Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Heavy duty online distribution

For those of you who are serious about maximising the distribution of your content online you should check out Graham Holliday's excellent slideshare on his Kigali Wire project:

Monday, 16 November 2009

Social media roles and anonymous blogging

Media creates social media roles

BBC appoints Alex Gubbay to the position of BBC News Social Media Editor. He'll take up the job in January.

(I notice that Ruth Barnett, former Twitter Correspondent, at Sky News has also had her job title renamed at some point - she's now Sky's Social Media Correspondent.)

Congrats to everyone.

Instant Twitter reaction from past and present BBC staffers on Gubbay's appointment seemed to be positive (although putting out anything else other than that probably wouldn't have been too clever).

A BBC insider (should have) said: "Everyone was pleased that during this particular appointment process Gubbay found out he had got the job before the rest of the world."

Anonymous blogging

After successfully uncovering Night Jack and Girl With a One Track Mind, The Times and the Sunday Times are continuing their campaign to systematically 'out' every anonymous blogger on the Web.

Ok, I jest. That's not strictly true.

In this latest case, Belle de Jour, who led a secret life as a blogging prostitute, did come forward to the Sunday Times voluntarily to reveal her identity as research scientist, Dr Brooke Magnanti.

You do wonder how voluntarily the voluntarily bit was though given that: "...she decided to reveal her secret because it was making her paranoid, and she feared that an ex-boyfriend might reveal Belle’s true identity".

And according to India Knight "nearly every media organisation in Britain has thrown its resources at outing her".

And in a Twitter update Belle de Jour said she went to The Sunday Times "willingly" after the "Mail had their reporters warned off my work premises by the police". sounds like Dr Magnanti unmasked herself under no external pressure whatsoever.

It's all making me nervous. How long will it be before The Times family track down my anonymous blog?

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Discussing Twitter and Journalism at Reuters

I'm just back from the Amplified 1pound40 conference at Reuters where we were discussing how social media impacts politics, news, and the arts.

Christian Payne (@Documentally) recorded the discussion on our table about Twitter and journalism which included a few thoughts from me and some more interesting ones from other people:


Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Links from the Archives: 1996 - 2001

So my two day absence at a teaching course turned into a two week blogging absence. Afraid I had an allergic reaction to something I did that day and spent far too many of the following days hardly eating.

Been recovering and catching up in the meantime hence it's all been quiet on the blogging front.

Thought I'd stick up a few links I've saved from years gone by in relation to the BBC, blogging etc over the next few posts. A little history slot if you like.

  • The BBC's 1996 budget website. (That's a reference to the Chancellor's budget, rather than the website's quality. Which for the time I imagine was far less 'budget' than it seems now.)
  • Current research: a data set of the emerging links in the blogosphere.
  • Dismissed MI6 officer Richard Tomlinson demonstrates the potential of the Web to frustrate existing information gatekeepers by ignoring a government D-notice and publishing a list of alleged MI6 agents on his Geocites website. (BBC website)
  • A BBC report by 'Internet Correspondent' Chris Nuttall includes a reference to "contributors to a discussion on the Slashdot Weblog". I reckon it's one of the first uses of a weblog as a source of information on the BBC website. If you have any earlier references, let me know.
  • BBC's h2g2 project invites 'researchers' to keep a blog. The project aimed to "be an unconventional guide to life, the universe and everything, an encyclopaedic project where entries are written by people from all over the world." And it's still going apparently.
  • While then leader of the Liberal Democrats, Charles Kennedy, is criticised for not updating his website, a commenter on this BBC article called Nick Jordan suggests politicians should start blogging: "It seems to me that many politicians would find a weblog a useful thing. Tools such as Blogger and Greymatter can take most of the pain away from updating regularly."
  • BBC news E-Cyclopedia lists new additions to the news lexicon including the word weblog which it describes as: "a log of webpages a surfer has visited and recommends. In 2001 the term also came to mean public online journals where cyber diarists let the world in on the latest twists and turns of their love, work and internal lives. 'The majority...are not all that interesting,' says weblog-tracking psychologist John Grohol."
  • Political Correspondent Nick Robinson, or somebody on his behalf, explains what 'newslog' is to the BBC's online audience. It was the first major high profile experiment with news blogging at the BBC: "Many [blogs] consist of links to other websites of interest, often with a comment added by the owner of the weblog. But some weblogs adopt lives of their own right, becoming unfolding diaries. Nick Robinson's aims to having something of both of these - news about and links to things that have happened, and his own take on those events."

