Category Archives: user generated content

Launch of new survey on the legal experiences and views of journalists and online publishers

A new survey for journalists, bloggers and online publishers, which can be found at this link, aims to collect information about their experiences of and views on libel and privacy law

A system of arbitration is at the heart of Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations, and different versions are included in the the government’s draft Royal Charter and the industry’s own proposals [PDF].

The suggestion is that an arbitration service could deal with libel and privacy complaints that would otherwise go to court.

Last minute amendments to the Crime and Courts bill (now Act) would allow for bloggers to opt into the regulatory arbitration system and receive costs benefits.

Additionally and separately, recommendations have also been made for Mediation and Early Resolution in defamation disputes.

However, there is very little solid data about the nature and quantity of legal claims made against the media, including small bloggers. Because the majority of libel claims, for example, are believed to be resolved out of court, there is no complete record of disputes.

In short, little is known about bloggers’ and journalists’ actual legal experiences and opinions.

In an effort to build a better picture and to help inform the development of new alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, I am launching a survey as the final part of my doctoral project at the Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism (CLJJ), City University London.

This questionnaire is open to all types of journalists and online writers who expect their readership to be predominantly based in England and/or Wales.

Please take part and share your experiences and encourage your colleagues and friends to participate as well.

All data will be collected anonymously with no identification of organisations or individuals.

The questionnaire can be found here:

Many thanks for your help! If you have any questions you can email me: (judith.townend.1@city.ac.uk) or tweet  (@jtownend).

About the project

This survey is part of Judith Townend’s doctoral project at the Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism (CLJJ), City University London. The research project, which has been given ethical approval by the CLJJ, explores how journalists and online writers are affected by libel and privacy law, as well as other social and legal factors. It will draw attention to the issues faced by online writers and journalists, and help inform the development of resources in this area.

About this questionnaire

  • The questionnaire is open to all types of journalists and online writers who expect their readership to be predominantly based in England and/or Wales.
  • It should take between 10 and 30 minutes to complete, depending on your experiences and views. Some questions require an answer so you can be taken to the next relevant question.
  • All data will be collected anonymously with no identification of organisations or individuals.
  • The information you have submitted will included in a final report to be published in 2013/14, which may be used for future online and print publications.
  • Please contact Judith Townend with any questions, or to obtain the final results.

Contact details:

Judith Townend, c/o Peter Aggar, Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism, City University London, Northampton Square, London EC1V 0HB, Tel: +44 (0)20 7040 8167

E-mail: judith.townend.1@city.ac.uk

Free ebook: Citizen Video – training and engaging citizens in video journalism

Videographer Franzi Baehrle has published an ebook documenting lessons in delivering video training to non-journalists.

The ebook was part of her final project for the MA Online Journalism at Birmingham City University, and based on her experiences of working with communities online and offline in Birmingham, with the Guardian Media Group’s n0tice project, the Birmingham Mail’s digital team, and independently.

I forgot to blog about it at the time it was published last Autumn, but better late than never: it’s an excellent piece of work, and well worth reading.

Gagging orders old and new

The Minister giveth, and the Minister taketh away. Last week health secretary Jeremy Hunt ‘banned‘ gagging clauses in NHS contracts – even though they’d already been banned in 1999.

A week later his equivalent in the Ministry of Justice Chris Grayling was issuing a rather less generous directive, gagging probation officers from making any comments “in criticism or designed to undermine the justice secretary’s policy or actions”.

And in the police force Operation Elveden ‘crossed a Rubicon‘ as it expanded its scope to include police officers who had leaked information without payment – in other words, speaking to a journalist. (Outside of the operation itself, officers who have spoken to journalists were reported to have found themselves subject to disciplinary investigation, and two suspended.)

Tomorrow I chair a panel on whistleblowing, social media and accountability at an event on reporting the new health system. The last year has seen a raft of guidance on using social media in the NHS, including documents from NHS Employers and from the Royal College of General Practitioners to name just two. These are welcome – but I am sceptical they will have any more impact than that 1999 law.

More broadly, I am concerned about the ability to have an open public debate when sources feel they cannot express any opinion that is ‘off-message’, and journalists cannot protect their sources.

Doubtless a lack of trust in journalists is a factor, but also the desire for control exercised by PR departments and spin doctors documented by Heather Brooke. I know of one NHS trust, for example, which emailed all employees banning them from commenting publicly on a hospital docusoap.

PR is one thing, but many public sector employees are feeling co-opted into a media management campaign they neither support nor believe to be in the best interests of public health, justice, safety, or service.

The NHS is just the most visible example of how public institutions can confuse their own interest with the public interest. Disciplinary policies can set this out particularly barely. This one from United Lincolnshire Hospitals gives examples of “gross misconduct” that include:

“using social networking sites or similar, where employees in their own time using personal computer equipment can be identified as NHS employees and make comments relating to the Trust or the wider NHS which bring the Trust into disrepute.”

