Spanish version of ‘Excel for Journalists’ on the way

 

A Spanish version of Finding Stories in Spreadsheets – titled ‘Excel para periodistas’ (Excel for Journalists) – should be available in the next few weeks.

The translation is being done by Barbara Maseda. If you want to know when it’s going to be available you can register to be informed on the book page.

The Government wants to know where you were online, when. Why journalists should be cautious

 

tor https infographic

The EFF have an interactive graphic which shows you what information can be grabbed when you’re using Tor or HTTPS

Home secretary Theresa May wants to be able to connect IP addresses (which identify machines) with users (those using it at that particular time).

In a nutshell this means being able to identify whether you were in a particular place at a particular time – only the ‘place’ in question happens to be virtual: a website.

Now clearly this is aimed at identifying terrorists and paedophiles. But then so was RIPA, a law which has been used to spy on journalists and intimidate staff who speak to them and to “pull reporters’ phone records in every single leak inquiry in the last ten years“, including all calls to the Sun’s newsdesk and by their political editor in one inquiry.

In recent weeks we have heard about prison officials monitoring confidential phonecalls between MPs and prisoners, and between lawyers and their clients. Continue reading

Watch: why every publisher should switch to HTTPS (and you should too)

This video, from this year’s Google I/O conference, is one of the best explanations I’ve seen on HTTPS with regard to publishers.

It’s worth watching for five minutes or so to get an insight into why HTTPS is so important not just in protecting users, but also in protecting your own reputation.

HTTPS protects users because it prevents others from seeing what sites they visited before and after yours, and what pages they’re looking at on your site.

Imagine a whistleblower checking your site or profile out, or indeed one of your own journalists visiting it using hotel or coffee shop wifi, and you have an idea what I mean.

But HTTPS also prevents hackers from impersonating your site in order to collect user data. I imagine most publishers will be more concerned with their customers than their sources.

For journalists who suddenly realise that their web browsing is public information, I recommend the browser plugin HTTPS Everywhere, which turns on HTTPS by default (where sites support it) in Chrome, Firefox, Firefox on Android, or Opera.

Hyperlocal Voices Revisited: Tim Dickens, Brixton Blog and Brixton Bugle

 

Fullscreen capture 22112014 103124.bmp

In our Hyperlocal Voices series we speak to hyperlocal publishers about their journey as they seek to build a successful hyperlocal offer. From time to time we also check in again on some of the more established players to see what’s changed and how their operation is evolving.

One such example is Brixton Blog in South West London.

Originally established by Zoe Jewell in 2010, the site has evolved considerably since, launching the Brixton Bugle newspaper in July 2012 (10,000 copies of which are distributed each month) and working with The Carnegie UK Trust as part of their Neighbourhood News initiative by providing structured work placements for local trainees.

In 2013 The Brixton Blog and Bugle were shortlisted in the ‘Innovation of the Year’ category at the British Journalism Awards, alongside Sun Plus, Guardian Witness and Independent Voices in Danger projects. The team are currently in the middle of a crowdfunder campaign designed to raise money for a part-time news editor.

Co-founder Tim Dickens tells Damian Radcliffe what’s changed at Brixton Blog since we first spoke to them in June 2012; alongside some of their plans for the future.

1. What’s been the biggest change to the site in the last 30 months?

We’ve appointed more editors, who each work on different sections independently on a voluntary basis. These include: Features, Sport, News, Food & Drink, Arts, Music and Listings. The editors commission and write their own content and upload straight to the site, as well as being responsible for their own sections in our monthly print newspaper, the Brixton Bugle.
We also have a couple of (very part-time) team members who are paid for their time, plus an ad sales person.  The physical website hasn’t changed at all.

2. What sort of traffic do you now get and how has that changed?

In the past few months we’ve averaged about 90,000 page views per month, from 65,000 unique visitors. If anything this has dropped from earlier days. Unsurprisingly, traffic is directly linked to volume on content. Sadly, the amount and quality of content going up on the site has varied depending on our time and resources. Our Twitter audience has grown to over 20,000 on our @BrixtonBlog handle – and this helps to build traffic. Our weekly mail-out list continues to grow steadily.

3. Have you seen any changes in the way that audiences interact with you?

We still get the most traffic from social media. Facebook is highest for referrals followed swiftly by Twitter.
We have tried to structure our articles to prompt debate, and as such we have seen an increase in discussion about the issues we cover. This is less and less on Brixtonblog.com, but increasingly takes place on Facebook.
We also have a lot of offline interaction from people who have read the Brixton Bugle who may not be online – we get a lot of phone calls to the office and letters by post.

4. How would you describe your relationship with the traditional media in the area?

We don’t have a relationship with the traditional local media. Because we have a print newspaper we compete with them for print advertising and licensing notices. Our local newspaper, the South London Press, doesn’t have much of an online presence so we don’t compete online. Our biggest competition in terms of traffic comes from other blogs and websites, like Brixton Buzz.

5. What new blogs, bloggers or websites have you seen which you think are doing this stuff well?

We have an enormous respect for London SE1. They are not new – and the fact they have been doing this for so long is testament to how good it is. I think hyperlocal publications can learn a lot from them.

 

Our neighbours, the Herne Hill Forum, provide a very useful service to residents in terms of a directory and discussion forum which has spilled on to do a lot of offline civic good, like setting up the Herne Hill farmers market and attracting funding for street improvements etc.

 

I’ve always had a huge respect for Simon and Sally at OnTheWight.com too.

6. What are you most proud of over the past couple of years?

We ran a beautiful series of features called Faces of Cressingham Gardens, it was a print-first portrait of a series of amazing people who live on an estate which is threatened with demolition by Lambeth Council.To add value to the news coverage we gave to the residents’ campaign, our features editor and a photographer teamed up to give a picture of six very different residents who’d lived there for a long time.
online3

Photo: Shaun, from Brixton Blog’s The Faces of Cressingham series

It was a moving piece that went beyond the headlines and added real colour and a human element to the news stories.Keith Lewis (the writer) left the politics out of his articles and really succeeded in capturing an essence of his subjects. The first woman he interviewed sadly passed a few weeks later, and we received a really touching letter from her family saying thank you for the article. People still tell me how much they enjoyed reading it.

7. What is currently your biggest challenge?

Creating a financially sustainable platform to do what we do and pay some contributors and editors for their time. Also, funding a central management role to keep it all together. At the same time – and all linked in – we struggle to cover all the relevant news and information in the area, including attending council and other community meetings.

8. What are your plans for the future?

We really want to increase our coverage of local news – including council meetings and community events – which we don’t have the resources to do at the moment.
In the long term, we’d love to see a weekly or fortnightly edition of the Brixton Bugle newspaper, although that is a long way off. We’d like to expand the opportunities that we can offer local young people by way of training in the media industry and journalism too.
We’ve launched a crowdfunder to help pay a new news editor, part-time, to get on top of all the news stories and content that we often miss.

9. What one thing would most help you to move successfully to the next phase of the site’s development?

An angel investor, or grant funding, to give us 6 months to really build a sustainable platform to provide what we do.

Is This The Beginning Of The End For The UK Headline?

Until recently a journalism trainer in the UK could safely berate a trainee for Writing Headlines Where Every Word Began With A Capital.

It is a style of headline writing common in US publications, but non-existent in the UK, where newspapers have traditionally fit into one of two camps: the SHOUTY SHOUTY REDTOPS and the broadsheets who Only make the first letter uppercase unless there’s a proper noun.

(The mid-markets, as might be expected, took the best of both worlds, reserving shouting for the front pages and lower case for the inside pages).

So a journalism trainee who Wrote Like This had likely never paid much attention to newspapers, or only when they appeared in Hollywood films.

Or perhaps they just read Guido Fawkes, who, for whatever reason appears to have followed the Hollywood style of headline writing:

Guido Fawkes headlines

Guido Fawkes’s headlines adhere to the US style

 

Continue reading

Why I have a problem with Google’s crowdfunding tool Contributor – a tweet story

HOW TO: Find out the ages of people using Excel

excel for journalists ebook

This post is taken from the ebook Finding Stories With Spreadsheets

“How do I calculate an age in Excel?” Marion Urban, a French journalist and student on the MA in Online Journalism in Birmingham, was preparing data for the forthcoming UK General Election.

In order to do this Marion had downloaded details on the candidates who had stood successfully in the previous election.

“It was a very young intake. But it wasn’t easy to calculate their ages.”

Indeed. You would think that calculating ages in Excel would be easy. But there is no off-the-shelf function to help you do so. Or at least, no easy-to-find function.

Instead there are a range of different approaches: some of them particularly, and unnecessarily complicated.

In this extract from Finding Stories in Spreadsheets I will outline one approach to calculating ages, which also illustrates a useful technique in using spreadsheets in stories: the ability to break down a problem into different parts. Continue reading