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.
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