Monday, 26 October 2009

Links for today on the BBC, blogging, journalism and Twitter

I'm being taught how to teach for a couple of days, so they'll be no blogging here for at least two days. I'm sure all 1.3 people (on average) who read this blog every day will be gutted. In the meantime here is what I've been reading:


  • BBC to upgrade sign-in service with a move to 'a shiny new one' called BBC iD. This appeared on a number of BBC blogs from what I could make out including this Cycling the Americas blog. Let's hope this guy isn't blogging while he's cycling - that would be plain dangerous.
  • More key findings from the State of the Blogosphere survey 2009 via the Online Journalism Blog. Though OJB missed a couple of key stats (IMHO) on blogs as sources which I covered the other day. But then I missed loads they covered because I didn't cover it all...
Twitter news (in a luxurious excess of characters)
  • Deleted tweets will now remain deleted, (tipping the balance in the endless struggle over the definition of 'deleted' towards 'it has gone - for good' and away from 'it has been moved to the recycle bin'.) Sounds odd you might think but it used to be all too straightforward to access 'deleted' tweets. This change apparently has something to do with the Twitter-Microsoft-Google deals and no doubt ruins the fun of people who used to regularly check the deleted tweets of MPs, celebrities and other famous tweeters for screw ups. But then just how embarrassing could a 140 character mistake be?

Friday, 23 October 2009

Revisiting Moldova's 'Twitter Revolution'

I've written an update on the so-called 'Twitter Revolution' in Moldova for the Media140 blog. You can find it here.

I'll probably cross post it to my Frontline blog in the near future (changing the error in the first sentence in the process. Frustratingly I can't do anything about it on the Media140 blog and I believe the person who could do something about it is on a train heading for Bath. Ah well.)

My previous pieces from April when it all kicked off can be found here and here.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Technorati's State of the Blogosphere

While some of us are having a (one-sided) debate on Twitter about the value of Technorati's 'State of the Blogosphere' (and Technorati itself), I'm ploughing on anyway and picking out a few bits that interest me from the first part of 2009's offering - Who are the Bloggers?

  • "Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates, conducted an Internet survey from September 4-23, 2009 among 2,828 bloggers nationwide."
  • "Representing 72% of the respondents to this survey, hobbyists say that they blog for fun. They don’t make any money from their blogging - and only some would like to do so."
Adoption of blogging by mainstream media journalists
"As the concepts of blogging and mainstream media continue to converge, it’s not surprising that there is quite a bit of overlap between the two entities. Despite being perceived by some as enemies of the traditional media, bloggers actually carry a journalistic pedigree. 35 percent of all respondents have worked within the traditional media as a writer, reporter, producer, or on-air personality."
Blogging is not dying and Twitter has made a difference (shock)
"With the blogosphere filled with several different growing groups, there are also several trends on the rise. Professional bloggers grow more prolific, and influential, every year. Twitter and other social media represent one of the most important trends affecting the Blogosphere this year. The blogosphere is also further insinuating itself into the traditional media’s historic turf, as seen most clearly in coverage of the Iran election protests. With more areas of involvement, and more ways to tell the story, the blogosphere is strong - and only getting stronger."
Blogs as sources
  • 35% of all respondents said they get more of their news and information from blogs than from other media sources. (This is interesting. These people are bloggers themselves so presumably far more likely to be aware of blogs as a media source than the 'general public'. Yet nearly two-thirds still get more of their information from sources other than blogs. Also worth asking how much of the news and information on blogs owes something to other media sources.)
  • 46% of all respondents said blogs are just as valid media sources as traditional media
  • 69% of all respondents said blogs are getting taken more seriously as sources of information
  • 62% of respondents claimed to have been quoted in traditional media.

Friday, 16 October 2009

The latest blogging research (a little late)

There was a conference in Milwaukee recently which I feel like I should have been at. But then you can't go to everything. It was the tenth annual conference of the Association of Internet researchers, entitled Internet: Critical.

Fortunately for me, Axel Bruns, documented a number of the blogging panels and there were quite a few:

1. Bloggers and the Networked Public Sphere in Singapore, Carol Soon.

2. Political Blogging in the 2008 US Election, Aaron Veenstra.

3. Israeli and Lebanese war blogs in the 2006 Conflict, Muhammed Abdul-Mageed & Priscilla Ringrose.

4. Bloggers as Opinion Leaders in the Transformation of Israeli Politics, Carmel Vaisman.

5. Political Discourse from Truth to Truthiness, Megan Boler.

6. Blogging the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Daisy Pignetti.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Help? The legal questions raised by Guardian gagging

There's a great summary of the Guardian's reporting parliament gag by Carter-Ruck on behalf of Trafigura over at the Online Journalism blog in case you missed today's news.

But I'd be interested in any help answering the following legal questions.

1. Does anyone have any legal insight into Carter-Ruck's case for arguing that the Guardian's reporting of parliament would have been Contempt of Court? Did Internet coverage, and specifically Twitter's hashtagging frenzy, actually make a legal difference to the case or would they have lost the appeal in the High Court anyway?

2. From the BBC website: "No injunction was served on the BBC, but ever since the Spycatcher case in the 1980s news organisations which knowingly breach an injunction served on others are in contempt of court, so the corporation too felt bound by the Guardian injunction."

