Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Times journalist takes 'first person' risk

I plucked this quote from an article about Manchester United's top 50 players in The Times Online late last night:
"One of the rules of writing for The Times is that you avoid referring to yourself in the first person unless you have been on the newspaper for about 20 years, but, for once, I'm going to let my hair down."
You could see why the confessional nature of (some) blogging might not fit with The Times' institutional culure can't you?

I hope the author, Kaveh Solhekol, got away with it.

(More fuel for Rod Liddle's raging fire)

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

We know our news sucks?

I'm reading Scott Rosenberg's new book: 'Say everything' on blogging.

On page 52, Rosenberg talks about Dave Winer, one of the Web's pioneering software entrepreneurs.

In order to 'realize his billion-websites vision' way back in 1995, Winer started writing some code, writing about it, trying it out with some other people, writing about what happens and then writing about it some more.

The idea was that the users corrected the software, fixed errors and came back to him - slowly but surely the software would improve.

Rosenberg includes this quote from Winer where he told people how this would work:
"We make shitty software. We know our software sucks. But it's shipping! Next time we'll do better, but even then it will be shitty. The only software that's perfect is one you're dreaming about. Real software crashes, loses data, is hard to learn and hard to use. But it's a process. We'll make it less shitty".
It made me think. Can we apply this to news?
We (journalists?) make shitty news. We know our news sucks. But we've published it. Next time we'll do better, but even then it will be shitty. The only news that's perfect is the news you're dreaming about. Real news takes time but demands to be known as soon as, or even before, we know what it is. Real news is often obscured by all sorts of people who want to spin the story. And real news will have factual errors, mistaken interpretations, and incomplete conclusions. But it's a process. We'll make it less shitty (because you'll make it less shitty.)
And if that does make any sort of sense what does it mean for our understanding of standards in news?

(I suppose getting the software wrong has less of an impact than getting the news wrong and like all analogies I'm sure it breaks down in other places too, but anyway food for thought...)

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Horrocks: 'Responding on blogs' leads to 'improved journalism'

Peter Horrocks, the BBC's Director of the World Service, discusses the use of blogs and social networking tools by journalists in an article entitled 'The End of Fortress Journalism'.
'But new news journalists will need the flexibility to cope. They will need to network with the audience as much as they do with their colleagues. The audience is becoming a vast but still untapped news source. The most go-ahead journalists are using social networking tools to help find information and interviewees.
'Responding on blogs and using those to promote a dialogue with informed members of the audience is leading to improved journalism. It can be time-consuming but it can yield real benefits.
'So journalists will need changed culture, changed organisation and an improved understanding of the modern tools of journalism – audience insights, blogging, Twitter, multimedia production. It sounds like being pretty challenging...But I suspect that the public may well appreciate a journalism that puts serving their information needs at its heart, rather than one which is about organising the world in the way that journalists prefer.'
Horrocks' paper was one of a series that the BBC College of Journalism have published (pdf) from the Future of Journalism Conference in November 2008.

In addition to Horrocks' standpoint, there are other passages on blogging to be found in this collection including: an outline of Panorama's uptake of blogs; a discussion about which journalists within a media organisation should blog; and a few bits and pieces on the use of blogs by journalists.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Seven fours are...

I've been transcribing a couple of research interviews over the last couple of days. Here's a classic quote from a participant who shall remain nameless:
"But again they send out four emails a day at least and they build up nicely. That’s seven fours...are 36. That’s 36 a week."
Unlikely to make it into the final cut for the PhD, but by way of background it does go some way to explaining why they're doing journalism and not helping us clamber out of the financial crisis.

(Then again, maybe it was this sort of numerical 'skill'...)

In the 'stuff I've bookmarked' section:

  • Web pioneer Marc Andreessen to fund blogging investigative journalism initiative.
Tweets of the Week (so far)
  • How the sophisticated news consumer curates news and information.
  • And this one caught my eye: "Conclusion from a chat with regional station editor: there's a lot of "pressure" for journos/editors to use twitter/social media tools..."
Frontline Club
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