Thursday 11 December 2008

More Twitter conventions would have aided Mumbai coverage

I've stuck this up on my Frontline blog, because it's been a while...

Monday 8 December 2008

Research Update

My laptop's gone down.

At first I wondered whether it had been a victim of the Home Office's security machine, which I went through last week, but apparently laptops pass safely through here all the time.

So I'm not sure what caused this rather frustrating sudden loss of power, but not being able to switch the thing on is a fairly fundamental problem.

I have made a couple of (amateur) efforts to fix it. It's not the power supply or the battery. And the old favourite - unscrew everything, take it apart, fiddle, and put it together again (twice) - didn't provide a permanent solution either.

Fortunately, I managed to salvage my work before it went under.

In the meantime, I'm borrowing a friend's laptop, but it takes so much longer to do everything when you don't have your bookmarks, etc.

Research progress has slowed.

Tuesday 2 December 2008

BBC to close Island Blogging community project

Five years ago, BBC Scotland started a little-known project called 'Island Blogging' in conjunction with the Scottish government.

In this post former BBC journalist, Martin Belam describes the venture:
"'Island Blogging' was a project to provide a platform for isolated communities on some Scottish islands to share their voices with the nation at large....The Scottish Executive had conducted a programme of giving families on the island computers and narrowband internet connections. The BBC then provided a blogging platform."
Several days ago, BBC Scotland announced that it would be closing down Island Blogging in January 2009:
"As that digital literacy grew, and the blogosphere in general developed, it has become very easy to set up blogs elsewhere across the web.

Your concerns about Island Blogging’s technical limitations, House Rules and Terms and Conditions have been noted. At the same time, your patience and support has been greatly appreciated as problems with the blogging engine and spam filter recurred with increasing severity.

In short, five years on, it has become apparent that the site does not best serve your needs and that the technology has reached the end of its natural life."
BBC Scotland has suggested that the community of bloggers continues blogging on other platforms and also encourages website users to contribute to 'revitalised BBC Local sites'.

Numerous bloggers expressed their sadness at the closure of the project:
"What can I say, I have met some really good friends on IB, even before we settled here, I cannot believe the BBC are pulling the plug on us."

"I think Island Blogging was a stunning idea. Everyone who lives in these truly unique places suddenly had their own voice which could not be shouted over by those in the mainland."
It's an interesting one because there is much discussion within various parts of the BBC about the Corporation's role in developing communities and encouraging online literacy and skills.

It seems with the closure of this project, a place where a small number of BBC licence fee payers could upload blogs on the BBC website, and the end of World Have Your Say's external comment moderation experiment, that the BBC is retaining very direct control over what appears on its webspace.

This is in contrast to organisations like the Telegraph (My Telegraph) and Sky (Sky Community) where website users have been provided with a space to write and upload their own blogs.

Rather than closing projects like Island Blogging, should the BBC be expanding them?

Monday 1 December 2008

Links for today: acronyms - BBC, FoJ, RICU.

  • Paul Bradshaw has got some great notes from day one of last week's Future of Journalism Conference. (I might get some of mine up at some point. I have more on the first day than the second because I abandoned ship to go and watch the World Online Team updating the live text commentary on Mumbai. Or I might just collate my Twitter Feed. Thing is, I have too many things I want to do all at the same, so I might just admit defeat and pack it all in for Christmas.)
  • Andy Dickinson uses Dipity to highlight some key online media landmarks. I'm inspired and might make my own timeline in the near future. (Or I might just pack it all in...)
  • I might put up some stuff soon on Mumbai on my Frontline blog. (But again...) What I have done is write a couple of posts about RICU, the government's counter terrorism communications unit. Here's the second one on whether and how they are trying to influence the media.

Wednesday 26 November 2008

Future of Journalism Conference at the BBC

I'm tweeting/twittering/make up your own verb the sessions if you want to follow what's going on. (I say 'follow' - it doesn't make great coverage if we're honest but I know at least one person who's interested.)

I was hoping to CoveritLive for the Online Journalism Blog, but let's just say there was a significant technical problem.

We've done:
Multiplatform Reporting from the Field - The challenges of serving all news outlets with David Shukman, Jeremy Cooke and Guy Pelham, chaired by Luisa Baldini
The Newsroom of the Future - What skills a newsroom journalist will need to have in five years time. Pete Clifton and Paul Bradshaw debate with Louise Minchin

And to come today:

1430 - 1600
Blogging and the Future of Breaking News - Robert Peston, Paul Fletcher and Giles Wilson, on the increasing importance of the blog for BBC news and sport journalists.
1630 - 1730
The Box and the US08 Bus - Examples of the biggest BBC multimedia events so far. Jeremy Hillman on tracking the business and economics unit's container box. Steve Titherington of Global News discusses the coverage of the BBC US08 election bus. Chaired by Ros Atkins, presenter of World Have Your Say.

Monday 24 November 2008

An insight into RICU - the UK Government's counter terrorism unit...

...can be found on my Frontline blog.

Tuesday 18 November 2008

Networked contacts: Rory Cellan-Jones, social media, and Bob, the imaginary pre-Internet journalist

Rory Cellan Jones, the BBC's technology correspondent, has written a blog post about this:

"Are broadcasters who use social media tools - Facebook, Twitter, blogs - really getting closer to the audience? Or are they just on an ego trip?"

He highlights two criticisms of using social media tools:
1. "So a social network and a blog provided a lot of added value and did indeed get me "closer" to the audience. But which audience? The 1,300 people in my Twitter community know a lot about technology but if I devote too much time to them, then I'm in danger of letting down millions of viewers and listeners who will never go near a social network."

2. "And there's another danger in the process of self-revelation that Twitter in particular involves. A writer from an internet scandal-sheet who was at the Radio At The Edge debate wrote "the more of themselves media people reveal, the more the public sees them as clueless, self-referential and narcissistic." He then went and searched my Twitter updates and found plenty of embarrassingly banal messages, including this one:"Just had my first go at washing the dog - she's looking at me with big sad eyes." Evidence, according to the writer, of "your licence fee at work".
It's good to reflect. Important in fact. But really, anyone who gives more than a moment's thought to this can see that these criticisms of Rory Cellan-Jones use of Twitter etc just don't stand up.

Let's demonstrate by comparing Rory's methods with an imaginary old world pre-Internet TV journalist called Bob.