This implies there is a legal definition of a 'news organisation'. If there is such a thing when was it last tested in court and does it make any sense anymore? Presumably, the Spectator breached the injunction under law. But who else would qualify as having breached it?

Any links, comments etc greatly appreciated.

  • This is useful background on the scope of injunctions but obviously is not specific.
  • Roy Greenslade says 'the action of the firm at the heart of the case' was 'entirely undone by the freedom of the internet'. But that's all we get for the time-being.

Monday, 12 October 2009

"Rooted in evidence" and other notes on the BBC's draft editorial guidelines

Last week, I was preparing and giving a talk on the BBC and blogging at the War Studies Department annual PhD conference. The research was based on the interviews I have been conducting over the last couple of years with a variety of BBC journalists.

Unfortunately, what I said there is not really ready for a wider audience. There are various processes I need to go through before I can publish. But you'll get to hear about it one day...

While I was busy with that, I note that the BBC has published a draft copy of the updated editorial guidelines which they have made available for public consultation. (At the time of posting the site is unconsultable...but no doubt it will be up soon).

I've had a quick read and selected a few points that caught my eye.

"Nothing should be written..."

The Guardian picked out the phrase: "Nothing should be written by [BBC] journalists and presenters that would not be said on-air."

The headline they decided to run on the basis of that sentence, "BBC gets tough on journalists' blogging", implies that is something new. It isn't really. A point that the BBC's Steve Hermann makes in this blog post.

I've heard the 'don't write it if you wouldn't say it on air' sentence repeated on numerous occasions over the last two years.

It seems to have been more or less official policy on blogging for quite some time and has certainly been re-emphasised since Sachsgate ushered in yet another crackdown on editorial standards at the BBC.

The mantra has also been used inside the Corporation as a way of making sure journalists' use of Twitter stays within BBC policy.

Impartiality 1

There's an interesting little addition to the section on impartiality. The 2005 guidelines said:
"Presenters, reporters and correspondents are the public face and voice of the BBC, they can have a significant impact on the perceptions of our impartiality...our journalists and presenters, including those in news and current affairs, may provide professional judgments but may not express personal opinions on matters of public policy or political or industrial controversy. Our audiences should not be able to tell from BBC programmes or other BBC output the personal views of our journalists and presenters on such matters."
Whereas the draft version for 2010 inserts the phrase "rooted in evidence":
"Presenters, reporters and correspondents are the public face and voice of the BBC - they can have a significant impact on perceptions of our impartiality. Journalists and presenters, including those in news and current affairs, may provide professional judgements, rooted in evidence, but may not express personal views on public policy, on matters of political or industrial controversy, or on ‘controversial subjects’ in any other area. Our audiences should not be able to tell from BBC programmes or other BBC output the personal prejudices of our journalists and presenters on such matters."
It would be worth trying to find out a bit more background about the "rooted in evidence" phrase but this is surely an attempt to indicate a difference between personal opinion and professional judgement.

This is something I thought might be worth exploring back in March. It seems that the issue has become much more confused by the BBC's forays into the blogosphere with critics accusing the BBC's blogs of being vehicles for the personal opinions of BBC Correspondents.

It's possible, then, that the "rooted in evidence" phrase looks in two directions.

For those inside the Corporation it reiterates that BBC journalists must resist the wave of opinionated journalism; for critics outside the BBC it attempts to more clearly demarcate a boundary line between professional judgement and personal opinion that might appear blurred.

Impartiality 2

There's a section in the draft guidelines on impartiality in series and over time.

This means that you don't have the potentially ridiculous situation of needing to have every programme perfectly balanced by differing points of view but can achieve impartiality within the context of a radio or TV series or over a period time.

Although the section doesn't directly mention BBC blogs, I assume that this would also apply to them under the term, "a set of interlinked web pages".

Rather than balancing each individual blog post, a blog should be balanced over time:
"On long-running or continuous output (such as general daily magazine programmes, the News Channel, Online, etc) due impartiality may be achieved over time by the consistent application of editorial judgement in relevant subject areas."

Haven't got much too add on this bit, but for those of you that are interested in what the BBC does or doesn't link to:
"BBC online sites covering ‘controversial subjects’ may offer links to external sites which, taken together, represent a reasonable range of views about the subject. We should normally try to ensure that when we link to third party sites this does not give strong grounds for concern that this breaches the law or the BBC Editorial Guidelines on harm and offence."

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Links I've dredged from the morass on the usual subjects

  • BBC News is like a "factory" according to former news presenter Peter Sissons.
  • North America Editor, Mark Mardell, demonstrates how not to liveblog Obama's maiden address to the UN. File under 'Technology FAIL'.
  • BBC political journalists get involved with Twitter just in time for conference season (and the impending general election no doubt.)
  • Kristine Lowe: How blogs transformed and challenged mainstream media coverage of the financial crisis:
'"Mainstream media reporting of finance and business is still important in that it keeps everyone updated with data releases and breaking news. But its relevance and timeliness more or less stop there, and bloggers step in to fill in on the rest," said Dana Chen, a financial blogger and former analyst who is currently involved in a finance news launch. Indeed, more and more people find that, in their chosen fields, specialist blogs cover issues more in-depth than traditional media. It has certainly been my experience as a media journalist that blogs such as Professor Piet Bakker's Newspaper Innovation and venture capitalist Fred Wilson's A VC cover their chosen subjects better and more consistently than their mainstream media (MSM) counterparts.'
  • Kuwait censors 'terror' blogs according to AFP.

Bonus journalism link

Just for the beard enthusiast

I rarely reveal how people find my blog through Google searches but I couldn't help flagging up this one: "Robin Lustig beard". Clearly this Googler knows a good beard when they see one. Here it is:

Robin Lustig presents the BBC's World Tonight on Radio 4 and writes a blog. No doubt after a few thoughtful strokes of the aforementioned beard.

Update: Further trawling reveals the search may have been inspired by this post on the PM blog.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Links for today on blogging and Twitter

  • Blogging doesn't have to be extra work. I'm down with the sentiment but in actual fact it depends on what your work is. So taking myself as an example with which I have some familiarity, I note that some aspects of my PhD - like reading loads of stuff on the Web - translates well into blog posts. Other work like actually writing the thing doesn't really - it would be extra work to reword PhD chapters into blog posts. Though in the case of the article at the end of the link, the 'work' is journalism which probably does translate well into blog posts a lot of the time.
So was that post extra work?

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Future of Journalism Notes 3: Swedish business journalists and blogs

Just rounding up the notes on the Future of Journalism Conference in Cardiff last week - a short piece on this paper on Swedish business journalists and blogs.

Blog-Journalist Relations: Business News in Transformation

(Maria Grafstrom and Karolina Windell)

This study looked at the use of blogs by business journalists in the press in Sweden.
- used content analysis and a survey
- 187 business journalists, 79 replied. Response rate 42%.
- Covered all the main business news outlets in Sweden.
- 0 articles in 2001 mentioned the word blog.
- Over 1,000 articles containing 'blog' in 2006.
- 61% of the articles mentioning the word blog were stories about blogs.
- 16% of the articles include a direct quote from a blog.
- 23% of the articles referenced a blog.
- 63% of journalists strongly disagreed with the statement 'I reference blogs in my work'.

One Swedish business journalist said: "I have simply no time to read blogs. I have not yet seen any reason as to why I should prioritise something factual oriented less in favour of the more opinion oriented blogsophere".

The Swedish researchers said that journalists are referencing blogs but at the same time they are quite hesitant to admit that they do so. They claimed that there seems to be a difference between blogs and other online sources.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Future of Journalism Notes 2: Second Life and Twittering the news

This is part two in a series of catch up posts about a selection of the papers at the Cardiff Journalism conference. Part one was here last time I looked. In this instalment we have two different views of Twitter - ambient journalism and promotional tool. But first a look at 'virtual' journalism.

Journalism in Second Life

(Bonnie Brennen and Erika dela Cerna)

Just in case you haven't come across it yet, Second Life users come from all over the world to construct virtual representations of themselves known as avatars. They also create the virtual environment they participate in. Brennen told us it's a Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG).

The resarch looked at three newspapers in Second Life.

1. Metaverse Messenger, "A real newspaper for a virtual world". Metaverse is formatted as a traditional tabloid and uses journalistic standards.

2. The Alphaville Herald, "Always fairly unbalanced". Brennen said the sarcastic and acerbic tone of the paper meant it 'read more like blog entries' than journalism. (Slightly dangerous comparative line to go down if you ask hard questions about what a blog is but we know what she means!)

3. The Second Life Newspaper - "The Easy way to understand the Grid". Reports on happenings in Second Life in a blog format. Part of its content is user-submitted.

Brennen and dela Ceran draw on postmodernism to frame their analysis; in particular the work of Baudrillard and the concept of hyperrealism where virtual reality becomes as real as actual experience. Second Life's media blur distinctions between truth and artifice although there is critical reflection on this phenomenon within the virtual world. A column in the Metaverse Messenger called 'The Line' interrogates the line between the virtual and the real.

Second Life Newspapers pursue interactive strategies. In May 2009 Alphaville Herald celebrated its 50,000th reader comment suggesting that journalism in Second Life is flourishing.

There's more on this paper by Axel Bruns here.

Twittering the News: the emergence of ambient journalism
(Alfred Hermida)

Hermida noted the rapid adoption of Twitter by journalists provoking something of a media frenzy.
  • UK National newspapers (Sept 09) had 131 official accounts with 1.47 million followers.
  • Sky News have a Twitter Correspondent.
  • Muckrack aggregates tweets from journalists.
This led to a) bewilderment on the part of some journalists and b) concerns about verification: how do you judge the veracity of online comments and navigate inaccuracies, rumours and misinformation?

Ambient journalism: Twitter as awareness system
Hermida described Twitter as a multi-faceted, fragmented news experience. But he drew on computer-mediated communication research to argue that Twitter acts as an 'awareness system' in which the fragmented tweets could be seen together as part of a system rather than in isolation. This makes it possible to construct and maintain an awareness of other people's activities as individual tweets do not require the same cognitive attention as other forms of media.

(Just wondering to myself where Twitter would fit on McCluhan's continuum of 'hot' and 'cold' media...This person has already had a go. I've just had a go but need to spend more time thinking about it...)

(Where was I now? Ah yes...) Hermida highlighted the difficulties journalists face in identifying, and verifying valuable information. He described the extraordinary immediacy and velocity of tweets during the Iran Election. No individual journalist could go through them all and the event emphasised the importance of selecting and filtering. He suggested that journalists should be developing systems to help them filter the information on Twitter.

Hermida also saw potential in Twitter's ability to make visible the communities that share news through the trend of retweeting and the 'following' feature.

The Future of Twitter?
Social media services are vulnerable but suggested the concept of real-time, searching, linking, and follower structure would be here to stay. Challenged journalists to design the tools that can analyse and interpret Twitter as an awareness system.

Twittering the News: how U.S. traditional media adopt microblogging for their news dissemination
(Marcus Messner, Asriel Eford)
  • Analysis of 180 newspapers and TV stations with Twitter accounts in the United States.
  • Observed Twitter feeds in action on April 4 and 5 2009.
  • Analysed tweets: number of tweets; news value of the tweets; hyperlinks.
Percentage of news outlets with Twitter accounts
  • 90.9% of newspapers, and 91% TV stations
  • Average of about 7,000 followers.
  • But only 2% had more than 10,000 followers.
Twitter Use
  • On the days of analysis 65.6% of the news outlets tweeted. There were 1568 tweets. 94.3% of tweets were news related; 5.7% were personal. 93% of tweets contained hyperlinks. Newspapers tweeted about twice as much as TV stations.
Messner concluded that traditional media use Twitter as a promotional tool through extensive internal linking. He suggested that more attention needs to be paid to community formation and the active recruitment of followers. Tweets need to go beyond shovelware and Twitter should be approached as an online social network, not merely another publication platform.

(But it's important to note that this study only looked at what you might describe as official news accounts, not the Twitter accounts of individual journalists. I would hypothesise that they use Twitter in a completely different fashion. And if they don't why on earth not!?)

More on this paper here by Alfred Hermida and by Sarah Hartley in The Guardian.

Future of Journalism Notes 1: Journalists' views of news practice and US Newspaper websites

This is the first in a series of catch up posts with my notes from the Future of Journalism Conference in Cardiff. Here's some of Wednesday's papers that I found interesting.

Exploring the political-economic factors of participatory journalism: A first look into self-reports by online journalists and editors in ten countries.
(Vujnovic, Singer, Paulussen, Heinonen, Reich, Quandt, Hermida, Domingo).

What are the motives of journalists and editors for using UGC and citizen journalism?
  • Building a community around a newspaper.
  • Citizen journalism is a necessary tool for attracting and maintaining an audience.
  • 'We exist if we have a lot of hits.' There is a need to encourage users to stay on the site with a variety of features. This is a survival strategy rather than a way to foster debate.
  • 'Everyone is doing it - we have to do it.' There's been no thought about why journalists are doing some things with the Web. This is just a case of new tools, experimentation and the fear of not being left behind by competitors.

The Form of Reports on U.S. Newspaper Internet Sites, An Update.
(Kevin G. Barnhurst

Taking a long historical view, U.S. journalism has become more interpretative and less denotative. Barnhurst argues that U.S. journalists have increased their influence in the United States by taking greater control of public discussion. Barnhurst looked at the websites of the New York Times (national), Chicago Tribune (regional) and Portland Oregonian (local) comparing the 2005 results with those from 2001.

Length of Stories
Between 2001 and 2005 news has got shorter rather than getting longer for the first time since the 1950s. In 2001 only 1 story out of 8 appeared on the home page. By 2005, almost half the stories appear on the front page.

Links were three quarters of a page closer to the home page in the 2005 compared to 2001. A reader required less mean clicks to reach a story. But once the reader arrives at a news story there is more scrolling and screens to get through to read it, aiding traffic stats and advertising revenue.

More images and links in 2005, but external links remain rare. Barnhurst suggested this might be due to time pressures as well as a desire to keep readers on the site.

