Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Front line photography

A French photojournalist goes undercover to access the hidden plight of Homs as political unrest continues in Syria.

Marike van der Velden captures daily life in Iraq. "In Holland," she tells the New York Times, "we don’t know anything about the Iraqi people".

An aerial photo taken by Oxfam provides a glimpse of the scale of Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. Global Voices has more on the camp which is home to 450,000 people. Many of those taking refuge have fled civil war and drought in Somalia.

Friday, 25 November 2011

How the failure of self-regulation has undermined press plurality

For various reasons, I've ended up watching more of the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practice and ethics of the press than I intended.

On Wednesday, solicitor Mark Lewis was giving evidence. Lewis has represented a number of individuals whose phones have been hacked but I was particularly interested in his thoughts on the regulation of the press. 

I've added headings to summarise his can find all this in full on pages 44-6 of the transcript from Wednesday's evidence.

1. A black and white choice?
"...what is portrayed is a stark choice, a black and white choice between state regulation and self-regulation, and in fact everybody knows that we must avoid state regulation in terms of this Trotskyite, Stalinist, Nazi minister of propaganda..."
2. Everyone knows state regulation should be avoided
"One understands that that has to be avoided, but that's how state regulation is portrayed by the newspapers, that's what it inexorably leads to, we have state regulation as state control."
3. Journalists should self-regulate anyway
"...self-regulation should be what journalists do and newspapers do themselves, not the PCC or any third party, because there ought to be a code that journalists think: you know what? This is what we can do, this is what we can't do."
4. But there is no secondary form of regulation which means there is effectively no regulation
"So it's a secondary form of regulation. The Press Complaints Commission, in the words of Lord Hunt, who is now the Chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, is not a regulator, so in fact the preservation of the status quo by the press is the preservation of no regulation at all."
5. The consequence of not having secondary regulation is that press plurality has been undermined because sections of the press have proved incapable of self regulation to the point where the News of the World was forced to close.
"the consequence of no regulation is that on Sunday, people will not be able to read the News of the World because it was the absence of regulation that allowed this Inquiry to happen, it allowed the News of the World to go, it allowed the readers of the News of the World -- I mean, whether one agreed with everything they put in and wanted to take issue, it was an absolute consequence because parts of the newspaper industry, not all the newspaper industry, were completely unregulated and out of control."

Armed With Smartphones, Russians Expose Political Abuses

From the New York Times...
"Violations of Russia’s elections rules have typically gone unnoticed, but now Russians armed with smartphones and digital cameras are posting videos of the abuses online." 
The article also notes that Russian bloggers are influencing Google's search results (though just how often is "occasionally"?):
"A slogan adopted by bloggers describing United Russia as “the party of swindlers and thieves” has become such a prominent Internet meme that it occasionally appears as a top hit when Googling the party’s name."

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Drone Journalism Arrives

The Lede Blog: Drone Journalism Arrives: "A Polish firm called RoboKopter scored something of a coup last week when it demonstrated that its miniature flying drone was capable of recording spectacular aerial views of a chaotic protest in Warsaw." Anybody in the UK doing this sort of thing or planning to?

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Latest social media projects at the BBC

In an ever-changing online world the BBC continues to move forward with various new projects.

Here is a quick round up of just a few of the latest developments.

BBC tweets go human

I flagged this up in a previous post, but here is Chris Hamilton, the Social Media Editor, talking to Nieman Lab about the switch to human tweeting on the BBCNews and the BBCWorld Twitter accounts:
“We want to be tweeting with value...are we exposing our best content, and also tweeting intelligently?” Simply sending out a story is an important first step in Twitter practice, particularly in an environment that finds more and more people getting their news through social channels. But then: “What can we add to that story?”
The BBCNews account will be human controlled during the day, before returning to automated "cyborg" mode for periods overnight, although the aim, as far as possible, is to have human tweeting 24/7.

If the experiment with BBCNews is successful it will be rolled out to BBCWorld as well.

Hamilton describes this as the first step in a longer term strategy and he noted that the BBC is still trying to work out the extent to which the BBC can engage with Twitter users who mention or reply to the BBC's accounts.

(A problem of scale that has thus far been unsolvable. We seem to think that these 'new' 'social' media tools have to be two-way all the time because that is often how they started out, the 'social' bit in the title and they are good at 'social' on a small scale. When in fact they also do 'broadcast' very well. They are flexible media tools that you can use for either 'social' or 'broadcast' and indeed, both to a greater or lesser extent at the same time.)

Development of live pages

It has been a busy year and a busy year for live pages which have been used at the BBC for the UK general election, Egypt, the Japan earthquake, Oslo and Utoya, and Libya.

The Editor of the BBC News website Steve Herrmann is keen to develop the pages claiming the format has been a "big success in terms of usage".

Rather than having a single focus, the BBC is giving a more general live page a whirl with the latest updates from various stories all in one place. You can see it in action here.

I think one of the key questions is whether eventually this type of page will merge with the home page to form some sort of live updating home page.

That might be a bit too much activity for a home page, but for some time the Web has been moving towards becoming a constantly updating 'live' medium. Home pages already update much more than they used to in the past.

BBC experiments on Google+

BBC World Have Your Say has been experimenting with Google+ since August. It appears the social media producer has been using the 'hangout' feature to talk to listeners and potential contributors to the show...

And the BBC's Outriders programme has also started up a page recently.

There is also some standard sort of pages like BBC News and BBC World Service.

Twitter memorial for members of the Canadian Forces

Wearethedead.jpgThe Ottawa Citizen has started a memorial Twitter account for members of the Canadian Forces who have lost their lives in conflict.
The account will tweet the name of one service member at 11 minutes past every hour. The name is chosen at random by a computer from a list of more than 119,000 Canadians killed in two World Wars, the Korean war, the war in Afghanistan and other conflicts.
It will take 13 years to tweet all the names on the list, meaning the Twitter account will have to be running until June 2025. 
The managing editor of the Ottawa Citizen, Andrew Potter, said there is no reason why people should only remember once a year, "when we march and mourn and pray and lament."
"Through this Twitter account, and through more extensive use of social media down the line, we hope to make the act of keeping faith a more subtle, but in many ways more permanent feature, of the lives of Canadians."

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