Point 1:
Bob is an experienced techonology reporter who has built up a number of good contacts over the years, through personal friends, acquaintances, relatives of friends of neighbours, people who have helped him on other stories, people who work for companies, officials, other journalists etc.

But in order for Bob to get stories from these sources they have to phone him up or write to him or Bob has to phone them up or meet them etc. This takes time. Also it means that if he wants to get different views on stories he has to spend more time phoning round his contacts or meeting them. So for any one story he is limited on the angles he can consider.

Rory has access to all of Bob's sources but he also has 1,300 people on Twitter that he can tap into. And countless scores of other people that these Twitterers themselves are tapping into. For no doubt each of the 1,300 has online and offline connections that might result in stories, new information or different points of view.

Ok, so if Rory gets all his stories from Twitter then just maybe he might miss other stories that are in the public interest that his Twitter following has not picked up. And yes Rory has to be aware he might get a story from his other contacts or look out for things that might not crop on Twitter.

It's worth noting that a one-to-one conversation with a contact gives you much greater depth than what you can achieve in 140 characters, but then Rory still meets people. He hasn't forgotten how to meet people. And all of this doesn't take much awareness. Does it?

What's more Rory has access to the sort of networked contact book that Bob could only dream of. The number of contacts and angles that Rory has on offer to him and the fact that he can potentially access them in rapid time gives Rory a distinct advantage over Bob. (But by all means if you want to try to tell me that Bob was closer to his audience than Rory is, please give it a go in the comments...)

Point 2:

So let's drop back in on Bob. Bob has a story. He decides to phone up one of his contacts to get some more information. When his contact answers the phone, his contact asks Bob how his weekend has been. Not wanting to be rude, Bob says he spent some time with the family.

In passing he mentions that he washed the dog on Saturday afternoon for the first time, before asking his contact what she got up to at the weekend. Bob's contact says she had a good weekend, noting that funnily enough she took her cat to the vets. When she's finished talking, Bob turns to asking her about the story.

When Bob talked about his weekend was he wasting the licence fee payer's money in the same way that Rory Cellan-Jones is apparently wasting money by tweeting about washing his dog. Or were they both just doing their respective jobs?

So in my "clueless, self-referential and narcissistic" opinion, it would be unwise to suggest that cultivating a relationship with what is probably a highly informed specialist audience is a waste of time as a journalist. And frankly even more ridiculous to point the finger at a technology journalist of all people.

Oh and if you thought TV journalist Bob was on an ego trip and didn't like it, then you could switch off the television. If you think Rory Cellan-Jones is on an ego trip on Twitter then stop following him.

Overheard on Twitter

"ruskin147 great meet with @bowbrick discussing 2 BBC cultures - futurists and old lags. I'm in both camps."

That's Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC's technology correspondent, (ruskin147) on a meeting with Steve Bowbrick, the BBC's blogger in residence for those of you not versed in Twitter.

It gives us a micro-insight into the debate going on inside the BBC over the future of the Corporation's journalism, and hints at its complexities. Rory Cellan-Jones appears to be someone who faces both ways.


bowbrick "A fascinating hour chatting about the epic challenge of blending net and broadcast cultures to forge a new MORE OPEN BBC with @ruskin147"

Monday 17 November 2008

FCO looking for blogs "mastermind"

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Whitehall...The Foreign and Commonwealth Office - that's the FCO for the acronymically-challenged - are looking for a "Digital Producer (Engagement) to mastermind the evolution of online activities such as blogs into powerful policy vehicles".

I'd like to say I have experience of masterminding blogs (or indeed masterminding anything) but I tend to just write them. Masterminding would involve planning, and the time to plan, and rubbing my hands in expectation of taking over the blogosphere with my " [all]-powerful policy vehicles".

Friday 14 November 2008

Links for today: Blogging and the BBC

  • If you want to write a great blog you need to write for a tribe says Seth Godin. (I find myself wondering who might be in my tribe and if I want the role of writing or indeed 'leading' them. I reckon my tribe would lose in a fight to the Huffington Post tribe though.)
  • Paul Bradshaw has been having a go at defining blogging, or at least defining what news blogging should be. You'll find my views in the comments.
Unconventional mid-bullet aside - Steve's the BBC's blogger in residence. I met Steve the other week at a College of Journalism event and he already says he has way too much to do. Over a rather good lunch, he said we should take more risks on our blogs and be less concerned about what we published.

So in a post coming tomorrow: 'All the "this is totally off the record", "that's unbloggable", "please don't include", "you won't be passing this to the Daily Mail will you" conversations I've been privy to since the start of the project'....hmm...don't get your hopes up.)

Wednesday 12 November 2008

Research update

About to pack up work for the day at BBC Television Centre. So what progress today?

Well I've spoken to some BBC producers about blogging, where I did too much talking. I showed a BBC journalist delicious and they seemed keen to use it - a little bit of recompense for their time helping me.

I also went to an interesting talk by Scott Karp about Link Journalism. He has a vision of using the power of links to put news journalism at the top of the Web agenda. By harnessing the value that good journalists can add to the Web by collective and networked linking, he sees how journalists could take on Google's algorithms. Great idea but getting everyone on board might be hard work.

I've also been going through my introduction and a first chapter I've written because next Monday I get mini-vivaed - a necessary hoop to make sure the project is on the right track.

Tuesday 11 November 2008

Overheard on Twitter

aarons hearing a talk from representative of Foreign Office on getting large, conservative organisations blogging. a very familiar story... #edem08

The Future of News: BBC Director of Global News at City University

After spending an hour or so with the World Have Your Say programme yesterday, I walked over to City University to hear a talk by Richard Sambrook.

He was talking about the Future of News to an audience that seemed to be a mixture of BBC journalists, a load of City University journalism students and some other (presumably) interested types.

Richard warned us that he didn't have a crystal news ball which he looked into occasionally in order to plot the BBC's advance into the future. I was disappointed - surely the licence fee could stretch to...But took his advice and stayed for the rest of the talk anyway.

(Updated: Richard's own post - always best to go to the original source)

Journalism in crisis?
  • Crisis is hardly a new phenomenon but what's changing?
  • Globalisation
  • Proliferation of channels
  • Closure of foreign news bureaux by media organisations
  • Technological changes undermining the economic model
  • Used the analogy of the music industry where the digital age has massively complicated the marketing of an individual song.
  • Investment in the Web 'in hope'. Eg Guardian, running Web operation at a loss.
  • Smaller news organisations going out of business
  • News sites repackaging agency material - contraction of new content behind the explosion of new sites.
  • Old model of limited access and limited resource undercut by the Internet
  • Taking the lead from Castells/Beckett, the new model is networked - interactive and interconnecting.
  • Citizen journalism - what does this mean for standards of accuracy, rigour and accountability? CNN's I-report fails over Steve Jobs.
  • Identified as one of the new keys to journalism
  • Pointed to the differences between the production values of Web video and TV. Thought this would feed back into TV at some point
  • Crisis of trust and authenticity in the mass media
  • Gave example of a new type of foreign correspondent - Hamed Mottaghi - 29 year old freelance journalist in Iran. Somebody who is embedded in their culture. There is an authenticity about reports from somebody who lives and breathes in the country
Blogosphere and low cost journalism
  • Used Technorati survey 2008
  • 133 million+ blogs
  • 81+ languages
  • 6 Continents
  • new model of emerging journalism - low cost mobile journalism
  • Examples Witness (NGO), Global Post, Global Voices (Richard might have pointed out that Global Voices is run almost entirely by volunteers)
BBC in all this
  • 45 International Bureaux
  • Network of 650 regular voices/stringers around the world
  • Suffering the same cost pressures and vulnerabilities as other media organisations. (Presumably here talking about the BBC's World offering which is commercial)
  • Use of Twitter to cover the Bangladesh Boat Trip - pointed out that the audience here was measured in the dozens compared to the radio audience of millions
  • How do we use UGC so it doesn't sound crass? Need a new model for this.
The Future
  • "Future is local and global"
  • Local and highly personalised and the big picture
  • Social video - Seesmic, Phreadz - but expressed disappointment that as yet there isn't much newsgathering going on using them
  • Processing power of the Web will outstrip the human brain
  • Linking out
  • Where is the value we can add as journalists
  • - community style journalism in the social music model
  • Data-driven journalism - Spectra @ MSNBC
  • BBC: My Democracy Now
  • Need to make interconnections between different disciplines: "Not enough now to just be a journalist"
  • A mash up, remix model
Major issues?

  • Personalisation and privacy
  • Adjustments - economic and technological
What will still be important?
  • Standards
  • Storytelling
  • Power of pictures
  • Analysis
  • Mediation - strength of brands still important
  • Debate

Happy Belated Birthday to the Blog

My blog reached its first birthday on 8 November. I missed it. I blame it on the fact that there are too many birthdays in November. And there are more important things to remember.

Saturday 8 November 2008

Change we can believe in

Post US election sign spotted outside a café in London by a friend of mine:

Friday 7 November 2008

One way to make money from blogging

David Brake is a fellow blogging PhD researcher who I must try and get in touch with properly at some point.

Among all sorts of other things, he's looking at why private bloggers do what they do and their relationship with their audiences.

He made a clever move seven years ago by registering the domain ''. Now, he's put the it up for auction and has an offer for $51,000.

Wish I'd thought of that, but I'm not sure I had heard of 'a blog' back then. There's two days left so if you want to bid click here.

Thursday 6 November 2008

Telegraph journalist vs the Milbloggers

Over on my Frontline blog I've been looking at some of the military blogging reaction to this article and video by embedded Telegraph journalist Nick Meo. And there'll be more on this soon...

Monday 3 November 2008

BeebCamp feedback on news and blogging

I was very grateful to receive an email last week from Chris Hamilton who is an assistant editor, production for the BBC website.

In our discussions at BeebCamp last week, news blogging at the BBC ended up being slightly misrepresented.

After reading Roo Reynold's post about the conference Chris emailed me to make an important point about the use of blogging in news and provide some useful links as well. (Chris wanted to come along to the conference but was unable to make it.)

So I've reproduced the email here with his permission and will add it as a comment on Roo's blogpost as well:
Hi Daniel.

I signed up to Beebcamp but unfortunately couldn't make it yesterday [now, last Tuesday]. Was just skimming through the notes at and alighted on the line from your bit about Sport's live text commentary and the fact news doesn’t do them. In fact we do run such pages, modelled on the Sport approach, with the most recent last Friday for "Downturn day", though the series done for the US presidential debates are probably better examples. They're also done weekly for prime minister's questions. The next big one is planned for US election night next week. Some links below. They're obviously not blogs in the true sense, and are quite labour intensive, but are popular and now a significant part of our coverage, when the event is right, although we're still feeling our way with them.


McCain v Obama:
PMQs 29 Oct:
Downturn day:

As I replied to Chris, I'm not sure if I said news doesn't do any form of liveblogging. If I did, I was thinking of the sort of liveblogging that you can do with software like CoverItLive. The informal nature of the conference meant that sometimes people brought different ideas of what blogging is to the table (though this in itself was interesting).

I didn't mean to under-acknowledge some of the stuff Chris has kindly pointed to above and thank him for taking the time to get in touch.

Thursday 30 October 2008

BBC World Have Your Say end external comment moderation

The World Have Your Say team have been experimenting with allowing external comment moderation on their programme blog. The idea was that regular contributors to the blog would help moderate comments to ensure debate continued while the WHYS team weren't in the office.

Although Editor Mark Sandell praised the majority who were dedicated to making the scheme work, he explained why he was taking back full control:
"Gradually - and despite several warnings from me and [presenter] Ros [Atkins] which got a little less friendly each time- things deteriorated.

"I spent too much time sorting out petty disputes and boring bickering. Newcomers to the blog (and last Friday was a record for hits) complained of feeling intimidated. The last straw for me was a blindingly idiotic dispute which saw one of our valued newcomers clear off in disgust.

"Great message to send to the community, i thought. So that’s it i’m afraid. It was a bold experiment and i’m glad we tried it. In the end, it fell because of people with a myopic, paranoid world view and i’m happy for you to peddle those views on your own blog, not ours."

Read Mark's full post on the WHYS blog.

Stuff I've written elsewhere recently

1. I was at a talk on the representation of political violence in literature earlier in the week. I did a review for the Complex Terrain Laboratory.

2. I have a Frontline Club post up on the potential use of Twitter by terrorists.

Wednesday 29 October 2008

BeebCamp at the BBC

Yesterday was BeebCamp at the BBC in White City. An opportunity for people at the BBC interested in new technology, new journalism, and new entertainment to come together to share some ideas.

If you want to know more about the format of what was billed as an 'unconference' there's some more details here.

Panel 1: Are we obsessed by audience feedback?

Alex Murray, 5 Live
  • Proposed by Alex Murray at 5 live Interactive, the panel discussed whether the people who get in touch with the BBC have too much influence on what the BBC do.
  • Seemed to be general agreement that while some common editorial sense should be employed when using contributions from the audience the BBC could and should be doing more to engage with the audience. It was acknowledged that saying 'thanks for your comment' wasn't really good enough.
  • Suggestion was that a reprioritisation was needed. A journalist from Radio Current Affairs said he found audience feedback and interactivity useful but was doing it after work in his own time to keep on top of it.
  • Perhaps more BBC journalists should be working full-time in engaging with the users?
  • What we didn't note was the tremendous success of the UGC hub in recent years for news stories, contacts and guests.
  • I also spoke to Steve Bowbrick, the BBC's blogger in residence, at lunch about the possbility that new software could be designed to deal with comments more effectively. We talked about replying to clusters of comments rather than just individuals.
  • Further Reading: Tom Van Aardt's notes on this panel here.
Panel 2: Global navigation on the BBC website
Mat Hampson, Future Media & Technology
  • To be honest, I didn't really have much to contribute to this panel. I'm more interested in journalism rather than the user-functionality of the website, so skip these notes and read these instead.
  • But Mat Hampson, who led the panel from FM&T, seemed to have lots of good ideas about how to improve the website and was collecting some more from other panelists.
  • There was some discussion about customisation and personalisation. Around 30% of users customise the existing home page.
  • The BBC he said needed to get away from gargantuan technology projects and begin to use smaller modules that connect to one another - this after all is the Web 2.0 way.
  • Reassured when Mat said "The message from the Trust is clear - we need to link to the rest of the Internet".
  • Further Reading: Tom Van Aardt
Panel 3: Ten things I learnt about the Internet Blog
(Accompanied by ten random pictures ((including plate of raw sausages)) and punctuated with occasional "Dan, don't blog that"s. Hopefully Jem won't mind me mentioning the sausages)
Jem Stone, ex FM&T, now Audio and Music
  • Jem provided several key words of advice on how to make an openness and accountability blog work.
  • You'll need:
  • A good, independent-minded blogger like Nick Reynolds
  • Some senior people who are willing to get involved in the making of the blog and actually respond to issues flagged up.
  • Blog posts that take part in conversations about the BBC and the Internet
  • A good working relationship with Press Relations
  • A cool head when things go wrong - see the fall out and turnaround from these comments about Linux.
Panel 4: Online Video
Philip Trippenbach
  • Phil wanted to know how the BBC could make some awesome online videos.
  • Again he has a full blog post on this so if you want a more detailed view click here.
  • Acknowledgement that video on the web is different to video on the TV. Polished production values seem to be a bar to web videos. Some of the most popular YouTube videos are by people with a shaky camera producing something funny or amusing.
  • Authenticity and 'cultural currency' the key to online success. And indeed Jo Twist had some interesting things to say about social viewing - something she also discussed in her own panel (scroll down to 11.40am).
  • What was the BBC doing in this area?
  • Change in production values needed. But important to realise that quality still important in some cases even if the style might be different.
  • There seemed to be quite a lot of emphasis on how BBC videos, hosted on the BBC YouTube Channel, for example, could be made more popular and get more page views. I asked whether this should be the only consideration. Yes, it fulfils one part of the public service remit but there's also a charge for the BBC to represent minority interests. Afraid this wasn't really taken up as discussion moved elsewhere.
  • Afterthought from the memory bank - is the new Gary Lineker sport promotion video with the football shirts not based on a YouTube idea?
  • Further Reading: Phil's blog post on online video.
Panel 5: External/Internal Blogging by BBC people Roo Reynolds, Social Media, Vision
  • What, where and why should BBC staff be blogging was the general gist here
  • Of course, three categories here - External personal blogs, public-facing BBC blogs, Internal BBC blogs.
  • Is there much value in the BBC's internal blogs? Roo suggested there wasn't much going on here.
  • Might be better to use different tools other than a blog. There's an internal wiki to discuss BeebCamp for example and Yammer is being used as an 'internal' Twitter.
  • Grace Davies, from the World Service Trust found it difficult to know how she fitted into the BBC's editorial blogging guidelines. The World Service Trust is a separate campaigning arm of the BBC, not connected to journalism, so she was unsure how far she could discuss controversial issues like AIDs and poverty. (Where is your blog, Grace?!)
  • Further Reading: Roo Reynolds
Panel 6: Using Blogs in News Me
  • Aim of my panel was to start a general discussion about the use of blogs in news - where the BBC might go next with blogs and what are the limitations to using blogs in news.
  • Obviously this was with the intention of creating some great research material - in academic speak it was a ready made focus group. Hopefully though it sparked a useful conversation and some new ideas.
  • I was pleased with how it went. Had a good range of input.
  • I kicked off by outlining what I believe to be three general models for the BBC using blogs in news - other people's blogs, BBC reporter blogs, and BBC programme blogs to build a news community.
  • Tom Van Aardt felt what Watchdog is doing is slightly different but I felt it still fitted with my last category
  • Short discussion on what is a blog
  • 'Liveblogging' or live text commentary
  • A few panelists wanted foreign correspondents to use Twitter - thought it could be really interesting.
  • Obvious but important reservations about whether news people have time to do all this
  • Afterwards Daniel Morris from BBC Switch told me how he used several different Twitter accounts to cover a live event. Could that sort of thing be replicated in news?
  • Further Reading: Roo Reynolds; Tom Van Aardt (coming soon?).
Panel 7: Where next? Tom Van Aardt
  • Will have to see. But I felt it was a really positive day.
  • Thanks to all the people who organised it and for extending me an invite
  • Further Reading: Jason Da Ponte who went to a completely different set of panels.