You hear the same conflation of institutional interest with pubic interest in statements from the Ministry of Justice:

“If you associate yourself with London Probation Trust through the publication of details about your role as an employee, or Board member, you must not make or endorse any postings or tweet that may bring LPT, the secretary of state for justice or officials acting on his behalf into disrepute.”

Even retweeting such sentiments from others would, apparently, be taken as “incitement or approval” and lead to possible disciplinary action.

Defenders argue that “There are channels for people to express their views”. Presumably a quiet corner of a blacked-out room. The experiences of health workers and whistleblowers are not promising in this regard.

We are living through the first flushes of a new form of public life where the newfound ability to distribute information is tempered by the growing awareness that anything we say (or the connections we make even in private) may be used against us.

As institutions seek to control their employees’ social expression, journalists will have to work harder to establish trust, to protect sources, and establish private channels of communication. A 1999 West Wing episode saw it coming:

A guest post on dealing with whistleblowers written by a Staffordshire whistleblower is here on Help Me Investigate.

Hyperlocal Voices: Geoff Bowen, Sheffield Forum

Sheffield Forum

For the latest in our Hyperlocal Voices series, Damian Radcliffe talks to Geoff Bowen the Founder of the Sheffield Forum. Now one of the UK’s largest forums, the site launched just over 10 years ago.

During that time it has attracted considerable amounts of traffic and a huge archive of community discussions. With over 150,000 registered users and up to 500,000 unique visitors every month, there are now more than 6.4m posts on SheffieldForum.co.uk, and this is increasing at a rate of around 2,000 per day.

In a social media age, what Geoff’s experience shows is that forums continue to offer a highly relevant means for local communities to come together and communicate.

Continue reading

FAQ: Social media and journalism: dehumanising?

As part of my semi-regular FAQ series, here are some answers to a series of questions posed by someone as part of their research.

To what extent do you believe social media has removed the barrier between journalists and the public?

Significantly. Journalists are trained to find regular sources of news – that mostly means formal organisations such as government bodies, unions, press officers, and a few community figures such as the local vicar, postmaster etc. Continue reading

Live Blogs outperform other online news formats by up to 300%

 

Time Spent on Live Blogs

Comparison of time spent on a selection of Live Blogs, articles, and picture galleries at Guardian.co.uk, March to May 2011

In a guest post for OJB, Neil Thurman highlights a new research report that suggests that Live Blogs outperform other online news formats by up to 300% and are seen by readers as more transparent, trusted, and ‘factual’ than conventional online news stories.

Continue reading

Hurricane Sandy: how does the media serve the public interest?

This tweet from Daniel Bentley deserves a post all on its own:

 

While some news organisations take down paywalls and others help sort hoax images from the genuine article, what role should ‘common carriers’ like Instagram play? Any at all?

A reading list for studying online journalism

As a new semester nears, I thought I would anticipate the ‘What should I read?’ enquiries by sharing an aggregated reading list from the classes I teach at both Birmingham City University and City University London. Here are 10 key topics with varying numbers of books for each – I’d very much welcome other suggestions:

  1. Working in networks: Yochai Benkler, The Wealth of Networks; Richard Millington, The Proven Path (PDF)
  2. Content strategy: John Battelle, The Search; Bill Tancer, Click; David Kirkpatrick, The Facebook Effect
  3. Platforms: Mark Luckie: The Digital Journalist’s Handbook
  4. Live and mobile journalism: Mark Briggs, Journalism Next; Dan Gillmor, Mediactive
  5. Multimedia: Janet Kolodzy, Convergence Journalism and Practicing Convergence Journalism; Atton & Hamilton, Alternative Journalism; Wilma de Jong, Creative Documentary
  6. UGC, social media and community management: Axel Bruns, Gatewatching; Andrew Lih, Wikipedia Revolution; Jeff Jarvis, What Would Google Do?
  7. Data journalism: Bradshaw and Rohumaa, The Online Journalism Handbook; Andrew Dilnot, The Tiger That Isn’t; Darrell Huff, How to Lie With Statistics; Dona Wong, The Wall Street Guide to Information Graphics; Nathan Yau, Visualize This; Paul Bradshaw, Scraping for Journalists
  8. Law, ethics and online journalism: Friend and Singer, Online Journalism Ethics; Lawrence Lessig, Code; O’Hara and Shadbolt, Spy in the Coffee Machine; Curran, Fenton & Freedman, Misunderstanding the Internet
  9. Experimentation: Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody (ch10: Failure for Free); Michalko, Thinkertoys chapter 9; Ian Bogost, Newsgames; Matt Mason, The Pirate’s Dilemma (ch5: Boundaries)
  10. Enterprise: Ken Doctor, Newsonomics; Simon Waldman, Creative Disruption; David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous

You might also find previous posts useful: