Thursday 31 July 2008

(More on) Twitter and the Bangalore bomb blasts at the Frontline

Part III on this topic is about whether Twitter 'hypes' the news.

Wednesday 30 July 2008

Twitter - I'm going to carry on writing about it. Sorry.

Jemima Kiss, at the Guardian, has just written a post telling people to get over Twitter breaking major news stories and beating other media. I agree. Though I bet there are hundreds of journos out there who have no idea what it is - easy to forget when you're living and working in a digital bubble.

But she does also say that 'the interesting phenomenon is that because this communication is public, it can be used as a source'. Which, I think, has actually been much less explored.

So I've been covering how Twitter might have been used by journalists to cover the Bangalore blasts in a series of posts on the Frontline blog. It's a little case study.

Part One is on the use of Twitter as to find eyewitness accounts and online reportage

Part Two is on verification

Part Three will be coming tomorrow: Does Twitter 'hype' the news?

But if I'm boring you: Stick '"Daniel Bennett" King's College London' into new search engine,, and it'll find you some completely unrelated information about "mating cell integrity". You might find this more interesting than my ramblings about Twitter.

Monday 28 July 2008

Today's researcher's view

Today, I'm footnoting. This doesn't make a good blog post, nor for particularly interesting post-work conversation, I might add. Instead, I offer you today's researcher's view, which isn't that much more exciting to be honest...

...but please note that the sort of cutting edge digital research I do does involve running wires into my literature, and (apparently) the use of sellotape as one half of an unusual book-holder.

Random thought on blogging 2

"Being a blogger makes you a shameless narcissist, endlessly questing for more and more traffic and links to compensate for your pathetic existence."
Courtesy of Lt Nixon who no doubt will feel slightly better for having another link to his blog.

Friday 25 July 2008

Twitter and the Bangalore bomb blasts at the Frontline

I was supposed to be finishing off a chapter of the PhD today but events put paid to the plan.

Instead, I've been following the Bangalore bomb blasts on the Frontline blog.

I wanted to track how Twitter could be used for breaking news and compare it with the BBC's coverage. Paul Bradshaw, from the Online Journalism Blog, has already done this for the earthquake in China. But because of the focus of my work - war, terrorism and the BBC - I felt this story might be a good one to follow on the off-chance that it might develop into a useful case study.

For the fruits of the labour (so far) click here.

Identity of popular milblogger LT G revealed

The identity of LT G has been revealed by the press in the United States. I've blogged about it at the Frontline where you will find all the relevant links.

Wednesday 23 July 2008

Am I the only who is confused about Karadzic?

Last night, I watched the BBC Ten O'Clock News which seemed to suggest that a few people in Serbia may possibly have known where Karadzic was hiding but that most people were fooled by that exceptional beard. (I was. He could have been anyone under there. In fact, the Serbs can probably count themselves unfortunate that they didn't unearth Mladic and Bin Laden under the same beard. Somebody should check before he shaves it off.)

But anyway, Robin Lustig, of Radio 4's World Tonight programnme paid the guy a visit in 1996. He claims that tracking him down was rather straightforward:

"The fiction in 1996 was that no one knew where he was. The reality was that within a couple of days of arriving in Sarajevo, I'd been handed a piece of paper with a scribbled map on it, showing the precise location of the house where he was living, in Pale, in the hills outside the Bosnian capital.

As I made my way to the house, I stopped several times along the way to ask directions. "Excuse me, is this the way to Radovan Karadzic's house?" Everyone was very kind and gave me directions, even the Ghanaian officers at the UN police post just a couple of hundred metres from the house."

I have two questions then really (not including the title, which you're also more than welcome to answer):

1. How come the narratives of Robin Lustig and the Ten O'Clock seem so out of sync?

2. And did Robin Lustig ever think about passing over the 'scribbled map' to a relevant authority?

Iraqi navy not ready to secure oil platforms

I've written a post at the Frontline about the Iraqi Navy. Royal Navy Captain, Paul Abrahams, had some interesting things to say about their progress as part of a bloggers round table run by the US Department of Defense.

Tuesday 22 July 2008

Prost(r)ate cancer on the Today programme

I don't normally do politics so I'm quite surprised Nick Robinson is making another appearance in the blog. But this one's just a bit of fun really.

This morning Nick was presenting Radio 4's Today programme, and he'd got a nice interview about prostate cancer to do. Unfortunately, Nick spent the interview referring to prostrate cancer, which really isn't the same thing at all. Here's the audio.

Nick rather sheepishly managed to see the funny side. See the blog post and the post mortem.

It seems to me that covering prostate cancer is something of a journalistic curse. When I was an MA student, somebody wanted to do a vox pop on prostate cancer, (though for the life of me now, I can't think why. A vox - on prostate cancer? Any ideas!?)

But anyway, my colleague was already to set off but just before she did she wanted to check with our editor for the day about what sort of voices they wanted.

And fortunately during this conversation it became apparent that she hadn't realised that prostate cancer is one of those male only diseases.

If it weren't for this, she would have spent the next hour trawling round town with her microphone asking women about prostate cancer and wondering why she was getting some rather bemused responses.

Which would have been rather embarrassing to say the least.

White phosphorus and newsroom curmudgeons

I'm reading and writing about White Phosphorus, it's use by the US Army in Iraq and media coverage of it with special focus on blogging, of course, in November 2005.

In short, the episode was a major embarrassment for the mainstream media.* Beaten to the story, the mainstream media then made things worse by describing what amounted to some impressive investigative journalism as 'rumours' 'surfacing on the Internet'.

Indeed, as yet, I haven't found a British mainstream media article that actually mentions Mark Kraft by name - the guy who discovered an article in a military magazine that nailed the story.

This sort of stuff annoys bloggers, as you might imagine. In fact, it would annoy anyone regardless of whether they happened to blog about it or not.

Hopefully, I'll have some time to write a linked commentary at a later date, though if you really can't wait, you can browse my delicious links on the subject.

In the meantime, I'd recommend reading Jeff Jarvis on 'newsroom curmudgeons', which shows that some journalists haven't learnt from this and other episodes in the last few years.

*The 'mainstream media' is a term which is becoming increasingly meaningless as this article demonstrates, but you get my drift for the moment at least.

Friday 18 July 2008

Nick Robinson symbolises the BBC's mainstream approach to politics (apparently)

Frank Fisher in The Guardian is not too happy. He reckons the BBC, and in particular Nick Robinson, upholds the established mainstream order by framing the political questions of the day.
"Just as there is a disconnect between public and politicians, there is a disconnect between the media and public, and now the media and reality. We are not as dumb as they suppose. We do see that the binary, purely party political options presented to us do not reflect the full range of options. There are paths which do not go through Westminster, roads less well travelled, or never travelled at all – the BBC simply chooses to excise them from its roadmap."
Hardly a new accusation - check out the literature on the BBC's coverage of the General Strike 1926 for example - but one which I would have thought might be diminishing given the BBC's attempts to throw more of the agenda over to the audience in recent times.

Maybe Nick should spend some more time reading the comments on his blog or Guido's blog. He can write off ever having time to sleep but at least in Frank Fisher's eyes he might be able to ask some better questions.

But then maybe Frank Fisher should consider the BBC's coverage of politics more wholistically and in a less 'mainstream fashion'. After all, by only considering the role of Nick Robinson he misses many other ways in which politics is reported at the BBC. In some programmes, for example, they ask the audience what sort of questions they'd like to ask.

Thursday 17 July 2008

The definition of citizen journalism considered (ignore my previous post!)

"When the people formerly known as the audience employ the press tools they have in their possession to inform one another, that’s citizen journalism."

This is Jay Rosen's definition of citizen journalism. Obviously this is a pretty good effort and defining something in one sentence is nigh on impossible in any case, but here are some thoughts.

The problem I have is with its non-recognition of the nature of news and journalism. 'Journalism' itself is very difficult to define and is changing radically at the moment, but I think the fact that journalism is about the publication of information to many rather than to just one person needs to be emphasised. ((This may be covered by the definition above if you narrowly define 'press tools' merely as tools of publication but I'm not convinced this was what was meant (surely you must include the mobile phone, handheld camera etc) so I'll carry on...))

Now, how many people you need (10, 100, 1,000, 100,000?) to inform in order for something to be 'published' and become journalism is an interesting question. But what I would say is this: If I (a person formerly part of the audience) pick up my mobile phone (a press tool) and call a friend to say 'hi, I'm eating lunch' (informing him of something), this is not journalism, (let alone citizen journalism).

This is why citizen journalism is a digitally-based phenomenon because it allows for simple one to many publication. Consider the difference between these examples:
  • I pick up my phone and take a photo of a road traffic accident and show my friend. This is not journalism.
  • I pick up my phone and take a photo of a road traffic accident and upload it to Internet photo-sharing site Flickr where it is published. It may only be looked at by my friend but it has the potential to be viewed by many. This is more like journalism.
But 'journalism' also relates to the subject matter. In this case the picture of the road traffic accident might be newsworthy - (another difficult concept to define and currently undergoing significant change but best explained by example). The accident might have been caused by a drink-driver who's killed a passenger in another car. This is a local news story, raising issues about road safety, and drink-driving legislation. There will also be a court case to cover etc.

Would it be journalism if I took a picture of a daffodil in my garden and posted it on Flickr. This may be informative and interesting (somehow) but is it journalism? I don't think so. Now people's definitions of a newsworthy event change and alter, and I'm certain that 'the citizen journalism' phenomenon has vastly broadened the definition of a 'newsworthy event' (for the better), but I still think the concept of 'news' is different from 'information'.

Merely informing one another is not journalism. This happens all the time. Teachers inform children in classes all the time, but this isn't journalism is it?

So what of Jay Rosen's definition? I think it might be worth adding emphasis on publication by including the word 'many' and also sticking in the phrase 'an event deemed to be newsworthy' or for brevity just 'a newsworthy event'. Here's my stab at it:

"When the people formerly known as the audience employ the press tools they have in their possession to inform many others of a newsworthy event, that’s citizen journalism."

I'm sure there will be further thoughts...

Updated: 18/07/08
  • Dr Andrew Cline at Missouri State University has a think about the 'tools' aspect of the definition.
  • And if you haven't had a look already from the link at the top of page, Jay Rosen does a great job of collecting other bits and pieces that are relevant to his post.
Updated 23/07/08

This is why there's only been one post this week

I'm redrafting, hacking, editing, chopping, adding, polishing and footnoting a couple of chapters of the thesis at the moment so blogging has been sucked into this all-consuming black hole for the time-being.

Monday 14 July 2008

Links for today: The cost of the BBC's 'Breathing' sculpture etc

The Breathing Sculpture was unveiled last month to commemorate journalists who have been killed while reporting in the name of freedom and democracy. It's part of a building project at the BBC's Broadcasting House.

A Mr Hodges wanted to know how much it costed. So he used this useful Freedom of Information website to get the answer he was looking for - at least £889,898.

In the 'other interesting stuff department':
  • The 'oldest' blogger in the world has died in Australia. 108 is pretty old but of course there is no easy way to find out whether this person is actually the oldest blogger in the world. ('Old' blogger doesn't make for such a great headline though.)
  • I want to watch a mini-series on the war in Iraq called Generation Kill. (The website itself looks great and here's the New York Times review). It's produced by HBO - the same people who made the Band of Brothers series. Unfortunately I haven't worked out how to watch this in the UK. Any suggestions gratefully received....

Thursday 10 July 2008

Downing Street twitters on Zimbabwe pictures

The people running the 10 Downing Street Twitter feed have replied to Sokwanele, the Twitter feed of the 'This is Zimbabwe' blog to emphasise the government's position on Zimbabwe.

Sokwanele is a pro-democracy movement in Zimbabwe. Recently they have been posting photos of violence perpetrated against MDC supporters on their blog.

sokwanele @DowningStreet We saw this terrible pic had an impact at the G8 ( Can you ensure the PM sees all of these?

DowningStreet DowningStreet sokwanele The UK Government is aware of the beatings and violence in Zimbabwe and is pursuing the matter vigorously

Tuesday 8 July 2008

Blogging (barely) in the BBC Trust Report

The BBC Trust report is published today. I trawled through...I say 'trawled' - I mean I stuck 'blog' into Acrobat's search see what I could find.

Mentions of 'blog' were scarce and only nine instances of 'blog' were found in total.
  • Blue Peter: "We’re attracting new and younger audiences through these sites and making it possible for them to take our content and embed it in their own blogs and social network profiles."
  • Five Live Breakfast: "The show’s blog took audience interaction in a new direction. Across the output we used material from listeners for special NHS and Education days – just two examples of how the continued growth of audience interactivity resulted in more listener-originated, and original, stories on air last year than ever before. We will continue to explore more opportunities to do this."
  • And (on a similar theme) identified as a priority for Radio Five Live: "Expand use of user-generated Content. The station’s Audience Team continues to get a high number of stories and guests to air. The breakfast show blog provided material from listeners for special NHS and Education days."
  • Sport: "The year also marked the rise of the blog. Editors’ and contributors’ comments sparked new levels of debate. For example, Tom Fordyce’s and Ben Dir’s blog account of their campervan journey though France during the Rugby World Cup broke all records, with around 10 million page views. Blogs are one of the ways in which BBC Sport provides a more joined-up offering across all platforms in our coverage of events like the Cricket World Cup and the Rugby World Cup."
  • Test Match Special: "We provided complete coverage of England’s internationals at home and abroad. The Test Match Special Blog is consistently the most popular blog on"
  • Engaging with Audiences: "Millions of people have a face-to-face experience with us every year, and millions more phone, text, write, email, send us their photos and videos, or post on one of our many blogs. We are committed to doing our best to make each of those contacts a positive experience."

Monday 7 July 2008

Links for today: BBC shows shooting and blogging bits and pieces

  • 'The BBC' (speaking, I imagine, with one booming voice) decides to apologise for the decision to show the shooting of the man driving the bulldozer on the Jaffa Road in Israel. Hussan Dwyatt killed three people in the incident and injured dozens more, before he was shot by Israeli police.
  • The announcement must have been a blow to the programme's editor Craig Oliver who had already written a blog post justifying his editorial decision to show the moment of death.
  • A commenter called 'the magic monkey' makes an interesting point on the matter here:
"The Guardian's media section reported today that the BBC received 61 complaints [now double that figure at 120 but the point stands]. I think the 10 o'clock news gets something like 5 million viewers a night. Why are the complaints of the usual tiny minority always taken so seriously? Clearly roughly 4,999,959 viewers were mature enough to handle this clip which was a lot less disturbing than what many countries would think perfectly normal to show at any time of day."
  • Just how many people need to complain before action is taken by the BBC? Is it 10, 20, 30?
In other blogging news:
  • Here's an interview with Nasim Fekrat, arguably Afghanistan's leading blogger/free-press campaigner.
  • The Kurds have stopped blogging. Global Voices asks why.

Friday 4 July 2008

Researcher's view

I've been copying and pasting some research material from the BBC's internal website. This doesn't make for an interesting blog post unfortunately.

The stuff I'm reading is good but I can't write about it (yet) because it's not in the public domain at the moment. Various permissions will have to be sought...which is a job for another day.

In between 'Ctrl+C' and 'Ctrl+V', I've been gazing out of this window...

Wednesday 2 July 2008

Another update on the end of LT G at Kaboom

I've linked to him regularly, his writing was superb, and his insights candid. But LT G, a US Army officer serving in Iraq, crossed the 'too-much-openness' line and has been forced to close down his blog. He certainly isn't the first and he won't be the last.

I've been covering this for Frontline so if you want to read more about how this US military blogger bit the dust click here and for more on the reaction from bloggers and commenters go here.

Tuesday 1 July 2008

Hermida on rethinking 'local' news

Alfred Hermida has written about something Dave Lee and I have been thinking about for a while.

"The concept of local news is based on the news value of geographical proximity - the notion that events close to us are more relevant than those in far away lands.

"The problem with this approach is that it is based on an out-dated model of news, where there was a scarcity of news and information and the sources for this were limited by geography.

"Maybe rather than asking whether journalism should be local, we should ask ourselves what does local mean in the 21st century."

The full post is well worth a read.
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