Friday 24 October 2008

Blog 08: Blogging is dead 2 - or at least it's harder now

Pete Cashmore, founder and CEO of Mashable, is at the Blog 08 Conference in Amsterdam. In the keynote address he picks up where Rory Cellan-Jones left off the other day:
"Q&A: Apparently blogging is dead, it’s all about microblogging. Blogging is hard now. How do you compete with blogs created by established media empires who create blogs? Find a niche. What’s the future of blogs? According to Pete it is about how do you aggregate the dispersed conversation that’s on FriendFeed and Twitter, or do you want to completely distribute content as a brand?"
For more see Anne Helmond's blog.

Docu-web journalism

This is a 20 minute film called the Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard. In the film, she says the world's current production process is fabricated by a consumption society and ultimately unsustainable.

It's based on extensive research and uses the story-telling tools of the Web. Should we be seeing more of this kind of thing from 'mainstream media' organisations?

At the moment, I can't see how they'd do it but it's a thought.

Wednesday 22 October 2008

The death of blogging - cancel the research?

Rory Cellan-Jones, the BBC's technology correspondent wants to do a piece on the Today programme on the death of blogging:

Ruskin147: "so who will come on Today prog tomorrow to talk about the death of blogging?" he asks on Twitter. Here's some of the reaction to his shout out.

Rory's been reading this article, on Wired (I think), which says:
"Thinking about launching your own blog? Here's some friendly advice: Don't. And if you've already got one, pull the plug."
Twitter is the new blogging, the author, Paul Boutin, argues:
"Twitter — which limits each text-only post to 140 characters — is to 2008 what the blogosphere was to 2004. You'll find Scoble, Calacanis, and most of their buddies from the golden age there."
This BBC journalist agrees and demonstrates how Twitter can form a blog post.

So should I just cancel the project now? After all, I've still got two years left to look at the impact of blogging on the BBC's coverage of war and terrorism. I was worried it would all take too long. Maybe it's time to admit I was just too slow. (Or craftily justify studying Twitter as well).

Tuesday 21 October 2008

Research update

Just been talking to Robin Lustig about his World Tonight blog at Television Centre, which was all very interesting.

At the moment, I'm working on a historical chapter for the PhD about how the BBC blogs started and how they began using them for news.

Of course, the BBC doesn't presently have a blog exclusively focussed on defence or security, which would be the project ideal. But Robin's foreign affairs blog does regularly cover war and terrorism so I thought it would be worth talking to him. (It was!)

I don't post up much stuff about the interviews I do which is a bit of a shame. But I'm afraid I'm reluctant to get into the difficulties of working out what I'd be allowed to publish and what I'd not. More than anything else it would be quite time-consuming to liaise with the various parties involved and work it out.

Monday 20 October 2008

RSS: Ssshhh...don't tell anybody, they might start using it

Iain Dale recently asked his readers a few questions on his blog. He got 1,100 responses. Here's one of the questions and the results:
"How do you read the blog[?]

* 15% via an RSS reader
* 61% via your favourites on your toolbar
* 10% via another site
* 15% by typing the domain name each time"
I am intrigued that as many people type in the domain name each time as use an RSS feed. When will RSS go mainstream? Who's promoting it? Who's teaching it? Does it get taught in schools? Is RSS really that complicated? Does it need simplifying further? Or is it just a case that it's not that useful for most people?

It seems to me that people stumble across RSS by chance - one journalist I spoke to the other day said she only discovered Google Reader when she was shown how to use RSS feeds by her flatmate.

Thursday 16 October 2008

Links for today: Blogging and the BBC

  • Paul Bradshaw is blogging a series on how journalists are using blogs. Which is the same as what I'm doing really. So pretty darn useful. Here's Part One and you can use your own Internet initiative to find the others.
  • Using a quote designed for Search Engine Optimisation, Andrew Neil says blogs are 'print journalism pornography'. He also said blogs were "entertaining". But in the race for the spot in's headline, this quote was clearly never in the running.
  • Shane Richmond at the Telegraph has been asking the website's bloggers why they don't engage in comments.
  • John Simpson says the future of the BBC is bleak. But he is kind of fond of the place.
  • Re: Peston and that pesky blog. We've been here before - I pulled this article out of the World Wide bag the other day.
  • And while we're on the topic Peter Preston in the Guardian says danger is lurking for the BBC's bloggers.
  • Alfred Hermida on the BBC reaching out in online conversations.

Wednesday 15 October 2008

The blog as scrapbook

A while ago, I interviewed Stuart Hughes, Defence and Security Producer at the BBC about his blog. I'm just transcribing it now.

In the interview, he describes his blog as a "scrapbook" - "a scrapbook for all the stuff that falls on the floor when you're working".

I've never heard anyone else describe a blog like this. Maybe a blog is more of an interactive scrapbook but I like the idea.

Friday 10 October 2008

Blog: Genre? Literary Form? Medium?


Carolyn Miller and Dawn Shepherd in Blogging as Social Action: A Genre Analysis of the Weblog
'When a type of discourse or communicative action acquires a common name within a given context or community, that’s a good sign that it’s functioning as a genre (Miller, 1984). The weblog seems to have acquired this status very quickly, with an increasing amount of attention and commentary in the mainstream press reinforcing its status.'

Literary Form?

Kathleen Fitzpatrick quoting Himmer 2004 in The Pleasure of the Blog.
'It is, according to Himmer, the shared codes among bloggers and blog readers that result in this process of narrative completion that produces the primary experience of reading blogs, an experience that he understands as "a distinctive literary and creative mode, something richer and more nuanced than viewing it as simply the outcome of a specific toolset or formal structure allows for” (Himmer).

And, as he goes on to note, such an understanding of the "literariness" of blogs makes clear that this quality is not one "achieved by some weblogs and lacking in others.... This literary nature of the weblog is instead the loose set of shared criteria that allows us to speak of a plurality of ‘weblogs’ in the first place” (Himmer). All blogs, for Himmer, are in some sense literary, because of the nature of their readers’ interactions with them.'


Danah Boyd in Reconstruction 6:4 (2006)

"Moving away from [a] content-focused approach...blogs must be conceptualized as both a medium and a bi-product of expression. This shift allows us to see blogs in terms of culture and practice. Furthermore, this provides a framework in which to understand how blogging has blurred the lines between orality and literacy, corporeality and spatiality, public and private."

Do bloggers think they're writing journalism?

Taken from a Pew Internet Research Project 2006, which was based on a telephone survey of American bloggers:

Only one-third of bloggers see blogging as a form of journalism. Yet many check facts and cite original sources.
  • 34% of bloggers consider their blog a form of journalism, and 65% of bloggers do not.
  • 57% of bloggers include links to original sources either “sometimes” or “often.”
  • 56% of bloggers spend extra time trying to verify facts they want to include in a post either “sometimes” or “often.”

Thursday 9 October 2008

Links for today: The influence and history of blogging

Blogging - contributing to the crunch?
  • Ok, so shares are tumbling, banks are being bailed out all over the world, and you really know there's a crisis when Iceland's economy is in meltdown. (Honestly, since when did Iceland become such an important cog in the global capitalist machine?) Anyway, I digress. When things go wrong, blame needs to be apportioned. So who or what to blame? Well what about Robert Peston's blog? This post apparently caused banking shares to fall the other day and here we see just how much influence Robert Peston has. (Take note of the tiny numbers on the graph).
A history of blogging
  • Scott Rosenberg is writing a history of blogging. I'm looking forward to the publication and he talks to Mediashift about it here.
The Future of Journalism
"Overall, though, what also struck me during the event was the very blinkered vision of many in the mainstream industry. I got the sense that there's something not unlike Stockholm syndrome at work here - the longer you work in the industry, the harder is it to imagine any other way of working than by following the routines established long ago."
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Tuesday 7 October 2008

Twitter and BBC blogs continued...

In reply to yesterday's short offering, Tom Van Aardt (tomVS on Twitter - he's the Communities Editor at the BBC) has written a couple of posts on Twitter and the BBC's blogs.

The first is about Twitter and the potential for miscommunication.
"...there is no context on a microblogging platform. That’s sometimes the problem. Online all the other subtle forms of communication is lost - voice, body language, etc - and you’re only left with the words. In general a blog post (like this one) provides little information compared to a conversation, but it still provides vastly more information than a single sentence."
The second is a short justification of why he prefers Robert Peston's blog to 'official BBC News stories':
"All in all, it’s a more complete source of information than an unnamed BBC story. The fact that it’s a blog from the BBC gives me even more faith - to me it’s better than a usual BBC news story."

Here, in the latter quote, I think we see evidence of something of a culture change in the BBC's approach to the authority of information online.

In the distant past, the culture of attempting to remain impartial and objective meant the BBC tended to take the voice out of journalism. Most obviously this was seen in the reading of the BBC news which was always undertaken in a very neutral tone.

As Tom alludes to here, the philosophy of taking the individual out of news is also evident in the BBC website where most 'standard' news articles are not attributed to individual journalists.

The thinking is that the information carries authority because the biases, prejudices and opinions of the journalist have in theory been put aside to present the facts in a balanced and fair manner.

The thinking behind blogging runs counter to this idea and says that actually a piece of information can have more authority if we know who is behind it.

Hence, because Tom knows Robert Peston is writing his blog - an expert on the financial crisis and clearly in the know - the information carries more weight than if it was written by any other journalist at the BBC. The individual does make a difference. (Of course, the BBC brand still has a role to play here too.)

There may well be room for both approaches to news at the BBC and other organisations, and perhaps the key challenge is getting the balance right.

Indeed, I don't think the latter approach is entirely new. In both TV and radio, it's fairly plain the BBC has long recognised the importance of presenters and reporters developing what amounts to a personal rapport with the audience.

But I would suggest that the efforts to develop a more personal BBC presence online is also due to the influence of blogging on the thinking of those who work at the BBC.

Monday 6 October 2008

Random Twitter Quote: The BBC blog post vs the BBC online article

tomVS Finding myself more and more reading Peston's blog for insight, as opposed to "official" BBC stories.
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Tuesday 30 September 2008

What is a blog and blogging and posting and...?

A collection of tweets on a topic started by Paul Bradshaw from the Online Journalism Blog.

It's not exactly a new set of issues but definitely worth revisiting every now and then.

It's all too easy to think you know what something is and then realise that in reality it's far more complicated than that and changing all the time.

(I'm not sure Twitter really works too well for these debates. But anyway. The italics are comments I've added later and really just me throwing some stuff out there.)

Taken from Twitter 30/9/08

1000 Things #111: Most 'blogging' is not done on blogs, but on forums, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc.

ourman @paulbradshaw - Surely you can only blog on a blog. That's like saying most walking is done on a bicycle.

But then most writing is not done on a 'write'.

@paulbradshaw Interesting. I'm not tackling forums as 'blogging' to limit the size of my project. I think there are some key differences.

paulbradshaw @ourman et al well Twitter and Facebook is microblogging; MySpace is just an in-profile blog

@Dan_10v11 I'm saying that some people - my mother, for instance - use forums as a place to blog.

I'd be interested to hear how she uses it 'as a blog', rather than as a forum.

The point - isn't there a difference between a 'blog', 'blogging' and 'blogger'?

@paulbradshaw - surely she uses forums as a place to write. You can't blog on a forum any more than you can blog in a text book.

Obviously you can't blog away from the World Wide Web - the interactive nature of blogging doesn't work on paper. I think there is still validity in Paul Bradshaw questioning where else on the World Wide Web you can blog and if this does make sense.

Dan_10v11 @paulbradshaw E.g. A blog is not a forum, you can blog on a forum, a blogger can post on a forum. But r u a blogger if you post on a forum?

'you can blog on a forum' - my instinct actually is that you 'post' on a forum. This comes in later.

@ourman surely you can blog anywhere that allows people to respond? And is it platform or genre?

I suppose the first part of this represents a more cultural definition of blogging. I think it's a difficult route to go down.

@paulbradshaw @Dan_10v11 And there are even at least 3 different meanings for "blog" - technology, website, mindset

Mindset?! I wonder if I have a blog mindset...

Dan_10v11 @ourman @paulbradshaw But can you blog on a website? Or do you have to have a 'blog' bit of the website?

ourman @paulbradshaw - surely you can only blog on a blog. You twitter on Twitter. You SMS with SMS. @tomVS web2.0 is the genre

A more functional definition of blogging?

@paulbradshaw - you can't be a blogger unless you have a blog you contribute to. And blogging is the act of contributing (to a blog)

@Dan_10v11 I think what people are doing is "posting". You can "post" to any number of online sites but you can only blog on a blog.

Dan_10v11 @paulbradshaw @ourman I think you can make a case for either of your ways of looking at 'blogging'.

Dan_10v11 @ourman I think @paulbradshaw would argue that by posting on a forum his mum has effectively established a blog. But he can defend himself!

Dan_10v11 @ourman I agree - the addition of 'posting' to the debate helps. At base I think we're trying to work out what a blog is.

@ourman Agreed. The confusion between "post/blog" and "posting/blogging" is an endless source of miscommunication here.

ourman @adders blogging is too important to be lumped in with facebook and the like. It devalues it - weakens it.

I can see what ourman is getting at and generally agree. But I import my blog posts into Facebook. Does this mean I blog there too? Or not? Maybe that doesn't count. I just import the posts. But if people read it from there, are they not reading my blog on Facebook.

ourman @adders - I'd argue that just regurgitating links (without comment) isn't blogging either. But I'm guessing that's my own personal bugbear.

adders @ourman That's a tricky one, because that's how weblogging started. But I'd agree that blogging has moved beyond that.

paulbradshaw @ourman agreed you can't be blogger without a blog, but i think the act of blogging is broader

paulbradshaw What is 'blogging'?

adders @paulbradshaw The process of participating in the upkeep of a weblog.

paulbradshaw Or, what are the generic qualities of blogging? Personal? Open? Would love your thoughts

I still think there's value in going with the 'blog as a publishing tool' approach, advocated by Kevin Anderson and Chris Vallance.

Ends. For the moment, at least.

Here are a few blogs that challenge some of the definitional boundaries:

1. The Ministry of Defence call this a blog, but there's no space to respond. Is it still a blog?

2. Rachel North 'blogging' on the BBC after 7/7? She also posted the same content on her own blog.

3. Post Secret is an award winning blog. But feels more like community art to me.

4. World War One blog. Publishing historical documents or blogging? Or both?
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Wednesday 24 September 2008

Links for today: New media - challenges, changes, clashes and toilet doors

  • More pessimism at the Telegraph and other newsrooms about the new media world. Several emailers to Roy Greenslade argue that fewer jobs mean fewer facts.
  • A blogger at The Scotsman is fired for letting slip that (shock, horror) advertising is moving online.
"I was taken by an expression used in an editorial in The Australian a month or so ago that observed that blogging had all the intellectual value of graffiti on a toilet door.....I accept that some blogs have value and potency -- remember the Baghdad blogger Salam Pax during the early days of the Iraq war? -- but I cannot see how blogging does much other than add a forum for discussion to newspaper sites."

(Feel very slightly offended by my blog being compared to graffiti on a toilet door. But comforting myself with the knowledge that it does depend on the toilet door and who's writing on it. I remember reading some interesting comments on the doors of the Bodleian library toilets...though admit I can't recollect any of them now.)
  • Check out the state of the blogosphere with Technorati's annual report. It documents the estimated number of toilet doors in the blogopshere, how often bloggers use their spray cans etc
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Tuesday 23 September 2008

The BBC and reporting insurgency

This is the main theme of my latest Frontline post. It follows on from yesterday's post about a conference I attended on how insurgents shape the media landscape.

Monday 22 September 2008

How insurgents shape the media landscape

Part One describing the main themes of a conference last week on this topic at King's College London can be found here on my Frontline blog.

Friday 19 September 2008

Daily Telegraph journalist on the state of the media

Roy Greenslade's latest journalistic venture is publishing emails he receives from journalists. A few days ago there was one from BBC freelancer, Malcolm Brabant, and now he's posted another from a Daily Telegraph journalist.

This journalist is worried about the future:
"The growth of blogs and online communities seems to be contributing plenty in the way of opinion, of which there's already plenty and not much in the way of facts. This is creating a brand of journalism in which it doesn't really matter if you get things wrong."
You might understand why I feel some of what has been said may not go down too well with the blogging advocates...

Thursday 18 September 2008

Social Media Panel at the BBC

  • A very full room of people mainly from the World Service and Global News
  • Conspicuous by their absence: sandwiches.
  • Tuesday 16th September 2008
Matthew Eltringham
  • Explained that the UGC hub has been running for just over three years and receives around 12,500 emails a day. (Just thinking now that nobody asked him how many the BBC is capable of reading, replying to, etc).
  • Also said the BBC spends a lot of time engaging with social media on the Web already.
  • But pointed out how not to do it. Showed us an example of a BBC Producer who had posted on a New Orleans web forum in a none-too-clever fashion asking for interviewees who could talk about hurricane Gustav. The post received some pretty strong responses. Eltringham highlighted the importance of reaching out to people on their terms not on the BBC's terms.

Salam Adil
  • Is the Iraq contributor for Global Voices Online.
  • Global Voices is an independent non-profit organisation
  • Has over 100 volunteer authors, regional editors and translators
  • A core team of editors
  • Explained that Global Voices uses a Creative Commons Attribution Licence. This seemed to be news to one BBC journalist present who didn't realise they could use Global Voices material in this way.
  • Salam found that looking at what the media says and what bloggers have to say is enlightening:
"Especially when I was following Iraq, bloggers themselves are covering a completely different agenda to the journalists"

Kevin Anderson
  • Mainly talked about his upcoming US election project with The Guardian. In fact, he seems to have left the UK already. The plan is to travel around America meeting up with bloggers and voters along the route. He'll also be accompanied by a Guardian Films crew.
  • Intending to use any tool that he sees fit but mentioned Flickr, Youtube, FireEagle, (and no doubt several others that I didn't have a chance to note down as he reeled them off)
  • Made the observation that content shouldn't be imprisoned on your own website. It should be out there. This still seemed to be a surprise to one BBC questioner who asked whether that should mean that the BBC should drive traffic away from by linking out. (Anderson smiled in a resigned manner no doubt wondering whether he was in some kind of time warp.)

Jem Stone
  • Identified 3 challenges for the BBC
1. How to work with social media tools on the Web. Temptation for BBC journalists is to dive in when there is a news story without being authentic. BBC journalists need to try them out first and be involved in the community before they start them using them for the BBC. (Interestingly here there is a precedent with blogging. The BBC began by establishing a number of internal blogs before setting up the Blog Network.)

2. Curating blogs
The BBC is not good at collecting what is on the Web and making sense of it all in the way that Global Voices does.

3. Going to where people are
Reiterated this point that the BBC expect people to come to the BBC - i.e. rather than where they are. Pointed out that half of Internet users (in the UK?) never come to

Question on authentication and attribution of blogs etc?