Print vs Online content
In 2001, content online was almost identical to what was printed in the paper. In 2005, only two thirds of print and online articles were the same. There was an increase in discussion forums, chat pages, and controlled feedback forms in 2005.

Barnhurst highlighted a 'sensational drift' whereby accident stories have moved closer to the front page. Stories about politics and jobs required more clicking and scrolling.

Newswork Across Europe: Some preliminary findings
Henrik Ornebring)

Parameters of the Study
  • Feb 2007 - Feb 2010
  • Compares journalistic cultures of Europe: UK, Germany, Italy, Poland, Estonia, Sweden.
  • Investigate the emergence of a 'European' journalism.
  • Is there a dominant model of journalism in Europe? What is its effect on different national cultures?
  • This presentation was based on 61 semi-structured interviews with journalists (daily news production, career stage, medium type, work situation)
  • Culture defined as 'working practice' - values, communication, artifacts. What you do when you work.
  • Puts journalism in the changing context of work. General deregulation of labour markets, rise of flexible employment, technologisation of the workplace, changing skill demands.
  • After all, journalism is just a job for a lot of people.
Technology has made many aspects of journalism easier
  • e.g. easier to do research.
  • journalists equated easier with faster. For them, it doesn't mean greater depth, or improved quality, it means they can do things quicker. (Ornebring focussed on journalists who undertake daily news production.)
  • As the potential of instantaneous communication increases, so too does the pressure to produce content.
  • Technologisation is coming from above - blogs and other innovations are inspired by editors and employers who want to do new things.
  • Role of CMS - this is also about streamlining and standardisation. Get in this technology so you can make staff cuts.
  • Young journalists expect to work for free and this acts as a sorting mechanism for the industry. Journalism culture emphasises staying at work as the norm - 'if you want to go home you shouldn't be here'.
  • Freelancing - tends to be a necessity rather than a choice.
  • Journalists say the skills required have not changed that much. First and foremost being a good journalist means being a good storyteller.
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Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Cardiff Future of Journalism Conference 1

I'm here in the sun in Cardiff for the Future of Journalism Conference. Alfred Hermida over at has already done an excellent job of summing up the plenary session.
  • James Curran outlined four perspectives on the future of...(you've got it by now right?) and suggested a possible fifth way forward - 'public reformism' whereby public funding would support journalism, such as levying money through a broadband tax.
The hastag is #foj09.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Three links to sign off the week

  • New York Post: Thou shalt not credit bloggers for doing reporting. (Instead, reporter is required to leave a nice comment on the blogger's work.)
  • "All bloggers are gay" a Westminster journalist tells Paul Waugh. But this is less about the sexuality of bloggers and more about the rise of political blogging in the UK.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

(Shock) 'links on blogging and the BBC' post

BBC bits and pieces
  • In the first part of this BBC World Service documentary Michael Buerk talks to bloggers and commentators about citizen journalism. Includes sections on Burma, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, and Sri Lanka. I remember somebody phoned me about this several months ago, and I can see now why they weren't particularly interested in my hole-picking of the term 'citizen journalism'. Didn't really a fit a narrative in which 'citizen journalism' was a given.
  • Business Editor Robert Peston on the future of the media at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, including a section on his blog:
"For me, the blog is at the core of everything I do, it is the bedrock of my output. The discipline of doing it shapes my thoughts. It disseminates to a wider world the stories and themes that I think matter...It connects me to the audience in a very important way. The comments left by readers contain useful insights - and they help me understand what really matters to people. That is not to say that I give them only what they want. I retain an old-fashioned view that in the end the licence fee pays for my putative skills in making judgements about what matters...the blog allows me and the BBC to own a big story and create a community of interested people around it."
  • I love Rory Cellan-Jones' tweets for little institutional insights. Having a plethora of outlets to prepare material for sometimes leads to this:
"Day in the life of Rory: Madness this afternoon - TV 6, r4 1800, blog - and now tv editor says I'm banned from tweeting in the suite"
  • Radio Five Live Drive Assistant Editor Liam Hanley on reporting from Afghanistan:
"Of course, being on a military airbase, on what's called an "embed" - a trip organised by the Ministry of Defence - gave us a particular perspective on the conflict, not the complete picture.

It didn't mean though that our editorial independence was compromised - we spoke freely to soldiers of many different ranks, and apart from things which may have jeopardised security, nothing was off limits.

Clearly, what we weren't able to do from where we were was to give any sense of how this war is affecting Afghans. That wider context was provided by our correspondents across the country."

  • Bonus update a little later on in the day - Today presenter John Humphrys on Twitter.


  • 'Friends not editors shape Internet habits' - Interesting piece in the FT on how a marketing executive's first port of call is Twitter and Facebook. Though it might be worth pointing out that his friends are probably selecting at least some of their material from material already selected by editors.
  • Brazilian President starts blog. Aides surprised when they discover people want to read it.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Michael Yon and embedded journalism

I've been looking at the end of Michael Yon's embed with the British Army in Afghanistan including the views of Michael himself and the Ministry of Defence. It's a two-parter over at the Frontline Club - Part One and Part Two.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Sky News journalists debate the value of Twitter

Picked this up off Twitter. A Sky News field producer (@fieldproducer) debates the value of Twitter with political correspondent, Niall Paterson. My thoughts in italics.

[I bore myself wondering why people don't understand that Twitter has some value to the working journalist. Not least because journalists use it all the time. I mean either they're crazy pretending it's useful to look cool or something or it is actually useful.]
[This was perhaps the weakest line in the piece although the actual unfriendly 140 char quote is: "it is only as useful as the person who is using it wants it to be."]
  • niallpaterson: @fieldproducer The article's author is equally guilty of the sneering of which he accuses the MSM! The evangelical zeal with which people
[A hark back to bloggers vs journalists. Of course there's no need to sneer on either side really apart from the fact that both commentators in the media and bloggers know that a good old sneer makes more interesting copy than sober assessments. I'm sure some twitterers link to, read, watch and appreciate Sky News coverage. In a few lines Niall's about to sort of maybe recognise the point that it might possibly be a useful, if limited, tool to do journalism.]
  • niallpaterson: @fieldproducer greet every latest web 2.0 innovation is nothing new. give it a couple of mins and there'll be another emerging
  • niallpaterson: @fieldproducer tech/app we'll be asked to integrate into our already busy days. christ, when did you last receive a hand-written letter? how
[I'm sure there will be another emerging web innovation. Re: letters. Riding a horse is also nice, I've heard, but most people don't use them to get around these days. Receiving a letter is probably more satisfying than it used to be when letter writing was common, precisely because it has become rarer. But it is nice to receive a letter. I don't dispute that.]
  • niallpaterson: @fieldproducer Plus, has twitter actually made any money yet? best not to slag off the "ailing industry" when this thing isnt profitable.
[As far as we're aware Twitter hasn't made a great deal of money. But Evan Williams, the CEO of Twitter, has form in snatching finance from the jaws of bankruptcy. He co-founded Blogger which almost died in February 2001 because of a lack of funds. Two years later Blogger was bought by Google. We don't know how much money he made from the deal, but I doubt he's poor.]
[The short answer is: we don't know. Because Twitter won't tell us. Tech Cruch estimated 1 million users and 200,000 active users in March 2008. But there's been significant growth in 2009. According to the BBC, Comscore guess there are 45 million users worldwide. It's not the be all and end all of social networking sites - "During May 2009 ranked as the 38th most visited website in the UK and the fifth most visited social network".]
  • fieldproducer: @niallpaterson ahh, but as journalists we have broken quite a few stories after getting leads from twitter. Profitable or not, bloody useful
[I think this is more like the point. Why is Niall Paterson worried about whether Twitter will make a profit? I think the point about Twitter is not the company but the concept. And as Evan Williams said on Newsnight the other week, if Twitter doesn't make it work, it will be because somebody else will have done it better.]
  • niallpaterson: @fieldproducer you make my point for me - it's just another tool. might as well evangelise about the telephone. or more approp. the internet
[So it's the hype that's getting to Niall really (but I think he likes an opportunity to have a rant so he can't complain too much). It's the same sort of thinking that happened with blogging when blogging was new and as a journalist told me for one of my interviews, the hype 'puts people's backs up'. And some of the hype is rather mistaken. See my thoughts on Moldova's Twitter Revolution.]
  • niallpaterson: @fieldproducer arent profits important? they are to our employer and the vast majority of journos. and where in the article were T's faults?
[There were no examples of Twitter's faults in the article. But then the blogger doesn't have any obiligation to be fair and balanced. If you want to ask this question, you might ask yourself where in Jackie Ashley's article was there room for the advantages of social networking?]
  • niallpaterson: @fieldproducer i'm sick of faceless webgeeks being so condescending to those who fail to share their unfettered adoration of social network
[Nice line.]
  • fieldproducer: @niallpaterson but it isn't like a telephone is it? It is more like a wire feed. I don't think pofits are important to maj of journos either
[Oh so Twitter does not mean the 'end of face to face' communication, then. And people who use social networks do meet in real life.]
[Dean Kirbky uses #gmpraids to report for the Manchester Evening News. Click on the link for more.]
  • niallpaterson: @fieldproducer Interesting. a rolling tally of arrests? wow. perhaps time would be better spent crafting an easily updateable blog piece
[You can imagine someone a few years ago suggesting a rolling tally of arrests on a blog and someone else saying: 'Wow. Perhaps time would be better spent crafting an easily updateable online piece.]
  • niallpaterson: @fieldproducer which could actually tell me what's going on... i'm being a tad facetious, but look at how many followers he has...
  • niallpaterson: @fieldproducer I'm not saying twitter doesn't have its uses - just that as a journalistic tool it has a number of drawbacks
[Ah. Good point. Twitter is not good for a lot of things. For a start, we've already acknowledged that this debate would be better held over a pint. Twitter doesn't do radio or TV so well. Try using Twitter as an audio editing suite. It won't work. You don't get context and background with Twitter. It's too short. I mean I could go on but the disadvantages of Twitter are pretty obvious aren't they. As a journalist, Twitter's a great tool but it's just one tool.]
  • fieldproducer: @niallpaterson irrespective of the subject matter it is a constant flow of info which you recieve passively in real time.
[Some tweets are unverfiable. A lot are verifiable. I've verified who a lot of twitterers are in my time. Indeed, Twitter do some of the hard work for you and verify accounts. If you know who you follow then it's much easier to verify what they say. Raw data is pretty useful I'd have thought.]
  • niallpaterson: @fieldproducer eh? HE'S the hack! This is what journalism has come to? trawling twitter feeds for tips?! i've just phoned the GMP phonebank
[These are just two different aspects of the journalist's job. Journalists have always trawled for tips wherever they come from. Why not use Twitter as well? But then journalists can't spend all their time trawling for tips, because they have to work on those tips by getting hold of more information and reporting the story. But it's not: either, or; it's both.

