmm ... well, honestly, I try to make sure I don't duplicate any articles. For something like that, that's all that needs to be done.

Cash:
Iria is more of a technology guru, and I am more on the science side, so it is complementary. Frankly, I am surprised anyone has time to read all of the good stuff we both post. We have accidentally duplicated articles a few times. The audience is big enough that the people who saw a duplicated article the first time ignore it without complaint and in most cases a new group of people get to enjoy it. If you have two people who mean well and want to be part of building something great, there's no toe stepping.


Watching Editors like Cash and Iria has played no small part in how we shape the Editor tools going forward. Things like this, for instance, are a direct result of having multiple awesome and prolific editors sharing Topix pages. You Editors continue to rock it, and we will continue working on bigger and better tools for you to shape the news. Here's to making it happen.

Topix Editor Spotlight - mstori

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mstori

This week’s Editor Spotlight features mstori. She edits several pages on Topix, including the cities of Santa Clarita and Newhall, California, and our page on Homeschooling.

She also edits a page on a subject near and dear to the heart of many Topix employees, Sushi. She took the time to answer our questions about her Topix editing experience, especially for the Sushi page.

Why did you want to come a Topix editor?
I love food and articles about food. Sushi is a personal favorite of mine and when I first looked at the Sushi Topix page, roboblogger was trying hard, but I felt the little guy was really missing the mark in this particular topic.

How much time do you generally spend a day editing?
I edit a few Topix pages. It is difficult to quantify how much time I spend per day editing. I check the news several times throughout the day, but I usually only actually make changes to each topix page once per day, and when I do that, I spend maybe 30 minutes. That doesn't include all the time I spend looking at news in general and making notes of what I should add. It also doesn't take into account looking for photos or taking and editing my own.

Where else do you find articles, outside of Topix?
I use a variety of sources, friends send me links and I check certain communities, but google news is probably my most utilized source for articles outside of Topix.

What are some editing pitfalls you've learned to avoid?
I've started to recognize most of the sites that the Topix crawl fails, so I don't waste time going the route of trying to crawl articles from sites that are not compatible.

What is your prior editing and writing experience?
I've been writing extensively since I was a child. I began working on school newspapers in elementary school and continued on. I started working on a school literary magazine in middle school and by high school I was also editor of the year book. My interest continued in hobby form as an adult, in both print and online formats.

What question would you like to ask other Topix editors?
"Have you met any interesting people as a result of your activities as a Topix editor?"

What do you when you are not on Topix?
I work. I spend time with my family. I clean up after my pets. I go to a lot of good restaurants. I eat as much sushi as possible. I also take a lot of photos.

What is your editing environment like? Do you post from work or home?
I post from work and home. I work from home though, so the environment is the same, either way. We have a wireless network in the house, and I have a laptop, so I post from all over the house, and sometimes out in the backyard. I also post when I am on travel. I haven't posted from a sushi bar yet, but at some point, I will.

What other user-edited pages on Topix would you recommend?
http://www.topix.com/drink/beer

How else are you involved in your community?
The international sushi community? My involvement is on a fairly personal scale. I read about, write about, talk about and take and look at photos of sushi. I also eat it, and drag other people out to eat it. Occasionally I make sushi. I buy sake for sushi chefs that I like, and give them prints of photos I have taken of their creations.

What other internet sites do you visit regularly?
I am online for most of the day, almost every day of the year. I visit a lot of sites regularly, too many to list.

What advice would you give to other editors in making a great page?
I think photos really add a lot of interest to a page. I try to pick and choose the stories carefully. I believe in quality over quantity. I don't think most visitors will move past the first page of news, so I want to have items of interest on that page, and I want items of interest to stay on that page long enough that an average user stands a decent chance of seeing them.

What question do you wish we'd asked you?
"Where would you like us to take you out for sushi?"

Thanks, mstori!

Topix Editor Spotlight - Mark DeWitte

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Mark DeWitte

This week we shine our Editor Spotlight on Mark DeWitte, one of the editors of the Rogersville, Tennessee page on Topix. Also an accomplished photographer, Mark makes the Rogersville page really pop with his frequent inclusion of photos with his stories. You can see more of his photography here.

Why did you want to come a Topix editor?
In our small town of Rogersville, Tennessee, it's become a popular pastime to post to the Rogersville Forum. I felt it was important to keep the local news current and available on Topix to give those posting a reliable source of information.

How much time do you generally spend a day editing?
Usually not more than 30 minutes. I'd like to spend more, but could only do that if Topix started paying me!

Where else do you find articles, outside of Topix?
I search the local papers' websites, plus radio and television websites. They usually have the news way before I know it.

What are some editing pitfalls you've learned to avoid?
Be very careful when "crawling" URL's to make sure the headline is correct and makes sense with the story. Read and reread the "summary" of the story and make sure it's a complete thought and will cause the reader to want to investigate the rest of the article.

What is your prior editing and writing experience?
I have a degree in Broadcasting, and was News Director of our little local station here for a couple years. I've also contributed newspaper articles, and do some technical writing in my current job.

What question would you like to ask other Topix editors?
Has any reader ever accused you of being "biased" because of the stories you post?

Are there any newspages not currently on Topix that you'd like to see?
Local sports. Doesn't quite fit with the local news but is followed closely in our town.

What do you when you are not on Topix?
I own a computer repair store, work for a medical equipment company traveling around the country solving problems, and take pictures every chance I get.

What is your editing environment like? Do you post from work or home?
I've posted from work, from airport lounges and gate areas, and from my recliner!

What other user-edited pages on Topix would you recommend?
I really would like to see the "blog" heading changed back to "news" and a true area developed for blogging about things other than news.

Are there any other user editors you'd like to promote?
In the Rogersville, Tennessee, pages, Angie Gibson-Herrell and Rogersville Mom also contribute to the site constantly.

How else are you involved in your community?
I'm Treasurer of our Rogersville 4th of July Committee. Rogersville is "The Place To Be In Tennessee" on the 4th! We have a day-long celebration in the City Park, with free events for the kids, fun for everyone, a big name music concert (John Michael Montgomery this year!), and the best fireworks display in Tennessee if not the Southeast! Also involved in "People Loving People," our annual Thanksgiving community dinner, plus my church and Bible Study group.

What other internet sites do you visit regularly?
Talk about an answer you'd need to edit for length! I'm too old for it, but I check MySpace regularly. eBay of course. I have several computer forums that I check regularly. Fox news, MSNBC, CNN, all the usual suspects!

What advice would you give to other editors in making a great page?
Keep it fresh if you can, delete stories when they get outdated or updated, and remember if you're going to post several stories, the first one you post shouldn't be the most important. The last one you post will be on top!

What question do you wish we'd asked you?
Tell us about your family. I'm married to my best friend Ann, have a daughter named Sarah, and MULTIPLE pets.


Thanks for the great tips, Mark!

For those of you non-shutterbugs who are interested in jazzing up your pages with photos, be sure to check out our tutorial on finding images to use with your articles.

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