Eltringham: Emphasised that this is basic journalism in a way. Need to apply the same rigour as other sources. Use cross-referencing, track down phone numbers and email addresses to get in contact with people.

Adil: Can look at the track record of bloggers by reading their archives. Generally bloggers wear their biases on their sleeves and there is rarely any money in blogging so not doing it for financial reasons.

Anderson: "This is traditional journalism with cutting edge tools". Also noted that some websites were doing a great job. Argued that blog coverage on Shanghaiist put the mainstream media to shame.

Monday 15 September 2008

Links for today: BBC

  • An interview with Richard Sambrook, Director of the Global News Division in the Media Guardian:
"People say the BBC is expanding too fast and is overly aggressive. I see it the other way around, that we're in danger of falling behind because we're unable to keep up with what is going on out there. We've got to move as fast as we can. It would be a very peculiar time for the BBC to pull back from its international role. It's absolutely the time when the BBC should be moving forward internationally rather than moving back."
  • Alfred Hermida reports the opinions of Peter Horrocks, head of the multimedia newsroom, on changes to the BBC's newsroom. Stephen Mitchell, head of multimedia programmes, had his say on multimedia at the BBC in last week's Independent.
  • How to search discussions about the BBC on Facebook courtesy of Murray Dick, who trains BBC journalists in online research techniques.

Friday 12 September 2008

New to the blog?

This blog has been going for a fair few months now, but if you're new to the blog, or to blogging in general, here's a quick guide to some of the current features available here.

(If you've read that sentence and thought: 'I'm not just new to the blog, I have NO IDEA what on earth this thing is', then check out this brilliant short video and you'll be right up to speed.)

1. Ordinary blog-standard postings - like this one. These used to be about Mediating Conflict - 'new media', war and terrorism but now most of these type of postings tend to be on my other blog at the Frontline Club. (You can find that here.) On this blog, I tend to write more about blogging and the media in general.

2. If there is nothing new in the ordinary posting section, fear not. On the sidebar you will see a list of my delicious bookmarks. Delicious is a way of sharing webpages you bookmark with other people. My bookmarks are constantly being updated as I save interesting and relevant online articles about blogging, media, war, terrorism, the BBC and how all of these things come together. All you have to do is click on one of the bookmarks in the sidebar and it will take you to the article.

3. If you want to find out what I'm up to at any given time, go again to the sidebar and you'll see my Twitter feed. This regularly lets you know what I'm doing a little bit like a Facebook status update. When you see something like "@Joebloggs", that means I'm replying to what somebody else has said on Twitter which won't make much sense unless you sign up and get involved.

4. Other sidebar features include an archive of all my postings and a 'newsfeed' that pulls in articles from Google News in various categories. You'll also find some sort of an answer to the question: 'Who the hell is this guy who writes this blog?'.

5. That big orange 'you've-been-tangoed' button that says "RSS feed" enables you to subscribe in a feedreader (like this one), so that you don't have to keep coming back to my blog to check out if I've written anything new. (It's a bit like the difference between having to go and collect your post from a pigeon-hole or central storage area and having someone deliver it directly to your door). If you set up a feed reader and subscribe to my feed you'll never miss anything I write. Ever. (Warning: this may not be desirable). You can do the same for my Frontline blog here. But you might just like to subscribe by email - using the link below the big orange button.

6. Finally, if you don't like what I've written, have some helpful additional info or just want to tell me what you think then you can leave a comment by clicking on the 'Comments' button that appears below an ordinary posting.

Recent Frontline posts: 9/11 and military blogging

I've written a couple of posts over at the Frontline blog. The first on 9/11 and the birth of blogging. The second, a quick link to an article on military blogging.

Wednesday 10 September 2008

Links for today: blogs, multimedia, and linking

  • The Guardian is relaunching their blogs.
  • The Independent talks to the BBC's head of multimedia, Ian Burrell about the Corporation's multiplatform approach.
  • National media outlets fail on attribution and linking according to Adam Tinworth.
  • Which is made more interesting when you consider that Kevin Anderson reckons the way to fact-check online is to follow the links.

Tuesday 9 September 2008

Google Chrome usage

Everyone's writing blog posts about how many people are now using Chrome - that's Google's new web-browser-cum-operating system for those of you that missed the fuss - to access their websites.

So I thought I'd let you know that only 0.75% of my visitors are using Chrome. That's not a high percentage, suggesting this blog is read by quaint old-fashioned types who prefer Firefox 3. I like it.

BBC Monitoring's Emerging Media 'Team'

Last week, I went to a talk by BBC Monitoring at Bush House on the Strand. The general gist was that blogs and other forms of social media are becoming increasingly important sources of information. No surprise there, then.

But I was rather taken aback by the fact that Vivien Sands from BBC Monitoring was not just representing the 'Emerging* Media Team'. She was and is the 'Emerging Media Team'. Which means she must be exceptionally busy - there's a lot of emerging media to monitor!

Vivien did go onto say that existing Monitors are being trained up in these emerging sources of information and regional specialists are already fully aware of blogs and the like. But I imagine she'll be hoping that her plan to increase the size of the Emerging Media Team will come to fruition.

Of all the emerging media available, Vivien said BBC Monitoring uses blogs the most. Although Monitoring does produce a weekly round up Iranian blogs, most of the time blogs will be scoured in relation to particular news events. Monitors will then put the best of the information together for the BBC and their other clients - such as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence.

Recent BBC Monitoring projects include:
*I'm guessing the thinking here is that the 'new' media is no longer deemed to be 'new'. But then why replace it with emerging? Hasn't the 'new' media already 'emerged'? I'll carry on using the word 'emerging' in this post for consistency.

Friday 5 September 2008

Links for today: Moult, the Mail and loose ends

  • This is a story about Julie Moult, of the Daily Mail, who wrote a poor article about Google-bombing. It's something of a warning to 'old media': respond to comments (and employ some basic fact-checking) or 'new media' will make you look silly. Very silly. (But remember folks it's not a war and we should all be working together...)
  • BBC's Evan Davis 'defends' Chancellor. Somewhere here is the line between personal opinion and professional judgement. See if you can spot it...
  • The EU wants to 'clarify' the position of blogs. That means 'labelling' them and sorting out their legal status etc.
  • A different model for journalism. Pitch a story and raise funds direct from the audience to report it.
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