Or, if you work in a media organisation like Sky, you can afford to have people performing different roles. What does Sky's Twitter Correspondent do? Surely part of her role should be feeding tips to journalists from Twitter? Then the journalist can worry about following the tips up, phoning people and doing
all that 'old-fashioned' stuff. Though there's nothing old-fashioned about it in my opinion.]
  • fieldproducer: @niallpaterson we broke the Conrad Murray vid before anybody else, how? I saw it drop on twitter. Wires 20mins & BBC 2hrs after us.
[@fieldproducer says he meant to say 'ran' rather than broke.]
  • niallpaterson: @fieldproducer Your argument would see me spending most of my time standing up twitter tips rather than actually doing my job properly!
  • niallpaterson: @fieldproducer Yep, as a source of links twitter really is useful. but didnt the person who tweeted in fact "break" the story?
[This does the raise issue of what 'breaking news' is in the 21st Century. (But I'm running out of steam.) It's changed a lot is the point. But then as an organisation Sky News like bigging up that they are 'breaking news' - the institutional culture captured by Jon Grip's capitalised tweets.]
  • niallpaterson: @fieldproducer Ah. that old chestnut. if i read something in the papers then do a telly turn before the beeb, am i breaking it?!
[Can't really be bothered but there are some significant differences.]
[Apparently it was a producer not a correspondent]
  • niallpaterson: @fieldproducer had he been in the HoC rather than in front of his computer, we might have had it sooner. you know, proper legwork!
[Sad fact is that a lot of journalists are stuck behind their desks. Most of them don't want to be.]
[An interesting point.]

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

BBC's Nic Newman: "better links within blogs amongst the most effective"

Last Friday, BBC Online conducted an open meeting about plans for the website over the coming months. The meeting was held in response to criticisms that the BBC's online services were not sufficiently open and transparent. The talks and discussion are available in a series of videos on the BBC Internet Blog.

I haven't watched them all yet, but I thought this section on the BBC's approach to external linking by Nic Newman, Controller, Journalism, FM&T*, was worth pulling out, (especially as it ties so neatly with last week's wee rant):
"Our aim is not to link indiscriminately, but to link in line with our public purposes and editorial guidelines. So we look to add value through our links. We look to take people to content that further enriches or informs.

"We will continue to use a mixture of manual and automated methods to do so. So we've already talked about Search Plus which is part of our automated solutions but a lot of the evidence points to the focus on editorial linking as being a really important part of the mix.

"One of the most trafficked pages on the Sports site is the football transfer page and the deep editorial links that we've added here in the last few months are responsible for delivering a significant amount of that uplift that you see in the previous graph. [Showing a rise in external clickthroughs from around 8 million a month to over 12 million a month for].

"In news, the better links within [BBC] blogs, are amongst the most effective because of the editorial relevance that comes from the authorship of that (sic) blogs and the relationship that people have with that content."
These are steps in the right direction and I think editorial linking, rather than automated linking, is vitally important. Regular readers will know that I wrote a post about the value of link journalism a while back and as I did then, I still think more could be done which would involve some significant changes to the working practices of BBC journalists.

That sort of thing doesn't happen overnight. But the BBC has a responsibility to continue to work on the area of external linking - it's absolutely key to the BBC Trust's aim of the Corporation being 'a trusted guide to the Web'.

*That's 'Future, Media and Technology' for those outside the BBC's jargon-laden walls. Although actually I remember talking about "FM&T" to a BBC journalist who looked at me as if I was talking about a souped-up form of shortwave radio so the previous sentence might be of some use to BBC employees as well!

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